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.


Flexing The Brain Cells

This week Jeff, Amanda, and I got together to plan the themes and some of the worship and gathering details for July-September.  It took us 3 and a half hours of praying, reading scriptures, listening to Jeff play songs, laughing, trusting, and collaborating. Afterwards I felt more than a little foggy, so I took a nap.  These aren’t skills I’ve had to use in a long time. Back in Boise Jeff and I worked with a team to plan worship.  At Veneta I did it on my own.  At Capitol Hill I simply worked a month ahead.  To do this work of listening to the spirit within the Southeast Portland Parish pastoral team was wonderful and exhausting.  Next time, planned for the end of August, I know it will be easier. We already figured out that picking scriptures for a month and then going back to pick songs didn’t work as well as when we went week by week picking out scriptures and songs at the same time. Another thing that will make it easier is by next time we will have been all working together at Southeast Portland Parish for a few months.  We’ll have an even better sense of what God is calling us to share with the folks in our faith communities and neighborhoods. I know that this next year is going to be full of moments like this week.  Moments of incredibly rewarding hard work.  Moments when my brain is foggy and tired from using old skills I haven’t called on in a while.  Moments that require me to rest afterwards.  I also know I’ll...

Celebrating Life

Several of my friends offered sympathy to me this week that I had to work on Mother’s Day.   I think I actually had the perfect day.  I got to share time with wonderful people over a meal, which is one of my favorite things in the whole world.  I love hosting people in our home.  I love eating.  I love being challenged and asking questions about matters of faith.  Besides eating with friends one of my other favorite things in life is sleeping.  Every Sunday I take a nap, so that made this Mother’s Day a good one too. During our music time after brunch I also got to snuggle the sweetest baby.  I’m not a baby crazy person, but this little nugget is really something special. She is only 4 weeks old and rocking her while we sang together as community took me back to my first days as a mother.  It was lovely to remember what was, and to watch my tween dancing and singing to the music at the same time.  It really was a wonderful celebration of what it has meant to be a mom from then until now. My family also gave me a wonderful gift.  It’s the image here, a painting of three birds.  There are three of us and I love birds.  If you’ve been in our home you’ve seen all the bird art work we own.  The pieces of my life, my work, my favorite moments of being all coalesced this Sunday to make a very holy and special day.  Life is a blessing and I’m so glad we get to celebrate it...

Enjoying The Gentle Breeze

This year we planted a garden.   Last night I cleaned and reorganized my vanity.  Sometimes I sit on the Sellwood Bridge on a bench overlooking the river and watch the birds dance in the air as one of my favorite songs plays on my iPod and the warm evening breeze lifts my hair off my neck.  I am celebrating  that life is good and I am happy.  That hasn’t always been the case. In this work we do as church planters, we get reminded at every training and in every book that it is a very hard thing to start a new faith community.  Sustainability, the pressure to succeed, the vulnerability to reach out to new people, all can take a huge toll.   Over the course of our time here at Sellwood a lot of various factors led me to a place where I was not okay, but muddling through.  Luckily I am surrounded by people who know how hard life can be and who remind me of the wholeness God promises to us in sabbath rest and in loving ourselves.  Through things like questions on the quarterly report I send to the regional church to the support of my community I have been able to recognize just how much I was struggling and I was able to ask for help.  This past year I feel like I have been coming back to myself. This journey has been a rich one, and while we always long to not endure suffering, I think that I am so much stronger, better, wiser, and more able to handle my life...

Getting Ready

In July SFC will launch into a crazy new reality, a collaborative ministry with a traditional church in the next neighborhood over. As we prepare for this work we’ve been praying and talking as a community about the logistics of the collaboration for our portion of the community.  One of the ways we are preparing to enter in to relationship with the folks of Trinity UMC is by praying for them by name.  Over the next 8 weeks we will take a select group of names and lift them up on Sunday, sharing those names in our weekly email for continued prayer.  While we plan the schedule, think about themes for the first sermon series, and map out our office spaces, we will be grounding our work in prayer for the future of our community and the people we will be joining in following God. Please offer up your own prayers and love for both Trinity and SFC as we get ready to go on a wonderful, holy adventure together....

Who is in charge here?

