Spirituality. Simplicity. Intentional Community. Service. These are the four tenets that Urban Servant Corps volunteers live by each day. Their mission statement reads that Urban Servant Corps is a faith-based, intentional community of full-time volunteers who seek to live simply while serving and accompanying those most in need at non-profit partner agencies in the heart of Denver. Volunteers come to Denver, live in the Urban Servant Corp house, and spend the year as a full time volunteer working with one of the non-profits in the Denver area.
I had the opportunity to meet with Krista and Sarah (the Executive Director and Community Life Coordinator for Urban Servant Corps) at the SAME Cafe on Colfax, which is a restaurant that allows people to pay what they can for a meal, as well as work a half hour for a meal. Their slogan states, “So all can eat.” It will be a service site for one of the volunteers starting in August. At lunch, Krista and Sarah explained how these tenets are lived out by the volunteers.
Urban Servant Corp is an ELCA program offered through the Rocky Mountain Synod where volunteers delve into their faith during their year of service. They have worship and the opportunity to share a spiritual practice with the other volunteers as well. Volunteers also have the opportunity to be paired with a spiritual director for personal spiritual growth.
Urban Servant Corp practices simplicity during the volunteers’ year of service. The volunteers are given a house to stay in and a grocery budget for the house. After that, they are given a small personal stipend of $75 for the month. With such a small budget, there is not enough money for volunteers to live excessively, or with a consumeristic mindset.
All of the volunteers in the Urban Servant Corp live in the USC house. They live together, eat together, and practice intentional community during their year of service. During our lunch, Sarah remarked on her year of service. She recalled her housemates and the community being formed as one of the most remarkable experiences for her. One of the interesting things about Urban Servant Corp is that there is no age cap for volunteering. So, when Sarah was a volunteer, she was living with a woman who could be her grandmother. But, they were peers on the same social level. Learning how to be in community, and learning how to live and learn from people who are so different is one of the beautiful parts of Urban Servant Corps.
Each volunteer is paired with an organization in the community that relates to homelessness, women’s empowerment, environmental sustainability, violence and abuse, or refugees, and they spend the year serving at that organization full time.
But, why do these tenets matter? Do they affect people after their year of service? Yes, they do. Although volunteers only spend a year with Urban Servant Corps, they spend the rest of their lives practicing leadership and service. Krista emphasised that USC prepares the volunteers to be leaders for the rest of their lives, and usually their leadership finds a home in service practices. For example, half of the service site coordinators that USC partners with are Alum of USC. So, they finished their year of service, and found a leadership position in Non-Profits where they could continue serving. As one Alum wrote, “The lessons also apply in my new work community as I continue in non-profit with United Way of Weld County. And finally, the lessons apply to my now living in a more rural and demographically different community than what I was used to in Denver. Ironic - I started in Denver as an “outsider from a small community who doesn’t understand the city”; and am now the “outsider from that big city who doesn’t understand the needs of the small town.” Good thing I’ve had some experience with integrating into a new community: Urban Servant Corps- the lessons that last a lifetime.”
Urban Servant Corps enables servant leaders to own their power and continue on to lives of leadership and service. These volunteers are truly blessings to their community. Learn more about Urban Servant Corp here!
- Kaari the Intern
- Kaari the Intern