Beloved St Andrew siblings,
I have come to a difficult decision that is born out of deep and unending love for you and for the church. For a while now I have been offering professional skills to St Andrew on a volunteer basis as a Parish Associate. Throughout my presence at St Andrew, in every role I have had, I have engaged in processes of discernment with outstanding colleagues and companions, including Scott and Julie Kae, around what is reasonable and sustainable, and I have felt called to be present in the ways I have been. It is now the case however, as I try to keep my heart and mind open for what the Spirit wants of me, that I realize I am being called to step out of this Parish Associate role at the end of this fiscal year: June 30th.
We understand as a community that healthy boundaries are essential to our own well-being and to the work to which we are called. These boundaries insist that when one who is in pastoral leadership steps out of that role, they cannot remain at the church they have served. This means I will not be present at St Andrew after June 30th, expect maybe to preach if you need pulpit supply. This is a heartbreaking decision because I love you. It is a decision that emerges from a long and difficult process of discernment and, even as it breaks my heart, I am trusting it is the right thing to do at this time. Scott and Julie Kae are my dearest professional colleagues and you are my dearest teachers and so I am also trusting that the care and call which binds us to each other will continue even as our roles and the ways we connect will change. We still have work to do together as we serve God, God’s church, and God’s beloved world.
So now my question. This crisis we are in has been exposing structures of inequality and hardship. My work has been, and will continue to be, centered on working with the church as we figure out how to be a voice and an agent of compassion, justice and peace. You are a church with deep experience, questions and insight about how we might grow together as a community that attends to the outsider and those who suffer. I would, therefore, love to spend some time in these next few months listening for what you see and what you are thinking about around the current crisis and what it has revealed. With CJP, I would love to host a conversation around this. You can expect me to be in touch soon with some opportunities to talk this through. My time with you and in this work of community building has taught me that the Spirit dwells in our thoughts and questions and in the pull we feel towards the needs of the other. I would love to hear what this Spirit has to say to you at this time. I think it might be helpful for our future work – together and apart.
Beloved St Andrew, you have been God-given teachers and partners to me these past 18 years, and I am grateful beyond anything I can express. My prayers are centered on faith in our loving God’s promise to hold you and me and everything we are being called into. You have my heart.
Rev. Maggie Breen
Beloved St. Andrew Community,
The Session met on Monday evening and, after prayerfully identifying and weighing the many values we hold together in tension as a church, made two important decisions.
The group is representative of the session, deacons, and personnel committee. In addition, we are consulting with many others, so that we can quickly coordinate our actions and communication as we determine the way forward according to the values we named together as a session:
These are challenging, anxious times, yet I am convinced there may be a potentially brilliant silver lining to this cloud. I believe the church is made for times just like this, and I look forward to the imaginative ways we will continue to hold one another as the Spirit of Life shows up in our midst. As the Samaritan woman is waiting to teach us this Sunday, with Jesus there is sustenance waiting for us we have yet to realize!
You will hear more in the next few days, but for now, we wanted to make you aware so you can plan accordingly.
Grace & Peace,
Note: You can download a copy of this letter here.
Beloved St. Andrew community,
We want you to be aware that St. Andrew is committed to being proactive, reasonable, and instructive as we respond to a complex and rapidly evolving situation around the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the resulting infection, COVID-19 (from Corona Virus Disease 2019). The health and safety of our community and all of our partners who share the facility is paramount. Yet we also recognize that at the heart of our faith is life that is shared. We need to be together, even as we need to protect one another, and honor the choices of others—especially those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and other corona viruses. We trust we all will refrain from making judgment or taking offense in this time of anxiety.
Therefore, we do not anticipate “neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25), even as other organizations may choose to do so. At this point we plan to worship together weekly. We have and may cancel, reschedule or hold remotely other meetings. Exercising an abundance of caution, we have implemented additional preventative measures to reduce contamination and transmission, including these:
Note: You can download a pdf of this letter here.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” ~Philippians 2: 1–5
January 9, 2020
Beloved St. Andrew Community:
Did you know we have multiple, interrelated behavioral policies that help us to ensure health and well-being in our communion—especially those we consider most vulnerable among us? Our priority of care for our children and vulnerable adults is a sacred trust. It grows from the sacraments; from the promises we make in baptism and the insights we gain at the communion table.