About 3 years ago I began a mom’s coffee group.  It started as a monthly gathering, but now we gather most weeks for coffee and to talk about anything and everything.  We talk about Jesus and the bible, Erik Estrada, our families, the election, the big things ahead of us like moving or kids changing schools or finding our own purpose and the small things like what tv shows are good to watch while folding laundry. It’s the place where we come together and share about our lives and help each other find a way forward grounded in love.  That sounds like a pretty darn good church to me.  Plus coffee and baked goods.   Some weeks I can’t be there.  Up until recently that meant that the event was canceled.  Lately some of the moms have decided to hold the space open for others while I’m not there.  This week I was away, so a group gathered together.  They decided that they would rather go at a different coffee shop each week, so that is where they met this time.  They talked to the owner of the new place and arranged for her to reserve tables for us each week.  They got her card and said all I needed to do was text her the dates. I was thrilled. This isn’t my group, it’s our group.  I’m not in charge here, we all contribute to make a meaningful experience  that matters enough to folks to keep it going no matter who can make it that week.  This is the goal of my ministry, of my life’s work, to create spaces...

Sunrise

Every year we celebrate an early morning worship at the river on Easter Sunday.  Every one has been special in some way, from the ritual we engage with to helping a homeless girl who was drawn to our singing.  This year as I looked at the 15 folks gathered in the soft morning light, I was once again struck by the beauty of this community.  Standing together singing Alleluia was the first woman to join with us and a family who have been coming for a few months.  They only met each other last week at dinner, and here they were joyfully greeting one another as the beloved community.  With us in the circle was our newest baby, who I had to grudgingly share with one of our oldest folks.  We are weaving something beautiful in this place. Not only was it a gorgeous morning with beautiful singing, we also created reminds of hope to take with us into our lives.  When things seem hopeless, we can remember Mary, weeping at the tomb, certain all hope had died.  And we can remember what came next, Jesus calling her name.  People made butterflies or wrote prayers inside ornaments and these can hang in places where they need reminders.  And a couple of folks let me know this is just what they need right now in their lives, a reminder that in the midst of what seems hopeless Christ calls our name. What started out 4 years ago as a daunting task, is now a vibrant community, on the verge of a new life with Trinity United Methodist Church.  This is a...

Southeast Portland Parish

After months of dreaming, praying, researching, discussing, budgeting, writing, and wondering the next phase of Sellwood Faith Community is official! We will be collaborating with Trinity United Methodist, which is just in the next neighborhood over.  I am fortunate enough to be serving with a pastoral team that includes Jeff Lowery and Amanda Bollman as we continue to nurture SFC in its growth and partner with Trinity in the work they have begun to discern what is next for that ministry. Jeff and I began dreaming of a new faith community years ago, and finally were able to launch SFC in 2013.  Amanda became one of the leaders of our community over time.  Together we developed this new vision for the ways a nontraditional faith community could partner with a traditional church to develop and strengthen both communities. The name of this new venture is Southeast Portland Parish. While both SFC and Trinity will continue to exist they are now intertwined in reaching out to the neighborhoods of this part of Portland in a parish model ministry. I will continue to provide the administrative leadership of the parish and take on the majority of pastoral care.  Amanda will be engaging community organizing practices and leading community faith development.  Jeff will continue to coordinate music for SFC’s gatherings, lead the youth group, and coordinate our service experiences.  I will get back to preaching 3 times a month at Trinity, while Amanda will be preaching once a month. I am looking forward to having an office that isn’t in the kitchen.  I am looking forward to getting to know and love a whole...

Ebb & Flow

Sunday evening our house was full of people.  We had to add an additional table so we had enough seats.  As I was retrieving more placemats and delegating the procurement of cups I couldn’t help but smile as the laughter of children, the introduction of new folks, and the reconnections of community members bubbled around me.  The week before it was a very different scene. Just a few of us at the table, having a quiet conversation that ended earlier than our set time. This is our life.  Some weeks I’m caught up in the vibrant energy of the community, other weeks there are just a few of us sharing a different kind of connection.  All of it is wonderful and sacred.  I kind of love the ebb and flow, the unexpected chemistry of each gathering.  One brunch we have 16, the next 5 resulting in totally different dynamics, not to mention totally different food options. Flexibility is the watch word.  I always have enough food on hand in case a big group shows up and we need more, or we have a wildly unbalanced meal, say all bread,  with a small crowd.  Sometimes I change up what I had planned for us to do, taking the size of the gathering in to account. It’s hard, and yet I wouldn’t change it.  People have lives and this community is part of that.  We go with the ebb and flow of real life and I think that is one of the most beautiful gifts of this ministry at SFC....

