Join us for Weaving Our Strengths

Our Annual Conference

A day-long conference of fellowship, inspiration, & skill-building to strengthen local churches’ efforts for the common good. 2017 theme: For Such a Time as This

Saturday, September 30, 2017  |  8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

University Congregational Church | 4515 16th Ave. NE, Seattle 98105

For more information: (206) 204-3855 or email Ann

About the Weaving Our Strengths Conference

The Church Council of Greater Seattle’s fall conference, Weaving Our Strengths, is in its fourth year, this year with the theme “For Such a Time as This.” It is a day-long conference of fellowship, inspiration, and skill-building to strengthen local churches efforts for the common good. It’s a great chance to connect across denominations, share best practices, foster spiritually-grounded action, and bring insights and opportunities back to your home congregation.

The day includes worship, 2 sessions of workshops, a resource fair, a celebration of the Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Awardees, and an opportunity to weave together what we’ve learned. Last year, in its third year, over 200 attendees from 22 denominations/faith traditions55+ congregations, and 22 cities in King, South Snohomish, and Pierce Counties gathered for a transformative day of learning, sharing, and fellowship.

Here’s what attendees had to say about last year’s conference:

  • Very insight-full; spirit of mutual encouragement
  • Great – sharing ideas, getting ideas, networking
  • Exceeded expectations! This was my first conference and I look forward to the next
  • CCGS did a truly fine job of reflecting current, encompassing concerns. Do that again!
  • I love how everything was so local. It made it feel like we could do everything that we heard about was actually possible. It felt tangible.
  • Homey gathering of grassroots folks wanting to work with others towards greater peace and justice
  • I especially appreciated the afternoon guided discussion tables so that after we have attended the outstanding workshops, we have a more intimate setting to reflect on and share where the Spirit guides us to imagine some creative solutions to issues of which we are aware!
  • I experienced lots of energy – invigorated my local congregation involvement as well as ecumenical efforts.

We hope you can join us this year on September 30, 2017!

Workshops & Presenters - Session 1
Faith-Based Community Organizing 2017 and Beyond
Joey Ager, Community Organizer, Church Council of Greater Seattle

For over 75 years in America, the model of institution-based organizing has been passed down through organizers for building independent people-power organizations.  One root of this tradition is the insight that power is mediated in a democratic society by institutions. Today, however, we are witnessing the continued degradation of our social institutions and the atomization of citizens. How do we build power to transform society in this situation?

Joey Ager is the Church Council’s Community Organizer. He lives in Tacoma with his wife and two boys. The focus of his work is in South King County, where he works closely with many congregations and communities to build local leadership teams, engaging the most pressing issues in their communities. He is from Scotland, but trained as an organizer in San Diego, where he lived and worked for 7 years before coming the Pacific Northwest in 2016. He has a degree in Theology and is driven by the promise of the year of Jubilee.

Formation and Transformation for Racial Reconciliation and Justice-Making
Heidi Kim, Staff Officer for Racial Reconciliation, Episcopal Church

This workshop will provide tools and guidelines for engaging congregations in discernment and planning for racial justice and reconciliation ministries. Using scripture, prayer, and the Baptismal Covenant of The Episcopal Church, participants will collaborate to develop formation resources clarifying the why of reconciliation ministries, in order to develop sustainable strategies on what to do and how to do it.

Heidi J. Kim is the Staff Officer for Racial Reconciliation for the Episcopal Church, responsible for facilitating the establishment and growth of networks in the Church that confront structural issues of racism in society and the church. Her approach to the work of reconciliation is grounded in her commitments to lifelong spiritual formation and deep listening to our shared stories of embracing the diversity of the Body of Christ. She is a graduate of Brown University, has an MA in Sociology from UCLA, and is currently completing an EdD in Educational Leadership at Seattle University.

Faith Communities in a Time of Tribalism:
Catalysts for Neighborly Relationships
Pastor Terry Kyllo, Director, Neighbors in Faith

We live in a time of pervasive and deep change in our culture, economy, and environment – challenging our sense of who we are and how we form human community. With such uncertainty, many are defining themselves by differences instead of commonalities – creating dynamics that could lead to our mutual diminishment. Faith communities can respond to this dehumanizing tribalism by creating spaces for authentic relationship between diverse people and groups. We are being invited to find a way through this time of change and loss by recognizing and loving our neighbors and finding ourselves to be both blessed and blessing.

