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Courtney Stange-Tregear offers online Lenten sharing

In introducing a “Weaving with Wonder” Lenten Devotional, Courtney Stange Tregear said her favorite part of being the PNC minister of church vitality is meeting with people and hearing the stories of people around the conference—hearing about their personal lives, past struggles and successes, hopes and fears for the Church and more

Courtney Stange-Tregear used this graphic for the stories.

“With each story I feel more and more tightly woven into the fabric of the Pacific Northwest Conference,” she said.

She also loves seeing PNC members get to know each other through a storytelling exercise she uses at conference gatherings and congregations.

“Each person listens with genuine interest, curiosity and wonder. Each person is changed, the community is changed, I dare say, the world is changed, by the process of sharing with one another. Sharing our significant, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, always true stories, weaves us together,” Courtney said.

It reminds her of a woven basket: “Some baskets are loosely woven, unique beauties, which make a statement by their presence. Some baskets are tightly woven, also beautiful, and make their impact by what they are able to do in and for the world. One basket is not better than the other. They each have their place and purpose. But if we try to use the loosely woven basket to carry water or grain, we will be disappointed as much of it falls through the loose weave,” she said.

Courtney finds many people called to have greater impact in their churches, communities and the wider world—to “bend the arc of justice, model radical hospitality, share the love of God, and proclaim the Gospel in all we do,” she said.

“In other words, we want to bring forth the kindom of God by listening to one another, learning from one another, being woven more tightly with one another, our churches, our communities and all creation.”

So each day at the Lenten Devotional “Weaving with Wonder” website——she has included a new “Weaving with Wonder” story, sent by email to everyone who signs up at or at Stories are written by anyone in the conference or wider community.

Courtney said “stories of about 200 to 400 words should be about a (recent) time that you opened yourself to being woven more tightly. What happened? What did you learn about yourself, others, creation, the Divine? As always, the most important thing is that the stories matter, they are one’s own, and that they are true.

As of March 14, she said the page averaged a 72 percent open rate of the daily email—compared to the industry average of 25 percent.  Its averages 240 people a day.

April 1, she wrote that she has found the stories “beautiful and touching.” She has also received emails from PNC folks thanking her for the project.

PNC leadership identified deepening relationships as a priority, so she felt a storytelling devotional series fit. It’s her fourth year using such a devotional series.

“I feel humbled. Every time I read a story I am so touched and inspired that someone was willing to share, not just with me, but with a whole list of recipients. Some of the stories are breathtakingly beautiful. Some are heart-wrenchingly painful. Some are simply hilarious. Each one is written by an imperfect person about their real life. The enormity of such authenticity, honestly, and courage takes my breath away. Every. Single. Day,” she said.

“I feel gratitude, and hope, and joy. Everywhere I go, I get to meet such complex, kind, divinely created, beautifully flawed human beings.

Here are a few stories:

• Peter Ilgenfritz reflected on how he risked to leave a church community and ministry he had loved for 25 years “to follow the Spirit’s call and step out into a new chapter in my life and ministry.”

• Gail Crouch of University Congregational UCC told of conversing in the early 1990’s when the Conference was considering a resolution to become an Open and Affirming conference with a farmer from a rural church.  Division was strong and emotions high in open sessions.  He shared about rural life and farming, and she shared about urban life and her diverse friends. “We had shared as part of the fabric of the Conference,” she said.  After the vote, he thanked her for the conversation, saying he had many questions but had voted yes.”

“Our stories bring us together and sometimes change us in unexpected ways,” she said.

• Linda Crowe, who retired from Veradale UCC and now attends Westminster, values the personal connections she experiences at PNC events, because her faith journey has been shaped and touched by many people from numerous churches across the region.

At a communion service at a PNC gathering, she recognized the pastor who baptized her, her youth leaders, friends in the church where she grew to adulthood, married and been youth minister; friends from her current church family and from church camps.

“I celebrate that my church family is as large as this Conference—all the people I’ve ever gone to camp with, served with on assorted committees; walked with and worked with while doing justice work; labored alongside, in numerous church buildings and at Pilgrim Firs and N-Sid-Sen, and worked with during mission trips following disastrous hurricanes.

Other contributors include Christine Hanson, 2013 PNC moderator; Stephen O’Bent, music and arts at First Congregational Bellevue; Tara Barber, clergy ethnics and boundary trainer;  Kevin Peterson, music director at Normandy Park UCC; Kyna Shilling, PNC leader, and many more.

Copyright © April-May 2019


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