Colorado Episcopal Service Corps Photo Show 2015

Last year, we created this show using disposable 35 mm film cameras. Each Corps member, Catie, and Rebecca were given a camera with only 27 exposures. In this era of cameras on our phones and other digital photography we had to practice paying attention and being selective. We asked the questions:

“Where do you see God? “

“How do you think God sees the world?”

The Unknown JourneyThe ArtistWinter Sky

This year, we are doing the show again. Cameras were handed out at our opening retreat, and we will choose from among our best photos to put on our 2016 show in the Spring. We hope to make this practice of noticing, of wondering how God would see what we see every day, a part of our daily lives. It is always amazing to me how my view can change, what beauty emerges, if I am simply present to what is.

The Three who are over me,
The Three who are below me,
The Three who are above me here,
The Three who are above me yonder;
The Three who are in the earth,
The Three who are in the air,
The Three who are in the heaven,
The Three who are in the great pouring sea

-Carmina Gadelica, Volume III

Amen.

-Tory

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Navigating the world of food stamps

Of the many things I’ve experienced since joining ESC, I chose to write about food stamps for my first post.

Being in the SNAP program has already taught me a lot about what our fellow citizens have to endure on a daily basis.  I admit that I had a few misconceptions about the topic before coming here, namely that it wasn’t too difficult to enroll in the program.  I’ve already learned that people in the SNAP program definitely earn those benefits and then some, just from going through the enrollment process, let alone their struggles that have led them here.

My experience consisted of going to the Human Services office on a Monday morning and being shuffled into a line of confusion, then a second line.  We were told to take a number and fill out an application; however, our numbers were often called before we could finish our applications and I needed to grab another number and just hope that I would finish the application in time for the next one.  After the second round of waiting and dealing with unfriendly employees who seemed more unhappy than those of us waiting in line, I was able to meet with a case worker who was sweet and very helpful.  I had heard that each person applying would have an entirely different experience, and it was very much true.  My case worker informed me that I would need to attend an employment-readiness class in order to keep my benefits, because she believed I required more documentation than I had to prove my current employment; however, my community members did not have this obstacle.

I informed her I was working full-time; somehow, things seemed to settle down for a month without any need to attend a class.  Then, last week I received a letter informing me I had been assigned to attend a 3 hour long job-readiness class; it implied that not doing so would put me at risk for losing my benefits.  I then proceeded to call them and attempt to inform them of my employment; however, I was put on hold for an extended amount of time.

My work-site is flexible with time, so this was not an issue, but I did have deadlines that I needed to take care of before the next day, so this was a very frustrating experience for me.  I found it difficult to do any work with their “hold music” blaring in the background; their hold music consists of miniature ads for themselves, facts about Human Services, even factoids about laws that had changed back in 2009 [?] read in a displeasing nasal pre-recorded voice.  I tried to email them or leave a voicemail, but their line did not allow for any voicemails, and after a thorough search of the Human Services website, I could not find an email address for the specific purpose of which I was calling.  I found that they are very difficult to contact, inaccessible to those who need their help the most.  I was finally able to get through the Human Services phone line, only to be informed that I had to email Employment First [the job readiness class] directly. This conflicted directly with the letter I received which stated “if you miss your appointment, please call [main Human Services number]”.

I really feel for those who are enrolled in the program because they do not have other options at this point; I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to deal with this sort of frustration if I had severely limited, or no other, ways of purchasing food as a result of my food stamps being in limbo.  I wish that there was something I could do to make things better, because there should be a better way to handle this system, to be more accessible to those who need care.  For now, I suppose it’s enough that I’ve been more enlightened on this topic than ever before, and have started to feel more of the empathy I have been trying to seek as part of joining ESC; both things that will help me on my path this year and beyond.

–Alaska

Have you ever waited for something?

Have you ever waited for something? Like, really waited, with deep anticipation and a sense of despair hanging on every moment. I certainly feel that I have. I’d like to trace this longing back to early spring of 2013.

