New Communion Ware Pictures

It’s one of those things that I took for granted – vessels for the Lord’s Supper. We always had them around at the churches I had worshiped at in the past. It never really occurred to me that there was a Sunday when someone said: “What are we going to use for the Lord’s Supper?” and then went out and bought them. I decided that since that task fell to me that I would seek out a local artist to make something for us. If you don’t know, Stanwood and Camano Island are known for the local art community. It just made sense. Here are some pictures of the vessels made for us by Leslie Whaley at Moonswept Studio:

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You may be curious about the choice of design for the plate/platter. I’ll tell you about the salmon, but first you need to understand the writing. The Greek is from John 6:51 that is translated: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” I chose to have it in Greek because for me it adds to the sense of mystery, tradition, and ancient roots of the Lord’s Supper. John 6 has intrigued me for years ever since I discovered the connections in the story. Jesus wants to take his disciples away to be alone for awhile after days of serving and teaching. Instead, crowds follow him into the middle of nowhere. He has compassion, teaches them, and then miraculously feeds them with FISH and broken bread. After that, he sends the disciples across the lake by boat and Jesus goes up the mountain to pray.

The crowds decide that they are going to create a violent uprising against Rome and make Jesus king. Jesus knows their plans and secretly walks across the surface of the lake in the middle of the night. In a dramatic meeting in a storm on the lake the disciples take Jesus into their boat and reach their destination. In the morning the crowds figure out that Jesus has given them the slip, and in need of more food they follow him across the lake. When they find him they try to convince him to give them more food. Jesus does not do it, but instead tells them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. He teaches them that he is the bread from heaven and that anyone who eats him will never go hungry again and will have eternal life.The teaching is so hard (should we say “repulsive”) that many of his followers, and presumably the entire hungry crowd, desert him. I could write a lot more here about this, but I think I’ll save it for a future sermon. My main point here is that this passage is where we get the best glimpse into Jesus’ early teaching about what the Lord’s Supper really is all about.

So why the salmon? Well, first of all, fish have always played an important role in Christian symbolism and often in early Christianity it is associated with the eucharist (Lord’s Supper). If you want to to read a good article that explains this connection take a look at “Symbolism of the Fish” from the Catholic Encyclopedia.  The one thing that this article doesn’t mention is that many of Jesus’ early disciples were fishermen and they were told by Jesus that they had a greater calling – that they were to “fish for people” (Matt. 4:19).

As for choosing a salmon, I would hope that it would be obvious. We have a lot of salmon around Stanwood and Camano Island! Maybe not as much as there once was, but you will still hear people from all walks of life talking about salmon. Our newspapers always seem to have articles about the connection between salmon and the health of Puget Sound, our rivers, the Native American culture, sport fishing, etc. In the Stanwood/Camano Island area there is some conflict and debate about the “tidelands” and their importance for both the salmon and local agriculture. Since the type of fish has never seemed to be especially important in Christian symbolism it just made sense to have a salmon for Tidelands Church. Beyond that, for me, it will always connect me back to that story from John 6. So many people ate from the miraculous fish, but so few were willing to follow Jesus when his teaching was less palatable.

3rd Places

Over the years I’ve led and participated in a number of short-term missions to various places in the United States and beyond. Generally the trips are no more than two weeks long, and we end up spending that time living and working with missionaries that are serving in that location on a long-term basis. Being in a foreign culture, it can become tempting to insulate yourself at the home/base of the missionaries. In that place there is a sense of safety, comforts, and a bit of “home away from home.” But in doing so, it is also possible to spend all of your time in a foreign country without truly experiencing and interacting with the very people and culture that you came to serve.

Outdoor CafeIf you really want to get out and experience a new place and get to know the people and culture you need to get out and go to where people gather. You need to spend time in restaurants, cafes, markets and parks. Some of the richest and most vivid experiences from my time on these short-term trips were spent in these places. I think of the chaos of the marketplace in Senegal, the beauty of the open-air jungle cafe in Costa Rica, and the wonderful tastes and smells of the street taco stands of Mexico. These gathering spots are the “3rd Places.”

