Editor’s Note: Friday, Feb. 25, the last day of Yale Divinity School’s 2011 All-School Conference, was dedicated to a Day of Service during which students and staff engaged in various volunteer service opportunities within the New Haven community.  At the Eucharist service that morning, Willis Jenkins, the Margaret A. Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics, preached on cultivating a tradition of using service “to think theologically with the tactics of survival and love.”  Collections of food and personal hygiene items were distributed to New Haven’s needy after the service.  We asked Joan Javier ’12 M.Div. to reflect on her participation in the week’s service activities and discussions.  Her report follows.

A Day of Service at Yale Divinity School

By Joan Javier ’12 M.Div.

Seventy-five students and staff volunteered together on Friday, Feb. 25 for the Yale Divinity School Day of Service. The event was organized by the Student Council's Community Engagement Task Force in conjunction with the Community Life Committee. 

Service Photo 1In addition to helping organize the event as part of the Task Force, I volunteered on the Day of Service with a team of students at Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS). While most of IRIS's work in the community is in providing resettlement support services to refugees coming to New Haven, our efforts that day were needed at their newly opened thrift store, “Clothes without Borders,” to help organize the copious donations of clothing in their store room.

Although I live only two blocks from IRIS's main office in the city’s East Rock neighborhood, I had not learned much about the organization or the people they serve until the Monday before the Day of Service. The Task Force had invited representatives from a few of the nonprofit agencies we would be volunteering with later that week to come and share information about the mission of their organizations and the communities they serve. The volunteer coordinator from IRIS was on the “New Haven Needs” panel, and it was there that I first learned about the innovative thrift store endeavor IRIS had started as a way of earning some income for the organization and providing clothing to their clients in a more dignified way.

Later in the week, I participated in a Student Council-sponsored “Community Conversation” facilitated by Yale University Chaplain Sharon Kugler. An engaged group gathered over the lunch hour to discuss the place of service in our academic studies and ministerial formation at YDS. Each of these events helped me to feel a greater connection to my work as I volunteered on Friday and to approach the entire Day of Service with a sense of reflection and intention.

Day of Service 3When I returned with my group from our afternoon of folding and sorting clothes, moving boxes, and chatting with customers, I was exhausted. Being on my feet for several hours was surely part of the reason. But, I also was wonderfully exhausted by the multifaceted learning and formation I took part in that entire week. Being of service to and engaged with our community certainly requires effort—an effort to open ourselves to how we might be changed through our service.

Before and after the afternoon of volunteering, we gathered in the Common Room, first for a shared lunch and then a shared dinner. As Dean Townes noted in her send-off remarks earlier that day, it was especially fitting to gather in that communal space under the portrait of the late Professor of Theology Letty Russell, who did so much to encourage and nurture the vibrant tradition of community engagement and ministry through service at YDS.  I hope that we will continue to live out that tradition in our communal endeavors.

Posted: 03/07/2011