We’re now into our third week of Term 2 here at Act Five, and things have gone…well…not as we expected!
This month has taken our community for a wild ride. Each week on Thursday nights we host a storytelling night, where we hear stories from history or from our local place about what it means to be faithful amidst life’s twists and turns. This month’s series was titled “It Wasn’t What I Planned”. Has that ever rung true!
The last three weeks have been a healthy mix of challenge, surprise, fun, adventure, and rest. Let me give you a little snapshot:
We thought we were heading to Texas on January 6. However, by Monday, January 3, more than a third of our students were sick at their homes with covid and Canada was issuing advisories against unnecessary travel. Though our trip was Disaster Response work and considered essential in nature, we as a staff team decided to postpone our South Texas trip with World Renew (new date TBD – stay tuned!).
So, we pushed back students’ move-in date and welcomed everyone home to Blake Street (including the addition of two former alumni!) feeling full of fresh energy and excitement for another term. We planned an awesome Welcome Back week, with times of reflection and goal-setting, hiking, skating, a worship night, a movie night, a storytelling night, a day out in the city, loads of meals together, and a 48-hour prayer weekend! We even began some of our classes. It was a blast, and a great feeling to have everyone back together again.
We were planning a service trip to Toronto for the following week, in partnership with Indwell, Matthew House, Compass Foodbank, and Clarkson Community Church. It was going to be awesome.
But…things didn’t go as we planned.
On Thursday, January 14, a person in our community began to experience covid symptoms. By Sunday, six people were feeling sick and some rapid-tests were coming back positive. By Tuesday, 13 people were isolating in their bedrooms. Despite our best efforts to isolate people, to keep distance, and to sanitize and mask up around each other, the virus spread quickly throughout the house.
So, the following week consisted of zoom calls, walks, movie nights, and lots of down time. The healthy people made meals for the sick people and we watched our community connect with one another and care for each other in new ways. It was not fun, but at the same time it was beautiful. We are grateful for the support of our surrounding community who brought us dinners, groceries, and various other supplies so that we could stay home and keep the virus contained within our household.
Within nine days, most of the house was feeling better and while we remained isolated from the outside world, we got to reconnect altogether and celebrate the first two weeks of the term with a TEXAS PARTY!
In honour of our changed plans and unexpected experiences, we shared steaks, baked potatoes, rolls, southwest salad and sweet tea over a football game. There was line dancing and laughter as we celebrated our community’s triumph over covid.
Lastly, as I write this, our students are off on a three-day service trip in Missisauga. They are spending time exploring a new place, as well as volunteering their time with Indwell and Matthew House. They will be learning about affordable housing as well as refugee resettlement in their time with these organizations. Clarkson Community Church has been so generous to offer us the use of their building for a few days as a home base for this experience.
Despite shifting plans and unexpected challenges, I am once again deeply encouraged by the ways I see God at work.
At Act Five, we teach our students the art of faithful improvisation. It is the idea that as we become increasingly familiar with the story of Scripture and the story of our own lives, we will be able to situate ourselves within it. As we do this, and as we listen to the promise of God for what is to come—that is, the renewal and redemption of all things, and as we follow the example of Christ in the here and now, we can faithfully improvise in the present moment amidst all the changes and turbulence we currently face.
As plans have changed and we have faced disappointments and challenges of various kinds, I have noticed resilience and maturity growing in our students. I watched them receive news of covid and the implications of that on the life of our community, and then improvise. They began to hike together, skate together, and laugh together in new ways. They adapted to the changes. They encouraged each other when someone was feeling down, or anxious. I’ve seen them messily and imperfectly support each other more and more, without any prompting from our Residence Leaders. They’re each leaning into the gift of this year in their own ways.
So, as we move forward with this vision of how God has been among us and at work within us these past weeks, we look forward to many things coming up at Act Five. Beginning next week, students will spend 15-20 hours/ week at one or two placements around the city, learning from new people and experiences as they enter the workplace. We also look forward to the re-launching of Spaghetti Wednesdays as it is safe to do so. Additionally, many are wrestling with what comes next for them after Act Five. We are excited to continue walking with each student in this journey as they discern the right next steps, while learning to live wholeheartedly in the present moment.
There are AWESOME things happening in the lives, hearts, and minds of our students as they discover their relationships to their bodies, the earth, each other and God. They are learning to think in new ways, they are asking important questions, and they are experiencing joy. I’m honoured to be able to witness it.
We would love it if you can support us in continuing to live out our ever-growing mission—both in discipling young adults and in growing our faithful presence on Blake Street and in Hamilton. Here is how you might support us: