Roots in the Ash

Last week Jeff’s parents were here from Chicago. We took them on a grand tour of the area from Astoria to Mt. Saint Helens.  At Mt. Saint Helens we stopped at the Forest Learning Center.  It is run by the Weyerhaeuser company and tells the story not only of the eruption, but of how Weyerhaeuser replanted their land near the volcano.  The whole story of Mt. Saint Helens is one of scientists learning new things as they witnessed the awesome power of nature at work.  This was no different when it came to the natural progress of the forest or to the work of the timber company.  Forestry scientists undertook experiments in the ash covered land.  It was a whole new world in many ways.  The scientists had to develop methods to work in the changed landscape to create the vibrant growth they wanted.  Early on they realized that in order to grow, the new seedlings had to be planted in soil.  This meant digging down into the ash to plant.  It was much more labor intensive and involved different strategies then planting in a normal logging site or even in a burned forest. As a result of my worldview I saw this as yet another analogy of the way forward for those planting churches.  The world has radically changed, and sometimes it can feel like the ash covered, unrecognizable landscape of a volcano eruption.  But life can still grow here.  We just have to figure out how to plant here in this place.  We can learn from what has worked other places, but to really grow here we...

Hand Me Downs

This summer one of my mission teams was working in Springfield, OR.  We were asked to help move some items out of the St. Paul Center, a United Methodist church that was closing.  When a church closes they have to remove all their “stuff” from the building as the conference prepares it for sale.  Some items are taken by members of the congregation.  Others are easy to give away or sell; tables, chairs, dishes etc.  There are lots of organizations that can use those kinds of things.  There are other items that are not so easy to give away, like a baptismal font.  Most churches already have one of their own.  Who else would want such a thing?  As our group was loading furniture and boxes into a moving truck the pastor at St. Paul Center asked if the Sellwood Faith Community had a baptismal font.  That was something we never had thought about.  We didn’t have one, so we loaded this very heavy hand made baptismal font into my van and brought it home to Portland.  We will soon have our very first baptism and thanks to the folks of St. Paul Center we now have a beautiful font for this special celebration. This gift of a font reminds me that we are not starting something new here in Sellwood from scratch but we are a continuation in a long line of faithful people.   Whether it be the chairs that we sit in every Sunday and Thursday evening that came from the Sellwood United Methodist Church or this new baptismal font, there are things that are a...

From Creating to Curating

Last week at our gathering one of the women asked about a church directory.  She wanted to be able to get in touch with the members of her new community.  Another person spoke up about wanting to have the information of someone who had been coming to events who had suffered a bereavement.  It quickly was apparent that the Facebook page was just not adequate in keeping those who are here connected to one another. I was a little surprised because I’m still very much in creation mode.  We just started our first weekly gathering in May and our second at the beginning of this month.  I’m still working to identify people who might be interested and inviting them in.  This is one of the exciting and challenging parts of this new start work. To be long term sustainable that constant drive to invite new people, and create new gatherings must live alongside being present to the people who are already here.  I’ve been devoting 100% of my time to creation, now part of that must go to curation.  The danger of course is to let the pendulum swing too far and stop creation, stop inviting people in, or stop networking in my community.  I get to live in the tension of finding the best ways to add new folks while making sure the folks who are part of the Sellwood Faith Community are actually part of healthy systems that connect them to one another and help further their discipleship. I’m not sure how we’re going to do this curation work.  It too is an experiment in how this...

The Power of Fear

On Saturday night I left a window slightly open and our beloved kitty boy Max escaped.  He is a three year old male with a friendly personality and a gentle way about him.  As long as you promise not to tell our other cat Noah, I will confess that Max is the best cat I have ever had.  He is independent, but seems to know just when you need a cuddle.  He hops up on cat friendly laps during our gatherings and has won over many of the members of the Sellwood Faith Community.  We were devastated to discover he was missing.   I know that given the horrors of the world and the missing woman from a town down the road that a lost cat is small in the grand scheme of things.   For us right now however our missing kitty is the defining issue of our lives. Late on Sunday night we spotted Max in the neighbor’s yard.  We were ecstatic.  We sat patiently offering him our sweet encouragement and trying to entice him with food.  And that was when I saw the power of fear.  Max is terrified.  His instincts are taking over so even we, his loving family, are scary.  Except for one brief window where I fumbled and missed him, he has not approached us closely at all.  This from the cat who is ever at my side when I’m working at home.  Jeff cannot watch a tv show without Max on his chest.  Our cat’s fear is a quest for self preservation, but it is actually preventing him for doing that which would...