Originally published in “The Door” by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC).
Written by Amy Asendorf, M.Div Student and LVC alumna 2014-2015
This year, my Public Church Fellows placement has been with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC), serving as the Spirituality Mentor to the Chicago house. LVC is a faith community of the ELCA that works for peace with justice by placing volunteers in cities across the United States to serve full-time at social-justice organizations. The three core tenants of the volunteer program are intentional community, justice work, and simple and sustainable living. LVC is also committed to “forming and strengthening alliances with people across many cultures and communities and intentionally dismantling racism within LVC, the church, and society” (lutheranvolunteercorps.org).
Volunteers choose to live in intentional communities of anywhere from four to eleven people in one house, sharing meals, supporting one another in their work, and encouraging the. sustainable use of resources such as composting, gardening, eating locally-sourced and in-season produce, reducing electric consumption, and making their own “green” household cleaners, for example. In their daily work, volunteers walk with communities, discerning their needs and learning to augment the voices of those who have been marginalized; they learn from the communities and seek to accompany those experiencing oppression as they work out their own liberation. Each community member works full-time at their various placements during the day, engaging in areas of direct service, community organizing, advocacy, or public policy.
I myself am an alum of the LVC program, and I remain dedicated to their mission of working for peace with justice. Just before coming to seminary, I participated in the 2014-2015 volunteer year in Baltimore City. I worked at St. Peter’s Adult Learning Center, a nonprofit for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I engaged in direct service as individuals worked to gain job skills and experience, discern their vocations, and find employment. I lived in a house in Baltimore City with six other volunteers; as a house, we engaged in the crucial work of confronting systemic racism and white supremacy in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder.
This year, I serve as the Spirituality Mentor for the LVC house in Chicago. A group of six volunteers live in Logan Square and work at various organizations throughout Chicago. I meet with them as a house for Spirituality Nights where we explore the narratives that have shaped their lives, and for the past few months, there has been space for each of them to lead the community by exploring their unique senses of spirituality and the practices that give them each life. Together, we have found that spiritual nourishment is found even in the meals we cook for one another, in meditation, in truth-telling, and in singing together. I meet with them one-on-one for discernment conversations in terms of their current and future vocations, and I also serve as a house chaplain in cases where they need to unpack troubles and frustrations with a non-anxious listener. As a seminary student, I am able to provide them access to pastoral resources and readings.
I pray that this partnership has been as much a blessing to them as it has to me: it has helped me to explore and challenge my own spirituality, to learn from these volunteers and their experiences about justice work in Chicago, and to actively engage in young adult ministry. What a joyful opportunity!