September 21 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hi Friends  –

I had a great week in Minneapolis, Minnesota learning about Church Planting and Revitalization, and from there a super fun but quick stop in Columbia, Missouri last Saturday and Sunday for a nephew’s wedding.  

I wanted you to know that Sunday’s sermon text this week is from Mark 9:30-37 – another episode where the disciples end up not looking so good.  Notice:  We are more than half way through Mark’s Gospel, and the disciples still do not get who Jesus is, they are filled with fear, and now they are even fighting over who is the greatest among them.   When Jesus asks them what they were arguing about among themselves, they won’t even fess up, there’s dead silence.

There’s all that, and even more, to talk about this week!

Looking forward to seeing you in worship!

Pastor Heidi

September 15 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

Pastor Heidi Armstrong has been away this week in Minneapolis for her Pittsburgh Seminary Church Planting & Revitalization Program.

This Sunday we welcome Seattle Police Department Chaplain Charlie Scomato lead our preaching together through Mark 8:27-38.

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

September 7 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone  –

What a text we have to preach together this Sunday – Mark 7:24-37.  Jesus heads into Gentile territory, where a couple things happen, including this:

“…a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about Jesus, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 Jesus said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 

Wait a minute! Did Jesus just call this woman a dog?

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Does this sound like the Jesus we know and love?

What was he thinking?!

We have lots to talk about this Sunday!

 

Hope to see you in worship!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

August 30 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

Last week this eNews began with “Whoa!” because I was overwhelmed – ok – panicked! – as I tackled 1100 pages of reading for my next  Pittsburgh Seminary Church Planting and Revitalization, or CPR, class.  This week I’ve got nearly half the reading done (530 pages under my belt!) – and you guys – the stuff I am learning!!!! 

The first book, a commentary on Acts by Willie James Jennings, was so dense, so rich, it was like sitting down and eating filet mignon and fresh steamed crab (dipped in butter!) for days!

Jennings helped me to see again that Acts announces a new beginning with God; it reveals God’s deepest desire; the divine delight is for all people, all creation, to come together.  Acts is about “a holy joining orchestrated by God” in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

That means there is no divine final break up with Israel (I’m done with you people!), so God could go after the Gentiles (finally, somebody gets Me!), but the Holy Spirit is joining the two – Jew and Gentile together, which…wait for it… “opens up endless new possibilities of life together with others.” The church really is “a mixed group moving in the same direction.”

I was challenged in a ton of ways by what I read.  Here are a couple:

1 Jennings believes “The single greatest challenge for disciples of Jesus is to imagine and then enact actual together life, life that interpenetrates, weaves together, and joins to the bone,” – which means I have to ask myself, “who are the people nearest me that the Spirit is pressing me to get to know, come to appreciate, and ultimately join?”  

2 For Jennings, the challenge is that, “The Spirit presses us to join with people we do not want to join with…”  There is a “need for imagining and enacting forms of life together that transgress the boundaries we all know so well – racial, ethnic, economic, social, gendered, and nationalist.” Jennings then pulls out all the stops, going after people like me:  The problem is “too many pastors and church leaders have made themselves the high priest of segregationist practices. They have settled for the love of their own people instead of a love that creates a people. They have, out of the sheer need to be accepted, embraced, and celebrated, refused the holy work of the people of God to accept, embrace and celebrate others different from themselves.”  I’m asking myself: How am I a “high priest of segregationist practices”?  And how can I be about ending those segregationist practices?

See what I mean?  I’m learning so much – and that’s only one book (only 570 pages to go!)  I want to tell you all about the second book I finished, Eat What is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context, by Scott Hagley (one of my professors), but I’ll leave that for another eNews…

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This Sunday’s sermon text is Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-21 where Jesus talks about what messes people up doesn’t come from the outside, and gets to the heart of the matter… 

Hope to see you in worship!

Pastor Heidi

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August 25 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

Whoa - this week has gotten away from me (I’ve been trying to tackle 1000 pages of reading for my next Pittsburgh Seminary class!) so forgive me, but this eNews is late, and will be short…

The sermon text tomorrow wraps up Jesus’ focus on the bread of life in John 6:56-69.  Sadly,  now even disciples are deserting Jesus.  Jesus then asks the twelve disciples a very pointed question:  “Do you wish also to go away?”   We’ll take a look at Peter’s response.  And think about what makes us keep sticking with Jesus, too…

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

 

 

 

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August 16 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

I still get overwhelmed at the grocery store. By aisle upon aisle of food.  And stuff.  So much stuff.

