At the eastern end of B.C.’s Fraser Valley, in the far reaches of the diocese of New Westminster, lie the small towns of Agassiz and Hope. Their respective Anglican parishes, All Saints and Christ Church, are launching a new outward-looking employment-cum-ministry program called the Josie Project, named after a late All Saints’ warden with a vision of a vital church that reached far beyond congregational walls.
The Josie Project is seeking federal and provincial funding for September 2013 to employ four young university graduates across the two tiny parishes and beyond. This work-for-discernment program, borrowed loosely from the U.S.’s Episcopal Service Corps, will give new college graduates ages 19 to 30 the chance to work in communities and see what it might mean to go into ministry as lay or ordained people.
The Rev. David Price of All Saints, a former chaplain and trauma therapist in Canadian prisons, began building a team for the work project in 2010. “I started by praying and doing some research, and I got some advice from the Episcopal Church in the U.S.,” he says.
He and his colleagues recently decided to name the project after Warden Josie Browning, a “prickly but lovely” Anglo-Catholic woman raised in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Browning died last year of cancer at age 67 but will be remembered in the project for “her commitment not just to the congregation but to being part of the diocesan family and serving all of the church,” says Price. Fittingly, the project’s emblem will be a Scottish thistle.
Over nine months, starting in September 2013, up to four interns across the two parishes will live in Christian community-often sharing accommodation in the vacant homes of absent snowbird residents-and will work as a team. The project initiators are seeking funding from the province and from the federal government’s Career Focus program administered by Service Canada.
For almost five years, All Saints’ project partner, the tiny parish of Christ Church in Hope, has been reaching out to the broader community in ways that go beyond charity. “As a historical site, we have been successful in obtaining government grants to offer people employment that build skills and resumes leading to better employment,” says Christ Church’s Rev. Gail Newell. “This proposed new project, started by All Saints, fits into what we have already been doing very well.”
Service Canada needs partners to provide skill- and resume-building employment for newly graduated young adults, she explains. A project such as Josie offers them the opportunity to work in hospital chaplaincy, social work, homeless outreach, youth programs and other human services in the context of intentional discernment of ministry.
“Young adults of today live in challenging times,” says Newell. “It is not easy to listen for and move into the work that God calls them to. We look forward to engaging with them as their journey becomes part of ours.”