Ash Wednesday. Valentine’s Day. 2018 Being Jesus’ Beloved

The season of Lent, the 40 days of journeying toward Easter and the celebration of new life and new beginning, begins today on Valentine’s Day and ends on April’s Fool Day. I am not unique in pointing this out, but I am needing to rest in the coincidence of these holidays.

Often on Ash Wednesday we begin with the marking of ashes. I do believe that the act of receiving ashes-if you do attend an Ash Wednesday service —is an important moment to acknowledge our need for God, our dependence on God and to remember that we are the created and God is the Creator.

But, this year as we travel from Valentine’s Day to April Fools Day—from the beginning of Lent to Easter — I invite you to bear another mark. Beginning today, I invite you to journey with me, to pause, and to take time each day during these days of Lent to claim our true identity in Jesus with the name Jesus took as his own and bestows upon us — Beloved.

Too often, if our view of God is distorted and our views of ourselves are warped, we can spend the next forty days attempting to earn our way to the cross and to show our worth through our efforts, our giving up, and our focus on our sin. Yet, once again, we discover we fall short because we are not perfect and there is no way to earn the grace of Jesus.

Wherever you are today, will you join me to begin the first day (and second, and third…). of Lent claiming this name, BELOVED, and journeying toward Easter willing to be a FOOL enough to daily say that Jesus, not the world,  tells me who I am? And, from my belovedness where will I be a risky fool for God and help others know they are beloved? This may involve giving up a bad habit of being hard on yourself or re-framing your time to take time each morning to say, “Jesus, as your beloved, how would you desire me to be this day?”

While recently in Colombia I was asked to preach at Cristhian Gomez’ church, Primera Iglesia.  I felt compelled to give this sermon on Being Jesus’ Beloved. (Some say that there is one sermon in each of us…Perhaps this is my one sermon.)

Also, here are some resources I am finding helpful for Lent.  What are resources that you find helpful for our journey toward Jerusalem and the saving grace of Jesus?

Lent Resources

Brueggeman, Walter,  A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent

Rohr, Richard, Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent

Sine, Christine, A Journey Into Wholeness: Daily Reflections for Lent

Weems, Ann,   Kneeling in Jerusalem

Please note our Lenten Personal Reflection & Prayer on February 24.  Hope you can join us!

A Generous, Gracious and perhaps even slow Christmas...

With the New Year our staff reflected on the different ways our community has come together to serve our neighborhood and each other. When we made a list of what happened between November and December we were blown away! The list below would not have been possible without your generosity, commitment and of course the grace and guidance of Jesus. May we continue to listen to the whisper of the Spirit in our city and world.

If you have a story to share from participating in Slow Christmas and our Advent Happenings, please email

Happenings at Union:

-Harvest Party
-Green Bean Casserole Collection
-DESC gift bags
-Compass House Giving tree
-Longest Night Service
-Family Advent Calendar
-Liturgical Canvases
-Christmas Eve Musical Play
-Art Corp Support
-Justice Advent Calendar
-Holiday Market
--Anti-racism training
--Prayer Retreat
-Organizing for Women’s Shelter
--SCCA Christmas Eve Brunch
-Lowell Teacher’s Gifts
-Meals, conversations & walks with new friends in our community
-Acts of Pause

Social justice Advent calendar: Union Church's "25 Steps Toward Justice"

In response to the examples of injustice we see in the world around us, our Union church community has decided to devote time during this Advent season to better understanding the ways that injustice poisons our world.

Every morning, we send an email that explores these issues through the lens of prayer and Scripture. If you would like to be added to the email list, email us at If you'd prefer not to receive daily emails, but still wish to participate, you can read a web version of each email below.

Injustice takes so many forms in our community, and in our world. The 25 topics we've chosen to focus on this year are certainly not an exhaustive list. But for those wanting to engage in a regular practice this year, and to focus on how Scriptural principles can be applied to our daily lives, in our current context -- we are excited to journey with you this season.

December 1: Blessing of Hope
December 2: Hidden bias
December 3: Overcoming our biases
December 4: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
December 5: Sexual harassment
December 6: Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"
December 7: Food Justice
December 8: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Puerto Rico relief
December 9: Puerto Rico, immigration, and code-switching
December 10: Mental illness and homelessness
 December 11: Military Veterans and homelessness
December 12: America's poverty myth
December 13: Redlining in Seattle
December 14: Seattle's Native and indigenous communities
December 15: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, "The Danger of a Single Story"
December 16: Pastor Mike Thomas of Seattle's Radiant Covenant Church
December 17: Rev. Lena Thompson of Lake Burien Presbyterian Church
December 18: Ability and disability
December 19: Christian hip hop artist Lecrae leaves Evangelicalism
December 20: Asian Americans in the church
December 21: Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and the need for reform
December 22: Kerning Cultures: What's in a name?
December 23: Choose 180: Community support for youth in the justice system
December 24: Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus

25 Steps Toward Advent. Introduction. 2017

Tomorrow, we’ll begin 25 Steps Toward Justice. Every morning in December, you’ll receive an email inviting you to engage in an area of injustice by reading an article, watching a short video, or engaging in a reflective activity.

