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PNC team gives training on faith and science

A team from the Conference is presenting a training on “Science as the Voice of God: Exploring the Intersection of Faith Journeys and Scientific Inquiry” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, at Magnolia UCC in Seattle.

Ron Cole Turner of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary will lecture by Skype.

He seeks to empower participants to have a “bold public voice” on the difference the UCC makes by embracing how science informs, challenges and deepens theological understanding and how vital it is for UCC members to have a voice on ethical issues raised by new technologies.

Local scientists connected to faith communities will respond to issues raised, and participants will dialogue on theological, ethical, liturgical and evangelistic issues.

Andrew Conley-Holcom, one of the event organizers, describes the need for faith and science discussions in congregations. Photo courtesy of Andrew Conley-Holcom

The event is sponsored by four churches—Admiral, Broadview, Magnolia and Prospect UCC churches in Seattle— with the support of the PNC Justice and Witness Committee and the Church Development Committee.

Participants will explore how the UCC is open to science and what can be learned religiously through scientific discovery, said Joan Henjum.

She is helping coordinate the event with Andrew Conley-Holcom of Admiral UCC, Scott Ward of Magnolia UCC, Meighan Pritchard pastor at All Pilgrims UCC and Gary Southerton pastor at Broadview UCC.

“In the UCC, we recognize that our ability to reason and question are gifts from God,” said Joan.  “We welcome the findings of our scientists as they learn about where we came from, how to keep ourselves healthy, how to care for creation and more.”

The workshop will explore some of the issues at the faith-science crossroads, practice ways to talk about these issues, send participants home with resources and network for continuing the conversation.

The day will feature a Skype presentation by theologian Ron, a panel conversation with some local experts, and opportunities for participants to draw on their own collective wisdom.

“We will look at the big picture of why we need science and faith to be in dialogue and how we can look at some new scientific developments through a faith lens,” said Andrew, who earned a master’s degree in anthropology in 2010 at Western Washington University in Bellingham. 

He grew up in Wayside UCC in Federal Way, but left the church for 15 years and came back while in Bellingham through leading an interfaith youth camp as a spiritual humanist from 2006 to 2010.  He became youth minister at Bellingham UCC and then completed an MDiv at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley in 2014.

Andrew said the workshop grew out of discussion at the PNC annual Leadership Retreat in June 2015 at N-Sid-Sen on connecting churches through planning events.  He met with Joan and discussed articles she had read on the intersection of science and faith.

“Our goal is to help teams of a pastor and five lay people understand how to help their congregations engage in the dialogue on science and faith as part of church vitality, helping connect with the community, beginning recycling projects, and doing more effective and meaningful outreach and advocacy,” he said.

The event is being held at Magnolia because it has the space and technical capability with its IT setup for doing a Skype lecture.

Andrew hopes that pastors and laity who participate will mobilize for Earth Day in April and engage in advocacy and activism.

“If the church engages with the science community they can develop interfaith or inter-philosophical dialogue,” said Andrew, who expects 50 to 80 participants.

“As a public intellectual, the pastor does not just need to have information but also must engage people to think about the world and life,” said Andrew.

“The program is open enough so people bring knowledge and information, and structured enough so people feel safe to engage even if they wildly disagree with others in the group,” he said.

John Dorhauer, the general minister and president of the national United Church of Christ, highlights faith and science as one of three key domains where the denomination needs to engage, along with interfaith connection and race.

For information, call 206-512-7537 or email pastor


Copyright © February 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference News


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