Last January, I was scrambling to figure out my next move. I’d recently graduated, spent some time traveling, and was finding “the real world” to be just that real. There were no re-do’s, no extra-credits, no apologies permitted. If you didn’t have a plan or a support system, life would chew you up and spit you out. My plans had fallen through and I’d found myself back home, hitting the internet every day, desperately posting my resume to find some form of meaningful work.
I stumbled upon the Episcopal Service Corps by happenstance, googling something like “Spiritual-based service years.” When I read the TX-ESC mission statement, “Living in Community- Seeking Justice- Searching for Truth,” I was hooked, but honestly a bit skeptical. I’m queer identifying, with a history of divisive run-ins with the Christian church. My college years had been painful stretches in identity as I found my True Self conflicting drastically with the overall culture of my hometown and the familial belief structures I was raised on.
What I’ve found since moving to Austin is a space of radical inclusion and acceptance. Our ESC community, along with my place of service, operates off the unspoken maxim of “come as you are and you will be loved.” Here in Austin, we’re learning to face what’s real in both our community lives and service placements. As a community, we talk about the intersections of privilege: race, gender, socio-economic status, etc., while also applying these conversations to real world, practical experiences. This year, I was fortunate enough to be placed at a non-profit known as Casa Marianella, a shelter that seeks to build community with political asylum-seekers and international immigrants. At Casa, I connect with people from all walks of life, many of whom have overcome impossible adversity yet still find something worth smiling about.
Contrary to the many homogenizing experiences I’ve had in Christian community, my Austin communities seek to see difference, embrace difference, and love difference. It’s unquantifiable, uncanonizable- a vibe felt and experienced through courageous vulnerability and a strong commitment to self and community growth. I truly can’t think of an experience more healing than TX-ESC Austin. I feel grateful for the support I’ve found and the people I’ve meant willing to face what’s real and walk with me on the road ahead.
Erin, Casa Marianella in Austin.