During Jesus’ time on earth, justice was integral to how he engaged with people.  As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth—and the joy, healing, and wholeness he desires for each person —we pursue a deeper understanding of God’s heart for justice and how our brokenness manifests itself on earth. God gave us his Holy Spirit as our Advocate, to partner as his hands and feet in his work of justice today.

Are you feeling nervous yet? Yeah. Us, too. These topics can be difficult and uncomfortable. When exploring the reality of injustice, it’s easy to feel discouraged, misunderstood, overwhelmed, defensive, or unfairly stereotyped because of our skin color, gender, or other things we have no control over.
Yet, this is obviously important work as we seek first the kingdom of God.

During these next 25 days, let’s walk together through this season of Advent as we prepare to embrace the expression of God’s love for all of humanity and creation through the birth of Jesus.  Trust the Holy Spirit’s work in you. If you feel troubled, confused or perplexed, you are in good company with Mary as she heard the news that she would be the mother of the Prince of Peace.

We enter into this not as experts, but as people committed to continually listening, seeking, and challenging ourselves to see and interact with the world more as Christ does.

Jesus looked each person in the eye, saw them as valuable and forgiven, and asked them to follow him and join his work of healing, forgiveness, grace, and redemption. We pray that God will open our hearts and equip us to join in this work.

- If any of your friends, family, neighbors or coworkers would like to receive these 25 Steps emails, please email us at so we can add or remove you to/from the list.

Please note that the emails may initially go to your spam or promotions folder, so be sure to check those boxes! In Gmail, you can add to your contacts by clicking “More Options”  in the upper right hand corner of the message, and then clicking “Add Sender to Contacts List” in the email header.”

Wishing you and your loved ones a meaningful holiday season.

Beth and Sayuko
on behalf of Union's Truth & Justice Initiative

with special thanks to Kierstin for her resources and insight

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24

Two Beginnings...

This Sunday, December 3,  marks two beginnings:

  1. The season of Advent when we prepare to more fully receive the love and lordship of Jesus in our lives.
  2. The recognition of Union as a new church independent of University Presbyterian Church with whom we had our origin.

The first means we are beginning a new series, "Slow Christmas:  Time to Ponder" and initiating two Advent practices:  an Advent calendar for our kids to pray for others around the world and a series of Advent readings, videos and exercises to help us develop the eyes of Christ as we look at and engage the world around us. The family Advent calendars will be available to pick up on Sunday. To receive the Advent readings called 25 Steps toward Justice, please email:   They also will be posted here.

The second beginning, calls for us to elect a governing body to help us discern steps to live into our vision of being Externally Focused, Internally Alive and Eternally Connected through a deepening communion with Jesus. This means that during Sunday's worship gathering, we will formal elect Studio 3, our current servant leadership team, to this office for the duration of their existing individual terms (one, two or three years).  

There will also be an opportunity for you to identify yourself as a part of this local expression of Christ's church known as Union.  There is no pressure here--just like we often say during communion, this is between you and God--if you identify as belonging to Christ and see yourself committed to the people and work of Union there will be an opportunity to underscore your commitment by signing a page that will be attached to the charter document.

On one hand, we do not want to make a big deal about this since nothing really changes in terms of what we do or believe. On the other hand, we are the first new church in the Seattle Presbytery in a very long time and there are people who want to be with us on Sunday to welcome us as a new church. So, if there is a touch more formality and a few people you do not recognize on Sunday, consider it an acknowledgement of God's faithfulness in our journey so far and people's excitement about the Union story.

 What does change with chartering as new church?  Our mission, ministry and financial decisions as a community are no longer subject to approval by UPC. We can create a budget and financial and human resource procedures that better fit our size and style and we will be able to have more timely and accessible financial reports. In short, we can more nimbly respond to God's call to seek the welfare of the city and reveal Christ's grace and truth that other's, as well, may know life and not just life but life abundant.

From a financial perspective chartering brings with it a need to increase our budget to take on the expenses for the services we received from UPC, namely payroll services, informational services and insurance expenses.  That is about an 8% increase in our budget. UPC has also functioned as a line of credit for fluctuations in giving throughout the year. 

To meet this challenge, we encourage you to set some time aside and consider how God may be calling you to further support Union as we go forward. In addition to increased giving, signing up for regular giving on the Union web page: be a great support as well. Since we are approaching the end of the year here is the dutiful reminder that all giving received by midnight, December 31st, either at 415 Westlake or on line, can be deducted from this year's taxes.

