This month it is particularly difficult to know where to begin.
I could talk about my experience in the Seattle Women’s March on Saturday, January 22 in which thirteen of us from QACC marched either in Seattle or in Washington, D.C.
I could describe how over 100,000 of us in the streets of downtown Seattle moved together much like a swarm of some kind, not as graceful as a flock of birds but maybe somewhat like a school of fish, like salmon pushing our way upstream against the national current, moving forward because we had to, moving together because we felt compelled to put our bodies in a particular place and time, to be counted among those who understand that love and kindness and humility are virtues to be sought after, not scorned as signs of weakness.
I could notice the timely nature of Gloria Kawabori’s talk on Sunday morning, January 29 as she recounted the experience of her family in a Japanese-American Internment camp during World War II only days after an Executive Order, promulgated by our President, cut-off the immigration of refugees who have worked for years to come to “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Maybe not so much these days.
I could lift up the fine leaders of this congregation—members of the Search Committee, The AdMinistry Team, and the Elders—who, step by step, have faithfully walked through the process of calling the new Interim Pastor.
I could encourage you to come to worship on Sunday, February 5 when we will honor Barb Scamman, our volunteer Choir Director for the past seven years. With grace and a fine musicality she has guided our strong group of singers in the creation of so many moments of worship and praise. Now it is our turn to praise her gifts and express our gratitude.
And I could tell you that my final service with you before retirement will be held on Sunday, February 26 at 10am. Our Regional Minister, Sandy Messick, will lead us through this service of transition. The Rev. Rebecca Hale, Vice-President of the National Benevolent Association for Mission and Ministry (the social service arm of our denomination), will be our guest preacher. The choir will sing that morning and a reception will follow the service.
But what I really want to tell you is this: I love you. I love the community we have created together. Much like a marriage we persisted when it would have been easy to quit. Through our persistence we found our hearts and minds changed as we rubbed up against each other and formed a more genuine and honest community.
Together—within and through each other—we have glimpsed the face of God, sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit, and felt the presence of Christ binding us close to his heart in love. At the end of this month I will take my leave as your pastor and in that leaving I know and trust in this truth, that the love we have shared will never leave us.
Blessings + peace,
I learned the other day that New York City had hosted a “Good Riddance Day” on December 28.
“Good Riddance Day” was a chance to formally let the bad stuff go and move on. To mark this occasion a giant shredder was installed in Times Square in New York City. The process went like this: “write down your unpleasant memory from the past year on a piece of paper, destroy it in the communal shredder and make room for warmer, fuzzier thoughts in 2017.”
There is something compelling about this kind of an activity that makes room for private thoughts to be processed in a public space. And who among us would not like a few more warmer and fuzzier thoughts for 2017?
If I am honest, the memory from the past year I find most troubling would be that moment when I woke up at 3:30am on the night of the election and checked my smart phone to learn the results; there would be no celebration of the election of the first woman as president of the United States.
During these past weeks I have struggled to find the words. I have compared the process of coming to terms with this result as to that of a snake attempting to digest an elephant; something that will take time. What I can say now is that I have no desire to add the to acrimony that surrounds this presidential transition. That being said here are my rather hodgepodge resolutions for the coming year which I hope will result in warmer, but maybe not fuzzier, thoughts in the new year. I resolve:
Life is short and we have not too much
time for gladdening the hearts
of those who are traveling
the dark way with us.
O be swift to love!
Make haste to be kind.
What are your resolutions? How might you gladden the hearts of those around you? How might you spread God’s light in this weary world?
Blessings + peace, Laurie
Dear Northwest Family,
“We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” These words from our denominational mission statement keep running through my mind today, in these days following an incredibly divisive Presidential election. The fragmentation in our country is undeniable. It was clearly present before the election, during the campaign, and remains after the votes are counted. As I look at the map of our region and see the counties painted red or blue, it confirms what I already knew. We are a diverse people. Within our congregations are Trump supporters and Hillary supporters and “none of the above” supporters. Some rejoice at the results of the election while others grieve. I have long known that we have differences of opinion, philosophy and theology. My own family is divided and I confess I wonder what Thanksgiving will be like this year.
