Why serve in an Episcopal Church program?
There is profound wisdom within the Episcopal Church about deepening ourselves and developing our gifts for the betterment for the world. The Episcopal Church is steeped in concern for the disenfranchised and activism on their behalf. It is also a church of tolerance, understanding and diversity.
Do I have to be Episcopalian to serve?
Our programs vary. AmeriCorps programs do not discriminate on the basis of religion in admissions. Other programs may give preference to Episcopalian applicants, but are open to people from diverse faith backgrounds. Each program's website can answer this question more fully.
Is this about proselytizing or converting people?
No—ESC service is not meant to change or alter the faith of the people being served. It is meant to bring the good news of justice and healing to those who are oppressed or neglected in our society.
How do people afford to do this?
ESC programs involve a year of "intentional simplicity," meaning that in solidarity with the poor whom we serve, the lifestyle is frugal. However, we are concerned with the well-being of our program participants (this is in fact our foremost priority), and therefore we make arrangements to ensure that safe and decent housing, stipends to cover a broad range of living expenses, and health insurance are all included. Programs affiliated with AmeriCorps provide forbearance on federal student loans and end-of-year education grants. Individual program websites can provide more information on the financial/practical arrangements.
These programs can be thought of as "investments," expected to yield spiritual, interpersonal, and professional dividends very abundantly!
Do I have to apply to all the programs if I'm only interested in one or a few?
No. Though we share a Common Application, applicants frequently choose to apply to only a select number of our participating programs. As in the Episcopal Church itself, there is considerable diversity among our programs in terms of structure, emphases and processes.
How much free time will I have?
All of our programs promote a balance between work, rest, social interaction and deep reflection. Our participants are frequently young adults with a wide variety of interests and goals, and all our programs are set in fascinating geographic areas of the country. All programs balance these interests in different ways, and we invite you to explore each program’s website to learn more.
I'm interested in possibly becoming a minister but I'm not sure. Is this right for me?
Yes. Our programs have at their heart "vocational discernment," i.e., helping young adults answer the question, "Who/What am I called to be?". Because of our settings in religious communities, we are particularly well-situated to help people discern religious callings. Nevertheless, many of our program participants already know they are interested in secular paths, and still benefit profoundly from the support, exploration and reflection we offer.
I'm still figuring out my religion/spirituality. Is this okay?
Absolutely. We know that spiritual and religious paths change and develop over time. We believe people best grow into who they're meant to be by taking time to go deep with precisely these sorts of questions – and we're open to hearing a wide variety of answers!
I'm interested in applying to grad school. Can I still serve?
Yes. Many of our program participants use their year of service to also apply to grad school. In fact, most of our programs follow an academic calendar, i.e., the program year starts in September.
Frequently, young adults use their year of service to help discern what kind of graduate degree they want to pursue. Sometimes the people interested in service are those who see the "big picture" and are drawn to more than one professional field. This year of profound experience can help clarify one's gifts and aspirations.
What's the connection between service and justice?
It is our hope that by touching the lives of those whom we serve so directly and personally, we also deepen our understanding of the forces that limit and injure those lives. "Systemic injustice" is a term used to describe how discrimination, oppression, and greed become dangerously blended into our societal expectations and institutions. We know that exposure to these issues educate and empower people to become leaders in the fight to transform the world.
What do program alum go on to do?
Our alum are contributing actively in a wide array of fields: religion, law, medicine, the arts, government, non-profits, advocacy, healthcare. Their year inevitably deepens their understanding of themselves and their call. In the words of Frederick Buechner, call is "the point at which our deepest gladness meets the world's deepest need."
How does ESC define "intentional community"?
ESC believes that interns grow through living with other Christians while trying to practice the ancient ways of the faith intentionally, including eating and praying together. This communal lifestyle is counter-cultural, and in some ways monastic. Through this experience, interns come to a deep understanding of how their actions affect others. Communal living is an attempt to live out Jesus' commandment to love neighbor as self in a literal and intentional way.