Our Quest for Faithful Presence

Dear St Luke’s,

This past Monday was my last meeting with St Luke’s Elders.  It was so helpful to process my preparations for “Transition Sunday” (August 27th) with these wise spiritual leaders.  One of the recommendations offered to me was to consider sharing some of ways my time at St Luke’s is impacting my teaching at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.  

As most of you know, my calling is training people to serve as pastors, so when I came to St Luke’s I added half-time pastoring, to my full-time seminary teaching schedule.  There is not enough space in this newsletter to share all the ways St Luke’s is informing my teaching, but a few things stand out.  

Reframing who is part of a local church – For those of you who participated in some of the Community Forums earlier this year you might recall our conversation about possibilities of multiple St Luke’s.  On-campus and On-line are one example of multiple St Luke’s, (there are even more).  But I want to help my students imagine afresh how to hear, learn with, and serve the less visible constituents of the faith communities they are called to serve.  This has been shaped by some of our conversations about “belonging”: Who belongs?  Who gets to decide who belongs? And, How does one know if they belong? 

God’s Kin-dom inverts the culture of empire – Part of this emphasis may have emerged from journeying with St Luke’s through preaching the Gospel readings for the last 19 months.  I have already heard myself guiding my students to ever more comprehensive imaginations for how God’s reign flips the script on the values of dominant culture.  Who is excluded or judged as unclean or unworthy?… and how might we become a people who welcome as Christ welcomed.  How might we live in ever more healthy relationship with creation.

Framing Staff & Pastors as Congregational Support – While at St Luke’s, I’ve so appreciated watching a church who is actually trying to function as a church, not merely a spectator event hosted by trained religious professionals.  I don’t know how you see St Luke’s, but part of what I’ve seen in y’all is forming how I invite my students to support their congregations.  I want my students to intentionally consider how to be present so that the parishioners “own” their ministry… and the pastors and staff support the people in their collective mission.  Watching the way Judy B. and the Board of Trustees listen to the intersection of St Luke’s changing local context and collective story has been exciting.  Watching Aryls and the prayer and care team co-create a system of care that attends to community needs has taken my breath away, and watching Harvey and Bob and others serve God and neighbor through our campus is simply beautiful. I’ve found myself underscoring with my students the pastoral and staff roles of supporting a congregation in becoming a community of belonging.

Possible Research Initiative – Emerging in part from some of our conversations about church after Christendom, and the rise of the “Nones” and the “Dones”, I am interested in facilitating listening sessions with “Dones”… people who are done with church as a “religious institution” yet are still seeking to live in the way of Jesus Christ.  The thing I want to listen for is, what – if anything – sustains their following Christ in their post-church experience?  What friends, communities, online tools, practices, rituals, resources, etc.  Truth be told, I don’t even know what questions to be asking yet, but I desire to learn from these people.  My sense is that the practices sustaining their lives may point to a “church” that is post-institutional. Being at St Luke’s is helping ask better questions.

Underscoring the Gift, Privilege, & Joy of Pastoring – I’ve had so much fun with y’all.  My time at St Luke’s has enthused my sheer delight in serving God by serving a local church in service of its neighbors.  Y’all have reminded me what an honor and delight it is to journey with a congregation in scripture, and to gather around the table that Christ sets for us and for all.  Part of this joy has come through being immersed in a more liturgical tradition.  While I have certainly studied and understood some of the theory of the church’s calendar, y’all have provided an immersive and transformational experience for me.  I have loved being with you and the rest of the St Luke’s community in this season… thank-you for reminding what a joy it is to serve Christ by serving a local church.  Y’all have been a gift.

I’ll see you on Sunday.  Remember, God delights in you, and so does our community of faith!  You are not alone.

Peace, dwight