The New Crew is Here!

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Harrisburg has been home for just over three weeks, yet I’ve caught myself in shock that more time hasn’t passed. With August fading into September, that rainy afternoon when I unloaded my car in the parking lot and shuffled through the new house feels distant. Walks along the river now seem normal, routine in the best kind of way, though a community member challenged us all to branch off from the path before us and venture into other pockets of the city. And we did just that. Turns out you can fit a lot into a week of orientation, and though we were tired, it didn’t escape our notice how much kindness was packed into each encounter we had.

It’s hard to identify the most exciting part of orientation. Was it the impromptu rally we joined at the state capitol, just blocks from our house? Or the delicious tacos handed through the window of a food truck in Allison Hill after a morning of gardening?

A personal favorite for me was the evening spent out on the covered porch of Harry Weber’s home, listening to the booming thunderstorm around us. The in-ground pool lay feet from where we all sat, reminding us of the original purpose of our visit. It was meant to be a pool party. But listening to the rainfall and eating around the table with friendly people, I preferred the change of plans. Funny how the unexpected moments so often are the ones that become good memories.

It wasn’t just Harry and Karen that made an impact on us. All through the week, board members of the Sycamore House stopped in, toting food along with them and making sure we were well cared for. That was undoubtedly a highlight of the week, pointing towards the beauty of a community that cares for its members, however new they are. We’re excited to have the chance to give back when we open our doors for our own community dinner. It’s difficult to name every single person who’s blessed us these past two weeks, but we hope to have the chance to thank you over this next year, with our words and with our actions. So to start us off, thank you!

Elisabeth Ivey, Sycamore House Member

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A morning of gardening- Corps Members help with weeding in one of the adopted lots of the Catholic Worker House. 

Make Us Ready

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A misty morning view from the upper riverfront path

When the weather is nice and I don’t have too much to transport, I hop on my bike and ride along the riverfront path to get to my office in the Chapter House at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Despite the forecast for rain later (which has now come to fruition), this morning was one of those days. On my commute today, I felt particularly thankful to have a workplace I can bike to. I noticed things along the way that I wouldn’t have noticed in a car: a goldfinch perched on a sparse branch, the misty river view, various interesting people running, walking, and biking along the way to smile and nod at. I got to enjoy my city!

In the past few weeks, we have accomplished much at the house. We have said goodbye to our last crew, and our board and other volunteers have been diligently painting, dusting, purging, washing, sweeping, scrubbing, vacuuming, sweating, gathering, making space, praying!

Our new group arrives in 2 days, and we are just about ready. All of this work has been necessary to prepare us, both practically and mentally, to embrace a new season. I’m thankful that this has been a community effort on the part of many people in the Cathedral.

I feel excited and hopeful to welcome this new group to St. Stephen’s Cathedral and to Harrisburg. I am looking forward to sharing this quirky, complicated, wonderful small city I love with a new group of people, to get to know this new group and begin our journey together. I know I’m not the only one!

A fellow ESC Program Director shared this prayer a few days ago, and it resonated with where we are in our Sycamore House life:

Prayer- from Brother Curtis Almquist, SSJE
Be open for what is new, for what God is wanting to birth in your life. You may need to detach from something of your past. Something new wants to happen, and that new requires space. You may even be able to identify with the Blessed Virgin Mary who, on hearing of this new thing God had for her to bear and give birth to was first afraid, and then she was perplexed, and then she was ready…. God made her ready for this new thing. Amen. 

My prayer is for our Episcopal Service Corps program, and ESC programs all over the country:

God, make us ready for this new thing. Amen.

 

-Micalagh Moritz, Program Director

 

 

Who is my neighbor? (Part 1)

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Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

When considering the concept of community at the Sycamore House, we generally think about 3 main communities that we are a part of: the house itself, the Cathedral, and the city of Harrisburg. Sounds simple enough. But if we think about it more deeply, those 3 communities encompass a lot.

Our immediate neighbors here on Front Street are unique- it’s the Cathedral and its many congregation members who come on Sundays and are in and out on various days of the week, working on volunteer projects, maintaining our beautiful, historic buildings, attending mid-week services. And of course, our diligent staff, led by our Acting Dean, Amy Welin. It’s St. Stephen’s School (or, currently, summer program)- kids from preschool to 8th grade from all areas of the city and beyond, laughing, singing, and learning. It’s the Diocese office- their staff, our Bishop Audrey Scanlan, and of course, the office kitten.

Looking a little further down the street- it’s the men and women experiencing tough times, and sometimes homelessness who gather for meals down the street by the bus station, or stop by the school’s “box of free stuff” where students leave items they no longer need for someone else who might use them. It’s the law office next door, the bar and restaurants around the corner, the men and women in suits briskly walking to work, lunch, or on a break by the river. It’s the families and individuals stuck in cycles of poverty all around the city. It’s the refugees from Puerto Rico that have flowed into Harrisburg after Hurricane Maria, like many places around the U.S., or those from Syria fleeing conflict and atrocious situations in their home country. It’s the immigrants and refugees from Cameroon and other African countries who form the Center for African Immigrants and meet in local churches.

Being a neighbor to all of these people is a calling, and it may mean different things for each house. As we begin to prepare to welcome a new group of Sycamore House Corps Members in August, we will join together to ask the question that was asked so long ago: Who is my neighbor? And we will spend a year journeying to answer it and the implications that go with it.

