Reflections from the Monastery

2 Jun Abbey - Vigil
In mid-May, the Confluence Service Corps members spent a contemplative weekend in silence at the Abbey of Getsemani in Bardstown, Kentucky, taking the time to reflect on their year of service, justice, and community, further engaging in discernment through prayer, journaling, and meditation. Below are selected reflections from their time.

Anna Berger

Abbey Trail

No one in the world knows you’re here,
Atop this ridge with your rose-flushed face and the dirt smudges up and down your faintly aching legs,
you are alone.
But God is no one because God is the One and the world is God’s and there’s a whisper of something else in this place amongst the silence.
Someone else?
It takes the solitude to realize that the solitude is not absolute,
To realize that you are you anywhere and everywhere,
Under the din and the clamor and the glare from the sun that reflects and distracts and detracts from the thing itself.
To realize that life is life everywhere,
That true faith and true life are in the little moments, the sticky moments, the ones that the writers and the filmmakers conveniently pass over.
You are here,
and the other creatures in these woods, they too are here,
and you are all here together and that is important.

Katie Blodgett

Abbey - Vigil

10 things Realized and Gained from the Abbey

1. How everyone oriented themselves to be looking out the window while they eat. Much better than staring at our phone screens

2. That I feel like I know the people who were at the Abbey with us, even though I don’t know their names

3. The luxury of silence I was afforded for the weekend, and how it’s a matter of choice of how loud and noisy my life us outside of the Abbey

4. The stoicism of the monks, and how intentional I imagine them being with their words

5. The Lord gave me the idea of a sunflower for my tattoo! It was totally a Jesus thing

6. The wind that Saturday night. Some of the most intense, scary wind. I felt so exposed and vulnerable for some reason… I usually love wind

7. The order of prayer. I especially loved going to None and Compline with the monks

8. The certainty of boldness I felt before a prayer time about my future. Go free and fearless into the future

9. I loved being out of the city and sitting in the grass and hearing birds chirp while my window is open and not having my phone with me and not worrying about if I missed a text message

10. I loved what songs would pop into my head. Sometimes they were ridiculous pop songs, but lots of times, they’d be favorite hymns, meaningful songs, or just a song that I forgot that I really loved that I hadn’t heard in a long while

Hanna Kahler

Abbey Trail 2

Several years ago Eugene Peterson wrote a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. I have never read his book, but I have loved its title since the first time that I heard it. I often struggle with staying focused and continuing with a course once the novelty and the original excitement wears off. But staying the course is essential to our faith.

A few nights ago my housemates and I watched a documentary about the Barkley Marathons. Ultramarathon participants attempt to run 120 miles across the mountains of Eastern Tennessee in under 60 hours. They go without sleep and run through the night. They train for months and carefully calculate the equipment they’ll need. The elevation change in the course is equivalent to climbing and descending Mt. Everest twice. In the 30 years that the Barkley has existed, only 14 people have completed the entire course.

At one point in the documentary, the founder of the race observes, “People who have completed graduate school are disproportionately represented in the 14 race finishers. These people are used to taking on a big project and slogging through to the finish line.” Over its 120 miles, the race loops through the base camp 5 times. Each time runners enter camp, their sleeping bags and tents beckon, and they have the option to quit the race. Runners who complete the course make up their minds before they approach camp that quitting is not even a possibility.

The discipline and single-mindedness of the Barkley Marathon runners brought to mind the discipline and single-mindedness of the monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Now, the monks may not be running long distances, but they are convening to pray 7 times throughout the day and night and they have committed themselves to a disciplined way of life. At the Abbey, I noticed that some of the monks looked very tired at prayers. I wondered what it would be like to commit to waking up for Vigils at 3:15am every day for the rest of your life. I am positive that at least occasionally some monks don’t particularly feel like waking up to pray at 3:15am. And yet, despite whatever they might be feeling at the moment, they pull themselves together and honor their commitment to their chosen life.

Similarly, I remember hearing a story about Mother Teresa– that for most of the last 40 or 50 years of her life she experienced a “Dark Night of the Soul.” This was a period of darkness where she felt alone and separate from the love of God. Mother Teresa receives universal acclaim for her compassionate work among the extremely marginalized in Calcutta. And yet, despite her tremendous work, she was not fueled by a constant sense of the presence of God in her work. She must, of course, have intellectually realized that her work was God-glorifying and God-blessed…but there was not the sense of God’s presence. Her legacy of incredible faithfulness seems especially precious in light of this Dark Night of the Soul.

