I'm amazed by how at home I feel with this bunch of missionaries, given we've only spent three days of discernment weekend and about 14 days of training together. After getting so close during this time, we all embark for distant lands in the next couple of months. But through that, we will all be there for each other for support as we navigate this calling.
During training, we also spent several days outside of Stony Point in New York City and one day at the Holy Cross Monastery farther north on the Hudson.
Episcopal Church Center
Early in the first week, we took a trip to the Episcopal Church Center on 815 Second Avenue in Manhattan for a series of meetings with the national church office staff. While there, Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori met with us for about an hour and shared her wisdom of mission work and a bit about her own past.
Holy Cross Monastery
The first Friday we drove up along the Hudson River to the Holy Cross Monastery for a day of spiritual reflection and learning about spiritual practices to help us through our year. The brothers were incredibly hospitable as we joined them for three services and two meals.
While at the monastery, I found a framed print on the wall that had the following prayer on it by William Sloane Coffin:
give you the grace
never to sell yourself short;
grace to risk something big
for something small;
grace to remember
that the world is now too dangerous
for anything but truth
and too small
for anything but love
The next day we had a free day in Manhattan. I went with several other YASCers to see the 9/11 Memorial, a powerful sanctuary in the middle of lower Manhattan and a moving dedication to the lives lost on 9/11/2001 and in the 1993 WTC bombing.
I also got to meet up with Mariola, a friend from my study abroad program in Prague! It was wonderful to catch up with her, have brunch beside the Brooklyn Bridge and explore Manhattan together.
Monday we embarked on a multi-faith day around New York City, visiting various places of worship. We began at the Eldridge St. Synagogue, the first synagogue built in the U.S. by Eastern European Jews and now located in the middle of China Town.
After that we had a quick worship at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, where Haitian Pierre Toussaint worshiped.
After lunch, we visited St. Paul's Chapel and the Park 51 Community Center, a mosque and Muslim community center partially modeled after the YMCA or JCC concept. We had an informative and deeply personal conversation with two Muslims there, who shared stories of their experiences as American Muslims in a post-9/11 world. Park 51 was referred to in the media as the Ground Zero Mosque.
Our last house of worship was the Sokka Gakai NYC Buddhist Center where we participated in a brief period of chanting. This was the first experience I've had with any type of Buddhism and Buddhist worship.
Find Your Way
The last day not at the Stony Point Center involved small groups of us exploring various neighborhoods in New York City. The YASC staff assigned my group to a series of neighborhoods in Queens, including Fleshing, Corona, Jackson Heights, and Astoria. Each one was unique in ethnic composition, economic level, and feel, but all were wonderful communities to explore. I also found a market that sold mangoes from Haiti. Just a taste of what is to come...