Your commitment and generosity, combined with God's faithfulness, has brought Union to this new beginning where we can all the more explore what it means to follow Jesus in a world full of changing ways but still in need of the one called The Way.  Thank you for the gift of journeying together.

Every Blessing,
James B. and Renée

Externally Focused+Internally Alive+Eternally Connected

What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

Seattle Voter's Forum: Casting ballots with our whole city in mind. Worship in Action

By Beth Douglass

Seattle's next election day is coming. On November 7, we'll cast our ballots for mayor -- but Seattle voters have more to decide than whether to elect Jenny Durkan or Cary Moon.

As we flip through our Washington State voters' pamphlets and prepare to fill out our ballots, we want to be intentional about considering the impacts our vote has -- not only on our families and neighborhoods -- but on all families and neighborhoods in Seattle. As our city's economy continues to grow at rapid speed, we're becoming even more aware of the impacts on Seattle's underrepresented communities, which are receiving even fewer resources from industries focused on pouring into other areas of town.

For the past year, Union church's Truth & Justice initiative has looked to explore the different ways this gap in our city continues to widen. From youth incarceration, marginalization, homelessness, the history of America's criminal justice system, and workshops to help us begin to identify our own implicit biases and cultural lenses, it's been an exciting year. We are so grateful for the many community partners and leaders who have been instrumental in helping us host these timely events and discussions.

On Suday, September 22, we hosted a voter's forum at the close of our 4th Sunday community service and volunteer activities. Gathering in the cafe of Kakao Coffee and Chocolate, we gathered to discuss a variety of issues on our November 2017 ballot.

Our goal was not to walk away having decided how to vote, but to have the chance to engage in dialogue with others in our community, and to ponder together how we can vote in a way that is guided by Scripture and informed by Christ's heart for the world and the types of actions he took.

The forum began with the video, "That Is Privilege?," which we watched in an effort to see some of the ways our experiences are different from others, and to explore the ways that various parts of our identities and experiences can impact our experience with the world. 

View the full list of questions, compiled by Buzzfeed, used in the video.

In smaller discussion groups, we discussed a variety of current issues, paying specific attention to the impacts they each have on underrepresented populations, such as those expeirencing homelessness, immigrants (documented and undocumented), refugees, people of color, historically non-white neighborhoods, single parents, those with disabilities, who are renting their living spaces, who don't have a car, people with significant medical needs, and more.

  • Homelessnes, right to shelter
  • Housing, zoning, and backyard cottages
  • Police reform
  • Income tax
  • Transportation
  • School funding, education equity, and access to resources
  • Seattle's rapidly growing technology industry
  • Access to healthcare

At the close of our discussion time, we talked about whether we see these issues different when viewed through the lens of another. 

As we choose how to vote -- and consider the many options we see for how we can sharing of our time and resources -- it is such a gift to engage in dialogue with each other. As we learn about others' experiences, areas of expertise, and the places where they are investing their time, we are able to learn, grow, and move forward with a continually growing and expanding view of our city and the complexities of the challenges we face.

Voters forum.jpg

Union's Truth & Justice will host a variety of events in the coming year.  Email Truth & Justice for information. 

Why worship in action matters

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible...and in him all things hold together."  Colossians 1:15

At the heart of God is imagination! Who could have imagined that the image of the invisible God would be Jesus of Nazareth who walked this earth proclaiming good news to the poor and hope to the afflicted and purpose to all people who, he reminded, are image-bearers of the God of Creation.

Walter Brueggeman writes: "'Imagination' may be understood as the God-given, emancipated capacity to picture (or image) reality -- God, world, self -- in alternative ways outside conventional, commonly accepted givens. Imagination is attentiveness to what is 'otherwise,' other than our taken-for-granted world."   Testimony to Otherwise:  The Witness of Elijah and Elisha

Our fourth Sundays, worship in action, are an invitation to live and worship with imagination and hope. We invite you to step into our Fourth Sundays with imagination and attentiveness to what is "otherwise" in our world.   Let us pray together that we will have eyes to see God at work and be bold to participate in our world, affirming that Jesus Christ holds all thing together.  And, share with us what you are discovering about our imaginative, creative, restorative God!

Assurance for each day

Out loud I will say:  Bless the Lord

We worship our God

            who forgives our sins

                        who heals us to become whole

                                    who brings good news to the poor

            who sets the burdened and battered free.

who rescues and restore us

making us a people in whom Your light shines.

Help us to hear your words about us: 

            through You we are your beloved,

                        Fearfully and wonderfully made.    Amen

Side by Side: Living into Our Purpose

Throughout August and September we are focusing upon the letter to the Philippians.  We are basing the title of the series on Phil. 1:27,” stand firm in one Spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.”  

