Through membership in Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) Lasallian Volunteers is part of a larger network of like-minded leaders and programs that encourage a deeper connection to a volunteer’s vocational discernment and leadership development.
FTE provides partner programs the opportunity to nominate current volunteers to participate in their Discernment Retreats with volunteers from other programs–one of several amazing benefits for LVs and the program as a whole. This year, four current LVs participated in these retreats. Below are reflections from two LVs: Gabbi Carroll, who participated in the East Coast Retreat and Ellie Cash, who participated in the West Coast Retreat.
Many thanks to Forum for Theological Exploration for providing this opportunity for Lasallian Volunteers!
Reflection by Gabbi Carroll
This past February, I attended the FTE Discernment Retreat in Navasota, Texas, and it was nothing short of lifechanging for me. I arrived at Camp Allen just as the program was beginning, as my first flight had been canceled due to inclement weather in New York. The evening opened with a song called “You Are Welcome Here” by singer-songwriter, John Stringer. Immediately, I was struck and moved by the lyrics: “Welcome to love, welcome to peace, welcome to our community. Be who you are, let your light shine, we’re so much stronger when we unite.” This truly set the tone for the weekend to come. I went into this retreat at a pretty rocky place in my vocation: I was being transformed by my LV year, had accepted my offer from Boston College to pursue my Master of Divinity, but was still feeling lost and frustrated, wondering if there was a place in ministry for me. The FTE Retreat not only assuaged by doubts and fears, but instilled in me a new passion to explore what I am being called to. One of our keynote speakers, Marlon Hall, said something that really sat with me: through our respective vocations, we are challenged to turn our “pain into purpose, and irritation into intrigue.” He had us focus on the why of our vocation, as opposed to the what or the how—which is something I had been stuck on.
I was also truly amazed by the diversity of whys among my fellow participants. We all came from different places, Christian denominations, identities, and life experiences; yet, despite the Spirit calling us in so many different ways, we all seemed to have the same goal: to better the world through justice and love. Everyone I met was so on fire for social justice: I was moved, challenged, and inspired by my fellow retreatants and leaders, and have found a new community of people to walk with in my vocational journey. Everyone was so accepting, inclusive, and loving: I felt safe, supported, and affirmed. I think the most important lesson I took away from this experience was that there is not one way—or “right” way—to do ministry, and if you find yourself having to pave your own path, then that is even more power to you. This new sense of freedom has been so liberating for me, and has provided me the courage and drive to really lean into my last few months as a Lasallian Volunteer with an open mind and heart: still unsure of the future, but with a new sense of peace and passion.
Reflection by Ellie Cash
On the morning of my first day at the Forum for Theological Exploration Retreat, I was met with smiles and enthusiasm. While I didn’t quite know how or why I was chosen to be a participant, I spent time meeting many new faces and listening to stories and ideas about ways the pastors, community leaders, and fellow volunteers wanted to spread the Word of God. I was overwhelmed with how quickly I saw the Holy Spirit was alive and well in everyone. People from an endless number of Christian consortiums came together to form a faithful community unlike any other I’ve ever witnessed. We attended workshops and sessions that allowed us to reflect on what justice means in relation to the church, and how to continue working with the resources we had in our communities to be as inclusive of many backgrounds as we could. My favorite workshop was an exercise called the Clearness Committee. Three people sit and one at a time, share a situation or problem that is troubling them. The other two people then ask honest, open-ended questions of the person who shared their situation, so as to allow the person to come to new ways of thinking about the situation and possibly how to resolve it. The group is not there to offer advice to the person, but rather to walk with the person as they try to resolve their problem. It was an excellent opportunity to hear new, unbiased ways of thinking about issues that confront volunteers, teachers, and ministers, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.
We also had the opportunity to see faith in action, as we left the retreat center and explored various ministries around the Bay Area. I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Glide Memorial Church, and meeting Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, whose work and passion for serving the most vulnerable in the San Francisco area is nothing short of inspiring. The work that Glide does to help people who are homeless and addicted is incredible and it was a blessing to see God working in the lives of those who once considered themselves “hopeless”.
Looking back on this experience, I am so thankful to have met such a diverse network of Christian leaders, because it reminded me how much work has to be done to further the message of Christ’s love to different populations across the country and the world. I am grateful for all of the people I met and perspectives I heard, and I can’t wait to hear what comes of their ideas and ministries.