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.


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...

Left and Right

Here at SFC we don’t all think alike,  but we think.  We don’t all vote alike, but we vote.  We don’t all believe the same things, but we share about those beliefs.  It has been a hard season here, sharing deeply in our anger, fear, and isolation.  We make ourselves vulnerable to each other and it can be hard to share when you disagree with people that you love.  This, however, is where real relationship comes.  We can say the hard things, speak our own truths, and trust in the deep love of God that hold us all around the table. This love is apparent in our weekly emails.  I share the ways that we can be present with one another each week.  Most often this is in the form of prayer requests, but sometimes there is a need for a lawn to be mowed after surgery or the chance to show up at the concert or game where one of our kids is playing.  And the thing is we do show up for one another.  People send cards, they show up at the concert, they mow the lawn, they ask the next week about the sick friend. Too often we let the fear of broken relationships stop us from really sharing our wounds, our beliefs, and our needs.  As we continue to grow at SFC it is beautiful to see people, walking in faith, open to each other so that all may be strengthened to continue faithfully following God.  This is really what we need to get through this difficult time together, folks who stand with one another...

Nourishing our Souls with Art

This week I got to attend a Poetry Party as part of UMC LEAD, a conference I was speaking at in Charlotte, NC. In the midst of hearing speakers and learning about new aspects of ministry, it was so lovely to have time just to nourish our souls.  I could feel myself relaxing as the words of Dale Fredrickson and the music of Dobsy washed over me.  For a moment I was able to surrender myself, to stop thinking and just be.  It was such a holy gift, especially the night before my talk.  I slept well, not worried or anxious about the morning.  Art has such power to help us touch something so vast beyond ourselves. The next evening at UMC LEAD we got to tour the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.  45 minutes there transformed the stereotypes I wasn’t even aware that I held about African-American fathers through. The photographs of Zun Lee spoke so profoundly of fatherhood and broke my heart wide open with their beauty and power.  I dreamt that night of the work of DeShawn Dumas and Brenda Youngblood, abstract artists whose work carries a weight long after I have stepped away from the gallery. Art helps me to see others more fully and challenges me to see more of God’s imagination at work in the world. I am so grateful to be able to be a docent at the Portland Art Museum and bring what I learn there to our table at SFC.  This spring I will be leading some tours on spirituality at the museum, so that together we can all have some...

Connections to the Past

When I was a youth I had amazing experiences through my church. I got to participate in youth Sundays, attend retreats, gather with other kids every week to learn about God, and go on mission trips with my peers. It was with my youth group that I learned to be a leader, lived out the gospel by visiting people in prison, and talked about the difficult issues of the day from AIDS to farm worker rights.  Sometimes when I think about the ways my youth group experiences shaped me I feel sad for my daughter, who will not have those same youth group experiences. Here at SFC we have a small youth group.  The most we’ve had at a gathering is 6, a far cry from the 20 plus who showed up regularly at my youth group.  We meet monthly, instead of weekly, and we just don’t have the capacity for things to be the way they were in my day.  And I’ve come to realize that’s okay. My daughter will experience faith formation in other ways.  She has been leading in church by reading scripture in worship since she was 6.  That’s not something I got to do in the big churches we attended when I was a child.  Church is in her home, helping to clarify that our whole life can be a prayer dedicated to God. Sometimes she even does get to have some of the same experiences I did, such as this past week when we attended the winter retreat at Suttle Lake United Methodist Camp.  Here we were in the same rooms where 25...

Finding Empathy

A lot of my world is PTA meetings, hanging out with moms, and volunteering in the local schools.  This means that a high percentage of my social media circle is made up of parents, from this current context and from the places where we have lived before.  Lately there have been a ton of posts about snow days.  A recurring theme is for people to complain about a school delay or closure because their neighborhood or yard isn’t that snowy or icy.  Recently I saw a different take on that theme.  A person made the statement that the district obviously cancelled school because of conditions in other neighborhoods.  That person’s friends then chimed in with updates about their neighborhoods, and between the newly fallen snow and the persistent ice it’s clear that for the safety of all students the district made the right decision. This week Meryl Streep made an impassioned speech about empathy that has resonated deeply with lots of folks. Empathy is something we long to receive and yet when we’re annoyed about a schedule change due to snow we look out our window and make an assumption that the rest of the world looks just like our front yard. If we really want to embody our values we can start on the ordinary days.  I love the view out my window and I must remember not everyone shares it. That is my first step in finding empathy and expressing love for others this year, the simple reminder that my experience isn’t universal....

New Year

I just published the calendar for SFC for January. It is the first time since we started our main gatherings that they are the only thing on the docket for January.  No hikes, book clubs, small groups, or service projects.  We are taking a handful of middle girls on the snow retreat and my mom’s coffee group continues, but other than that we’re only gathering together on Sundays.  This is fitting as this month we are discussing our values, as individuals and as a community.  What are we about?  As we reflect on that this month we’ll pick back up some of our programs, maybe add some new programs, and create opportunities for new leaders to step forward. It’s good for all of us to pause at different points in life and assess where we are and where we are going.  It is easy to drift over time, so it’s smart to check that you are headed in the right direction.  For us this season it means slowing down a little so we can really reflect on what it means to be this community in this place at this time.  Too often communities get in to a routine with programs and events.  What started with a calling to address a need, should be checked to see if the spiritual need is still there and if the program still is offering holy life to those who are a part of it. As we journey through this month please hold our community in prayer....

SFC Year End

Thank you so very much for all of your support.  2016 has been an amazing year at Sellwood.  It has been beautiful to see the connections forming between those who were already here and the new folks who joined us from Capitol Hill.  We have played with structure and most recently had an amazing advent series using poetry. As we begin the new year we will be working on discerning our value as  a community and sharing our stories of how God is at work in our lives. We continue to create new ministries and forge deeper connections with the people we are encountering in our lives. We have folks trying out new service opportunities in their local communities, reaching out to their neighbors, and exploring their own spirituality in much deeper ways.  It is clear to see the transformations taking place in the people connected to SFC. Due to our funding grant, the  amazing generosity of our supporters, the closing gift from Capitol Hill, and the dedicated giving of our community participants we are in great shape financially, with a surplus to start the new year. Our average attendance at our two weekly meals is 20 people.  This doesn’t count mom’s coffee, youth group, book studies, service projects, or our special worship gatherings.  We are blessed with an engaged and present community, that is continuing to grow as new people find us online of hear about us through their friends. We know that God is continuing to unfold new dreams here.  As we work on St. Veronica’s Laundry and the other opportunities unfolding before us we are excited to continue...

Love

This week as we talked about love we featured a poem suggested by one of our community members.  This captures the thing I love best about SFC, that it is a space of collaboration, where we all bring our spirits and our knowledge to help one another experience God in Christ. I have been walking with this Rilke poem for days now and continue to learn from it and lean in to the wisdom held within these beautiful phrases.  I am so grateful for the way this community helps me to name my great homesickness for God and find new ways to ripen and wrestle. -Eilidh i love you, gentlest of ways – Rainer Maria Rilke “i love you, gentlest of Ways, who ripened us as we wrestled with you. you, the great homesickness we could never shake off, you, the forest that always surrounded us, you, the song we sang in every silence, you dark net threading through us, on the day you made us you created yourself, and we grew sturdy in your sunlight… let your hand rest on the rim of heaven now and mutely bear the darkness we bring over you.” Photo by Ace...

Joy

  The scripture we discussed this week is one that is used in songs and prayers throughout the Christian tradition.  It comes from the first chapter of the book of Luke and tells the story of  Mary visiting her cousin who is also pregnant.  It is full of the joy of the two women, in the midst of what were difficult circumstances. The poem we shared reflected that same joy found in hard situations. The Blizzard by Phillis Levin Now that the worst is over, they predict Something messy and difficult, though not Life-threatening. Clearly we needed To stock up on water and candles, making Tureens of soup and things that keep When electricity fails and phone lines fall. Igloos rise on air conditioners, gargoyles Fly and icicles shatter. Frozen runways, Lines in markets, and paralyzed avenues Verify every fear. But there is warmth In this sudden desire to sleep, To surrender to our common condition With joy, watching hours of news Devoted to weather. People finally stop To talk to each other – the neighbors We didn’t know were always here. Today they are ready for business, Armed with a new vocabulary, Casting their saga in phrases as severe As last night’s snow: damage assessment, Evacuation, emergency management. The shift of the wind matters again, And we are so simple, so happy to hear The scrape of a shovel next door. May you find joy in shared moments and remember that even in the darkness and difficulty there are glimmers of light....