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 trainings in our annual conference that encouraged us to think in new ways. We served alongside remarkable pastors who were living out creative ministry by experimenting with new worship services. We started our own experimenting with new forms of bible studies and small groups. We went to more trainings and got selected to attend new start conferences. We began talking together about all the things we were learning from the pastors we worked with, the trainings we attended, and from our experiments. We started praying for our friends who were not part of church and how we could reach our communities with a message of good news. It took 10 years to coalesce into a clear call from God. Then we were ready to do the research and write that first grant proposal to launch SFC.
What does this tell me about how we got here? That we are products of the church. Raised in the church, nurtured by the church, and encouraged to seek new ways by the church. What we do is not traditional. We don’t have worship, we don’t have a building. We ask questions and challenge each other and share the rich gift of faith with as many people as we can in lots of different ways. We hike, we eat together, we go to the art museum, we hang out at the bar, we serve our neighbors, we draw, we sing, we play, we cook, we laugh, we drink coffee, we share on social media, and we encounter God in our midst.
It might be funny that two people, raised in such traditional ways, became the leaders of this motley crew of people following Jesus. I think it’s another holy gift and I know that no matter what happens Jeff and I will continue to live out our call to follow Jesus and share life and good news in the church and beyond.
Salem First UMC where I grew up.