To those who are grieving, I encourage you to find space to do so.
To those who rejoice, I encourage you to do so with sensitivity and grace, recognizing that when one part of the Body hurts, we all hurt.
Before I claimed a political party affiliation, God claimed me. Before we were Republicans or Democrats, we were and are beloved children of God; more specifically we are followers of Christ. As such, we are called to be Christ’s witness in the world, Christ’s hands and hearts and voice. That has not changed. We are called to “preach good news to the poor,” (Luke 4) and to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the least of these. (Matthew 25). We are called to be a people of welcome and grace for all of God’s children regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability or politics. We are called to stand with those who are afraid and uncertain about what the future may hold and stand against language and actions that injure and divide. We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us. As the story of the Good Samaritan reminds us, we are called to be the neighbors who cross the road to bind up the wounds of the outsider, to protect the injured, and to walk alongside the dispossessed. (Luke 10)
Before we knew the outcome of the election I posted a prayer on my Facebook page, and I continue to pray that prayer today: For wisdom, humility, compassion and vision for our next President, for a spirit of collaboration and a commitment to work together for the common good for our elected officials, and for healing and hope for our nation. May we as people of faith be God’s instruments of that healing and that hope.
Your sister in Christ,
Sandy Messick, Regional Minister
The Northwest Regional Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
from General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. Ps 3:5 (NRSV)
As we awake to this day after the election, some things have not changed. Whether we are rejoicing or we are feeling stunned and disappointed, the Gospel still calls us to love God first of all with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where the hero is the racial, religious minority, Jesus reminds us that our neighbor is the one, next door or around the world, who shows mercy. Jesus calls us to show mercy and to receive mercy. Jesus calls us to "love one another." (John 13:34)
The Gospel does not change with an election; what the Gospel requires of us does not change. Jesus' first inaugural address began with these words, "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor..." (Luke 4:18) God, now and always, is on the side of the poor, and we who follow Jesus must be also. No matter who is in charge of our governments, we are charged with loving God and loving neighbor, even in costly, self-sacrificial ways. We are called to be loyal to the reign of God.
American Disciples, as part of a movement for wholeness, will no doubt struggle to regain our footing with each other in these immediate days. This was a bitter, divisive campaign. The echoes will continue to reverberate for a while. To those who are rejoicing, we recall "... but (if I) have not love, I gain nothing." (I Cor. 13:3.) To those who are fearful this day: "Perfect love drives out fear." (I John 4:18)
On this day, our job as disciples of Christ, is still the same as it was yesterday, as it will be tomorrow - to proclaim by what we say and what we do that God is a God of love, and we are people of love - for all God's children. Our call is to work together for the common good, to welcome all to the table, people of all races, ages, gender identities, abilities, religions, and yes, politics, and to find ways to work together to extend to each other - across the whole human family - the abundance of a generous God.
No matter who won the election, today we Disciples were still going to be, and still are, a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church. We are still a church that works tirelessly, led by Disciples women (clergy and lay), to end human trafficking. We are still a church that welcomes more refugees and immigrants than almost any other compared to our size. We are still a church seeking to offer grace and welcome to LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We are still a church that learns from and shares with Christian and interfaith partners around the globe. We are still a church that seeks to walk lightly on this earth, knowing that "all of creation waits for revealing of the children of God." (Rom. 8:19). Today we are still a movement for wholeness, seeking a community where nothing is broken and no one is missing, seeking to receive God's gift of oneness already given to us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. We are still a church seeking to be diverse but not divided in Christ, striving to be one in our love of God and our visible love for each other.
We are still a church that will gather together at the Lord's Table this Sunday celebrating our unity in Christ. And we are still a church, no matter what political affiliations we have, that will pray together each week, "Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." And we will join our hands and hearts to make it so.
