Mr Benjamin Stuchbery is an undergraduate student in Religious Studies at McGill University. He was born in Montreal and raised in British Columbia in the towns of Squamish and Penticton. His two passions in life are music and theology. His work in theology informs such diverse pursuits as participating in the life of Christ Church Cathedral, the Diocesan College, studies at McGill, writing, preaching and most recently as a participant in the Montreal Mission Internship. His love of music has lead him to become an accomplished flutist and drummer, currently playing in a flute quartet and in the past playing in orchestras, chamber groups, and jazz ensembles.
My aunt is exploring a brain-storming method for her grade seven students. It begins by getting the students to come up with as many bad ideas as possible. I can just imagine the effectiveness of getting a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds to come up with bad ideas. Coming up with a bad idea isn’t the end of the story however. The point is to transform a bad idea into a good one. So, for example, one child might suggest watching the grass grow for his project. Bad idea, right? Well, how about putting together a stop-motion animation which explores the process of grass growing? The child will learn about film-making, and maybe something about the biology of grass in the process. Good idea!
We were discussing this on the veranda at our cottage a couple of days ago when the discussion shifted to me and writing this article. I hadn’t decided what I was going to write on so, we thought, how about coming up with some bad ideas for an article? Well, someone suggested (probably me), how about “how the grass speaks to us?” It sounds terrible and cheesy. But could it be transformed into a fruitful idea that would speak of my experience with the Montreal Diocesan Theological College? It sounded far-fetched. But there is always a way if you allow the idea freedom to make connections.
I immediately thought of the verse from the book of Isaiah which reads “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” The contrast between a fragile and transitory life, and the everlasting stability of God, and the intimacy of relationship between the two in which God watches over that fragility, struck me as pertaining to my own experience as a student.
The sense of fragility and vulnerability that comes from inhabiting a transitory stage in life is an experience shared by many students. It is a shock to the system being thrust out of the home environment and into an unstable environment that seems to over-emphasize the need to “create your own identity” without effective nurturing community structures in place. This puts enormous strain on one’s emotional system. And what does one do when one is overwhelmed by such demands of life (whether real or imagined)? Well, at least for me, I sought refuge. I sought refuge in stability. I sought that stability in community. And that is what I found at Dio. I found a community with a pattern of worship and fellowship that was stable, rich and meaningful. I found people who welcomed me and included me in the community life of the college. I found outlets for my creativity. I was able to experiment with social interactions, with participating in worship, even with preaching. The college became fertile ground, an important safe space for nourishing my spiritual, intellectual and social development. I often leave the college feeling renewed and ready to move about in the world, all because I found that still point, that physical space with real people who watch over my fragility, much as God did the people of Israel and continues to do for me and for everyone. How’s that for a bad idea?