Meet the Members: Madi

Hello!

My name is Madi Keaton, and I am a recent Messiah College graduate who is serving at the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (a legal aid clinic that represents Pennsylvania’s low-income utility and energy customers) and the Community Justice Project (a legal aid clinic protecting the civil rights of low-income Pennsylvanians through improved public benefits, affordable housing, better pay, and more). As someone who wants a career in environmental justice (and is leaning more and more towards law school every day), being able to work on cases to fight for basic human rights like access to water or a home is a dream come true.

I grew up about 50 minutes from Harrisburg, which means that the most common question I get from family and friends back home is, “Harrisburg? Why didn’t you choose a Service Corps location further away, like Boston or LA?” The truth is, I love Harrisburg. Having grown up in the middle of nowhere, Harrisburg is unfamiliar, daunting, and exciting. Throughout my time at Messiah, I traveled to Harrisburg frequently for my internship at the YWCA, hung out with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, and attended concerts and ate at restaurants. I had an unusually strong affection for the city and knew in my heart as I got closer and closer to graduation that I needed to find a way to stay there just a little longer.

In my free time, I like to do anything involving nature, music, or art. I love going on long hikes, gardening, and tending to one of the many plants occupying my room. In the fall, you’ll see me scanning the ground and fallen trees for identifiable mushrooms and in the spring, my eyes will shift towards treetops looking for birds. I was raised in a musical family, singing and playing guitar and performing in musical theater. If I don’t listen to music within a span of 24 hours, I get noticeably agitated. I listen to everything from 1950’s country to 12-minute-long sitar recordings to mumble rap, and please don’t ask me what my favorite song is because the answer you’ll get is a 50-way tie. My family also owns a pottery shop, so I grew up with a love for creation. I like to paint with watercolors and make jewelry, as well as sew, crochet, and craft just about anything.

I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this year’s Sycamore House and am looking forward to getting to know my housemates and the members of St. Stephen’s Cathedral!

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

 

 

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

Work site Week – CONTACT Helpline

Hello readers!

This week, we’ll be having a new post every single day.

You read that right, a new post from your favorite Sycamores every day this week!

This week, we’ll be focusing on our work sites. We’ll be sharing what we love most about working there and what we’ve learned so far. Our first work site is CONTACT Helpline, where corps member Emily Hibshman is serving as the volunteer coordinator. Read more below the cut.

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7 Reasons Why You Should Attend Party Gras

It’s that time of year again – we’re halfway through winter, Lent is approaching and thanks to Punxsutawney Phil, we’re looking to an early spring. It’s the time of year to celebrate – that’s right, it’s time for Party Gras! You may be asking yourself, what is Party Gras? It’s a fun(d)raiser hosted by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral, the sponsoring parish for your favorite service corps, the Sycamore House! Here are 7 reasons why you should attend Party Gras this Friday.

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Being in Sycamore House

I am not really sure how to put into words what my community at Sycamore House really means to me. When I applied to the Episcopal Service Corps, I knew that I would live in an intentional community and spend a year of service, but I had no idea that this community would come to mean to me as much as they do in as short a period of time as it has been. It has been three months since I moved to Harrisburg. I have known my housemates for only three months (with the exception of Bea who went to college with me), but we are already such a tight knit group, and have been since our first month in Harrisburg.

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Incubating the Imagination

Sarah and Priscilla Reflect

I always have to take a deep breath before I walk into the Sycamore House on Friday mornings for our weekly meetings.  As the facilitator of our three-hour reflection/formation time, it’s not unlike getting ready for a final exam or a marathon.  There is always a lot of ground to cover and (surprisingly) not enough time for all of it.  But, we’ve settled into a nice routine on Friday mornings. Often, there is the scent of bacon in the air.  It’s only way for Brigette to really get her morning started.  Occasionally, you can smell an omelet or two prepared by Jess for her housemates.  Always, there is the sound of coffee being made.  Usually, you can find Gabe sitting on the couch, ready to go. Sarah’s usually bobbing around with a smile and a flannel shirt.  Katie is typically trying to finish whatever reading we have in time for discussion and Priscilla usually makes a graceful entrance just as we get started.  She’s typically the only one in the group that’s managed to get out of her pajamas in time for our meeting.

After opening with some kind of spiritual practice, we dig into whatever topic we have for the week.  Being the nerd I am, I try to carefully craft each week to focus on a theological theme that will tie into reflection on the work the Sycamorites are doing in the city.  But it doesn’t matter, really. No matter how much I prepare for our time together, there’s always something that throws it off course.  Sometimes it’s the frustrating week someone has had at his/her work site.  Sometimes, it’s the struggle a house member is having with a family member.  But most of the time, it’s because we get off track.. in the most wonderful of ways.

Friday mornings are a time for spiritual formation and reflection on community experiences.  No matter how carefully the day is constructed, someone’s story will derail us.  Sharing stories on Fridays cultivates a time for imagination.  A time to sit back and look at our collective experiences in reality and dream about possibilities, explore the “what ifs.”  Imagination gets a bad rap sometimes.  Some find it to be divorced from reality, impractical or illogical.  But imagination is one of the things we humans do best.  We look at a world, as it is and dream up a world as it can be.  That’s how we evolve as a community.

The kind of imagination that is ignited on Friday mornings is tethered in concrete, every day experiences, but it isn’t bound to it.  Each person comes into the room with a different picture of Harrisburg– it’s possibilities and challenges. As those images are shared, a new one is created and recreated every week.  That’s at the root of imagination: new images and fresh pictures. So every week, the living room of the Sycamore House becomes an incubator for the imagination– an imagination that is nourished by those in the city who are working to create lasting change, by those in the parish who bring wild flowers and leftovers to the house and stay for a story or two, and by the Sycamore House members (past and present) whose tenacious and persistent sense of wonder always push the boundaries of reality.

The best part is that this kind of imagination is never done alone.  In fact, the Service Corps members’ actions and words consistently remind me that the best kind of imagination is the one that is formed and informed by the community around us.  So today, I’m bracing myself for this Friday.  Not because it is stressful or exhausting (thought it can be), but because I know that when I walk into the Sycamore House in a few days, my picture of the world and of this city will look just a little bit different than it does today.

Glad to be a part of it all,

Emmy