Humans of Rockwell House
Amarachi, WashU Class of ‘19
Throughout my childhood, I didn’t really understand what a personal relationship with God was. And then growing up as a queer kid in the Baptist Church, there were some things said in church that made me think, okay, well, I don’t think I’m allowed to have a relationship with God because of who I am. So my childhood was very much me not really thinking I could have a relationship with God, not really knowing what that would look like for someone like me. And that kind of blended into my adolescence, when I said I was agnostic and I didn’t want to go to church anymore. And so, until I got into college, I didn’t really go to church that much, and I didn’t really think about my relationship with God. It wasn’t until my first two years of college, when I was really having a hard time, and I was just very lost. Looking back on it, I felt spiritually dead in a way. I felt like I just had no path. And that was really hard. And so it wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year that I said, I really need to get back with God, because I can’t do this without him, I can’t navigate everything I have to navigate without him. So part of my journey to just getting better and recovering from a lot of things was kind of building a new relationship with God. Well, maybe it was like my first relationship with God, because I didn’t really have one before then, or I wasn’t really participating in that relationship before then.
I’ve been thinking a lot about [how going into social work connects to my faith]. I think God has placed me on this path, has given me this purpose. With the pain that has happened in my own life, he’s allowed me to grow from it and use the lessons that I’ve learned from those experiences to provide to other people. I do see it as a God-given path that I’m on. And I think that also, faith will really help me, because I’m going to be encountering situations that are just really awful, where children are dealing with really intense trauma, and I know that leaning on God and having a solid relationship with God will help me, and enable me to help these kids in the best way I can.
Amarachi is an African & African American Studies and Global Health major from St. Louis, MO
Colton, SLU class of ‘19
It was a lot of things [that made me want to keep coming to Rockwell]. Everyone was obviously so nice, and everyone was so accepting. I was kind of [going through] a rough patch, I guess, in my faith journey because I had stopped going to Catholic Church for a long time. Since the summer before my sophomore year, I had taken a break from that, and was just trying to come to figure out how you can be gay and a religious person. So that was a big part of it. And then simultaneously, the same semester that Matt asked me [to come with him to Rockwell], I was taking a theology course called Christian Ethics, and we had this really cool teacher, and she had a very wide array of things we talked about in class, and one unit was on gender and sexuality. And that opened me up to different perspectives. I had thought that I would have to choose between being Catholic/having faith, or choosing to live a gay life – that you couldn’t do both. But this class, just based off some of the texts and materials we read and the discussions we had, showed me it didn’t have to be that way. That came at the same time as I was starting to go to Rockwell, and it kind of married the two.
I am a totally different person than I was three years ago, definitely. I think that [reconciling being gay and my faith] was honestly the biggest part, that was probably the epicenter of all the change. Because before, based off of what I was told, I didn’t really see [being gay and faith] as things that could work together. Now I don’t see it as something that conflicts. Just seeing how other members of the [Rockwell] community, just based off of conversations and whatnot, had very similar experiences to myself, was a big thing. And also in conversation we’ll talk about justice-oriented themes, and being accepting to people, and anti-bigotry, and in sermons it’s a common theme as well. It’s just a very visible thing. You’re not trying to look for it. Other communities […] will say, oh, we’re accepting of gay people, just like hate the sin and not the sinner or whatever. But you really have to kind of look for it, you have to find how they’re okay with it, but here it’s just so clear, it’s so obvious – these people are cool, we love everyone.
Colton is a biology major from Spring, TX
Eva, WashU Class of ‘19
At the beginning of sophomore year, I said, you know what, I’ll check [Rockwell] out. So I showed up — I completely overestimated the amount of time it would take me to walk from here to the 40 so I showed up 15 minutes early. It was like a taco night or something, so I helped Beth make guacamole. And then we went out back to the chapel and I said, this is the most beautiful place in the world. And then we either did “Come Thou Fount",” which is one of my favorites, or “Here I Am Lord,” which is my dad’s favorite. When I go to a church for the first time, if they do one of my favorite hymns, I take that as a sign. So it was one of those two. So I was like, hmm. Maybe I should be here. Then I started coming more often.
