Glimpsing the Kin-dom: A Reflection on Doubt and Hope Written by Sarah Jordan Julian Year alum
In the first chapter of Mark, immediately after his baptism, Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, encountering wild beasts, and being waited on by angels. Sounds like a strange, challenging, and transforming experience. I imagine that Jesus, fully human, experienced doubts about his own abilities and calling, about whether God was present, about whether people would listen to him, about whether he’d make it out of the wilderness in one piece.
Wildernesses come in many forms and lengths of time, and the Julian Year in many ways was a wilderness for me. I encountered temptation and wild beasts and I most definitely encountered angels. While wilderness is not a perfect parallel, the Julian Year was a strange, challenging and transforming experience. Like my depiction of Jesus, I also experience doubt. I’m uncertain that I can be the kind of person that I’m called to be. I lack confidence that systems of oppression can be dismantled. I doubt that God is at work in the world. I’m uncertain that people will keep their promises. In a lot of ways, living
Reflection on Doubt Written by Sherry Nelson Deaconess Anne House corps member
Doubt. It’s such a small word with such meaning and controversy behind it. I came into my year with the Episcopal Service Corps wrestling with many questions about my faith already. I grew up in a tradition that taught me it was not okay to have doubts. However, I found that when I began to have conversations with people we had similar struggles in our faith.
I think it is fair to say that most people have at some point in their lives questioned if God really loves us or even exists. The specific doubts are different and these are just two broad categories that many questions fall under. While there is a stigma with having doubts, I find that the most meaningful spiritual conversations have centered around them. The most growth happens when we truly take the time to examine what we believe and why. If we don’t ask questions and seek answers than it is easy to remain stagnant in our faith. It seems common for us all to want to deepen our faith, but sometimes it’s harder to take the steps to get there.
Reflection on Doubt Written by Joseph “Josey” Stone All Saints’ Atlanta Project corps member
As a child, I thought my responsibility as a young Christian in a conservative church was to memorize the increasing pat answers fed to me by my Sunday School teachers and pastors. If I had a question, I soon learned to keep my mouth shut, simply because my questions would take the teacher “off script.” Years later, I could have easily ditched my faith if it wasn’t for an “Intro to New Testament” class in undergrad. On the first day of class, we were asked to write down questions about the Bible we’d love to ask. I forget what I wrote, but I do remember that the professor chose my question first and we ended up discussing it for the rest of that hour. That was the day the ‘theology bug’ bit me. So much so that I eventually changed my major to Christian studies.
At my ESC worksite, Covenant Community, a residential life-stabilization program for homeless men recovering from substance abuse, some of my long-held beliefs have been challenged immensely. Even with my experience of working in a homeless community for the past seven years,
On Doubt Written by Jason Emerson Resurrection House program director and alum
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
Growing up, I loved comic books. A common feature it seemed of every comic book was each super hero had an arch nemesis, an enemy that posed the the greatest threat to the hero because he or she knew the hero’s weakness. Our society does not value weakness. Somehow we are taught that admitting weakness will cause us to doubt ourselves. In our hyper-individualistic culture the cardinal sin is to doubt one’s self. To doubt that you alone by yourself can achieve whatever dream, task, or ambition…to doubt that by your actions you can satisfy whatever instant gratification you can imagine…to doubt these things is considered un-american at best and down right treasonous at worst.
I learned in my year as an intern that community is the antithesis of individualism. I served as a Resurrection House intern in 2001-2002, before ESC even existed, but the value of intentional community is common to all ESC programs and part of the founding ethos of the entire organization. I learned in Resurrection House
The Desert Course Written by The Rev. Gillian Barr Jonathan Daniels’ House program director
We begin our time in ESC, as new Corps members or new Program Directors, with high hopes and ideals. The vision of ESC is compelling—being with other energetic young people dedicated to justice, service, and spiritual growth, all within close-knit Christian community. The sponsoring parish or diocese is excited; the partner agencies are enthusiastic. We get the House set up, we unpack bags and meet housemates, we get oriented to our new home and begin work at our service sites. The energy and newness and ideals carry us for a while. And then something happens. One of our housemates drives us up a wall. Our site placement is much more challenging, or boring, than we imagined. The Corps member who spoke in their interview about wonderful previous leadership experience actually has lots of growing edges. Whether in October, December, or March, there comes a time when we wonder why we signed on for this. We doubt our decision. What were we thinking? What was God thinking? Did God call us to ESC, or did we mis-hear?
