Profile of the Episcopal Diocese
The Diocese of Massachusetts is composed of 77,000 members in 180 congregations throughout eastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands. The diocesan offices provide a variety of support for parishes and clergy. In addition, they currently focus on implementation of the mission strategy goals—which include leadership development and formation with young adults. Descriptions of these efforts and additional ministries, courses and resources that are offered can be found at www.diomass.org.
History of Young Adult Ministry and The Micah Project, 1999
Individual parishes have periodically been active in reaching out to college students at nearby colleges and universities, sometimes with diocesan financial support. However, there is currently only one parish-based campus ministry program in the diocese: Trinity Church in Boston (Copley Sq.) hosts a multi-campus ministry called A New Day (A.N.D.)
At the diocesan level, before the fall of 2008, there was only one professional young adult ministry program: The Micah Project. This 10-month residential fellowship program was founded in 1999, offering 4 young adults the opportunity to live in community, serve through urban ministry and/or justice work, and reflect upon their life work and purpose. Micah fellows served 20 hours per week at their own site placement (either an Episcopal church or a non-profit organization), they each spent at least 10 hours per week engaging in vocational discernment, and they shared meals and worship together each week as part of their commitment to intentional community. The Micah Project is based out of the Boston University campus ministry center, located at 40 Prescott St. in Brookline.
Ministry to young adult professionals has primarily taken place at the parish level and has ebbed and flowed according to parish interest and staff interest/available time.
In recent years, Trinity Church in Boston (Copley Sq.) and Church of the Advent Boston (Beacon Hill) have dedicated clergy staff toward young adult ministry and they have been successful in building larger scale programs. In 2006, the Cathedral of St. Paul introduced a new emerging worship community for young adults called The Crossing. Examples of smaller professional young adult ministry programs at the parish level include those at All Saints in Brookline and St. James’s Church in Cambridge (Porter Sq.).
There have also been ministries to young adults in lower income areas primarily at the parish level. This type of ministry is relatively uncommon in the diocese, primarily because there are a limited number of healthy or reviving parishes in lower income neighborhoods. Three parishes identified: St. Stephen’s in Boston (South End), St. Stephen’s in Lynn, St. Cyprians Church in Roxbury and the Hispanic Church plant at Grace Church in Salem. All three connect with significant numbers of lower income young adults, although their parish populations actually tend to be fairly diverse in terms of education and income levels. St. Stephen’s in Lynn has an intentional outreach to young adults, while St. Cyprian’s in Roxbury gather more spontaneously. St. Stephen’s in Boston has focused on reviving the parish through youth programming (serving ages 5-17), but a significant number of older youth are now in high school and approaching young adulthood.
The Relational Evangelism Pilot Project, Fall 2008
The Relational Evangelism Pilot Project launched in the August of 2008, with the support of a three-year grant from Trinity Wall Street Grants, under the leadership of Rev. Arrington Chambliss. The founding mission was to engage a greater number of young adults in being the church, and to engage the church in God’s dream of justice, as an agent of social change in the world. Relational Evangelists work in parishes or chaplaincies to facilitate a more relational culture, to build small leadership teams, and to organize social action campaigns.
In the 2008-2009 program year, the Rev. Arrington Chambliss was the Director of the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project and there were 5 young adults who made up the first class of REs. Jason Long was one of them. All of the REs served 20 hours/week at their site placement, and they were encouraged to find another half-time working-class position that would allow them to build relationships in the community outside the church. They did not live in community with each other but they did gather once a week for a half day to engage in spiritual formation and some leadership training.
During this year, the Rev. Noah Evans served as the interim director for The Micah Project (Noah is an alumni of the Micah Project and the Rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, MA).
Life Together: The Diomass Intern Program, Fall 2009
After a pilot year, The Relational Evangelism Project was received with great enthusiasm and was beginning to receive further grants and support for the future of this ministry. Furthermore, this is a unique time in the history of this country and the National Service Movement, and the Church faces a strategic moment. Major events like September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2008 Presidential Election had catalyzed a transformational energy among young adults in this country. President Obama had created a new context where young adults were redefining what it means to be an “American,” and there was an exponential increase in desire to participate in civil service. All of this meant that the potential for servant leadership programs, like The Micah Project and The Relational Evangelism Project, was greater than ever before.
Consequently, in May of 2009, the Rev. Arrington Chambliss and the Rev. Noah Evans (with the support of many other leaders in the Diocese, as well as young adults—including Jason Long) put together an expansion proposal for these two initiatives—to grow both projects and to develop a closer relationship which would allow the two to share infrastructure, resources, training, and community. In June 2009, this proposal was accepted and “Life Together: The Diomass Intern Program” was launched. At this time, Arrington Chambliss was asked to serve as the Director for all of Life Together, and Jason Long was hired on as the Assistant Director for Life Together.
The Micah Project expanded from 4 to 12 fellows and The Relational Evangelism Project grew from 5 to 8 fellows. The goal was to have both projects maintain their unique missional identities but to build relationships to form a larger community of practice that is creating spaces where young adults could: listen for God’s call on their life.
Perhaps most significantly, all 20 fellows participated in a year-long rigorous spiritual formation and training program. This training program was piloted in the 2009-2010 year and designed to explore principles and practices of: servant leadership, vocational discernment, public narrative and community organizing, evangelism and mission, intentional community, simple living, and spirituality.
The Emmaus Fellowship, Fall 2010
In the fall of 2010, we launched the first second year track with a cohort of 4 fellows. This fellowship program of Life Together is about capacity-building. Through the Emmaus Fellowship we endeavor to deepen the individual leadership capacity of each fellow, as well as the organizational capacity of our site partners. Emmaus Fellows serve for 32 hours per week in either same site placement for a second year, or in a new site placement. In addition to their site work, they serve in a leadership role with Life Together for 10-15 hours per week.
Expansion, Fall 2012
In the 2012-13 program year, Life Together expanded beyond the Boston area and hired 27 fellows who served throughout eastern Massachusetts. This included first year and second year fellows serving in the Boston area, the first class of fellows serving in the greater Fall River/New Bedford area, through a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts' South Coast Mission Hub, and our first class of teaching fellows based at Esperanza Academy in Lawrence, MA. Both sites are located about an hour away from Boston and there is a close relationship between the Life Together fellows located in Boston and those located in the South Coast and in Lawrence.
Boston fellows live and work in the greater Boston area, South Coast fellows will live and work in the greater South Coast region, and the Esperanza teaching fellows live and work in Lawrence. All fellows participate in Orientation together at the beginning of the year and gather one Friday per month for a day of spiritual practice, community building, and skill-based leadership training.
The goal of Life Together is to grow communities that raise up a new generation of missional servant leaders for the church and the world. The 2013-2014 program year began August 14, 2013 and we are excited to host 27 new fellows.