Peace to all on similar journeys in your respective communities,

Micalagh Moritz

Holy Saturday

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Today, on Holy Saturday, I have been reflecting on the in-between times of life. The times when we are waiting, when we are hoping for something more that we cannot yet see. The times when we are stuck in a season of life that we don’t love, when we are working on a problem that is unresolved, when the hard things seem too hard.

As I have the privilege of meeting with organizations all over Harrisburg to learn about what they do, and to determine how the Sycamore House might be able to collaborate, I think about this a lot. I meet with people who are working hard for justice, and who see little victories here and there, but who are often working, hoping, and waiting in faith for change. Change for immigrants and asylum seekers locked in a detention center in Berks County- men, women and children who don’t know how long they will be there, and if they will be sent back to their countries of origin (which many of them left fearing for their lives). Change for individuals in poverty who don’t have the resources to turn their electricity back on or to pay their heating bills. Change for those living in food deserts in Harrisburg, who hope for more affordable and fresh options. Change for parents hoping for an education that is equitable and will offer their children more opportunities and alternatives to “running the streets.” Change for youth in Harrisburg and all over the U.S. who want to be able to go to school without the threat of gun violence.

The time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday sometimes seems to stretch longer than we’d like it to. Waiting is not an easy thing to do. And yet, God works within us and around us, even in the waiting period.

As people of faith, we know the final outcome- God’s grace and love wins. As I once heard Tony Campolo say, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” Well, today, we are one day closer.

Let us join together, work, and pray faithfully, and say, “It’s Saturday, but Sunday’s coming.”

-Micalagh Moritz, Program Director

Building Community

 

In my last post, I wrote about doing “small things with great love.” Each of us are only given so much time, energy, and gifts to do these seemingly “small things,” and yet, when we work together we know that we can make big changes in our community and world.

Consider the current Sycamore House year, for instance. This year is a little different (due to several circumstances, including low enrollment for national service years), and our corps members are working at various jobs and have various roles in the community. While we will return to our normal model next year, there are good things that are happening in the house currently that should also be highlighted.

The group has started a weekly free yoga class in the house, offering this option to others in the community. They have been building community through a Dungeons and Dragons gathering bi-weekly. When they had their housewarming party, they helped gather coats as the weather was getting cold and distributed them at a local meal for people in need of food and warm clothes.

Serina is working at Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market at RiJuice and is gearing up to grow herbs and vegetables to increase her farming skills and provide locally grown produce to the Market customers. She is passionate about growing things, and this is evident in where she spends her energy and time. She is looking forward to doing some planting at the house as spring comes closer.

Joshua works at the Broad Street Market as well at Urban Churn– I’d venture to say that serving delicious ice cream is definitely a community building activity! He is also involved at a local retreat center and at Gamut Theatre, whose mission is to “tell classic stories in new and exciting ways for the entertainment of children and adults alike.”

They both regularly serve food at Food not Bombs to individuals who are in need of a hot meal in downtown Harrisburg.

Mike started as an AmeriCorps member at Habitat for Humanity, and then was hired on as the Outreach Coordinator. He can be found all over the Harrisburg community- collaborating with organizations and residents to make positive changes. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, he has jumped into the Sycamore House and St. Stephen’s Community, using his gifts and talents in many ways.

And that’s only 3 out of the 6 current members of the house. Stay tuned to find out more!

Peace,

Micalagh

Pictures Above:
Left: Sycamore House Corps members during a yoga session, Right: Coats collected for individuals in need

Hello Harrisburg and Beyond!

As the new Director for the Sycamore House, I’d like to introduce myself on the blog. I’ll start by sharing a bit of my own story:

It was 2006, and I was about to graduate from college. I applied to one program to spend a year working in France, where I had spent a semester abroad. I applied to another program to travel to Haiti and work with a human rights group. There were so many exciting and exotic opportunities around the world. But the more I read about investing in people, community, and the cities of the U.S., the more I realized that God was calling me right here- only 20 minutes from my college- to Harrisburg, PA.

Mother Theresa is quoted as saying, “You can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

That has been my mantra, a phrase that has guided me since that seemingly small decision in 2006.

I focused on the small things- I worked with children in the community at an after-school program, I got to know neighbors, I met and married my husband, I went to DC to spend a year in community, and returned to get my Masters in Social Work. I went to Belize and worked with college students at a study abroad program, focusing on relationships and learning about the natural world there. I returned to Harrisburg yet again to raise my first child (and now we’ve added another). It has been a journey of small steps with a lot of discernment; constantly learning what it means to love in each situation.

So here I am- focusing on the small things- a 7-month old and 2-year old, and investing in community again at the Sycamore House.

I have been lucky to get to know many past Sycamorians- my husband being one. Though I did not spend a year in the house, it has profoundly shaped my time in Harrisburg, and the lives of many of my friends.

I sit in a café on a snowy afternoon in Harrisburg, and I feel privileged to be here. To be in this small Pennsylvania city that I have fallen in love with (certainly not what this Jersey girl expected). To be the new Director of a program I believe in, one that has left its mark on the city and many lives.

As we move forward as a program and a church, may we continue to be attentive to “the small things with great love.”

-Micalagh Moritz

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