Take the bread aisle.  White bread. Wheat bread. French bread. Rye bread. Sourdough bread. Dave’s Killer bread. And like 17 varieties of each.  And Kalamata olive bread. And gluten free bread.  And Hamburger buns, hot dog buns, tortillas, flat bread, naan, focaccia.  I’m sure I’m missing some more!  SO. MUCH. BREAD.

When Jesus says, I am the Bread of life, I think it falls a little flat on our ears.  Big deal.  Most of us are not desperate for bread.  We have choices.  Many of us are going with a more low carb diet, trying to cut out bread! Bread? Ho hum.

But for the crowd that followed Jesus, bread was a basic ingredient of life, an essential, the essence of survival.  When Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life” he meant “I am what you need to survive, to really live. Forever.”  We sorta tune out, but they were all ears.  “Give us this bread!” they say. 

Well, up to a point, at least…

This week in the text from John 6:51-58, Jesus says, “The bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh” (verse 51), and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (verse 54).  Jesus pretty much stays in this flesh and blood mode for this entire passage.  Enough to cause some tension.  With these graphic words he’s starting to lose them. 

I admit, it does sound a bit weird, doesn’t it?  There’s a definite “ew” factor here.  So what is Jesus talking about?  Or, maybe more importantly, what is Jesus promising us, or what is Jesus inviting us to? 

Looking forward to sharing the good news with you in worship! Bring your appetite!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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August 9 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

I’m baaaaaaaaack!

What a trip!  Epic!  Trip of a lifetime.  Everything I hoped for and then some.  IMAGINE SIX WEEKS  AWAY.  42 days.  On the water.  722 nautical miles total.  On a very small boat (25” long).  On a very large body of water.  Talk about getting perspective!  Whew! 

OK, so it wasn’t without challenges, there were some rough seas and rocky times, but you may remember my major goals were to (1) come back alive;  and (2) come back married! Mission accomplished!  Rick and I are filled with gratefulness for this adventure, happy to share the amazing (and gory) details.  And we find ourselves already contemplating a next trip…

One person’s prayer for me as we departed touched me deeply:  “I'm picturing you out on the water, brave and adventurous, seeing God everywhere!”  And it happened!  I did things I didn’t think I could do.  And God was revealed again and again in the stunning beauty of creation, and in the exquisite stories of ordinary-extraordinary human beings we encountered along the way.  All I had to do was pay attention!

But it will be good to be with God’s people on Sunday, worshipping God and reading Scripture together in community again – one of my most very favorite things to do! Looks like you all have been hanging out in John 6 (which begins with Jesus feeding the 5,000), and we will do so a bit longer – this week in John 6:35, 41-51. Check out the text: I’m wondering why people are starting to get all bent out of shape when Jesus says he is the “bread that came down from heaven”?

And then when Jesus says, “I am the Living Bread” – I realize sometimes I kind of wish he would’ve said something more like, I am the banana split of life, or the old fashioned glazed donut of life!  I wonder, What am I really hungry for?  What are you hungry for?  What do we want?  And what do we need

Looking forward to sharing with you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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August 3 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

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I hope you are enjoying the cool down as much as I am. While I love the heat, the coolness of the day allows me a time to recharge, slow down a bit, and relax. God knows when we need a break and he offers it to us in many ways. Sometimes we recognize it, give thanks and are able to redirect our focus to the one who gives us life and other times we are so caught up in the business of the day that we miss it. Sunday worship often becomes the only time where we hit the pause button. I encourage you to pause today, just for a moment, and look around at God’s creation, receive His peace, and be assured His grace is shining on you.

