Qadr Written by Saadia Ahmad Sycamore House Service Corps member
I recall experiencing a great deal of powerlessness during my last semester at Providence College, sending one job application after another to what seemed to be a vortex of no return. Sharing my frustrations and anxieties with a past professor and dear mentor of mine still today, he asked, “do you know the best way to deal with feeling like you have no control?” I shook my head no, and he answered, “Remember that you never really had any.”
There’s a fair amount of wisdom in that. Each of the major world religions reminds its followers of this powerlessness, in one way or another. Christianity emphasizes the importance and necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, as only the Messiah possesses the power to redeem humankind from sin. My own religion, Islam, agrees with this tenant in a different way by emphasizing the idea of Qadr as one of the six major beliefs of Islam. It is an Arabic term that roughly translates to God possessing ultimate power and decree over good and evil.
I suspect, though, that neither of these beliefs intend to suggest that we not put forth
To Love, Heal, and Transform: Sharing our Power with the World Written by Solita A. Denard Johnson Service Corps former staff member and ESC Consultant
I have received many valuable gifts through my engagement with this community, both locally and nationally. When demonstrated in a life-giving way, our personal and collective power can bring about the healing and support our souls long for. Over the years, I have had the privilege of witnessing many of us discover our abilities as we walk alongside one another. Whether influencing a positive difference for society or struggling with difficult change at various private levels, there is power in our words, being and action.
In community, we are continuously learning to allow ourselves to trust. To be powerful without controlling outcomes and people. To be seen when we are weak, vulnerable and confused without fear of losing our dignity. Some of us are learning how to own and fully operate in the magnificent strengths we bring to community, and that journey can be awkward and unsure. The healing connections and support we are developing empower us to continue to put one foot in front of the other. To keep breathing. Trying again. Living.
Reflection on Power Written by Tyler Crabe Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network (LEVN) former program director
For a long time, reading the Ten Commandments reminds me of being scolded as child. Don’t do this, and don’t do that, or you will end up in the principal’s office yet again. It felt like an all-powerful God using God’s power to tell me what to do.
Yet, I do not think this is what the Triune God had in mind when creating the Ten Commandments.
In the narrative of Exodus, God calls together a people and frees them from the slavery and tyranny of the Pharaoh. God’s divine power inspires leaders and delivers the Hebrews from their plight. After freeing the Hebrews, God outlines how intentional community might look in a covenantal relationship in the Ten Commandments and other laws, so that they might be free to live justly and in harmony with one another and their God. Rather than using God’s power to control, God uses God’s power to create and free the Hebrew people. In Egypt, God freed the Hebrews from tyranny. In creating a covenatal relationship, God uses God’s power to free the Hebrew people from isolation.
In some ways,
Reflection on Community Written by Michael Kurth Trinity Volunteer Corps alum
Each summer, I take time from the stresses of the long, hot days and head to a river to fish. Though my family is built of avid fisherman, we are usually much better at telling a good fishing story than actually bringing home dinner. The often long waits in between catches have given me ample time to consider the wonderful theology at work; from the river flow the waters of baptism and new life. Every part of a river, from the communities of fish to the rock-bed below, teaches us about ourselves and our relationship with God.
Though I wasn’t able to find any fishing in my ESC service year in Washington D.C., I did find a community that fostered unparalleled personal and spiritual growth. There were many good times with my fellow Trinity Volunteer Corps members, from bike rides through the District to long meals laughing at our own silliness. Of course, it wasn’t always fun and games. We faced challenging times as well; times of despair and desolation, adrift from our joyful norm. However, through prayer and reflection, the greatest moments of growth were often found during
Abraham’s Sons: Community Written by Andrew Leigh Amanda LeAnn Bullard Lawrence House Service corps member
As I read the Genesis passage for this week I couldn’t help but be reminded of the song Father Abraham. This youth group favorite involves wild motions and the continuous refrain “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let all praise the Lord.”
The theme of the song, we are all the children of Abraham, seems innocent at first glance. It’s a fun song, community is a popular concept and it is very unthreatening when everyone looks the same. And we did look the same when I learned it with a group of other white, middle-class kids. Community to us meant looking and acting the same, belonging by similarity. I grew up being told that “Father Abraham’s sons” were those who believed and acted exactly the way the church taught, which left little space for someone like me who was beginning to question their identity and their faith.
