February 10 Worship Canceled Due to Weather Conditions

Hey everyone!

Well, that was a lot of snow – 6” or more out here on the Hood Canal – and at least that at First Presbyterian Church in Seattle! And the temperature is supposed to plummet in the morning making things especially icy.

So, we’re making the call to CANCEL WORSHIP TOMORROW.  Everyone stay safe and warm!

Hope to see you in worship next week!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

February 8 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone –

As I write this we are under threat of Snowzilla 2019.  If it’s as bad as they are forecasting, we may need to cancel worship on Sunday – but let’s wait and see.  So, we’re on for now, but watch your inbox for an email update tomorrow for any change.

*****

Last Sunday we had our first of three week experiments around the biblical literature and practice of lament… and it was actually kind of fun! We had a dozen folks stick around to talk about what everyone is thinking and feeling about the changes we’ve been through and are ahead of us at First Pres., and to read and talk together about Psalm 88, the lamentiest of laments!  This week we will take a closer look at Lamentations chapter 3.

*****

Our sermon text this Sunday is Luke 5:1-11, where, among other things, Jesus schools fishermen on how to fish :).

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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February 1 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello friends –

Last Sunday we read Jesus’ first sermon – some call it the “Nazareth Manifesto” – in Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus’ home town crowd seemed pretty receptive to he had to say, at least initially – but as we’ll see this week, minutes  later they were incensed, to the point of running Jesus out of town. They were ready to throw him off a cliff!  Holy cow – was the sermon really that bad?  An epic fail?  Check out the text in Luke 4:21-30 and let’s talk about what in the world happened…and maybe continues to happen today.

*****

Also, remember you are invited to stick around after lunch to be a part of a project I am undertaking in conjunction with my latest Pittsburgh Seminary class.  Beginning this Sunday I will be doing a little 3 week experiment around the bibilical literature and practice of lament… (It’ll only take about 45 minutes or so.)

One reason I want to do this is because a little over three years ago the congregation experienced a painful split and now we are facing the sale of the property. And although this change is in many ways good news, even still it’s a huge decision, and it may be accompanied by feelings of loss and grief. Change often is.  Letting go can be difficult. Especially when we don’t know exactly where we are going or what the future looks like!

That’s where the biblical literature and practice of lament comes in: The Bible is filled with examples of God’s people in the midst of a crisis of chaos telling the truth about their situation to God. They didn’t bury their feelings or act like it was no big deal.  They didn’t put a smiley face on it.  They cried out to God.  They let God have it!  Ultimately, lament helped them get to a place of deeper trust in God.  

I think it could be a helpful practice for us, too.

Hope to see you Sunday! 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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January 25 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone –

Last Sunday we saw how Jesus’ public ministry began in John’s Gospel – with the miracle of turning the water into wine at Cana – emphasizing the gifts of transformation and extravagant abundance in Jesus.

This Sunday our sermon text from Luke’s Gospel in 4:14-21 has Jesus’ public ministry begin very differently.  Sometimes considered Jesus’ first sermon (some called it the “Nazareth Manifesto”), Jesus quotes words from the prophet Isaiah to launch his mission, and “good news to the poor” is pretty much it in a nutshell. 

One commentator describes this text as “One of the most ignored, watered down, spiritualized or glossed over texts” in many churches today.  I wonder if you agree? How – and why – do we do this?  How do we join in Jesus’ purpose today?  There’s a lot to talk about this week!

*****

Also, I want to invite you to a little project I am undertaking in conjunction with my latest Pittsburgh Seminary class…

Beginning Sunday February 3 right after lunch, for about 45 minutes or so, I will be doing a little 3 week experiment around the biblical literature and practice of lament with anyone who wants to stick around.  WHY? Because here we are as a congregation, having been through a very challenging time of change due to a painful church split, experiencing a great sense of disruption and loss, and now preparing to leave a familiar location and building (when? we’re not exactly sure yet!). And we’re not even exactly certain where we are going or what the future looks like! It can all be a little overwhelming, if not distressing.  (Not to mention all the personal, social and political challenges and disappointments that we are experiencing all the time that make us wonder, Where are you Lord?!) 

So, I wonder if the biblical literature and practice of lament might help us out a bit – by encouraging us to tell the truth about our situation to God, and preventing us from burying our feelings and having to act like it’s no big deal, and ultimately by helping us get to a place of deeper trust in God.

I hope you can stick around a little longer beginning Sunday afternoon February 3 and join in this little mini-experiment…

Grace and peace, friends!

