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The Intern Year

Shape of a Year · Frequently Asked Questions · Leadership Training ·
Intentional Community · Spiritual Formation · 5 Values
The Shape of a Year...

Every August, eight Johnson Interns join our program to live and work here for eleven months. Ranging in age from 21 to 30, most have graduated from college prior to their arrival. The Johnson Intern Program, or JIP, strives to present challenges during this formative time in a young adult’s life. Living as part of intentional community challenges the competitive environment that these young people have lived under as students. Instead of working against their peers for class ranking and honors, Johnson Interns enter an environment of “we” instead of “me.” Our curriculum speaks of paradigm shifts. This challenge is the first and perhaps the most difficult: moving from competition, engrained in most of us from childhood, to collaboration and community.

The collaborative challenge begins as interns meet each other for the first time at opening retreat, where they are faced with creating a “rule of life” to guide their intentional community. It continues as they move into the modest home that they will share for the year, where the lofty goals of the rule hit the hard reality of who shares a room, who shops for groceries, and who takes out the garbage. It continues still as they choose (and are chosen by) their placement organizations, where they will spend 32 hours each week. These separate challenges, and countless others, occur within the first two weeks of a new intern’s arrival.

As JIP has developed, we have adopted “servant leadership” as the basis of our program. Interns participate in weekly Friday classes on servant leadership, where our values of communion, compassion, co-creation, collaboration, and character are explained and practiced through interactive study, discussion, prayer and meditation. Our retreats serve to introduce, reinforce, and then debrief the experiences of intentional community and servant leadership training, helping each intern develop the skills needed to make the lessons of the year carry on into a lifetime.

After the holiday break, the interns embark on their Praxis project, a learning-service process that carries them through the month of April. Praxis follows an essential period of spiritual formation, discovery of self, and the building of community. Praxis leads to a meaningful project through which interns obtain knowledge, develop skills, and move deeper in their spiritual journey while impacting lives and creating a legacy to leave to the JIP community, partner organizations, communities of faith, and the people of Chapel Hill and Carrboro area.

One of the final pieces of collaborative work undertaken by the interns is Present and Listening, an intentional process of discernment and a way of storytelling and compassionate response. Interns have the chance to hear and respond to each other's struggles and joys or to help discern a sense of calling. Week by week, we read Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer, and over our weeks together in this safe and confidential setting, we share our wisdom and our struggles and joys with each other, we find that trust can build, compassion for each other can deepen and a sense of community can continue to grow strong.

Despite the fact of the now well-worn path, every year is differentiated by the unique individuals whose feet walk upon it, and the inimitable ways that their coming together shapes the passageway for those who will follow.

Click here to see the 2013-2014 Intern Manual.


Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does the program run?
We are an 11-month program, starting in early August and going through the end of June.

What about living expenses?
JIP provides housing, utilities, wireless internet, a community food allowance, health insurance, plus a modest stipend and a membership to the local YMCA.

Do I need a car?
It is fine to bring a car, though not necessary. The Chapel Hill/Carrboro area has a free bus system that enables transportation to work sites and other places in the area.

Does JIP reimburse for gas?
JIP does not provide money for your car and gas. The program will cover the cost of program related travel expenses and transportation reimbursement for partner agencies that are further than 10 miles from the intern house.

What can you tell me about the intern house?
The intern residence is a large house in Chapel Hill within close proximity of many of our intern placements and is convenient to the bus service (which is free). The house is fully furnished with a kitchen, living room, bathrooms and 4-shared bedrooms. A goal of the intern year is to learn to live simply, therefore we challenge interns to travel lightly and bring only a few suitcases when they arrive.

The JIP house is situated at the junction between the lively communities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, NC, near the community center called Weaver Street Market, and not too far from the famous Carrboro Farmers' Market.

Who comes to this program?
JIP Interns come from a wide variety of geographic, ethnic, and spiritual backgrounds (see Alumni). They range from 21 to 30 years old and most have graduated from college or come with comparable experience. Our classes of interns have represented Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Missionary Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker, Mennonite, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist denominations, people of other faiths and those who identify with the ever-growing “spiritual but not religious” category.

Is JIP Americorps affiliated?
AmeriCorps positions have been available in the past through our affiliation with Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN). Our interns receive loan deferrals and an education award for future education or to pay off loans upon completion of the program. We are not currently affiliated with AmeriCorps for the 2012-2013 year.


Leadership Training

Leadership development takes place on most Fridays during the eleven-month intern year. Leadership training encompasses the participative leadership of the Servant-Leader model, explores issues of social justice and inequality, and incorporates skill-based practices that employ leadership principles in real-life settings. Leadership is examined through the experience of community living, on the job in the placement sites, and through the development and implementation of the Praxis project. Anyone with a free google account can view our google calendar - johnson.intern@gmail.com.

Servant Leadership was initially conceived by Robert K. Greenleaf, whose Greenleaf Center is still guiding organizations to view leadership as a power-with as opposed to a power-over model.

