Behind the Placement: Elisabeth

It can be difficult to know exactly what a service year looks like. In addition to the communal interactions we have as a house, each member of the Sycamore House engages in the community through a full-time service placement. For the next several weeks, you will get a peek into the world of each Sycamore House member, highlighting the unique contributions they make to their organizations. IBehind the Placement, you’ll be able to read about the projects Sycamore House Members work on, the reflections they’ve been having, and how it all ties into their year of service! 


Although my journey with the Sycamore House began in August, my relationship with the Center for Public Humanities started all the way back in March of 2017. While studying abroad in Thailand, I snuck away to a quiet corner of the house and made a call for an interview. On the other end was Dr. Corey and the then Program Coordinator and former Episcopal Service Corps member, Jonathan Barry Wolf. As we chatted, they explained the various facets of the Center for Public Humanities, and how, as a fellow, I would get the chance to work with young students through poetry and participate in the humanities symposium that provides a venue for many brilliant minds. I served a year as a student fellow when I returned to campus, and I’ve now had the wonderful opportunity to continue my work with the Center for Public Humanities as Program Coordinator!

My role involves many moving pieces. One of my favorite programs, Poetry in Place, invites middle school students from the Harrisburg school district to explore different aspects of the city. Whether we’re walking through the State Museum of Pennsylvania or riding on the Pride of the Susquehanna riverboat, I’m constantly learning new details about Harrisburg’s past. Perhaps one of the most sobering discoveries for me was about the Old 8th Ward in Harrisburg. Because of the efforts to make Harrisburg a more beautiful city, that entire community was uprooted and displaced from their homes. Now, the Capitol complex stands there. Thanks to the research conducted by Digital Harrisburg (another branch of the Center), students got to hear the names and learn about the lives of people who lived there all those years ago, and they wrote poetry to reflect on that experience. They blow me away every time as they connect deeply with issues like social inequality and also dream boldly to envision a better future.

In addition to Poetry in Place, I also work on campus at Messiah College, helping to coordinate the student fellows who work with the Center. During the fall and spring semesters, 8-10 students from various humanities backgrounds come together to have discussions, work on projects, and further our commitment to making our studies beneficial to and in partnership with the public beyond our campus. Last semester, several students coordinated interviews with elderly community members who shared their perspectives on education in Harrisburg. A couple of fellows have worked diligently on the Digital Harrisburg initiative, documenting the past of this city. Another team worked on cultivating a curriculum that could serve as a resource for Harrisburg school teachers, and yet another team documents this work to keep people updated on what we’re doing. I’m honored to be a part of the group, assisting where I can and learning from the students who have so much to offer.

Both as a fellow and program coordinator, I’ve been able to experience the challenges and rewards of collaboration. As we tread further into February, we prepare for the Humanities Symposium for which every member of our team has worked hard to prepare. This year’s theme is The Common Good, and we’ve been inspired by the Key Note speaker Marian Wright Edelman to learn more about education and how we must continue pushing for equity for children.  

I truly love what I do because it allows me to pursue meaningful work in a creative way. I’m thankful for the people that I work with, like Dr. Jean Corey, who has taught me so much about humility and dignity and hard work, and though I don’t know what step I’ll take next, I hope that I’ll find myself in a similar environment where creativity, social consciousness, and collaboration thrive.

– Elisabeth


Above image provided by the Center for Public Humanities.

Behind the Placement: Shannon

It can be difficult to know exactly what a service year looks like. In addition to the communal interactions we have as a house, each member of the Sycamore House engages in the community through a full-time service placement. For the next several weeks, you will get a peek into the world of each Sycamore House member, highlighting the unique contributions they make to their organizations. IBehind the Placement, you’ll be able to read about the projects Sycamore House Members work on, the reflections they’ve been having, and how it all ties into their year of service! 


Hello everyone!

We are now five months in to the Episcopal Service Corps year, and so much has been going on around the Sycamore House. As we started the New Year, a lot of us spent time thinking about 2018 and changes or growth we want to achieve in 2019.

I am currently placed at the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania Bishop’s office in downtown Harrisburg. My role has me doing many things around Central PA and has given me the opportunity to meet amazing clergy and lay people.

