Finding Equilibrium

“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.

Friends,

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.

In Christ,

Molly Collier

Engaging the Experiment

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.

In Christ,

Molly Collier

Hear from our Student Pastor, Molly Collier

Hello friends, 

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. 

In Christ, 

Molly Collier 

Lift Up Holy Hands

Kindred in Christ,

My ministry coach, Beth Estock, who is also the co-author of Weird Church: Welcome to the 21st Century, has influenced me to practice embodied prayers. As a way of growing from a posture where I was often swayed too easily by the fleeting circumstances of life (which is something I identified I wanted to work on), she offered me the imagery of The Way of the Grounded Oak Tree. The Oak Tree, Beth reminded me, is an intricate part of the rest of the forest life, deeply rooted among its fellow trees and connected to all living things simply by its being. It can weather a storm and is not easily moved, for it is deeply connected to the earth and its true value.

More than reflecting on this concept in my head, Beth offered me a somatic prayer practice where a few times a week I stand in wide legged mountain pose. Ground myself in the earth and feel my feet rooted in the ground and imagine power rising up through my body. I raise my arms up over my head in v shape to the sky and imagine I am drinking in the light and love of the universe.

At first, I found this practice to be weird and slightly uncomfortable. But the more I practiced it, the more I experienced freedom on a bodily level. This eventually translated into freedom in my emotions, mind, and spirit.

Last week we were joined by our friends from Acts on Stage and Townsend school of Music and Arts for our first Sunday in our worship collaboration series. We were led to practice worship in ways that are new and more embodied to some. Yet witnessing our hands raising and clapping, people dancing, and experiencing the energy and joy in our worship space, I know that we are being led to greater freedom. Freedom from the things that have kept our church and ourselves from being fully alive in the present moment. And freedom to Choose the Change God is offering us to make for the sake of relevant ministry in the U District.

I invite you to join us in-person this coming Sunday as we continue to explore the change God is calling us into and discern new ways to worship God together.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Choosing Change

Kindred in Christ,

I am very excited to partner with Acts on Stage and Townsend School of Music & Arts, for our upcoming worship series Choosing Change. Often, we only think of change as something that is thrusted upon our ordinary, unchanging lives. But the truth is that change is the only real constant to our lives. And God is inviting us to choose the change that will bring greater flourishing for us and our neighbors in the particular time and place we find ourselves in.

Not only will we be reflecting on a spirituality of change-making, but our collaborators will help bring innovation and change to our regular Sunday worship. I hope you will join us in-person during the weeks in July, as we explore and participate in the change God is calling us to make in ourselves, our church, and the world.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz