HERE FOR EACH OTHER
This summer with PT looks different. Very different. There is no intentional living community, I didn’t have a team of interns beside me to share my excitement and anxiety about the first day of site, there are no volunteer dinners, there is no intern worship, there isn’t even any Harambee, which is what we call our time of silly dancing to start our days with the kids.
For the first time in all my years with Project Transformation, I felt alone on the first day.
And then, as soon as I was about to start feeling sorry for myself, the community started to show up in ways I was not at all expecting. My grandparents, who would normally be reading buddies, reached out to make sure we had all the supplies we needed for the first week of camp. A friend from college, who is a pastor at one of our partner churches, happened to be signed up to be a volunteer in our first week. A family friend of mine, who also happens to be a PT board member, was able to connect me with some of the community leaders in Clarksville to talk about some ways to reach more children and families in our community this summer. My best friend from high school works at the Public Library, and while they normally put on a Summer Reading Program for children in our community, it has been cancelled because of COVID-19, so she offered to connect us with some of the children and families that would have been part of their summer program. My aunt and my sister have made sure that I know I can keep them at the very top of the “on call” volunteer list should I need an extra volunteer on short notice.
In hindsight, these are not things that should have been surprising to me. I’m from Clarksville – this is my community, this is my family!
At the beginning of March, I was sitting in a chapel planning meeting at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Our Chapel Elder had just announced to us that she would be suspending the practice of Holy Communion on our campus until people knew more about the spread of COVID-19. While this was not a surprise to many people in the room, we certainly felt some grief over the loss of practicing this sacrament. It was then that Dr. Petrin reminded us, “If we become so tied to the literal ritual of the sacrament that we cannot open our minds and our hearts to experiencing the meaning of the sacrament, then we are not truly living into our call to be the church.”
I have been reminded of this truth over and over again throughout this pandemic. We are a resilient people who know how to show up for each other even when it looks different than it ever has before. Community isn’t cancelled. Even when we are grieving the way things have been in the past, we are continually finding new ways to be together, while apart.
While Project Transformation is not considered to be a sacrament, we are most definitely doing God’s transformative work through this organization. What an opportunity we have to be able to continue doing this work, even in a way that none of us could have imagined would even be necessary.
—Ellie Crain is a Clarksville native, Martin Methodist College alumna, and recent graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary. She served as the Distribution Site Coordinator at New Providence United Methodist Church in Clarksville. This was her sixth summer serving with Project Transformation Tennessee. She was recently hired as PT Tennessee’s Director of Youth and Young Adults.