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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:

You can also see the St. John’s website at:



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.   


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.

Meet the 2015-16 Confluence Volunteers!

14 Aug

Confluence is excited to welcome the 2015-16 Class to Columbus to join in with St. John’s Episcopal Franklinton during their Episcopal Service Corps Year. Get to know this incredible group of women committing themselves to a year of spiritual formation, service, intentional community, and social justice.

KG My name is Katie Guy and I’m a recent graduate of Ohio State where I studied Sociology and Nutrition. I come from a big family of 8 kids; hailing from a suburb of Dayton called Vandalia Ohio. I have loved getting to know Columbus during my undergraduate career and I look forward to learning a new part and investing in a community that I don’t know very well. My passions would be music, travel and culture. I’m an expert in none of them but always wanting to learn and experience more of them. I’ve spent an extensive amount of my time serving in Jamaica and have loved every minute of it. I will forever be grateful for the experiences that I’ve had there and the way they have shaped my life.

I look forward to this year of Confluence because of the promise of building in community with the other interns and the Franklinton neighborhood. I love how God is able to create true fellowship with people that would otherwise have not crossed paths. I have a particular interest in public health and I’m intrigued by how poverty and health are often linked negatively. I hope to understand this better after Confluence and I hope to offer a more positive outlook for those that are stuck in poverty. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing after Confluence Year but I hope to be serving the Lord and his people in whatever way He calls me.

Anna Berger HeadshotOriginally from Oak Ridge, North Carolina, Anna Berger is a recent graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where Amish horse and buggy sightings are not a rarity. During her undergraduate years, Anna studied International Studies, German and Spanish. She also enjoyed participating on Kenyon’s Model UN team, being involved with Canterbury Club (the Episcopal young adult campus ministry program), and helping to found a chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority at Kenyon. In her free time, Anna enjoys figure skating, reading, and baking desserts.

After the adventure of spending undergrad not only in rural Ohio but also in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Hungary, Anna is excited for the new adventure of spending the next year in Columbus with Confluence.
As much as she enjoyed her undergrad career, she looks forward to the chance to take a step outside of academics and to turn her focus to learning from other people and not just rom books. Anna is also thrilled about this opportunity to take a year to consciously explore and reflect on the “real world,” as well as the opportunity to increase her understanding of her goals for her own life.

Hanna KHello! My name is Hanna Kahler and I’m from the small town of Danville, Pennsylvania. Danville is surrounded by gently rolling hills, which are covered by lush green forests and filled with more white-tailed deer than you could possibly count. My nuclear family consists of Dad and Mom as well as two sisters—one older and one younger. This spring I graduated from Houghton College with dual degrees in International Development and Human Ecology and minors in English and Communication. I love to travel and was privileged to visit the Balkans and spend a semester in both Tanzania and New Zealand during my time at Houghton. This past summer I lived in Buffalo, NY and worked at a refugee drop-in center, interacting with refugees from all over the world. I am excited to spend a year exploring Columbus and living and learning in community alongside the other Confluence participants!

KBHello! My name is Katie Blodgett. I’m 24 years old from Indianapolis, IN. I graduated in 2013 from Indiana University with a degree in Nonprofit Management and German, and have since been kind of hopping around from one thing to the next! I’ve been working at Starbucks for over a year, I biked across the country with Bike and Build last summer, and I’m working with a youth missions organization called YouthWorks this summer before starting my time at Confluence. I have an amazing family with a brother, sister, mom and dad. My sister is married and has my niece Lily, and soon to be here nephew Hezekiah. My brother is getting married this May, so my family just seems to keep growing! I am so excited to live intentionally and simply while serving at an organization and with my housemates. I can’t wait to experience the joys and challenges that come with an ESC year, and I’m stoked to see what kind of changes happen in my heart and my housemate’s hearts through the year.

Notes from the Silence

17 Jun

In early May the Confluence volunteers ventured down to the Abbey at Gethsemani in Bardstown, KY for a weekend of silent retreat. The following reflections are the collected journals, essays, and prayers of the Confluence volunteers following the retreat.


