Ben Norton, Pioneer minister for Kingswood, Hull, describes an intentional community for young adults in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
When I travelled to Ohio earlier this year, I met Jed Dearing – the project leader for the Confluence Episcopal Service Corps Program hosted by St John's Episcopal Church in Franklinton. Jed showed me around the area and told me of some of the amazingly creative missional enterprises they are involved with as a community.
Franklinton is a neighbourhood immediately west of downtown Columbus, Ohio's largest city. Jed and a group of friends moved there a few years ago with the intention of wanting to live out the gospel incarnationally. They soon found that St John's Episcopal Church was already doing so through a ministry called 'Street Church', a weekly Eucharistic service out on the street for the homeless communities in the area.
Through getting to know people at this service, Jed and his friends soon found that there were many needs they could begin to address. For instance, not many people in their community could afford cars and the bus routes where not always helpful so many people either didn't travel or, if they did, they rode bikes. This meant two things; the only shops nearby were corner shops that did not sell fresh food but rather sold crisps and sweets – so the diet of the local community was predominately unhealthy; the bicycles that people were using were not always safe.
Out of these issues, two projects have developed:
- Franklinton Cycle Works: This is a project where the local community can come and learn how to fix their own bikes or can choose to fix a shop bike. The time given is added up as store credit which can then be used to buy a bike from the project.
- Franklinton Gardens: Volunteers give their time to create an urban farm right in the centre of the community, using plots of land where houses once stood and turning the ground in to a place to grow fresh crops that are then sold in the local area.
Confluence is hosted by St. John's Episcopal Church in partnership with the Diocese of Southern Ohio and the Episcopal Service Corps. Confluence is a volunteer corps program for recent college graduates or young adults who commit to a year of spiritual formation, vocational discernment, social justice and intentional community.
The interns live in intentional community, sharing the Hospitality House in Franklinton. The Hospitality House has a long history of being open and available for the community. The house was repaired, repainted, and refurbished during the summer of 2013 to provide a peaceful home as the centre of community life for the Confluence volunteers who aim to:
- spend a year in intentional community learning to live simply and sustainably in a home with four others;
- go deep into vocational discernment working with a leading social service organization doing dynamic work on the margins;
- enact social justice through volunteering with neighbourhood non-profit organisations;
- pursue spiritual formation through contemplative practices with housemates, and worship with the homeless at 'Street Church'.