Pastor Terry Kyllo serves as a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor who has also served Episcopal Churches. He is the director of Neighbors in Faith, authorized by the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches in Western Washington, an effort to recognize Muslims as neighbors and partners in building a more peaceful world.


Spiritual Discomfort for Such a Time as This
The Rev. Katie Ladd, Pastor/Director, The Well & Queen Anne United Methodist Church

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” — Anne Lamott

These are unsettling times. How do we unflinchingly look at the difficulties we face in our communities and throughout our nation without becoming overwhelmed with despair? How do we turn “seeing” into “bearing witness”? What in our traditions can aid us in staying in the midst of discomfort for the sake of personal and communal transformation? How can we engage in public theology in meaningful and life-giving ways? This workshop will offer hope, a few tools, and some touchstones for personally thriving in the midst of difficult gospel work.

The Rev. Katie M Ladd is the Pastor/Director of The Well, a micro community rooted in the principles and practice of Sabbath and that is committed to peace through dialogue. She is also Pastor at Queen Anne United Methodist Church.


Religious Imperative for Climate Justice
Kim Powe, Interim Executive Director, Puget Sound Sage

“[T]he servants of [Allah], the Most Gracious, are only those who walk upon the Earth softly,” so the Quran tells us. Christians and Jews are taught to be good stewards of the earth. Many Buddhists are called to be vegetarian and have respect for living things. Many Native American cultures pray and give respects and blessings to our family members in the animal and natural worlds.  In this workshop we will explore our own faith’s call to action in tending for the earth, and tie it with the imperative to love and care for our fellow humans, especially those who are left out, as well as those whom we may not call friend.

Kim Powe is the Interim Executive Director at Puget Sound Sage. Kim has a true love of people and is a passionate champion for justice. She brings 18 years of experience in public service and grassroots developments spanning youth and adult economic development, racial equity, sustainability and climate justice, food justice, health equity, affordable housing, restorative justice, and international development. Kim is currently the Interim Executive Director at Puget Sound Sage. She has had the privilege to be Larry and Lynn Powe’s daughter, live on four continents, marry a wonderful partner, and have daily teachers in her daughters.

Reformation at 500: The Christian App Today
Dr. Michael Reid Trice, Associate Dean for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry

This workshop is based on the idea that the Reformation is a continuous enterprise, which requires participation from all Christians.  If the world is comparable to an iPhone, then what would be the specific Christian App today?  Furthermore, what are the constitutive features of our shared walk in a complex global era?  Dr. Michael Reid Trice will walk alongside attendees in order to explore the theme and provide a response to these questions.

Dr. Michael Reid Trice is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology, and Associate Dean for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry (SU/STM). From 2004 to 2011, Michael served as Associate Executive for the Office of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  His first book, Encountering Cruelty: A Fracture of the Human Heart, won the distinguished original dissertation award for Loyola Jesuit University. Michael served as ELCA staff for the White House Task Force on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, is a leader on the Interfaith Commission of the National Council of the Churches, USA, and served on the Board of Directors for Church World Service for many years.  He currently serves as the Secretary for the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Workshops & Presenters - Session 2
Making Affordable Housing “Affordable”: Transforming the Landscape in King County
Hamdi Abdulle, Executive Director, Somali Youth and Family Club

People of faith connect the dots between the experience of homelessness and the lack of low-income, affordable housing for many in our region. How do we embrace the challenges of the housing crisis? Can we develop strategies that bridge Seattle and South King County and East King County simultaneously?  How can we move from our particular experiences to a broad conversation through the lens of one community’s response?

Hamdi Abdulle is Co-founder and has served as Executive Director for 10 years of the Somali Youth and Family Club (SYFC), a nonprofit dedicated to providing essential services to Somali and other underserved groups in King County. In 2014, she received the Human Service and Equity Award from the South King Council for Human Services (SKCHS), where she was recognized for her role as an advocate for Somali and East African youth and families in South King County by promoting refugee integration, mobility, and empowerment. Hamdi is a member of the Community Café Collaborative of Washington and an Advisory Board member of the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs.

