EPIC members on their way to ProvGat, March 31, 2017. From L to R: Richard Hill, Emilie Han, Anna Ortung, Emily Browning, Becky Gregg, Meredith Bee, Tommy Tubbs, Kaylee McElroy, and Ruthie Ewald.
by Tommy Tubbs
On March 31, eight other members of EPIC and I flew down to UC Davis to attend the annual retreat for the campus ministry groups of Province VIII of the Episcopal Church. The event is often called “Prov” or “ProvGat” (Province Gathering) for short. About a dozen groups gathered together, all from different backgrounds.
The retreat was focused around a keynote speaker as well as workshops led by the various campus ministries. The keynote speaker was the Very Rev. Dr. Brian Baker, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento. He spoke about many different things, such as a surprising spiritual awakening at the Burning Man festival, before moving into the topic of the retreat: finding justice without losing your soul in the process. Obviously, no matter where someone falls on the political spectrum, we can all agree we are living in a rather divided era.
For about an hour, Brian opened the floor to discussion, and for the first time since the election, I witnessed an open and civil conversation not only about politics but about how to deal with someone who has wronged you in some way. Normally these sorts of conversation tend to play out in two ways: the people are so hesitant to say anything that could be taken as criticism that no points are made, or the conversation doesn’t go anywhere. The second is just the opposite, where people become so aggressive in conversation that they quickly delve into a spiteful yelling match, which doesn’t help either side.
This was conversation was neither of those. For a hour, I witnessed one of the most raw and moving conversations I ever had. No one held back, but no one seemed to feel aggressive toward anyone, either. It really was a healing experience. I felt a sense of spirituality afterward I never really have before. I feel I can speak for a lot of people in the room by saying it was a transformative experience.
The conversation continued the next morning. Brian spoke on some of the feedback he had received, and the second conversation felt even more constructive than the first. After that we had the opportunity to go to two workshops led by some of the different chaplains involved in campus ministry. I was very impressed with the wide variety of topics offered, ranging from information on Christian hospice care to the history of the New Testament. The following morning we all attended Eucharist at St. Martin’s in Davis. After that the retreat ended, and everyone went their separate ways.