October Letter from Executive Director Kelsey Rice Bogdan

Last Friday, I loaded with the fellows onto a small white school bus and headed through Lawrence to Esperanza Academy. Life Together is in its sixth year of partnership with Esperanza, where four fellows are placed as co-teachers at a tuition-free Episcopal school for middle school girls. We were there that training day to learn more about urban education. We observed classes taught by fellows, ate far better cafeteria food than I remember from my own middle school days, and then spent some time reflecting on the intersections between education and our own lives. "Where in your own work," the Esperanza fellows asked the rest of us, "are you an educator?"

Life Together's vision statement refers to our hope to renew Church as a "school of love," borrowing the concept from Christian author Brian McLaren. And in so many ways, Life Together is a school; a school in which we offer young adults practices and tools that can shape lives of passionate, prophetic love in the world. In the confines of the training room at 40 Prescott, fellows play with the palette of contemplative prayer, public narrative, and nonviolent communication as they do the deeper work of shifting false narratives about others and themselves. Fellows are then called to live out what they're learning every day, when doing justice work at their host sites and sharing dinner with house communities. As fellow Cullen Dolson reminds us in this month's spotlight, "For [African American writer James] Baldwin, the act of education must be revolution in and of itself." This work of building a school of love in our corner of this beloved, tormented world is indeed, I believe, revolutionary.

Am I an educator in the midst all that? Sometimes, yes. But just as often I find myself being a student, learning from the wisdom of those around me. Fellows challenge my assumptions about the change that is possible. My colleagues show me grace when I fail. Friends throughout the broader Life Together community call me more deeply into the values that this organization embraces. And I think that is the gift to all of us who are connected to Life Together, whether as a fellow, alumni, partner, or supporter. We are all called into this school of love to learn how to be the kind of Church needed in this time; one that stands with courage alongside the poor, the outcast, and the stranger. We are called to be, as alumni Philip York was during his Life Together year, “local, dynamic, collaborative, and community-driven” leaders of faith in this season.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside you and become that school of love together.