Every Thursday night a group of very different people gathers around a table and shares a bit of life together. They take turns cooking, setting the table, and inviting God’s presence into their midst. As they talk, laugh and share stories week after week, they are changed.

Each of these young people is a member of one of our Episcopal Service Corps communities. They spend over 30 hours a week in volunteer service to a church or other non-profit organization and also spend time in formation activities and prayer together. This shared life involves real commitment and a willingness to be transformed through the experience.

Episcopal Service Corps (ESC) has over 200 young adults living together in 25 communities across the US each year. The mission of Episcopal Service Corps is to develop and support a national network of intentional communities in the Episcopal Church. These communities are marked by young adults serving others in solidarity, promoting justice and deepening their own spiritual awareness and vocational discernment, all while living simply in intentional Christian community.

In Southern Ohio, the Confluence Year ESC program was launched by St. John’s, Columbus, in 2013. The diocese founded Brendan’s Crossing in 2012 (originally called Floral House) as an independent young adult intentional community. As of 2017, Brendan’s Crossing has officially become a member organization of Episcopal Service Corps, and we are partnering with Confluence under the umbrella of ESC Southern Ohio. In the last six years, over 40 young adults have lived in these two communities. Each has discovered something different about themselves, and each has grown and changed and continues to find their life shaped by the time they spent in community. 

A bit about each program:

Brendan’s Crossing

The community of Brendan’s Crossing invites you to enter into a Christ-centered community that is focused on serving and helping in the neighborhoods that need it most. It’s a community that values vocational discernment, spiritual formation and shared meals as the heart of all they do. Located just blocks from the campus of the University of Cincinnati, the community house has a large urban garden in the backyard that supplies much of the food that is enjoyed at the shared meals. Brendan’s Crossing is a program deeply rooted in the desire to see young adults seek after God’s call on their lives with all their might, and for them to learn about God and themselves by serving those around them. To learn more about this program, please visit www.brendanscrossing.org.

Confluence

Confluence is hosted by St. John’s, Columbus, in the Franklinton neighborhood. Confluence offers an immersion into urban poverty and invites young adults to serve fulltime in direct-care, advocacy or administrative positions at some of Columbus’ most innovative and caring social service agencies. St. John’s has had a long history of service in the neighborhood, specifically among the homeless community through Street Church, a weekly Eucharistic service held in an abandoned parking lot and in partnership with other not-for-profits addressing systemic injustice and health issues in this community. Confluence volunteers live in intentional community and receive support and educational enrichment through Confluence staff, neighborhood partners, and the congregational community of this historic church in Franklinton. Confluence is a year of intentional living in incarnational community offering yourself in service to the poor. To learn more about this program, please visit www.confluenceyear.org.

One young adult shared, “Being a young adult in the modern world is hard. You’re constantly battling the mental picture of the life you’re ‘supposed’ to have. You feel you’re supposed to be farther along, like you’re not doing it right, like you’re not good enough. Being in community makes it a little easier… we have people with whom we can share our fears, share our uncertainties, and share a meal together as well. People to talk with, cry with, and laugh with. People to remind us of the divinity that permeates our world. And that makes picturing the future a little easier.”

A year of service working among the poor, asking questions about the life God is calling you to, can be overwhelming. However, as one of our former members stated, having community to “share one another’s joys, burdens, stresses, questions, meals, activities and extraordinary hospitality was the keystone of my year in this program. That bond, forged through days, evenings and nights of many kinds of formation, held together not only our community but also our spiritual and mental health during the course of that year.”

We believe that the formation of young adults for service in the world and in the church is something God has called us to do. The church needs lay and ordained young people as leaders. Many in the church are frustrated by or have even given up on Millennials. However, my experience over the last six years helping to build and support these programs and young adults has given me an incredible hope for the future and the leaders who have emerged from these programs.

Meet some of our alumni:

Jed Dearing served as the director of Confluence for the first four years. He is currently a postulant for priesthood attending seminary at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, CA.

 

Monica Payne was a member of Brendan’s Crossing for two years, following a year of overseas mission. She is currently serving as the Program Director of Brendan’s Crossing.

 

Charles Graves was a member of Brendan’s Crossing last year, after a year of service in Italy and completing seminary at Berkley Divinity School at Yale. He is now a transitional deacon and serving at Church of the Advent in Cincinnati.

 

Melanie Peterson spent a year at Confluence. She later helped found the Near East House, another intentional community and community garden initiative in Columbus through a young adult UTO grant. She is now an MDiv student at Union Seminary in New York City.

 

Following her Confluence Year, Katie Guy is now serving as a missionary in Jamaica.

 

Katie Blodgett spent a year at Confluence, and now is serving with a not-forprofit in Indianapolis, working with homeless youth.

 

 

Leslie Stevenson spent two years as part of Brendan’s Crossing. She now works for United Way in Cincinnati and was just elected as a council member in the city of Norwood. She also has a Master’s from Xavier University and has studied Public Policy at Boston University.

 

Hilary Wolkan spent a year at Brendan’s Crossing serving at Lydia’s House in Cincinnati, working with homeless women and children. She continued to serve the homeless first as an AmeriCorps Intern in Boston and currently at a non-profit, Housing Families, in the Boston area.

 

Brianna Kelly spent three years at Brendan’s Crossing, working at Redeemer, Cincinnati, and then as a missioner and community leader in Northside. She is currently making music with her band and has released her second album. She is also assisting in the development of a new worship service at Christ Church Cathedral.

 

Following her year of service at Brendan’s Crossing, Maggie Foote went to seminary at CDSP in Berkeley, CA and is now an ordained priest serving at Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and at the Latino Ministry Center in Forest Park.

 

 

Hannah Teetor spent two years at Brendan’s Crossing. After graduating from Emory University last spring, she is now serving as the Director for Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral. She also served as the Assistant Director at Procter Camp this past summer.

To find out more about Episcopal Service Corps or to apply to join one of the programs around the country or right here in our diocese, check out episcopalservicecorps.org. Or reach out to one of the program directors, Monica Payne (mpayne@diosohio.org) or Emma Helms – Steinmetz (confluenceyear@gmail.com) to learn more about the unique opportunities these programs offer.

We are always looking for parish partners to share meals with us, for opportunities for placement sites, to support our young adults in their discernment or help us recruit for the coming year. Supporting ESC is one way to support young adults in the church!

The Rev. Jane Gerdsen serves as Missioner for Fresh Expressions for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with her at jgerdsen@diosohio.org.

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