Unfinished Thoughts: Melanie Williams

Not too long ago, I was asked in a watercolor session to think of a name for God and write it in the center of a page. I wrote “Silent One,” kind of in spite. This year as been a long stretch of believing (with what I thought to be great integrity) that I was listening for God, pleading with God, waiting for God and God was ignoring me, completely indifferent. I heard silence and felt absence.

I met a man recently who describes his conversion experience as physical – his body filling up with the Holy Spirit and feeling like his ribs were going to burst open. He still feels motions of the Holy Spirit within him, directing him. I envy this, and when I interact with people like this I often wonder if I’m missing something. I totter back and forth between wanting to believe in this physically experiential God who is utterly foreign and intrudes on it’s creation (hopefully in positive ways) and wanting to believe in a God who just is, all the time, within existence, who we know when we know our neighbor. I think perhaps God could be both. Both transcendent, outside and entirely within everything even in unnoticeable, silent ways.

It’s hard to explain what being in silence and solitude for three days does to me. It felt transformative at the time, but did little to change the daily grind. On the retreat, I was attracted to the discipline of the monks and the idea of setting aside times in the day for prayer. I don’t often do this, I think because I’m more pulled by the idea of knowing God when we know our neighbor. So I allow others to interrupt, to distract, and I seek out those interruptions and distractions. On the retreat, I practiced knowing God by attempting transcendence from distraction. Seeking God in silence made me realize that perhaps God is most silent when I’m not. In a city, I don’t have much opportunity for true solitude, stillness, and silence – perhaps that’s why I’ve been attempting to seek God in other ways. But I think without stillness and silence, I’m missing a way that God reveals Godself (himself, herself, or whatever other hopeless pronoun you want to use).

If God is to some extent utterly foreign, there are things to be discovered about God by removing oneself from what is familiar. In the U.S. today, distraction is probably one of the most familiar things. Stillness without any productive agenda is probably one of the least familiar. But stillness, solitude, and silence seem crucial for being open to the Holy Spirit, regaining belief, and being capable of seeing God when I see my neighbor.

Unfolding Creation: Nora Anderson

I was hiking, finding tall pine trees, abandoned orchards, and ethereal statues. I felt slightly weird while in the woods, almost as if I wasn’t entirely on earth anymore. I wasn’t afraid, but hyper-aware of my surroundings. I hiked up a small hill to the statues representing the night before Christ’s passion at the garden of gethsemane. First, there came a statue of two figures sleeping, when they should have been keeping watch. Then, further into the forest, a second statue of Christ praying. I took a seat on the crumbling wooden chair and listened.

I could hear the crackling of the leaves behind me as the earth grew and decayed at the same time. The forest was creating new parts of itself while simultaneously destroying existing spaces to make room for the new growth. I could hear squirrels and chipmunks running, then resting, then running again, watching for predators. The sound of birds was constant and changing. I could feel the sun on the back of my neck despite the thick canopy of leaves overhead. As I heard all these things, I read a compilation of quotes from Thomas Merton on the importance of introspection and contemplation.

Merton recognized that sitting alone and turning inside oneself is, inherently, difficult. Not only are we usually surrounded by things to do and people to talk with, but those activities allow us to ignore or gloss over our actions. As someone who’s not always lived the most Christian of lives, I understood what he was saying. My purpose of meditating in the forest that morning was to, as I have heard every Street Church, identify the things you’ve done that separate you from God and your neighbor, name that as sin, and give it up to God.

As I was thinking, I noticed that the sounds of the forest had almost completely stopped. The birds were no longer shrilling. The small creatures had stopped running. The forest still crackled, but a soft dragging sound accompanied it. I turned around in my chair to see a long, black snake raise its head above the leaves covering the floor. It looked around, then returned to the ground and left the clearing.

Et in Arcadia, ego. God knows that I haven’t yet found everything.


Collected Prayers: Carolyn May

God of beauty, God of creation–
Thank you for your love and the gift of the earth. Help me move slowly through this weekend. Give me courage to go deeper into myself in search of you. Give me courage to venture into the woods and the fields. Give me courage, God.

Enter into the dark parts of me and be light.

May your creation inspire my creativity.

As the sun sets here in Kentucky, those on the other side of the world are looking to begin a new day. Dead flowers drop their seeds and new ones bud. This insect eats that insect and the world continues rotating.

