Unbolting the Door: Musings of a Former Volunteer | Forum for Theological Exploration

Unbolting the Door: Musings of a Former Volunteer

By: Anna Ruth Hershberger
May 24, 2011

I recently read about a New Yorker who was welcoming a preacher into his home while boasting that New York was the best place to live. In New York, he claimed, individuals had freedom to wear what they wanted, act how they pleased and be who they felt like. The life he lived in New York gave him freedom that he hadn’t been able to experience elsewhere. But then he proceeded to bolt the door, slide the latch and set the alarm.

As a Mennonite, I did not grow up listening to people in my community talking about freedom the way most Americans do, but recent world events in the news have caused me to reflect more on freedom. While our country gives allegiance to the flag and boasts of freedom, I sense underlying unease and become ever more aware of the ways in which we slide our own latches, bolt our doors and set our alarms.

What does freedom look like? I am a wind lover. As a child I loved running barefooted in the wind and climbing a certain tree with my best friend where we could feel the wind more intensely. We would compete to see who could climb the highest and then we would stay awhile longer, waiting for the wind to sway the branches back and forth. I don’t have quite as much freedom to do these things anymore but I continue to value the wind and as I have come to see her as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, I learn to feel her presence in other areas of life.

Feeling her movement in the first event I attended with Volunteers Exploring Vocation surprised and excited me. The few days I spent with VEV participants in Atlanta were the best days of my year in service. I was suddenly surrounded with other young adults asking many of the same questions as I was. As we listened to speakers share stories and experiences of doing what they loved, we envisioned creative ways to live out Christian discipleship. Conversations were earnest and analytical, compassionate and passionate, and a rapid kinship developed between those attending the event. I left wanting more.

Since that Atlanta gathering I have been blessed by participating in an internship with VEV, and have continued to sense the Spirit blowing through their work.

In a recent conversation with a former VEV – related volunteer we discussed why the work of VEV seems so alive and exciting. We pondered the strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s work in VEV events. Some of our observations included:

I still don’t know whether the attitudes and foci create a space for the Holy Spirit to move, or if the Spirit moves first and creates an open space and attitude. What I do know is that something about VEV’s work offers a small glimpse of freedom. Perhaps this glimpse is just enough to begin the work towards unbolting the door, sliding back the latch and disarming the alarm.

  1. We sensed a fostering of the need to learn from one another. This put people on an equal level and allowed participants to give and take from others.
  2. There was no forcing or shaming. VEV portrays an attitude of desiring to connect people’s gifts and passions in the right place.
  3. We were often introduced to people who incorporated the arts and creativity into their ministry. This helped widen our views on what ministry can look like.
  4. While the gatherings were carefully planned with excellent speakers, they weren’t stuffy and people could be themselves.


Photo by Flickr user ABUS Security Tech Germany


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