By Nora Anderson
For most of my teen and adult life, I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of church services. If there’s one thing I believe about the Catholic school system, it’s that most will leave it not wanting to be involved in organized religion for a long time after. Throughout college, I regularly stayed up late and slept in on Sunday mornings. Although I respected and understood my friends and relatives who made it a point to head to some sort of service once a week, I thought it wasn’t for me.
When serving at a community meal at St. John’s in Franklinton last spring and I was told about Confluence Year, I thought it would be a great opportunity to put my sociology degree to use, get myself involved in service and generally put the year off between undergraduate and law school to good use by serving my community. I guessed the religious aspect was going to be a side part and I could get through it and everything would be cool.
So when I learned one of the requirements was going to St. John’s traditional service twice a month and its Street Church service three times a month, I knew I had guessed wrong. I imagined I could tolerate waking up before 10 a.m. a few times and heading to a traditional service that would be familiar to me, but a whole new, SECOND service after that? Have mercy. So in August, I headed to my first Street Church. To my surprise, I loved it.
There are zero pretenses in Street Church. No shoes, no shirt, there will still be service – and there often is, in the summer. When people come as they are to an event, it strips away all assumptions we might make about someone. The church service I knew had been stripped of the fancier language and a lot of the ritual, and the true meanings emerged. The abandoned lot where St. John’s holds Street Church is a place of truth.
I’ve been going to Street Church for about six months now, and to tell the truth, I get a bit disappointed when I have to miss it for one reason or another. Although the free lunch afterwards brought me in, it’s the community that keeps me coming back. I recognize the regulars and I wonder where they may be when I don’t see them one week. I think they might do the same for me. That space of realness is something I was missing in my life, and I’m glad I had to question myself to get there.
Nora Anderson is an Episcopal Service Corps volunteer and lives in intentional community with the other young adults of Confluence in a home in Franklinton.
Are you a young adult interested in a year of spiritual formation and vocational discernment while living out a life of social justice in intentional community? The Confluence Episcopal Service Corps program is excited to announce that applications for the 2015-16 year are now being accepted at http://episcopalservicecorps.org/