This is Communion Sunday and Rev. J.P. Kang joins us again to lead us through John 6:24-35.  “35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

July 27 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

I hope you are all finding ways to enjoy this summer. I heard a report that Seattle is the most under-air-conditioned major city in the country, so staying cool can be a challenge. I can picture the five thousand plus people, who are in the passage this week that came to see Jesus, were probably really hot with that many people all crowded together. Even with the grassy field, it was still probably not comfortable. I have trouble imagining why they would stay. Conversations this week helped affirm the reason they chose to stay. Hope. Jesus brought hope to the many then as he brings hope to us today. I heard it this week through friends who are struggling with family issues, I heard from folks in the shelter who are working toward a more stable life, I heard it through strangers just needing to share with someone. Jesus gives us hope. Don’t’ be afraid to share that with someone, because we all need a little assurance that things will be alright.

Sunday, Pastor Ed Park joins us again to lead us through John 6:1-21. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the five thousand plus he walks on water!  Take a look at this story with new eyes.

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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July 20 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

I hope you are enjoying the cooler weather and are able relax and enjoy the day. Heidi and Rick are now on their way, slowly coming back down from Canada. They are still talking to each other and enjoying a well deserved time to relax. I know we will hear a lot of stories from both of them when they return.

This Sunday, I’d like to invite any and all who would like to join me for a walk about through Freeway Park; just a stroll to take in the beauty of our neighborhood and to continue our fellowship after lunch.

This Sunday Rev. J.P. Kang returns to join us and will be leading us through Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. We had some interesting reflections with our friends at Compass @ First Pres last Wednesday as we explored these passages.  I look forward to hearing Pastor J.P. and your reflections this Sunday. 

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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July 12 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

God brings us into relationship with others at the right time for His purpose. As I looked round the congregation last Sunday, I realized the larger impact that the Compass shelter in the basement had on our church. We needed the shelter as much as they needed us. There were 7 current or former guests from the shelter, some new to us and some who have come to think of First Pres as their community. The Sister Sledge song, “We are Family” came to mind; all our brothers and sisters in Christ coming together to worship, to connect, to be reminded that God loves us and we are not alone. I encourage you this Sunday to meet someone new, whether they are a guest in the shelter or just someone coming in off the street. Listen to their stories; they are full of the grace and mercy of God. And if you’d like to join us for Bible study on Wednesdays at the shelter, you’ll learn our stories are not that different.

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While Pastor Heidi is away this summer, we have several other pastors filling in for the sermon time together. This Sunday Pastor Ed Park from Sanctuary Church will be leading us through Mark 6:14-29. Promises, regret, and John the Baptist’s head on a plate. If reading scripture seems a little boring at times, take a look at this one and you might be changing your mind.

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

July 5 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

Have you met Helen, Sue, Mona, RJ, Esmaeil, or Mitra?

Helen lives in the neighborhood and she’s the one you can thank for all the bread and goodies on Sunday. She is active in the schools assisting the teachers and passing on her knowledge. Sue used to live in the neighborhood when she first moved to Seattle from Texas to help care for her granddaughter. Mona and RJ live across the I-90 bridge. Mona found First Pres because she was looking for a church that was easy to access. She invited RJ to come with her when they were dating and they recently have gotten married. You’ll see Sue and Mona greeting at the door and also helping serve the lunch.

Esmaeil is our building manager. You usually see him running around on Sunday morning, and then joining in worship at the back in case there is a problem. His wife, Mitra, is the person to thank for the delicious lunch each week. 

These are just a few of the members that have been at First Pres. for a number of years. They all have interesting stories about their own journey and how they came to be at this particular church. I want to encourage you to say hi and share your own story.

Doing just that is what building the kin-dom is all about.
 
While Pastor Heidi is away this summer, we will be having several other pastors filling in for the sermon time together. This Sunday Rev. Dr. Vonna Thomas will be leading us through Mark 6:1-13. Jesus goes home, but doesn’t get the response you would be expecting and then sends his disciples out with only a walking stick!

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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June 28 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends  –

As I picked up the email list to make sure everyone was added, it struck me again how diverse our congregation is. This one sheet of paper tells a story of who God has brought together for His purpose. Over the next few weeks I want to share that story with you.

The first person on the list signed their name and then put down a number, no email address. The number was not a phone number, but just to my eyes, a random number. That got me thinking. Does this visitor think of himself as just a number in a system? Was he so used to just being a number, that he automatically just adds it to his name? I remember this man engaged in worship. He stayed not just for the meal, but for the fellowship; not sitting by himself for lunch, but at a table of new friends, sharing his story and listening to others.  I pray that as he left he felt more than a number at First Pres.

