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.


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...

Leader Party

I was in a training program called multiplying ministries last year where we learned about how to develop leadership within churches. One of the most brilliant ideas was around celebration. So this past Thursday we gathered a collection of leaders from Trinity and Sellwood Faith Community to celebrate the many years of leadership that they have provided to the Parish. We had treats and flowers to help set the celebratory mood.  As we began our time together folks introduced themselves since we had people who had never met in the room. Then Amanda explained part of the community organizing process and what it meant to have one to ones. A one to one is basically an intentional conversation. Folks listen without comment as one person shares and then they switch the listening and talking roles. The great thing about this gathering was it was a time to celebrate and to help leadership begin practicing some of the community organizing principles that we hope to use to shape our ministry in the neighborhood.  We had three opportunities for one to ones during our party. The first question we focused on was what is giving you life in your ministry area. As I shared I got goose bumps really thinking about all the life giving ministry already unfolding like new relationships being built, new moms coming to coffee, the way my sabbath schedule was grounding me for my work, and how great it has been to get back to preaching.  After the conversations we shared those things that really impacted us with the larger group.  It was lovely to celebrate the...

Nice

Last month I got to participate in the Transforming Ministries 5 conference.  This is a time for pastors to listen to the stories of innovative and creative business people and then spend some time translating the secular to the sacred. One of the speakers was from Nike.  He has held a variety of jobs with the company over the years, but through all of them he saw a uniting thread in what he calls design thinking.  My favorite thing he said was that the word nice comes from the latin root nescire, meaning not to know or to ignore.  How often do we ignore a problem or not say what we really think because we want to be nice?  He said that empathy and compassion are part of the creative process, but being nice has no place. This is once of my favorite themes because I think that niceness has no place in the church.  The church is not a place for the agreeable or the well behaved, which happen to be the dictionary definitions of nice. So often I have had people sitting in my office saying they couldn’t really voice their doubts or share their spiritual journeys in church because they didn’t want to offend other people.  Parishioners are so interested in making nice with one another that they develop superficial relationships rather than sharing the full beauty of themselves in God. So at Sellwood we’re not nice.  We love each other, we care about each other, we walk with one another, and we listen to each other, but we don’t ignore what is in our hearts and minds.  We ask hard...

If You Build It They Will Come

Over our 4 years here at SFC we have had people find us online, by our chalkboard sign, from meet-up groups we run, and through word of mouth.  Folks seeking something have been stirred by the words on our sign or found on our website a glimpse of what they know to be true about God and life. Now that we are part of the SE Portland Parish people are finding us because we have a church building that is home to many community groups.  This week it was the family of a young man who died suddenly. Folks from the family participate in one of the groups and when they had no where else to turn for a funeral they called me. The attractional model of church growth holds that if we have the right programs folks will come to our churches. I’ve been in churches that have movie nights or game days to try to get people in the doors.  What I’ve found is that people aren’t looking for entertainment.  Folks are looking for a place that offers meaning, hope, community, a life line, solace, grace, challenge, connection, and accountability. For far too long in my ministry I have been in the bait and switch business.  Advertise a fun program and stick in a little Jesus.  What I have learned is that people don’t need that, in fact it smacks of dishonesty.  So we lead with Jesus.  I’ve had more people participate in the life of this faith community because of the words “You Are Enough” that we put on our sign than in any of the time I’ve...

Environment Matters

A couple of weeks ago I got to participate in Transforming Ministries 5.  This conference brings together around 50 clergy to listen to amazing stories from secular businesses as a catalyst for us to create new ministries for our communities.  This year we got to hear from the historian for McMenamins.  If you are not from the Northwest you might not know that this is a beer company that takes over old, historic buildings and gives them new life as breweries, bars, restaurants, hotels, and concert venues.  Their motto from their website states, “McMenamins has been a neighborhood gathering spot throughout Oregon and Washington since 1983. We handcraft our own beer, wine, cider, spirits and coffee. We offer an eclectic mix of pubs, historic hotels, movie theaters, concert venues, spas, events and just pure fun—join in!”  Take a look at all they have to offer here. It was fascinating to hear the historian talk about the Kennedy School, the hotel that had once been a neighborhood school.  The care taken with the art, the color scheme, and the maintenance of connection to the history of the community made the space a vibrant place to spend time.  The company understands that the environment matters.  People are more likely to relax, hang out, and tell stories in a apace that feels comfortable and interesting.  McMennamins is know for their artworks much of it murals that have a particular aesthetic that celebrate the location or stories connected to a place.  Their goal of being a neighborhood gathering spot means they create space where people want to come and connect.  They do this through the aesthetics and feel of the places they create. As I think about how this translates to...

