Tag Archives: church I liked

Celebrate the good in the church

buddychrist Every now and then, church stuff gets me down. I have decided that, when that happens, I’m going to look to the many amazing things I know are happening in the name of Jesus.¬† I need your help. There is some amazing stuff happening in churches around the country (and the world) that should be lifted up, but it is hard to know about all of it when we’re in our little corner of the world. I’m going to list some of the exciting stuff I know about and the awesome people I happen to be connected to. In the comments, add amazing stuff you know about and pass it on. I don’t want to put any parameters here; I’m looking for ministries that are life giving, new and/or renewed, and are moving the people of God into the future. New ways to reach people, interesting ways Christians are working towards the kingdom here on earth.

In no particular order:

Luther’s Table. My friend Gretchen Mertes (with the help of a number of churches and a million volunteers) runs this Lutheran cafe/bar/music venue in Renton, WA. There, one can rock out with a beer and with some Jesus. It is clear you can come as you are and you will be welcomed. The food is good too ūüėČ They do some great service for the community, including free holiday meals. Luther’s Table is also home to a growing congregation, Roots of the Table, where worship is very different from traditional Lutheran worship and the music is very good.

All People’s Church in Milwaukee, WI. All People’s is an vibrant urban church with an amazing vision and incredibly strong sense of community. If you ever want to listen to a sermon that will get you up out of your seat, listen to Pastor Steve Jerbi (another good friend of mine). The congregation does amazing community education, they are working on issues of food insecurity in their ‘hood (and education around the topic), have a community garden, a food pantry, are building a green house, do job training, and are just generally awesome. I wish I lived closer so I could go to there. I’ll have to subsist off of Pr. Steve’s sermons.

Church of the Apostles in Seattle is one of the original ancient/future or emergent churches. I keep trying to describe aspect of their ministry and, each time, the adjective I want to use is dynamic. I recently went to the ordination of their new pastor, Ivar Hillesland, and it was wonderful. I look forward to what they do in this new phase of their lives together.

Church of the Beloved is a new monastic community in Edmonds, WA. Their music is excellent, as is their idea of communal living. I couldn’t do it, but I greatly admire the way they live.

Valley and Mountain is a community that is also here in Seattle (see, I mostly know what is happening around me) and I love what they do. The way they worship is so life giving. Their tag line on their website is “deep listening. creative liberation. radical hospitality.” That’s a good description. I’m kind of sad I can’t be a part of their community, but that is the life of a pastor.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Ohio is my home church. The people there are a large part of how I grew to be the woman in faith that I am. They have a strong community presence, a soup kitchen, food pantry and community garden. They’re been Reconciling in Christ (open and affirming to the LGBT community and everyone else) for as long as it has been an option (I think) and instead of VBS every summer, they have Peace Camp. They’ve also had a woman pastor for as long as that has been an option. If you live in the greater Cleveland area and are looking for a church, go there. Oh, also, for you Lutherans out there, they’re a mostly white church that uses This Far By Faith. That is another thing I love about them.

Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church is my current internship site. I am an intern at a church that has young people showing up and becoming very active in the church. My first few weeks here I met so many people who were interested in joining who were in their 20’s or 30’s. This is an organ and choir church. This is a church where there is processing and elevating of the gospel and my supervisor wears a chasuble for worship (he gets really dressed up in fancy pastor things). Somehow, with all of the liturgy and hymns and organ, this church feels very alive, like the people aren’t just going through the motions. They’re super into it. And that draws other people in. Also, they are very, very into rite and ritual here, particularly baptism. The membership class is no joke — it’s an adult catechumenate. All potential members gather every Sunday night for months to eat together and have fellowship in small groups. In small groups, people share their faith stories and talk about matters of faith — no questions or topics are off limits. I love this. I’m kind of almost a little Baptist when it comes to asking people to make commitment to their faith, and too many churches seem to be afraid to ask much of members. Phinney asks, and in turn it receives many new members every Easter Vigil.

Re:Imagine out of San Fransisco. I love what they do. Mark and Lisa are incredibly warm people, and the one time I had the opportunity to experience their community, everyone was so welcoming. I wanted more.

Quest Church in Seattle. Multi-ethnic, social justice oriented, prophetic, welcoming… Just rad.

Sorry if I forgot anyone I should have thought about.