As an events coordinator, every week and month can look different, depending on what events we have coming up on the horizon. For instance, every month we do a “Bishop Out of the Box,” where Bishop Audrey Scanlan and Canon Dan Morrow plan ways to get out into our communities, meet people, and have meaningful conversations with those who may not want to go to church.  So far we have done things such as a Live Nativity, a walk around Lancaster central market asking people what they are grateful for and what they hope for, and an Agape Love Feast.

Occasionally, I have bigger events on my docket that take longer to plan and require a lot of conversations. For instance, currently we are in the throes of putting everything together for the June 2019 Appalachian Camino and the Bishop’s Open Golf Tournament in May 2019.

Besides making phone calls, researching information, and answering emails, I get to take part in more coworker community time. Every week we have a staff meeting where we discuss what’s on all our plates, have a Bible study together that we take turns leading, and then take communion together.

Of course, we can’t forget one of the best perks of the job at the Diocese – Lily Grace and Rey. Our office has two adorable barn cats turned spoiled office cats that keep us all on our toes. With their playfulness, cat naps, and need for attention, we always have entertainment and kitty cuddles on hand for breaks.

Overall, working at the Diocese has taught me how to push the good boundaries, reach out to people in faith, and allow spirituality and church (meaning the community of believers) mingle outside of Sunday settings.

– Shannon


Above image provided by Shannon.

Meet the Members: Elisabeth

Hello to all!

I’m Elisabeth Ivey, a writer and coffee enthusiast (I’d like to personally thank the generous members of the St. Stephen’s community for keeping me well-supplied).

I’m also a recent graduate of Messiah College, where I studied English and Sociology & Anthropology. Those two areas of study intersect in my desire to study the people and the world through story. I’ve personally experienced the powerful influence of story to stretch me beyond my own experience. As an author-in-training, I hope the stories I portray will similarly challenge and affirm readers.

I haven’t strayed far from where I spent the last four years. As Program Coordinator with the Center for Public Humanities at Messiah College, I have the honor of working on the very same campus that’s been home for some time. I cherish my work. In my position, I’ve had the opportunity to work with brilliant students who dedicate themselves to research and the community in their roles as fellows. Through a program called Poetry in Place, I get to tour and learn about Harrisburg alongside middle school students before they compose poetry to reflect on those experiences. In whatever work I pursue next, I hope it allows for the same creative and thoughtful work I’ve been able to engage with at the Center.

Before college, I lived in seven different states, so I grew accustomed to the idea that a transition meant a geographical change. When I learned I would get to stay in the area for another year, I realized I would get to practice presence and learn how to grow deeper into the community here. I’m thankful for this chance to experience the city in new ways. Living in the Sycamore House, attending St. Stephen’s, working at Messiah College, and exploring Harrisburg, I anticipate a year of growth as I learn from those around me and engage in intentional relationships. Thank you for being a part of that!


Photography by Owen McCullum

Meet the Members: Chloe

Hi, my name is Chloe! Last May, I graduated from Calvin College in Michigan with a degree in English Literature and Environmental Studies. I’ve spent my life thus far split equally between three places: Beijing, China; Birmingham, Alabama; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Because of this, I’m not entirely sure where to call home, but this year I’m excited to explore a new place.

Since I spent the first chunk of my life in China as a missionary kid in a small Reformed denomination, I’ve grown up appreciating the role of culture and the importance of community. When I studied in England for a semester during college, I was drawn to the liturgical and ecumenical aspects of the Anglican tradition. Through my time living in the Sycamore House, I hope to learn more about the Episcopal Church as well as how to live intentionally with others.

This year, my service placement is with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. As a national grassroots environmental advocacy group, the Sierra Club is largely volunteer-run. My position as an Organizing Fellow primarily involves supporting these volunteer leaders across the state, creating resources for local groups and coordinating statewide strategies for their environmental justice campaigns.

The majority of my work supports the state’s “Ready for 100” campaign, a national movement that advocates for clean and equitable energy, urging local legislators and decision-makers to make commitments to renewable energy and offering action plans to back these resolutions. In light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report, this work feels more critical than ever.

Although it’s been just over a month, I’ve already been challenged and stretched by my time here. And I’ve been incredibly grateful for walks along the Susquehanna River, the goodwill and humor of my housemates, the kindness of my coworkers, and the generosity of the members of St Stephen’s.

