Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be part of a community. Maybe a year ago it was easy to define a community as the people you live with and work with, simply the people around you. But as this last semester passed in my 13th and final year of attending Timothy, and the fall music concerts didn’t happen, and Octoberfest performances were virtual, and the soccer season was suspended, I realized how much I had taken my community for granted. I realized how much events like those anchored and defined my year. My guess is there are many other long-time members of the community who have felt the same way. And for the 150 new families at Timothy, it has been a whole different challenge — many have never stepped foot on campus except to drop off and pick up their kids from school.
But how do you bring people together in the middle of a pandemic?
Well, you have to get creative.
Thanks to the preparation and planning by administration, a generous underwrite from Thrivent, and the devotion and imagination of the marketing team, an event unlike any other in Timothy’s history took place on December 9.
That night, over 600 people came to campus to celebrate “A Timothy Christmas,” a drive-in concert hosted right here in the south parking lot.
When the cars poured in, they were greeted by a company of carolers, all of them Timothy teacher and faculty volunteers. The path to the south lot was lined with flickering luminarias and burn barrels, splashing warm light into the cold December evening. Every car received an ornament and bags of popcorn. When they turned the corner, there was the stage, where nearby, my bandmates and I were probably exchanging nervous jokes and chugging our last gulps of water before we went on stage.
There were six of us seniors onstage that night—Carter Bulthuis (lead/acoustic guitar), Seamus Smith (drums), Bethany Myers (piano and vocals), Nick Carlson (electric guitar), Luke VanHout (bass), and myself (lead vocal)—and we knew we were playing a much different scene than our typical gig as the high school chapel band. But ask us and we’ll all agree—we had the time of our lives. We played three shows that night, and you won’t believe me, but each one felt better than the last. From “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” to “Joy to the World” we gave it our all after months of having to hold back.
My favorite moment in each of the three shows however, was at the end when the music went nearly quiet and everyone on the campus sang “Silent Night.” I think most people who attended would agree that was the highlight of the evening. It had been a difficult year for everyone in that parking lot, each in different ways, and maybe even a lonely one. So as I sang, I looked out at the parents and students in their cars, grandparents standing in front of the headlights, kids sitting on the roofs, devoted volunteers huddled in groups, and that big black sky above; each of us singing about the the Son of God who made it. I realized there was a maybe a new definition of community that could be found in the darkness. There were those in the crowd whom I have known for years and those whom I have never met, but all of us we gathered there that night to worship, to celebrate, and to be with each other. We weren’t simply people around one another, we were brothers and sisters in fellowship, raising our voices in the night.