by Scott Anderson
As I remember it, back in the spring of 2007, Lisa Phillips was the one who first mentioned Maggie as a candidate for the newly created youth director position at St. Andrew. The idea seemed like a fine one to me. The interview team agreed. She had already been engaged in a growing leadership role. She had ben a Deacon. With young kids, she was already attuned to their world, questions, and needs.
As they say, one thing led to another. Most of you have walked this story with Maggie and with St. Andrew as she has walked alongside our kids and invited us to do the same, as she had integrated them deeply into our life together, as she has taken on not only a greater leadership role in our midst, but in the larger Renton community in our service to others. You’ve supported her as she discerned a growing call to ministry and headed to seminary. You’ve celebrated with her as she was named a Renton Citizen of the Year. You’ve prayed for her as she traveled to South Korea with the World Council of Churches.
Maggie’s vision has led to the transformation of what was a de-energized REACH into a vibrant community partnership reaching across faith, governmental, educational, and non-profit lines that has captured the attention of the cities of Seattle, Lynnwood and other nearby municipalities. They are looking to REACH to learn how to bring together and serve our communities in more effective and sustainable ways.
Your energy, imagination, expertise and love has played a major role, of course. You’ve given thousands and thousands of hours to serving meals, playing with homeless kids, sleeping in churches overnight so they and their moms have a place to stay, cleaning up after one another. You’ve brought your expertise to bear in transforming a loose association into a highly functioning, incorporated non-profit with a quickly growing budget. You’ve provided adaptive and visionary leadership, financial and bookkeeping expertise, office space, too many blankets to count, and a level of patience, kindness and love that is simply astonishing.
This Tuesday will bring another significant marker to this growing work that I believe speaks to a hopeful future for the Church and the society it serves in God’s name. Maggie will go before Seattle Presbytery to be examined for ordination as a Teaching Elder, or Minister of Word and Sacrament. She is being called by your Session to what we like to call a bi-locational ministry through St. Andrew as Associate Pastor for Youth, Families, and Community.
What does this mean?
Technically, REACH has contracted with St. Andrew to provide an Executive Pastor to lead the REACH non-profit and community. REACH’s financial contribution is being combined with what we at St. Andrew have already budgeted for Maggie’s current position to create a new Associate Pastor position. For Maggie, it means she will be getting paid for 10 more hours of work each week than she was before for a work to which she has given her heart, soul, and mind. She will also receive medical and pension benefits through the PCUSA’s Board of Pensions. With REACH’s fundraising projections, this position will grow to full-time over the next few years.
For REACH it means sustainability and the promise of living more fully into a compelling vision of broad community partnerships that lead to peace, stability, and well-being for all God’s children.
For St. Andrew it means a continuation of the work we are doing for youth and families, and the assurance that we are paying our people equitably and sustainably for the energy and expertise they bring. Even more, it signals that we are leaning into the work that I believe is ours in this hinge period of history. The church as a whole has lost much of its integrity and its future is threatened. The Pacific Northwest, with its declining membership rolls, has forecasted a similar institutional decline in other areas of the country and the world. This is not new information to you. And yet, the hunger for meaning seems only to have grown. The young, in particular, seem to be searching for places where they can find it.
The work of this time is to create new points of connection to serve the generations to come in the ways this Gospel calls. Our engagement with the world, our service to it, is becoming one of those ways that the young, in particular, are reconnecting. Our own well-being is, of course, caught up in it, knowing that to save our lives, we must lose them. Along with being at the heart and soul of what we are called to be as disciples of this one who “gave his life for many,” our work in the world is perhaps the most important location for reaching out in ways that will re-shape and re-introduce the life of the church as a place of belonging, behaving, and believing.
So let me invite you to a celebration of God’s faithfulness: Sunday evening, February 8th, about 6:00pm at St. Andrew. Join with Seattle Presbytery, and, I suspect, quite a few from the community to celebrate Maggie’s ordination and the continuation of a long work in the same direction.
Chuck Sigars is currently an elder at St. Andrew and a newspaper columnist and author.