By Aaron Willett, SeaPres Communications
Tell us about this new thing that God is doing in Greenwood: What is the Feast Community?
God’s church is the vehicle through which the abundant, overflowing life of the Spirit is given to the world. But because culture is always changing and evolving with each successive generation, God’s people need to be quick on their feet and continually adopt new postures of engagement to create space at God’s table to effectively invite and welcome in different people into God’s Kingdom feast. With that being said, the Feast Community is a weekly gathering of around 25 people who are dreaming and imagining ways in which local communities of faith can help the Kingdom of God become tangible within their neighborhood in the 21st Century. So, the question that gathers us together in Greenwood each week is: How do we imagine helping Greenwood flourish? How can we partner in God’s mission to make this neighborhood fully alive to God’s good purposes? So, this means we’re very much an experimental community that is also a think-tank. We call ourselves the Feast Community because there’s a great line that comes from St. Athanasius, who says that “the resurrected Christ makes of life a continual feast.” We think this is a good metaphor for the Kingdom of God, and also a good image for doing church: church is like a feast, where we gather together around a common table, eating a common meal, where we feast on Christ’s Spirit. So, practically speaking this means we potluck together each week and dialogue about mission over a table, and then experiment during the week as we try to start living as missionaries of shalom in our daily lives. As of now, we’re gathering at the Seattle Area German American School (formerly Bethel Presbyterian Church) on 110th and Greenwood, on Sunday evenings from 5-7pm.
What’s your vision for the Feast Community?
Since we’re very much a co-operative/think-tank community at this point, we’re still narrowing down what exactly our vision is. We could become a full-fledged public church, or we could end up becoming an intentional “monastic” like community that shares a common mission. Just this week we did a lectio divina on John 3:1-8 and studied Jesus’ teaching that “the wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” So, we’re still discerning.
Regardless of this, though, a theme of hospitality is emerging in that we are hoping to become a community that can embody God’s hospitality through common spiritual practice--the discipline of small community--and acts of mercy and justice in the neighborhood. The language we’re using to orient this is Upwards, Inwards, and Outwards. An Upwards orientation is our common spirituality/way of life that connects us corporately to God (e.g. corporate prayer, lectio divina, attentiveness, etc.). An Inwards orientation is our common community practices that keep us in real relationship with one another (e.g. storytelling, meal sharing, celebration, resting together). An Outwards orientation is our common participation in God’s mission to bring the Kingdom of peace to the neighborhood through service and creating structures that promote justice and freedom (e.g. skills training, starting a business that could provide means of employment for those in poverty, or beautifying the neighborhood through public works of art). The hope is that these three orientations could provide easy means for more to join into God’s transformative embrace.
Who’s in this with you? Do you have a team of core leaders?
Again, we’re roughly a network of around 25 people. The network is made up of people who are connected to Union Church, UPC, Young Life’s Beyond Malibu ministry, as well as a few others who have been unconnected to church for a while but are looking for a new manifestation of the church.
Our core team of leaders is coming together this week for the first time (not quite a “session”) and their job is to essentially review where we’ve come from, where we’re going, pray, strategize together our future, help share the load of making this happen, and empowering everyone who is participating to help shape this mission in a meaningful way.
Rev. James B. Notkin has referred to Union Church as a Caleb community, scouting out the land for what lies ahead in this post-Christendom world. What is your connection to Union? Is the Feast Community one of Caleb or Joshua?
Yes, James B. and I have talked about this and I’d say that is a pretty natural analogy. Union Church definitely was a means for UPC and others to scout the land and see what was needed when on the frontier for “doing church” in the 21st Century. Union Church was for me very much a wonderful place for learning about new ways of doing mission, and this is meant to be a natural development and moving forward into the unknown, based on what was pioneered at Union. So, with the Feast Community it’s new people now who have been given this work of being God’s church and it’s up to them to take us into a very new landscape where American culture is now no longer living within Christendom. But the soil within post-Christendom is very rich because, despite the fact that we’re becoming more secular as a culture, scholars have shown that this does not mean that that we aren’t becoming any less spiritual (see A Secular Age by Charles Taylor). We live in a very hungry age that is desperate for a spiritually that gives life, and I think the world is waiting for new spiritual communities that are clearly articulated that can provide this for all sorts of people who wouldn’t traditionally associate themselves with “traditional” church (not unlike the monastic communities of a different age).
What was your experience of working with Seattle Presbytery and PCUSA’s 1001 Worshipping Communities project?
I’ve had a great experience working with Seattle Presbytery in that I’ve been given moral support, encouragement, and also free training through the PCUSA’s 1001 church planting discernment course. Presbytery has also contributed a small “seed” grant of $7,500 to match 1001’s seed money, and for that we’re very grateful.
How can the people of the presbytery continue to support you?
Right now we are really needing Presbytery to pray for us as we discern where we’re going and who we’re becoming. Pray especially for our leadership team which is just gathering, as well as for those in the community who are participating in this new venture.