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Becoming God's New Thing: Seventh Edition

Perceiving and cooperating with the good things God "is getting up to" in and around our parish.

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

Missed the All-Parish Gathering? This is for You!

On June 23rd, many members of St. John's gathered for lunch to discover and celebrate the musical and artistic gifts of all who attended. Knowing that not everyone could make it, I wanted to share some of the highlights from that day with you. 

Spoiler Alert: We did an exercise at the luncheon to help each of us identify the gifts we have to share in worship. We captured this information in photographs by inviting each person to stand with others who share similar gifts and the same desire to share them.

When you arrive at church tomorrow, you will see these photos on the walls of the Narthex. After you've had a chance to take them in, a familiar face will ask if you would like to have your photo taken and added to the display. Equipped with an iPhone and a tiny printer, you'll be handed your every own headshot to tape next the faces of those who share your particular gift or skill. 

A Summary of the Gathering:

Our gathering began with a delicious barbecue/hot dog lunch from Joe Kattenhorn and some light conversation. Following lunch, I presented a model for change and transition that Paula Copley, Jim Besaw, and I learned during our week-long intensive training at the College for Congregational Development. The Bridges Model (named after William Bridges) offers a way of thinking about and understanding the challenges we have faced trying to regain our footing during these past two "post-COVID" years — particularly in the area of music in worship.

Next, Michael Monnikendam shared his thoughts about the roles that music and artistic expression have played throughout our development as human beings and in our culture — and how these same forms of creative expression, when used artfully in worship, can intensify and enrich our Sunday liturgy of the Holy Eucharist. In fact, music, art, and worship are foundational for how God forms us as individual Christians and as a Christian community.

All of this was to prime the pump for a group exercise aimed at helping everyone consider the inherent nature of their musical and creative gifts — and to bring those gifts into the worship of God, thereby enhancing and helping shape our Sunday celebration of Holy Eucharist. The exercise was simple and straightforward: it required us to move our bodies to quite literally stand (or position ourselves) where our particular gifts were being invited.

Michael Monnikendam and I held up signs with a word or two that indicated a particular form of creative expression, and asked anyone who had these gifts (and might be willing to share them) to stand next to the sign — and we snapped photos.

Here are a few:  

Singing in a choir

Liturgical Dance or Movement in Worship

Poetry in Worship

(There are several more photos you can view here.)


Here are some of the things we took away:

From the presentations, we gained 

  • An appreciation that the years immediately following a major catastrophe like the pandemic can actually be as hard as, if not harder than, the catastrophic event.

  • An understanding that there is a period following major disruption, perfectly illustrated in the 40 years that Moses and the people wandered in the wilderness after fleeing from slavery. Namely, that we become so uncomfortable waiting to see what emerges after a major change that we do one or some combination of the following three things:

a) we so long for what was that we cling to the idea that things can simply return to normal,

b) we frantically engage in futile efforts to force a new beginning, or

c) we give up or check out.

  • A sense that St. John's is remarkably resilient. Michael Monnikendam shared his initial astonishment at St. John's Sunday attendance, compared to many of the downtown Seattle parishes whose Sunday attendance has not rebounded from the pandemic.

  • A sense that Michael Monnikendam answering call for him to serve as our Music Director and Organist signaled the start of a new beginning.

From the group exercise, we learned that

  • Inviting members of the parish to reveal the expressive and musical gifts they desire to share creates possibilities that are not realized when we focus on what we perceive to be lacking in the parish or our ministries.

  • Energy is generated and new possibilities emerge when we invite people to stand with others around shared gifts. 

  • There is an abundance of creativity and energy in our parish, and that we need to find creative ways to gather and incorporate you and your gifts into those who were able to attend the gathering.  


I look forward to seeing you tomorrow and building upon the work begun on the 23rd. 

And if, for whatever reason, you are away tomorrow, we'll keep the photos up and at another time invite you to add your lovely face to the photo of those whose gifts align with your own.

Blessings and peace always,


Postscript. When I return from vacation on Wednesday, July 17, Michael, Trish and I are taking the morning to map out the rest of this liturgical year and beginning planning for the next. Central to our planning will be to identify where your gifts can be used to enhance our observances of the many feasts, fasts, occasions and seasons of the liturgical year. M+

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