Blog

We believe our stories, the stories of the neighbors with whom we are in relationship, and the stories we read in scripture are vital in shaping the way we see and understand God’s presence in the world. This is one of the many places we gather to share the story of the people of the Sellwood Faith Community.


Sparkly Shoed Evangelism

A dear friend recently invited me to a holiday party, so I of course showed up in my best, most ridiculous, blue, sparkly platform heels.  My shoes were a big hit and  my friend delighted in telling his other guests that I am a pastor.  And because I was at this party at the home of a gay man, and because I was wearing sparkly shoes, suddenly people who had never wanted to talk to a pastor before were hanging out with me, asking all sorts of questions about faith and God and life. This is my method of evangelism.  Showing up where people are as myself, my full, God created self, and being open about that.  I love shoes and sparkle.  I love Jesus.  I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and read Bonhoeffer.  I’m a mom who needs my mama friends to help me figure out this parenting a teen thing.  I’m someone who walks with people and offers them support as they figure out life. I’ve read a million articles on authenticity and how it’s the key to sharing faith.  I’m always a pastor, and happy to talk about that whatever the surroundings.  Part of the beauty and importance of church planting is that we get to be the unexpected community.  It’s a great place to be able to break down walls and help people connect with their authentic selves as they explore faith. I’m so glad that sometimes this job includes wearing fabulous shoes. -Eilidh...

My Cup Runneth Over with Deacons

My husband Jeff is an ordained Deacon.  In the United Methodist Church Deacons are specialized ministers.  When they are ordained they are sent out to a ministry of word, service, compassion, & justice.  For Jeff this is lived out as he shares the word through music at SFC and as he coordinates our service experiences, helping us as a community show compassion to our neighbors and work for justice in our world. Jeff has been part of SFC since the beginning.  While his main gig is L.A.S.T, the mission trip program he runs, he is officially recognized by the bishop as being appointed to be part of Sellwood Faith Community.  At the beginning of 2018 we were lucky enough to have another Deacon appointed to SFC.  Laura Jaquith Bartlett has been a part of our community since the spring.  As her family settled in to their new neighborhood they all became more and more involved in SFC.  When time came for her ministry to be announced it was clear that this faith community was her spiritual home. Laura is an incredibly gifted person.  She has been leading our taize worship since the fall and it has been some of the most holy, contemplative, and meaningful worship in which I have participated.  I am so looking forward to all the ways the three of us, along with the rest of the SFC community continue to engage in ministries led by our Deacons in word, service, compassion, and justice. -Eilidh...

New Year

For the first time in a long time I took a week off from this blog.  I’ve been writing every week for almost 5 years, scheduling posts for vacations and inviting guest writers in at times.  This month however I knew I needed to simply let go for a bit.  I was off for 10 days and it was lovely.  I basically did nothing for the first part of the vacation and then for the last part did everything with my family at Disney World.  It was a perfect chance to relax and have fun with the people I love best. This vacation coincided with a new year.  I took advantage of this traditional time to reflect on the prior year and think about what God was calling me to in the coming year. And I realize, that once again, it’s time to adjust course.  It’s been so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day of church here at Trinity.  I’ve been so grateful for these 6 months of getting settled in, but now the focus needs to be on how am I living out my faith and how am I creating space for people to know God more fully? I started my first day back from vacation with tidying up around the house a little, taking advantage of some extra time in the morning.  Then I had breakfast at my favorite local bakery and used the time to organize and center myself while I ate.  Then I dropped by the local elementary school to work on a favor for the principal there and catch up...

Love

I have ridden that train.  I have driven on that interstate.  As I looked at the photos of twisted train cars and crushed vehicles I wondered about the nice guy who was working the snack counter on our last train journey and the funny lady who checked our tickets.  I remembered sitting in traffic on that stretch of roadway, grooving to music with my honey as we headed home to Tacoma from Thanksgiving in Newberg one year.  It was easy to extend my heart to those folks who were in places familiar to me when the horrific accident happened this week. The same was true 5 years ago when the stunningly heartbreaking shooting happened at Sandy Hook elementary school.  I was volunteering in my then 2nd grade daughter’s classroom as the news broke. Looking at the sweet faces of the kiddos it wasn’t hard to feel the devastating losses and incomprehensible pain of parents and community thousands of miles away. This is how we begin to love others, we let our hearts break open as we connect with what we can understand.  Advent asks us to love beyond what we can know and understand.  As Christians we work to grow our hearts beyond that which touches us to that which is outside of our lives.  As I look at the news, as I think about Syrian refugees fleeing violence, or wonder what it must be like to sleep on the sidewalks here in Portland my heart aches for those whose lives do not mirror my own.  And through that love I am compelled to live love, to share of...

