The following is a guest post from Cheryl Neel, a member of the CM TEC community.
Each TEC retreat hosted in Central Minnesota is unique because the group gathered for the weekend is one-of-a-kind. There has never been the exact same set of people gathered for a weekend more than once.
On every retreat, there is a healthy amount of time spent creating a community and a sense of belonging for each individual. The TECites are those attending a TEC for the first time. Team members are those who have attended a TEC weekend before.
Over the course of the retreat, TECites encounter Christ in a new way. After completing a TEC retreat, they are welcomed into an enormous TEC family that includes every person who has ever attended a TEC weekend, anywhere. This family spans generations, state lines, and even country borders. Anyone who has attended a TEC weekend will always be included in the TEC family, regardless of where they live or how long it’s been since they’ve been to a TEC center.
I’ve been working CM TEC retreats since 2002. My knowledge of the vast size of the TEC family grows every time, as I meet more TECites. I always get giddy and feel God’s strong presence when I randomly bump into a TEC family member while being away from the TEC center. And this was never truer than on the day my youngest son was baptized.
My husband and I planned for our son’s baptism to take place during Mass at the church we regularly attend, which is about a two hour drive from the CM TEC center. It was a summer holiday weekend and the priest made a joke that, “All of [our] invitations to the cabin must have gotten lost in the mail.” From my view, the pews looked plenty full while being camped out in the front rows with the family and friends we invited to share our special day with.
It had been about 2 years since the last time I worked a TEC weekend. Regardless, neither distance nor time seemed to be a factor, as I found myself absolutely surrounded by TEC family members, the people God invited to share our special day with.
We arrived to church early to take pictures and take care of logistics. A familiar face from TEC who I hadn’t seen in a while, was serving as a sacristan. He approached me with a hug and asked if I was the baptism family. I cheerful said yes and turned my baby to show him off.
The joy that poured out of his eyes and smile was indescribable. He instantly responded with a gasp and said, “What an honor to be here to serve you and your family on this blessed occasion! This is going to be special!”
A few moments later, the Mass coordinator, another familiar face from TEC who I hadn’t seen in a while, walked to the front of the church and said with a hug, “I just heard. You! You! You are the reason for the baptism! Congratulations!” (A proud momma moment, for sure!)
While Mass was underway, as I looked around the church, I saw more familiar TEC faces, with smiles beaming from ear to ear sitting in the pews and we exchanged a little wave. During the preparation of the gifts, I looked up, and wouldn’t you know it, three of the Eucharistic ministers were familiar TEC faces. After the closing prayer, we were taking more pictures, and as God would have planned it, more hugs, greetings, blessings, and congratulations came flowing our way from the TEC family.
For a day that I thought I had planned out, it was such a surprise blessing having so many of my TEC family members as witnesses to the day my son was fully welcomed into our faith community. God is really good at surprises.