A life of service and faith
Living with Urban Servant Corps volunteers in community can lead to lifelong friendships.
By Megan Nuehring
“There are four basic tenets to Urban Servant Corps: faith, simplicity, intentional community and service. I try to make these the cornerstone of my life as well,” said Erin Benson. Erin is the director of community life for Urban Servant Corps and has served as a volunteer in the program. Urban Servant Corps is an ELCA-affiliated yearlong volunteer program.
Each year 18 individuals from a variety of faith backgrounds and walks of life serve the community of Denver. Erin was one of those volunteers 10 years ago, and her experience and the relationships she formed still play a large role in her life today.
The Women’s AIDS Project
During her year of service, Erin worked with the Women’s AIDS Project in the Empowerment Program, a non-profit organization in Denver. While serving the women at the Women’s AIDS Project she was able to use her background in anthropology to work with the project and help women lead healthy and “clean” lives (safe personal health practices). The women she worked with were involved in drugs and prostitution, and developing relationships of empathy, trust and compassion were crucial to being effective.
Before she was able to create relationships with the women she was serving, she had to understand the privileges she had in her own life. She also learned about her faith, how to live simply, and how to live with others in an intentional community.
Living in intentional community
Living in an intentional community with eight to 10 volunteers is an important part of the Urban Servant Corps program.
“There is power in supporting members of a community — particularly those who you may not choose, and allowing for grace to find the gifts in them,” said Krista Kilgus, executive director of Urban Servant Corps.
It was in Erin’s intentional community where she created lifelong relationships and learned valuable life lessons. Erin lived with volunteers she did not choose and she was forced to learn how to make decisions with them and value their opinions, even if she did not agree. In this community the small things did not matter anymore and the volunteers learned how to make sacrifices based on what was better for the whole group.
Growing in faith
Ultimately, Erin’s time at Urban Servant Corps helped her grow as a person and grow in her faith life. She still draws from the lessons she learned about her faith every day in her current position as director for community life.
“For example, this year there is one volunteer who approaches his faith in such a radical manner that it forces me to examine how I actually live my Christian values in the day-to-day. I am blessed to be surrounded by such incredible people,” said Erin.
Each year Urban Servant Corps serves 15 to 20 community and social ministry organizations in the Denver area, and Krista and Erin help the volunteers learn how to serve others, live together in a community, live simply, and challenge their faith.
“It is my hope that Urban Servant Corps can do this for each of the volunteers as they see their faith growing from their personal transformation, from serving the marginalized of society, from having their hearts break by seeing systematic injustice, from getting to know the person in community with whom they struggle the most and by attempting to integrate the four cornerstones in their daily life,” said Erin.
Megan Nuehring is a student at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, majoring in public relations and religion with a minor in leadership.