Deep breaths.

So, it’s been a rather intense week for the country. Luckily for ESC-MD, we’ve had the opportunity to escape the noise for a few days and head west to Bishop Claggett Center for our Fall Retreat. Here we’ve met up with our cohorts from Washington, D.C. and New York City (spoiler alert: they’re really cool) to study how call and vocation relate to the role money plays in our lives. I won’t lie, after the last few days, it’s been very nice to inhabit a space that isn’t quite as chaotic as living in the heart of Baltimore can be.

Talking to our peers, I have seen that a lot of us are overwhelmed, frustrated, and nervous at everything that’s going on in our country and in our world. It’s difficult not to be. As young adult activists and social servants, our futures have suddenly become a lot less certain. As we take these few days to reflect, it is my hope that we can clear out some of the mental and emotional baggage from the past few weeks and months, and return to our cities fully present and ready for whatever the future has in store for us.

Anyway, Lynnea will be posting a photo blog with much nicer photos from the weekend, but I thought I’d share a few quick snaps I’ve taken over the last few days as well!

Because two Whitneys are better than one.

Because two Whitneys are better than one.

 

It's like, really pretty here.

It’s like, really pretty here.

Really, really pretty.

Really, really pretty.

On Friday afternoon we took a walk together to the slave graveyard, the final stop on the Trail of Souls.

On Friday afternoon we took a walk together to the slave graveyard, the final stop on the Trail of Souls.

We found Bishop Sutton!

We found Bishop Sutton!

Is this place even real?

This is pretty on-brand for us.

This is pretty on-brand for us.

As my eyes have opened….

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Baltimore as a city, is one, just like any other city, has its sides. One side is the one that every person sees, the other is the lesser know side, the everyday people, the normal life. Since being here, I have been able to experience that side of it.

My name is Lynnea Johnson. I am one of the Gileads of the 2016-17 year. I am originally from Kansas, but have lived all over. I went to school at the University of Central Missouri and received my Bachelors Degree in International Studies. Currently here in Baltimore I am working at Project PLASE.

Project PLASE is a homeless shelter here in Baltimore. We serve all types of people from all walks of life. Since I have started to work here, I have had my eyes opened to so many different experiences. One major thing that has changed is the way that I look at homeless people. For me, before working here, I was one to just think that the only homeless people are the ones that you see begging on the street. But that is not the case. Some of these people that I have met here, you would never guess by just looking at them that they were homeless.

This experience so far has opened my eyes to so much more than that though, so much that I can’t even put into words. But one thing that is important to remember is to never judge a person by what they look like, or how they act. You never know what they may be going through.

I am very excited for the rest of this year! I just hope it doesn’t pass by too quickly! Until next time!

Lynnea

Adventures in Cooking

Hey everyone! A central part of ESC life, and really anyone’s life, is eating! And with six busy girls in the house, you can bet cooking is always an adventure.

One of the most interesting parts of cooking is that all six of us are from very different areas, and have different experiences in how we cook and eat. From the East Coast, to the West Coast, Midwest to the South, and all the way from China, we lovely ladies have all grown up with our area-specific comfort foods.

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Taco-Stuffed Peppers!

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Grace’s Birthday!

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Onion Tears!

While it can be a challenge for some (a lot of the time, me) to eat “comfort food” like white rice, potatoes, grits, a variety of vegetables, and pasta, it has really been fun to be able to share the foods from our traditions.

One of my favorite ideas that was shared with me in college, is that “everyone has to eat, food is what brings us together”. My professors, peers, and I spent a lot of time cooking and eating!

For our house, this idea has been so true. Not only have we been able to share food, but we have been able to share stories of what this food means to us, our families, and create new memories both in the kitchen and over the dinner table.

City Life

It has been one and a half months since I arrived in Baltimore in the end of August and life has never been so different. When I was living in the well-protected college environment and driving to places, I did not know how different the world can be outside my comfort zone. I never go to the communities where people told me that are “dangerous”; I never talk to any stranger on the street, especially those homeless people who ask for money or food. There are times that I really wanted to help them, but hesitated to do so. Then I came to Baltimore living in the center of downtown surrounded by museums, business buildings as well as many people who are asking for a meal or a place to stay for a night.