This also appears on Sharon's Blog if you would like to share the link: http://disciples.org/sharon_blog/word-u-s-elections/
Let us be a people at prayer in these days of waiting:
We pray for our president elect, that they will lead our country with strength and compassion; that they may represent the very best of the United States around the globe; that they may be committed to justice and peace, and bringing our nation together to address our challenges.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for our governors and legislators, that they will be responsive to their whole constituency and enact laws that ensure the wellbeing of all the people they represent.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for all others elected to public office, that their service to their people would be just and beyond reproach; that where ever they serve in local government, schools, or law enforcement, they would treat all people with dignity and serve the common good.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for our nation, our cities, and our neighborhoods, that together we can create a place where all people are respected and safe, where difference of opinion does not lead to violence, and where our combined creativity heals brokenness of all kinds.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray also that regardless of the outcome of this Election Day, we would remember that we are called by Christ to care for our neighbor, pursue peace and work for justice in our communities. Inspire us to work together, across divisions and difference, to create beloved community where ever we can.
Lord, hear our prayer.
From the Council on Christian Unity
written by The Rev. Kara Markell, Pastor
Lake Washington Christian Church
We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
September. Children are headed back to school, meetings suspended for July and August pick up again . . . so soon?!
In myself at least I can detect a bit of reluctant purposefulness. I love summer. I love sitting on the deck and watching the butterflies. I love the soft breezes. The intense heat? Well, not so much.
When I dig a little deeper however I find that in the midst of that reluctant purposefulness there rests a sense of growing delight that, with most vacations now ended, we will see one another on a more regular basis. That is the great thing about September!
Truth to tell, even in the summer both the AdMinistry Team and the Elders have been meeting to plan our fall activities. Let me highlight just a few.
On Sunday, September 11 we will bless all our children, youth and their backpacks as they begin a new year of learning. After worship that day we’ll take a congregational trip to the Seattle Center for the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival; a sort of a church picnic with food trucks and beautiful hula dancing.
After worship on Sunday, September 25 I’ll meet with anyone interested in baptism and/or church membership. This will be an informational meeting after which we’ll set up some class sessions for those who would like to engage in further conversation or learning. However the event I particularly want to draw to your attention to takes place Sunday morning, September 18 at 10:30am. That morning we will NOT worship at QACC but instead will head over to Beacon Hill to worship with our sister congregation, Welcome Table Christian Church.
Very rarely do we not hold worship on a Sunday morning at QACC but this occasion is especially important. Over the course of sixteen years, Findlay Street Christian Church (now Welcome Table Christian Church) engaged the question: What does it mean to be church in the 21st century? Their answers to that question led them to sell their building in the Rainier Valley and purchase land on Beacon Hill to build a new sanctuary. You might imagine this was a simple process; you purchase land, you build a building but it was not simple in any way, shape or form.
For ten years Welcome Table nested with Mount Baker Park Presbyterian Church. They worshiped in the afternoon. In the wake of the financial housing collapse they struggled to finance the new construction.
Over the course of those ten years Welcome Table gathered with us for worship on so many occasions. They gave us opportunities to learn and practice the fine art of hospitality. And guess what, over those years we grew such that the practice of hospitality has become second nature to this congregation. Now the tables have turned and it is our turn to practice being gracious guests.
Who knows, just maybe, as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews suggests, there are already angels among us at QACC just waiting to be entertained! May we be so blessed.
Blessings + peace,
On Sunday, June 5th we will celebrate 25 years together as pastor and congregation. Our worship that morning will consist of a series of reflections on our life together from members of the congregation and some amazingly beautiful music from instrumentalists and singers. Our Regional Minister, Sandy Messick, will lead us in worship.
As I’ve been thinking about my own reflection for June 5th I initially found my thoughts centering around the various capital campaigns that allowed us to renovate and remodel the sanctuary, the nursery and pre-school room, and The Children’s Workshop. I particularly remember the first campaign as I had never done anything like that before and I had no idea what to expect. Step by step we made our way through the process and met our goal. So it is that in our 25 years together we have been faithful in maintaining this building which is indeed a treasure to the community, offering affordable space to a wide variety arts and community groups around the city.