I cannot imagine how much my college experience would have been different if I hadn’t come to Rockwell. I’ve changed the way I think about my faith because of my experiences [here]. I started having to think about my personal faith a lot more. In discernment and when I finally started being able to show up to Bible study, and on retreats and stuff, having to think more seriously about what faith means to me as a person, rather than to me as a member of a community, was a pretty significant paradigm shift. And I’m really grateful for having been invited and given a space to take those steps.
I remember having a conversation [about religion] with my roommate when we first became friends on Facebook, probably about nearly four years ago. It was something along the lines of, y’know, “Does God exist? Eh. Do I really like the feeling of being part of a community, do I love church music, do I like having a framework within which to do service work? All of those things, yes.” So my interaction with my faith community [before college] was mostly about that. But since then, getting the space to sit down and think more specifically about a personal relationship with God has been one of the more interesting things I’ve done in college.
Eva is a classics major from Washington, D.C.
Alejandro, WashU class of ‘19
I came to college and I wanted to rationalize a lot of things about faith. But I came to understand, we can’t know the things we can never know. I think Jesus was very explicit about the fact that we cannot know these things. So where I think that kind of led me was a lot more focus on action, [on] what we’re doing now. Because we don’t know what the kingdom of God is and when it is coming, the best we can do is to try to implement [Christ’s] teachings on earth, to make our world as good as it can be. I feel like that should be the purpose of faith. Not that there aren’t obviously benefits for oneself and generally to loving God, worshiping God and such. But worshiping God without taking our understanding of God’s teachings into the world and taking care of things, basically trying to implement changes in the world around us, I think, it’s kind of useless. I think this is something that is a lot more ingrained in people of color. You look at Exodus, and you see how important it was for slaves, for people in Latin America as a huge basis of liberation theology and all that – there’s a certain amount that I think is sort of inherent in brown traditions: faith interplaying with action, faith interplaying with resistance. You can’t do social justice without faith, [and] you can’t do faith without social justice; it’s inextricable for me.
Alejandro is an economics and math major from Springfield, PA
Matt, SLU class of ‘19
[My first semester at SLU,] I took a couple go’s at actually trying to get physically to Rockwell House on Sunday. The first time, I read the email and it said, you know, meet at the Clocktower, and we’ll walk there! And I was like, alright, 6:50, I’m waiting at SLU’s clocktower. But I get there at 6:51 – I was running late, and I get there at 6:51, and there’s no one there! And I’m like, man! I’ve missed it! It must be the most punctual church group ever, that they leave at 6:50 on the dot and I’ve totally missed it! They’re nowhere in sight! I couldn’t believe it. And then I Google Maps-d it to see how long of a walk it was, see if I could catch up, and it was 5 miles! And I said, gee, they’re not going this far in like 10 minutes! So then I was like, I think something’s a bit wrong. [The email was referring to the WashU Clocktower!] So then the next week, I managed to co-op most of the cross-country team, most of the freshmen on the cross-country team who had gone to college mass the week before, and I said, do you want to go to this church by WashU? And so, we had a couple cars drive over, and we got the times wrong – we thought it was 7:30, not 7:10, and even for 7:30 we were running late – we got there at 7:35. This whole horde of people. And we parked on the street and we went ‘round, because we couldn’t see anyone in the house. And we saw the garage, and all these other SLU kids I was with were all starting to have real big second thoughts – they’re like, ah, what are we doing here? But I was like, no, no, we’re committed, we’re going, and so we arrive later than we anticipated, and we still thought it started at seven thirty, but we got there and pretty much go straight into communion, and then the end. I was like, geez! This is the shortest church service I’ve ever had in my life! They do things quick around here! And then we go and have tacos, and we outnumbered – the guests that I brought I think outnumbered the rest of the people probably 2:1, probably 3:1 even. Yeah, and that was my first time at Rockwell House!
Matt is a physics and math major from Christ Church, New Zealand