We sat in a circle- students piled onto the couch and on the floor in between chairs. The fire was crackling, the coffee table was covered in an assortment of snacks, and outside, snow was falling. It was one of those Christmas card moments that I hope to never forget, but it also was just another night at the Montreat College Conference.
The Montreat College Conference is a conference designed for young adults. Montreat began hosting the conference several years ago, inviting college students back to that familiar place they learn to love as a youth at summer camp.
It was only in 2018 that Preston Hollow began taking a group of our own. Since then, we have had several students return year after year for a few days of spiritual recentering, rest, and connection with their church family.
It is our tradition to rent a house inside the Montreat gate. We cook our own meals, play more card games than I can count, and spend each evening gathered around a fire. We pray for one another. We worship together. We ask real questions and strive to grow in our faith. There are mini-dance parties, late night snacks, early morning hikes, and enough laughter for the whole month of January.
As one of our college seniors, Megan Wiora said, “It just feels right to start off the new year with a few days in this special place,” and she is not alone in that sentiment. Once you attend the College Conference, it’s hard not to return.
So while the college conference is always special, this year was particularly meaningful, because we had five college seniors, for whom this was their last conference. In more ways than one, it felt like the end of an era, as well as a celebration of what God will do next through these young people.
Therefore, as a marker of time, and as a way to make this year special for our graduating friends, we sat around the fire as we did every night- 18 people piled into a small living room; and together we listened to each senior share stories of why this church and that place have been meaningful. We then gifted each senior a Montreat blanket, wrapped them up in that blanket and surrounded them in prayer.
It was holy and authentic, joyful and goofy.
There were tears and laughter, as well as nostalgia and hope for future days.
It was one of those Christmas card moments that I hope to never forget, but it also was just another night at the Montreat College Conference.
Thanks be to God for moments like that.