I see this happening every Sunday. People reaching out to each other, whether they are known to them or not. Lifting each other up, listening to each other’s stories, connecting to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Reminding us all that we are more than a number.

While Pastor Heidi is away this summer, we will be having a variety of other pastors filling in for the sermon time together. Most of them you will know as they have joined us before. This Sunday Rev. Eliana Maxim will be leading us through Mark 5:21-43 – two stories about healing, a woman and a little girl, one very public and one in private. Take a look.

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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June 21 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends, 

I am scrambling to get ready to take off on vacation which begins right after worship this Sunday.  I just keep chipping away at my to do list:

o   get preachers for the Sundays I’m gone (hoo boy – we’ve got a great line up! And Jana and Kathy will be here every Sunday holding done the fort while I’m gone!);
o   write a bunch of papers and posts in online discussion forums, and participate in a Zoom call – all for my first “Church Planting & Revitalization” intensive;
o   pack all our gear and provision the Willie C (our old 25’ troller boat; think tiny home on steroids) for the 120 miles (as the crow flies) up to Desolation Sound, British Columbia – which is still wilderness (don’t forget the bear spray!)  
o   and, clean the house because people will be coming to stay in it while we are away!

As Rick and I prepare for this voyage I had to laugh when I first saw that our sermon text for Sunday is Mark 4:35-41 – where Jesus hops in a boat with the disciples and the mother of all  storms whips up, scaring the living daylights out of the twelve (at least 4 of whom are seasoned sailors).  So what do they do?  And what does Jesus do? 

And, have you ever felt like you were about to go under?  So, what do we do?  Let’s talk about it this week together.  And maybe pray for smooth sailing? :)

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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June 13 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Sisters and Brothers  –

This eNews is coming a little early this week due to a change in staff schedules:  EJ Lee, Director of Operations in the Presbytery office, faithfully sends out the eNews every week, and she is headed to St. Louis tomorrow to help support our Presbytery Associate Executive, Eliana Maxim, who is standing for Co-Moderator of our General Assembly – which is a pretty big deal!  (We’ve been blessed to have Eliana preach a couple times in the past at First Presbyterian, and we’re delighted she will do so again on July 1). The General Assembly votes to elect new Co-Moderators this Saturday night.  Go Eliana!

Also, the sermon text for Sunday is Mark 4:26-34.  In Mark 4 Jesus is speaking in parables about the Kingdom (Kin-dom) of God.  Parables are pithy, super short stories…  Jesus says the Kin-dom of God is like a seed that grows all on its own…  Or, the Kin-dom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that grows into a massive bush…  Pretty simple stuff, right?  So I wonder then why did Jesus have to “explain everything in private to his disciples” (verse 34)?!   

I imagine this Sunday we’ll be scratching our heads a bit together and wondering about what the heck Jesus is trying to tell us about the reign of God! 

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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June 8 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone  –

I’m still in Pennsylvania for the Church Planting and Revitalization Initiative I started this week at Pittsburg Theological Seminary.  I catch a flight home Saturday evening, and will see you all on Sunday, perhaps a bit bleary-eyed, but so grateful for the things I am learning – not the least of which is there is no quick fix for church decline; there is no silver bullet to renew a congregation. We can only seek God, listen for and discern God’s direction, trusting God together.

I wanted to make sure to send you the sermon text for Sunday – Mark 3:20-35 – where everybody thinks Jesus is going bonkers, even his own family – which actually causes Jesus to take the bold step of redefining family.  I wonder what you think about that?  Check it out!

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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June 1 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters & Brothers  –

Several months ago I heard about a year long program of study at Pittsburg Theological Seminary (PCUSA)  called “The Church Planting and Revitalization” Initiative – and it captured my interest. So I put together my application…and got accepted…and next week I head to Pittsburg for the first of five 4 day  intensives (1 other meets in Pittsburg, 1 in Minneapolis, 1 in Denver, and 1 in San Francisco over the next 12 months).   I’ve been reading books, thinking deep thoughts and writing papers like crazy, and loving it!  I look forward to sharing with you along the way, and seeing what ideas this generates!

