Why Serve 2014 Reflection: Byron Sloan
Having heard and learned a little about service programs, like the Episcopal Service Corps, in a non-diverse setting, my interest in applying peaked soon after the workshop had finished. But being surrounded by people of color who are or have served in the ESC or YASC, and hearing their stories, I felt reassured that my values and background would be respected in the diverse settings that may come my way. Moreover, learning about the different ways the church is reaching into the myriad communities that make up the Body of Christ made me feel more welcomed. My parish in Tucson, Arizona, has a more-than-welcoming spirit to all, but being a minority in a predominately older, Caucasian congregation can get a little lonesome at times. Before Why Serve, I knew little about Indigenous Ministry, even about its existence, but now I have been able to network within a desired focus. Why Serve provided guidance in understanding questions like, “how can I share the gospel that has changed and shaped my life with other Native Americans who may even be fearful of words like ‘gospel’ or phrases like ‘we believe in one God, the Father Almighty…’?” With programs like ESC and YASC, and conferences like Why Serve, I’ve allowed myself to open up to possibilities beyond lay membership. Maybe ordination is not in my future, but that doesn’t mean that I have to stand aside.
The Rev. Mary Moreno Richardson’s sermon at the ecumenical Pentecost service was unbelievably heart-wrenching. Letting others know that they too are made in God’s image – and that we must never forget it – makes me want to be a better person through making healthier decisions. Letting others know that God’s love is always with them, even in the darkest of hours and painful of moments, not only reassures them, but also reassures my faith and vows made at my baptism.
I would share the opportunities offered to experience the different types of ministries offered: street ministry in the Castro to ministries in correctional facilities, etc. I would also highlight the opportunity to network within the church. Making connections and building relationships in those couple of days is a real blessing – “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”