Our Commitment to Anti-racism

(Note: This statement was also sent out in our newsletter recently. We are reprinting it here, on our blog as well.)

In the past few months, we have seen protests around the globe in response to racial injustice. We, the board, staff, and members of the Sycamore House, want to make it clear where we stand and that the conversation and actions around racial injustice must continue.


We mourn the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, as well as the countless Black individuals whose lives have been ended tragically and too soon. We believe that Black lives matter, and we stand in solidarity with the Black community to ensure that the deep inequalities in our society are ended.

At the Sycamore House, our philosophy of ministry is built on the belief that Jesus invites us into the way of Love and calls us into engagement and hospitality, to “participate in community with all of its joys and challenges.” We cannot celebrate community fully when our siblings are hurting. As a part of entering into community, we must also work to change all forms of injustice around us and within our own communities.


We are a ministry of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. We recognize that we exist within institutions that are overwhelmingly white and have perpetuated racism. We echo our Bishop Audrey Scanlan’s words that we must do the work to dismantle racist systems.

The Bishop of Indiana, Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows said in her recent reflection: “So here is the challenge for the Episcopal Church: we need to stop being afraid of committing to the work of dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy. We need to learn and understand how it operates inside the Episcopal Church and in the world. As a predominately white institution that is rooted in the American experiment, we must be unequivocal and clear.”


In our mission to equip young adults, we commit ourselves to continuing the work of becoming an anti-racist ministry. We recommit to this work of exploring faith and vocation with young adults in anti-racist ways. We commit ourselves to standing for justice and being attentive to God’s spirit as we move forward in this mission. We will infuse anti-racist practices, trainings, and learning into our formation curriculum. We will seek out the voices of Black and Brown leaders in our learning. The Board will further our own understanding by reading and discussing Drew Hart’s book, “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.” We commit to examining and revising structures of the program in order to create a more welcoming program to Corps Members of Color.


We know that we have more to learn, and we will continue to make the work of social justice, and specifically racial justice, a priority.

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

One Step at a Time

A view from the Center of the labyrinth at Mt. Calvary

A few weeks ago, we had a day-long retreat at Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church in Camp Hill, right across the river from where we reside (thank you Mt. Calvary for the use of your beautiful space)!

I had planned a few activities for the day, and one of them was a labyrinth activity. Mt. Calvary has a beautiful labyrinth outside that is open to the community and close to a lovely park.

Labyrinths are a spiritual practice that have been used by Christians and other faith traditions for centuries. They are often circular, winding patterns that have been built into many of the famous Cathedrals in Europe, and today can be found in or around many churches in North America. They are different from mazes in that they have one path in and out, and no tricks or false turns.  

As I pulled up to the church, I realized that, due to the recent snowfall, the labyrinth was mostly covered. I was a bit disappointed as it seemed my planned activity would have to be adjusted. But as our retreat began, I gave an option to participants to stay warm indoors and journal, color, and reflect, or to brave the cold and snow and try the labyrinth. I decided I myself would attempt the outside activity, along with a few others. So I bundled up and ventured outside. As I approached the labyrinth, I noticed that our group was not the first to walk it in the snow. There were footsteps of those who had gone before us. I realized that those footsteps helped to guide me onto the spiral path. It was hard to see the larger vision of where I was going, but if I took a few steps, I could see the next few steps as well.  This pattern started to feel a little familiar, like…I don’t know, life?

Before I knew it, I had made it to the center. I saw the birds flying above, the blue sky, sled tracks and dog tracks along with the people tracks.

I thought about how I have often had times in my life where my long term goals were unclear, where I came to a fork in the road, and only by taking the next step onto one path or another, could I see the way before me. I love how my Quaker friend (and fellow service year housemate) describes this process: “Way opens,” she says.

Each time this year, as we interview folks for the next year, I wonder what our group will turn out to be like, and there is a mix of nervousness and excitement on the parts of the interviewers and interviewees. It is inspiring to interview young adults, many of them finishing college or in a transition time where the way before them feels unclear. They are drawn to the Episcopal Service Corps for a variety of reasons, but all of them come to us because they want to learn, serve, and take part in changing the world for the better. Each year, they take a leap of faith and sign up for one of the ESC programs, not knowing what the year will hold.

I walked the path of the labyrinth back to the beginning, now retracing my own footsteps along with the other fellow pilgrims who had gone before. I prayed for our current group of Sycamore House members, who are halfway through their year and already starting to think about what’s next. I prayed for our past groups (14 years in all!), and for the ones that would come after.

May we continue to take steps of faith, deepening our self- knowledge, while bringing ourselves closer to God and to others.

-Program Director, Micalagh Moritz

Guest Post: Emily Schmid on vocation

“There’s a song lyric from a hymn I remember from several churches ago that says, “We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another and walk, humbly with God”

I’m fairly positive this lyric is based off of the verse from Micah 6:8 that says, “What does the lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” ‘

To read more about Emily’s thoughts, continue to her blog here!

The Consequences of Healing

Hello! This is corps member Elisabeth Ivey. I’m sharing a reflection I’ve had about my journey through a year of service. I want to make clear that my interpretation of the following Biblical passage is just that – an interpretation. I welcome dialogue about the passage and any part of this post. You can comment below! 