Here’s to a good year and to good things to come.

– Chloe

Meet the Members: Katie

Hi, y’all!

My name is Katie Lamp, and I came to Sycamore House by way of small town Alabama. I graduated from the University of South Alabama in December 2016 with my Bachelor’s in Social Work. Before arriving in Harrisburg, I worked in community mental health as a case manager. This year, I will be serving with Capital Area Head Start. I am excited about this opportunity because I have always loved working with children and I am looking forward to being a part of early interventions that will benefit these students for years to come.

Whenever someone finds out where I’m from, the first question is always, “Why Pennsylvania?” The answer is that Pennsylvania is home, too! I was born here along with my mother and three of my grandparents. I fondly remember many summer vacations here and always told my parents growing up that I was going to live here one day, even if just for a year. I’m happy that my statement was correct!

In my free time, I love exploring my new surroundings, reading, and listening to music and sports radio. I love watching football (NOT an Alabama fan!), baseball, and hockey. I am also very interested in genealogy and have composed a substantial family tree archive. When I’m back home in Alabama, I spend a lot of time with my Godson who is almost 4.

Serving with Sycamore House is a dream come true, and I cannot wait to see how being a part of the house, St. Stephen’s, and the Harrisburg community over the next year will impact my life for years to come!

Meet the Members: Ben

Hello! My name is Ben Shao, and I am a recent UConn graduate majoring in Molecular & Cellular Biology. My career goal is to practice medicine, and I wanted to take this year after recently graduating from college to serve others and practice the humanity side of medicine that I think is so vital to becoming a great physician.

This year, I will be serving at Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area and Beacon Clinic. My role at Habitat for Humanity is to identify grants that best fit our organization and help write them so that our organization can continue in serving the families of Harrisburg. At Beacon Clinic, my role is to help low-income individuals navigate through the complex world of healthcare insurance and help in any way possible. These two placements have been a blessing for me, as they both involve my passions towards healthcare and homelessness. As someone who wishes to become a physician in the near future, I know that the lessons that I will learn between the two placements will help me gain a broader idea of how healthcare relates to other various aspects of life.

I have lived the past 16 years in a small, seaside town just on the outskirts of New Haven, CT. Growing up in the same community for a long time has helped develop a strong connection with the place I grew up in, and it strengthened my passion and belief of giving back to the community. What drew me to the Episcopal Service Corps, and specifically Sycamore House, was the idea of being a part of the Harrisburg community and serving those that I would be sharing this community with. While it has only been a little over one month since moving into Harrisburg, I feel welcomed here in the city of Harrisburg, and I am eager in exploring and growing in this wonderful city.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time outside and staying active. I enjoy playing most sports, but my favorites to play are basketball and tennis. I also love to stay indoors as well sometimes and watch movies, TV shows, or read autobiographies or memoirs. Here in the city, I have noticed the plethora of activities and organizations that I can get involved in, and I am excited to explore my hobbies and passions within the city of Harrisburg.

I am very thankful to be a member of the Sycamore House this year, and I am looking forward to both serving at my placements and also getting to know both my wonderful housemates and the St. Stephen’s community!

Meet the Members: Shannon

Hello!

My name is Shannon Pedersen, and I am so incredibly excited to be serving with the Episcopal Service Corps at the Sycamore House this year!

Originally, I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. For college, I attended Messiah College, which is about 20 minutes away from the Sycamore House and located in Mechanicsburg, PA. I graduated in 2017 with a degree in Politics and International Relations. Since the Harrisburg suburban area is already familiar to me, I am looking forward to building new and deeper friendships with the urban community.

I have a very mixed faith background, but in the beginning of 2018, I began attending various Episcopal churches. I love the liturgy of the church as well as the open welcome to the LGBTQ+ community, so when I learned about the Episcopal Service Corps, I was eager to find a placement that I could call home for a year. This year, I am working at the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania as an Events Coordinator & Assistant to the Canon for Congregational Life and Mission.

During this year, I look forward to continuing to follow my passions of interfaith and intercultural relations as well as community development across socioeconomic barriers. When I’m not working, I enjoy reading books, hiking, and playing board or card games!

 

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