December 9, 2011

Doing a New Thing

(The next in a series on the new Church in the Round Episcopal mission in the Lake City neighborhood of Seattle.)

The most exciting outcome of the design process that we have used to create the Church in the Round has been the impetus to begin five brand new ministries. True, the core of the model we have adopted is Partnership, which means that the work of our affiliated groups makes up the dominant share of ministry that will take place under our roof. Still, it will be a significant contribution to our community if our new Episcopal mission can accomplish what we propose.

In response to neighborhood needs and themes, St. Andrew’s will test the waters for these five new ministries:

  • Create a Coffee House/Meeting and Performance Space. Lake City is a neighborhood with a growing population of young singles and families who are drawn by the more affordable housing in the area. However, the neighborhood lacks some of the amenities that Seattle is known for. Our first finding was that a commons was needed, a place to gather for conversation and connection. Many churches are moving into coffee house ministry and it looks like we will be joining them.
  • Convene a new worshipping community focusing on young adults. Because our bishop Greg Rickel pushed us to engage young adults in our design team, a natural outcome is that our group decided a new Episcopal worshipping community aimed at young adults should be part of our plan. My young associate, Rebecca Kirkpatrick (age 32) is very excited about becoming the “Vicar of Lake City” and helping start a new emerging church congregation.
  • Offer sponsorship to Pro-Use Produce, a agriculture and nutrition project that will use the small orchard on our property along with fresh fruit gleaned from stores and feeding programs to create a dried fruit operation for sale and donation. Hunger, nutrition, the need for green space, and gardening were all reoccurring themes in our interviews. An Americorps volunteer who worked at St. Andrew’s the past two years finished a masters degree in transformational change and has developed his “change project” into a business plan to start Pro-Use Produce, a not-for-profit that gathers fresh fruit too far gone to be distributed to the hungry but just right for drying. He can then put that product back into food stream to feed those in need. It just so happens we have nine apple trees on the church grounds and an active farmer’s market in the neighborhood that should help both ends of his operation.
  • Train Episcopalians from around the diocese to engage people who are homeless and mentally ill on the streets of Lake City using the model created by Craig Rennebohm of Seattle’s Mental Health Chaplaincy. We are affectionately calling this new ministry “Episcopal Street Walkers.” Craig has a 20-year history walking the streets of Seattle connecting with mentally ill homeless people. As he nears retirement, he hopes he can help start other such ministries so we are going to use his model at Church in the Round. Homeless has grown to be a major issue in the Lake City neighborhood and it will be a great benefit to have Episcopalians out on the street reaching out. This also gives people around the diocese a way to connect to our new mission.
  • Set up an after-school computer lab for neighborhood students, primarily the large East African community in the neighborhood. One booming population in Lake City is the Somali community and their young people are eager to learn and hungry for access to computer time. We’ll build a laptop kit that can come out when the Preschool closes and convert the parish hall into a computer lab.

Sure this is a lot to bite off. Definitely, not all of these ministries will succeed. But we begin with a passion and a grounding in our neighborhood’s needs, so who can tell exactly what the Holy Spirit might do with us. Glory to God who working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.