Tuesday morning. 9am in the backyard of 75 Blake St.
I hear birds welcoming the new day around me, wind rushing through the leaves overhead.
I see green all around me. Potato plants that persistently grow back year after year. Native plants flourishing along our back fence. Nathaniel’s mural from 2021 reminding me every day that I – just as all who come through Act Five – am to simply walk steadily, one foot in front of the other.
I love being in this backyard. It is a place marked by God’s steadfastness, and marked by the resilience of creation and resilience of this community. A place filled with beauty and grace. A place that holds countless stories.
It is also a place that has been shaped by and tread upon by the students who are enmeshed within the story here.
We have completed 4 years of Act Five now, where we have invited 51 gap year students (and 50 other young adults as residents and staff) to live in this community together. I have walked through 4 years of watching young people step into a new season of their young adulthood in this place. They have learned, been inspired, wrestled, grieved, danced, created beautiful things, become good neighbours, prayed on their knees, invested in friendships, asked questions of scripture, and learned to sing new songs.
Act Five seeks to root our students in a life of following Jesus. We seek to do this while also inviting them to take space to ask hard questions, to meet people different than them, and to enter into the world of young adulthood with a hope grounded in the story of scripture and life with God that is, in turn, hospitable to others. In this space, I have witnessed profound and real transformation of people and communities.
And every spring, after 8 months here, we watch our students leave.
Some of our students leave and rarely return. They leave either ready for new things and throwing themselves in wherever they land next, or unsure and feeling tension around how to carry Act Five forward into old or new places.
Some of our students remain with us but in new ways. They begin serving the next groups of students, they enter into conversations around who and what Act Five becomes, they come for coffee on our front porch.
Many of our students continue to grow through young adulthood, and whether they always name it or not, I see such evidence in them of their growth in Act Five. They ask good questions, pay attention, listen with curiosity, long for shalom in the world and commit to growing in their faith. They shape communities, discern moments, take Sabbath and practice humility. They know God’s grace, bigness and Lordship.
That being said, our alumni also continue to walk through the wild seas that can be young adulthood. There are things I wish I could save them from, frame for them, direct them in… and I cannot. This world can be noisy and confusing, and a life of faith and Christian discipleship is not easy. Act Five never preaches anything otherwise. We do not give answers for everything that will be thrown their way, and we are but a stop in the road for them. Even so, it is a special and significant stop in the road, and there can be pain in watching our graduates walk through hard seasons when they come.
As the founder of this initiative, this unique project rooted in a big and sometimes ambitious vision of transformation of people and places, I hold a deep love for all who trust us to come and spend time being shaped here, time living here, time leading here. But to love deeply as a Christian is to bring these 51 graduates before the God who loves, holds and saves them in ways that I, in no way, can.
So, here is a nod to our alumni and the 100 young adults who have lived at 75 Blake St to date.
Alumni, if you are reading this, may you continue to walk on the Way, in community, and in relationship with the God who created you, who knows you, and who loves you. As you navigate the fields and seas of this world and the different seasons within which you find yourselves, may you find solid ground on which to walk slowly one day at a time.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
With love & grace,