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Congregations share how they go out on a limb in ministry

During Annual Meeting 2016, members of PNC congregations shared ways they are going “Out on a Limb,” reflecting on the theme of the Annual Meeting held April 29 to May 1 in Wenatchee.

Welcome strangers

Tim Devine, pastor of St. Paul UCC in Ballard, told of plans to rebuild after the church suffered a fire the Tuesday after Easter.  He also said that the building was saved because a homeless person camped in the back called in the fire.

Tim Devine

The congregation is worshiping in the fireside room of First Lutheran Church nearby.

“With pews out, we have three weeks to decide if we will have pews or chairs,” said Tim.

“We participated in work parties to help LIttle Farms UCC work to rebuild in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  We raised $1,000 at a spaghetti dinner,” Tim said.  “Now we are the disaster and are learning to accept an incredible amount of support.”

Tim was heartened when a neighbor was quoted in the newspaper saying even though he was not a member, the church, to him, represents hope.

Tim said the congregation, which worshiped in German through World Was I, may “go out on a limb.” If they choose not to have pews, they might be able to offer use of their space to the Muslim community, who some perceive to be the “enemy” today.

Because someone homeless, reported the fire and stayed until Tim came and he told what happened.  In another 20 minutes, the church would have been burned down.

Giving out love letters

Cynthia Whistee

Cynthia Whistee at Magnolia UCC told of a woman in New York City who wrote love letters and handed them randomly to strangers on the streets of New York as a reminder: “You deserve all good things.” “Don’t give in.”

“I have decided I want to do that.  It’s about connection.  I can go out on a limb with this idea.  My idea is to come up with unique notes and leave them in the community,” Andy said.

She gathered several at the church.  They wrote cards, put them in envelopes inside plastic bags.

“We brought them to church and Joy Haertig blessed them.

Training on anger

Becky Hepworth of Everett said Everett UCC invited to participate in a new Disciples of Christ church, Our Common Table, arising out of a Disciples church in Edmunds.

They provide worship and non-worship activities as a safe place for street people to have a 12-step program and a dinner serving street people, growing from four to 10 people a week, and now 25 to 60 come to church for shelter, a warm, safe, dry place.

Many are mentally ill and struggle with substance abuse, said Becky.

One came and was angry.  He flipped a table.

“We had to have training to deal with angry people,” she said.  “We are still on a learning curve, having taken welcoming to a whole new paradigm, welcoming people and caring for each other.”

Turning over tables

Jenn Hagedorn

Jenn Hagedorn, social justice intern with Plymouth UCC in Seattle told of a United Methodist pastor, John Hilmer, inviting people to go out on a limb and participate in Table Turning Monday, the Monday after Palm Sunday.  It re-enacts Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple. 

Table Turning Monday is organized by White Denominations Against Racism and EPIC (End the Prison Industrial Complex).  In King County 8 percent of the population is black, but 50 percent of those in detention are black.

The group is challenging City Council and those proposing to build a new youth detention center.

“The Justice Leadership Program taught me to put together an action,” said Jenn.  “We decided to wet up a card table, put coins on it to represent our morals and values.  We tipped over the table, acknowledging our role as the white community in imprisoning blacks.

Compassion charter

John Eisenhauer of Eagle Harbor UCC on Bainbridge Island told of going to a 2008 TED talk to hear British housewife Karen Armstrong, who now travels and promotes the Charter for Compassion.

“Compassion is at the heart of all religious traditions,” said John.  “Religion is about eliminating suffering of all creatures and the sanctity of every human being.  It’s about treating people with equity and justice.

Eagle Harbor UCC, a church with under 200 members, has signed the Charter for Compassion.

From our small spot on the planet, we can reach out.  Thousands are part of the charter.

Respond to hate

Recently Curry Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, two miles from Prospect, had swastikas  and the “N” word spray painted with other graffiti and the words, “Go back to Africa.”

The church held worship on their 67th anniversary with tears in their eyes.

Prospect offered a community prayer and breakfast from 10 a.m. to noon, April 30, raising an offering to help pay for costs of clean-up.  Andrew Conley Holquin sent a letter

Crocheted hearts

Judith Rinehart-Nelson, pastor at Zion Philadelphia in Ritzville, told responding to being put off by Christians who put out tracts showing Jesus as a shepherd or hanging on a cross, saying if the person doesn’t believe, they will go to hell—messages of threats and hate.

