This week, I was privileged to visit some communities as part of The Leadership in the New Parish social lab at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology along with my friends from The Parish Collective. Communities that are being faithfully present to the shalom of their places and neighborhoods. These are not superstars, by any means. They probably won't make the headlines or show up in your buzz feed. And yet these ordinary folks are doing extraordinary things as they humbly and sacrificially live out the way of love with a new imagination for what it means to be the church. Below is a Neighborhood Lectio of our parish visits.
Resistencia Coffee. Resisting the forces of gentrification in South Park, replacing it with gente-fication by creating a place for the community. Cote, with sparkle in her eye and joy in her step believes. Anything is possible. Si se puede, for the Spirit is at work. Just ride the wave. Tim, also beaming with pride, offering pastries, welcome and hope. Colorful art painted on the wall, a welcoming play space for littles, the turquoise chairs on the patio, the open garage door that invites everyone in the neighborhood to come together, to share laughter and tears and stories, to resist empire and to live into a new way of love and community.
Guadalupe House, the Tacoma Catholic Worker in the changing Hilltop neighborhood. Paul and Elizabeth’s warm welcome and commitment to this place. Nora’s wisdom. Tales of being with the vulnerable, being human, and being formed. Gus, living among, creating spaces for music and art and conversation. The Madrinas, offering their fierce and tender care for this community. Papusas, lumpia, the nourishing food from garden to table, the cozy living room with the shag carpet, the history of saints who have gone before − here in this place, a story of faithful presence over decades. It is stunning. The vibrant murals, the shelves of canned delights, the handsome chickens, the expansive gardens, the quiet spaces of reflection, the big, long tables on the patio, indicative of the wide welcome and hospitality of this place. The beams of wood that have been stretched and bent in the winter seasons just like the Catholic Workers who live here − to be a garden of peace and beauty, a place to sit down and rest, and a fountain of life.
Trinity Presbyterian. Church of the Stranger. Matthew and Rod. Over a century of rootedness in the Bryant Neighborhood, like an ancient tree offering shelter and hospitality for all. The history of a dying congregation catching sight of a new vision to serve the community, tutor children, offer soup, relationship and hospitality. A brick and historic structure now falling down, a journey of deep listening, another big, bold and beautiful dream emerging for The Bryant Neighborhood Center. Stained glass windows in which the light of God shines through illuminating the paths of the neighborhood. Surely God is here. Here for good.
Eloheh Village Farm in the quaint and rural community of Newberg, Oregon. Randy and Edith Woodley welcoming us around the fire. Hospitality is the new missiology. Bourbon and drinks, forgotten s’mores, a beautiful folk song, laughter and slumber parties. Traditional wisdom, shalom, the harmony way for the community of creation. The permaculture of indigenous wisdom enriching the soil, huckleberries, walnut trees, ancient squash, three sisters, a sweat lodge, the wonder of a greenhouse with tall artichokes, ancient watermelon and a new variety of tomato plants. Listen. I believe in the seed. Listen. We are family. Listen for the ancient wisdom. Honor the land. Look for what is invisible. God is vulnerable. To follow Jesus is to be vulnerable. The opposite is indifference and superficiality. Look for what is forgotten, for it is the wisdom needed.
The Oregon Public House in North Portland. Where everyone knows your name. The first nonprofit pub in the nation. Drink a pint and change the world. Local craft beer; tall, welcoming booths; delicious Reuben’s and sweet potato fries. A wall of pint glasses inscribed with the names of founders who had faith to see what was yet unseen. The Play and Swap Co-op. The Village Ballroom. Children’s concerts and community events. A center of life for the Woodlawn Neighborhood and The Oregon Community. Ryan Saari and his team, just foolish and audacious enough to imagine another way to be the people of God. Where neighbors living out the way of Jesus together are the sign of the kingdom -- no need for the A-Board.
James Helm in the reclaimed Rocky Butte neighborhood of Northeast Portland. A fire in his belly to follow the way of Jesus and to love his neighbor. The scourge of 82nd reinterpreted through new eyes of hope. A Zen Garden that makes paths through the wilderness once deserted by the people of God. A slow work, a faithful work. Of front yard barbecues, a community garden, a street mural, a neighborhood newsletter, a farmer’s market, and a dream of a coffee shop. All on the streets once known for violence. Faithful presence that invites prayers with neighbors for peace, small dogs and the redemption of this place.
by Jessica Ketola
the practicing church
We are a group of ordinary people with an extraordinary dream - to join God in the renewal of all things by engaging in practices that ground us in the love of God.