The Practicing Church in Shoreline, WA seeks to live out its faith in the neighborhood
by Yonat Shimron
The Rev. Jessica Ketola is an old hand at doing church. Her parents were pastors. She served as a worship leader for more than a decade. She recorded Christian praise songs. She ran a church nonprofit that tutored low-income neighborhood children.
But in her mid-40s, the Vineyard-ordained pastor decided to change all the rules.
In January 2017, after a season of upheaval at Vineyard Community Church, where she had been serving as an associate pastor, she relaunched the congregation in her Shoreline, Washington, living room.
Ketola called it The Practicing Church and explained her vision to the 25 or so members that remained: it would be a neighborhood-based church that would serve the community out of a commitment to Jesus’ way of love and a desire for God’s shalom, or peace.
"I had come to a place where I was weary of all the incongruence of the church,” said Ketola, 49, a married mother of four adult children. “I was longing for more authentic ways to express my faith.”
Four years later, worship services still take place in her living room -- except temporarily during the pandemic, when it’s meeting Sunday mornings on Zoom. Although now double in size -- about 50 people -- it is still small but has made a big impact on the neighborhood of Richmond Highlands in Shoreline, a city of 53,000 on the Puget Sound north of Seattle.
Instead of a singular focus on the Sunday service or a targeted missions project, The Practicing Church seeks to live Christian life in community.