My name is Jill and I am a church girl. Short and sweet. I am a church girl. While this may not be the first thing I say to every person I meet on the street, I find that when I am asked to describe who I am and where I come from, one of the first things that I must explain is that I am one of those people who “grew up in the church.” I went to church every Sunday, I always went to Sunday school, participated in every youth outing and volunteer opportunity, and as I got older volunteered in Vacation Bible School. My formation as a child, teenager, and now as a young adult has been defined by my experience at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. While this may sound like the description of an angelic, Christian child, I assure you it is not- my parents could give you a much more accurate description. But what I’m getting at is that my whole life the service I do has been assumed; this call to give of myself for others has been a natural product of my identity as a church girl. But why is that? What about my faith makes service to others so fundamental and necessary?
These questions and desire to explore the intersection between faith and service has shaped my spiritual growth through college and after graduation as I explore what it means to be the hands and feet of God in this world. After “growing up in the church” in Columbus, Ohio, I went on to attend Roanoke College in Virginia where growing in the church took on a new meaning. I got heavily involved in Campus Ministry life where I began to encounter people from different faith backgrounds and define my faith on a deeper level. I encountered people who, although they also “grew up in the church,” found their experience stifling and left for college disenchanted by religion as a whole. So, I continued to question what kept me connected to church and what about my faith made service to others so essential.
After college, I continued to grow in my faith as I went on to serve as a Young Adult in Global Mission through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Throughout this year-long program I lived in the community of Tepoztlán, México, learning what it means to serve through accompaniment and working with a non-profit organization that promotes the rights of children and youth to participate in their communities. I spent the year forming relationships with people and loved getting to know the insights and capabilities of children and teenagers. This experience working with youth, exploring what it means to grow in faith and service, brought me to the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Servant Year program to serve as the Program Coordinator for the Episcopal Mission Center. I can’t wait to continue to grow in faith and help young people have positive experiences with religion and “grow up in the Church” the way I did. Youth ministry really excites me because it unites two things I am really passionate about: the formation of youth to be free-thinking, caring, outwardly focused individuals and the exploration of faith, and praising God. I am excited to grow with young people and to be involved in an environment that is supportive and simply a lot of fun. I can’t wait to share this coming year with my fellow Servant Year members and the Episcopal Mission Center while learning, growing, and discerning God’s call for my life.
Jill serves as the program coordinator for the Episcopal Mission Center.