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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Emma Helms – Steinmetz (email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.