October 13, 2011

Church in the Round

We have now officially launched our design team to re-establish an Episcopal mission in northeast Seattle that we have named, “Church in the Round.” As you may have read in my earlier blog posts, my parish has been asked to re-open a closed Episcopal Church in the northeast corner of Seattle. We are to continue that church’s legacy of reaching out to people who are marginalized, as well as engaging young adults in the design and implementation of the new mission.

Here’s how we got started. We recruited a design team of 22 members, half of whom are young adults. We paired up a young adult with an “elder,” trained them in door-knocking and informal interview skills, and sent them out in the first week to conduct 30 interviews with neighbors around the church. We appointed a workgroup on communications. We recruited a staff that includes some hours from me to facilitate the process, some hours from my 32-year-old associate rector to be the “clergy collar” of the effort, five hours a week from a 30-year-old parishioner to manage the office plus a bunch of interns. We have a seminarian from Seattle University helping with the design process, an aspirant to the priesthood helping with administration and buildings and grounds, a 40-year-old deacon, and a late-20s deacon postulant. If I weren’t in the mix, the average age of our staff would hover around 33.

The communications team recommended that we call our effort The Church in the Round Community Center (find it on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheRoundCommunityCenter): The Round for short. We have a logo, a Gmail address and a door-hanger that lets people know we are coming.

At our second session, the feedback from the first round of interviews helped us identify some emerging themes.

These are the areas we have identified:

  • Alternative worship
  • The young adult community, including young families
  • Food, gardens, and green space
  • Homelessness services
  • A community center (coffee house, theater, multi-cultural meeting place)
  • Jobs

This week, the teams will go back out into the community to interview providers, ministries, and resource people already working on these themes.

So when we gather on Oct. 17 and 24, we will have made further contacts in these areas of concern and will pool the wisdom and begin to shape our design.

It has been amazing to hear the stories from our interview teams as they engage our neighbors. It truly has the feel of the disciples sent out two by two into surrounding villages of Galilee. Stay tuned to hear what good news they will share and what good news they will hear.