I was a Micah Fellow from August 2013 through June 2014, at the South Coast site in Fall River. I shared a house with three fantastic housemates and have incredible memories of my year there! My work placement was with United Neighbors of Fall River, and my position was funded by Partners for a Healthy Community - one of twenty-plus Community Health Network Areas that cover Massachusetts. In this job, I got to be involved in local health initiatives, take on a project targeting homelessness in our region, and work with a myriad of community agencies every day. Rather than having a single focus, my work placement took on a broader vision, with initiatives and events that spanned the whole spectrum of the relevant community issues. Over the course of the year, I was able to learn what community organizing is all about!
My year with LT exposed me to a kind of faith outreach that I hadn’t seen growing up. I grew up in a faith environment in which outreach was often done by choosing a project or opportunity of interest to the church in some distant locale, and supporting it financially, or sending church members to help. Churches rarely collaborated on anything, opting instead to operate in separate silos with differing, unrelated goals. After starting my time with LT, I was quickly energized by being in a place where churches and faith organizations saw their mission and purpose in a totally different way. The work of churches in our area was local, dynamic, collaborative, and community-driven; it aligned with actual community needs and often intersected with the work of local organizations and government officials. Many of my community meetings with UNFR were held in churches, and I had the privilege of working with locally-engaged clergy on a weekly basis, despite not working for a faith-based organization. I was able to see how much more could be done in this localized mindset, and how much more meaningful it was for the community and for the churches, particularly in strengthening local bonds. I left Massachusetts wanting to build on what I had learned and work in other faith communities bringing the same mindset.
LT was also my first experience in an intentional Christian community - something I had almost no concept of beforehand. For me, living in community was positive, but hard! When I go through a period of discernment, or try to go through the motions of daily life, my default is to do so independently, and rely on myself. To share in those processes with others, and discern the same things together, put me out of my comfort zone some, but having mentors from the Episcopal church network guide us through the year helped me to lean into it and grow spiritually. The next step in my growth was to be a part of a place (Jubilee Partners in Comer, GA) where group discernment and decision-making are taken to a more all-encompassing degree, and see what I would learn in the process.
Keep up the life-changing work, LT!