By Ebony Walden
Like most 20 something’s, I hadn’t figured out exactly what I wanted to do with my life or how to move forward in my faith. My search for guidance in this process lead me to the Trinity Fellows Program. Though all the components of the program: being discipled, mentored, working in the marketplace, living with a Christian family, being a leader in the youth group and seminary classes greatly appealed to me, there were a few things that concerned me. One- I was Baptist and didn’t know what Presbyterian was. Two - I figured Trinity Presbyterian Church was a predominately white, affluent and conservative congregation and I am none of the above, and Three- Charlottesville was a small town and I had spent the last few years prior in DC, Seattle and NY. What would I have in common with this group? I thought.
What rang true in my heart then and now, is Christ. I decided to come to the fellows program as a challenge to my thoughts, personhood and faith and most of all to do something radical in the name of Christ. I began to ask myself: are you willing to follow Christ wherever he leads you? I knew those 9 months would be a hard journey, but I also knew that it would probably change my life. And indeed it has. My year as a fellow was probably the most challenging year of my life. It was nothing less than a culture shock. However, it was full of great experiences and has provided a foundation for which I can live for Christ. I learned invaluable lessons about calling, discipleship, service and community, all of which I would not have had unless I participated in the fellows program.
Calling – Helping to bring redemption to distressed urban areas was what God had placed on my heart, but I didn’t know how that would pan out. Through my work experience and relationship with my mentor, I discovered an interest in urban redevelopment and am currently pursuing a master’s degree in that area.
Discipleship -- What I yearned for most in my young faith was guidance from older Christians, and I can honestly say that I have never had as many mature Christians pour into my life and change my perspectives as in the fellows program.
Service –As fellows we committed 9 months to pursuing a “mission greater than ourselves.” I was unsure of what that mission was at times. As I look back, I realize it’s a call to humility, loving sacrificially and allowing the Kingdom of God to dwell within us so that it can spill out and be the light to the world; at work, at home and in the hard places in our society. We fought the battle of being consumed with self in our service to one another, the youth and in tutoring Abundant Life children.
Community -- Community was a hard lesson for our group, it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t clean and wasn’t microwavable. We all got along well, but it took us almost half the year to break down our walls. Ultimately, we bonded in our prayers for one another, in our laboring together and on our retreats to places like the Faith and Work Conference in NY. In those 9 months, where I felt I had very little in common with those around me, I realized commonality with others by finding my identity in Christ. That was the beginning of an ongoing lesson on how to share my sin, my burdens and myself in a community of faith.
I wish I could say the fellows program was easy, and there weren’t times when I wanted to quit. I was out of my comfort zone and that challenged me to think through hard questions I will probably spend the rest of my life answering about my faith, my life, my identity, my career, my relationships and worldview. I learned how hard it really is to follow Christ, but how awesome it is to walk with God.
Ebony Walden is a distiguished alumna of Georgetown University and a graduate of the inaugural class in the Trinity Fellows Program