In urban planning “3rd Places” (or “3rd Spaces”) are those spots other than home or work where people gather together. For the missional church, 3rd Places are those spots other than home or church where people gather. This could be a cafe, restaurant, park, school, gym, etc. These are places where people feel comfortable and safe. Places where food, drink and conversation flow. This is where you get to know the community and the stories that form it.

As we get moving with this new missional church, we are making a point of moving ourselves into these spaces. I’m grateful right now that I don’t have a formal office, because it makes it easier for me to find “excuses” to be out in the community. In fact, I’m sitting in a gym during basketball practice right now as I write this and I’ve already met someone I’ve never talked with before. But spending intentional time in 3rd places is not limited to individuals. We can also gather as a group. That is why, as a missional community we are going to go out to eat together at least once a month to the same location so that we can get known as “regulars” and have more opportunities to interact with the lives and stories that make up this community. Our hope is that over time this will also facilitate our ability to build relationships and make contact with those in our community that have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

There are two different ways that we, as the missional church, want to be intentional about being present in these 3rd places. First, we want to go back to at least one place often enough that we get to know that place and people well and truly become part of it. The first time that I walk into the Stanwood Starbucks and the barista knows my drink order before I say it, I’ll know I’m crossing into that special zone of belonging. Second, we want to visit 3rd places that we either haven’t been to before or might not normally visit. The reason for the latter should be obvious: if we only go where we are comfortable and fit in we will in some ways be like the short term missionary that never leaves the missionary’s home and therefore never truly gets to know and experience the culture.

So the moral here: Go out more often! Seriously! But as you go, be sure to look, listen, and pray that you will have the eyes to see your community and the people around you as Jesus does.

Moving Forward and Gaining Momentum!

I feel like every day we just keep taking small steps forward and they seem to come faster as time goes on. Here are a few updates from this week:

  • Grant approved! We received a $25,000 Mission Program Grant. What an answer to prayer (and a lot of hard week by our discernment team). Details here.
  • Website, Facebook Page, Email (Brandon@stanwoodtidelands.org) up and running!
  • Mountain View PC’s Session approved a bunch of proposals by our core team including setting up a bank account, approving Core Team members, and setting the date for our first worship gathering on Sunday, October 28 (time/place TBA)
  • We had our first informational meeting last Saturday, and we have another one coming up on Thursday, October 25, 6:00 PM at the Stanwood Library
  • There are some solid leads on possible spaces in the community for offices and worship gatherings. Already I’m dreaming about ways to incorporate these spaces as part of our mission in the community.

Website & Informational Meetings

We now have a website! www.stanwoodtidelands.org

I will continue to make posts to this blog – especially ideas and reflections as we move through the church development process. However, I will begin to move more of the news and announcements to the church website.

Meetings Coming Soon!

We are going to have two informational meetings open to the community and anyone interested in knowing more about what we are trying to start with Tidelands.

  • Saturday, October 13, 6:00 pm  (Stanwood Library)
  • Thursday, October 25, 6:00 pm (Stanwood Library)

Both meetings will be in the library meeting room. We will have some snacks, share a brief overview of the plans for the new church, and have a time for questions. We will cover the same information in both meetings. Even if you are not interested in being a part of the new church you are welcome to come to find out what we are doing. If you have questions please email Brandon@stanwoodtidelands.org.

100%

One of many places I like to use for a temporary work space.

I’ve officially transferred over to my new position as “organizing pastor” of Tidelands. It is nice to finally be dedicating 100% of my work time to setting up this new ministry. I’m beginning to realize just how much of my office resides in boxes at the moment! I feel a bit homeless after having an office to go to every morning for the past 14 years, but that is not necessary a bad thing. I’m also experiencing a bit of the same overwhelmed feeling I had when I first experienced the freedom of my youth ministry position at Mountain View (“here is the job: now go for it!”). I had built up a bit of a routine and schedule in my life of ministry that became quite comfortable and now I’m starting from scratch again.

So far I’ve been able to spend a lot of time getting to know the Stanwood/Camano community better. I’ve been searching for a good place to hold our informational meeting and I’ve discovered that there aren’t many (any?) restaurants with meeting rooms around the area. Kristina and I are beginning to wonder where sports teams go when they have their end of season parties! I’ll have to ask my soccer team parents that questions this week. Right now it looks like the library meeting room may well be the way to go.

