A group of young people offered an unorthodox proposal
At the 1948 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a group of young people offered an unorthodox proposal: to create a volunteer service program for young adults. Youth and young adults in the Church had been volunteering in various ways for decades, giving up a year of their lives to serve in denominational work camps and Civilian Public Service (an alternative to required military service for conscientious objectors). What they wanted was an organized, denominational program that would allow young people to volunteer for year-long service positions that would promote peace, prevent war, and be about justice in the world.
Alma Long, one of the young people present at that conference, remembers the excitement in the room: “When the young people stood up and cheered, the whole Conference was surprised. I remember that evening at suppertime everybody was talking about it. It was a big thing…The Holy Spirit was just so in evidence. It was just like Pentecost! Just like a football game! You could just feel the power of God in that place!”
Much about BVS has stayed the same over the last decades. From the beginning, volunteers participated in orientation, served in a wide range of projects working for peace and justice, and lived simply on a stipend. Of course, BVS has also changed, shortening orientation from the original 3 months to the current 10 days, broadening our volunteer base, adding projects, and growing geographically. Thousands of volunteers have served through BVS since its start, participating in ongoing solutions to the world’s most deeply rooted problems and having life-changing experiences. From its unorthodox beginnings in 1948 to today, Brethren Volunteer Service has been sharing God’s love in the world through acts of service. Won’t you join us?
*Many thanks to Jim Lehman, whose extensive research on the history of BVS informs much of our story today.