Pastor Heidi

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January 11 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

Ok, permit me a little braggy moment here:  I just got back from spending a little over 48 hours in Chicago – basking in the brilliance of my goddaughter, Lanise, an actor featured in the play “Familiar” at the Steppenwolf Theater.  The play had us busting up in side-splitting laughter one minute, and bawling our eyes out the next.  It’s about a family that emigrates from Zimbabwe (back when it was called Rhodesia) to America, and raising two daughters in Minneapolis, and the tensions that grow between wanting to maintain and losing one’s cultural heritage.  It draws out issues of racial identity, adoption, marriage, religious differences, and well, family.  And it’s familiar!  There’s my god-kid on stage, herself adopted from Haiti, living it out loud for all to see.  I was challenged, encouraged, humbled, and couldn’t be prouder to be shaped by knowing her and experiencing her gifts! 

Pastor Heidi, goddaughter Lanise, Lanise’s Mom Karla

Pastor Heidi, goddaughter Lanise, Lanise’s Mom Karla

*****

The sermon text this Sunday is the story of Jesus’ baptism from Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 which the Lectionary revisits this time every year (from one of the gospels).  Read it through a couple times – listen with your heart – notice what touches you…  Maybe ponder a bit: Why was Jesus “who knew no sin” even baptized?  Do you remember anything about your baptism? If not, what does it mean for you to say, “I am baptized?”

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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January 3 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends -

I must admit - the greeting “Happy New Year” always rings a little hollow for me – because I am so aware, even in my small circle of friends, of so many incredibly challenging situations that people are dealing with: my oldest brother who gets an update tomorrow on how his treatment is affecting his cancer; a 40 year old friend who is on IV drip three times a day with a high-powered antibiotic to beat a super-resistant infection; our dear friends living downstairs in the Compass at First Presbyterian shelter hoping to get into housing, but also trying to get their lives together on many other fronts. And who can forget the violence and famine in Yemen that fills our screens with images of little bodies with distended bellies and skeletal limbs; or the threat to the first fair and democratic election in the Democratic Republic Congo since it gained independence in 1960; much less the political division and impasse in our own nation that has everybody yelling at each other – or not speaking to one another at all.

The list goes on, and it is all rather unsettling, and daunting.  Happy New Year doesn’t quite cut it.

I know I’ve said this before, but this is why Sunday is so important for me, why I live for worship, for church, for being the beloved community together, for kinship:  We are reminded that God is with us and for us.  I am not alone; we are not alone.  And the God who loves us calls us to love one another.  I know we’re not perfect; we’re all a mess. (If you think you have no mess, um, that’s your mess!) But when we come together, we are reminded of God’s grace – we receive God’s forgiveness. And we see ourselves in a larger Story, God’s Story, of making all things new.  The Story of God’s unfolding promise to mend the entire universe!

Happy New Year?  I’m holding out for New Creation – through the life, death and the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Now that has the ring of truth to it!  And we need to hear it, and sing it, and say it, and pray it again and again and again!  Which is what we get to do every Sunday!

* * * * *

The text this Sunday is Matthew 2:12 – the familiar story of the Magi.  Read it through a couple times – listen with your heart – notice what touches you, what do you love?

O come let us adore Him!

Pastor Heidi

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December 21 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear sisters and brothers –

A part of me always looks forward to this day – for today is the Winter Solstice. (If you need a scientific explanation, my husband Rick will be glad to provide you one on Sunday, like he did for me – again – last night, and, um, like he does for me every year!) The thing is, after tonight, we turn a corner: the days ever so slowly start to get longer in the northern hemisphere.  Translate: MORE LIGHT in the Pacific Northwest.  Yes, I suffer from a bit of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so this is music to my ears. 

But still the thing is, Winter Solstice is also the longest night – yes, the last longest one for a while, but dang, it is LONG and DARK.  You may have noticed: the whole month is.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere where it’s summer right now.  But here we are in winter darkness.

Some churches have a Blue Christmas or Longest Night service to acknowledge the sadness, grief and depression that many people struggle with this time of year.  I led such a service some years ago, and we each lit a candle for the dear ones we had lost, or were missing in our lives.  I swear it took me 5 minutes to say the names of my parents outloud I was so overcome with grief.  It’s not always like that, I’m not always on the edge, but that was a hard year for some reason, and some years are harder than others.

Christmas, and all the expectations of Christmas, often make it harder. Spending time with families that aren’t perfect; or having no family to spend time with.  Spending too much money on presents that don’t satisfy, or we don’t need; or having no money to spend.

One of the reasons I am glad Christmas does come in our deep, dark winter is we point to the promise that in Emmanuel, God-with-us, meets us right where we are.  Jesus Christ the LIGHT shines in the darkness of sin, and grief and evil and the darkness cannot put it out. It’s not just a dark season that is changed, but our very can be transformed by God’s amazing light and love.

Part of my new favorite poem (you might hear it again on Sunday) puts it this way:

Let me tell you the Good News:

There is Good News.

That’s it: 

goodness, somewhere, rushing toward us in the place where future meets present tense.

Hope unwinds across the fragile world and whispers its nightmares away.