When my good college friend’s father battled brain cancer, she was studying in Romania. As her semester there continued, her father grew sicker and sicker. Hers was a faith-based program and so she continued to attend church with her host family, but didn’t particularly feel the presence of God. Nevertheless, when we were talking about it a year or two later, she mentioned how much she valued going through the spiritual motions, and practicing the rituals, even when she felt only emptiness.

Spending time at the Abbey of Gethsemani brought together all of these disparate threads and gave me a picture of what a long obedience in the same direction would look like. While I doubt that I will ever enter the religious life, I strongly value the faithfulness that the monks showed in their lives. And I hope that I can foster a similar long obedience in the same direction.

 

#GivingTuesday

1 Dec

Please consider supporting Confluence Year today by giving to the Episcopal Service Corps (ESC) during ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬ ! A gift to ESC is like giving four gifts in one! You are supporting the Episcopal Service Corps on both a national level and local level with funds also going to Confluence Year hosted by Saint John’s Episcopal. You are supporting the formation and leadership development of passionate young adults, and supporting the many ministries, social service agencies, and neighborhoods that they sacrificially serve in for their ESC year!

Help us continue to be able to support the great work being done by our corps members at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) ,Ohio Association of FoodbanksLatino Ministry Commission, and right here at Saint John’s Episcopal, and in the neighborhood of Franklinton.

As an added bonus, Bishops from across the US have committed to match any donation, doubling our efforts!

https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E77029&id=7

A Week at the Latino Ministry Commission with Katie Guy

1 Dec

This week we celebrate our partnership with the Latino Ministry Commission of the Diocese of Southern Ohio , and the placement of our 2015-16 Episcopal Service Corps member Katie Guy with this great organization!

“We are a network of Latino Ministry Centers created to foster and support ministry with and among Latinos in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. There are two centers located in the Cincinnati area (Price Hill and Forrest Park) and one in Columbus (Whitehall).

Generally these centers provide Homework Club for students and ESL for adults while creating a space for community and engagement, and I am currently helping the Whitehall location, hosted by Saint Edward’s, explore new ideas for ministry.”

https://www.facebook.com/latinoministrycommission/info/…

Katie Guy

“I currently am working on creating a Reading Club for the children that participate in The Ohio Hispanic Coalition. The
church hosts this non-profit Monday through Friday after school. The picture above is from one of the girls that sometimes spends time in my office before the program starts. It’s the children like her that inspired me to create this reading club. Reading can be
especially hard for Latino students because often times they don’t have a way to practice it at home with their parents. I hope to create an atmosphere where they can be encouraged and practice their reading.

This has been an overall very new experience to work in Latino ministries. I’ve been learning how the Latino culture works and some of the norms that exist that are different from the United States. One of the norms is the lack of trust that is found with
people outside of the community because of fear of deportation. Many Latinos try and keep a low radar because they don’t want to be taken advantage of or be separated from their family. This has made getting to know the families a little difficult, but I’m hopeful as I begin to see them more often and form relationships with the parents of the children at the after school program.

One of the projects I’ve been working on is financial literacy and using the banking system. I started to go around to the different banks in the neighborhood and ask questions about their neighbors opening bank accounts without social security
numbers. You wouldn’t believe some of the responses and looks that I got. Many looked at me like I was crazy to think that someone that wasn’t a US citizen even thought about creating a safe place for their money. It became clear to me that many
people view having a bank account as a right only for a US citizen and not for anyone else living on our soil. This is where I begin to become frustrated with the ignorant culture of America. Since when did having a checking account become the exclusive
right of a citizen? Luckily I’ve found that there actually are ways around opening an account without a SSN, you just have to pick the right bank. Learning and understanding the barriers that Latinos face on a daily basis has helped me with empathy for the larger issue of immigration and refugee rights.”