Now, what do you know about? Who is doing good work around you? Who is inspiring you? Let’s share the good news!

The church tourist: Valley and Mountain

I have been a church tourist for a while now. Once I recovered from my last church gig, I embarked on a journey to see what was available to me in the greater Seattle area (and visited a few places as I traveled around the country). It was a casual affair, I was sort of looking for a church home and sort of assuaging my guilt about not going to church. One of the nice things about this year is that I have a vision for where I am going (finally), am excited about the possibilities and have the time to be an intentional church tourist. I get to search for all kinds of ways of being Christian community and talk to the people who do it. It is really, really fun.

While I was back in Seattle over my break, I visited a few Christian communities. The one that gave me a ton of hope and a lot of great ideas was a mission start of the United Methodist Church, Valley and Mountain. Valley and Mountain only has a worship-type event once a month, which they call Celebrations. It was a really gross night in Seattle. We had just received a preview of the snowstorm — most people don’t go out if there is more than an inch on the ground. But this was my only chance, so I was heading out.

They rent part of an old school, that is now a school and community center, in the Colombia City neighborhood of Seattle. Colombia City is one of my favorite places. It’s really diverse (racially, socio-economically, and age-wise), plus there is a great main street with restaurants and such. It also has a strong sense of community, but that is being tested by gentrification (it is one of the few places in Seattle that could be called affordable). When I walked in I was immediately struck by the fact that there were people there — Celebration with community was clearly worth venturing out in the snow for these people.

Welcome: There are a few parts of church visiting that I dislike. One is the awkward what do I do, where do I go, how does this work, do I have to have a name tag period (I hate name tags). It was a little awkward at first, but then I noticed the name tags. Usually in churches, you can tell the members from the visitors by name tags — members often have some shiny permanent name tag, and visitors get a “Hello, my name is…” sticky. This sounds fine, but let’s re-frame it. The people who belong have their own nice name tags. The people who don’t get crapy ones. At Valley and Mountain, everyone gets the same name tag. There are these rectangular pieces of felt for people to write their names on (if you’re new) and pin to yourself. People who have been there before leave their name tage on the table for pick-up. Simple as that. I love this.

Experience:¬†(Some of this might be out of order, but it all happens, I swear) There is a good amount of writing on how post-moderns are into experience. They (we) don’t want to just sit and absorb information like a good little sponge — participation is highly valued. Celebration opens up with everyone sitting in a circle, singing a song then sharing thanksgivings or prayer requests — a great way for people to check in (there were about 20 people there that day, with a lot of name tags left on the table due to the weather). As we went around, I noticed that the diversity of the room reflected the diversity of the neighborhood. Awesome.

We then split off into groups for experiences/projects (I don’t remember what they call this time). The options change, but this week there was someone leading meditation, a duo from the Colombia City Art Walk leading some time with art and community, and sandwich making for the homeless. I made sandwiches — I wasn’t really feeling the meditation theme or artsy. ¬†I got a chance to talk to people, which was cool.

One way to connect with the Holy

Word: After about half an hour, we came back together for another song, some scripture, and a sermon-type thing (reflection). I say sermon type thing because it was conversational. The pastor of the community, John, did an amazing job of making the sermon interactive without having it veer off in another direction. Also, he talked about Dr. King and some of the lesser known players in the Civil Rights Movement, which was like water to my parched soul. That morning, the worship I attended practically ignored that the next day was MLK day. John also included science about memory and made the word really contextual. It was one of the best sermons I had heard in a long time.

Meal: So, there was no eucharist, but there was definitely communion. After the reflection, the community sang a song and them moved to tables to eat soup and bread together, made by some community regulars.

Other: One of the other things I really noticed was that I would not have been able to tell who the community convener but for the fact that I had already been in communication with him. It felt¬†egalitarian¬†and inclusive, without being aimless or unstructured. They do a lot of other really cool things. In January, they were doing an¬†experiment¬†in simple living (a part of their Creative Liberation Laboratories). They have a men’s group. They engage in deep listening.

I got to talk to John and his wife, Freddy, a little about how they started it and it sounds like it was a lot of trust building, careful conversations, and relationship building. I hope to be able to keep the conversation going. I know I can’t reproduce what they do at Valley and Mountain (especially with my love of liturgy and need for weekly eucharist), but I can definitely learn from it. Check out their website, seriously. It’s a lot of good stuff.