*****

The text this Sunday is the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20.  Read it through a couple times –a listen with your heart – notice what touches you, what do you love?

Looking forward to seeing you Sunday.

O come let us adore Him!

Pastor Heidi

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 The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döringhttp://bit.ly/rK5376

December 14 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

Of all the Advent texts, Luke 3:7-18 on the Third Sunday of Advent is probably the most jarring, with John the Baptizer announcing to the crowds who came out to him in the desert: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  (Um, you did?!)  If I preached like that, I’d probably get fired, or the congregation would vanish.  But instead of being offended or scared off and running for cover, John’s crowd is fully engaged.  When John exhorts them, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance,” they respond with an eagerness that is every preacher’s dream, asking him, “What then should we do?”

You might be a little surprised at the way John answers that question.

Check it out and we’ll talk about it together this Sunday.

Hope to see you in worship.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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December 6 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone –

I keep reading about interesting and creative things congregations are doing to be the church – especially those with building challenges.  Just this morning my sister sent me a short video posted on Sojourners Facebook page about a church in Los Angeles that’s pretty inspiring.  To check it out click here:  https://www.facebook.com/SojournersMagazine/videos/341579506643407/

Granted, it wouldn’t work so well in our climate, but kudos to them for thinking outside the box!

*****

The Second Sunday of Advent always features John the Baptist, so we’ll jump into Luke 3:1-6 this week.  The text is filled with familiar words, and lots of good news, so be sure to check it out.

Also, we’ve got the Lift Gospel Choir joining us for worship this Sunday. Directed by Megan Krantz and our own Jana Detrick, the group was just recently formed, but their energy far surpasses their size!  You will be blessed as they help lead us in worship! 

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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November 30 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

Just a couple things real quick –

We’re having a new members class this Sunday right after lunch – 12:30-2pm – if you want to join FPCS, or want to explore what that even means, or if you’re already a member and need a refresher :).  Join Kathy, J.P. Kang and me for a scintillating look into Presby life!

*****

And another heads up – Advent begins this Sunday with another one of those “is the Bible trying to scare the living daylights outta me?” apocalyptic texts – this one from Luke 21:25-36.  Except remember what I said a few weeks ago about apocalpytic? (Nope?!) Well, it’s packed full of so much good news and hope! Really.  So c’mon and join us, and let’s get our (“Second”) Advent (=Coming) on!

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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November 16 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

In 1983 I moved to Chico, CA, where I served as Associate Pastor of Bidwell Presbyterian Church for seven and half years. It was my first call out of seminary, working with college students, and I still have connections with that community.  Paradise, CA is just 15 miles away from Chico – and it’s hard to fathom the destruction and heartbreak resulting from the Camp Fire, which is not yet contained.  This morning the news jumped to 63 dead, and 631 missing.

I’m grateful Bidwell Church is serving as a significant staging area for goods and services to those who are in need.  One of my best friends was down at the church for several days this week, and said she spent her time mostly crying with and hugging people.  If you want to help, but just don’t know how, you might consider sending a gift card to Bidwell – for Target, Safeway, or Subway – they will make sure they get in the right hands.  (Bidwell Presbyterian Church mailing address is 208 W. 1st Street, Chico, CA 95928).

*****

OK, heads up – the sermon text for Sunday is a doozie – Mark 13:1-8! It’s one of those “the end is near” doom and gloom texts that we Presbyterians think are soooooo weird, and frankly would just as soon avoid.  So would you believe me if I told you the message of this text is actually some good news?  (By the way, it’s one of the reasons I argue we should all leave behind that Left Behind book series – when those books lay out a precise time line of end-time events and stir up fear they are missing the.whole.point!)

Anyway, check out the passage and see what you think, and we’ll talk about it together on Sunday.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

The Western or “Wailing” Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the only part of the 2nd Jewish Temple that remains

The Western or “Wailing” Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem,
the only part of the 2nd Jewish Temple that remains

November 9 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

It’s been quite a week: The election midterms are behind us, yet political divisions and incivility deepen…  Yet another mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA, right on the heels of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA…  Catastrophic fires in California…  A humanitarian crisis (famine) in Yemen…   And, just a few days after celebrating my niece’s wedding in Napa last Saturday, I found out my oldest brother has metastatic cancer.  And what about you – what’s swirling around you?

These are the times I feel most especially the need to be with God’s people, to remember we are not alone.  We need each other.  There’s a comfort in being together, and praying for our world and one another.  

I sure hope to see you in worship this Sunday!

*****

The sermon text is Mark 12:38-44 – featuring the story we often call “the widow’s mite” – about a poor woman in the temple who gives just two small coins, but it’s everything she has.  I’ve preached this text several times, and have always talked about the woman being an example for us (to give generously). But now I’m kind of rethinking that: what if she is more of a warning to us all?