The letter to the Philippians was written sometime between 60-62 AD by the Apostle Paul who was in prison in Rome. He wrote to a faithful group of believers in Jesus Christ who lived in Philippi, an ancient city but a new Roman colony less than 100 years old established after Octavius defeated Antony (around 30 BC) and then settled Philippi with veterans from the war; transplanted Roman citizens.  Now, Nero was Emperor of Rome and the pressure to worship the emperor had only increased throughout the Roman territories. The primary title for the emperor were Kyrios and Sōtēr (“Lord and Savior”) and every public event was to be given in honor of the emperor.

Paul’s purpose in writing the Philippians is to encourage them that even as he suffered in prison because he claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, they too in Philippi can resist the pressure to succumb to the emperor that cares not a twit about them and to stand together in their commitment to the true Lord, Jesus Christ who “though in the form of God emptied himself taking the form of a slave.”  They can live as people striving side by side for the faith of the gospel as they seek the well-being of one another just as their true Lord, Jesus Christ, did. They can live as people whose hope rests in their true citizenship of belonging to the God on high and not be dismayed by the opposition that would frighten them to follow an earthly emperor. They can live with a joy that transcends all circumstances because Jesus their Lord is with them in all circumstances. Why?  Because they follow the true Lord who turned power on its head and said, “if you want to be first be last”…”if you care for the least of these you care for me.”  They follow the true Lord who assures them they are not subjects of a capricious lord but beloved partners and co-workers who are being transformed into their true identity as one’s created in God’s image.

Philippians reminds us that we know who we are as we seek to know our true Lord, Jesus.  We discover our true purpose as we work together to share in the sufferings of others and live together, in all our uniqueness, by the power of the one Spirit.  We can be content in all circumstances when we remember who we are in Christ.

Our challenge in reading Philippians today:  Who vies for our attention?  What makes it difficult to trust that Jesus is Lord?  What are pressures we face from the current day “empire”?   What does it mean to have faith in the gospel?   How does gospel living change how we live “side by side”?  What is our purpose as followers of Jesus?

May our attitude be the same as Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)

Pentecost Benediction

Based on Acts 2

Go out into the world
Trusting this reality – YOU matter to God.

Go out into the world,
As people who practice Celebration

Go out into the world
With eyes to see those who need a hand;
Who need to be lifted up
And hear the Good news – they matter to God

Go out this week and
Dream dreams, pursue visions
and speak of God’s goodness
in the words of those who would hear.

And may the God who breathed life into creation be your delight.
May Christ Jesus give hope to your dreaming,
and may the Holy Spirit, your advocate and supporter,
........set your hearts ablaze with a passion for peace.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ, our Living Saviour. Amen.

May 28. Worship in Action Opportunities

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

Fourth Sundays provide a way for us to come alongside our neighbors in South Lake Union and beyond. Below are some opportunities for this month. Meet at 415 Westlake Ave N at 10 a.m. unless time or location specified.  Events usually wrap up 11:20 am.  Questions? Renee

Breakfast at Mary's Place Guest Rooms l 9 am | 2213 8th Ave, 98121
We are serving breakfast at the Mary's Place Guest Rooms located on 8th Ave just south of Denny. 2213 8th Ave, 98121. Join with us to welcome families to our neighborhood. If you can join us, please arrive between 8:45 and 9:00 a.m. for set-up and serving. Children welcome. Contact: Myla

Seattle Cancer Care Brunch Team l 10 am | 207 Pontius Ave N
Instead of meeting at 415 Westlake go directly to 207 Pontius Ave N, 2nd floor dining room. Serve food and engage in conversations with residents staying here for treatment. This is a vital ministry of presence. Contact:  Ted

Make our Neighbors Happy|10 am | 415 Westlake |
Work on removing our dilapidated awning and adding a beautiful Garcia designed wood trim. Ladders welcomed. This is going to be very satisfying. Let's go team!

Make Our Neighbors Happy II|10 am | 415 Westlake | 
Spruce up our parking strip tree bed and prepare it for a new garden.

 Card and Snack Making |10 am | 415 Westlake | all ages
Help create cards of encouragement for our Women's Shelter or snacks for the kids at Compass House and students at Compass House and Mary's Place.

Help for the Hungry l all ages l 10 am | 415 Westlake
Pack sack lunches for the Immanuel Community Services Hygiene Center. The ICS Hygiene Center, located in the gymnasium of Immanuel Lutheran Church, provides the opportunity for homeless men and women to wash their clothes, take a shower, and spend the morning in a warm, safe, and clean environment. The Center is open weekdays from 8:00 am to noon. 