Katie Guy LMC #2

“These are a few of the fellow Latino Ministry Commission members at our retreat a couple weeks ago. The three centers came together in an effort to create goals for the Commission as a whole for the year 2016. The man on my left, Carlos de Jesus, has been my supervisor in helping me get things rolling here in Whitehall. They have been running their center in Forest Park for about 8 years now and have been very helpful in supporting me and encouraging the ministry in Whitehall. We walked away with 3 goals from this retreat; wider support from congregations in DSO, enhancement of Whitehall center and identification of a champion in the community, and involving more Latinos as leaders in the ministry.”

The Latino Ministry Commission of the Diocese of Southern Ohio has impactful and practical ways you can join with Episcopal Service Corpsmember Katie Guy as she launches their new venture in Whitehall.

“All those that are interested in helping with children are a specific need right now. I’ll need volunteers to help with the reading club that will be offered Monday – Friday from 3:15-4:00pm at the Church of St Edward in Whitehall. The children are elementary age and eager for some one on one attention and help in their education. Those that are interested can email me at ktguy14@gmail.com”

LIVING IN COMMUNITY AT CONFLUENCE HOUSE

24 Nov

Originally Posted at PraxisCommunities.Org

BY: Katie Guy

It has been a new experience to live with a group of people and to have the specific intentionality that we have living together.  At the beginning of our service year we came up with a Rule of Life that organized our intentions for the year.  I’ve always been someone that appreciated honesty from the beginning and no beating around the bush.  I loved that we were able to start our year together thinking about ways that we could grow and learn together.

Living together has also helped me to see how similar we are when we give each other the chance to get to know each other.  When we get down to the heart of it my roommates and I are all 20 somethings that are searching for more meaning, for that purpose and for that sense of belonging.  When I was going through my undergrad at Ohio State I was looking for purpose, but in a more specific way.  I was searching for my purpose through a job title, not through my relationship with God.

I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people over my time in Franklinton and what I have come to learn is that no matter where we come from we all face the same fundamental questions and longings.  Jerry that loves to walk, Bruce that hitchhiked a crossed America and Sharon who mows lawns in the neighborhood.  We are all children of God and we long to be in fellowship with Him, in whatever way that may look like.  For Jerry it may be sharing a walk and conversation with a friend.  Bruce seeks fellowship with people by his positivity and kind spirit.  Sharon shows her love for God’s children through giving what little she has and making sure everyone is taken care of.  I see God in each of these people whether they recognize that or not.  I’ve learned to find the consistency of God in the people around me when my own future feels so unsure.  That consistency brings me so much peace, comfort and strength to keep dreaming and to not give up on what God has for me and the people around me.

A Week at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks with Katie Blodgett

20 Nov

2015-16 Episcopal Service Corps member Katie Blodgett has been placed with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAFB), a fantastic partner organization that has been with Confluence since the beginning! This week you will have the chance to learn all about the impactful work OAFB does and Katie’s role in the organization.

OAFB is Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger. It serves 12 member foodbanks, which have a collective 3,300 member agencies among them, like homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The Association operates the Ohio Food Program, which makes sure that shelf-stable food is available to its member food banks, and the Agriculture Clearance Program gets surplus, sometimes “cosmetically challenged” agriculture products to the food banks. The Association also operates a national Navigator program and the Ohio Benefit Bank. The Associate seeks to advocate for policies that help Ohioans out of poverty, seeks to educate policy makers on poverty and hunger, and seeks to engage in conversations that involve real change and investment.

Follow OAFB here…..

Twitter: @OhioFoodbanks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OASHF/

Kaite B at OAFB.jpeg

“I work on a plethora of projects, ranging from helping create a Hunger Caucus to brainstorming new ideas for the Summer Food Service Program Summit. I stay up-to-date on current events and the happenings regarding food policy, and get to visit the statehouse about once a week with Lisa, the executive director.

Being at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks has really forced me to grow and has stretched me in many ways. I am partially in the advocacy department, a place that I have never considered being in before. I am so much more involved in policy and current events than I’ve been before, and it has really forced me to be educated and to actually have a stance on things. Being placed here required me to become really acquainted with all of the intertwining issues of poverty, hunger, lack of health care, and many more.

I have been given a lot of freedom to identify projects that I think will be interesting and helpful, while having a chance to get out of the office and visit foodbanks and member food pantries. The Association has a lot of departments focused on many different things, but I really appreciate and love how passionate everyone seems to be about justice for everyone. Everyone should have the chance to better themselves, and it is inspiring being around so many people who are trying to help those on the fringes get ahead.

