Vulnerable Engagements

Vulnerable Engagements

I realized early on in my ministry that if I was asking people to volunteer and serve the church, than I too needed to practice that by serving some place that wasn’t my work.  In Boise I made dinner on Monday nights with the program residents of the Rescue Mission for all the women in the emergency shelter.  In Veneta I spent every Friday at the elementary school, tutoring math, helping with art class, and making copies.  In Portland I continued that work at the local elementary school, but with our daughter now in middle school it was time to find something new.  I loved my art history classes as a study abroad student in Spain and when I saw the Portland Art Museum seeking docents to lead school tours I applied. Each month I give 3 tours to school groups. Every Monday morning I attend lectures to learn about art and how to help visitors experience the work at the museum. This has been one of the best experiences of my life.  I am learning about race, gender, empathy, view point, and the sacredness of place.  I am challenged and stretched on a regular basis with art that tells stories that are not mine, I am renewed and healed by art that comforts and brings hope. The greatest joy is sharing this with students. This past week I gave a tour to a group of middle schools students from a small rural community. We were talking about the stories we find in art and how our own stories interact with the art.  At our very last piece, a bust of...
Growing Patiently

Growing Patiently

We share communion every week at SFC.  After the meal we take some time to reflect on Christ present with us in all that we have shared.  We have two people pass the bread and the grape juice.  I always ask the children present at the table if they would like to serve.  I think that being served by our children is incredibly powerful.  It offers them a chance to be leaders in the setting and reminds us adults that we don’t have a monopoly on ritual or on meaning making.  For over two years now one of the kiddos has always passed. Our other kids have jumped at the chance to serve and there are lots of the grownups who volunteer too as needed. This week at dinner we only had one child at the table, the boy who has never served before.   I asked him for maybe the 100th time if he wanted to help serve, and he said yes.  I asked him which thing he wanted to serve and he chose the bread.  I always ask the kids what they are going to say, and if they need help we work together to come up with something.  It might be “the bread of life given for you” or “the body of Christ broken for you”.  It might just be “the bread of heaven” or “Jesus” mumbled with no eye contact.  I asked him what he was going to say and he replied “nothing”.  And I said okay.  I didn’t want to force him to say something when this first tentative step was already huge for him.  I took the...
The Eagle and the Construction Site

The Eagle and the Construction Site

The other day I was walking down the street in our neighborhood.  I looked up at the gorgeous blue sky and saw a bald eagle circling. There in the  hustle and bustle of Southeast Portland was a beautiful wild animal.  When I was a kid we didn’t see bald eagles very often.  I remember Jeff doubting that I had seen bald eagles at the river when we lived in Yakima.  Now we live in a place with at least one resident pair, and these eagles are a common reminder that this place we live is not just a city.  Sure there is a big construction site right where I saw the eagle.  Brand new apartments with new businesses in the bottom are going up, but a few streets away is a wildlife refuge.  This is why this neighborhood is the perfect place for our ministry.  It’s this amazing metaphor for the mix of tradition and innovation that are part of  SFC. We have a fancy grocery store and coyotes.  The school does field trips to local businesses like the commercial bakery and to the ponds at the refuge to study tadpoles.  The sea lions in the river share space with dragon boats. At our table we have life long United Methodists and people new to faith.  We talk about Wesleyan themes and Nickleback. We bring all the parts of who we are and in all of that, blessed by God, we become something more, something amazing. I find my life is so rich because of the diversity of things to experience here in the neighborhood.  My faith is so much...
How did We Get Here?

How did We Get Here?

We are once again in the season of discernment as we figure out the next round of grant funding for SFC. This year we got a one year grant and while we raised nearly $23,000 in 2016, it’s not enough for us to be sustainable without conference support. So we wait for the powers that be to review our grant proposal and decide if they want to continue their support. As I reflect and pray in this time of waiting, I started thinking about how we got here. How did Jeff and I end up with this wild dream that became this amazing and vibrant faith community? Jeff and I are both kids of the church. I grew up the pastor’s daughter in Salem, Oregon. Jeff was the organist’s son in Elgin, Illinois. This gave us front row seats to church. We knew a little bit about the behind the scenes drama. We were “voluntold” for all sorts of jobs in our churches. We rarely missed a Sunday. The church was a huge part of our families’ lives. And we both know what a rich gift this is. I have been sustained and deeply transformed by my faith experiences. So both Jeff and I want to share that gift of faith with others. This is why we went in to the ministry. We met in seminary and started our ministry together. We were content to serve traditional settings at first. Yet over time we started seeing that so many people in our contexts weren’t connecting with the traditional church that had sustained us and we became unsettled. We started attending...