Today as I was driving around and dropping in at different places I realized just how much I am already falling in love with this community and these people! It has a lot of small-town friendliness mixed with tourism, commuter life, island life, and quirkiness. This is a good place to land and raise our kids. I am so grateful to God for leading us here and I can’t wait to begin blessing this community with the love of Christ! In the meantime, I need to try to get some floorspace cleared out in our shop bedroom so that I can set up a desk and unpack some boxes!

Tidelands – What’s Next?

Many people have been wondering what the next steps are for Tidelands now that I am ordained and will be moving into the “organizing pastor” role full time. Right away I will begin setting up a temporary office at our Camano Island home since many of the early steps in the church planting process will involve administrative work (setting up financial accounts, contact information, advertising, meeting times, website, etc). I realize this isn’t the glamorous stuff of church planting, but it will need to be done! I will also be trying to set up meetings with the many leads that I have with people in the Stanwood/Camano Island community. I’m very excited to be able to spend my days entirely in the community and to get to know people better! This is the exciting part of church planting! We delayed the “informational meeting” in the community until my job transitioned, so I will also be helping to set a date and location for that meeting.

Packing up the office

Packing up my office at Mountain View

Our discernment team has begun the transition into a missional community and we will also be setting up our “core leadership team.” Our primary focus will be on getting one missional community up and running. Already we are meeting people from the community that are interested in being a part of this group, but it will need to remain small to start. I will be working on learning more about what it means to lead a missional community and trying to set the foundation with this first group so that we can multiply quickly and train new leaders. Because we have sensed God leading us in the direction of missional communities the process may appear slow from the perspective of traditional new church development. We will only be having worship gatherings once a month at the beginning so that we can put most of our effort into building the missional communities. This will take time; there is no way to shortcut the process of building relationships and reaching out to those that do not yet know Jesus.

For those of you that are just dying to locate our new church community in a place, you will be thrilled to know that in the coming weeks we will also be looking for a building to lease for our worship gatherings. It may be a school, a storefront, or other suitable semi-large space. As funding from grant and other funding begins to come in we will also start looking for a suitable office space to lease.

Of course, now that I have written all of this, I expect that the Holy Spirit will shake things up a bit. For me, there is no greater joy than anticipating the next wave of the Spirit and feeling the push and pull in new directions. Please continue to pray for us as we get started.

Ordination Arrives!

I’ve been a bit behind in keeping things updated on this blog lately. Life is hopping with the start of school for our boys (new school on Camano Island), soccer (I’m coaching in Stanwood), the ordination process, and the ramp-up of fall programs at Mountain View. I will do my best to get more frequent updates here, but I am also beginning the process of looking for a permanent web presence for Tidelands other than this blog. I’ll keep you posted.

Last week I was examined at the North Puget Sound Presbytery meeting and they voted to approve my ordination! At times it felt like this day would never arrive, but I certainly never expected it to arrive in this way. I aways assumed I would be moving to a distant community. What a blessing to remain in proximity to the friends we have made in the past 14 years and to be launching this new adventure! The ordination service will be at Mountain View Presbyterian Church this Sunday,  September 23, at 3:00 PM. Everyone is invited!

On another note, we have already begun talking and meeting with others in the community that have recently moved to the Stanwood area and are looking for a new church home. It seems that God is answering our prayers to connect us with those who will be future leaders in our missional communities!

Tidelands

It’s official! The session of Mountain View and the Executive Board of North Puget Sound Presbytery have both approved our discernment team’s plan to start a “daughter church!” (if you want the plan details, check out the links below the picture at the top of this blog). We are calling this new faith community “Tidelands,” and it will be located in the Stanwood/Camano Island area.

This is the result of a lot of hard work and prayer by many people! It is going to be exciting to see how God uses Tidelands to advance the work of Jesus Christ in the world. The next step in the process will be to have an informational meeting in the Stanwood area on September 17 (location TBA). Also, I will be examined for ordination at the September 12 meeting of the Presbytery of North Puget Sound in order to become the “organizing pastor” of the new church. You are all invited to join us for the ordination service here at Mountain View on September 23, at 3:00 PM. Please continue to lift us up in prayer as we move forward.