A Soft Spot in my Heart for Centennial

Kent State University Prayer Walk

It’s kind of amazing to pause and consider what God has done over the last four years, both in and through H2O’s Centennial Life Group. Back in the Spring of 2020, we were still the “Off-Campus Life Group,” comprised largely of upperclassmen — but we had a plan to shift towards having all student Life Groups connected to a region of the Kent State University campus, with off-campus and older students sprinkled throughout all of the student Life Groups (together with on-campus, younger students). And even though we knew we were headed towards Centennial, we did not know how that was going to play out. We knew that it was a less social residence hall, with more single rooms, and we knew that it skewed towards older, quieter students. Still, it was exciting to think that we were going to be on campus.

Seven Days of Prayer Walks around Centennial

Then came the COVID-19 Pandemic shut-down. It was devastating for all of our Life Groups. But it felt extra-challenging for our prospective Centennial Life Group. I went for a bunch of prayer walks around Centennial during that shut-down and the subsequent reopening (each time I did a prayer walk that passed through the wooded area between Centennial Courts D and Centennial Courts E, I placed a stone in a tree stump to mark the passage of time). Even when on-campus housing reopened in the Fall of 2020, two of the six Centennial dormitories were designated as quarantine space for any students who tested positive for the dreaded virus. And even the four Centennial dormitories that were open to the meager trickle of students who enrolled that fall did not allow outsiders (like me) into the buildings.

Prayer Walk around Centennial

So, when the school year started, our Life Group met outside — near Centennial, if not in Centennial. But even then, we had to shift off-campus about a month into the school year because of a spike in COVID-19 transmission and public health orders from the University. We eventually settled into being a tiny “region” with two tiny Life Groups: one with younger students we called “Centennial” and the other with older students that we called the “Golden Girls” (though it was made up of women and men who had been involved in the “Off-Campus Life Group” the previous year). More than our individual Life Group names, though, we referred to ourselves collectively as “The Fellowship of the Hawk.” And we limped our way through that 2020-21 school year.

H2O Centennial Life Group in Picnic Area

We had some frigid outdoor meetings… some virtual meetings… and eventually some very spaced-out meetings in the Student Governance Chambers of the Kent Student Center… It’s really kind of amazing that we made it through that year.

H2O Centennial Life Group in the Student Governance Chambers

We gradually got stronger and stronger every year after that. And we also became more and more “Centennial” — which was encouraging to see. But we were still clearly the runt of the litter, as far as the student Life Groups of H2O were concerned. Smaller numbers… weaker group identity… less enthusiasm… and also a more eclectic mix of students… I learned to love our little Centennial Life Group. But it was still like a wobbly little fawn getting up from the forest floor, just barely able to stay on its feet.

H2O Centennial Life Group in the H2Olympics

Until, like, the last twelve months. Something has shifted. The wobbly little fawn has grown strong and swift, with a fine set of antlers. It feels like the Centennial Life Group is finally on more equal footing with the other student Life Groups. Maybe even stronger, in some respects. Last Monday, at the closing ceremonies of The Well (a.k.a. “The Wellebration”), it seemed especially notable how many Welligans and mentors and table leaders and staff coaches were there. We even pulled together for a Centennial group photo, which hasn’t always been something the students were asking for (even though many of the other Life Groups regularly do this). Centennial might have even been one of the largest contingents there that night.

Centennial Life Group Contingent at the Wellebration

We’ve also picked up three new freshman-apprentices for Life Group leadership this week, boosting our total leadership team to fourteen people for at least a little while. I expect a few Life Group leaders may be transitioning away from the team over the coming summer (as often happens in Collegiate ministry). But still, I think we’ve got a strong stable of leaders that could help to keep this momentum going for years to come.

H2O Kent Baptism Celebration

Last but not least, we had a baptism celebration at the end of yesterday’s worship gathering where three of the six people getting baptized are key pieces of the Centennial Life Group! Kylie, Andrea, and Tabby are each amazing examples of God’s grace. Both in their individual stories and in the collective Centennial story. And I really do want God to get all the glory. At the same time, it feels good to sketch out some of these longer story arcs and recognize everything that’s led up to this over the last four years (and longer). We’ve got a lot to celebrate these days.

This entry was posted in Church, COVID-19, God, H2O Kent, Introspection, Nostalgia, Prayer, Small Groups, The Bible, Transition. Bookmark the permalink.

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