When we began our 25 years together we were not at all sure that we would still be here 25 years later. There was some thought that maybe it was time to close the doors of the church and scatter ourselves amongst other Disciple congregations. At that time the congregation seemed sad, anxious, and listless however underneath this feeling state there also seemed to be a seed of life just waiting for the right moment to extend its roots and send up shoots. And so it is that in our 25 years together we became a hopeful people filled with gratitude, generosity and grace. The future, we came to realize, cannot always be known from empirical facts but must be discovered by walking together one step at a time.
Finally I began to think about all the people who have called this church home over the past 25 years. I remembered how this congregation slowly began to open itself up to newness, how we began to tell the truth about our lives. I remembered the initial tensions that accompanied that truth-telling and how we worked to listen to one another with open hearts. I remembered how that open hearted listening cracked us open and we became a more authentic and loving congregation which culminated, many years later, in the adoption of our Welcome Statement which we will read together in worship on June 5th.
Twenty-five years ago I could not have imagined any of this. I am so thankful that we chose life. Together, we have made a difference. And I, for one, cannot wait to see what the future holds for this amazing group of faithful, hopeful, loving people.
Blessings + peace,
As I write this note to you I am sitting on our deck remembering many summers in Seattle when it never got as warm as it is today. I sit out here whenever possible because I treasure the greenery that surrounds the deck; rhododendrons, Douglas fir trees, cedar trees, a volunteer Japanese maple and one old native Dogwood tree all make it seem like we live in a retreat center.
One spring, a few years ago when I was cleaning the deck, I began sweeping up dried, wrinkled leaves. It was odd because I associated the sound of swept and crinkled leaves with fall, not spring — had I missed a season somewhere along the line?
The arborist was coming by to make his regular assessment of the fir trees and I asked him about the leaves I had found. Turns out our native dogwood had contracted a disease which is often fatal to the tree. There was not much to do about it but watch and wait.
Then, a year and a half ago, we had to take down two of the 130 foot fir trees due to laminated root rot. Fir trees with laminated root rot look okay but below ground the roots are gradually falling apart, actually de-laminating. Above ground you might notice changes in the crown of the tree but up at that height it can be difficult to spot without binoculars. With the help of alert neighbors (believe me, no one wants these fir trees to fall on their home) and confirmation by the arborist we arranged to have a tree service come and take them out. At the suggestion of the arborist we left two 12 and 15 foot tall snags for the flickers, woodpeckers, squirrels, birds and bats to make homes and find food.
And this is what I noticed sitting on the deck this afternoon: over the last year and a half the dogwood has recovered. Without the two fir trees crowding it out, the dogwood gets more light and the air freely circulates around its branches. Even as we mourned the loss of those two fir trees a spirit of renewal was quietly at work within our little forest.
And so it was that I found myself pondering the dogwood and the fir trees as I contemplated my upcoming retirement in February 2017. Without drawing too close a parallel I sense that my retirement will allow the spirit of God’s renewing and abundant love to open new avenues of creative service, worship and learning within Queen Anne Christian Church. And I have a similar sense of God’s renewing spirit for myself as well.
Make no mistake, the decision to retire in no way lessens my deep love for this community of faith. Over the next nine months we have a chance to appreciate one another, to laugh together, to remember, and to plan our futures. It will be a time of gradually loosening bonds as you begin the process of calling a new interim pastor and I begin to let go of my role as pastor. I doubt it will be painless on either end but my sense is that this shift will also be liberating and restorative, that God is already at work within us.
Meanwhile I’m keeping this quote from the Native American community close to my heart: “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” Filled with gratitude for each of you I, indeed, give thanks.
As some of you know I began my working life in the other Washington (Washington, D.C.) by serving as the lowest of the lowliest of staff members for a Republican Congressman from Seattle. At the time I had been taking classes in political science and had received college credit for working as an intern on the campaign. When the election was over, when the votes were counted, recounted and counted again it turned out that Joel Pritchard had indeed won the election by the smallest of margins.