The Gospel passage appointed for the First Sunday in Lent
Reflection on Forgiveness Written by Katie Harper The Abraham Project corps member
When I was younger, I thought I understood forgiveness. I thought I was pretty good at it.
Then in college, this girl drunkenly slammed a car door, not realizing I had bent down and my head was in the way. The result was a concussion to my optic chiasm.
I had to drop all but two of my classes. I lost the opportunity to learn from a man whose thesis readers had been J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis; I had to drop my French minor; I lost the GPA and hours for Phi Beta Kappa; I couldn’t work for a semester; I gained twenty pounds; I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t play pick up basketball, I couldn’t sing in choir, I couldn’t even walk to class for a while.
She never apologized.
How do you forgive someone who isn’t sorry? I could forgive an apology – there would be a sense of righteous mercy. Even God asked us to repent of our sins. Be reconciled with God, says Paul. The merciful goodness of the Lord endures forever on those who fear Him, says the psalmist. Forgiveness, it seemed, had
Forgiveness and Predestination Written by Ed Watson Saint Hilda’s House corps member
I spend a lot of time thinking about how hard it can be to forgive. I spend less time, however, thinking about what precisely forgiveness is. I think it often entails mercy or working past feelings of anger, but I very rarely think about it much more than that. It strikes me that a reflection on this latter question might help me to navigate the difficulties of the former.
So, let’s look at the word itself: forgiveness. It’s a compound word of Germanic origin, comprised of the words ‘for’ and ‘give’. It is structurally similar to the words ‘forget’ and ‘forgo’, and this structure, I think, can give us a clue as to what the word ‘forgive’ itself suggests forgiveness is.
Let’s look at ‘forgo’, then: when we say that something is a ‘forgone conclusion’ what we’re suggesting is that what is going to happen might as well have already happened; that however much time might elapse between now and then, nothing that happens now can change what will happen then. When we say ‘forgone’ then, it means that, irrespective of anything else, we might as well have
Reflection on Forgiveness Written by Hannah Pinter Creation Care at Camp Mokule’ia corps member
Forgiveness – This year I’m working with the Creation Care at Camp Mokule’ia ESC program. We’re helping develop a farm and a garden at the camp, so part of our work involves planting seeds. Growing up, I was distanced from seeds, yet at the same time they were commonplace. I learned about them in grade-school and always knew that fruits and vegetables come from them. The idea was so familiar it seemed nothing to get excited about. However, this year has given me the chance to contemplate what’s really going on when we plant seeds, and I’ve found it to be a wisdom and wonder beyond our understanding. No more than a speck is pushed underneath soil. It’s tiny, fragile, and in a place of darkness. Somehow water and soil nutrients seep in; and then, amazingly, new life breaks through. From the small beginning of a seedling, entire trees, bushes, flowers, and fruit and vegetable plants or vines can develop. This is a work of God. We can put the seeds in good soil and ensure they receive sunlight and water, but God is the Creator
Episcopal Service Corps and the Art of Forgiveness Written by Natalie Vanatta Life Together alum and ESC national board member
I will be completely honest with you, growing up I was a bit of a grudge holder. Any feelings of injustice I felt I had endured from my sister or parents would be stored away only to resurface in future arguments as proof that I had been the victim all along. In fact, often this grudge holding or lack of forgiveness was in a direct effort to get more sympathy and attention as a child. I would like to report that as I grew older this trait dissipated and I became someone who was quick to forgive. However, forgiveness, like prayer, should be a daily practice and to this day I am still working on both.
Despite this, the beautiful thing about getting older is that you begin to experience life and relationships that help you shape and change for the better. Thankfully, I have been incredibly lucky to have had amazing opportunities for growth and even more amazing people to help show me real life examples of how to be a better person. Not the least of both of