I just got back from a conference of chaplains (National Association of College and University Chaplains–NACUC), which was a great opportunity for me to meet others in the field, and especially to sit down with more experienced chaplains and talk about experiences of ministry in a campus setting.
The location of the event was great–it was almost 60 degrees in Decatur, Georgia, the whole time I was there. The workshops and speakers were wonderful–Barbara Bradley Hagerty (NPR‘s religion correspondent), professors from Emory, the wonderful people of the Fund for Theological Education), and Jan Fuller from Elon University.
But here’s the best thing that came out of my time at the NACUC conference–hearing, again and again, the words, “No, you’re not crazy.” This was usually in response to me starting off a question with the words, “Am I crazy, or…?” It was such a blessing to hear from my colleagues that the patterns and pitfalls of campus life that I have experienced in my short seven months of chaplaincy are not abnormal. It was good to hear that my anxiety about not having anything to do at Christmas time was o.k. It was an absolute joy to hear from one experienced chaplain that it takes a few years before you even begin to feel like you can start in this job. By that, I mean that the best part of the whole conference was meeting the wonderful people of NACUC!
If anyone who is involved in campus ministry or chaplaincy ever reads this blog, and you are not already a part of NACUC, you should totally join! It is a multi-faith, multi-generational, multi-campus organization that helps chaplains identify and network with one another in a wide variety of ways. In many ways, the conference is just an excuse for all of us to get together to say to one another, “No, you’re not crazy…I’ve been through/seen that myself, and here’s what I did with it…”
If you’re not a chaplain and you’re reading this, you should do whatever you can to find a group of colleagues/friends/relatives/strangers with whom you can do the same. Sometimes, it’s very helpful to hear from someone else that the trials and tribulations and surprises of our lives are not unique or unusual. It’s good to know that what we’re going through has been gone through before, and that we are not alone on this journey called life. As you walk along, it’s helpful to have someone to walk with, someone with whom you can laugh and talk and share the journey. It’s good to know that you have someone you can lean on, and who can lean on you when they need it. And, it’s good to hear, “No, you’re not crazy…”
Take it from me, you’re not.