I’d like to begin in 2009. Janet and Peter had relocated to this area in 2007 to start a UCSC graduate student ministry. As things got going, I learned (through them) of the retreat that Berkeley and Stanford hold every Winter. Probably, I was the most eager to crash that event. Here’s the recap:
My name is Sherol Chen and I’ve been going to Janet and Peter’s group since I got here at UCSC in 2007. It was my first Christian Community as I started life here on the west coast. This past valentines weekend, I went on a retreat with graduate students from Berkeley, Stanford, and UC Santa Cruz. From UC Santa Cruz, we had seven people go. It was an amazing time as we fellowshipped with not just brothers and sisters, but neighboring colleagues and scholars. There were lasting impressions made on all sides. In particular, one night, all the UCSC students and some of the Stanford students had an impromptu prayer and worship session. We built some truly lasting relationships that night. (2/17/09)
As you, who is reading this, may have felt, I’ve always known there was something more. In many ways, waiting for it’s time to come. In late 2010, these feelings were maturing into ideas, and I wrote a year later about that experience:
I’ll tell you what it was that I saw… I saw young professionals coming together in a way that has never happened before– a gathering, built upon a unity of love and purpose. In it’s early stages, people who have been eagerly waiting their call will gather to “set up for the party.” Later on, waves of purpose will be passed through media and technology that stirs a spiritual awakening. People, in my generation, have been waiting for their reason to live. At church, we receive promise that we are indeed part of something amazing, and yet, have settled for the social clubhouse that has become of the western church. Deep down, we all know that there is more, but who is willing to go prepare for the party? I believe only a few people will understand this excitement, and I believe that few will have the great privilege to be an integral part of the release of this “something amazing.”
A couple months later, was the next Winter retreat. At the time, it was still just Stanford, Berkeley, and a couple UCSC grads.
Last weekend, we went to a conference-center like location in the Santa Cruz mountains for 3 days with PhD and Masters students from Stanford, Berkeley, and UCSC. It was a great networking opportunity where we were broken into small groups to discuss issues on faith, spirituality, and our vocation. All of us, in addition to professing the same faith, are working towards becoming (leading) experts in our respective areas, such as: Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Biology, International Relations… etc. In addition to lectures and discussion, we had a lot of relaxing, reflection time, and casual conversations. (2/21/2010)
A couple months later, my friend Tess and I visited our friends at Stanford for Ethan’s Multi-Faith Forum. It was there that I realized our brothers and sisters at UCSF seem to be missing from our loosely-held-together cohort.
That Summer, we decided to bring the schools together for an intentional gathering of prayer, worship, and sharing. That event summarizes what we are doing right now pretty well. Although, getting all these people together was no easy task. We had about 30 people at this event– a good distribution over discipline and schools.
It was a great mixture of music and sharing, worship and praying. We started by introducing and praying for each campus. Instead of the awkward non-initiative taking tendencies that people have in new situations and around new people, I knew people well enough at each school to just delegate. For example: UCSC shared about their grad fellowship, UCSF shared about working towards being doctors and dentists in San Francisco, Berkeley talked about grad student Christian endeavors, and Stanford shared about the number of different groups at their school. (11/29/10)
UCSF is in a world of their own, and I had to write an essay of reasons why they should come visit us in the subsequent Winter Retreat. This was the first time they’d had UCSF with the other three schools (since I’d been there). Ethan, from Stanford, thought it would be appropriate to have people from all schools do worship together. Definitely a step in the direction I was headed towards.
What is life all about? When it’s all over, we’ll want to have been part of something that drew us closer to God. There’re enough world changers in one spot (at the retreat) to build passionate and driven movements that will bring significant purpose to our lives, the movers. Didn’t you ever dream of being part of something, of having a group of crime fighting friends? We could be like the X-Men. If Henry comes, I can introduce him to the other X-Men (2/7/2011)
The final morning, I got to pray one more time during our last worship set. I centered on the verse: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise” I prayed that we may be foolish in living for the impossible, because through God all things are possible. I must’ve prayed for humility and for revelation of how hungry we truly are. If we, with the most influence, who draw our strength from God, don’t contend for the darkest and most devastating problems and injustices of the world, then who will? (8/11/2011)
About a month after that, I email the various connections from the different schools this update:
I’m in the midst to talking to leaders in charge of the winter retreat in regards to further defining a solid purpose for this group of grad students. It’s not a matter of being a “bay area” university thing, but that, since we are somewhat close, we’ve managed to build friendships over the years.
This is what I believe is likely to happen this winter retreat: We will pull together a vision/mission statement. Identify people who have this collaboration on their hearts. Put up a website.
Also, today, I received an email from Heidi Baker. She said that she might be available to come speak in this area on April 13th 2012. This may be a good reason to host a more well-thought-out event.
Let me know how you guys are doing, or if there are any thoughts on these matters.
If anything, it’d be great to see everyone at the winter retreat. (11/14/11)
Ok, so, we’re only 2 months into 2012, and most of the updates have to do with the Winter Retreat this past month. I’ll give a detailed recap in another post, but for now, I just want to highlight what went on this time.
Earlier, in January, I made a trip to see Heidi in San Francisco. While I was there, I stayed with Johanna, from UCSF. I had met up with a few of the other UCSF leaders as well. Although, if you hung out with UCSF’s Sonrise Fellowship, you’d soon realize that everyone in that group is a leader (yea, I know– it’s incredible). There I met Steph, who came with me to meet with Heidi Baker. Right after SF, Steph and I headed to Stanford to meet with a few select leaders from each of the other 3 schools. At this meeting we finalized details in regards to April 13th.
On Saturday, Feb 11th, we had a meeting at 4:00 in regards to “stewarding our influence and vocation.” As we were all gathered, we went around talking about what our research was or what profession we were working towards and also what we feel called to or what we are willing to give our lives towards. I made a list of these dreams and visions. It was indeed a powerful exchange and students found themselves dreaming the same sorts of dreams and having the tools to realize them. This was much like the meeting we had about 1.5 years ago with the initial gathering of the 4 schools.
A lot of this discussion will go on a website soon, as we intend to continue talking about our dreams and visions. It’s through times like this where people seemed mutually encouraged to fully step into their calling and “live a life worthy of the calling” we have received. We had about 20 people from either UCSC, UCSF, Berkeley, and Stanford come together and agree in building a stronger and purposeful community.
– Sherol, March 2012