A Commuter's Perspective
A few months ago I was asked to write a piece for the Wesley Journal. The theme was community. I pushed back to the editor by elaborating how I had never really felt part of the Wesley community. She said, “Perfect! Write about that.”
Wesley’s relatively small campus allows the campus community to quickly connect with one another. As students arrive on campus for their first semester more seasoned students quickly help those learning the ropes of campus find their way.
Where do you find food when the refectory is not open?
What in the world is a refectory?
Life on campus as an academic year begins offers new opportunities for friendship, some of which will become lifelong connections. Late night study sessions and sermon practicing in the New Residence Hall and finals week snacks in the refectory (we know now what and where it is) will become lasting memories we cherish after we cross the stage at the National Cathedral.
A year or so after graduation, you will be honored as you stand next to the person who helped you move into campus as they now prepare to make lifelong vows to the person they hold closest. The person you have helped them discern this commitment too.
Or so I’ve been told.
As a commuter student, I do not have any of these memories from my time at Wesley. I am not holding a grudge against the seminary. As my time on campus begins to come to an end, and I look back, I realize as a commuting student I established a better relationship with the vending machine in the library than I did with my fellow students. My first year (2011) building relationships with fellow first-year students were intentionally curated by the seminary. Spiritual Formation for the Practice of Ministry forced us to interact with other students on a level of more than avoiding eye contact in the parking lot. After the required covenant group meetings were over, the relationships began to fade.
I can honestly say I have a close relationship with two people from my time at Wesley. I feel connected to maybe four people, one of whom is not even a student.
The DMV is a weird place to live. We live in closer proximity to one another than almost anywhere else in the nation. Outside of New York City or Los Angeles, there is not another place on this continent where people are more on top of one another than the DMV. We cram into Metro trains, touching one another, but do not dare to make eye contact. We will sit next to one another at a Capitals game and avoid eye contact for three periods. At the gym, we will sweat next to one another on the treadmill but not dare to offer encouragement or a high-five after we complete a difficult workout.
I guess Wesley is not any different. With the hurried pace to get to and from campus, it is no wonder commuter students may feel disconnected from the rest of the campus community. Relationships are always about giving priority to another person or group of people, and in my case (realizing this in hindsight) I chose to give priority to my family off campus. It is not the fault of the seminary. The work done on campus creates a close-knit community from what I can tell, but as a commuter student, I have always felt like an outsider.
On May 13 as I sit in the National Cathedral, I will be a stranger sitting next to people who are walking a similar journey to mine. They may become colleagues of mine in the Virginia Annual Conference or maybe, I will never see or speak to them again.
I have been on Wesley’s campus since 2011, and I am just now realizing how disconnected I have been from it. Commuter students get out of your shell and interact with the life of the Wesley community. Students living on campus, show some love to the commuters. Massachusetts Avenue will take the life out of you when you are hustling to make a 6:30 pm class. As we move into the next chapters of our callings, we will take our time at Wesley with us. Hopefully, you will take more than academics with you. Hopefully, you will take life-long friendships that will transform the way you enter into ministry or wherever of Creator leads you.