Third article in series started in April on West Central ministries.
Creators' Table is a new ecumenical church serves West Central
Katy Shedlock, a United Methodist pastor, and Jonathan Myers, an Episcopal priest, appreciate the opportunity to experiment in developing a new ecumenical congregation, Creators' Table.
"It's different from other Methodist and Episcopal churches in Spokane, but connected to the denominations, said Katy. "We call it Creators' Table to say all who worship co-create with God."
Until closing for COVID-19, about 30 to 35 of a community of about 50 gathered at 5 p.m. Sundays. They included people from the neighborhood, Dinner Table guests, Whitworth and Gonzaga folks, plus some pastors from North and South Spokane and Spokane Valley. It's a mix of ages, social and economic statuses.
Jonathan and Katy met at a Spokane Alliance training session in November 2017 after he moved to Spokane in the summer. They began developing the worshiping community in spring 2018, collaborating on a Good Friday liturgy.
"We saw potential. In the summer of 2018, we started holding some conversations with about 12 people. We had monthly liturgies Sept.1, Oct. 2 and Nov. 3, before gathering weekly during Advent," said Jonathan.
Small planning groups are conversing about a leadership structure beyond the church planting board, which operates with two denominations and polities. There is also a liturgy guild.
"Worship is a blended experience of Episcopal and Methodist traditions. Both have the same rhythm and liturgy, but they look and sound unique," he said.
"Worship mixes slam poetry, oral storytelling, secular music, tactile prayer stations, hymns, traditional prayers, holy communion, Scripture, preaching and marking of the liturgical seasons of the church year," said Katy.
The service opens with a poem and song, accompanied by piano or guitar, or a capella. After a welcome, there are traditional and experimental elements—a talk on the seasonal theme, people from the community sharing stories, the lectionary scripture reading and sermon, called "Reverb" for "reverberation"—a sound spread out, reflected and absorbed.
For 12 minutes of "open space," people reflect on the liturgy of the Word, and go to prayer stations. Some are tangible/tactile—poetry writing, a desert box with sand and rocks, icon painting—and some are reflective, with candles or people sitting quietly in the pews and listening to music.
The liturgy of the table, prayers of the people, communion and announcements draw people together before a closing song.
Katy, who grew up in Manito United Methodist Church (UMC), graduated from Drew University in theatre and anthropology in 2008, and completed online study with Iliff School of Theology in Denver while working part-time at Rockford UMC. She was concerned that several United Methodist Churches closed in recent years in poor neighborhoods—Central downtown, Trinity in Northeast—and St. Paul's in West Central became a shared ministry with Liberty Park.
She joined the staff at Audubon Park UMC in 2017 to start a new church in West Central Spokane.
"It's important to have a Methodist presence in proximity to people below the poverty line," said Katy, who gathered a group of folks and began talking about how to be church in a different way. They were looking for a place to gather when she met Jonathan.
The Episcopal Diocese continued the free Wednesday community meals as part of the West Central Episcopal Mission in one of the buildings of the former Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. The parish had closed in 2016. Volunteers from St. John's, St. David's and St. Andrew's Episcopal churches and Bethany Presbyterian have kept the weekly dinner going.
Jonathan, who supervises the program, said about 40 people come early each month with 75 later in the month when income is running out.
He serves as part-time priest at St. Andrew's Episcopal and the West Central Episcopal Mission. His position was created as a yoked ministry of the congregations beginning in fall of 2017. He started at St Andrew's in late December, after his predecessor retired.
Katy learned the West Central Mission chapel was not being used and was a possible location for the group to worship.
She and Jonathan found they had a similar interest in ecumenical liturgy, so they formed a Methodist-Episcopal worshiping community with the blessing of their bishops, Episcopal Bishop Gretchen Rehberg and United Methodist Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, who support the joint effort even though the denominations are not yet in full communion.
Katy said the Methodist movement started in the 1700s and its founder, John Wesley, was an Anglican priest, so there are few theological differences, but there are differences in worship style and formality.
"Creators' Table is wholly Episcopal in its celebrating Eucharist every week, honoring its historic liturgical practices, and offering contemplative, sacramental space inviting people to feel God's presence," said Katy.
"It is also wholly Methodist in that we sing with gusto and let our music carry our theology," she said. "We are poets who dare to dream, inviting people to testify every week about how God's grace is present in their lives and contemporary experiences."
Katy's involvement with the Spokane Alliance and Creators' Table is about "the church's job to love and include neighbors. The church loses credibility when it is too far from the poor and people who live the injustices of our time," she said. "A credibility check is that any church plant has no meaning if neighbors have no roof over their heads."
The worship space is open. Snacks are available throughout the worship. Usually a few homeless people enter the worship space. Some come, eat snacks, sit a while and go on their way, she said.
Many go to both Dinner Table and Creators' Table.
Jonathan helped assess the West Central Episcopal Ministry before adding the worshiping community to balance the outreach and action base with prayer and worship.
He lives in the West Central Mission parish house, which was previously used as a resource center.
Jonathan grew up in small towns near Dayton, Ohio, attending a United Methodist Church. Feeling called to ministry from his involvement in the youth group, he went to Indiana Wesleyan College and had a full time job in youth ministry near Kansas City, Mo., after graduating in 2002.
He started at St. Paul School of Theology but moved to Seattle, went to the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and began attending the Church of the Apostles, an Episcopal-Lutheran church plant.
"I found my home in the Episcopal Church, began the ordination process in 2009, finished seminary and was ordained a priest in 2013," said Jonathan.
During those years, he did youth ministry, consulting, congregational development and graphic design, and worked at a coffee shop as a bi-vocational minister.
In 2015, he moved to Asheville, N.C., to do youth and young adult ministry on the bishop's staff and start a brewery with a friend, until the opportunity opened in Spokane.
The pandemic has changed his ministry. At first, there was anxiety about precautions for doing communion—juice in individual containers as in the Methodist tradition and wine in a common cup as in the Episcopal tradition. Now that decision is on hold, along with gathering for worship.
"We need to be careful and compassionate," said Jonathan, "because many who come are older, immune compromised people, people who live under stress and people who are homeless. So we will figure out how to feed people who rely on Dinner Table."
For now, Dinner Table is giving out boxed meals to go at the door.
He has discovered what community looks like and how community can function.
"I am less tied to my phone," he said. "People who live on the margins may not have cell phones. I communicate mostly by word of mouth. People come early and late to meetings. I have learned to be flexible about schedules. I see how people watch out for each other, the church and me."
Katy said most mainline Protestant churches can afford only one pastor at a time, but she finds it a gift to work with Jonathan, each of them bringing different gifts in terms of personality, vocations and ways they bear their denominational traditions.
Since the churches closed because of the pandemic, Creators' Table has gathered online by Zoom. Links to daily morning and evening prayers, and to the 5 p.m. Sunday liturgy are at ourcreatorstable.org.
For information, call Katy at 496-3541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Jonathan at 309-6168 or email email@example.com.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2020