The past week was rainy, cold and made people easy to get upset and disappointed. I felt bad when I was walking in the rain with wet shoes trying to catch up a bus to work. I saw two kids waiting at the bus station as well and they were just happy, at least happier than me. I observed them for a while and the little girl turned to me and we smiled at each other. Kids are always happy. They have not gotten into the adult world, the complexed one, the easy to get upset one. As the bus filled with these “unhappy” adults, I felt hard to breathe. Then, a lady said this loudly before she got off the bus “you all have a blessed day!” Something changed at that moment and even the annoying rain can not stop us being happy and hopeful for a new day.

I ran to inner harbor the other day and that was the best time of the week. When there was fewer tourists and more local people, I felt like being part of the daily routine Baltimore life. You can always live in a busy city while keep a quiet place in your heart where you can have some self reflections, recall old memories with families and friends, or maybe just daydreaming.

Even though I am still considered new to Baltimore, I think I am getting used to the rhythm here, working hard towards my goals while spending a lazy afternoon on a bench near the harbor. No matter what we all have been through, if we can pick ourselves up and move forward, the city will always welcome us like when we first arrived.

I wish all of us can find our own harbor in this beautiful city.

Nice to meet you, Baltimore. Let us have an awesome and meaningful year together:)
inner harborwaiting for the bus in the rain

Tunnels and Things

If you had told me a few months ago that I would be crawling around in tunnels in old church basements I would have laughed at you. I came into this year with a vague understanding of my worksite, that I would be working with different groups and helping them with research and social media. To me that meant something like connecting with people and dealing more with the communications end of things. In a way that is what I am doing, but there is so much more to it!

I am interning at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Diocesan Center, where I work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, The Maryland Episcopal Environmental Partners, and the Maryland Episcopal Public Policy Network. One of my jobs so far has been to assist the Research and Pilgrimage subcommittee to find some background information into some of the parochial schools in the Diocese. One of these schools is St. Timothy’s, which lead me down a long rabbit hole into the history of not only the school, but the church it used to be attached to.

The former St. Timothy’s Church in Catonsville, now known as St. Hilda’s, had an interesting history in terms of slavery and the Civil War. The church was founded in 1844, in a small community  that was surrounded in large by farms and summer estates. The church was patroned by John Glenn. He was a district court judge and a southern sympathizer.

St. Timothy’s also owned a school adjacent to the church. It began as St Timothy’s Hall, a military church school started by the first rector Libertus Van Bokkelen. There it educated John Wilkes Booth from 1852-1853. Booth was baptized at St Timothy’s and kept in contact with Van Bokkelen, referring to him as “his old rector”. The students at the school were mainly southern supporters and would rebel against Van Bokkelen. Van Bokkelen on the other hand was a firm abolitionist. This is where things get interesting, because despite the parish’s southern leanings, it is possible that the church itself may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. The rector of the church had informed us of a tunnel underneath the church that lead towards the rectory. The tunnel, on top of the history, caught our attention and we made plans to check it out.

A group of us from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission walked through the grounds and all through the other buildings first to check out the property and get a feel for the place. We checked boiler rooms and hatches that lead to pipes, looking for signs of a tunnel. Then we came to the sanctuary. There we paused our search of the tunnel to admire the beauty of the sanctuary. The old stain glass windows and ornate altar were awe-inspiring in themselves, but what really struck me was the sheer history of the building. The pews in naive are the original pews placed in the church almost 200 years ago, minus a few that had been removed or altered for sound equipment. It is incredible to think that people have been worshiping in this place for that long. It is also incredible to think about how much we have changed as a society since then.

I was struck again by this feeling as we ventured down into the undercroft and finally found our tunnel. I climbed back as far as I could, and could see that the tunnel stretched on beyond me. Again I was reminded that they did not have the convenience of modern day technology. The only things they had to build that tunnel were shovels and determination. It was by sheer willpower that they made that tunnel exist. And in doing so they may have saved countless lives and helped to change the course of human history.

Down in that basement you could also see where the church has been expanded, where it grew to fill the need of an ever-growing parish. You can see where stones have been replaced and where brick and cement were added later to help stabilize the structure. To me this patchwork of construction is a reminder that the church is a living body that grows and expands as we have need of it. We also grow in ways that help change the world. From our base we can create offshoots, like a simple tunnel, that even though they may seem small or insignificant, can change the course of human history. It was so humbling to be down there among the stones and the dirt and to really understand what we are called to do as Christians. There is a banner on the back of a church that I pass on my way to work that really says it all: “Love God, Love your Neighbor, Change the World”.

