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Simplicity and Service

What will your Advent consist of this year? Despite what our faith teaches, the season can easily become a time of busyness and over spending. This year, I’m grateful to have Sarah Adam’s post to center me. Her framing of Christ’s call is a helpful reminder in this season so full of other calls. I invite you to consider Sarah’s closing list of faith practices, as well as to hold Urban Servant Corps volunteers in your prayers this season and beyond.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders


Simplicity and Service

Sarah Adam

In the heart of one of the most gentrified and expensive neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado, an old mansion houses nine full-time volunteers living on $75 per month. These volunteers come from all over the United States to the affluent city of Denver to practice simplicity, live intentionally with strangers, and work full-time at a nonprofit … for free.

Originally designed almost 30 years ago as a residence for Christian Communities, Urban Servant Corps has shifted throughout the years and is now a home for those who have been called to a year of full-time volunteer service. People from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences come together and are united by their commitment to a year of simplicity and service together. Four core tenets frame the Urban Servant Corps experience:

  1. Spirituality
  2. Simplicity
  3. Intentional Community
  4. Service

These four tenets may be emphasized in a year of service but are also great guidelines for living a life of stewardship. The gospels are saturated with these tenets. When Jesus gathers his earliest disciples, he calls them from their own individual journeys and into community. In this new context of fellowship, the disciples grow into life together: sharing meals, traveling, participating in intentional dialogue, and living with common purpose.

As Christ’s earliest followers find their lives increasingly intertwined, they leave behind comfort, support, and stability. At times the disciples are called to abandon their reliance on personal belongings, family members, jobs, and support networks. In place of this standard notion of stability, this community roams from town to town and depends on the hospitality of its neighbors for basic needs. This is radical simplicity.

Their journeys are marked by an intense spiritual framework as they believe, doubt, question, and fear, remaining present with Jesus. They embark on lives of service, healing, and justice towards those most in need.

Ultimately, Christ’s call is not simply to do a year (or even a couple years) of service, but to live a full life of service, committed to seeking justice and the healing in the world. While it may not be feasible for everyone to drop their nets and come to Urban Servant Corps (or other year-long volunteer programs), it is still possible to lean into these values in everyday life.

Here’s a handful of suggestions for living out these values in your own life:

  • Add a spiritual practice that works for you -- five minutes of centering prayer every day, practice mindfulness, a general “slowing down” of daily life.
  • Be intentional and thoughtful about what you purchase and where it comes from -- are the companies you support focused on sustainability? Do they encourage the success of their employees?
  • Challenge yourself to add simplicity to your lifestyle -- take the bus or ride your bike rather than drive, use reusable napkins at home (reduces waste, plus … it feels fancy), keep a gratitude journal.
  • Invite community into your daily life -- cook with loved ones, tell stories rather than watch TV, ask meaningful questions.

In a culture that is often individualistic and driven by convenience, these practices might be challenging or even seem impossible at times, and that’s okay. As we participate in God’s kingdom, we may be surprised to discover a life of abundance in the midst radical simplicity and hospitality. Even our most minimal attempts at simple living can be surprisingly life-giving, calling us ever deeper into a life of stewardship and love.

More Information

Sarah Adam holds a degree in Communication Studies from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. After graduation, Sarah participated in two ELCA full-time volunteer programs: Young Adults in Global Mission in Madagascar and Urban Servant Corps in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Denver and serves as the Community Life Coordinator for Urban Servant Corps.

Upcoming Stewardship Event:

December 14: Wisdom from the Field: Digital Churches + Online Giving Webinar from The Center for the Ministry of Teaching

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.
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