Welcome to the 2016-2017 Johnson Service Corps

The Advocate has a long-standing connection with the Johnson Service Corps, the local manifestation of the Episcopal Service Corps. We are glad this year to host the annual Pounding Party on Sunday, September 11, and to commission the Corps members at our 5 PM liturgy that day. See more from the JSC below:
JSC is a diverse, ecumenical community of young adults dedicated to service and social justice in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina.

Pounding Party at the Advocate

A “Pounding Party” is a Southern tradition where the community welcomes new neighbors by stocking their pantry with a POUND (or other appropriate quantity) of some pantry staple or useful household item. (Some examples include a pound of butter or sugar, or a liter of olive oil, a gallon of laundry detergent, etc.)

Sunday, September 11th from 2-4pm 
at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate 
8410 Merin Road, Chapel Hill
followed by worship and commissioning the corps members at 5pm

Introducing JSC’s Class of 2017
Kenesha Bigelow
I am from Mebane, North Carolina. I was born and raised a Christian and my denomination is Baptist. I graduated from North Carolina State University in 2015. I majored in Sociology. I am interested in becoming a Social Worker for my profession but I have yet to decide what grad school is the best fit for me and what particular field of study I am interested in. But I know for sure that I have the passion to help as many people as I can. I really enjoy listening to music, singing, laughing and running! I also enjoy meeting new people and traveling! I hope to find a job that allows for me to travel the world someday because I’ve only been to 3 others states.
Bryan Burke
My name is Bryan Burke. I am from Oak Forest, IL, a small suburb just south of Chicago. My older sister Jayne and I were raised in Oak Forest by my widowed mother. We have two dogs named Tucker and Wilson.I recently graduated from Calvin College in 2015 with a major in History and minors in Religion and Archaeology. The son of a devout Protestant Reformed mother and a steadfast Irish Roman Catholic father, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church as a “compromise” and I have loved the Church all my life and faithfully come (almost) every Sunday. I love to read (especially historical fiction, Russian literature, and “the Classics”), watch movies, travel, and listen to music.An interesting fact about me is that I have a deep interest in the Middle East and the history of the religious traditions of Christianity and Islam. I was a member of the Calvin College Middle East Club for three years and Club President for my senior year. I took every opportunity Calvin offered to travel to the region and went to Turkey as part of a history course and twice to Jordan and Israel/Palestine as part of an archaeological dig.
Gayle Cruz
I am from Mebane, North Carolina. I received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a Concentration in Human Services in 2014 from Appalachian State University. I have been called to serve women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. I have been growing in this area since I was a senior in college. Today I work at the agency for domestic violence survivors in my hometown as a Court Advocate. My goal is to continue to grow and allow God to guide me and strengthen me. I grew up in a Catholic identifying family that was not necessarily consistent in attending mass or being active in the parish. I have recently become fairly interested in Taoism however I wish to explore into my Catholic roots and find the parallels between the two.
Omar Hamad
I was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. My father is originally from the city of Hama, Syria and my mother is from a small Appalachian town called Newport, Tennessee. I attended Guilford College in Greensboro, NC and although I took classes in a variety of disciplines, I ultimately finished with a degree in History and Religious Studies in December of 2014. I have a wide variety of intellectual interests, especially within the fields of Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern History and Politics, Islamic Studies, Foreign Language, Journalism, Comparative Religion, Sociology/Anthropology, International Relations/Diplomacy, Eastern European History/Slavic Studies, Russian Culture and Literature, and American History–especially Labor History, Ethnic History, Immigration History, and Religious History. I hope to pursue graduate studies in one or more of these fields after I complete my term of service with ESC. My non-academic interests include Urban Exploration–I have now lived in 3 of 5 major East Coast Cities (Philadelphia, New York, and Boston)–and have enjoyed getting to know the unique character of each of these cities and their various neighborhoods, eating different types of ethnic food, creative writing, attending concerts/live music events, and taking online quizzes.
Ja’Kayla Hill
I recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in Spring 2016 with a Bachelor Degree in Social Work. During my collegiate years I spent most of my leisure time volunteering. Volunteering is something where I truly find my purpose and joy in doing! I don’t identify with a religion, I just try to live as a follower of Christ and keep my faith in God. I strive to learn and apply the Word of God into my life and try to do everything with love. I enjoy watching 80’s movies and reruns of the Golden Girls. During my downtime you most likely will find me journaling or reading. I would love to learn how to “rough it” and camp out and hike a trail sometime soon! I am both nervous and optimistic for what this year-long journey holds, but I know it will be a positive, transformative process for everyone! I’m excited to share this experience as a Johnson Service Corps member with you all!
Grace Martien
I am from Williamsburg, VA, and attended college five minutes away from home at the College of William and Mary. I graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology a Minor in Religious Studies. I am very excited to move to North Carolina and expand my horizons.I was born and raised Episcopalian as well as an active member in Canterbury, which is the Episcopal Campus Ministry. With that said, I love learning more about different faiths and traditions!After the Episcopal Service Corps I hope to combine my passion for religious studies and science. In my spare time I volunteer with the Williamsburg Volunteer Fire Department as an EMT, run, read, climb, and spend time with friends. Lastly, I enjoy comedy tv shows, ice cream, all things cats, and being outside!
Jenitza Pierce
I’m coming to North Carolina from the Lone Star State where I have lived for about 5 years. Before my life as a Texan, I never lived in one place for longer than 4 years! I graduated from LeTourneau University in May 2015 with a B.A. in English Language and Literature. I minored in History and Political Science. After university life, I threw myself into all sorts of experiences and ventures as I searched out what I truly wanted in life. Right now, I’m just trusting God to bring every challenge and adventure into perspective.
I’m a non-denominational disciple of Christ on a mission to see and reveal Christ in everyday life. I love embracing the mysteries of this world and witnessing the diversity and beauty of all people and cultures. I’m a horror movie junkie, rollerblader, and spicy food enthusiast.
Jon Rigby
I am originally from Flemington, New Jersey. I attended college at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I studied mathematics, and graduated in May 2016. I love nature, rock climbing, reading and writing. Though I wasn’t raised an Episcopalian, I joined the Canterbury organization at my college, and was recently baptized into the church. I am excited to pursue my faith and explore new opportunities this coming year!
Soteria Shepperson
I am originally from Richmond, VA and I’ve been a resident of North Carolina for the last five years. I received a B.S. in Administration of Justice from George Mason University in 2008.Throughout my career I’ve worked to build a community identity as a poet, advocate and instructor. Throughout my journey my name has helped shape who I am.  “Soteria” draws on the Greek term symbolizing deliverance, preservation, safety, and salvation.
There have been many influences that shape my life as a child of God, including giving back to others and imparting into them. My hope is to be known for being a student of this thing we call life cultivating a ministry that lifts up the experiences of those I am blessed to work with, living into the ideals that remind us all, ” if someone has gone through it, that process of our life can be eliminated so we all won’t have to make the same mistakes.” I value family, not the perfection of it but its brokenness and the perfection that comes of it being broken. I have worked with at risk youth and those in tough places for years and have found joy in the relationships that have come from these experiences.I have been blessed by the presence of several mentors who offered their time, experience, joys, and struggles to inspire me to live in my purpose. My hope is to reciprocate those relationships through the acts of living my life in a way that can be a voice of change.
Debbie Vu
I moved around a lot as a kid (so I know how to make friends fast) but when I was 12, my parents decided to settle in Pinehurst, NC. I was so disappointed by the small town; it didn’t even have a mall! However, I discovered that my favorite author grew up in Chapel Hill and later taught at UNC-Chapel Hill. I was raised Catholic and I’ve always subscribed to the idea that everything happens for a reason. I figured that God had sent me to Pinehurst so I could go to UNC-CH. There, I studied journalism and film. I enjoy interviewing people and creating documentaries. I’ve been itching to get behind the camera again. Two years ago, I created a series of documentary shorts on body-builders. And two years before that, I went to Malawi in Africa to create documentary content for the P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water program. I’ve been blessed with so many different and unique opportunities. I cannot wait to get started with Johnson Service Corps.