I have loved having the opportunity to go to the Statehouse and sit in on so many meetings and see a side of things I never thought I would have interest in. Being here at the Association has definitely made me a more well-informed person and has made me passionate about people’s access to the most basic of needs: food, education, and health care. I am looking forward to the rest of my year, and how my ideas will continue to change and evolve.”

KAtie B at OAFB

 

“This is me and Kristine Dugan, the Manager of Internal Affairs. She does a lot of work regarding HR, and has been really helpful in coaching me through working for a big organization. Kristine also gives me lots of food recipes and inspiration, and is always a source of laughter and joy at work.”

Episcopal Service Corps member, Katie Blodgett’s placement site, Ohio Association of Foodbanks, is Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger, representing a network of 12 regional foodbanks, 3,300 local emergency food programs, and 2 million different Ohioans who seek help from those food pantries and soup kitchens each year. The association advocates for equitable public policy to decrease poverty and hunger in Ohio. They invite you to engage with them by signing up for their action alerts, so you can join in during call-in days and stay connected to the issues that impact the vulnerable people they serve:
http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/…/sal…/web/common/public/signup…

The association directly fights hunger through a variety of hunger and poverty relief programs, but they also believe in the importance of fighting the stigmas that too often come with living in poverty or struggling with hunger. Consider joining them on Facebook and Twitter to help elevate the voices of individuals and families that aren’t always heard. If you’d like to get involved in hunger relief through volunteering, you can visit the association’s website to find your local foodbank and learn about upcoming opportunities: http://ohiofoodbanks.org/foodbanks/.

A Week with Anna Berger at Community Refugee & Immigration Services

15 Nov

2015-16 corps member, Anna Berger, is spending her Confluence Year with our partner Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) .

Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) is a non-profit agency whose mission it is to help refugees and immigrants reach and sustain self-sufficiency and achieve successful integration into the central Ohio community. Services provided include resettlement, employment, English language skills, assistance with legal issues pertaining to immigration, early childhood and parenting, older adult needs, interpretation and translation, outreach to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations, and wellness coordination and services.

Find and follow CRIS at….
crisohio.org
facebook.com/crisohio
criscommunity.wordpress.com
Instagram: CrisOhio
Twitter: @CrisOhio

Anna at CRIS

At CRIS, my main responsibilities center around assisting our case managers with pre-arrival preparations for clients. This means that I prepare basic household goods that clients will need when they arrive such as toiletries, clothing, cooking supplies, furniture and beds, ensuring that each family has the items that that family requires to fit its specific needs. I also perform support work for case managers in other capacities as requested of me, which can mean everything from helping to enroll clients’ children in schools to attending airport arrivals. Additionally, as of recently, I am in charge of the organization’s Instagram account. So be sure to give us a follow @CRISOHIO

————-

I started work at CRIS at a particularly interesting time. Everyday on the news were reports about Europe and the migrants who were crowding the borders, hoping to make their way to Germany or other countries in Western Europe. For many in the United States, this introduced the concept of refugees into their general consciousness. Everyone was suddenly very interested in the work that I was doing at CRIS. As there were reports on the news each day with experts arguing the points of increasing the number of migrants that the U.S will accept in the next few years, my job suddenly became a fascinating novelty for many people with whom I talked.

The most frustrating part about all of the press coverage on migrants over the last few months has been negative language surrounding the migrants and the situations in which they have found themselves, much of it on the part of potential presidential candidates. “Why are they leaving their countries? If there’s a war, why don’t they stay and fight? Why should we let them into our country? They just come and use up our public benefits AND they might be terrorists!” are just a few of the things I have heard. I immediately think about the clients with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work over the past three months when I hear such negative things. Once you’ve worked with refugees themselves, such negative statements become increasingly ridiculous. How is it that people can express such condemnation of persons simply trying to find a place in which they can live a life of relative peace without fear of death or persecution? Why deny people the possibility of living a life without constant fear?

The clients with whom I work are simply people who found themselves in impossible situations, through no fault of their own, and who chose to take action and search for a better life for themselves and their families. I am unable to imagine what they have gone through to make it here to the U.S., but I am always in awe when I interact with clients and the positivity which they retain. It’s always such a lesson for me when I’m having a bad day to remind me that the ability to retain a smile in the face of difficulty is one of the most important human qualities.

