Roots in the Grassroots
In the 1980s, a handful of Episcopal year-long young adult service projects started in cities
across the country. While not all of these early programs continued, over a period of 20 years
programs developed in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chapel Hill, Omaha,
and New York. Although they grew up separately, these grassroots programs shared a vision of
young adults living in intentional community, serving their neighborhoods, sharing in faith
formation, and discerning vocational direction.
From Grassroots to Federation
In the early 2000s, six programs came together to consider an on-going relationship primarily
to meet their needs. As they developed relationships with the Forum for Theological Exploration
(FTE) and Trinity Wall Street (TWS), they developed a common application process, hired a
part-time administrator, and held an annual retreat for program participants. By 2008, they called
this loose collaboration the Federation of Episcopal Domestic Internship Programs.
From Federation to Community
The Federation proved unwieldy and Program Directors started to ask: what can we do better
together than we can do on our own? In conversation with FTE and TWS, Program Directors
were encouraged to develop a network and the Episcopal Service Corps (ESC) was born.
Initially ESC existed to strengthen existing programs, recruit a diverse group of young adults,
and plant new programs. In 2009, it formed a Board of Directors and hired an Executive Director
to broaden its vision and enhance its leadership.
The Growth of a Movement
ESC’s identity was changing from a group of inward-looking programs to a network, a
community of communities, and a part of a transformational movement. Trinity Wall Street
provided start-up funds for 12 new programs in two years and helped fund an Executive Director
to facilitate ESC’s growth. Growth continued as the movement has expanded exponentially since
2009. Strategic partnership with The Episcopal Church, including staff collaboration, coordinated
communications as well as a significant 2012-15 grant, has helped ESC continue to flourish.
ESC Today and Tomorrow
After a period of rapid growth in both the number of programs, from six to thirty, and the
number of corps members, from 46 to over 200, ESC is being more intentional about measured
and qualitative growth. It has become a network of programs, a self-sustaining community
of communities, and part of a movement of spiritual and social transformation. ESC nurtures
programs in their particular gifts and callings while it promotes the sharing of best practices,
nurtures new leaders, practices mutual accountability, and sparks a new vision for young adults
and The Episcopal Church.