After some consideration of the poor turnout we had for our Lenten retreats, we’ve decided to postpone the May “Easter Presence” retreat until Advent (don’t worry, we’ll rename it appropriately to avoid confusion). Stay tuned.
Every Thursday night a group of very different people gather around a table and share a bit of life together. They take turns cooking, setting the table, and inviting God’s presence into their midst. As they talk, laugh, share stories week after week, they are changed. Each of these young people is a member of one of our Episcopal Service Corps communities. They spend over 30 hours a week in volunteer service to a church or not for profit and also spend time in formation activities and prayer together. This shared life involves real commitment and a willingness to be transformed through the experience.
Episcopal Service Corps has over 200 young adults living together in 25 communities across the US each year. The mission of Episcopal Service Corps is to develop and support a national network of intentional communities in the Episcopal Church. These communities are marked by young adults serving others in solidarity, promoting justice, deepening their own spiritual awareness and vocational discernment while living simply in intentional Christian community.
In Southern Ohio, the Confluence Year program was launched by St. John’s Columbus in 2013. The diocese founded Brendan’s Crossing in 2012 (originally called Floral House) as an independent young adult intentional community. As of 2017, Brendan’s Crossing has officially become a member organization of Episcopal Service Corps and we are partnering with Confluence under the umbrella of ESC Southern Ohio. In the last 6 years we have had over 40 young adults in these two communities. Each has discovered something different about themselves but each has grown and changed and continue to find their life shaped by the time they spent in community.
One young adult shared, “Being a young adult in the modern world is hard. You’re constantly battling the mental picture of the life you’re “supposed” to have. You feel you’re supposed to be farther along, like you’re not doing it right, like you’re not good enough. Being in community makes it a little easier…we have people with whom we can share our fears, share our uncertainties, and share a meal together as well. People to talk with, cry with, laugh with. People to remind us of the divinity that permeates our world. And that makes picturing the future a little easier.”
A year of service working among the poor asking questions about the life God is calling you to, can be overwhelming. However, as one of our former members stated, having community to “share one another’s joys, burdens, stresses, questions, meals, activities and extraordinary hospitality was the keystone of my year in this program. That bond, forged through days, evenings and nights of many kinds of formation, held together not only our community but also our spiritual and mental health during the course of that year.”
We believe that the formation of young adults for service in the world and in the church is something God has called us to do. The church needs lay and ordained young people as leaders. Many in the church are frustrated by or have even given up on “millennials.” However, my experience over the last six years helping to build and support these programs and young adults has given me an incredible hope for the future and the leaders who have emerged from these programs. Our alumni have gone on to become amazing leaders serving in the church and the world. Meet some of our alumni here.
To find out more about Episcopal Service Corps or to apply to join one of the programs around the country or right here in our diocese: http://episcopalservicecorps.org/
Or reach out to one of the program directors, Monica Payne (email@example.com) or Emma Helms – Steinmetz (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about the unique opportunities these programs offer. We are always looking for parish partners to share meals with us, for opportunities for placement sites, to support our young adults in their discernment or help us recruit for the coming year. Supporting ESC is one way to support young adults in the church!
A bit about each program:
Brendan’s Crossing: The community of Brendan’s Crossing invites you to enter into a Christ-centered community that is focused on serving and helping in the neighborhoods that need it most. It’s a community that values vocational discernment, spiritual formation and shared meals as the heart of all they do. Located just blocks from the campus of the University of Cincinnati, the community house has a large urban garden in the backyard that supplies much of the food that is enjoyed at the shared meals. Brendan’s Crossing is a program deeply rooted in the desire to see young adults seek after God’s call on their lives with all their might, and for them to learn about God and themselves by serving those around them. To learn more about this program, please visit www.brendanscrossing.org .
Confluence: Confluence is hosted by St. John’s Episcopal Church in the neighborhood of Franklinton, in Columbus, Ohio. Confluence offers an immersion into urban poverty and invites young adults to serve full in direct-care, advocacy or administrative positions at some of Columbus’ most innovative and caring social service agencies. St. John’s has had a long history of service in the neighborhood, specifically among the homeless community through Street Church, a weekly Eucharistic service held in an abandoned parking lot and in partnership with other not-for-profits addressing systemic injustice and health issues in this community. Confluence volunteers live in intentional community and receive support and educational enrichment through Confluence staff, neighborhood partners, and the congregational community of this historic church in Franklinton. Confluence is a year of intentional living in incarnational community offering yourself in service to the poor. To learn more about this program, please visit www.confluenceyear.org.
