Advent in the Dark

Kindred in Christ,

One of the things I love most about Advent is the invitation to embrace the darkness and mystery in our lives. During the four weeks leading to Christmas, we get to only light one candle per week. A slow progression from darkness to light. This serves as a reminder that our spiritual lives are nourished from both the certainty of the light, and the mystery of darkness.

Join us this Sunday, as we reflect further on these themes in our series, The Unexpected Gifts of Advent. And in the meantime, I invite you to take time to meditate on the prayer below.


Advent in the Dark

We wait in the darkness,

expectantly, longingly, anxiously, thoughtfully.

The darkness is our friend.

In the darkness of the womb,

we have all been nurtured and protected.

In the darkness of the womb

the Christ-child was made ready for the journey into light.

It is only in the darkness

that we can see the splendor of the universe –

blankets of stars, the solitary glowings of the planets.

It was the darkness that allowed the Magi to find the star

that guided them to where the Christ-child lay.

In the darkness of the night,

desert people find relief from the cruel relentless heat of the sun.

In the blessed desert darkness

Mary and Joseph were able to flee with the infant Jesus

to safety in Egypt.

In the darkness of sleep,

we are soothed and restored, healed and renewed.

In the darkness of sleep, dreams rise up.

God spoke to Joseph and the wise men through dreams.

God is speaking still.

Sometimes in the solitude of the darkness

our fears and concerns, our hopes and visions

rise to the surface.

We come face to face with ourselves

and with the road that lies ahead of us.

And in that same darkness

we find companionship for the journey.

In that same darkness

we sometimes allow ourselves to wonder and worry

whether the human race is going to survive.

And then, in the darkness

we know that you are with us, O God,

yet still we await your coming.

In the darkness that contains both our hopelessness and our hope,

we watch for a sign of God’s hope.

For you are with us, O God,

in darkness and in light.


~ from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand (abridged).  Posted by James Hawes, on Sunday Papers.

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Welcome, Ben!

Kindred in Christ,

I am thrilled to welcome our new Worship Leader, Ben Fowler, this Sunday Dec 4th. I hope you will join us in-person or online to greet Ben as he leads us in some of our favorite Advent hymns! In the meantime, feel free to send him a note of welcome at

I am also excited to continue in our series, The Unexpected Gifts of Advent. During these four weeks leading to Christmas, we are exploring the four themes of advent (Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy) in light of the four antiracist values of transformation according to Crossroads. These values are:

  1. From either/or thinking to both/and thinking
  2. From a scarcity mindset to an abundance worldview
  3. From a secrecy mode to transparent communication and decision making
  4. From Individualism to cooperation and collaboration

Read more about these transformational values here.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

The Unexpected Gifts of Advent

Kindred in Christ,

During this season of gratitude, I give thanks for each of you, and for the unfolding journey we walk together accompanied by the Spirit.

A few years ago with a former church I used to serve, I attended an anti-racist training with Crossroads, which was very eye opening. They challenged us to think critically regarding how decisions were made, where power was consolidated, and how white institutional values still drove decision making even with a diverse church staff and leadership.

The four white institutional values they outlined were either/or thinking, a scarcity world view, the practice of secrecy, and competitive individualism. Of course, these are not the only white institutional values, but these are the ones that have been identified as showing up again and again in organizational systems—including churches.

Yet, as it turns out, the opposite of these four white institutional values, correspond well with what God was enacting in this world through the coming of Jesus. Unexpected values, that God gifted to us, by arriving in our midst in human form. Values that run counter to the systems of privilege and exclusion and empower us to live in the fullness and freedom of God’s love.

Join us this Sunday as we light the Hope candle, and begin our new Advent worship series, The Unexpected Gifts of Advent. This first week we will explore what it might look like to trust and practice a both/and way of being in the face of either/or systems.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Building to the Future Pledge Video

Kindred in Christ, 
For the last few weeks we have been in a worship series titled Building to the Future. Each week we have considered the different “building blocks” of the kin-dom of God and the essential ingredients to our collective future as a church in the U District. Our own, Leo DeDios, along with a number of other members from our community have put together a video highlighting perhaps the most important element of community—people. God’s abundant and inclusive love for people is the reason we do ministry, and people (each of you included!) are needed to continue to do this important work. This series has also coincided with our pledge campaign season, when we are each  invited to reflect on how we are people in the midst of Christian community, and how we can give of ourselves and our finances to what God is doing in our midst. I invite you to watch the video above, and join us this Sunday in-person or online as we conclude our series.
Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Our New Worship Leader!

Kindred in Christ,

As your Lead Pastor (Paul Ortiz), it is my deep joy to introduce you to our new Worship Leader, Ben Fowler (pictured above)! I am beyond grateful for the commitment and discernment of our search team that made it possible for us to get to this point. Ben will begin leading us in worship on Sunday, Dec. 4th. Here’s his bio:

Ben is excited to be joining the staff at U Gathering as a Worship Leader. His experience in the church is vast and varied and has at times been a bit rocky. Coming out late in life presented some challenges to his personal life and faith and he’s grateful to be joining a community that celebrates LGBTQIA+ people and where it’s ok to ask questions, doubt, and not have things all figured out.

Ben lives in Seattle with his partner, Grant. He has four amazing kids that he absolutely adores; they live with their mom nearby.

Ben grew up playing music of all kinds and went to the University of Washington where he majored in clarinet performance and orchestral studies. He still plays a lot of music and has been getting into his roots and learning the Irish flute.

He loves to be outside and feels fortunate to live in such a beautiful area with access to all kinds of recreational pursuits. He grew up skiing and wakeboarding and likes to hike and camp. His latest hobby…sewing.

In the photo below: Ben, Grant, Aria, Karis, Cadence, Selah

Here’s what some members of our search team are saying about Ben: