Community at Semester

By Tim McCracken (Oklahoma)

Summit Semester works to create an environment that encourages students to build a strong, real, community; one that can foster both lasting relationships and serve as a model for how people can relate to one another. Some of the fundamental principles behind this community are those of head, heart, and hands. These three ideas have a considerable amount of overlap as our intellect (head) shapes how we relate to others (heart) which in turn determines our actions (hands).

Semester is, in large part, a program where students step back from normal life to challenge how they think.

Much of our time here is spent in lectures and completing various assignments, and there are a lot of great books we are assigned to read before certain classes. Since we are learning so much side by side, it makes it very easy to turn a casual conversation into a deep talk on anything from religion to politics. Although being able to talk about the problems of the world by itself doesn’t build a strong community, it cannot be ignored as it is a part of developing a community.

Actually living together would be impossible, especially when controversial topics are often purposely brought up if people did not feel close to one another. One of the strongest ways this is cultivated is through the sheer amount of time everyone spends around each other: we eat three meals a day together, along with sometimes cooking together at night; we have long car rides with hours to just talk; and there are nights when we all just relax — gathering around a campfire, sitting in a hammock stack, or watching a movie. Also, everyone is open to doing things as a whole. The first few days saw a no-shave group form and claim almost every guy. Because of an adventure day to Santa Fe, New Mexico, it became hard not to see someone wearing a Baja Jacket at any given moment. We live together and have time to get to know one another.

Life isn’t just thinking deep thoughts and knowing how to relate to and care for one another.

We have to put that care and thought into practice. A lesson that was quickly taught during the first day of Semester, when we gathered in the sports field to pull weeds, was that work is good. Our efforts early on gave us a tamed field where we can now play sports like Ultimate Frisbee, Spike Ball, and volleyball. What we do when we are active plays an integral part in building community, so we try to spend our energy purposefully. Not only sports and work crews but also hikes, group workouts, weekly swing dancing, and worship nights help us live healthily and in a God-glorifying way. We learn how to put into practice what we discuss.

Though it is often natural to focus on only relating to others through just our intellect or just our emotions, those things would create incomplete relationships that cannot build a strong community. Summit Semester attempts to bring together deep intellectual growth, strong relationships, and ways to live everything out in an environment that encourages growth. Within the first few days at Semester, everyone had already started to feel the sense of community, and by the first full week, there was a visible difference, since there is so much here tailored around building up a strong community. Learning alongside everyone, actively seeking to understand others, and working productively together is leading us to develop a strong community.