———————

Meet Anna Berger’s co-worker Breanne. Breanne is the Resettlement Education Specialist at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). She is responsible for facilitating all aspects of the Cultural Orientation program for newly arrived clients and developing educational opportunities/trainings for refugees and the broader public through relationship building/partnerships such as our Refugee Speakers Bureau. She also works closely with refugee mothers, organizing opportunities for them such as play groups and in-home ESOL tutoring, educating parents about infant sleep safety and helping them to obtain cribs and car seats, and scheduling WIC appointments for mothers who are pregnant and/or have children under the age of 5. Additionally, Breanne serves as a caseworker for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Safe Passages Program, where she evaluates appropriate home placements for undocumented Central American youth.

IMG_5110

There are lots of opportunities for members of the community to get involved with Anna Berger at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). Some of these opportunities include volunteering in ESL classes at the CRIS office, organizing a donation drive of welcome kit items, volunteering to drive clients to medical appointments, or donating funds to buy necessary household goods for newly arrived families. If you are interested in volunteering or are curious about more opportunities to volunteer, contact Melanie Williams (a past Confluence participant!) at volunteer@cris-ohio.org or at (614) 987-1642.

A Week with Hanna Kahler at St. John’s Franklinton

10 Nov

St. John’s Franklinton received a Domestic Ministry Poverty Grant from the Episcopal Church to hire a Confluence Volunteer as a Community Organizer spearheading their efforts to transition from charity work in the neighborhood to Asset Based Community Development. Hanna Kahler is our 2015-16 Volunteer placed at St. John’s and below is her story.

St. John’s has served the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus for over 100 years bringing hope and healing to the community. They are centered by their common worship in the tradition of the Episcopal Church and they take seriously their fundamental biblical call to comfort those in need and to work for justice in order to alleviate those needs.

You can find out more about St. John’s by liking their facebook page, called St. John’s Episcopal and found here: https://www.facebook.com/saintjohnsepiscopal/?ref=ts

You can also see the St. John’s website at: www.st-johns-columbus@diosohio.org

 

3N4A8732

The work that I do day to day is incredibly varied and includes everything from planning an asset based community development training for our partner churches, to helping local kindergarteners plant tulip bulbs in St. John’s community garden, to pitching in with the Franklinton Garden’s Fall Festival by helping out with face painting . However, everything that I do is driven by the overall purpose of getting to know St. John’s neighbors better in order to identify the gifts and talents that they bring to the table.

One thing that I really appreciate about St. John’s is the long-term commitment that its staff and ministry leaders have made to the community of Franklinton. They feel a genuine call to work here at St. John’s and are dedicated to continuing in that calling. In ministry work, it is easy to start a good work with great enthusiasm, and then gradually get burnt out and eventually leave the ministry. However, the people that I work with have figured out how to engage in ministry over the long haul without flagging. Between the four long-term staff, they have 35 years of collective engagement here in Franklinton.  

This experience brings a great richness to their ministry. They have experienced a wide variety of situations in the past, and therefore have a large storehouse of experiences to draw upon in facing current issues. They have also known some parishioners and neighbors since they were toddlers, and have a rich understanding of the neighborhood and its people. This length of relationship has fostered trust, and opened up doors that would simply be impossible to someone just stepping into the neighborhood. I especially appreciate my co-workers rootedness here in Franklinton because I only arrived here a few months ago, and am still sorely in need of the wisdom and sense of place that they have to offer.   

12108821_990158521047651_4834283548361965333_n

This picture shows a church staff meeting that included (clockwise from bottom) Jed, Will, Katie, me, Rev. Reat, and Meribah. We are working on creating a new website for St. John’s!

 

 

Perhaps the most important way that you can become involved at St. John’s is to come and spend time with us and with our neighbors. You come and connect your gifts and skills with the gifts and skills of the people of Franklinton.  

You can start getting involved by attending our Street Church or His Place worship services. Street Church is our second service and takes place on Sundays at 1pm at the corner of W. Broad and Central streets. His Place is our midweek service and happens at St. John’s at 6pm on Wednesdays. Both services are followed by delicious meals.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.