My church just started a blog, so I wrote a little something about how I came to be there, and how I decided to stay. Here it is!
In the fall of 2007 I studied abroad in Argentina and had my first small-church experience. I was the first to arrive for worship on my first day–evidently getting there early for a seat isn’t a big priority for small congregations–and at the end of the service I found myself surrounded by a group of friendly faces greeting me, the obvious newcomer. Within minutes they’d extended a warm invitation to an all-church potluck in someone’s home the following Friday evening to celebrate National Friendship Day.
I fell instantly in love.
I came back to Seattle just before Thanksgiving that year and was in town for several weeks before heading back to school for spring semester. I’d grown up at University Presbyterian Church and had heard that Pastors James B. and Renée Notkin had recently been called to launch Union Church. Not only was I now attracted to (ahem, enamored with) the idea of worshiping as a part of a small congregation, I was really excited about fourth Sundays. A church with a built-in service component? Sign me up!
For two years I attended Union whenever I was in town, and in 2009 the congregation prayed over me as I left to spend a year volunteering overseas in Indonesia. I came back to Seattle full-time in August 2010 I’ve finally gotten to attend my home church on a regular basis since then.
Over the past four and a half years, I’ve dabbled in a few fourth Sunday groups. I’ve pitched in around the 415 building, served brunches at Kerner Scott House, and done lunch prep at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Each of those service projects have provided ample opportunity to grow with other members of my church family. I’ve enjoyed the freedom to dabble in different projects and also to take a Sunday off for a sabbath of traveling, bike-riding, or park-sitting as the Spirit moves me.
I love that my church is so passionate about serving our community that we’re willing to set aside what Christian tradition tells us church “should be” and simply do what Jesus would probably do on a typical day: lend a hand in a thinly veiled attempt to spend time with someone he likes.
I always tell people fourth Sundays drew me to Union but second Sundays keep me coming back. Grappling with scripture has been key to my own faith formation and spiritual growth and unfortunately for much of my life it’s been too much of a solitary endeavor.
There’s something holy about a worship service that exudes tradition as it follows a certain structure that I was raised with. Yet there’s something altogether freeing about being asked to sit in a circle with people I’ve known anywhere from five minutes to twenty years and share how our life experiences inform the way we read and live scripture.
It’s incredibly affirming to share myself with my church family and have them hold my experiences with me and to be able to do the same for them. On the second Sunday of this month a woman in my circle concluded our conversation by saying, “this is Gospel.”
We can read scripture again and again, but where it really comes to life is in our own lives. There’s something uniquely holy about intentionally offering our lives to each other as a form of worship. Sometimes I wish we would do that more often and then I realize–it’s really up to each of us to do this every day and in every place, isn’t it?
Read more stories from Union Church (other people’s, not mine–please, that would be excessive) at unionchurchstories.wordpress.com.