Bulk Food| 10 am | 415 Westlake
Help provide food security as we provide and repackage food or our local Immanuel Food Bank this month.

Meal Support| 10 am | 415 Westlake
Join with Alicia Downey in our kitchen to create meals for people in our community who could benefit from some extra tangible love.

 Create Your Own 4th Sunday Action
Some folks like to take 4th Sunday to develop connections with brothers and sisters by attending another church in their neighborhood or gathering others to share a meal or help a neighbor in community. What is a way that you feel nudged to express God's love and acceptance and seek the "welfare of the community?"

You also may want to take time to meditate on Luke 15:1-10.  How does it make you feel to know that God rejoices over you?  When have you experiencing God seeking after you?  How does this change how you live each day? 

 No Open Mic because of the holiday weekend. Our next Open Mics will be Monday, June 5 and Sunday, June 18 both at 6:30 p.m.

Stealing From the Bounty of the Past

Stealing From the Bounty of the Past
Jeff Fisher

This past Sunday at Union we introduced a new song, “Prayer for Lent”. Despite the admittedly uncreative title, I’m very excited about incorporating this song into our worship during this Lenten season, because it draws a connection between our community and the nascent church in the Fourth Century. The lyrics are adapted from a prayer attributed to St. Ephrem, a Syrian monk who died in the year 373. St. Ephrem was a prolific hymn-writer, who became revered for his ability to teach theology through music and combat doctrinal heresies that threatened to divide the church in its early, vulnerable state.   St. Ephrem, a Syrian refugee who experienced persecution and was forced to flee his home in the war-torn trauma of the 4th century, never stopped encouraging others in their faith. 

I think that St. Ephrem would be pleased that we are using his words to edify the body of the church so many centuries later. After all, in one of his hymns he says, “The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.”

It’s important that we “steal from the bounty” of the generations of the church that came before us, because doing so provides a necessary reminder that our faith is anchored in something lasting and eternal that proves God’s faithfulness through the ages. It’s so easy to become obsessed with novelty and to look for the “new” thing that God is doing, but I take deep comfort in the knowledge that ours is but one chapter the book of salvation, and that as we flip back through the dusty pages of that tome we find that the words of a 1700-year-old Syrian man can suddenly become fresh again and produce new fruit in our congregation.

So, I hope that singing this song over the next several weeks assists you in preparing for Easter, in letting go of the things that weigh you down and opening yourself up to the new life of the resurrection. I also hope that the story of the prayer and its author open you up to embracing the spirit of philoxenia, the love of the stranger, so that you might discover the ways that God will continue to minister to you as you continue the pursuit of justice and shalom in the places of hurt and despair in our city and beyond.

Prayer for Lent
(Adapted from St. Ephrem’s Lenten Prayer)

O Lord and Master of my life
Take from me the spirit of sloth
Take from me the spirit of despair
Take from me the lust of power and idle talk
Instead, Lord, give to me
A spirit of holiness
Of patience and humility
That I might serve you more
O Lord and King
Help me see these faults of mine
And not to judge my neighbor’s heart
For you alone are God
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

A Lent question: To whom else can we go for DEEP, LASTING LIFE?

When people decide it is too difficult and disappointing to follow Jesus, he asks those still with him, “Do you also wish to go away?”  Peter’s response is “To whom else can we go?  You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

Perhaps Jesus had not met expectations or provided the quick solution they desired. Jesus did not magically lift them from the complex maze of their daily lives.  He did not pull unending loaves of bread out of his pocket, but instead offered himself as the living bread. Jesus invited them to trust that he is the daily nourishment and guidance they need because he IS God’s presence. I AM the bread of life, Jesus says. 

In a moment of clarity, Peter gets it:  Jesus, I will stick with you.  What are any other true options?  You are the one who brings deep, lasting life. I will stick with you. 

The literal meaning of Lent is “lengthening.” Just as the daylight lasts longer each day as we move toward Spring, Lent is a season to intentionally seek a space – a “lengthening” space in our daily lives to examine this question:  To whom else can we go for deep, lasting life?  (While giving something up for Lent is the traditional practice, I do find that intentionally taking on a new practice might be the more positive response, especially a practice that takes me out of my comfortable patterns. Maybe the better question each day needs to be:  what will help create space, awaken my senses and help me face unmet expectations and live each day differently and more alert?)

In the maze of life, we are enticed down many paths that lead to dead-ends. Jesus does not promise to lift us out of the maze but instead promises to lead us through the maze, meeting us daily and relevantly.  Lent is a space that invites us to intentionally and honestly ask ourselves, “Will I trust Jesus?”

We need these 40 lengthening days of Lent to recognize the ways that we are forgetful, to name misplaced loyalties and to focus afresh on our need for a Savior so that Easter, the celebration of the resurrection, can break into our lives as God’s earth-shattering, world-redeeming, hope-infused reality of new life -- a new life for all of humanity and a new life that invites us into reconciling relationships with one another. Where else can we go for deep, lasting life?