Spiritual Direction is a way of offering companionship to people who are seeking God and a greater sense of themselves. It is non-judgmental and generous, and always trusts that the seeker knows more about their own life, thoughts, and longings than the director does. The director’s role is to listen carefully, invite the presence of the Holy Spirit, practice compassion, and ask questions that will help the directee grow in wisdom and grace.
L. William Countryman writes that:
Spiritualities flourish in face-to-face-conversation, the arena of the spoken word, where counsel is given and received, the arena where people who have found themselves, perhaps quite against their own preferences, living in the presence of the divine Mysteries seek each other out in the hope of sharing the task of discernment and understanding.(1)
Use the form below if you are looking for a spiritual director. We will respond with several recommendations as quickly as we can.
“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing; Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise”
In June, we hosted a training with the amazing team from Music that Makes Community. We spent 3 days learning how to engage our faith communities in singing as a spiritual practice. During the training, we explored the ancient and new practice of paperless music leadership, sharing songs as people did before music or words were written down. We learned new songs, practiced improvising our own tunes, and sang and laughed and played and prayed.
One afternoon, my small group spontaneously began singing “Come Thou Fount” during our time together. And when I got in my car to drive home that night, the words and music were still lingering there, and I began singing it to myself as I drove home.
I began wondering….how do we tune our hearts? I recently watched a video of a teacher demonstrating how a gong should be played. The students kept asking for specifics of where to hit the gong, and in what order and the teacher simply said, that is the art. He went on to explain that the only way to tune a gong is to play it. Most instruments you tune them first and then you play them, but the gong finds the right pitch and vibration only through being played.
I wonder if our voices and our hearts are not the same. We only find the right pitch by playing, by singing, by practicing, by trying. And in fact, perhaps that is not work that we do alone, but work that is done only in community – we hear the vibrations differently when they come together with other voices and what if that in turn tunes our hearts?
What if we learn to listen, really listen, as we tune in to each other’s voices and to the sound at the center, a sound that can only be created together. What happens when we tune in? When we hear and find our own voices which as we discovered is not just something we do with our vocal chords. It starts with breathing in, and opening up and releasing back to the world. Tuning in isn’t just a physical body thing (although it happens in our bodies – we feel it), it is a spiritual experience, a place of transformation. Because when we tune in to our own breath, we begin to notice our emotions and to pay attention to our anxiety and our tears, our anger and our fear. We discover how to hold space for all of ourselves and we learn to use the MMC mantra, “what did you notice.” This isn’t just a way to learn, it’s a way to wake up to our true selves, to really notice what God is doing in us and through us. To allow all of ourselves to be part of God’s holy work of transformation – of making us new.
I struggle to carry a tune and feel incredibly nervous stepping in front of a group to share a song, but I love to sing, I love the experience of grace that I find in bringing my voice into relationship with other voices and of hearing myself differently in community than I do when I am alone. I come to Music that Makes Community, because I am offered this grace and encouraged to share it, give it away to others. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world with a lot more of that. I think Jesus came among us to remind us that is what God wants too. I pray that this work will continue to resound in my innermost being, to sense the way that my heart has been tuned, and that I will find opportunities to continue to gather with others to sing God’s grace.
To find out more about the work of Music that Makes Community – check out their website! I’m immensely grateful to Paul Vasile, Emily Scott, Ana Hernandez, and Charles Murphy for the gifts they shared with our community during their time in Cincinnati!
The Campus Ministry community is preparing to allocate its budget, with many thoughts of thanksgiving directed at Diocesan Convention, which supports our work. We use a collaborative process to allocate the funds. To apply for a grant, please fill out the attached form and return it and all supplementary materials by June 30th to:
The Reverend Deborah Woolsey
c/o Church of the Good Shepherd
64 University Terrace, Athens, OH 45701
or, preferably, by e-mail to
How do you find balance in your life between the demands of school, home, work, friends and family? The Campus Ministry Collaborative will explore this question during its third annual retreat, to be held on the weekend of October 21-23, 2016 in Columbus. To register, fill out the form below.