Joy

As we train ourselves in this season of Advent to see Christ in our midst through the gift of joy, one of our members came to dinner with an idea.  She knows she is being called to start a sort term small group.  So she asked what we thought about her hosting Sunday morning brunch at her home for 8 folks during the month of February.  Her plan is to work with other leaders in the community so that they too can host a small group for a month in the spring. This is what I love about new start work.  That when someone is called or moved by what God is doing in our midst we have a culture of saying yes as they experiment with how to live out that call.  We talk about looking for the in-breaking of Christ. And this is a prime example of someone who found such joy in relationship and spiritual growth that she knows she needs to do something with it.  So we walk with her as she leads in this way. Those things that make our hearts sing are holy. When we are held in community that is both safe and challenging we can take that song and sing it out in joy....

Peace

Last week I was touring at the art museum. I like to get there early to walk the floors to just make sure all my art is in the right places.  The curators like to move things around and add new amazing art. It’s nice to be able to point out cool things along the way to my featured pieces and to think about what pieces on our route might cause questions or reactions among the students. I love the walk throughs because I am one of the few people in the museum that early.  This week as I was checking out some art on the 2nd floor of the contemporary building I heard lovely music playing.  My first thought was that it was really cool musak the museum piped in.  And then I realized that the museum doesn’t do that, and if there was music it must be part of an exhibit.  I was heading back to the meeting point to collect my students, but instead I turned around and started following my ears. I spotted some plants hanging over the balcony on the 4th floor and something about them made me think the music was connected.  Sure enough I wandered up to an entire gallery of amazing pieces that are part of a new exhibition working with different artist collectives in the city.  The music was coming from a movie at the back of the hall.  As I stood in front of it, I couldn’t believe that I had heard the song all the way down on the 2nd floor. Standing there it seemed to be playing...

Hope

Advent begins this Sunday.  It is the church season of practicing waiting.  It’s a time of expectancy.  We are training ourselves to see the ways that Christ comes in to the world all the time.  It’s one of my favorite seasons of the church year because we are filled with wonder as we celebrate what God did, does, and will do.  There are so many seasonal traditions and ways of reminding ourselves of the beauty of our faith. The first Sunday of advent we focus on hope. We’re looking at Isaiah, and the suggested reading for the day is Isaiah 64, but somehow when we were doing worship planning for the winter, I dropped off the 4, so our reading is for Isaiah 6.  And you know what?  It’s perfect.  It is this story of how Isaiah was called to speak to the people in a time of chaos and uncertainty.  It is a passage filled with incredible imagery of angels and God’s magnificent mystery.  It is also super confusing because God sends Isaiah to a people who won’t understand or believe.  Why would God play that game?  This is part of what makes this passage such a good fit for us, because there is something to wrestle with here.  It’s not just a happy, easy, pat on the back that God will always offer us hope.  It’s more complex than that, we in fact don’t understand why God would want us not to understand. One of the most beautiful things about this parish model is all the ways we get to engage with the story of God. There’s...

Grateful for Rest

This week of Thanksgiving I had a lovely break.  It’s been a stressful time of transition these past 5 months with adding Trinity to my portfolio and Amanda to leaving the Parish.  There are so many little and big things that need to be accomplished and it is vitally important to be present and connect with people. I’ve found myself in the shower thinking about the church budget or not realizing it was time to make dinner while reprinting the leadership roster.  I have to admit that I was wearing a bit thin.  So 3 days in Boise with my mom and sister were a great time to forget about the to do list and just be.  It was a time of laughter, hikes, great food, and lots of games.  We also shared those things in life that we see as great blessings.  I am so grateful for my job, for the work I am called to do in this neighborhood.  I’m grateful for an incredibly supportive church management and hierarchy that has allowed us to experiment with what church looks like over the past 5 year and who helped me try to readjust as things broke down with Amanda.  I’m grateful for the people of SFC and Trinity UMC who are willing to try new things and who I learn from every day.  I know life will get back to being busy these next few weeks before Christmas, but this time to give thanks and rest means I am ready for the work ahead and the beautiful celebration of advent....