Fourth Sunday – Meet your Church Neighbors

Deirdre Curle's journey of becoming acquainted with her church neighbors on Fourth Sundays. 

In the summer of 2015, a good friend from Puerto Rico was visiting for a week, and I invited her to come to Union with me. Although my friend was warmly greeted by several of you, she was taken aback by the calm casualness of our church – people walking around in shorts and sandals, sipping lattes, quietly singing along with our mellow worship songs. When I asked her what she thought of our church, she commented on how low-key we were compared to churches in Puerto Rico. Then she paused and said, “You know, you guys should check out other churches and see how they do things.”

I can’t help but wonder what we could do if we all came together as the church. Perhaps meeting our church neighbors is the first step.

After my friend left, I thought about what she said. I’ve attended Union for seven years, and University Presbyterian for ten years before that. But I’d never visited any of my Beacon Hill/Georgetown neighborhood churches. I decided to use our fourth Sundays to meet my neighbors. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced so far:

Every church I've visited has welcomed me warmly, many times literally embracing me. Even when I looked different from them. Even when I did not speak their language. People have shown me the love of God and have made me feel like their sister in Christ. They’ve invited me to stay for lunch, attend fund-raising teas, and even join their worship band. All have encouraged me to return.

Most of the people who attend church in my neighborhood don’t actually live in my neighborhood. Much like our Union congregation, many people commute to their churches. People drive to their places of worship in my south Seattle neighborhood from Burien, Renton, Redmond, and Lake City. It seems that once people find a church they like, they’re willing to travel quite a ways to get there.

The ways to praise God through music are limitless. As a musician, it has been absolutely fascinating to see how different churches present musical worship. A Ukrainian Orthodox church I visited had no instruments at all. Instead, an a capella choir led the congregation in singing four-part harmony. An African-American church I visited joyfully sang songs for over an hour with a lively and incredibly talented band and choir – altogether, they made up about half the congregation. And one church had no live music at all – they sang along with a recording of Hill Song. It was inspiring to see how each church found different ways to glorify God through music.

Child participation in church differs. Most churches have Sunday school programs for young children. But in others, children stay with their parents during the service. One church I attended was celebrating Youth Sunday. On this particular day, children played in the band, sang in the choir, passed out the offering plates, read the scriptures, and read the announcements – in essence, did everything but preach the sermon. At the luncheon afterwards, they helped serve the food. I thought this was a wonderful way to prepare children for active engagement in their church and community.

Church attendance is in decline. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (2015), more than half of all American congregations have less than 100 people in attendance. And according to Gallup (2012), Washington is one of the least religious states. These trends were painfully evident in the churches of my neighborhood. As enthusiastic as they were, most of the churches had attendance of less than 50. One church I visited about a year ago had only about 20 people. I visited them again last month, and they were down to 11, including myself. A quick Google search will yield numerous articles on declining church attendance, citing reasons such as people’s busy schedules, changing societal values, and lack of interest among Millennials. Sadly, many small churches in Seattle now face difficult questions about their financial viability and their relevance in the community.

There is great potential for us to be the church together. The Greek word for church is ecclesia, which refers not to buildings, but to the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25, 32). Visiting other congregations has given me the opportunity to share what we do at Union, and learn about how others are living out their faith. I can’t help but wonder what we could do if we all came together as the church. Perhaps meeting our church neighbors is the first step.

1/22 Fourth Sunday Service Opportunities

January 22, 2017. Fourth Sunday. Worship in Action

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 
Colossians 3:17

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

An invitation to live externally focused.

Fourth Sundays, Worship in Action, provide a way for us to spend time with neighbors in South Lake Union and beyond. Here are some ways to be a neighbor this Sunday:  Note meet at 415 Westlake Ave N at 10 a.m. unless time or location specified. 

Some folks decide to take time in their neighborhood to spend time with a neighbor, come alongside a work project or visit another church.  Please share your stories. Questions?

The Heart of Spiritual Practice |11:30 a.m.| 415 Westlake

An interactive time for adults (parents or mentors to kids)  to go deeper with children into the practices of worship to help us as families connect with our Loving God, grow as a disciple of Jesus, and celebrate how we can work with God to see God’s Kingdom come.  11:30 to 1:30 (following 4th Sunday activities). Lunch included.

