Originally from Jan 2012
Reintegration:verb; To make or be made into a whole again; to amalgamate or help amalgamate with an existing community.
Reintegration is unnecessary if you don’t feel separated right? But, if you have a profound experience in life, it can make you feel a bit ‘out of touch’ with your daily life for a while- and when you return to that life and have to live it day in and out, you experience the joys and struggles of reintegration.
Some argue that a Distributed/Distance Learning Model (DL) program cannot possibly create community, a sense of belonging, a deep and spiritual experience. No way. Just not possible- especially in 2 weeks at a time in person on campus. Let me tell you I am going to SHATTER that belief.
Reintegration is the word I see bandied about on facebook by my cohort- CH 5 of Luther Seminary’s Master of Divinity Distributed Learning (DL) program. Now I would ask you, if it was not possible for them to experience a deeply moving and spiritual January Intensives Program, why would that word be in constant use right now? Why would there be tears upon bidding these new friends goodbye. How deep could a friendship grow in 2 weeks, really? Why would there be a need to continue to reach out? Because the belief that a DL program cannot provide this is UNTRUE. Period. Allow me to explain.
There is a phenomenon noted by the mental and behavioral health sciences and seen in military families. It is the manner and speed with which they integrate into a new social circle upon arrival at a new assignment. They do not know these folks, they do not have any special tools to help them. The only thing noticeable to those observing this phenomenon is that it is persistently obvious among the military. Read more about this here.
A military child has a tendency to form lightening fast and gorge-deep friendships and bonds. They do this for many reasons. First, they do not know how long they have there, but they know it is not long. Second, they need a support system and cannot wait a year or two to form a normal-speed relationship or they will spend 1/2 to 1/3 of their lives without a geographically close support system. They also do this out of shared experience that is life-changing. Some could argue traumatic, at times, but life changing. Ask any brat. Ask the experts. They will tell you there is definitely something amazing that happens and the friendships last lifetimes if given the opportunity to be maintained over the miles and years.
How then does this apply to DL cohorts? Are we traumatizing them with intensives? Hardly. Well… maybe a little- read my last blog post. But all in all, we are putting them together in tight quarters with intense schedules and coursework that REQUIRES teamwork if they are to meet the assignment goals. It is not too far from the bonds created at camp- or better yet- Via de Cristo (Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, etc) because GOD is a huge factor in it, along with shared faith.
We are not speaking of regular college students here. We are speaking to the few who have had their hearts moved to pursue Ministry as a lifetime commitment and JOB. They come to this already having been through some very defining and refining moments in life. They come from communities where they are not necessarily nested in faith. They may have a great home church and job, but they still live daily life away from campus, not surrounded by the swirl of residential seminary life. Instead, they create, they build, they stoke, a hunger that is voracious for the 2 weeks they are there. They literally gorge themselves on opportunity to attend chapel daily, shared devotions, shared meals with intense spiritual discussion and midnight sprints to complete homework due by 8 am. They are sated only through the fact that they have no other distractions in this time. They are able to focus wholeheartedly on what is in front of them, so they do- Intensely.
Something magical happens. They greet each other- strangers up to this point- with hugs! They cry over shared moments of awakening, discernment, sorrow, joy, and even finding coffee already made by someone else for them to share in. It is called INTENSIVES for a reason– they are feeling intensely, studying intensely, bonding intensely, missing family intensely, and seeking GOD intensely. To doubt that this could not create community is to doubt that the Holy Spirit exists or that any of them are called. That simple.
I wish I could share with you what happens- but I cannot yet. This semester, I will team up with a fellow cohort to create a short video to give you a glimpse into our lives. Stay tuned for it after June intensives. In the meantime, set your doubt aside, and believe. BELIEVE. And pray- for us, to find a way to bring the most amazing 2 weeks of our lives into our homes, communities, and home churches, so that you too will share in the intense joy.