11/01/2004

More on CotA

This ended up much longer than I anticipated, so be warned ;)

Church of the Apostles (CotA) is an urban pomo church plant born out of the Lutheran Church and, since the ELCA and the Episcopal Church are now in full communion, both support it. Episcopal Life magazine wrote up an article on CotA recently.

I actually heard about CotA a long time before I got really interested in the emerging church and the postmodern expression of church. I was on a Diocesan commission when I first heard that a Lutheran pastor, Karen Ward, was looking to start some kind of ministry in the Seattle area. If I recall correctly, it was going to be some kind of ministry to young adults, probably on the East side (the ritzy suburbs). Now I have no idea if what I heard was accurate, but we did grant a few thousand dollars to help Karen get under way. I heard nothing more for a while and in the interim the vision apparently crystallized and ended up as a new church plant in funky, pagan, independent-minded Fremont, a Seattle suburb tucked between downtown and the University of Washington (also an Adobe campus).

Somewhere in there, my own parish donated some money (from the tithe of our capital campaign) to help them get started. I believe our money bought a computer projector and was much appreciated.

The first time I met Karen in person was October 2003 at our Diocesan Convention where she spoke. For many people she was the highlight of the convention. CotA had a table in the exhibits and so I got to talk to a few members as well as Karen. I was really looking forward to extending the relationship between our churches, including keeping some financial support going. Unfortunately, the aftermath of General Convention 2003 (the Gene Robinson story) began to make itself felt. People had already left our church and the financial reality started to become clear - and it wasn't pretty. We were running somewhere around 15-20% down on giving. Pledges for the coming year weren't looking any better. This is a a whole other story in itself, but it's a very important backdrop to the CotA story the past year.

Meanwhile, our Senior High youth group had attended a CotA service earlier in the year and in January 2004 our Junior High mission team, who were working in homeless shelters for a long weekend, also went there to worship. Of course, it's not like CotA is a million miles away from us anyway - maybe 25-30 miles so we can visit just about any time.

With all of this contact a few of us at my middle of the road Episcopal Church have hazy visions of doing something emergent within our own context. Who knows what it might be yet, but we're very interested in understanding what CotA is doing. CotA's big dream is to buy the old, disused Lutheran church across the street from their current Living:Room space. This property acquisition might seem very un-pomo in some ways, but their vision of it as a community center/coffee shop/worship space is very organic and in many ways also very Fremont.

There's the little matter of $400K to buy it and about the same amount to kit it out... Then I heard that a property the Episcopal Church had bought for a suburban church plant was not going to be used after all and that we are considering selling it. Of course, given our dire financial position there are those who want to shore up the operating budget with it. That's a bad idea. If we aren't going to invest it in a suburban church plant in Vancouver WA, why not invest it in a radical church plant that could be a model for a whole new way of doing church? And oh, by the way, the property to be sold is worth about $400K. Hmm, sometimes you have to pay attention when God whispers.

So, a word here and there (including emailing people from Hawaii while on vacation) and it looks like CotA may well get a decent chunk (but probably not all) of that money which, combined with other sources, will hopefully be enough to get the ball rolling. So that brings us up to this week. Karen and Ryan Marsh (the curate)introduced their video of CotA and the vision at convention. It's mostly short clips of interviews with CotA members and others, sometimes with Lacey Brown's (I presume it's her anyway - very cool) music overlaid. It starts by showing what they're up to today, showed a bit of a bit of the Quest story (a different but similar pomo hurch) at Interbay Covenant Church a few miles away, and finished with the vision for the church building, including clips with the architects.

With all the other preoccupations (like a 20% income shortfall) I don't think the convention was quite in the right place to hear about grand visions but it was still well received.

Through all this I'm continually amazed at Karen's energy and persistence. While the monetary situation doesn't look great right now, I think this past year has been the worst of it (that's the optimist in me :-) I'll be praying and helping wherever I can as the situation develops. Won't you pray for them too?

Comments:
Thanks for the update. I (and many others) have dreamed for years of starting a church plant here in the Bay Area and Karen's plans have generated a lot of interest. Unfortunately, we not only lack money, but most of us are still in seminary and therefore lack "sacramental authority," and until recently the diocese didn't appear very interested. Things will be changing here in the next couple of years, and CoTA may well end up being a model for us.
 
Ah, if only you weren't an Episcopalian - then you could just start a church and not have to worry about getting even a mail order MDiv...

I think the CotA experience will provide a really great learning experience. It's really interesting how opportunities have opened up. On the other hand, it's been a tough row to hoe on several fronts.
 
Dave, Oh that your level of enthusiasm, foresight, and advocacy was the norm from within exisiting denominational traditions such as your own. Certainly Anglican's down here in NZ could do much much much better.... PAX.
 
I thought NZ is a hotbed of pomo/alt activity? Or maybe that's just not the Anglican church...
 
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