We had a young adult baptism on the Georgetown University campus; an outward sign of an inward conversion. I was responsible for the outward sign; God was responsible for the inward conversion. But what I did do one day was ask, “Hey, do you want to talk?” The answer was yes.
And so we talked every week for months.
We talked about God. About what it actually means that Jesus died “for” our sins. We talked about Scripture. We talked about vocation and call, we talked about Holy Week and what it meant. We talked about spiritual gifts, we talked about the bodily resurrection. We talked about the church and its future. We talked about how God had been working in her life from the very beginning. We talked about the possibilities of lived discipleship, about religious identity, about a real relationship with the Living God, and Jesus, and the Spirit that was blowing around us each time we came together.
In other words, we talked about the stuff of faith, the stuff of life itself.
Then one day, in the midst of our talking, we both realized that she had to be baptized, that Jesus had a hold on her heart and was not going to let her go. With joyful tears, we welcomed her into our family on April 24th, the last service of the school year. Students of different faiths, and even no faith, joined us in celebrating the beginning of her new life in Christ.
These life-giving conversations are the work of the church. But we can’t have them if we’re not there.
It’s no surprise to me that “conversation” and “conversion” are closely related, both meaning, “turning with.” Only God turns hearts, only God converts. What happened was sheer grace. But those conversations matter, and being present on campuses matters. God is working there already. We need to be there, too.
by The Rev. Becky Zartman, Episcopal Missioner to Georgetown University.