If you get a chance, check out our sermon text for this Sunday – Mark 2:23-3:6.  It’s always good to read through it a couple times before Sunday if you can. This passage is one of a number of “controversy scenes” that come early in Mark’s gospel, and it’s interesting to note that when Jesus (who people often describe as meek and mild) gets in hot water for breaking the law, he doesn’t back off!   He persists.  Kind of makes you wonder why… 

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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May 25 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends  –

Last Sunday on Pentecost we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit – the Advocate who comes to both comfort us and make us uncomfortable.  Pentecost is revolutionary; it brings a great equalizing. The Spirit is still at work in the church and world, breaking down barriers, forming a new multi-cultural community.  

Next up the Lectionary dubs this Sunday Trinity Sunday.  And one of my favorite preachers/Bible commentators, David Lose, cautions, “Don’t even mention it, him, her, they (proper noun, please?)”

Oops, I already did.

So why not preach on the Trinity this Sunday?  Lose says, “Because it’s a doctrine”… and “a confusing doctrine…” at that!  For many people it has become “little more than a formula” that doesn’t really mean anything.  The problem is, when we describe God formulaically, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it gets so confusing or clinical sounding that what we often lose sight of is…the loving God of the Bible!

Interestingly, the very thing the Lectionary seems to want to help us remember this week is…the loving God of the Bible!  Read through the sermon text from John 3:1-17 a couple times. We’ll meet a guy named Nicodemus, who has some questions for Jesus. Notice how the ensuing conversation gets a little confusing.  But also notice we end up with probably the most famous verse in the whole Bible – John 3:16 – “God so loved the world…”  Yep, we’ll end up with love.

If we do end up preaching on the mystery of the Trinity on Sunday, maybe we can try to do it in terms of love…

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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May 18 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone  –

After the risen Christ left this earth, the disciples were told to wait for the promised Holy Spirit who would empower them for ministry.  Before long things got pretty wild as the Holy Spirit arrived as a violent wind and tongues of fire, and the Holy Spirit them gave the disciples the ability to speak in other languages – so that all the people gathered in Jerusalem could hear the good news about Jesus in their own language!

In our sermon text from John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 Jesus makes a big deal about sending the Holy Spirit after he’s gone, and calls the Holy Spirit “the Advocate”, or sometimes it’s translated “Comforter.”  That’s a good thing, right? – the Holy Spirit is Comforter.  Unless maybe we get too comfy? 

Read back through Acts 2 and you get the sense Pentecost is not very comfortable.  In fact, I don’t think it’s too farfetched to call Pentecost totally revolutionary.  The Spirit was, and still is, shaking things up bigtime. 

So what does this mean for us today?  Well, let’s seek ask Spirit.  Afterall, in John 16:13 Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” 

I hope you can join us this Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi       

P.S. Celebrate Pentecost this Sunday by wearing a fiery color – red, orange, yellow – or all of the above – underscoring the fact that today we Presbyterians are still figuring out how to get our Pentecost on! 

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May 4 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –         

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

That’s straight from our sermon text this Sunday – John 15:9-17 – if you want to give it a slow read.

In A Book of Uncommon Prayer (my favorite book of prayers), author Brian Doyle writes,

“Granted, it’s a tough assignment, the original assignment…   Love – Lord help us, could we not have been assigned something easier, like astrophysics or quantum mechanics?  But no – love those you cannot love… the blowhard, the pompous ass, the arrogant liar.  Find Christ in each heart, even those.”

And how does that even sit with you – a command to love? Can you make people love?   Especially as Jesus loved? I mean the bar is set pretty high, no?

I think this would all feel very heavy and burdensome, except the text is loaded with all kinds of good news, as well – though not always easy for us to detect.  Still, it’s kind of like Jesus works overtime here not only to help us take the command to love seriously, but also to help us not freak out, too…  I absolutely love some of the good news images and words of assurance in our text this week.  Come and let’s dig around together – I think you’ll love them, too! 

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Here’s a quick update about the FPCS Litigation:  We received word this week that the Washington State Supreme Court has declined to hear the court case appeal, deciding instead to transfer it to Division I of the State Court of Appeals – which must uphold the Rohrbaugh decision/precedent (as the King County Superior Court decisions have already done). We will know more about the court timeline in coming weeks.

Be the church!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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