First of all, there’s baptism. In this sacrament we intentionally and with self-awareness gather around promises. Foremost are the promises we understand God to be making to all God’s creation, to the church, and to individuals known in the stories of God’s fidelity throughout the scriptures, and particularly in the self-giving of Jesus who is our pattern for life and ministry. Our own promises to and for one another emanate from the God who acts first. In response, as a congregation, we promise to care for the baptized as if they are our own:
You can download a pdf copy of all the related letters here.
Beloved St. Andrew community,
We are pleased to let you know that at our December Session meeting, we made a unanimous decision to practice the celebration of communion on a weekly basis. As you know, this is the culmination of recent conversation at St. Andrew, and reflective of a long shift in Christian sacramental practices generally, in our own denomination, and at St. Andrew. This puts us in line with our Reformed theological tradition and Presbyterian polity, and with our current understanding of best practices for our formation as the people of God.
A few weeks ago, we asked for your prayers in our discernment around moving to weekly communion. Since then we have spoken with many of you and on November 3rd,we sought understanding together in Aftertalk. Session met this past Monday where we reflected, and prayerfully thought about next steps. We take our promises to God, and your trust as your current session very seriously, and we discerned that while the call to weekly communion is strong we, as a community, need more time to be with this question and all that it would mean to us and to our life together as a church body. So, we will be back in touch soon with some more ways for us to think and pray together about this, and as a session we will keep paying attention for God’s wisdom and call. The subject will stay on our session docket until the way forward is clear and we look forward to being in ongoing conversation with you.
Thank you for your prayers and your sense of where the Spirit is leading.
Marie West Johnson
As a young girl growing up in Olympia, it wasn't unusual to experience Indian Summers, those warm days that would linger into September and October. The autumns of my childhood hold precious memories—hot cocoa with marshmallows, harvest moons, migrating birds in the yard, my dad building a fire in the fireplace, hayrides at the Mima Mounds with the church youth group. Life was fairly simple then, at least that is how it seemed for this tomboy who much preferred a baseball mitt to a Barbie doll. And now Craig has taught me that Fall means FOOTBALL!
During those extended times of seasonal warm temperatures, you could usually find me perched high in the top of the large cherry tree that was in our backyard. My mom always complained that the cherries were "wormy", but I thought they were delicious as I sat high in the tree and ate till my stomach ached.
From the Session
We are excited to announce that Andrea Shirey has started her work as Director of Children and Family Ministries. Please take time to welcome her to her new role. Andrea's work is to help all of us to fulfill our baptismal promises to our children, youth, and families—to “guide and nurture them by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Jesus Christ.” Andrea is a connector with a lot of energy and people skills that will help her to be a partner to all our children and their families. Andrea’s role is just under half-time (18 hours per week), and she will work with Amber Oakes who has engaged many of our youth in Afterplay during the year and will continue to do so. As we move toward the fall, the shape of the role will become more developed. In the meantime, have a conversation with her. Share your hopes and gifts and listen for hers. You can reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a bit more about Andrea:
Five Random Things About Andrea
I took a little trip with my mom and a friend recently. I was taking them for a visit they had arranged which didn’t quite turn out the way we had planned it. The visit didn’t happen. A sick day for the host. But what emerged was extraordinary. A trip up another mountain and down memory lane. A visit to old homes and haunts for my mom that I had heard about, but never seen. A homestead now flooded, not just with memories, but with the water of Riffe Lake. Locations and images to tether stories I’d long heard that existed only in the ether of my imagination. It was a truly rich, and unexpected day I will treasure.
It got me thinking that this is the way of this journey of ours anyway. Despite our plans—good ones, flawed ones (usually a bit of both)—the Spirit of life comes to us where we least expect it and summons us (thank you John Bell, GTG 726) to destinations we “don’t know” finding we will “never be the same.” Abram becomes Abraham, and Sarai, Sarah, the parents of a sky-full of promise because they sat out on a journey with no assurances, no visible end. Let’s face it, in wilderness and in promised territory alike, Israel wanders. In Luke, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem, but then travels this circuitous journey that is anything but a straight line geographically, or existentially, most surprising of all through death to new life. I don’t know if we’ll ever get comfortable with this one.