Faculty member and 2018 CSF-ESN Grant awardee Jennifer Hawk shares her story of finding community through InterVarsity’s digital pilgrimage experience last summer, the Faculty Digital Camino. We’ll be hosting another digital pilgrimage experience this summer, Via Divina: The Celtic Way. We would love for you to join us!
During 2020, I like most folks experienced a major upheaval in life. During the summer of 2020, I was really struggling. There was so much uncertainty. What would the fall look like? Would I be able to teach in person? Or have to continue virtually? How do you totally redesign your classes without knowing what you are going to be able to do? How on earth do you teach Chemistry Labs virtually? What about that daunting Tenure Packet that was due on September 1st? In the midst of my swirling thoughts, a friend reached out to see how I was doing.
My friend is a fellow chemistry professor at a similar type of institution a few states away. I first met her through the Blue Ridge InterVarsity Faculty Retreat a few years ago. We quickly bonded over all the things: being Christian chemists, young faculty members, single women in the church, and our love of hiking in the Blue Ridge. We keep in touch throughout the year as much as our busy lives allow, but hadn’t really touched base since the world stopped in March.
When my friend reached out last July, I was searching for some type of solid footing, something to aim at. Everything was so uncertain and my Type A, list maker, calendar scheduling, planner brain was really thrown for a loop. When she told me she was doing last year’s Digital Camino, I had no idea what she was talking about. I had already missed the first week, but she invited me to join in anyways. So that evening, I hopped on yet another Zoom, and joined a debrief group.
I ended up participating in the rest of the Digital Camino and it was exactly what I needed in that season of life. It gave me just enough direction and a solid action step I could do each week: take a walk, and listen to this audio file. It got me out of the house, and off of the computer. It got me moving, and it got me praying. It got me thinking about Jesus and not just COVID.
Our small group of 4 women met virtually every week to debrief our Camino experience. We always seemed to run out of time. We had great discussions but also enjoyed praying for each other and catching up about how our week had been. Somehow it turned into so much more than just a 4 week debrief group. We kept in touch over the rest of the summer, and throughout the past year. Every once in a while, someone sends around a group email or text. We checked in with each other as we navigated the uncertainty of the fall semester. They encouraged me and another group member as we submitted our tenure packets in the fall. And they celebrated with both of us this spring when we both found out we were awarded tenure! What started as a random group of women from around the country, has turned into a delightful support group for all the ups and downs of the past year.
I’m really excited to see that there will be another guided pilgrimage this summer! Reading the description of the Celtic Way really resonated with me. There is still so much uncertainty right now. I am looking forward to being encouraged by the history of the Celtic Christians and how they followed Christ without a clear plan or destination in mind. I know I could use a reminder to look to Christ as my solid footing during these “unprecedented” times.