"Picking & Sticking" Together

It’s hard for me to capture just one way in which participating in the Fellows Program currently impacts me because of how transformative the year was in my life. Participating in the Fellows Program feels analogous to building a theological and experiential foundation for my life as an adult and everything else that has come afterwards. My understanding of participation in a church, what it means to be part of a family through my host family, forming a theology of work, the grand narrative of scripture, and how my story fits into God’s larger story were all deepened during my time as a Chattanooga Fellow.

I learned the importance of community and of what it really means to love your neighbor. My Pastor, Eric Youngblood, often points out that Jesus says to love our neighbor and we often don’t choose our neighbor. Part of participating in the Fellows Program means choosing a program in a city, and trusting God with the rest of the pieces. I was placed in a particular host family, with a particular class of Fellows, in a particular church body, and with a mentor who was chosen for me as part of this program. I learned the blessing of picking and sticking to a particular place and people. Unlike anytime before, in my Fellows Program, these people were chosen for me and I learned the blessing of knowing and loving people I may not have crossed paths with had we not participated in this program. I loved my host family, and am still close with them- even throwing their oldest daughter a baby shower this month. Living with a host family was such a blessing to me. I loved seeing how a family outside of my own operates, and I got a brand new perspective on family life and the sacrifices the parents made each day for their children and their family. Their warmth and welcome of me was a beautiful picture to me of God’s family, and what it means to be part of a body of believers. 

Along with learning the importance of community in the lives of us as believers, I also learned the importance of work and understanding and developing a theology of work. I, like many others in their young 20’s, felt this intense pressure to do something big, grand, and meaningful with my life—to make a name for myself. Through a class with Robby Holt, I began to understand what it means to be made in the the image of God. We have been given an identity as Son’s and Daughters and inherent dignity and worth because we are image bearers of God. This is so de-pressurizing, because I don’t have to make a name for myself, because I have been given one with dignity and worth. I remember in class one day our professor, Bill Fullilove, said “you don’t have be grand, because your God is grand.” I began to understand how my story and my life fit into the grand narrative that God is up to in the world through creation, the fall, redemption, and waiting for Jesus to make all things new. This foundational understanding gave me such hope and purpose in the everyday mundane tasks God has assigned each of us. 

In summation, I learned from others in my class, from my church, my mentor, and community leaders in Chattanooga what it means to live faithfully—a long obedience in the right direction. If I had to pick one aspect of the program that impacted me the most it would be the relationships I built and the importance of community and friendships in my life. As a single adult, I learned what it really means to be part of this family of faith through the church and larger community in Chattanooga, and also the blessing and dignity God gives us in participating in what He is up to in the world through each other.

Courtney McWhorter, Chattanooga Fellow Alum ‘14

Jonathan Ingraham