Coloma is literally where the California Gold Rush began. Sitting somewhere between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, it mostly now consists of historical landmarks, educational tours and summer recreation. Summers there are hot and dry, alleviated only by the presence of the American River which is fed by the snow-melt from the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. The water is cold, but is ultimately a welcome refreshment.
Coloma is where we hold our annual college and young adult retreat. It’s one of the few big events we do each year and the only one which has the potential to draw from the full diversity of young adults who come through our ministry. We tube a milder section of the river’s South Fork in addition to finding time for community building and spiritual focus. All things considered it’s a fairly typical mid-summer retreat.
We got back this last Sunday and I was able to reflect how this year’s retreat (which is number 7 for me) was different from the years before it. When I first started doing this ministry I put together a weekend retreat in Lake Tahoe which was a feeble attempt at building some momentum towards something better. The second year we stumbled on the idea of Coloma as it was the family vacation spot for one of the core young adults in our ministry. This was the real first step to building what has become somewhat of a tradition for our young adults and those first few years were fed by a growing number of core students who were not only living in community with each other, but who became committed to this yearly gathering.
By year 3 I could honestly say we had something going. By year 4 we pulled in our first speaker. You get the picture. It’s been a great thing for us. Yet like I said, this year was different. From that original group of core young adults who began Coloma with me and who were committed to it, I am literally the only one left. I realized this about halfway through the weekend and at the same time realized that when I’d started this deal I was only a few years older than the students and that now after 7 years, I’m 33 and they’re 23!
This isn’t something that I’m mourning. In fact it is only serving to confirm something that I’ve been sensing for the last year or so. The first wave of young adults is passing into full-blown adulthood and I’m now ministering to what is in many ways a new group. The age gap continues to grow, which I’ve become use to from youth ministries, but this is slightly different in that the first group of people were peers or almost peers. When I started this I had just graduated from college so I was one of them. Now I’m the old guy with a mortgage and a family.
But this gives me a unique perspective that I didn’t have when I started. I’m now much more acutely aware of what it means to come out on the other side of young adulthood and live life as an adult. Going on my 8th year here, I think I’m sharper than I was at that time and I hope that my students will benefit from that.