“Congregational Connections” is a quarterly e-publication by the Church Council of Greater Seattle, offered to all congregations in the King County and south Snohomish County areas as a means of sharing stories, information, and solidarity in this blessed work we are all doing together. Thank you for being here with us. 

Update: Asylum-Seeker Accompaniment 

Mother reunited with daughter at the airport

Just released from SeaTac Federal Detention Center, a mother reunites with her daughter after 2 months of separation

This summer’s change in federal policy unjustly put thousands of asylum seeking people’s lives into jeopardy – and you responded. Together with your neighbors, you made it possible for us to collectively assist 35 asylum-seekers who were released from detention.

We wrote letters of support and had host families on standby for 10 others who were ultimately denied bond or transferred to another facility. Through your financial support, the Church Council provided for the purchase of phone cards for all 206 asylum-seekers in June.

For the women and men who were released, your support allowed us to provide vital assistance in the form of meals, clothing, safe housing, transportation, plane tickets and the loving embrace of community after the inhumane nightmare that is detention.

How did this happen? The power of faith communities working together. Our “For Such a Time as This” Network, a group of 151 diverse faith communities and over 600 individuals who commit to ongoing training and relationship, nurtured by Briana Brannan, our Immigration & Refugee Accompaniment Organizer, were among those who rose in unified action in response to this humanitarian crisis.

As of the end of September, the remaining 25 individuals at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center were transferred to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. A few await bond hearings while the remaining individuals will be held in detention while they await their asylum interviews. We give thanks for the men and women who were able to seek reunification with their children and loved ones, and hold those still in detention close in our hearts.

Faith Leader Reflection: Parliament of the World’s Religions
By Michael Ramos, Executive Director

Photo: Ion Gardescu, 2018

The Parliament of the World’s Religions was a feast of blessing.  The assembled were neither navel-gazers nor dilettantes of everything religious, but rather people of capacity with audacity.  We carried within us the dream of a global ethic of compassion.  We left fortified to be faithful to living an embodied spirituality that shows up as action that leads to social transformation.  Underlying our lens of faithfulness was the compass of hope.

If I had to use one word to describe my experience at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto earlier this month, it is the word “hope”.  Beyond the sharing of each other’s faiths and even the modeling of interfaith dialogue (all rich in and of themselves), the central rays of light from attending more than 25 sessions with 6,000 people representing a couple hundred faith expressions were:

  • reverence for the earth from which we come and which we must preserve;
  • applied spirituality, meaning we incarnate our faith in order to alleviate suffering and transform reality;
  • lived experience as teacher and guide for grounding not just holy thoughts but faithful action;
  • awareness of the need to resist injustice and to create an alternative world at the same time.

While there was a sober appraisal of the twin mortal threats of climate change and nuclear arms expansion and proliferation, we were reminded that “ecological responsibility and economic justice can replace greed, consumerism, and competition as objectives of human life.”  Conscious that the “colonial mind sees diversity as a danger that needs to be exterminated,” there was an even greater attraction to what Gandhi calls satyagraha or truth force and a practice of ahimsa, or nonviolence (shared with us by the human and civil rights teacher and prophet, the Rev. James Lawson).

Such a way of life is the path of what the speaker and guide Valerie Kaur called “revolutionary love” – birthing a new world by “breathing and pushing” together in community.  In that space, there “are no strangers.”  When faith comes together, mountains can move.  And we, connected as we are through the Church Council of Greater Seattle, are called to be active players in this movement of hope.  In the end, it is love for one another, people, life forms and the earth that binds us as unique and different yet one.  I am thankful to you for the opportunity to continue with each of you in the joyful struggle at such a time as this.

Congregational Spotlight:
Normandy Park UCC
By Rev. Amy Hitchens

Photo taken by Irene Muller at the Faith Vigil at Normandy Park UCC in June, 2018

Normandy Park United Church of Christ has been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the Highline Ecumenical Leadership Circle (ELC), which is facilitated by Church Council organizer Joey Ager. Here we have learned about Pope Francis’ tenants of “Techo, Trabajo y Tierra” (housing, work, and land, which really means belonging in community in this context) and have begun to build relationships with our church neighbors and community members.

As a congregation we took a leap of faith by hosting a vigil in the south end in June when we realized collectively that asylum seekers were being detained at the Federal Detention Center within a mile of our church. Joey called us and said,  “Can you host this?” And our answer was “Yes!”

