Archive by Author

A Familiar Face

12 Nov

A reflection from Melanie Williams on her experience working with Community Refugee & Immigration Services.


Although many of my responsibilities at CRIS involve buying household items, ordering mattresses, scheduling furniture bank appointments, and organizing the donation room, my favorite moments are personal interactions with recently arrived refugees. I love when a client smiles at me just because they recognize me from driving them to an appointment and I have become a familiar face. I love accepting an offer of tea in a client’s new apartment after we return from a long wait at the social security office. I love hearing stories about life in Kabul, Baghdad, South Africa, and wherever our clients call home.

I feel lucky to know and work with so many people from across the globe, and am daily challenged by our diverse staff at CRIS. Many of our caseworkers are refugees themselves, having arrived in the U.S. anywhere between one and twenty years ago. I’ve learned a lot about patience and how to love and care for clients well from my coworkers. Having such a diverse office staff makes for lively days and so much great food. I love when a coworker sits down at my desk with a plate of Somali food and insists, “Eat with me. Enjoy. I hate to eat alone.”

There are definitely difficult days, like when we get notice that a family of ten is arriving in a week’s time and we have to find housing for them immediately, but I’ve always felt supported by the CRIS staff when things get stressful in the office. I am thankful for what I have learned so far, the experience in non-profit social work that I’ve gained, and the friendships I’ve made working at CRIS.

Shaped by Stories

5 Nov

A reflection by Confluence Volunteer, Carolyn May, on her work with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Carolyn May

Carolyn delivering a press briefing on the results of a statewide hunger study to her Senator, Charleta Tavares’, office.

I love stories. And I love storytelling. I tend to be of the belief that stories are really powerful and maybe even have the potential to change the world. I guess maybe I’m still a dreamer in that regard. Even if they can’t change the world, I know that in the short 2.5 months that I’ve been working at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, I have been changed by the hundreds of stories I have encountered.

Since starting here, I’ve learned a lot about the issue of hunger in Ohio and about the vastness of the issue. I’ve been struck by a number of statistics and I’ve been both encouraged and discouraged in hearing and reading about the responses to the issue by our legislators. However, the best part of working here so far has definitely been being involved in our storybanking and Paper Plate projects. Through the storybanking project I have had the chance to go out to local pantries and listen to the stories of people who are experiencing hunger or living in the struggle of trying to make ends meet.

In addition to hearing these stories, I’ve also had the chance to read hundreds of stories which have been written on paper plates which will soon be sent to legislators. Both of these projects have helped humanize the issue of hunger and have reminded me of the importance of the work being done by this organization. I’m thankful for these stories and for how they’ve shaped me. I’m thankful to get to be here and play a small part in some of the work being done by the association.

Checkout the work Ohio Association of Foodbanks is doing on their website.

And Grace Changes Everything….

16 Oct

A Reflection from Confluence Volunteer Carolyn May.

I think this all sounds really obvious. But when you really think about what it all means, it does something to your heart. Or at least it does something to mine.

A few Sundays ago we had the chance to go with Deacon Craig to the closing of a Kairos weekend at the prison in Delaware. After an intense  weekend of diving deep into the gospel and deep into community, the group of men who attended had the chance to stand up in front of a room  full of both familiar faces and strangers and share their stories. They talked about where they were going into the retreat, or why they wanted to attend. And then they talked about how the experience changed them. I sat and listened to their stories, I couldn’t stop crying. It was such a beautiful and powerful experience and I felt privileged to be able to listen. I needed to be there. I felt redeemed simply in hearing their stories of redemption.

I think grace is always overwhelming to think about. It’s incredible to think that God still loves and me and calls me God’s own when I know all the ways in which I’ve failed at loving God and loving others. It’s overwhelming. But even more overwhelming was listening to these men living in prison talk about grace. To hear these men talk about the freedom they found during their weekend at Kairos.

I can’t get over that. These men live their lives within walls that they aren’t allowed to move beyond. They are living in prison which seems to be the opposite of living a free life. And yet, as these men shared their stories it was freedom they were describing. Knowing the love of God and the forgiveness of God set them free. Having the chance to speak and really be heard and having the chance to listen deeply to the words of others set them free. I can’t wrap my head around the power and the beauty of that. It’s too much. This is the gospel, I think. Freedom even for those in prison.

