Change and transitions are an inevitable experience of life and they come with mixed emotions. Fear and hesitation, the “what if’s” and the excitement of the unknown, of something new or different. I think back to when my friend, Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber reached out to me in February, asking me if I needed an internship gig for seminary. He said he could connect me with a church in Portland, Seattle, or Alaska. After the initial excitement of an opportunity to go to the Pacific Northwest, I started to question myself and my abilities to work for a church. I was in a place mentally and spiritually where I was taking a break from church and organized religion. I know that sounds ironic coming from a seminary student, but I knew I needed space as I was healing from church hurt. I was also in the process of deconstructing and trying to reconstruct my own faith.
Because of schedules and life circumstances, Dr. Barber and I didn’t reconnect about the internship until May. At this point, I had already told myself that my summer in Seattle would not happen this year. I told myself I would be in a better place spiritually and emotionally to work with a church next summer. Apparently God had other plans for me. On June 8th I had a zoom call with Dr. Barber, Dr. Jess Bielman, and Pastor Paul. That call put everything in motion. It was just a matter of finding a place for me to stay and getting a flight to Seattle. A month later I would be boarding a plane.
The four weeks in between that zoom call and getting on the plane, I went through all the emotions. First was the excitement for the adventure and working with a church who had queer folks like myself in leadership and being able to go to Seattle, a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. Then there was the fear of ‘Am I going to make friends while I’m there?’ (Community has always been really important to me!) Will I live up to the expectations of Pastor Paul? (not that he had put any on me; I put them on myself. Darn perfectionism creeping in.) What will I be able to contribute to this ministry in just six weeks? Preaching scares me, and facilitating small groups hasn’t always gone well for me. I was up for the adventure, though, and I was willing to say yes.
These past six weeks I have learned a lot about myself and a lot from you all. I am grateful for the way you all have embraced me. I’m grateful for the words of encouragement and constructive feedback to help me grow as a preacher, a leader and a person. I learned that I actually like preaching, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. I have been a part of leading two small group sessions and I have really enjoyed that. I was reminded of my love for writing and being able to share my thoughts and ideas. I have also felt really connected to the community here. In many ways I feel like I am just getting to know you individually and as a church community. I am sad to have to say “goodbye for now” but I am looking forward to the time we will reconnect.
I am grateful to have been a part of this church community at this moment in time– a time of transition and change for your community. I’ve been able to witness and be a part of the way you all have come together in thinking about where the church has been in the past, where it currently is, and your hopes and dreams for the future. I know this can be a time of mixed emotions as well, but I have witnessed y’all embracing those feelings and emotions and saying “yes” to where God is leading you as a congregation. I encourage you to continue to trust the process. Trust God, Pastor Paul, and each other as you go through this time of change and growth and embrace the adventure of the unknown. I look forward to seeing where y’all are next summer, as my plan and hope is to return and continue in ministry with University Gathering.
With sincerest gratitude,
“Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. …Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a feeling of poverty.” -Pema Chodron.
I write to you today at the beginning of a new month and in a moment of transition for our church. Summer is winding down. Kids will be getting ready to go back to school soon and programming will pick up at a steadier pace. We have just come off of a month collaborating with Acts on Stage and Townsend School of Music in a worship “experiment” that was a welcome collaboration by some and others may have felt a little hesitant. Looking back on the month and the experience, I think we learned a lot as a congregation. Some of you may be wondering where we go from here. What happens next?
I imagine there are hopes of what a changing worship style might look like but as the quote by Pema Chodron says, if there is hope there will also be fear. I have found in my own life, that in moments of transition and change, I have often felt the feeling of hope and excitement for what could be but also the fear of the unknown. As Chodron says, “Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a feeling of poverty.” ‘What are we lacking?’ you may be asking yourself. As we move through these moments of transition, Pastor Paul and I will be preaching and teaching on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral suggests that we are most fully alive when we are equally informed by scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. As congregations and individuals, we may lean more heavily on one or two parts of the quadrilateral and be lacking in other areas. Join us, in person or online, the next four Sundays as we learn how we can use all parts of the quadrilateral to inform our spiritual lives as individuals and a church community. Having a balance in all four areas will help us as we move forward as a church, into the changes God is calling us to.
