Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10
Meet Amelia Brown, who spent a year serving as a communications assistant for the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) in London when volunteering with The Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps (YASC).
Share a little bit about yourself.
What was your road like to becoming a YASCer? Why did you feel called to this ministry? Tell us about your relationship with The Episcopal Church and YASC. I grew up in the Church; my father was an Episcopal priest, and the Church was the family business. But my faith is not my father’s; my faith is my own. Throughout my childhood and adult life, I have felt the presence of God at work in my life and his call upon it. It is the faith in the power of Christ’s death and resurrection for all humanity and creation that inspires me to use my life to serve others. I want to use my life to give back in some way – to create goodness instead of harming it, to speak for others who aren’t always able to speak for themselves. That’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the YASC program – it’s a mission of service. And that service takes on many different forms based on each person’s gifts and, of course, the needs of our partners out in the world, so that really stood out to me. I didn’t know anything about YASC, and one January evening, my mother told me about a post she saw about it, so I just jumped right in. The deadline was the next day, and I did it. I wanted to be able to do something good in the world.
Share a story in your current ministry about a time when you felt blessed, perhaps how you were transformed through your time as a YASCer.
I came back more “me,” if that makes sense. The things I valued and believed were stronger. I have always valued international experiences, and being able to experience this as an adult separate from my family allowed me to really grow and live into that. I’ve realized how much I value the very physical ways we live out our faith and give back the blessing that’s been given to us.
Blessing is about being part of the cycle of giving and receiving, and practicing generosity and compassion. In what ways are you called to pass on blessings to others?
I was really receiving an awareness of this connection we had across the world of what it means to be an Anglican and Episcopalian – a sense of community – but also a chance to learn and meet these incredible people who were doing these incredible things around the world. My second week on the job was helping out the communications team with the Primates’ Meeting. It was absolutely monumental being able to support a meeting that allowed these Anglican leaders to discuss the very real issues facing their communities – climate change, gender inequality, government corruption. Sometimes, we get too caught up in the internal Church politics and we forget about all these issues other provinces are facing. In terms of receiving, I was given a unique chance to tell people’s stories. I learned about a reconciliation program out of Lambeth Palace called “Women on the Front Line”: how they’re training clergy wives, particularly bishops’ wives, to be leaders of reconciliation in their communities. These are war-torn communities, blood has been shed on both sides, and these women are learning how to bring about reconciliation. These women are such a witness of the Gospel, and I got to tell the ways in which they live it out. The chance to tell these stories on their behalf was a way I could give back.
There’s no one way that passing on “blessing” happens. When I came back, I had this great story to tell and it was very important to be able to share this story and experience with other churches in the diocese, my parish, my friends, and my family. At one time, I would’ve thought I had to do something big to reflect this ideal of giving back this blessing I’ve received, but I’ve realized that no way is too small. It’s the little aspects of life: supporting our community and the people in our own lives and showing love and dignity and respect to all those we encounter. Our words, interactions, and relationships have more power than we realize. What struck me in London was the power of these relationships, of being able to meet all these people. The power of those relationships in reconciliation is huge, and I’ve come to value that in a new way.
How has YASC impacted you and the community in which you served – abroad and at home?
I think this experience taught me a lot about faithfulness. I didn’t realize when I walked into this situation how open I was. I was walking into a city where I knew no one, I had no friends, and I had no idea what my living situation or my work was going to be like, but I was open to a completely clean slate of what would happen, and what ended up happening was absolutely beautiful. I was definitely meditating on what it means when God’s faithful to us and how little we have to give him – we don’t have to give him anything for him to be faithful to us.
When I was in London working in the Communion Office, I was able to see the mission work that happens and the advocacy work and the work for women’s issues and women’s justice. And in the communications office, we have the ability to tell all those stories. For me, it was really a powerful experience to realize that I was deeply connected with people across the world who lived vastly different lives and had vastly different cultures. We were connected in this very profound way that transcended culture and issues – there was something stronger holding everyone together. It gave me a new appreciate for communion.
I’ve also gotten very interested in the concept of reconciliation. I was very moved by the Women on Front Line story I was working on because these women have faced far more heart-wrenching situations than I could ever imagine, and yet they’re choosing to work for reconciliation. It made me think about our country and how it’s struggling and polarized. How can we find reconciliation in that? How do we talk to people who believe things that are fundamentally different from what we believe, and how are we able to think about that in terms of reconciliation? I think there’s value in being able to share thoughts and questions of people in our lives and to allow God to work in that as well.
What about the practices of the Way of Love or the Jesus Movement gives you hope for the Church?
When I think about what gives me hope right now it is the power of faith. One of the major issues facing the Church is reconciliation and the many forms that it needs to take, but I think that starting with the knowledge of being reconciled in Christ, which our faith is based in, gives me enormous hope. Also, being able to hear these stories from around the world of great faith and much harsher environments than what we face here in the U.S., I’m confident in faith. The fact is that you have people around this country who want to represent Christ in their communities. We don’t always see the fruit of that right away, but there always is. There’s a priest who used to be in our diocese and he always would say, “Every time we pray, something always happens.” It may not always be the exact thing that you’re praying for, but something always happens, and that’s incredibly powerful.
Are there any other thoughts about the practice of Bless that you’d like to share, or anything about your ministry as a YASCer you’d like us to know?
I cannot recommend the YASC program highly enough. Looking back, what made it such a success for me was going in with an open mind and open heart – ready to be filled. Also, that ministry is twofold: in the act of ministering to others we are ministered to in turn. That process of giving and receiving is almost instantaneous – it’s happening all at the same time. The YASC program was transformative for me and for other members of my cohort, but all our stories are vastly different. We’re all different people with different gifts, callings, and viewpoints, and that’s what makes the YASC program particularly special – the many different ways we are able to give and the equally different ways we’re able to receive.