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.
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.
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.
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.
In October 2018, ESC entered a strategic partnership with the Episcopal Church to ensure stability and continued steady growth. The network of programs is now convened and coordinated by the Episcopal Church’s Faith Formation Department.
ESC is being more intentional about measured and qualitative growth and in October 2018, entered a strategic partnership with the Episcopal Church’s Faith Formation Department. As a network of programs, a self-sustaining community of communities, and a movement of spiritual and social transformation, ESC continues in its original call to nurture programs in their particular gifts and callings while promoting the sharing of best practices, nurturing new leaders, practicing mutual accountability, and sparking a new vision for young adults and The Episcopal Church.