Breakfast at Mary’s Place Guest Rooms l9 am | 2213 8th Ave, 98121

We have been invited once again to serve breakfast at the newly opened Mary's Place Guest Rooms located on 8th Ave just south of Denny. 2213 8th Ave, 98121. Join with us to welcome new families to our neighborhood.  If you can join us, please arrive between 8:45and 9:00 a.m for set-up and serving. Children welcome. Contact:


Hymn Sing at Skyline Retirement l 10:15 am |725 9th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

This project is perfect for families as it is kid and adult friendly! Meet in the lobby at the NE corner of the building. We will sing hymns and visit with elderly residents. Contact:


Seattle Cancer Care Brunch Team l 10 am | 207 Pontius Ave N

Instead of meeting at 415 Westlake go directly to 207 Pontius Ave N, 2nd floor dining roomServe food and engage in conversations with residents staying here for treatment.  This is a vital ministry of presence. Contact: Ted at

Card making l all ages l 10 am| 415 Westlake

Help create Valentine’s Day Cards for the Women’s Shelter.

Food prep for our Union community & friends |10 am | 415 Westlake

Join Alicia Downey in the preparation of meals that we can drop off for people who are in the midst of a transition this next month. 

Help for the Hungry l all ages l 10 am | 415 Westlake

Pack sack lunches for the Immanuel Community Services Hygiene Center.  The ICS Hygiene Center, located in the gymnasium of Immanuel Lutheran Church, provides the opportunity for homeless men and women to wash their clothes, take a shower, and spend the morning in a warm, safe, and clean environment. The Center is open weekdays from 8:00 am to noon.   

Bulk Food | 10 am | 415 Westlake

On these dark and shortened days, what a difference a cup of coffee can make!  This month we are supporting our local food bank by providing and re-packaging coffee for those who will come to Immanuel Food bank this month.

New to Union |  10 am | 415 Westlake

Meet with Renée learn more about Union Church’s vision and mission to live externally focused, inwardly alive and eternally connected as followers of Jesus in our world.

 Kakao Open Mic | 6:30 p.m. | Kakao Cafe

Sunday evening, January 22:  Music, readings and community. Come ready to perform or to enjoy the performances of others. A light dinner will be served.


In Death and Broken Ground Salvation Springs

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  -Jeremiah 22:3

This is but one of many passages in the Old Testament where we find God giving his people the same clear commandment: to show justice and mercy to the most vulnerable people living among them. Perhaps this directive was repeated so frequently because in ancient Israel immigrants and the poor were often treated as they are here today, with shame, fear, and contempt. The problem is that reaching out to people in these circumstances inevitably costs something of ourselves. It definitely costs us time and convenience, but it might even cost us our reputation or our safety.

But when we look at the life of Jesus, it is clear that he had little concern for what the ruling and religious powers of his day thought about his ministry to society’s downcast. In Luke 6:20 Jesus preaches to the gathered crowd, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying that God’s blessing and authority rests among those considered to be the lowest of his people, a challenging thought to those in positions of privilege. And doesn’t this mean that if we want to experience the blessing and presence of God, to participate in his Kingdom, that we should be drawing close to those with whom that blessing resides?

Sandra McCracken’s song “All Ye Refugees” is a message of radical inclusivity toward the outcast. It is a word of welcome to the alien, an invitation to “join the great procession” and journey toward our eternal home with all of creation. But it is also an invitation for all of us to join our God in extending his welcome to the ends of the earth, even into its darkest places. The second verse starts: “Oh refugee, I did not cast you out / In death and broken ground salvation springs.” Despite all evidence to the contrary, we often equate God’s blessing or salvation to our own earthly success and triumph. In this verse, Sandra McCracken reminds us that it is out of chaos that God brings order, and into darkness that he shines his light. This is the message of hope that we have to bring into the places of despair.

Caring for the poor and refugee may seem like a political issue, and it is commonly assumed that the church shouldn’t be involved in politics. To a degree this is true, and it would be a grave mistake to associate Jesus with a particular partisan ideology. But when issues of justice and mercy become politicized then Jesus stands at the center of our politics, and it becomes the church’s obligation to get involved. I am thankful and proud to be part of a church like Union that consistently engages with these issues through our work with Compass House, International Justice Mission, and our homeless women’s shelter among others. It is important that the songs we sing continue to draw us back toward this mission and remind us of the eschatological scope of God’s salvation, that reaches from the highest castle to the lowest gutter, and seeks to draw all of his people to himself.

Union Partnership with the International Justice Mission in the Dominican Republic.

Thank you to all who contributed on Christmas Eve to our partnership with IJM to fund a rescue. Thank you to those who have signed up to be Freedom Partners.   Here is more information about our commitment to the work of freedom in the Dominican Republic.  Please stay posted for our next steps as Freedom Partners.


Despite the clear blue waters and the white sand, the tropical country of the Dominican Republic wrestles with the enormity of the dark and hidden problem of sex trafficking. Worldwide, nearly two million children are bought and sold in commercial sex trade every year. The International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization committed to the end of slavery worldwide, recently opened an office in the DR to focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of young women enslaved in these horrible atrocities. 