Hallowed Be Thy Name
Beth Amsbary, Convener, Spirit Workshops

Fire up your spirit, heart, and imagination as you explore many ways to call upon God and name the power that uplifts the world. This creative, hands-on session will be useful for Christian education, worship, fellowship, social action, and your own faith formation!

Beth Amsbary is a weaver of community experiences, with 20 years of background in leading workshops, retreats, worship, and storytelling.  From university residencies to religious communities to public engagement, Beth draws upon a toolkit of spiritual practice, creative discipline, inquiry-based education, and political analysis to invite meaningful reflection and engagement in the world. Beth convenes Spirit Workshops, gatherings to deepen wisdom and prepare us for work in the world, hosted by University Congregational United Church of Christ. She also serves as Philanthropy Manager for the Church Council of Greater Seattle.

Immigrant and Refugee Accompaniment
Briana Brannan, Immigrant & Refugee Accompaniment Organizer, Church Council of Greater Seattle

How can faith communities walk with immigrants who because of executive actions have become priorities for detention and potential deportation?  What does accompaniment and solidarity look like in this context?  What are community networks doing to provide for rapid-response safe spaces and to create and sustain sanctuary ordinances?  Come to this workshop to prepare to take action in a growing movement of immigrant-led and faith-based allies connected in clusters in the Puget Sound Region.

Briana Brannan is the Immigrant & Refugee Accompaniment Organizer for the Church Council of Greater Seattle. Her work focuses on strengthening networks to support housing access and the creation of safe cities for immigrant and refugee communities. Briana interned as a Living Wage Organizer with CCGS during her year of service with the UCC Justice Leadership Program in 2013.  She is looking forward to returning to the work of faith-based community organizing after several years as a paralegal. Her favorite places to find rest and renewal are on the trails, near water, on her bike or in her garden. 


Living into the Call, Challenge, and Liberation of Allyship in the Public Square
The Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin, Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church

As people of faith, we are called to stand with the poor and marginalized. It is a holy and sacred calling central to all faith traditions that manifests in a wide variety of ways. While there is no one perfect model for allyship, there are behaviors that are more or less likely to move us toward a destination of Liberation and Equity. Together we will name some of these challenges and find ways to move past them that will keep us faithful to our values, calling, and the cause of Justice for All.

Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church (ELCA) in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, a congregation that takes seriously their calling to be a Sanctuary that is Open and Affirming of all persons of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, age, and status. She is part of the leadership of the Community Life Team for the ELCA Youth Gathering whose upcoming theme is This Changes Everything. Her calling to allyship has her serving as a member of the Strategic Team for Authentic Diversity (STAD) for the NW WA Synod and on the leadership team of the #decolonizeLutheranism movement.

Creating a Sustainable, Thriving, & Just Washington
Sameer Ranade, Campaign Associate, Washington Environmental Council

This workshop will examine the statewide comprehensive climate policy being developed by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a Washington State based coalition. The Alliance is gearing up for a statewide ballot initiative for November 2018. The Alliance consists of over 170+ organizations spanning labor, communities of color, environmental, low-income, and public health groups, farmers, and businesses including the WA Environmental Council. Sameer Ranade will share the Alliance policy, messaging and outreach strategy, provide volunteer opportunities, and answer questions.

Sameer Ranade currently works as a Climate and Clean Energy Campaign Associate for the Washington Environmental Council. He’s from Kennewick, WA, has a B.A. in Political Science from WSU, and an M.P.A. from UW. He boasts extensive work experience in government, advocacy, and elections. Sameer has been staff in the state and federal legislative branches, on multiple state and federal candidate campaigns, and interned for several environmental organizations, including the White House CEQ.

Restored Hope: The Promise of Restorative Reconciliation in Healing the World
The Rev. Dr. Linda Smith, Executive Director & Pastor, S.K.Y. Center for Urban Empowerment Ministries

Engage in interactive conversation and dialogue in building a Racially Just Future through reconciliatory and restorative concepts and practices.  In this workshop you will learn how to embody restorative principles and practices in partnership with social, political, and community organizations in order to bring about reconciliation in our community and world.  You will leave this workshop equipped with tools necessary for actions in building a Racially Justice focused community for the future.

