Woodland Park Press
Publication of Woodland Park Presbyterian Church
From the Pastor…..
Nearly eight years ago, I attended a the General Assembly of the PCUSA when it met in San Jose, CA. I could only be there for the opening weekend, but I had the opportunity to attend a number of sessions led by the directors of the PCUSA’s World Mission program. I remember that, at the time, World Mission was in the middle of trying to really reorient its understanding of mission. Instead of seeing mission as something that we do on behalf of others (in which we are the ones with something to give, and “the others” in need are the ones who receive), World Mission was encouraging a new model in which we see ourselves as partners in mission and in which, whenever possible, we seek to form long-standing relationships with the people with whom we are in ministry. In late September, our Presbytery hosted four delegates from the Presbytery of the Coast in Colombia. The Colombian delegation’s visit to Seattle was part of the initial stages of exploring the formation of just the kind of mission partnership that the directors of World Mission had in mind.
While the delegation was here, our Presbytery hosted a dinner for anyone who wanted to come and learn more. Nancy Horman, Noelle Royer, and I attended and got to learn about the Presbytery of the Coast, their Presbyterian seminary and university, and some of the exciting ministry programs that have developed in recent years. I brushed off my Spanish and had a dynamic conversation with the executive presbytery from the Presbytery of the Coast and the general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia about how our two presbyteries might partner in a way that hopefully avoids the paternalistic relationship and power dynamics that have often been a part of the unintended consequences of international mission in the past. These men knew exactly what I was talking about and were very clear that they do not want to be seen as the adopted mission project of North American churches—they want to be our partners. They have a lot of offer and teach us, just as we may have something to offer and teach them.
At the end of this month (Jan 26-Feb 5), a delegation from Seattle Presbytery will be visiting Colombia to continue the relationship development. WPPC’s Session received a letter from our Presbytery asking Session to send me on the delegation (with financial support from Seattle Presbytery), and our Session enthusiastically agreed that I should go. I’m grateful for the opportunity and excited about exploring possibilities for WPPC members to be directly involved in the future. It will be a week full of visits to different ministries and organizations affiliated with the Presbytery of the Coast. I will be preaching (in Spanish—yikes!) and will have the opportunity to share about you. In the weeks before I go, there will be blank cards in the Gathering Space. It is my hope that, as individuals or family units, you will write a “letter of friendship” to the people and churches I will be encountering. I’ll provide some suggestions for what you could write about to get you started, but what our Colombian partners tell us is that they want to hear about your lives, your faith journeys, the mission activities of our church, and how your faith is meaningful to you. I’ll translate your letters so our Colombian friends can read them directly. I look forward to sharing your stories with them and to sharing some of their stories with you when I return!
I’m grateful to be pastoring a church that understands the importance of these kinds of mission partnerships and is willing to take on the challenge of seeking to do mission work in a mutually-beneficial a respectful way. I’m hopeful that this experience will also inform and shape our own journey as we continue to discern how God is calling this church at this time and place.
With love and hope for the new year,