by Amanda Judah
On December 4, Appa director Kelly Hughes entertained a group of finals-avoidant students and faculty in Hillside. Her energy and enthusiasm brought engagement to her topic, “What Are You Waiting For?”. Heading into the advent season, she encouraged her audience to wonder, “What am I waiting for? What am I willing to wait for? Who waits with me? Do I make room for God as I wait?” Although Hughes could not offer individual answers to these questions, she provided fodder for further pondering.
Early on, Hughes made sure to emphasize that seasons of waiting are part of being human, something we all have to go through. Empathizing with students looking to discover their vocation, Hughes revealed that even after she found a fulfilling career, she still felt that she had to wait. Then, she went on to relate stories where she found waiting to be “a moment of grace, a moment of opportunity, a moment of ‘I’m not sure what’s next but God is with me’. ”
Hughes’ first moment of waiting took place in fall 2007, when she started as a freshman at Providence College. Although she started out involved in the party scene, she found it had “shifted into a sense of routine and boredom”. As part of her quest for lasting friendship, Hughes attended a retreat and had a very different experience. She was able to experience “a lived, personal experience of who God is. And in that, having an understanding of who I am.”
Although Hughes’ sense of waiting for deep friendships ended, her search for a vocation continued past her undergraduate years to Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, where she was a member of the Boston Medical Center Emergency Chaplaincy Team. Although Hughes wondered, “What do I have to say to pain and suffering?”, she found being with others in their moments of waiting gave her a greater sense of what ministry can be. She specifically referenced a time she was called to address a situation where a man named Mike was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. Although Hughes felt extremely inadequate, she knew that God wasn’t calling her to the “easy way out”. When Mike asked for her to read a Bible passage, she responded with Psalm 130. Hughes remarked, “That waiting was a shared moment of trust between Mike and I,” where both parties were active in the hope “that the God who put us together can keep us together.”
Hughes strongly asserted that waiting for God and his plans is a powerful force that is not only passive. She stated, “I wait for that God of ever-greater, ever wider, ever more loving response,” even though the world can sometimes seem dark and hopeless, filled with systemic injustice. She argued that waiting is not a linear practice, and requires constant hope towards what God might do in the future, even though those plans have not been revealed. She suggested that waiting can look like “paying attention to places of discontent, restlessness”, with others that can reflect back God’s love through activities of daily reflection and prayer.