It is a little weird to be going back to that song, now that I’ve been shaped by two years in intentional community through
Reflection on Community Written by Rosemary Haynes Deaconess Anne House alum
When you think about community, is it intentional community that first comes to mind? In most experiences, I would say no. The most important aspect to me of making a community intentional is living together as one with shared beliefs and values.
I don’t want to make living in community sound terrible because that is the farthest from the truth. Saying that it is perfect is also farthest from the truth. Intentional community is difficult. I like to picture it as a winding country road, with each opposite side being the perfection and the worst. There are times that I want nothing but to live with my housemates forever. A sense of security comes with living under one roof with others who are there for similar reasons. The moments that are spent together bring joy and laughter and overall a feeling of acceptance in the Christian world. The opposite though, is the moment when you feel alone in the midst of seven people. It is easy to distance yourself from the group because being together all the time is difficult and draining.
Coming into this yearlong program with the
Faith and Community Written by Matthew Bloss Texas ESC corps member
The Old Testament reading for today is arguably one of the most important, or at least memorable, from the whole of the Hebrew Bible. This is the moment where God makes his covenant with Abram (now Abraham), that he will make him “the ancestor of a multitude of nations” and that through Abraham God will redeem the whole world. This one singular moment will go on to set the tone for the Holy Scriptures, to Joseph, to Moses, to David, and ultimately to Jesus Christ.
The story surrounding Abraham shows us the effect an individual can have in shaping the communities around them. Not only does God promise to redeem and save Abraham’s present community, he also uses him to forge an incalculable number of new communities. While it’s true we as individuals, in this day, are likely not being used to the extent God used Abraham, I would venture that all of us have a community that stands to benefit from our presence. Whether it’s our job, our family, our roommates, or our friends, we all exist in communities. We may lead these communities, we may support them,
Reflection on Community Written by Janice D’souza Julian Year corps member
Growing up super-duper Catholic in India, I’ve had a challenging and exciting relationship with Lent – especially with the privilege of it all. What some might find difficult to be without for a month is a luxury for others, and it is a privilege to be in a position to sacrifice anything at all. How lucky we are to give up candy for Lent when so many people cannot afford food. I think about my family in India, who gave up one extra thing because we felt like we should go further into the wilderness by inconveniencing ourselves for Lent. I have found solace in an address Pope Francis gave last year – “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance.”
This year with the Julian Year in Chicago, I had the chance to work through my questions and learn more about Lent in my community. During dinner, we
Reflection on Community and the Julian Year Written by Elizabeth Powers Julian Year corps member
Chicago’s Episcopal Service Corps branch, called the Julian Year after Julian of Norwich, the patron saint of introverts. As an introvert myself, I was more than a little wary of flinging myself into the biggest city I have ever lived in, into a house where I knew no one, with the intention of discerning whether I want to pursue a career in education. To be a member of an intentional community requires that you be vulnerable, because after all, you are walking into a houseful of strangers. I experienced this vulnerability in a very practical sense starting my very first day in Chicago, as I waited in an empty house for my lost luggage and my as-yet-unknown housemates to arrive. In the months since that anxious August morning, I have tried to embrace uncertainty and maintain the confidence that I am bringing enough of myself to this community that everything will turn out okay.
Some days it is hard to believe that. I work far from our Rogers Park house, and I get home after everyone else has already been home for quite some time.
Doubt No More Written by Victoria Hoppes Servant Year site supervisor
Two years ago, I embarked on a new journey when I moved to Philadelphia and began working in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Over the last two years, there have been many moments in which I have doubted my abilities to be an effective leader in our ministry. One of the things that I have learned over the last year in particular is that sometimes I don’t trust myself as much as I probably should, and when that happens, I don’t always trust God’s timing or faithfulness.
I see and experience this doubt as a Site Supervisor for Servant Year, too. Sometimes I doubt that I am being a good example to the members who serve in our office, and I wonder if I am providing too little (or even too much) support to their ministry. I also see this doubt as members find themselves immersed in the challenges that come from living and doing service in Philadelphia. There are uncertainties that come from living in a new, unfamiliar place with new people, doing ministry that at times can be stressful and difficult. When these feelings of self-doubt come