When It’s Not Comfortable

Today I am feeling a little tired and out of sorts after a couple of very busy days.  As I began to work on various tasks that need to be completed I realized I had not done my morning devotional and that it was something I probably really needed to help me do my best today.  Instead of settling my soul however the scriptures I read stirred questions and tension within me.  And that is actually just what I needed. So often we go to God looking for peace, for rest for our weary, busy souls.  And so often God provides that hope and the good news of love and grace in the words of scripture and in our experiences of worship.  Yet sometimes what we need is to be stirred up, to be challenged from our complacency. The scripture I read from Revelation is about angels pouring out bowls of the wrath of God on the earth and then awful stuff happens like water turning to blood and people getting painful sores. And then the heavens rejoice.  Sometimes as I read the news and feel the fear of the brokenness of my own heart it seems like the chaos and pain of revelation is here, now.  And to think that heaven is rejoicing at our misfortune is so at odds with who I know God to be in my life.  What reading this scripture does is force me to engage with theologies I’m uncomfortable with. As I’ve learned from therapy, avoiding the negative feelings actually just makes them worse.  So after reading the scriptures today I spent some...

Stretching

Being a new church start pastor means lots and lots of times when I have to step outside my comfort zone and and stretch beyond who I am to meet the challenges of the work God is placing before me. This week it’s been learning how to use word press plug ins to create a website.  10 years ago I was a whizz at dreamweaver, but technology has changed and so now I have to change too. As I began the website process my first step was to reach out to a friend who has way more knowledge in this area and ask for help. She came and spent an early afternoon with me for which I paid her in pad thai.  After she left I was able to begin work in earnest with all the new insights she had offered to me. The next step was to trust myself to try.  I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned something from each one, even if the lesson was don’t do that. And eventually after enough attempts I was successful. We’ll have a new website up here before too long. It would be easy to just stick with what I know. And after 4 years to stick with what’s been working.  God has other ideas.  I am constantly taking on new projects and trying out new things.  It is so tempting to stay with what’s easy, yet in my experience that never leads to experiencing the fullness of God.  And so I stretch.  I call in help and learn from others.  I try and I fail.  I learn...

What If……

This last week we celebrated our community at Charge Conference.  This is the annual meeting of the church where we elect officers and review our past year of ministry.  One of the things that our regional supervising pastor (called a District Superintendent in Methodese) had us do was to think about What If…..  She invited us to dream about our future as a community and think about what God might be unfolding in our midst. The next day when I went to the Art Museum for the weekly docent lectures we heard from some of the staff at the museum about the new Picturing Oregon exhibit and all the innovate ways they are shifting the museum experience to help more and more people connect with art.  And this made me think, what if the church’s goal was to help more and more people connect with God? That evening I went to dance class with my husband.  I am most comfortable dancing with him, but we rotate through partners during the class.  And it was uncomfortable at first to learn how to dance in closed position with a young man named Will instead of with my husband. And yet as we danced I learned from him, and Raleigh, and Lars, and Emerson, so that by the time I rotated to Jeff we both had improved and were better dancers than if we had only danced with each other.  What if God is asking us to get outside our comfort zone to learn about living our faith from other people? On Tuesday my daughter and her 3 friends trick or treated,...

Learning from the Failures

Experimenting with new ideas is risky.  Sometimes the experiment works and we end up with something beautiful.  Sometimes it all blows up.  Yet even in that explosion we learn and discover new things that can take us to the next place, the next experiment, the next step in following God. The past few months have caused me to really think about the person that I am and how I function as a pastor, leader, follower of Christ, friend, and person.  And here’s the deal, I am far from perfect.  I have flaws. What I am learning about my flaws is that I need to be real about them and even embrace them. It’s only then that I and others can work within who God has made me.  Wonderful, broken, beautiful me. There are lots of great things about me too. This isn’t a pity party or a fishing expedition for compliments.  This is me naming in vulnerability that I am not perfect.  I am a sinner, I am a human, I am a work in progress, I am a beautiful mess, I am not ashamed of who I am. Our task as a church is to grow into who God created us to be.  We walk together in faith, holding each other accountable.  We know each other, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the mediocre and the excellent.  It is a gift to know oneself, to be known by others and in all of it to be sure of God’s love.  This is the community we are building here in Southeast Portland Parish and I’m glad it...