John Wilkes Booth's record of baptism in the parish register

John Wilkes Booth’s record of baptism in the parish register

The tunnel under the church.

The tunnel under the church.

Started from the Hunt, Now We’re Here

Welcome to the first blog post by the Gileads of 2016-17! To introduce myself, my name is Grace Santandreu from Buffalo, NY. I spent the past year as an AmeriCorps member after graduating college from the University of Dayton in Ohio. I studied Psychology for my undergrad and was hoping that my year in AmeriCorps would steer me towards a Master’s program to become a School Psychologist or School Counselor. After spending a year in the Buffalo Public School System as a 7th grade mentor, I decided the school environment was not for me.

Two of my close college friends had spent a year with the Episcopal Service Corps either during a gap year from school or right after graduation. I was able to visit both of them in their new cities, with their new housemates. The impression I got from their experience was that it would be fun, yet challenging, to live in an intentional community. Your patience would be tested, your communication styles would be broadened, and your support system will automatically grow with those people experiencing similar highs and lows as you start this journey together.

So far, we have had two weeks of orientation as well as two weeks at our new job sites. I was most excited about the scavenger hunt as it got us out and about around Baltimore. Check out these gems from the different places we visited!

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Capturing the Thinker at the Baltimore Museum of Art

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Holding hands with the hand-less at the Walter’s Museum

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Stopping for a brew and a pic at Ceremony Coffee

 

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Tracking down the 2-story FLAMINGO at Cafe Hon in Hampden

In the way of job sites, I have the opportunity to be the new Program Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator at Great Kids Farm! This farm caters to the Baltimore City Public schools as they come to visit the farm during the warmer months, or we go to their schools during the off season. They are able to learn about where their food comes from, how healthy eating and healthy living are dependent on each other, and tie in different areas of classwork such as relating their Science lessons to the real world. We also grow food that can be brought into their cafeterias so they can have tasty, healthy food throughout the school day.

I’ve never worked on a farm before, but so far its been one of the best jobs I’ve had!

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First time at Great Kids Farm

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Follow Great Kids Farm on Instagram!…please do…this is part of my job 🙂

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Toast and Frankie! They come right up to the gate when you want some goat lovin!

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Building a Low Tunnel for a Professional Development: Season Extension demo with Baltimore Public School teachers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Microgreens grown in our greenhouse, then harvested, packaged and processed by culinary high school seniors at both Carver and Forrest Park as ABC 2 News rolled the cameras!

Thanks for tuning in!

More to come from the other Gileads soon enough 🙂

Making Change with Community

jubilee tree

A lot of my conversations lately have been about volunteering. At our last ESC meeting, we discussed how volunteering without thinking can lead to unintended consequences–everything from building something poorly to re-instituting a neo-colonialist, patriarchal cycle of control and dependence (wowza). In my time at ESC, I’ve learned more and more how to be patient as a volunteer, with volunteers, and in the process of creating change in the city I love.

Sometimes, work is work–at the end of the day, I realized I didn’t really step outside the office, and I stared at spreadsheets and answered emails. These days can seem cumbersome, but there are moments when I realize all of the work made real products. At the Baltimore Orchard Project (BOP), we’ve been making pompoms to decorate the trees so people know that orchards are loved and cared for. That past few months have been filled with pompom-crazed days–volunteers have made pompoms, kids have made pompoms (even though their tiny hands and poor hand-eye coordination elongate the process), and many trees have been successfully pomed. On Saturday at the BMore Healthy Expo, my co-worker Karyn and I had people of all ages stopping by to make pompoms. It was exhausting–untangling yarn, trying to listen to many children at once, talking to parents who are losing their patience. By the end of the day, we were exhausted and realized some people just took the pompoms home with them even though they were supposed to put them on the tree we somehow had gotten into the convention center. It was one of those tiring days where we wondered how much are we really doing?