Help me to embrace the process of becoming. Give me courage to use the voice and the body you have given me. Remind me when I get anxious about growing up that getting older does not mean that the world is less new. Remind me that resurrection is the heartbeat of the world. “Unmaking makes the world.”

I am tattered and frayed and I am afraid that that is all I am

But i want to be more. I want to be yours, God. I want to love recklessly and seek truth boldly. I long for resurrection. And I see and I hear and I feel new life pulsing in the world your hands molded. I want to be yours and to let my life also fall into that rhythm.

“Unmaking makes the world.” I pray, God, that that might be true in Baltimore amidst these riots. I pray that that might be true throughout the U.S. and in all places where violence and destruction are prevailing. May this unmaking pave the way for new life.

Come quickly, God. Have mercy on us. Make us new.


25 Mar

By: Melanie Williams

Reposted from the Episcopal Service Corps Lenten Series:

My senior year of college, a well-loved professor asked me what I felt I must do. Not what I felt obligated to do because of forces outside of myself, but what I felt I must do because it was something that claimed me. Because it was an unavoidable part of myself, which when denied, cried out to be recognized and acted upon. Because it was as necessary to me as breathing. I had to think about it for some time.  I’m not always sure if I have a thing like this. But after a while I answered, “I must be with those who suffer.” And after another moment, “Also, I must dance.”

Something we talked about often that year was a practice of holding grief and joy in the same breath. I see this practiced every week within the various congregations of St. John’s in Franklinton where we sing praises to God after gathering prayer requests about loved ones who have cancer, are imprisoned, suffer hunger, are homeless, have died. I see it in my work place when I hear the stories of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence, and persecution. They tell me about how they lost a spouse, a limb, a child, and follow it by their gratitude for being alive.

It’s far easier for me to doubt God in the midst of suffering. To critique God for God’s seeming indifference and silence. If justice is meant to come, why not now? Why the delay? This year has been characterized by this kind of wrestling with God. But when I do this, I think I am forgetting who God is and where God resides. Our God is the one who came to earth and died.

Isaiah says Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus was consistently among the suffering and suffered himself. I love the picture of Jesus we see in John when he says, “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” A similar scenario happens when Jesus is hanging on the cross. One of the criminals being crucified with him cries out to him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and save us!” But instead, Jesus remains in suffering until death. And in this, God’s glorification is complete and the saving act accomplished.

What brings me hope, what pulls me back into faith, what moves me to dance and know joy in the midst of suffering is this strange comfort that God remained in suffering and died. That God continues to be with us in our suffering, that God is also still suffering, and that we too are somehow “filling up what is missing in the sufferings of Jesus” as we suffer with Jesus in our world. And though I am terrified to say it, I think this is the heart of Christian discipleship, that we “fall into the earth and die.” That we live and work and love in the midst of those who suffer, and suffer ourselves because we love. And in the same breath, we remain in hope and joy because we have faith that God is with us, still suffering, until God is “lifted up from the earth, and draws all people to Godself,” lifting up all who suffer with God.

How Street Church Changed My Mind About Sundays

2 Mar

Street Church

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

Windows to Heaven

25 Feb

Windows to Heaven

Henri Nouwen writes of spiritual disciplines that, “they are the effort to create some space for God to act.”

Over the course of Lent, the Confluence volunteers will be reading A Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life by Tony Jones. Each chapter explains the history of a specific spiritual practice, it’s theology, and how to incorporate that practice into one’s personal or communal pursuit of God. Each week the volunteers will read up on one spiritual discipline, and then practice it together following the community meal.

This week we read and discussed chapter 9: Praying with Icons. It was a rich conversation as we considered how God acts and moves through the material, and where the line is between icon and idol.

Each volunteer received their own unique icon to incorporate into their prayer life, and we took some time together in stillness and silence to ponder our icon, be present with the image of Jesus, Saint, or Scripture, and carve out the space to peer through these windows to heaven in an effort to create some space for God to act.

