By Rebecca Rockefeller
I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that I’ve started spending more time at St. Mark’s on the Campus than I should be. I’ve started eating lunch in the courtyard before going to my in-person class. I’ve been staying in the courtyard to work on homework, even on windy days. And I’ve continued my routine from last year of going to morning prayer at 9 a.m. almost every day.
I thought it was because of people like Bill Huenemann who work there and enjoyed having us there last year. I thought it was the community of believers who attend on a regular basis for their own services and who I have established genuine friendships with.
But then I realized, it wasn’t any of that. At least, not fully that is.
The truth is, I’m scared about the new building. I’m worried that the friendships we built with the Episcopalians will be easily forgotten. In a weird way, I feel like I’m losing a home.
The Lutheran Center has been in a state of change the last couple years as we have been transitioning between a run-down building to a new-and-improved building (that almost certainly won’t be having a leaky roof anytime soon.) Last year, St. Mark’s became a hub for us. We had our services there, we hung out and played games, did homework, ate lunch etc. Though some things, especially on the business side, moved to The Foundry a few blocks away, we maintained a community throughout it all. We could be together in a space, even if it wasn’t really ours.
Now in the pandemic, we can’t do that. We can’t hug each other or talk to each other face-to-face without a mask on. We are having less in-person human interaction.
Maybe that’s why I’ve been coming to St Mark’s more. I have the chance to see people interacting with each other. I get to see people walk to wherever they are going and hear them talk or laugh together. I get to hear the buses and cars loudly pass by during morning prayer. I get a sense of belonging and purpose when I’m here because the building is still being used. And it all happens with just being in the courtyard.
The courtyard is being used as a communal space, and not just by Lutheran Center people or the Episcopalians who worship there either. Construction workers will come and eat lunch on their break there, outdoor meetings are happening all the time, students are having Zoom classes and working on homework outside. Other students come here to wait for a few minutes before leaving for their class. One parent brings her 2-year-old daughter on walks there because the daughter likes to pet the lion statue, as I recently found out.
St. Mark’s has continued to be a hub, just in a different form. Though we must refrain from being with each other inside St. Mark’s, we have made great use of the outdoor space to find ways to still be together, even if it is socially distant. It remains to be seen how that will work in the colder months, but we can only take things day by day.
As we transition into the new building this year and make new memories, I pray that we don’t forget St. Mark’s and the people who made us feel welcome in our temporary home as we faced an unsteady and uncertain future.