by Erica Kadel
This Spring, Chelsea Clinton and Jimmy Kimmel partnered with ServiceNation to launch Serve A Year, an initiative to advocate for young adult national service. This announcement came in the wake of Retired Army General Stan McChrystal’s op-ed detailing how a year of national service could heal many of America’s social ills by placing an emphasis on good citizenship. He and The Franklin Project, an organization at the forefront of this movement, envision “a future in which a year of full-time national service is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American.”
A number of businesses including Airbnb, Tumblr, Comcast, and NBCUniversal have also committed to partnering with ServiceNation to help make a year of service the norm for young Americans. Episcopal Service Corps is the newest in a growing group of organizations to formally announce support for the Serve A Year campaign.
Episcopal Service Corps programs have been on the grassroots of this movement to integrate service into communities for over 20 years. In 2008, six established Episcopal service programs came together to form the network that is Episcopal Service Corps. Beginning with those six programs, ESC has grown to over 30 programs and 200 corps members around the United States. Each corps member works at a local nonprofit, ranging from churches, schools, and hospitals to organic farms, seafarers ministries, and LGBTQ social service agencies. Their work not only lifts up their community, but also provides the young adult with professional skills and the basis for vocational discernment, which are also key to the experience of serving with ESC.
In addition to serving the communities in which they are placed, ESC corps members also create intentional community with one another. Members of each program live together in houses or apartments, break bread with one another, and deepen their faith as a group. Corps members regularly worship together and an engage in a year-long social justice and spiritual life curriculum. These community activities allow each corps member the space to discern where God is calling them. Many continue on to graduate school, seminary, or employment at a nonprofit.
In its commitment to faith formation and living in community, Episcopal Service Corps differentiates itself from many other Serve A Year programs. ESC believes a year of service is not only a civic duty, but also a spiritual practice and sacramental commitment. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori called ESC a “flourishing ministry of the Church,” one that connects all Episcopalians with national service.
Whether young adults serve with ESC, AmeriCorps, or another organization, making a year of national service a standard for all young Americans will surely strengthen our communities and better prepare young adults to begin their professional adults lives.