Exploring New Ground

We have been at this new start gig for almost 4 years now.  In that time we’ve tried lots of things and experimented with the form of our gatherings, the time, the place, and more.  Sometimes it can feel like we’ve found the thing that works for us and it is easy to slip in to complacency.  Part of our culture at SFC is to continue to try new things and to continue to find meaningful experiences of God.  It’s good then that I am someone who gets bored, so that I have an internal impetus to change things up and we can keep experimenting and growing. There is such a tension between stagnation and comfort in organizations.  It is good to find the things that work and we should not abandon those things capriciously.  It is dangerous to settle in to complacency with what works and then find yourself simply going through the motions.  As we mature as a new start we find ourselves more and more in need to evaluate critically what we are doing so that we can keep on track with what God is calling us to be as a people. This past Sunday we did something we had never done before, and it was wonderful! I took a particularly long lectionary reading from the gospel of John and broke it in to sections.  I had people find a group to work with at the table where they were sitting.  I gave a brief context to when the story took place and an overview of the narrative.  Each group then got part of the scripture and had time to read...

Organic Resources

In this season of  Lent SFC has been discussing how to make room for God in our lives.  Over the past 3 weeks we’ve come up with the resources below that have helped us to engage with our Lenten work.  We still have three weeks to go, so check out some of these ideas and please add some of the tools you have found helpful as you make room for God in your life. Eilidh Books  Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz The Road to Character by David Brooks Theatre Voice for the Voiceless Theatre Third Rail Theatre Theatre Vertigo   Podcast: The Liturgist podcast- Lent meditation (There is a 10 minute a day meditation for Lent from the Liturgists) Blog: A life in progress http://www.alifeinprogress.ca Devotional Practice Sacred Ordinary Days Planners  https://sacredordinarydays.com Creativity: Join Eilidh and Paige in sharing photos each week of Lent  that capture the word of the day: http://www.rethinkchurch.org/articles/spirituality/2017-lenten-photo-a-day-practice  ...

They Can’t All Be Home Runs

Some days are mediocre.  I say this after a museum tour last week that just never really clicked.  I’ve had hard tours before, but there is usually something that rises up from the tour time that redeems it.  This group last week were lovely kids.  The chaperones were helpful.  I was the one that was off.  Nothing really landed with the group.  There was no spark.  I trudged through the pieces and tried to make something good happen.  Not that it was an awful tour.  I’m sure the kids went home excited about what they had seen and having learned something.  I just know it was not my best. I’ve felt this way before, about sermons, dinner gatherings, blog posts, parenting moments, time with friends, and much more.  And then I have to remind myself that ok is good enough.  Trying to be perfect all the time is harmful.  Trying to make each day great makes all days difficult.  I am learning that it is actually enough to just be.  I will have awesome tours and middling ones.  I’ll have special moments and ordinary ones.  There is beauty and life in it all....

Making Room for God

This past Sunday was the first in the season of Lent, which is the time of the church year when we prepare ourselves for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Most folks know Lent as a time to give something up.  This season our community is focusing on how we make room for God in our lives.  For some of us it does mean giving something up.  We talked this week at dinner about how Facebook can be a great time waster, or how we can lose a whole day binge watching the latest release on Netflix.  So some of us are working in this season to limit those kinds of activities.  Others of us feel a deep need for centering.  Our days are busy caring for grandkids or juggling work and life.  So some of us are working to create times of devotion and prayer in our days.  Others of us feel isolated and alone. We get into our heads too much and feel almost like islands unto ourselves.  So those of us are finding ways to connect and working on opening to others.  Others of us feel overwhelmed by it all, and so are choosing to practice getting rid of a bag of stuff each day of Lent in an attempt to physically reduce the stuff in our lives.  So of us feel stuck in a rut and are exploring ways to try new things by going to local theatre productions or spending time practicing a new art form. I invite you to consider this season how you might make room for God in your life.  In this church season...

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

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 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?

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...