I sat there crying and realizing that God’s grace extends to us even in our darkest moments, even when we fail to have grace for ourselves, even when the rest of the world refuses to believe we deserve new life. And grace changes everything—how we think, live, interact and respond in and to the world the around us.

Taking the Plunge

22 Aug

by Nora Margaret Anderson

As the news of the Ice Bucket Challenge continues to spread across nearly every form of social media this week, for the last two weeks I’ve gone through an immersion of my own.

On Sunday, August 3, I moved into a small, three-bedroom house in the Columbus, Ohio neighborhood of Franklinton. Although it was a five-minute drive from my parents’ house where I had crashed since graduation, it was a giant step socioeconomically. The median income in Franklinton is about $14,000, whereas one semester at my private liberal-arts college is about $45,000—not including textbooks or lab fees. Brand-new apartments and High street suddenly became houses stuck with orange “VACANT” signs and the cracked sidewalks of Broad street.

But it wasn’t just a desire to move out of my parents’ for a year while I prepare for law school that led me to the west side. My university was constantly stressing a doctrine of “learn the theory, then put it into practice,” and I’d had enough of academia. I wanted to put everything I’d learned about social and economic inequality to use. So I made the choice to join an intentional community, Confluence Year, and dedicate my time and my knowledge to a neighborhood that had little of either.

My entire first week was a barrage of meet-and-greets, and I say that as an extrovert. Usually, I gain my energy from talking, working, and interacting with others, but at the end of the day, even I was exhausted. Not only was I (and my two new housemates) meeting residents of the neighborhood, but also learning the geography and institutions that work to improve the quality of life in Franklinton. From Gladden Community House, which has been serving for more than a century; to the Franklinton Development Association, which built the first house in the neighborhood since the 1950s, we never really stopped moving. It was, as the director said frequently, “like trying to drink from an open fire hydrant”.

The second week was slightly more spiritual in nature. Confluence Year operates under the purview of the Episcopal Service Corps and includes spiritual formation as part of its holistic approach to support its participants. My housemates, with the help of our director, took the better part of two days to develop a Rule of Life by which we will live for the coming year. It wasn’t exactly one of those retreats in which everyone bares their soul and ends up crying for one reason or another, but I came away with a much deeper understanding of the backgrounds and motivations of the people I’ll be living with for the next year. It’s amazing to think that just a few short weeks ago, I was living with complete strangers, but we’ve quickly become friends—and learned to live fairly well together despite different backgrounds and opinions.

I’m not entirely sure where the year will go—and I’m looking forward to the twists and turns—but if my first two weeks were any indication, this might be the best year of my life so far.

Confluence at Street Church

4 Jun

Every month Confluence volunteers prepare and serve the meal for St. John’s second service, Street Church. Street Church has been gathering Sundays at 1pm in an abandoned lot at the corner of West Broad St. and Central Ave for over eight years, rain, snow, sleet, or shine! The community gathers for liturgy and the Eucharist before sharing a meal together. A great community is built among neighbors who might not otherwise venture through the doors of a traditional church. If you live in Columbus, all are welcome to join us for worship.

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A Light in the WIlderness

11 Mar




Volunteer Stephen Hash had his original work, “A Light in the Wilderness,” featured at the E.A.S.E. Gallery. The gallery is hosted at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the campus of The Ohio State University. This Praxis Communities exhibition features work from numerous artists exploring the idea of “Wilderness: Physical and Spiritual.” Check out more here.

A Light in the Wilderness

Episcopal Service Corps Partnership

21 Jan

We are proud to announce that Confluence is now officially a program of the Episcopal Service Corps!

In 2008, the six existing Episcopal programs gathered from across the country to found a national network, and Episcopal Service Corps was born. Each program retained its unique identity and local leadership while collaborating on a common volunteer application and sharing resources and ideas. Bringing together programs with shared values and mission, Episcopal Service Corps strengthens member programs through training and support for staff and connects young adult volunteers to a national movement of faith-based service.

St. John’s Episcopal Church is excited for the connection to the broader Episcopal Church, the chance to share resources, be strengthened by the staff of long running programs, and to welcome in Episcopal young adults from across the country to the work God is doing in Franklinton.