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.