The Rev. Dr. Linda M. Smith serves as the Executive Director and Pastor of SKY Center for Urban Empowerment Ministries. She previously served as the pastor of REACH Center of Hope and Church of Mary Magdalene, both of which serve homeless women and women with children. She holds a Doctoral in Transformational Leadership and Master of Divinity with a Post Graduate certificate in Transforming Spirituality and serves on the faculty of Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry at the graduate level coaching leaders in Pastoral Leadership Program, Transformation Leadership Program, and now the Doctoral program. She has been actively involved in many social arenas, speaking and advocating on issues of equity and justice in the areas of poverty, homelessness, and race. She currently serves as the Chairperson of Renton Mayor African American Clergy with the Renton Police Department on race relationship.

The Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award Honorees

Congratulations to the

2017 Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Honorees:

Father Michael G. Ryan,

Pastor of St. James Cathedral


Gethsemane Lutheran Church


The Church Council will honor the recipients of the 2017 Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award at the Weaving Our Strengths Conference on Saturday, September 30, at University Congregational Church, Seattle. The celebration starts at 1:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. An RSVP to Ann is helpful but not necessary. Read about the honorees below.


The 2017 Rev Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit –Individual
Father Michael G. Ryan, Pastor of St. James Cathedral

Father Michael G. Ryan, Pastor of St. James Cathedral, embodies the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the movement of aggiornamento, or “updating” that renewed the Catholic Church in its encounter with the modern world. Fr. Ryan has made the Cathedral a nationally known place of sacred liturgy, truly a “work of the people.” In ecumenical connection and interfaith relations, Fr. Ryan is a trusted, humble friend in faith. In outreach, Fr. Ryan has unleashed an unparalleled scope of community service. And in public witness, in times of pending war or after tragedies of gun violence, Fr. Ryan has been a prophetic voice with the Cathedral being a center of hope and consolation.

In celebrating 50 years as a priest, Fr. Ryan has noted, not his personal accomplishments, but the joy of “all the ways we get to be the church, the hands, the feet, the heart, the face of Christ.” The greatest strengths of St. James Parish Cathedral, according to its members, are Fr. Ryan’s leadership, outreach and liturgy/music. A pastoral leader at St. James summed up what Fr. Ryan has modeled for the parish:  “We follow Jesus most closely by serving one another.”

Fr. Ryan was born and raised in Seattle. In 1966, he was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. In 1977 Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen appointed him as Chancellor for the Archdiocese of Seattle and Vicar General. He served in those capacities until 1988 when the same Archbishop appointed him Pastor of St. James Cathedral where he continues to serve. In 1994, Father Ryan oversaw the nationally acclaimed renovation and restoration of the Cathedral.  Under his leadership, the Cathedral parish has tripled in size since the Renovation, drawing families from more than 180 ZIP codes.

In 1999 he was awarded a Doctoral Degree in Humanities, honoris causa, by Seattle University.  In 2012, the Association of US Catholic Priests honored him with the Blessed Pope John XXIII award for keeping alive the vision and spirit of Vatican II.

The more than 2,400 households of St. James engage a vast array of ministries, including: the Cathedral Kitchen, Mental Health and Wellness Ministry, St. James Immigrant Assistance, Winter Shelter, Sandwich Ministry, Care Teams, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Solanus Casey Center, assisting people experiencing homelessness after incarceration.

“As each year passes I realize how blessed I am to be called to serve,” Fr. Ryan has said. “I think any of us who minister in the church realize that ministry is a two-way street. We get to minister to the people, but it’s receiving so much from the people we serve. It’s a wonderful two-way street that God uses us and God uses the people we serve to create something that’s way beyond anything we could do.” (Northwest Catholic)

For Fr. Ryan’s steadfast, faithful leadership, collaborative spirit, and ecumenical passion, the Church Council of Greater Seattle is honored to present Fr. Michael G. Ryan with the 2017 Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award for an Individual.