As the congressman’s staff began to be assembled they asked if I would consider moving. Not having any other good plans I said yes. And so it was that in a small store room upstairs in the Longworth Building (a room fondly known as “the cage”) I learned to run a tabletop offset press and work with Redactrons, magic typewriters invented by Evelyn Berezin and fueled by magnetic card and tape readers which, when given enough input from the operator, produced form letters.
This was a time in Washington State politics when Republicans were seen as the more progressive and thoughtful party taking seriously our role as care-takers of the environment. Nationally this time marked the beginning of the Watergate scandal, the revelation of the Christmas bombing of Cambodia, and an attempt to close down the United States Public Health Service Hospitals, one of which resided in the First Congressional District of the time. Each of these issues generated hundreds and hundreds of letters and postcards; each one received a letter back in the mail.
As I think about some aspects of our current presidential elections which border on circus entertainment laced with an undercurrent of hatred, intolerance and violence, I also find myself reflecting on that election so long ago when a few hundred votes made all the difference in a rather obscure congressional election.
That our voices and votes make a difference also made itself known in our democratic precinct caucus the Saturday before Easter where the presence of two supporters of one candidate made a large difference in the number of delegates accorded that candidate.
Our particular precinct had the largest turnout in Lake Forest Park and impassioned mini-speeches were made on both sides. Minds were changed one way or the other. Together we stood side-by-side with our neighbors in a state of civility with common purpose. Given what I have witnessed in the news in various states I found our time spent in the caucus to be refreshing, invigorating and hopeful.
As we walk together through this election cycle I find I have the urge to tattoo the words of Diane Ackerman down one arm and up the other: “I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.”
Will you join me in this effort? Will you make yourself a messenger of God’s humble mercy, peace and wonder?
Blessings + peace, Laurie
Lent. It seems like a quick trip this year. Because Easter is a “movable feast,” dependent on the phases of the moon, we will celebrate Easter quite early this year — March 27 to be exact.
Most years we have a few more weeks between Christmas and the beginning of Lent in which to contemplate various spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, spiritual reading, or service.
I recently learned that the Roman philosopher Seneca who lived around the time of Jesus endorsed a kind of Lenten practice with these instructions: “Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’ . . . There is no reason, however, why you should think that you are doing anything great; for you will merely be doing what many thousands of slaves and many thousands of poor men are doing every day. But you may credit yourself with this item — that you will not be doing it under compulsion, and that it will be as easy for you to endure it permanently as to make the experiment from time to time. Let us practice our strokes on the “dummy;” let us become intimate with poverty, so that Fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.”
That is one way to think about it and in every other way poverty is a burden when one does not have a choice in the matter.
One Tuesday morning in February Ruth Jewell and I spent four hours volunteering at Our Common Ground, the hospitality ministry of the Regional Church’s new church start in Everett called Our Common Table.
Our Common Ground and Our Common Table rent space, a large sunny room with tables and chairs, from Evergreen United Church of Christ.
Four mornings a week Our Common Ground opens its doors to those who have no homes, who sleep in their cars, who need a place to rest, a phone to use, a clean pair of socks, companionship.
For these hungry and thirsty guests gallons of coffee are made each morning; bread for toast, as well as peanut butter and jam are usually in plentiful supply.
At Our Common Ground hunger and thirst, toast and coffee and peanut butter and poverty all mix together along with bad choices, bad luck, prison time, parking tickets, addiction, mental illness, abuse, a shopping cart filled with plastic bags and belongings, sleeping bags, blankets, layers of clothing and a sweet tempered dog.
And gratitude . . . As Ruth and I helped clean up more than one person shyly looked at us with sidelong glance and said, “Thank you for coming.”
This year my Lenten practice is go to Our Common Table on Tuesday mornings and sit still. It will be my practice to listen to the ramblings of confused minds, to hear the stories of addiction and violence and to also to notice the immense generosity of those who have nothing and offer what little they have to others: humbling to be sure.
Blessings + peace,