Climate change is both a wicked problem and a grand challenge. These are OSU Dance Professor Norah Zuniga Shaw’s words, and, as she pointed out to the Ministerium a few weeks ago, most people don’t feel personally equipped to do anything about wicked problems and grand challenges. We all know that climate change is a reality, but, beyond recycling and watching our energy footprint, most of us feel that there’s very little that we, personally, can do about it. Particularly at a time when we are overwhelmed by change. New technologies, new social behaviors, and the collapse of old institutions can leave us feeling lost at sea. But for Norah, this means that it’s time to take stock of our gifts, abilities, and choices, rather than to despair.
“What do you do to respond to uncertainty and change?” She asked us, and then asked us to list out some answers to that question. This was what she calls a “priming process,” in which a problem is stated (we live in a time of great change) and people are invited to name the agency they already have (list the responses). As a pedagogical method, these priming processes come out of the world of dance, and especially out of the work of one of Norah’s mentors, the West Coast dancer Simone Forti. They allow groups to have a certain kind of conversation and then see what kinds of associations arise from those conversations.
Having been primed in this way, we were then asked to think about that huge, overwhelming question of climate change, and relate it to our own disciplines. Since most of us in the Ministerium are clergy, lay religious leaders, and theologians, it came as no surprise that many of our disciplines had to do with God and community. But Norah pushed us to think beyond our work and consider our practices and our identities as well. She handed out a worksheet that had three simple questions, and space to answer them.
How do we confront ecological crisis through __________? (Make a quick list of your disciplines, working methods, experience you bring, and who taught you.)
What are your practices of taking action/making/doing and what role might your practices play in activating alternative futures? (List your practices and where you learned them, try not to edit yourself, just write what comes.)
What do you know already about climate change as a _____________ and who else can you turn to for answers? (List your relevant identities, relevant geographies, disciplinary groundings, relationships, and what you already know from these positions.)
Norah used these methods with dance students to create the piece “Let’s Make Climate Change.” She found that bringing the topic of climate change into the studio helped students engage with it. Suddenly a wicked problem was scaled to a size where they could respond to it by using their gifts, not just as dancers but as students, young people, women and men, children, romantic partners, and everything else that comprised their identities. And the things that they already did, those daily practices that we all have, could be brought to bear on the problem.
We’re all in the position of those dancers. We have gifts and positions within our wider culture that help us address any problem. We have daily practices that have great power. Solutions to any problem arise when a great number of people bring their diverse abilities to bear on it, when they name their personal responses and bring these responses together into grand collaborations.
There was still a lot to do when I woke up early that rainy gray Saturday morning in March. In just a couple of hours I was to be at Gabriel’s Place setting up for a potluck and conversation with gardeners, farmers and foodies to connect and share our passion of growing, sharing and eating food. I felt my anxiety rise as I stared at the task list I had scribbled down the night before. One of the tasks “Make chicken and rice,” made me say aloud, “What was I thinking? I don’t have time for this.”
As I began chopping shallots that Leslie had planted in our Brendan’s Crossing garden last spring, I noticed it was quiet enough to hear my own thoughts and more importantly the words of Wendell Berry and Brian Andreas that I would later share with the group. This morning silence is a rare luxury afforded to me by the fact that my three boys had spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and my wife, Brooke, was still sound asleep. I took a deep breath, slowed down and chose to focus intently on this task and the gift of this quiet morning.
Though we had dried herbs in the cabinet, I decided a potluck for gardeners and farmers required a walk out back to the backyard of the Riddle House to see what other gifts might find their way into the pot. I pulled on a jacket and my mud boots and headed out into the drizzle and a rare moment of greater awareness.
I walked past the old garden the Mennonites tended for nearly a century before us.
I picked two of this spring’s first asparagus spears that Jason and Emily helped plant over 6 years ago.
I walked past the chicken that Chad gave us and that Johnna nursed back to health (Don’t worry! He stayed in the coop – for now.)
