My first time serving as a lay Eucharistic minister, one of the things that most caught me by surprise was how people of all different sorts approached the altar rail with a sense of Eucharistic anticipation. Little kids giggled with it, worried adults hung their fear on it, nervous newcomers were alert with it, and those who were joyful let the Eucharistic anticipation fill them up. You could see it in their eyes, in the way they knelt, and in the ways their hands extended to receive that precious gift.
It’s bittersweet, this thing anticipation. It is rare to be filled with so much hope and so much worry as well. Anticipation is electric with joy and hyper-aware of all the potential for excitement or disappointment. The thing upon which one hangs their anticipation hat carries a lot of weight. It, whether it wants to or not, carries both the hopes and the fears of the future.
It’s about a month until the arrival of the new students at Western Kentucky University, and I am anticipating their arrival.
I’m anticipating getting into a weekly rhythm, as much as it will exist. I’m anticipating the relationships that we will build over the next few months and years. I’m anticipating the joys that, as their chaplain, I will get to celebrate with them and also the pain that, as their chaplain, I will walk with them through. A month hardly feels like enough time, and yet also to wait another month feels like forever as well. Anticipation does this with time; we want to stretch it and shrink it at the same time so that we can be prepared, but also be fully in the experience of the thing we are anticipating.
This, I suppose is a lot like the ways in which the students with whom I’ll be sharing life with may feel a month out from the start of the school year. Perhaps they, too, are look to this next month with joy and excitement, but also a tinge of worry about getting lost on campus at a critical moment. Perhaps they, too, are excited about new beginnings and find a month’s time not enough and too long at the same time. Perhaps they, too, look forward with anticipation as the next season of their life begins to unfold.
Until the students arrive, I will be bustling about the parish, trying to learn names of all the people that have made this space sacred with their weekly prayers long before I was called to serve this church and this campus. I’ll be scheduling events and meals, and trying to spot the obvious holes in my plans; I’ll be trying to orient myself to the town and the university so that I can be where I’m needed, when I’m needed. But mostly, I’ll be spending this next month in prayerful anticipation for the students that cross my path and those that don’t; I’ll be praying for the students who are already a part of our campus ministry and for those who come looking for a spiritual home. I’ll be praying with anticipation that they may find the red doors to be a sign of welcome, hope, and peace, and I’ll be praying with all hope and joy that they will find and be found by God’s abundant love and grace as we walk together during this season of life.