It was a holy moment where people and leaders of many faiths, who care deeply about loving our neighbor and keeping families together, joined voices to say “This is not who we are! We welcome the asylum seeker, the widow, the orphan the refugee.” That spark of solidarity on a hot summer evening has led us as a church community to a deeper conversation: we are now asking ourselves, what would it mean to become an immigrant-welcoming congregation? We have worked with Church Council community organizer Briana Brannan as we consider what this journey could mean for us.

The United Church of Christ passed a resolution in 2017 urging churches to adopt this “Immigrant-Welcoming” stance. We are in the midst of study and prayerful discernment about what this means for our local congregation. Other United Church of Christ congregations are in the midst of similar discussions.

We look forward to continuing to deepen our relationships with our Ecumenical Leadership Circle partners. On the hot plate right now for our group is drafting housing policy that might benefit renters in the city of Burien as affordable, livable housing has been a justice issue at the forefront of our group. We shall see where else these holy sparks of solidarity will lead us in the New Year!

Grace and Peace this Season,

Rev. Amy Hitchens

Organizing Reflections:
Erica “E” West – Part One

Photo: Adrien Leavitt, 2018

Weaving Our Strengths – A New Collaboration
At the end of September, I co-led a workshop on environmental justice with Leda Zekarison of Earth Ministry and the Yes on 1631 campaign. The workshop was put together with a mind for State Initiative 1631, which was up for vote in November, but was rooted primarily in knowledge gathered through long-term relationship with environmental justice organizations led by people of color in the South End of Seattle.

The hope in this joint effort was to begin planting the seeds of a longer-term collaboration between a faith-based environmental organization and a faith-based housing and immigration justice organization, since all of these issue areas overlap, and we have similar constituencies.

Ecumenical Leadership Circle Formation – Grounding for Justice
An Ecumenical Leadership Circle (ELC) is a locally-rooted organization made up of faith leaders from multiple congregations that gather with an intent for listening, learning, action and reflection on political issues affecting their respective locality (i.e. neighborhood, district, city, etc.)

In November I convened the initial gathering of a Magnolia ELC. The initial gathering consisted of members from three congregations, and two Church Council of Greater Seattle Participating Congregations in Magnolia, including Magnolia UMC, Magnolia UCC, and Church of the Ascension (Episcopal).

Organizing for Shelter Funding in Seattle’s Budget Process
An organizing success in this year’s budget season was the restoration of funding for SHARE/WHEEL, an activist community that provides unhoused people with shelter and encourages them to become politically empowered.

The mayor’s proposed budget would have eliminated over 200 shelter beds by June 2019, offering limited increase in city shelter capacity, and no additional funding for affordable housing. In organizing with faith communities, particularly those with whom we have long-term relationships, we were collectively able to speak out for the restoration of SHARE/WHEEL’s funding. This resulted in changes to the proposed budget that will ensure the opportunity to have a warm and safe place to rest their heads for another two years for hundreds of our unhoused neighbors.

In the final budget hearing in late October, two members of congregations who participate with SHARE/WHEEL testified on behalf of the Church Council of Greater Seattle at City Hall. Many congregations and individuals participated in other forms of advocacy as well: calling and emailing council members, signing advocacy cards, and testifying independently.

Are you a Participating Congregation?

Becoming a Participating Congregation helps signify the mutual commitment of your congregation to other King and South Snohomish County congregations through the Church Council. This initiative leaves in place our official membership of 16 Christian denominations and the congregations therein, and ecumenical and interfaith partners. What is unique and timely is the call to discernment in order to affirm the full, conscious and active participation of your faith community in the life of the Church Council. Participating Congregations may or may not be official member congregations.

We invite you to consider, which of the following ways to engage speak to your congregation in this moment? Are you already doing these things? Do you seek to more fully fold them into the life of your community?