In Bloomington, Illinois just before the dawn of her graduation, Courtney Kotowski faced the daunting question “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”. Not long ago, she decided that her teenage dream of lawyer-hood would no longer suit her. The ever-expanding landscape of careers lay in front of her and she waffled. The summer was taken care of, she procured a 3 month procrastination period in the form of a traveling internship. But what would she do next? Everyone and anyone asked her, “what’s next?” There’s so much she considered; Politics, Non-profits, marketing, entrepreneurship and the very scary choice, Ministry.
With those she is closest to Courtney admits that she wants to do ministry more than any other profession. To her, it’s an opportunity to share the love that changed her life for the better. There are so many people who walk into ministry unprepared and so many who negatively impact others, how much scarier could it be? With the good and the bad in mind she timidly decides to pursue this very scary monster. Close by, is a university with a reputable Master’s of Spiritual Formation program. The man who runs it, is genius in her mind and worth learning whatever he is teaching. After a terrifically profound conversation, he reminds her that she really just doesn’t want to be in Bloomington, Illinois any longer. She agrees wholeheartedly and that is the end of the idea. God whispers to her, “There is something better. Just wait.”
Until the end of 2013. The same bug bites her, she is desperate to work for the Kingdom of God. Another university is near by, now in Greenville, South Carolina. She meets with the Dean and discusses her desire to work with women. Specifically, she wants to remind women how to encounter one another with love and how to encounter themselves with even more love. This time, she is accepted. She starts to believe that ministry is really in her future. But there’s something uneasy about this program, she can’t seem to swallow the theology of the school. Ultimately, she defers her acceptance indefinitely. “There is something better. Just wait.”
Her jobs never seem to satisfy or fill her with a sense of purpose. Fall of 2014, she decides enough is enough and lays this beautiful idea in front of God. “Lord, I have to believe there is a program that will provide me with the spiritual growth I am so deeply needing and allow me to work with women who need to be loved. Show it to me.” Courtney offers this prayer to God and goes searching. One day, while meandering online in her coffee shop of employment, she finds a hidden treasure: the Episcopal Service Corps. This is what struck her most deeply, “encountering the other to engage all; prayer and listening for a lifetime of practice in action; risk taking to lead to a lifetime of courage; simple living for a lifetime experience of navigating complexity; nourishing individuals and communities through conflict and failure for a lifetime of shared leadership”.

Something about the description of the Colorado Episcopal Service Corps hit a very tender and unattended nerve within me. God continued to sharpen my ear to Him, so that the words written above would strike as strongly as they did. Amazingly so, God provided something more perfect that I imagined. School wouldn’t have been enough because it’s an occupation you can do relatively alone. You can’t go through this program alone and God has a really “interesting” plan for my social refinement. How exciting and terrifying that God can put us exactly where we need to be.

-Courtney

Welcome!

Welcome to the new Episcopal Service Corps blog. Our old blog was unfortunately deleted, so we begin afresh. This will be a place for Corps members and staff to post reflections on our time together, and our learnings as we engage in community with one another.  We are still Contemplatives with Altitude, just in a new place.

Let me introduce myself: my name is Tory, and I’m the program coordinator and Iliff seminarian intern at the Colorado Episcopal Services Corps. I am a proud Colorado native, and my favorite things are making beautiful things and playing outside in our mountains. I am grateful for this opportunity to participate in the spiritual formation of the extraordinary people in our program. Part of my job is running our social media presence, including our Instagram and Facebook pages, so you’ll be hearing from me rather a lot this year.

Later this week we will be starting our regular post schedule, so check in on Wednesdays and Sundays to hear from our interns as they journey through the year.

If you have questions about Colorado ESC, or just want to join the conversation, leave a comment on our posts, and I will do my best to engage you. Also, please check out our FacebookInstagram, and our website.

Blessings,

Tory