Synthesizing Service

Monday, July 27, 2020

The 2019-2020 BSVM volunteers spent their last week of the service year reflecting on each program pillar and sharing from their experience. We asked volunteers to sit with the concept of “service” and try to synthesize their learning – drawing from time in their ministry placement sites, with our formation materials, in community, and spent reflecting on the year as whole. Below, you’ll read the responses to a prompt asking for a concise summation of their thoughts, which is a difficult exercise when so much can be said on the topic! What is your working definition of “service,” reader? How has it changed over time?

Service is all about presence and listening and creating space to meet the needs of others while also receiving the gifts that they offer to you. It is about walking with people and meeting them where they are. It’s about recognizing a mutuality and kinship that the world has tried its best for us to forget. It is more than a job or a year, it’s a way of being that is rooted in hope, joy and resistance.

Service is growth with a community of others, in which love and signs of hope are universally witnessed and cherished. Service is recognizing the blind spots in my worldview and is a challenge to let the lives of other people inform how I live my own.

Service is a space where we can acknowledge our relationships with each other and begin to share our light and love together. It is a space where we look to bring our full selves to meet the full selves of those around us and thus find that our selves and lives are tied to each other.

Service for me is the practice of receiving people and allowing myself to be reached by them through expressions of God’s love. It is about slowing down our lives and opening up our hearts to people so that we can be fully present to each other but not in the interest of saving or fixing others. Service is about seeing people as whole and complex, operating within complex systems, as saved instead of in need of our saving. Service is about deconstructing power differentials and embarking on a journey to see ourselves and others as God sees us: as strong, resilient, worthy, and beautiful.

Service is entering into a space of mutuality with another person and forming a relationship that acknowledges the shared humanity in each other. It is work that strives to recognize the kinship between all people and tear down the barriers to that kinship.

Service is being men and women with and for others in the sense of being a compassionate presence that both offers and receives grace. Service allows individuals to recognize that they are inherently good, that they are enough and that they are worthy. The whole essence of service is to care even if it cannot cure.

A mutual life-giving relationship aimed at emphasizing our humanity and interconnectedness. It is building and being in kinship with one another.

Service is about being here. It is about having the courage to slow down, so that we may open ourselves up to those around us. Rather than pushing us to figure it out ourselves, service allows us to learn by listening to voices we may have missed or taken for granted.

Service is an action that unites people with mutuality. It is the personified love, respect, patience and joy that is reciprocated between people.

This drawing was a gift to BSVM Richmond volunteer, Josh Gillen, from a patient who appreciated his compassionate presence in the Emergency Department.