It was a new start, yet it all looked and felt familiar. I tried leaving part of my past, yet it was there with me. I was there to study writing, but I was confronted by my previous studies--theology. I was there to pursue an MFA, but orientation took place in what was once a Baptist church.
I entered the church, which was now being used for the university's night program, and found my way to the sanctuary. They did not call it a sanctuary, it was now the "art's center," but you could not disguise its previous function. There were neither a crucifix, nor a baptistry, but you felt reverent walking in.
I silently and respectfully found my seat. My seat was not a desk or a table, but a pew. Some were talking, some were reading, but most had their heads down in a stationary position as if in meditation. We were there to study and learn, but all would have easily transitioned into a state worship, given the right cue.
The dean ascended the stage and stood in front of the lectern. It was not a lectern. It was a pulpit and he was not facing an audience of students but a house of worshipers. We listened to each of his words, noting down the most important points. We laughed at his jokes and imagined his stories. It was not a speech. It was a sermon and it had points, and it was persuasive. We were moved by his words and motivated to become better students. Not better students, but better believers.
There was a place in the pew in front of me for a hymnal, A Bible, and a cup of communion. Communion was not served, but we were all invited after the speech to come forward and receive our free university coffee cup. We got in a line and waited our turn to receive the cup. Then we departed with a, "Have a good day." No, not "have a good day," but: "Peace be with you." "And also with you."
It was orientation. Or was it church? I can not escape the church. It has followed me into a Masters of Fine Arts program. It was there during orientation and later in class to let me know where I came from. It will continue to be there with every story or poem I turn in for class. It will be there in my journal entries and my free writing. It will be there with topics I explain, argue and discuss. It will be there in my notes and in the margins. It is everywhere I go.
It is here with me now.