The 2017 Rev Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit – Congregation
Gethsemane Lutheran Church 

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the congregation of Gethsemane Lutheran Church is dedicated to being a presence, “In Christ, In the City.” “We listen to the witness of others and we watch for ways God is active in the world around us.”

Gethsemane, founded in 1885, is the oldest Lutheran church in Seattle and one of the few remaining congregations in the downtown core. It is also one of Seattle’s “newest” Lutheran churches (part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), and, after a path-breaking remodel in 2012, a re-energized space. Gethsemane has set the standard for renewed use of sacred space and property – transforming into a contemporary sanctuary with a wonderful communal feel and a large community room for church and neighborhood gatherings and meetings.  Above the sanctuary and office spaces are 50 low-income housing units, built with Compass Housing Alliance, accessible to people earning between 30 to 60% of median income.  Mary’s Place Day Center for homeless women and children is located on the lower level.

The Pastor, the Rev. Joanne Engquist, has reflected: “This place is an extraordinary gift to the downtown community.”  Under her leadership and that of the Rev. Kari Lipke, Pastor of the mission-start partner The Garden, which gathers there, the place and the congregation are indeed gifts to the community.

Gethsemane engages the local neighborhood by hosting public forums and discussions on issues such as affordable housing and living wage jobs.  After a process of discernment, Gethsemane recently declared itself to be a sanctuary congregation for immigrants and refugees.

Gethsemane is known as a place of inclusive welcome to all.  They describe themselves (in part) this way:

“We are a progressive, GLBTQ-affirming congregation that welcomes all: people who have been to church (any church) their whole lives, as well as those who never have been or have been away for a while; people filled with doubts or questions and those whose faith and hope run deep; people longing to find a community of belonging and anyone who may simply be “passing by”… This is a place open to you wherever you are in your spiritual journey.”

In the spirit of the gospel and following the footsteps of Martin Luther, Gethsemane believes that “Faith urges us to a full life, liberated for a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”

For creating beautiful worship and communal space, housing and homelessness services, inspiring love and mission, laughter, and ministry, the Church Council of Greater Seattle is proud to present Gethsemane Lutheran Church with the 2017 Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award for a Congregation.

The Church Council created the Rev. Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit award to honor and remember her and to recognize an individual and a congregation/organization who embodies Rev. Apel’s spirit and lives out their faith in the social justice/community service area. In 1930, during a period of major economic depression, the Rev. Gertrude Apel was the first General Secretary of what would become the Church Council of Greater Seattle. In a time when women did not “lead” organizations, Rev. Apel was a tireless ecumenical leader and an amazing organizer. She had a talent for fostering cooperation and always getting things done.

Previous Recipients

Marty Hartman, Executive Director, Mary’s Place — Accompanying vulnerable women and children, transforming the continuum of care for people experiencing homelessness
First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Seattle, led by Senior Pastor Carey G. Anderson — Model of building bridges as a community of faith toward a just and equitable future for all

Killian Noe, Co-Founder, The Recovery Café — Creating space for healing & wholeness
St. Matthew / San Mateo Episcopal Church in Auburn — Bilingual, bicultural model of immigrant accompaniment

The Rev. Jan Bolerjack, Pastor, Riverton Park United Methodist Church — Risk-taker for economic justice
University Lutheran Church — Embodies service and justice as part of a faith-filled vision

The Rev. David Mesenbring — Life of justice across the continents in South Africa and through Oikocredit
Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches (REACH) — Model of ecumenical fellowship and service

Sr. Julie Codd, CSJP — Working from the heart with Native American communities
The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, led by the Rev. Terri Stewart — Pioneering embrace of young people who experience detention

The Rev. Rich Lang, Pastor of University Temple United Methodist Church — Prophetic voice for social justice
Skyway United Methodist Church, led by the Rev. Steve Baber — Organizing for equity and justice for all

Fr. Tony Haycock, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church — Honoring the dignity of the Spanish-speaking community, seafarers, and all God’s people
Seattle Mennonite Church — Taking the church into the neighborhood and expanding the notion of neighbor

The Rev. Jon and Juni Nelson — Transforming forces for social change who bent the arc of justice