I crossed the bridge that Te helped build.
I picked some sage that Jane gave us.
I opened the garden gate that Riley built as part of the fence that Darrell built to keep out the pesky deer.
I picked the marjoram that Brianna planted from the soil that Carl and Paul helped her shovel.
I picked the kale that Oliver loves to eat fresh each time he visits the garden.
I picked the thyme that Mac planted.
I brought it all back and threw it in the pot that was a gift from my parents.
I added the stock that Brooke made.
And most importantly – I sipped the coffee that Les, Ryan, Adam and Courtney roasted on Greg and Mary’s farm.
On this one quiet morning, in this one dish, in this one moment of awareness, all these gifts and all these connections came together for me in this one pot.
I thought about the words of Brian Andreas that we painted on the wall of the community house kitchen over a decade ago. They’ve remained a constant truth as eating together has been the one consistent act through all the “fits and starts” of community life.
“There are things you do because they just feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good.”
And on this morning in this dish I would add, “…to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good and realize it’s all connected.”
My wife Brooke often “comments” on the fact that I can never recreate a dish because while I may reference a combination of recipes, I tend to make it up as I go. I’m pretty certain this dish will never be recreated, but here are the ingredients if you want to try:
This story was originally published in the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s latest issue of Connections all about food and farming initiatives in our diocese. Find it and other stories about food and faith here!
The study of physics has had an indelible effect on human affairs and philosophical thinking. The 20th century was no exception as physics experienced two revolutions: Einstein’s theory of relativity and the revolution in our understanding of atoms and other elementary particles. This latter topic is usually called quantum mechanics and the subject is the source of much discussion in philosophical and theological circles since it involves a variety of truly mysterious and paradoxical phenomena.
Chris Orban, who is an assistant professor of physics at OSU, gave us an overview the physical and philosophical thinking that came prior to the advent of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century. As Chris discussed, after Newton and Laplace, the earth and the cosmos were understood to be a kind of “world machine” or “clockwork universe” that operates in a highly predictable way according to the laws of physics. This understanding led many church-goers in the 18th and 19th centuries to an idea of God as a kind of watch maker who created the world and set it into motion, but who may or may not need to intervene as this universe takes the course it was designed to take.
Chris argues that this idea has had a profound effect. By creating a detached and distant picture of God, this would have helped lay the groundwork for the Enlightenment. The “clockwork universe” idea may also have had a strong effect on the past and present reluctance of American audiences to accept evolution as fact. The first American interlocutor of Darwin’s theory of evolution was a Harvard botanist and protestant church member named Asa Gray. In defending Darwin’s theory to religious audiences, he had the unenviable job of explaining that this clockwork universe must have been designed by God from the very beginning to use scarcity and competition as a means for producing biodiversity. “Nature, red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson would say.
Although Einstein was not an especially religious man, he too had an idea that God (or whatever God is) determined the laws of physics at the beginning of time and set the universe in motion. Einstein’s goal was to understand the symmetries of nature so well that he could understand whether God could have made the laws of physics in any other way than they currently are.
The phrase “God does not play dice!” is attributed to Einstein in a series of discussions he had with the physicist Neils Bohr over the way that quantum mechanics introduces a degree of randomness into the world. Quantum mechanics removes the absolute predictability of the “world machine”. Einstein once said that he found quantum mechanics to be so strange that he spent more time thinking about it than his own theory of relativity. Chris drew from a chapter on Niels Bohr in Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb to explain that although Bohr too was not an especially religious man, he dismissed Einstein’s assertion. He argued that the universe can operate however it operates. Decades of subsequent investigation have continued to confirm the notion that the affairs of atoms are intrinsically unpredictable on the smallest scales, which was the scientific basis of Bohr’s response.
The ramifications for this understanding of the world are as far reaching as the clockwork universe idea that came before it and Bohr spent time considering a renewed understanding of free will and other concepts in the light of quantum mechanics. Bohr once said that “[Philosophy] was, in a way, my life”, which is a reference both to his contributions to quantum mechanics and to the philosophical discussions he experienced growing up as a child of a biology professor at the University of Copehagen. A collection of Bohr’s speeches and writing can be found in his book Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge.