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.


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....

Peace

This week at SFC we explored the theme of peace.  As we journey through the church season of advent, looking for Christ breaking in to the world we talked about what peace is and how we find it.  This poem is about a peacemaker and the way that people are drawn to those who speak peace in the dark places. I hope you find an oasis of peace in this time. – Eilidh On the Death of a Colleague By Stephen Dunn She taught theater, so we gathered in the theater. We praised her voice, her knowledge, how good she was with Godot and just four months later with Gigi. She was fifty. The problem in the liver. Each of us recalled an incident in which she’d been kind or witty. I told about being unable to speak from my diaphragm and how she made me lie down, placed her hand where the failure was and showed me how to breathe. But afterwards I only could do it when I lay down and that became a joke between us, and I told it as my offering to the audience. I was on stage and I heard myself wishing to be impressive. Someone else spoke of her cats and no one spoke of her face or the last few parties. The fact was I had avoided her for months. It was a student’s turn to speak, a sophomore, one of her actors. She was a drunk, he said, often came to class reeking. Sometimes he couldn’t look at her, the blotches, the awful puffiness. And yet she was a great...

Hope

This week is the first week of advent, the season of the church year where we practice waiting for Jesus.  Part of the theology around advent is training ourselves to see Christ coming to the world. While we remember the historic events in Bethlehem all those years ago we also think about Christ returning. Some churches focus on the end times, on the idea that Jesus Christ will return to earth and trigger the day of judgement. And so for them advent is about getting your soul ready for that day.  For us advent is about all the times God in Christ breaks in to the world.  Advent is practice for noticing God all around us and for being ready to participate in Christ coming in to the world. Hope is the theme for the first week of advent.  Hope is the glimmer of light in the darkness. On Sunday to help us reflect on hope we read Black Rook in Rainy Weather by Sylvia Plath. On the stiff twig up there Hunches a wet black rook Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain. I do not expect a miracle Or an accident To set the sight on fire In my eye, not seek Any more in the desultory weather some design, But let spotted leaves fall as they fall, Without ceremony, or portent. Although, I admit, I desire, Occasionally, some backtalk From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain: A certain minor light may still Leap incandescent Out of the kitchen table or chair As if a celestial burning took Possession of the most obtuse objects now...

Rule of Life

About a year ago I began using a liturgical planner.  As I began using it the first task was to create a Rule of Life.  Here is the explanation of that task written by the creator of the planner, Jenn Giles Kemper: “A rule of life is a commitment to live your life in a particular way. It is meant to be crafted with prayer and discernment, in partnership with God, as you consider the way God made you and the values  inscribed upon your heart. Once written, it serves as a tool that can help you make decisions for your life and determine how best to order your days. The first example of a Christian rule of life came from the Desert Fathers, a monastic community of mystics living in Egypt around the third century AD. The most well-known rule is the rule of St. Benedict, written fifteen hundred years ago, which was created to help his community of monks translate their faith into the habits and rhythms of their shared daily life. His famous rule has inspired many communities and individuals to develop their own rules with a similar intention. Our English word rule is derived from the Latin regula, meaning “a straight piece of wood,” “a ruler,” and, by extension, “a pattern, model, or example.” Esther de Waal, a longtime student of monastic spirituality, writes that “regula, a feminine noun, carries gentle connotations: a signpost, a railing, something that gives me support as I move forward in my search for God.” A rule of life, then, serves as a gentle guide that keeps you trained toward God. In this way,...

Vulnerability

At SFC we do discussion based worship.  We eat, we share, we talk, and we wrestle with big themes.  This means that we are vulnerable with one another.  At a table of diverse voices we began on Sunday with me sharing my personal, emotional reaction to this Tuesday’s reaction.  It may not have been how others’ felt, but it was my truth. The feelings I brought with me that day matter, and others began to share their own reactions and feelings.  One person articulated the worry that church was not a place to talk about politics.  Another stated that they never talked about politics in their family so as not to bring disagreement, discomfort or strive.  Others talked about their distress of how divided our country is right now.  We talked about our hope in God, who calls us not to worry, but to strive for the Kingdom of God and the justice of heaven.  As we thought about how to do that we realized that church is indeed the place to talk about politics.  No we shouldn’t tell people who to vote for, or what to think. Faith communities should be the places where people share their views and worries and are heard.  It is okay to disagree with one another and with your pastor.  Faith communities should be places where we learn and grow from each other as children of God.  It’s a delicate thing, to disagree and to be vulnerable with one another, yet the table of God is the best place to do that work.  We know we are held by something much bigger and...

Investing in people

SFC is in a place where we no longer are worried about survival.  We have a strong core group of folks who have given generously.  With the continued support of the New Start Initiative grant we have the resources of people and finances to thrive.  We are entering in to the next season of ministry and so we are investing in our people, helping draw them out in to what God is doing next in their lives.   This means I am doing one of my favorite parts of ministry, spending time with people who are restless because God is nudging them in a way they haven’t yet claimed. I begin this process by praying for the people of our community and for God to help me see them clearly.  As we gather together I work to notice those expressing a call or a question about how God is unfolding the story of their lives.  Then I begin to meet with that person over coffee or a meal and we talk and dream about the community and their call.  From this comes beautiful gifts to the community through the vision and leadership of those who listen faithfully to God.  Sometimes that person then starts to look around and invest in someone else.  This has happened a few times in my ministry and it is always amazing to watch someone step in to leadership and begin to touch the lives of others and call them in to leadership too. I’m excited about how God is speaking to the people of SFC in this season.  I’m excited about getting to spend time...

Standing Together

One of the best things about this faith community is the way we support one another.  We do that through prayers, by showing up when folks are sick, by attending birthday parties for each other, or attending events in which folks are participating.  Recently two of our number decided to attend a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  They used a protest technique of writing a name and a phone number on their arms in case they were arrested and needed to call someone for help.  The name and number they chose were mine.  Even though I wasn’t with them in the streets, they knew I was supportive of them and would come help as needed. We can’t all be the ones who protest or who mow the lawn when someone is sick.  We each do our part, and mine apparently is coming up with bail money.  Each part of a community is needed, each person with their call and their gift serves in the ways that they can.  And together we are something beautiful, something far greater than the sum of its parts.  Our protestors were able to risk, because they knew they weren’t out there alone.  Our folks are able to keep on going because they know they don’t face anything in life, from the difficult times to the moments of unmitigated joy on their own. This is our fourth year of ministry here, and it is so amazing to see this community coalescing in to something so rich and deep as we share life and follow God....

Changing Habits

When I was serving my last church community I would go out to breakfast every Thursday to write my sermon.  Moving here there weren’t any places that seemed the right place to take over a table and spend hours working.  I also stopped giving traditional sermons, so it wasn’t urgent to find a good place to focus on writing.  Every once in a while when I need to really think and write I head to Shari’s, a 24 hour comfort food extravaganza. Lately Jeff and I have been tracking all of our spending on an app on our phone.  We set a monthly budget and then log every expenditure.  It’s been so helpful to be intentional about our spending.  I actually went to Target the other day for a specific item, and when I couldn’t find it I left with empty hands.  Instead of recreationally shopping and buying things I might use I’m thinking about what I actually need. I’m supposed to be writing a TEDx talk that I’m giving on Friday.  I have been struggling to focus on it, there’s just too much to distract me when I work from home, like the laundry I need to move to the dryer or the bag of games under my desk I really should put away.  I thought about going to Shari’s last night to spend a long chunk of time writing while eating pie, but I realized it was probably time to develop a better habit not just for my waistline, but also for our budget and my own self-discipline around writing. So here I am, sitting outside on...

Sacred Signs

I grew up in a progressive, social justice oriented church.  My Sunday School classrooms had Corita Kent prints on the walls and her work has adorned everything from curriculum to my seminary text books, I just never really knew who she was.  I’m lucky enough to serve as a docent at the Portland Art Museum and this week our docent education was all about the woman behind the amazing art that has been influencing me throughout my life. Sister Corita talked about being someone who sees the sacredness in all the signs around her.  She turned supermarket advertising, road signs, and billboards into meditations on the nature of God and our role as people.  She demonstrated our longing for God using a Del Monte tomato add to talk about the fullness of the blessed mother.  Not unlike the apostle Paul, she helped people meet God where they were and see God in the unfolding life around them. In learning about Corita Kent I was given language about the way our faith community functions.  This idea of seeing the sacred all around, in everyday life, is a huge part of what we do. We meet people where they are and live our lives as a way to demonstrate God in the midst of the everyday.  When I talk about the way that  do evangelism I sometimes struggle to explain it.  My job is to listen to people’s lives unfold and to point out God in that unfolding.  The same way Sister Corita used images and slogans to express the divine I reflect back the goodness and light of divine life....