Good day friends,
Student Pastor Molly here. I want to offer some words of reflection and encouragement from my experience and perspective in being a part of this past month with the worship collaboration. Some have called the collaboration with Acts on Stage, Townsend School of Music and Performing Arts and University Gathering an “experiment.” The excitement and hesitation with experiments are that we do not know what the outcome will be. We can give a prediction or hypothesis and hope for the best also knowing that experiments sometimes can go very wrong. I have had the privilege of being a part of this experiment in many different capacities. The first week, I watched online from Ohio. The second week I was able to sing with the worship team. It brought comfort to me being able to sing songs and be a part of a worship style that was familiar to me as I was immersing myself in a new, unfamiliar city.
One thing I really appreciated about this experiment was the community conversation that was held at the end of the collaboration. I have been in churches and part of worship teams in the past where decisions have been made without the consideration of the congregation. I loved hearing not only the things that resonated with folks but also the moments of disconnect or tension. Rev. Sam Townsend and Michelle Lang-Raymond both alluded to the fact that we do not need to shy away from moments of tension. They encouraged us to lean into them and take a deeper look at ourselves. We can also take pause to think about the broader community and what the needs and desires of our growing community may be.
I applaud you, University Gathering, for showing up on Sunday mornings during the past month, whether it was in person or online, to experience this experiment. While there may have been moments that felt uncomfortable, you embraced them and opened your hearts and minds to something that may have felt very different from what you are used to. Pastor Paul, I, and other leaders have reflected on this experience with the feedback we have received throughout the month. Paul was most excited to hear feedback from new folks and longtime members and one of his takeaways was that we have desire and the need to infuse new styles of worship while also holding on to favorite hymns that were the foundation of the Wesleyan tradition. Pastor Paul stated, “My takeaways from the conversation are that our church is ready to move towards more vibrant worship with innovative music. We are ready for a worship leader to engage us on Sunday mornings – someone who can incorporate our favorite hymns, inclusive language, and social justice themes.”
I encourage you to reflect on what worship means to you and how we as a church can move into more lively, vibrant, innovative worship.
My name is Molly Collier and I have the pleasure of serving as a student pastor at U Gathering for the summer. I come to you from Methodist Theological School of Ohio and I am grateful for the warm welcome I received last Sunday during worship! I am looking forward to the rest of my time here getting to know you as we grow and serve together.
Pastor Paul has been preaching from the sermon series Choosing Change and we will continue with that theme this Sunday. For some folks, change can be exciting and adventurous while it can also bring about feelings of fear and anxiety. Pema Chodron, in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, writes the following, “The spiritual journey goes beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on a spiritual path may be to just keep moving.” As we move through this spiritual journey of change as a church community and as you may be going through changes in your own personal lives, I encourage you to keep moving. I encourage you to trust in the process of change and lean into the feelings of excitement and even the feelings of doubt and fear that may be coming up for you. Chodron also says, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” We, as a church and a people, are moving closer to the truth of who God called us to be as a relevant, thriving faith community.
Join us this Sunday, in-person or online, as Pastor Paul and I will be preaching together and talking about what awaits you on the other side of change.
OPEN HOUSE THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 12th
University Gathering + 5:30-7:30 pm
1415 NE 43rd Street, north building entrance
We’re building a new church on our current site at NE 43rd and 15th Ave NE, on the street level of a project that will include student housing. We want to hear from neighbors now!
(planning for 2023)
Our current building, long used and loved by many people, is hard to access and shut off from the life of the street. We’re designing for windows on the sidewalk, full accessibility, day and evening events, and rooms for flexible use.
(way more open)
Plans include a corner café with adjoining forum space, a big hall with a kitchen, a beautiful new Sanctuary for worship and public gatherings, room for human services, classes, music, meditation,
celebrations, conversations . . . What do you want to see inside?
(for church & community)
Help us imagine a new life inside the new doors!
This is a new chapter in a long story that started in 1901 with Methodists holding church in a tent. Buildings have changed over the years, but our commitment
to the University District is still strong. Love still calls us here, in worship and in service.