You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here

The youth are gone for the summer…. and yet I remain.  We are done next Tuesday at noon, which feels unreal, considering that this summer has been so full of experiences and of work.  It has been frustrating, exhilarating, eye-opening, challenging, exciting, and it isn’t over yet.  Now the fun begins–cleaning up the mess we made and processing the experience ( as though all we could feel about it will be clear in the next 3 days… I will be processing this for months!)

The worst I think is realizing that I have to go back to Boston soon.  Not that I dislike Boston, but I am not really mentally prepared to go for many reasons.  For all of the frustrations of the Youth Initiative as a staffer on its inagaural summer, I have really come to love this place and its people.  I have grown accustomed to being around Alex so comfortably over the past year (almost) and I am afraid to figure out what it will be like to live far away from him for 8 months.  I am worried because I know it will be hard to leave everything, because I don’t know if I am prepared to hunker down and write vociferously for 8 months while dreaming of those far from me.

So yea, thats whats on my mind (in addition to the war in georgia and ordination exams and all the other things swirling in the air).

Reflections and retrospections

It’s my day off, and not a moment too soon.  This summer has been amazing, but also incredibly frustrating, sometimes ridiculously unbearable, and I am still trying to sort out how to make sense out of my experiences.  I have found myself in a community that is doing things that I care deeply about and doing them with courage and faith and grace even when it is difficult, but I have also experienced a sense of being on the wrong side of things– not ideologically, but more like programmatically.  As someone on the Youth Initiative staff, I have often felt that I am in BSM but not of BSM, almost a second-class staff citizen and intern in the community.  Our staff doesn’t go to staff meetings, doesn’t do supervision with Bill, doesn’t interface much with anyone that isn’t Erika or the youth themselves.  And yes, I understand that we came here to do youth stuff, but it also feels pretty cruddy to feel more like volunteers than members of this community.  

Personally, I have dealt with that feeling by finding ways to be more a part of the staff community–going to supervision on my own, attending staff meetings whenever possible, volunteering to participate in things outside the youth sphere–but this whole thing truly is a two way street (to be as cliche as possible).  I can do that all I want, but I still feel sometimes that certain staff look at me differently, or choose not to engage me on things.  It’s hard, and I hate it sometimes, but I don’t know what else to do except keep trying.  I have less than two weeks left, but I want them to count.

SPeaking of two weeks left, I also have two weeks until Ords, and I haven’t exactly studied much…. whoops.  I am trying to sneak in some quality time with my book of order today, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I might be cramming a bit after the kids leave next week.

Pray for me!

Experiences to remember

 Funny and sadly disjointed experiences from Broad Street so far:

1) (said by a regular attendee at Sunday dinners to two 13-year-old girls visiting with their youth group):

“So tell me, why is it that you two girls are in here eating with us instead of ‘walking the avenue’ on South Street? What I mean is, why are you in here instead of prostituting yourselves out there?”

2) the night at the dark horse, a bible study for some of the 20-30s members of BSM, an elderly couple walks up to our table and whispers “You know, we are Christians too…..” and then proceeds to congratulate us on how well-behaved we are (HA!) and tell us about how their church faithfully left the episcopal church, found a “safe haven” under the Bishop of Uganda, and has refused communion to the Bishop of PHilly not once but TWICE.

3) the night that the florida youth group sang songs about being “free to love Jesus” and “free to live” to a room full of homeless people who are, to a great extent, enslaved by the injust systems of our society that make it impossible for them to get jobs, benefits, housing, etc.

4) Getting asked if I wanted to “make puppies” with Kevin at breaking bread.

5) Bill’s victory dance when I told him Alex was my “money ticket” and the look on his face as he impersonated me saying “what are we doing today now that we have a job, honey?”




more to follow.

Summer in Philly

Whew!  So a week’s worth of work has been I-N-T-E-N-S-E… Just for my own sake, to document all that has happened thus far:

I unofficially started here last Saturday, when I dropped by to check out the church and ended up meeting Nick and Peter, two of the other Youth Initiative interns at BSM for the summer.  Brenna wasn’t in yet but was getting there on Sunday.  We ended up scooping ice cream at the last night of 315 Cafe, an overnight safe house that is funded by the city in BSM and was extended until that night.  The next morning we went to Bryn Mawr PC, in many ways the opposite of the 315 Cafe, a large, suburban, rich, white church that was giving BSM an urban ministry financial award for the Youth Initiative.  Lets just say the suburbs out here are WAY different from the city. (news flash: I prefer Philly.)

Work officially started at worship at BSM on Sunday, which was cool, and different.  I think I mentioned it on an earlier post.  The rest of this week has been a combination of familiarizing ourselves with many of the various ministries at the church during the week (film series run by other interns, meals for various groups in the city, from the homeless to the church community to anyone who would like to come, bible studies, etc), familiarizing ourselves with nonprofits and services offered in the area.  We visited a meal on Monday where a guy writes checks out to individuals so they can get ID cards or birth certificates, Bethesda Project, a thrift store that raises money for the Aids Fund called PAT, etc.  We have also done a lot of getting to know you stuff with the other folks on the team.  There is a lot of variety in terms of backgrounds and interests, so there is variety of things that people are inspired by.  Nick is planning a found-art sculpture for the youth to create and add to over the summer (he also currently happens to be drawing pictures on the wall of our office… specifically of Peter, who was quick to tell us he grew up on a farm in bux county, riding what nick calls a ‘cow of the apocalypse’).


Anyways, its going to be cool but there are defintely challenges.  I don’t have a lot of cash, period, so I have been trying to figure out that balance between going out and learning the city with these folks and not getting broke in the process.  I have met some really interesting people and more importantly gotten to know their stories, which has taught me more about their lives than I would ever dream of.  I have seen a lot of places that I know I have been blind to in the past and have been reaffirmed in my suspicion that service is more than just handing bread or money to a person in need. 

 I just need to figure out how to continually seek God in all this.  I will admit, I have trouble feeling it sometimes, and I don’t know exactly what that means or what I ought to do about it, but I feel confident that the work I could do here is important and hopefully might help with the uncertainty.

Anyways, more later but now we have to go to city hall.