Union Church has had a long history of supporting IJM, partnering through prayer and study for justice. 

With the formation of this new office, Union Church has made a new and bold commitment to become a formal partner church with the DR office. 

Union has been able to use its unique resources to raise funds for a complete rescue of a young woman enslaved in the DR. The cost of a full rescue, from investigation through recovery and restoration into the community costs $6500. IJM raises the money for these rescues from partner churches and through individual Freedom Partners. 

Union’s partnership with the DR office goes far deeper than a financial commitment. As a partner church, we will offer support to over 40 staff people in the DR by regularly praying for the work and the rescues, providing English training, sending resources as needed and leading trips to the DR to work and pray. 

We will also have the opportunity to sell jewelry at Union sponsored events made by women living at the restoration center known as Lily House. At Lily House, women have an opportunity to start fresh by learning to read and write, learning biblical teachings, and learning life and career skills. 

In addition, we will be able to host art events that display the unique work of IJM survivors and engage in further activities that raise awareness of the dark and hidden world of human trafficking.

The creative ways in which we can support this ministry are not limited to these plans and Union is open to new and innovative ways to extend light and life to our sisters and brothers who are enslaved. 

If you have an interest in becoming actively engaged in this ministry, contact Renée, James B. or Stephanie.

To support IJM directly as a Freedom Partner by offering $24 a month, sign up here.

To be more actively engaged in praying for justice, take some time to pray with these resources from IJM.

“Seeking justice doesn’t begin at the door of a brothel. Seeking justice begins with seeking the God of justice.”
Bethany Hoang, Deepening the Soul for Justice

Winter Sermon Series

Desmond Tutu stated, “If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible. There's nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible.”

As we journey into this new year of 2017, we invite you to read our scripture texts in preparation and spend time with this question, "Who is this Jesus?". Find the list of this series' scripture readings here.

1/08/17: Luke 4:14-44 

1/15/17: Luke 5:1-11; 9:1-6

1/22/17: Luke 5:12-32

1/29/17: Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17

2/5/17: Luke 5:17-26; 43-49

2/12/17: Luke 6:27-42

2/19/17: Luke 7:1-35

2/26/17: Luke 7:36-8:3

3/5/17: Luke 8:1-21

3/12/17: Luke 8:22-39

3/19/17: Luke 8:40-9:6

3/26/17: Luke 9:10-17

4/2/17: Luke 9:7-27; 43-50

4/9/17: Luke 9:28-36; 19:28-48

4/16/17: Luke 24 EASTER!

Monday Reading

Yesterday I encouraged us to think about how we begin our day and end our day. What do we fill our heart and mind with as we wake and what do we fill our mind and heart with as we prepare for sleep?
We all know that there is the temptation to begin and end with messages of fear that easily come to us through the news that is readily available on our phones.  Well, I sure know I am tempted to wake up each morning asking what is happening now in the world?!  
Yesterday I was also reminded that our God, who never sleeps created us to rest.  So today, I give you my morning reading and a quote from Eugene Peterson.  
Also, I am highlighting an online advent devotional you might enjoy.  The scripture, art and prayers both comfort and challenge:  2016 Advent Devotion

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Eugene Peterson: 
We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called to participate in God’s creative action. We respond in faith, in work. But always grace is previous. Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn. Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated. Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us every morning.”



Nobody's Fool.  A True Ruler
The glory of God is the human person fully alive. –St. Irenaeus
(Quote shared by Mike Yonkers to our Union Church)

Scripture: LUKE 4:1-13
The temptation of Jesus is not  a traditional Advent passage, but it is an amazingly right focus.   For what is Advent but a time of acknowledging that our God on High chose through Jesus to condescend into human form, as Philippians 2 says so poignantly , 

“Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness...”

The baby Jesus grew into a man, fully human while still divine, who experienced hunger, sorrow, joy and temptations.  What does it mean for us that Jesus, our Savior, knew temptation just like us? How does Jesus teach us to respond to temptations when they come our way?   How does Jesus help us recognize that there are tempting half-truth and falsehoods that take us away from our true identity of belovedness?
The writer of Hebrews affirms that we have a Savior who did not succumb to human temptations, though like us he knew the temptation to settle, to take the short cut, to refuse the way of traveling through suffering.

 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18).”

When we ask the question, is God among us, we look to Jesus and see one who says, 
“I am here, my beloved child. I know your temptation. I know your sorrow. I know your loneliness. I know your pain. I know your dreams. I know your hopes. I know your fears.  And, I will never leave you or forsake you. Bring your burdens to me. I know. And, I entered this world to absorb the power of evil and free you. Live now as my free person no matter what the world tells you.”