The concepts of Servant Leadership were brought into a context of faith by Bennet Sims in Atlanta, Gordon Cosby in Washington, DC, and Tim Patterson in Greensboro, NC. Servant Leadership is a style that empowers others. It is organized around three instinctive centers that reside in each of us; the centers that seek security, esteem, and control.

Servant Leadership is about discovering our true selves, understanding and owning our shadow-sides, and moving towards an authentic self that is in communion with creation, is compassionate with ourselves and others, and is in alignment with divine power and purpose. We explore the tenets of Servant Leadership through the sacred texts that have shaped our society. The initial course in Servant Leadership is taught each fall to a class composed of Johnson Interns and other members of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community.


On Christian Community

JIP seeks to extend Christ’s welcome to all and welcome interns who come from all faiths, no faith tradition, and the ever-growing “spiritual but not religious.” When affiliated with Americorps, questions around the intersection of faith and government emerge. For the interns, questions of how to live, pray, eat and practice together, among such diverse faith backgrounds, are common. We have found the answers to be sometimes difficult, but we have enjoyed the creative tension that exists at these intersections, and believe that all of us have been enriched by it.

An attorney told us that the test is not “will you” take a person from a different (or no) faith tradition, but “Have you?” JIP has had, almost every year, interns who were from other faith traditions or agnostic—and we always try to choose Christians from varied backgrounds and theological understandings so that we can learn from each other. These diversities have enriched the experiences of all of us tremendously. The Parakaleo tradition, begun by our 2008-2009 interns, has given us the tools to “walk alongside” each other. You can read more about their journey by clicking here.

We trust that God works in and through people "on the outside” of what any of us define as orthodox, and we only have to read our bibles to discover that fact. Those of us who follow the path of Jesus see that he was an outlier who challenged the mores of his time.

Because JIP was started by and is housed within an Episcopal church, the term "Christian Community" has been used to refer to the interns living together. This term is not meant to be exclusive (as in Christian-only) but to be descriptive... because the model we use for community comes from the Christian monastic tradition. We could also call it "Benedictine Community," because we come most closely to following the rule of St. Benedict.

Using the term "Christian" does not mean "only Christians allowed." Rather it defines our tradition and the focus and foundation of our training in Servant Leadership. But because so many understand the word "Christian" to mean just such exclusion, we’ve come to use the phrase “Intentional Community” instead. Within this context our hope is that the doctrines that tend to divide us can become avenues for understanding, and that we will each make the long journey from the head to the heart to discover that it is there that we are united in one infinite heart.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who has written eloquently on community life, said that “He who loves community destroys community; he who loves people builds community." We have experienced this as truth. The love of ideals-- community, faith, and justice-- fails. But the act of loving each other in and through our mutual brokenness is the place from which justice rolls down and community and faith flourish.


Spiritual Formation

One gift of The Johnson Intern Program is the opportunity for young adults to slow down from the hectic nature of modern life and take time to develop spiritual practices that ground them in a “here and now” relationship with God or whatever higher power the intern identifies with. JIP recognizes the ways in which culture pushes all of us to stay in constant motion, and we seek to help the interns learn the value of stillness and quiet, without the constant inputs of sound and motion with which all are surrounded.

With the interns, JIP explores different practices that lead to a rich spiritual life, one that ultimately calls them outward, to more meaningful and satisfying personal relationships. In this exploration JIP is open to all traditions that bring an understanding of oneness and connectedness with God and others.

Our focus on spiritual formation has been enhanced by a generous grant from the Trinity Wall Street Grants Program from program years 06-07 to 08-09. The three-year grant allowed us to develop a program for young adults that is based on Servant Leadership and which emphasizes the inward journey through regular spiritual practice.

Interns are also expected to participate in a local spiritual community, either of their faith tradition or perhaps exploring a different tradition that is available here in the area. Interns will be required to volunteer four to six hours per week with that community. A variety of faith communities are located in the area, along with ways to serve them. This partnership is meant to be a mutual sharing of identified needs, interests and gifts.


Five Values

Communion. I am committed to a regular, transformative, centering practice of spirituality and I intend to live the moments of my life increasingly present to life and awake to who I am called to be.

Compassion. I confess my own humanity and acknowledge the heart connection I have with all who share the human condition. I see the light of creation in every person. I embrace people who are different than me, because I understand that we are all one.

Co-Creation. I hear a voice of truth above the clamor of the dominant culture, a voice that asks me to question my culture's assumptions and beliefs. As a servant leader I align my life with this truth and engage with others to be co-creative instruments of justice and peace.

Collaboration. I trust in the abundance of creation to provide all that is needed, so that individuals and groups can collaborate instead of compete. I strive to engage others in full participation and lead in such a way that builds leadership in others.

Character. I am truly accountable to those served and approach opportunities for change with awareness of community assets. I meet commitments on time and act responsibly with public and personal trust. I am accountable for my words and actions.

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