For more resources on icons, I encourage you to checkout…


Podcasts (Icons Part 1: Feb 3rd, 2009 & Icons Part 2: Feb 10th, 2009) (Episode 51-Icons: Aug 17, 2014)



sacred way

We can never be sure of God again

14 Jan

This December the Confluence Volunteers developed and led the liturgy for St. John’s Wednesday night His Place Service. The liturgy was built around Luke Chapter 2. During the service Melanie Williams asked the congregation to write down on paper hearts the places they had experienced good news or were hopeful for good news. This post features reflections from the Confluence Volunteers, and moments of good news experienced or hoped for from the congregation.

PART 1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:1-7

When I read this part of the Christmas story I am reminded that I often forget who God is. I think our society and even the church, tends to talk about a powerful god. A god who sits in the clouds and grants us wishes if only we pray hard enough, or long enough, or believe enough. I think those verses show that there is a lot wrong with that image of God. I think the Christmas story is beautiful because it turns things upside down it surprises us.

Our God is not a powerful God at least not powerful in the way we understand power to be. God is a baby. God is displaced – displaced from heaven to earth, Nazareth to Bethlehem, the inn to the manger. God is vulnerable – needing to be wrapped in bands of cloth by his mother. God is homeless.

This changes everything. God is no longer distant. God is no longer one with power to fear. God surprises us by showing up in a baby, by showing up in a stable, and now we can never know where God will appear. In coming in this humble way, God gives up God’s power and hands that power over to us. A theologian wrote that the Christmas story means that “God is never safe from us!” God comes and makes Godself able to be abandoned and even killed by human beings.

As I reflect on this part of the Christmas story I’m struck by the truth and beauty of what this all means. Because of this story, we can never be sure of God again.

As we continue to prepare for Christmas, I’d encourage all of us to let go of the image of a powerful God so that we can look to the manger – to the places we wouldn’t expect God to be – and be surprised by the power of love, humility and vulnerability.

PART 2 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:7-14

One of the things I love about reading the Bible are the little notes at the bottom of each page that tell you things you might not have known about the story you’re reading. That’s my favorite part of the Bible, because I’m familiar with pretty much all the good stories in there. And some of the weird ones, too.

And so when I was going through my Bible I began to understand that this part, with the angels, really shows who the message is for. You see, God sends angels to deliver the greatest message, and who do they talk to? Shepherds. Those little notes at the bottom of my Bible page tell me that a shepherd at this time was considered the worst job. People thought they were unclean and they weren’t even allowed to testify in court. But they were the first people to hear the good news of Christ’s birth. This announcement shows that at whatever place you might feel like in life, whether or not you feel good or smart or strong, our status never gets in the way of God’s good news to us. – Nora Anderson

PART 3 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:15-20

What I notice in this story is that the shepherds and all who hear them are amazed and glorify God for what they have seen and heard, but Mary responds differently. She treasures these events and ponders them in her heart. I don’t know what Mary was thinking at this time, but I can imagine she may have returned to a question she asked earlier in the Christmas story when the angel Gabriel came to her to tell her she would give birth to the Son of God. She asked, “How can this be?”

How can it be that God has come to us in this way – by becoming a baby, fully dependent on his mother. Could this really be God? Has God really come? Why does it seem that nothing has changed? There is still no room in the inn. We are still homeless. We are still suffering. We are still persecuted. What kind of savior is this? He is just a baby!

Jesus was not the savior that people expected. God did not swoop in and wipe out the wicked or make everything fair and just. Instead, God came and suffered with us, endured injustice with us, took on all our same pains, all our same experiences, all our same doubts, but also our same hopes. Even when we are unsure, like Mary pondering in her heart – how can this be? – the beauty of this Christmas story is that God has come and shares fully in our lives.

We do not often stop to look for God, especially not in the unexpected places, and we miss the good news that God has come. We’re going to do an activity now where we reflect on our lives and remember where we have seen God with us or among us. You have paper hearts and colored pencils, and as we sing the next couple songs, please take the time to reflect on where you have seen God among you, or what good news you have heard, or even what good news you wish to hear. You can then write on the heart a sentence or a word or even draw a picture as you ponder this in your heart. Afterwards, we will collect them and tape them to the walls downstairs so they can continue to remind us of the hope of God is with us. – Melanie Williams