Passing down Wisdom

One of the things I love most about our new collaborative parish between a new church start and a traditional church is the amazing ways I learn from the people in our community.  Just this week I was blown away by the depth and theological understanding of the folks at bible study.  Then the United Methodist Women gathered, I don’t think anyone else in the room besides me was under 80.  Our conversation about what it means to be women and the real ways they shared about their lives was incredibly insightful.  When they then linked to the curse of Eve and started discussing that theologically I knew I was in the presence of women who take their faith seriously. I learned so much that day and was challenged to think differently and go deeper in my own understandings. The group that gathers around the table at dinner is a shade younger than the folks I encountered at UMW, and yet the wisdom and understanding is just as deep.  We have a couple in our community who are 10 years or more younger than I am, and they regularly share about their faith experience and view of the world that has me just soaking up the wisdom.  Our kids often help me see God more clearly as they join their voices to the conversations too. Our community has a richness built from our wide experiences and common willingness to think deeply and share vulnerably. We see the vastness of God more clearly when we learn about God from a wide array of other.  It helps us from only seeing a God who...

Practicing

My life is a series of practices for whatever God is unfolding next.  So tonight I practiced democracy by attending the local neighborhood association meeting.  This afternoon I practiced the art of celebrating life and grieving at a funeral for a guinea pig attended by a handful of neighborhood kiddos.  And each week around the table we practice community by sharing with one another over a meal. Showing up in the local places of decision making and community is the core of our democracy.  It’s a place where I always learn so much and where my voice and influence can make a difference in the world. Since we’re serving a new neighborhood now through the Southeast Portland Parish Jeff and I have decided to divide and conquer.  So tonight he went to Sellwood and I went to Woodstock.  He met the county sheriff and I met our state representative.  I learned about a new service opportunity for our community.  And we both found ways to get involved in the work of connecting the values of the Southeast Portland Parish to what God is already doing in these neighborhoods. Yesterday one of our daughter’s guinea pigs died of cancer.  She was given to us by dear friends who could no longer keep her due to allergies in their family.  She was cared for by several of the kiddos who live near us when we traveled.  So when she died there were a number of sad children.  And I started planning a funeral for a guinea pig.  This afternoon a handful of us made rock art for her grave depicting things we remembered about...

New Wine in Old Wineskins

Recently I was at an event and the first things out of a colleague’s mouth were, “Merging new things with old never works.”  Those of you who know me well can guess at some of the thoughts that raced through my head.  I went with the diplomatic response of making a joke about how the bible agrees with him in the saying about putting new wine in old wineskins, but that I always liked to test out conventional sayings. I am someone who wants to be liked and well thought of, so it can be hard when people make comments about their certainty of our failure.  I do appreciate the wisdom of other clergy and the ways that we have constantly been inspired and challenged by our community to become more than we are right now.  Without honest feedback from folks every step of the way through this process we never would have come this far. If I had been really up on my biblical scholarship that day and in more of a preaching mood I would have unpacked that parable I referenced from Luke 5:36-39.  Here it is from The Message version of the Bible:    “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.   The thing is that Sellwood Faith Community and Trinity UMC do go together.  They are not the same fabric.  It’s like adding a...

Finding the Sacred

When we gather each week something holy happens around the table sharing a meal and discussing scripture.  I feel God’s transcendent presence so vibrantly during our singing time each week. These experiences aren’t the fullness of spiritual experience.  We find God in our midst on the Worship Walks as we pause and pray in nature.  We are challenged in our beliefs at Spiritually Thirsty in ways that make our spirits grow.  There is a holiness to our work as we bag potatoes or cook a meal for our hungry neighbors.  And God dwells among us in the quiet and reflection of our monthly Taize worship experience. This year a new member of SFC is leading Taize at her home, so for the first time this month I got to go and just be in the worship space.  The altar tables were beautifully yet simply prepared with cloths, crosses, and candles.  The songs and scriptures had been thoughtfully chosen.  For 45 minutes I surrendered everything to just be in the moment.  It was a powerful time of rest and spiritual restoration.  I sat in the silence, I prayed holding a roughly finished clay cross from Cuba, I lit candles, I sang, and I listened. Our community ins’t just about one type of spiritual expression. It’s important that we have times of discussion of scripture and times to enter into the holy mystery of sacred ritual.  I am so grateful for the diverse leadership of this Parish and the many ways I get to nourish my soul through this community. -Eilidh...