WELL, on Tuesday at the Jubilee Arts Center where Karyn leads the Garden Art Class, we were outside making signs for the trees in the orchard. Some kids were not paying attention and throwing the football around and running into each other. Again, one of those days where we wondered what are we doing? BUT, a woman stopped by. She past us, turned her car around, and parked right up to the orchard and said, “Hey, are you the pompom ladies?” and we replied “Why yes!” She had seen the pompoms on the trees at Jubilee and noticed they were the same pompoms she had made with her kids at the Expo. After her and Karyn had a long conversation, she decided to bring her kids to Jubilee. Now Jubilee has more students and BOP has more kids to teach about the wonderful world of fruit trees. With patience, time, and love, Karyn and I realized all of that hard work does lead to good change.

Spring Fling at Amazing Grace

This weekend Amazing Grace, the church I attend here in Baltimore, hosted its annual Spring Fling. I had no idea what to expect from it, details were vague, but intriguing, and the plan for a block party that would close down the road for the day was reassessed due to the gloomy and snowy forecast. However the pastor had been talking up since January to the point that attendance seemed mandatory! Despite the dismal weather the event really did turn out to be wonderful, about half and half church members and residence of the McElderry neighborhood around the church were in attendance. Booths were set up inside a large church gym space with art activities like candle painting, making yarn balls, and adding to a community art piece; local organizations many focused on sustainable and healthy living; and lots of sensational healthy cookout food. The emphasis was on celebrating the arrival of spring and strengthening the connections between the church and community; which they did in spectacular fashion! I don’t often see large church events that have something other than fundraising or evangelizing in some way as the primary goal. I don’t think there’s inherently any problem with these types of events but they tend to spread a more narrow view of the church to the community than what the church itself really represents. Events I have seen though, like this one, that allow for simple goals like community building to be at the forefront are vital to the health of a church and their relationship to the neighborhoods and communities that they are a part of. I am so thankful to be a part of this community at Amazing Grace this year, and I am so proud of the commitment they have made to be part of and partners with the McElderry neighborhood.

Young attendees eyeing up the impressive dessert cart

Young attendees eyeing up the impressive dessert cart

Checkerboard City

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I have a love-hate relationship with Baltimore’s neighborhoods. I love the character that the neighborhoods of Baltimore add. I love the small town feel that they can interject in the middle of the city. I love that different neighborhoods appeal to me depending on my mood. I love that a walk across a few blocks can take me through several exceedingly different neighborhoods. I love the quirkiness of Hampden, the history of Fells Point, and the artistic atmosphere of Station North. But for all I love about them the fact stands that these unique Baltimore neighborhoods are the checkered squares of a very segregated city.

 

One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Baltimore was the stark contrast of neighborhoods that are side by side each other. Black and white, blue collar and white collar. Each neighborhood has these rigidly defined identities which make it unique, and add to its character; but which also further segregate and alienate people from one another. Coming from 83% white Madison, Wisconsin to 63% black Baltimore, Maryland I thought I’d end up out of my comfort zone, and as a minority in situations all the time. What I found at first however was that I continued to be drawn in to racially and socioeconomically segregated places and situations. Acknowledging this tendency has lead me to more actively seek out smaller and more diverse communities apart from the barriers created within neighborhoods. I have grown to love many aspects of Baltimore, but these ridged boarders between people, these neighborhoods based on race and class isolate us from each other and impede our efforts to understand and learn from one another which in turn impedes the growth and success of the city as a whole.

Putting Down Roots in a New City

This is something many in my generation are facing. Out of necessity, we move about from city to city wherever we can land opportunities that pay the rent. If we’re lucky, our jobs are also somewhat meaningful and fulfilling and maybe, just maybe, provide health care.. I’m privileged to be a part of ESC, a program which offers all of that.

Transience as a way of life is desirable for some folks, but personally, I prefer stability and long-term community. It’s ironic then that over the past three years, I’ve lived in as many states. With each transition comes the need to embed myself in a new community – to become a part of the new place I call home.

This is never any easy process, but moving to Baltimore was different. Maybe it’s the blue collar culture of the city that says “It’s okay if you’re on stipend. You can still love the city without money.” Or maybe it’s my job which takes me to every corner of the city, helping me to know it better. After a year of living in Chicago, I still didn’t know anyone on my block. In Baltimore, though, I knew most of my block by name in a month. People sit on their stoops through the warms months, greeting neighbors and talking local politics. On the weekends, folks from the neighborhood bring a bag of hot dogs and cook a communal supper on the grill in the vacant lot. This place feels like home.

Our block during the great blizzard of January 2016

Our block during the great blizzard of January 2016