"Learning to Walk with God in the World" Q&A: Young adult retreat organizers prepare the way for connections & discernment

The Young Adult Advisory Committee, along with Life Together and campus ministries in the Diocese of Massachusetts, and the Young Adult Network of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts invite young adults to a retreat with the theme "Learning to Walk with God in the World" and focusing on discernment: Who is God calling us to be for the sake of God's world? The retreat will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30 at Friendly Crossways in Harvard, Mass., with an option to stay overnight on Friday, Oct. 29. 

In a recent interview, two of the retreat organizers--the Rev. Issac Martinez, co-chair of the Young Adult Advisory Committee, and Andrea Albamonte, a second-year Life Together fellow--discussed the upcoming retreat and its significance, especially in these times of pandemic.  The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Andrea Albamonte Courtesy photo via Life Together website Andrea Albamonte

What is this upcoming retreat going to look like? What are some of the goals and hopes that you have?

Andrea: We’re excited to have a retreat in person. I think one of the main goals is to get a bunch of young adults together in the region and actually have people talking to each other. One of the first things that I noticed when I first arrived in Boston was that there were all these young adult groups and chaplaincies that didn’t talk to each other. And so my personal goal is to build connections across the diocese.

Isaac: The Young Adult Advisory Committee got started in early 2020, right as the pandemic was taking hold, and so we had all of these dreams for what we could do and then had to change tactics once the severity of COVID started becoming clear.

One of the things we heard from our days as a task force [that led to the formation of the Young Adult Advisory Committee] was one of the big theological issues that people in their 20s and 30s face, this question of discernment: Who am I? Where is my life going? What is God calling me to do? What is my vocation? All of those are very big questions for young adults, and so last year we had our first discernment retreat on Zoom, and one of the promises of being on the back end of a pandemic--fingers crossed--is the possibility to be in person [this year]. There’s just a different tenor of conversation when folks are in the same physical place together so we’re very much looking forward to running [this year's retreat in a] different format, different content, different structure than last year, with the same goal of asking these questions.

The Rev. Isaac Martinez Courtesy photo The Rev. Isaac Martinez

Andrea: Because we’re going to be in person this year, I really didn’t want to have us doing in person what we could do on Zoom, so [we are] definitely trying to take advantage of the space that Friendly Crossings has to offer and get people talking to each other by discussing these discernment questions in pairs and in small groups and hopefully--if the weather is good--getting people outside, [doing] walking meditations, the kind of stuff that we haven’t been able to do on Zoom. 

Isaac: Being in person and being at a retreat center gives us the option to have some folks staying overnight at the facility--a small number, making concession to safety precautions--but we have folks who can gather Friday night and start building relationships and friendships and pray in Compline together and be ready for all of the content that will happen on Saturday.

Can you talk a little bit about this about this idea of discernment and how it can relate to spirituality?

Andrea: When it comes to discernment, we’re trying to keep it broad. I think--especially in The Episcopal Church--discernment gets boiled down to, “Do you want to be a priest?” and there are so many [other] questions to discern. I was definitely trying to stay away from dividing people up by discerning what school they are going to or whether they want to go to grad school--trying to stay away from that and keep it broad, because our society is changing so drastically and it changes the tenor of the question of how do we want to live our lives.

Isaac: And then the spiritual component is important for that, especially when you’re bringing together people from college students all the way up to people in their late 30’s--it’s a broad age range, different life stages and different sort of questions that they will be asking. Keeping the focus on what unites us as Christians, I think, will be important common ground from which to start and from which to keep us focused on what it is that we’re trying to ask and the answers that we’re seeking.

Andrea: We want everybody to talk to each other and to feel like they’re part of something bigger than just their own chaplaincy or their young adult group. There’s wisdom that we can gain from each other, even if we’re asking different kinds of questions.

Why is something like this important always, but perhaps especially coming out of this time of pandemic when we haven’t been able to do much of anything?

Isaac: COVID has scrambled so much and it’s really been a deprivation, particularly for young adults. Everyone asks, "What comes after COVID?" This [retreat] is a way of answering that. We’ve seen the cost when we’re isolated and have to do everything over Zoom, and so here’s a chance to meet in the flesh and that’s what I’m very very excited about. The most important thing is to be together.

Andrea: What I would really like to see is that once we get these different programs across the diocese talking to each other, people will start advertising their church’s events, their chaplaincy’s events, and there can be some crossover. We don’t have to compete with each other; we can just go to each other’s events. I really want to see that here in this diocese, and even if people are not able to hang out in person, at least once a year there is a place where they can hang out with people their own age and be supported virtually the rest of the year, and then come back again.

--Bridget K. Wood

Find more information and registration for the retreat at www.diomass.org/event/learning-walk-god-world-young-adult-retreat.