“Zion Philadelphia went out on an evangelical limb,” she said.  “Members hand crocheted hearts and give them to people, saying, ‘I have something for you.’

“The response is amazing, big smiles, and people ask who we are,” Judith said.  “We say we are Zion UCC and our message is simple.  It is love.”

She told of going to breakfast in Leavenworth and giving one to the cook.  When she said she was a member of the UCC and “our message is simple, it’s one of love,” he asked, “What kind of church are you?”

Judith said she told him that the UCC is an old church, established by people who came on the Mayflower. “We have been a church so long that we have learned lessons, and the bottom line is love,” she said.

Sold building

Spirit of Peace, which started in Sammamish UCC, was the only progressive church on the plateau, said Glen Hall.  The founding minister died of cancer over two years ago and membership declined from 100 members.

“In 2005, we went through a discernment process to decide how the church could continue,” Glen said.  “In 2007, we hired David Shull as part time pastor.  In 2012, we decided to sell the church property and invest the money to use the interest for ministry.

“We use 10 percent for mission.  Last year, we hired a youth minister, Rob, who resigned the end of May after finishing college,” Glen added.  “We looked to the needs of youth ministry and plan to hire a new one.”

Serve homeless

Bill Kirlin-Hackett

Bill Kirlin-Hacket, a specialized minister with University Congregational UCC, serving the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness in Snohomish and King Counties.

The church, now in its 125th year, decided to include housing and homelessness ministry in a new way in its mission.

It had Tent City in its parking lot, looking at evictions.  Movers were hired to move tenants’ belongings to storage at the tenants’ expense.  Women run through the house grabbing things as the movers took things out.

“She looked for someone who would know she and her family would be homeless,” Bill said.  “It’s violent.  Police are there with their hands on holsters.  They drink water from your cups and use your bathrooms while the mother wonders, ‘What do I need?  Where is my medicine?  Where will we go?’ Evictions like this happen hundreds of times across the country.

“We need to go out on a limb to the least, the last, the left behind who are our neighbors.  We need to see the look on their faces when they learn that no matter who they are or where they are on their journey, they are welcome.  We need to leave our palaces and go out on a limb.  God accompanies us on the limb.”

Justice internships

Hillary Coleman and Kathryn Murdock said they went out on a limb to live on $400 a month in an apartment with other justice leadership interns.

“I have learned to live my passions and be a leader to find my place as a young adult,” said Hillary, who came back to Seattle to serve as a justice intern with All Pilgrims and the Coalition for Homelessness.

She as discovered her passion in addressing homelessness, which is a growing issue.

Transgender study

Dennis Hollinger-Lant

Dennis Hollinger Lant, pastor of Wayside UCC in Federal Way for 21 years, told of his church’s experience four years ago when a teen announced that he appreciated growing up in the congregation and was going on a journey from being a he to a she.  The congregation gave a standing ovation.

Members started study groups on what it means for children and youth to identify gender difference.

A man who was a family practice physician came for help dealing with his transition.

Families and transgender people come to learn and talk.  One came for a potluck, but hesitated when the group moved to the chapel, wondering if it was okay to talk about such issues there.

Music ministries

Mary Olney and Steve Clagett opened All Pilgrims Christian Church to house justice leadership interns.

Steve Clagett and Mary Olney-Lloyd of All Pilgrims Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ and UCC church, said the church believes “God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  They opened their church as the home for the Justice Leadership Program youth.

For some time, the church was struggling financially about being a bricks and mortar church and a church that valued sacred music and paid musicians as part of the ministry.

All Pilgrims did an event in May, “Architecture of Family: Families Celebrating Freedom,” about re-understanding and reconciling a family to include the mother, father, two children and the father’s new husband.

Mary said once a month for two years they have done Nightsong, drawing young people to an intimate concert, with an acoustic guitarist and drawing 15 to 25.  There is no overt Christian message, just talking about life experience.

A community lunch serves 300 to 380 meals a week at Wednesday and Thursday suppers.


Copyright © June 2016 Pacific NW UCC News


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