Rerun: Choosing to do TAP again

By Caitlyn Darnell

I’ll admit, I was terrified to come here. I plastered on a smile the first Sunday that I met you all, but deep down I was completely terrified about being here. I am the kind of person that gets very excited about ideas, so when I first heard about the Episcopal Service Corps I knew I was going to apply. I anxiously waited for the application to open and submitted it as quickly as I could. I waited for interviews to come in, interviewed, and made the decision to come down here. I even turned down my top choice because I discerned that this was where I was supposed to be.

And then the fear hit. I accepted my place at The Abraham Project just as all of my friends were sending off applications to grad school and starting to apply for jobs. Then they were accepted to grad school with great fellowships, or got jobs with great pay. I had jumped into choosing TAP with both feet, and suddenly felt like the water I jumped into was very cold. I was stepping into something completely unknown to me, and not knowing exactly what to expect from my experience scared me. I didn’t know my housemates, I didn’t yet know my nonprofit placement, and I knew nothing about the city. I could have run. I could have called Father Steve and turned down my position. But I trusted that God was sending me where I should go. Like Abraham, I trusted God. I prayed and I trusted.

I’ve been transformed by my experience here. Despite growing up an Episcopalian and having been a member of multiple Episcopal churches, this is the first church I have truly felt at home in. I love the liturgy, the Daily office, and the deep seriousness with which faith is treated here.  I’ve grown in my faith more quickly than I even realized was possible. TAP has given me exactly what I needed. I needed space after graduation to breathe again, even though that wasn’t the path my friends took. I needed to take a break from academic rigors to rediscover my Christian identity, and most importantly, myself. As it came time for me to decide what my next year would look like, I knew that I wanted to stay in Winston Salem and at St. Timothy’s.

 

Knowing that I feel a call to ministry in the Episcopal Church, I was offered a second year of TAP with my service placement being at St. Tim’s rather than a local non-profit. I will still live in the TAP house and continue to be a part of the community, mentoring the new interns without imposing my own previous community experience on them. I am very excited to learn more about what service and mission look like from within a church now that I’ve learned about it from a nonprofit angle. I am so blessed that I will be here with you all. Instead of waiting with anxious fear like I was this same time a year ago, I am now waiting with an anxious excitement for the new year to begin.

Small Things With Great Love

I hope you all are well and having great start to the school year.  I know that I am.  I am enjoying Winston-Salem and my time with the TAP project immensely.  I have began to write my thoughts about this journey several times, but there was a missing link in my story.  It was hard for me to articulate what I am doing here this year.  It was on Monday that I had my epiphany moment.

I work thirty hours a week at the Children’s Center, a school for children birth- age 11 with physical and mental disabilities.  During the day, I do alot of feeding children- breakfast and lunch, babies though school aged.  When I am not feeding, I am doing clerical work- answering phones, making copies and labels, and a popery other task, or I am playing with kids on the playground and assisting in classrooms and in music.  This list of things may be what I do, but it took me until Monday to figure out what I really do.  Everyday, I am doing small things with great amounts of love.  This is what I really do.  When I feed J. his breakfast in the morning, I am showing him love.  And his teachers said that it makes a difference.  He has a better day.  Once I realized that it is not the act of feeding him that changes his mood, it was the way I preformed this small task, with great love, I realized that this teachers might be right.  I was doing a small task as if it were great and noble.  And this can make someones day.  Besides, feeding J., I have another school “best friend,” M.  M. is a young man who has severe autism.  He is one of those special cases, that even at this unique school, he seems out of place.   I sit, and keep him still during music and during nap times as often as I can, and try and keep him still a quiet, instead of taking him out of the classroom.  I have realized that sometimes, touch and though positive pressure can work wonders and be very soothing.  When I walk with M., people say that I have a way with him, and are grateful for our relationship and my ability to keep him calmer.   They now call me that M. Whisperer.

Small things, with great amounts of love.  Its just not feeding J, and being the M. Whisperer.  I also have intentional conversations.  Trying to live in the moment, be in the conversation, get to know the staff that I work with.  I think we all need someone in our lives, and in our workplace to have those conversations with.  Whether that are as mundane as what did you do this weekend, or as deep as discussing the power of touch or ways to better connect to the earth.  It is important to me to have these conversations and to care, to truly love and care.  Twice this week during a conversation, and intentional conversation, I was told how grateful they were for my presents and the love that I was able to radiate in the school.  In the conversation today, I was told that it has been talked about among the staff, that I just have presents like I am really happy here and that I was meant to be here, that infectious smile.  This was lovely to hear, and I knew what they were talking about, the classic Elizabeth smile, the one that got my the nick-name “Smiley.”  I was glad to hear that that trait is still present and helping me make a difference in the world around me.

When I am not at the Children’s Center, I have lots of time for myself.  Some of that time is spent at the church in sunday worship, evening prayer, and with the children and youth.  I also spend my time hiking, biking, running, picking flowers, reading, listening, dancing, and being a friend.  More to come on this subject.

In whatever I do since graduating college, I am continually asking myself two questions: Will I be able to love? and Will I be able to grow?  I ask myself the question multiple times a day, whether it is a big question like is the Abraham Project a good fit for me?  or a small question like should I go to game night?  Since my arrive here for My Abraham Project year, I have continually said “Yes!” to these questions.  I have grow and love beyond measure, and my cup is constantly full because of it.

My challenge for you is to have intentional conversations with those whom you meet.  Figure out what “intentional conversations” means to you, and then go.  Be present, be there, in that moment, in that conversation with love.  So much love and prayers.

Peace and Adventure,

Elizabeth

Listen to our Interns

Recently, Caitlin, Emily and Amanda introduced themselves to the parish of St Timothy’s.  You can listen to their introductions by going here.

And so we begin…

Saturday at precisely 3pm, Caitlin, Emily, Amanda and their families arrived at St Timothy’s parking lot.  Full of anticipation, excitement and maybe a bit of nervousness, we all met for the first time together, said a prayer, and walked to the Mission House.  The day was truly extraordinary.  The first decision as a community had to be made – who gets what room?  How do we make this decision?  Immediately they moved toward maturity and community.

Amanda, Emily, and Caitlin pause for a pose while moving in

The week has been tremendous.  The interns helped with Compline on Sunday evening.  We’ve had directed conversations Monday-Wednesday focusing on community, simplicity, mission, and worship.  They’ve come to know bits and pieces of Winston-Salem and the parish community of St Timothy’s.  This Sunday they are formally introducing themselves to the St Timothy’s community at all three services.

And so we begin…

The House is Full

We are very excited to announce that we have our Project Members for 2011/2012.  Yesterday Amanda Schroeder from Cincinnati, Ohio said “yes” joining Caitlin Clendenin and Emily Menter.  I cannot tell you how enthusiastic we are about these women who have answered God’s call to go away to a place He has to show them.  More to come….

FS+

The Abraham Project

The Abraham Project is a radical experience.  Imagine 3 college graduates living simply and living in community while dedicated a year of their life to being an agent of good.  In the beginning of the biblical story, God calls Abram to “go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12.1).

What would it be like to answer a call away from your comfort zone and from the comfort of our existing relationships to forge new ones and work as an agent of hope while spending intentional time discerning your own role in the world and your vocation?

Located in Winston-Salem, NC, The Abraham Project was created by St Timothy’s Episcopal Church to provide the opportunity for a radical year.  Residents will live together in a house, spend 20-30 hours a week working in a downtown social agency, spend 10 hours a week in spiritual development and discernment, and 10 hours a week with the larger faith community of St Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

The Abraham Project Residence