A couple weeks ago, the Scripture reading came from Acts 16, telling the story of the slave girl possessed by a spirit that allowed her to prophesy: 

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Though I’ve heard this story before, it’s been sitting with me these past several weeks. I’ve thought a lot about this woman and this: her healing resulted in a direct loss of value for the people who owned her and benefited from her.  

***

I’ve often joked that I should add “anxiety” to my resume because it manifests in behaviors that benefit many workplaces. My anxiety means that I’m early wherever I go. The clock in my car is set three minutes behind so that I don’t show up too early. And before I even leave, an event will slip into my mind hours before it starts, ensuring that I can’t get anything else done for the day.

My anxiety makes me meticulous.

My anxiety pushes me to perform well.

My anxiety makes me want to please everyone around me with disregard to my own feelings. 

***

I remember the first time I told someone “no” at the beginning of this service year. A friend asked me to speak on a panel for an upcoming event, and I hesitated because the request came on the tail end of a week that I’d already spent visiting and speaking to classes. I was exhausted. My fatigue came not just from the preparation but from the mental energy it took to overcome the intense and pervasive anxiety that accompanied me when  I spoke in front of people. Throughout my senior year in college, I pushed through it. I wanted to grow, and so I shouldered the anxiety and exhaustion that came with these opportunities. 

After graduating, I realized I could choose differently. While I still wanted to face my challenges, I realized that I could also choose to care for myself. Distanced from the intensity of academia, I gained enough perspective to understand and identify the unhealthy dynamics that pattern many systems, urging people to push themselves to the limit. 

Still, I hesitated to say “no” because I respected this person. I cared for them, and I didn’t want to let them down. And even as I told them I couldn’t help them, I inwardly cringed as I opted not to make up an excuse (“sorry, I already have a meeting at that time”) but to deliver the news with the truth: I just didn’t have the energy to withstand the anxiety. 

I fretted after sending off the email, convinced that my decision made me fall from this person’s good graces. In this past year, I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt as I’ve accused myself of being stingy with my time. It’s true – after saying no once, it’s easier to say no again, and sometimes I can veer towards the other end of the extreme where I’d rather isolate myself from the constant demands that wiggle into my life even after college. Balance is a process.

I also remember one of the first times I didn’t arrive to work exactly on the hour or half hour, but a couple minutes past. I’m fortunate to have a flexible schedule at my job placement (so I could adjust my schedule as needed), but I mourned what felt like the loss of perfection. I’ve felt that uncomfortable sense of loss in other areas of life, as I’ve eased my grip on the need to have everything ordered in a particular way. Even though it allows me space to breathe easier, I worry about losing my grasp on the “strengths” that helped me function in the workplace, gaining me praise even as I struggled with the burn-out. 

***

I think of that girl, the one whose struggle looked like a strength, like an incredible ability that her masters exploited. I think of how her healing meant that according to her masters, she lost her value. And I wonder how she felt. Relieved? Afraid? Conflicted? 

Through this year of service, I have struggled, healed, and struggled again. I’ve adapted to new situations and set boundaries to preserve my well-being. I’ve had to face a worldview that I’ve developed through my lifetime that service means self-forgetfulness. To serve others meant I couldn’t serve myself, that I must forget my own needs. As I continue to wade through these murky views, I keep urging myself to settle into the grace I need to acknowledge that my needs are a part of my humanity and my imperfections are not unforgivable. 

These changes haven’t come easily, but even as I’ve experienced the growing pains of guilt (for not throwing myself into every possible opportunity) and shame (for failing to live up to a high standard), I’ve also been able to see that I’ve been healthy. In setting boundaries and pursuing healing, I may have limited my value to the world, just like in the story when all the masters cared about was their loss of money.

It makes sense.

The more we live into our healed selves, the less we’ll function in a broken world. Rather than making us worry about falling behind, perhaps the shift should rather incentivize us to invest in the healing of the world alongside ourselves. 


Above image by halfrain, used with permission under a Creative Commons License.

Slowing Down: A Reflection on a Year of Service

This week, corps member Elisabeth Ivey shares about some of the challenges she’s faced in her year of service and offers a reflection about how she’s been able to process through the doubts and emerge with a desire to take intentional steps through life. Continue reading below! 


A year of service has its challenges, and one of the most significant ones for me was discerning if I’d made the right decision in the first place. Taking a step forward down my chosen path, I looked to either side, wondering if I should’ve chosen one of the different routes my friends had taken.

As a new college graduate, each decision I made felt heavy-laden with pressure, but despite the uncertainty, this year has afforded me time to distance myself from the frantic pace of undergrad years. Through this opportunity, I’ve been able to clearly appreciate where I am, even if I’m still unsure of what’s ahead.

A year of service can mean many things and have many manifestations, and for me, it meant slowing down, which is a reminder I continually need. Recently, I published an article with The Porch Magazine in which I explored these thoughts more deeply. Continue reading below to read how I decided to lean into a meandering way of living.

The Meandering Way


Above image by Eddi, used with permission under a Creative Commons License.

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!

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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