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Jun 24, 2015 | Carol E. Barnwell

Young Leaders Formed Through Episcopal Service Corps

Mia Benjamin, (pictured l) fellow in the Episcopal Service Corps in Boston, speaks passionately about discerning her vocation and seeking social justice. Photo: Carol E. Barnwell

 

What do you do after studying Islam in Amman, Jordan on a Fulbright scholarship? Mia Benjamin, 23, joined Episcopal Service Corps in Boston to put her passion for social justice and faith to work. Benjamin was working the ESC booth in the Exhibit area at General Convention and shared enthusiastically about her time as a fellow.

 

ESC is a network of more than 30 programs across the United States through which young adults of various backgrounds spend a year in service through the Episcopal Church. During their internship, the young adults live in community while serving in non-profit or parish settings. “One of the goals of the fellowships is to raise up leaders in the Episcopal Church,” said Matt Blank, director of the Diocese of Texas ESC. Fellows commit to work for social justice, live in community and intentionally deepen their spiritual awareness.

 

“Episcopal Service Corps provides the space and time for these young adults to discern their vocation and their role in the greater good, the greater world,” Blank said. “It also facilitates that process for them,” he added.

 

“I found Life Together (the name of her ESC program in Boston) on the Internet,” she explained. “Part of the work of vocation is discovery,” she said of her journey to ESC. She was studying Islamic leaders as community leaders in Jordan when she realized she didn’t feel rooted in her own background or in her own community.

 

Benjamin is assigned to a parish where she helps to organize a group of interfaith leaders, preach and teach Sunday school, in addition to the social justice work she does in the neighborhood. Raised in the United Church of Christ, Benjamin applied for her fellowship after finding the Episcopal Service Corps online. She was confirmed at Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, Massachusetts  in May and is discerning a call to ordination.

 

She believes living in an intentional community and having a spiritual director has helped her to grow and given her tools to become a better leader. Her first Episcopal worship service gave her “an immense connection with God.” And through a mentorship with her rector, she has “learned how the liturgy shapes us … and discovered the power of the Trinity.”

 

Benjamin said the Episcopal Service Corps has allowed her to connect with her “[Christian] roots and not give up my passion for social justice.

 

“We are trained to empower other leaders, to equip others,” she said. “There is space to explore … we don’t have that structured support elsewhere as young adults. My piers don’t know what the Church has to offer,” she added.

 

In the Diocese of Texas there are two sites for the Service Corps, in Austin and in Houston with four and six fellows respectively. “They live community in the areas in which they serve,” Blank said. “One of the unique characteristics of our local program is a wider range of service options our fellows have, beyond social justice issues,” he said, adding, “We are currently serving in community organizing, affordable housing, refugee resettlement, homeless services and in one parish placement. “

 

There are currently 30 programs in 23 states across the country. Find out more at episcopalservicecorps.org and connect on Facebook at episcopalservicecorps.

 

 

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