Hear Us When We Cannot Cry

This morning my devotional was Psalm 28 and Genesis 39:1-23.   As I read Psalm 28 I thought about how the words of this Psalm could be used by those who are filled with hate and white nationalist pride, “The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.  O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them for ever.”  Those who talk about white heritage and see themselves as special in the eyes of God because of their skin tone could use these words to justify their views.  These same words could also be taken up by those who denounce hate, who call upon God’s long history of bringing justice for the poor and marginalized as the true heritage of God.  This is one of the problems of the bible, we can read it and have it confirm our views, rather than wrestling with the text. For me the wrestling with Psalm 28 comes in the stanza above the one I cited earlier.  This stanza is all about how God will punish the wicked and give them their due reward.  They will be broken down and repaid for their evil actions.  I am much more comfortable with the image of a gracious and forgiving God, so this sentiment from the psalm makes me uncomfortable.  Then I think about the men being called out by their employers, families, and universities for terrorizing Charlottesville this week and I begin to see the justice in the consequences.  Yet it still makes me uncomfortable.  What if the wrong person gets identified?  Is harassing people on the...

Press Clippings

The local newspaper wrote an article about the Southeast Portland Parish. Check it out here: http://pamplinmedia.com/sb/74-news/367700-249074-changes-spark-innovation-at-sellwood-and-woodstock-churches...

Trying New Things

On Sunday we had brunch at Trinity.  This was a big deal because it was the first time the congregation had done anything like this.  We set up tables in the back of the sanctuary and rigged up a sound system for Jeff’s guitar.  We sang together, prayed together, ate together, and discussed the scripture together.  It was awesome. I wasn’t sure how the folks would feel about it.  Most people’s reaction to the idea of eating during worship is one of scandal.  It seems so foreign to how we behave during our worship time.  In fact I once served a church where the ushers would actually kick anyone with food, drinks, or even gum out of the sanctuary during worship.  So it is totally understandable that people who have been in those sorts of church cultures would balk at the idea that worship for this Sunday actually features and promotes eating in the sanctuary. No matter how much reproach or uncertainty that meets the idea what I have found is that when we get to the actual experience it is magical. Every church I have served in the past 12 years has shared a meal during worship and the holiness of those experiences were transformational for the communities. This Sunday at Trinity was no different.  I was at a table with two young families and it was the 3rd grader who brought the most spiritually deep insight on the scripture to us.  It was amazing to see deeper connections forming between the folks at all the tables.  At the end of the worship time during the announcements one...

Getting in the Groove

As I work on the August calendar I am realizing that month number one of the Southeast Portland Parish is coming to a close.  We have a long way to go until we have everything figured out and in place, but we are definitely getting in to the groove of what it means to be the church in this way in this place. Amanda and I have both had a chance to preach and we’ve been able to share the sermon time together effectively on two other Sundays.  We are finding our pattern of how we share our vision and how God is speaking through us with the people of the Parish. Coming in August Paige, Jeff’s and my daughter, will preach one of the Sundays, August 13th.  When we were planning the schedule back in May she asked when she could speak, so of course we gave her a time.  It will be fascinating to hear her perspective on our faith community and to contemplate her vision of the future.  We will continue to share the pulpit with others over the coming months including my coach Nicole Reilley in December. After taking a little bit of a break from normal programming at SFC we are starting back up our Worship Walks, Taize Worship, an Spiritually Thirsty.  The first Worship Walk will be August 19th at 10am at Elk Rock Garden.  We will be reveling in nature and sharing scripture, poetry, and spiritual insights as we walk the garden.  Taize will be back in September, with an evening gathering at the SFC house once a month.  This is a...