Becca Bedell graduated with a MFA in Poetry at UW-Madison in May 2019. Upon graduation, she joined the staff as Coordinator of Residential Programs in the Pres House Apartments. You can also listen to her reflection here.
Mishka and I arrived in Madison in August 2017 as bright-eyed new graduate students in poetry. We spent the first eight weeks bonding as we church-hopped together, both of us looking for a warm, challenging, and outspokenly queer-affirming congregation. When we visited Pres House as the fourth or fifth church in town, I knew right away that I had found my new spiritual home. There was the cozy yet lively space and music, there was the delicious weekly communion, there was Steven Chapman excitedly discussing Taylor Swift over dinner, and it helped that the median age was around 20 rather than 65.
Since then, I’ve poured myself into Pres House: I shared a poem and drummed on a box and before I knew it I was applying to Council. I had rousing, sweaty air hockey tournaments with Eb and Silas at Lake Waubesa Camp, which we reprised with the Council bowling night last week—that is, until Steven Chapman came in and crushed us all. I’ve served the community alongside Meredith, Theresa, and others at the Food Pantry. I’ve had long, searching conversations about faith with Erik, Sophia, Mishka, Samuel, Selina, among others. I’ve made friends quickly in surprising ways, like when Lily Mae, brand new to Madison, wandered in for Bake, Pray, Love and we lured her into Faith Dinner instead—don’t worry, she got to do both, and then came back for every subsequent dinner. I’ll never forget the San Antonio trip with many of you, joking on the bus and playing Catan to balance out our humbling and exhausting work serving refugees and residents. Standing here, I’ve given not one but two—arguably three or four sermons, if you count the trip reflections and my Baptism. I’m starting to lose count.
Amid the busiest time of my life, laboring and growing in my amazing poetry grad program, there’s a sort of beautiful madness in how much energy I’ve invested. In a way, I’ve been making up for lost time: I came into my faith very late in undergrad, and also never had this sort of community growing up, never even went to summer camp. So I didn’t know quite what I’d been missing until Pres House, and I admit, I’ve been wildly and unpredictably impassioned. Every new ministry, every trip, every opening and closing prayer, I’ve given 100% energy, all the joy, all the tears. What is God but that happy embarrassment, that irresistible call to life?
If I have a piece of advice to share, it’s this: there is always time for fellowship. Even if it’s just one weekly small group, or a good conversation at dinner, find a way to open your heart, your time, your energy to the community in a way you didn’t think you would. Allow yourself to be the overenthusiastic, weirdly passionate one. The glorious paradox of God is that even in our busiest times, God will create rest, if we are open to it. Even in our most vulnerable times, if we are vulnerable in community, God will create safety.
I’ll end now, since I’ve spoken up here so many times. But I’m not leaving, far from it: I’ll be helping lead our summer worship series of dinners every Tuesday night, so if you’re around, I hope to share that communion with you. And I’m happy to announce that later this month I am joining full-time Pres House staff as the inaugural Coordinator of Residential Programs at Pres House Apartments, serving under Ginger Morgan. So while my master’s graduation is a milestone, I’m looking forward to remaining invested, in an even more official capacity, in the Pres House community for the years to come. So don’t worry—I’m not going anywhere.