  • Explore the Diversity of our Christian Unity and of other Religious Faiths
    Convene formal and/or informal conversations covering different topics of interest for Christian and interfaith communities. Support faith communities facing harassment or persecution. Join in service opportunities that allow different congregations to serve together and with the community.
  • Nurture Relationships and Foster Collaboration
    Share what you do with the Church Council and other congregations – and share invitations and news from the Church Council and other congregations with your congregation. Join with other congregations around similar interests or geographic location. Create opportunities to join together to listen, learn best practices and participate in actions in the larger community. Focus on neighborhood conversations and priorities, as well as regional.
  • Gather for Prayer and Worship
    Gather for prayer and worship ecumenically through opportunities such as interfaith gatherings or community vigils. Extend the work through encouraging the swapping of parishioners and pulpits and/or participating in interfaith prayer and worship.
  • Act Faithfully for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation
    Embrace the challenge of working for God’s shalom both within your congregation and in the community. Join together collectively and take risks faithfully for peace, justice, and reconciliation.
  • Give Financially to Sustain the Work We Do Together as a Church Council
    Give financially to sustain the structure that makes our collaboration possible. All support all.  Participate with an annual financial commitment at a level meaningful to your congregation – fitting your abilities and your commitment to ecumenical justice work.
  • Engage in Trainings, Workshops, Dialogues and Conferences
    Join in the Weaving Our Strengths Conference, participate in trainings on race and racism, homelessness and housing, living wage, and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. Invite church members, friends and neighborhood congregations to attend one or more of the above and assist in convening and participating in follow-up activities.

If you would like to further explore how becoming a Participating Congregation could energize and uplift your faith community’s mission for love, peace, and justice, please feel free to reach out to Irene at imuller@thechurchcouncil.org or (206) 525-1216, or visit us online for more information.

 Other Opportunities to Engage

Have you been waiting to make a gift?

Together, we can continue the faithful story of love and justice. If you feel led to make a gift to this work we are doing together, please do so before December 31st. You may give online, by mail to PO Box 18467 Seattle, WA 98118, or by phone at (206) 525-1216. Learn how your gift can be matched by visiting us online.

If you have already made a year-end gift – THANK YOU!

Blue Christmas Service @ Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Dec 20 @ 7:00 pm

Our Redeemer’s Lutheran in Ballard is thinking of you during this Advent Season. Not everyone experiences joy at this time of the year. Grieving the loss of a loved one, lack of employment, or other situations can be difficult.  Acknowledging the reality of your sorrow, you are invited to a service of remembrance and hope.  Everyone is welcome. Please join us for a reception after the service in the Narthex. Childcare provided. Our Redeemer’s Lutheran, 2400 NW 85th Street. Plentiful parking available in lot west of church.

Women in Black Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Deaths @ Begins @ Tree of Life, Victor Steinbrueck Park 

(click the event name to download the flier!)

Dec 21 @ 4:20 pm

WHEEL / Women in Black invite you to a candlelight vigil for all 2018 outdoor/violent homeless deaths. It will begin at sunset (4:20 p.m.) at the Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park (North of Pike Place Market) and then there will be a silent procession to a silent vigil at Westlake Park (4th and Pine) from 5 – 6 p.m. There will also be a post-vigil gathering with food and fellowship.

December 21st is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. The National Coalition for the Homeless designates it “National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.”  On this day, WHEEL (a grassroots organizing effort) and Mary’s Place (an ecumenical ministry) will stand a special one-hour, candlelight, Women in Black vigil to remember all the homeless men and women who have died this year outside or by violence in King County. Since the vigils began 18 years ago, more than 950 men, women and children have died outside or by violence.  In 2018, we’ve broken our hearts & all previous records:  at least 108 people have died outside or by violence—at the average age of 49 years old.

Women and men are welcome; candles are provided, and there will be a post-vigil gathering to share stories, fellowship and comfort!

Weaving Our Strengths photos by Ion Gardescu

Our fifth annual Weaving Our Strengths Conference took place at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church on Saturday, September 29, 2018. Almost 200 people from 60 faith communities, 19 denominations/faith traditions and 22 cities gathered for a day of learning and connecting, inspired to share, hear, and weave together “Narratives of Hope.” Eleven workshops were offered covering topics such as organizing and advocacy, equity and racial justice, and spirituality and discernment. One attendee described it as “Such a rejuvenating and hope-filled conference,” while another remarked that “it got me thinking in a new direction.”

“Congregational Connections” is a quarterly e-publication by the Church Council of Greater Seattle, offered to all congregations in the King County and south Snohomish County areas as a means of sharing stories, information, and solidarity in this blessed work we are all doing together. Thank you for being here with us. 

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