Check it out and see what you think, and let’s talk about it together on Sunday.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

“Jesus said, ‘This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.’”

“Jesus said, ‘This poor widow
has put in more than all those
who are contributing to the treasury.’”

November 1 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Hi Friends –

On Monday night a group of us got together to bake cookies to take to guests downstairs at Compass. It was kind of a reverse trick or treat, instead of us getting treats; we wanted to hand out treats. I took the bags down and joined in their Halloween party and had a great time. Many of our friends were there and I just want to say they all love to dance!  It was good to see so many smiles. Needless to say, everyone loved the home baked cookies. They wanted me to say thank you to all who helped.

We’d like to continue to support our guests in different ways, so watch for updates on how that might happen. If you have an idea, please pass it on to me.

This week, Seattle Police Chaplin Charlie Scoma will be joining us again to lead us in conversation through the text from Mark 12:28-34.

And don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour on Saturday.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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October 25 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers  –

Finally! A sermon text this week that is totally positive!  The disciples don’t look like goofballs.  Jesus isn’t upset.  I don’t think this passage will make you think, Hmm, maybe I’ll sit this one out this week. 

It’s the healing of Blind Bartimaeus from Mark 10:46-52. Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Best question ever!)  Answer:  “I want to see.”  (Great prayer!)

And there’s so much seeing going on! 

Check it out - and see what you see!

Hope to see you in worship…

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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“I want to see”

October 18 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hi Friends  –

This morning I was watching the fog burn off over the wide expanse of Hood Canal that Rick and I call our front yard – and soaking up the gift of another day of warmth and sunshine in the Pacific Northwest.  Gosh, how many days in a row has it been this Fall?  I can’t believe I’ve lost count!  And, man, the riot of color that rims the blue sky – every hue of orange, yellow, and red!  I love it when God shows off!  O Divine Artist, thank you for sharing it all!

I hope you all get a chance to get outside and open your eyes and breathe deeply in the next day or so – and to give thanks!

*****

So, you know how I always say when we are preaching together that questions are so important.  Bring your questions, I say.  And, there is no such thing as a stupid question, right?

Well…I might have to walk that back a teeny bit. Because I think we catch the disciples asking a really dumb question in this week’s text from Mark 10:35-45.  

Check it out and see what you think. I think we’ll have some stuff to talk about together this Sunday.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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October 11 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone  –

There have been some questions about why the First Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission/Session is proceeding with the sale of the church property, so I wanted to make sure you are of aware of this document: FPCS AC/Session Frequently Asked Questions, October 10, 2018

Please note that although the plan is to sell the property (although there is not a done deal yet), the FPCS AC/Session does not have a plan to close the congregation. 

If after reading the FAQ you find you still have lingering questions, please reach out to Kathy Smith or me – we are happy to talk further with you. 

*****

As part of a small project I am doing for my Pittsburgh Seminary course in Church Planting and Revitalization, a few of us have been spending a little more time in conversation with a few people in our congregation who are in the Compass Shelter downstairs, or others who have experienced homelessness.  These conversations have been so rich; it is such a gift to listen to what our friends have to share.  It just reminds me once again the importance of slowing down and being with people, of stopping long enough just to listen, and how that honors the humanity of another person.  I hope you can figure out how to enter into this practice, too, because YOU will be blessed!

*****

So, we’ve got another challenging text this week – Mark 10:17-31 – where Jesus starts messing with one of our most sacred cows: money!  It’s pretty wild – but Jesus is concerned that a rich guy’s got a deficit!  This Sunday we’ll be wrestling again with what it means to follow Jesus in this kind of crazy, upside down kin-dom of God life.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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October 4 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends  –

Sometimes I feel like if I tell you what the sermon text is for Sunday you won’t come to worship – LOL!  Maybe I should explain…

For example, Jesus has been on kind of a roll lately, letting the disciples have it in the Gospel of Mark. 

A couple weeks ago Jesus described to the 12 for the second time that he’s on his way to suffering, death on a cross, and resurrection, but it flew right over their heads. Next thing you know Jesus is trying to straighten them out because they’re arguing over who’s the greatest among them. He’s talking humble king, they’re debating pecking order.  Seriously, people? Yep, that really happened. 

Last week Jesus resorted to hyperbole: if you cause a vulnerable person to stumble in faith, it’d be better if you tied an automobile-size rock around your neck and jumped in a lake (= drowned, died). Or, if you’re just going around stumbling in your faith, it’s better to chop off whatever is tripping you up – your hand, foot, whatever – than to head straight to hell.  (Yes, sometimes Jesus tries to scare the hell out of the disciples).

And then we get to this week’s text – Mark 10:2-16 – where the Pharisees ask Jesus about d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

Is there any other subject that people have felt more hurt, more judged, by the church than divorce?  Maybe you have been divorced.  Or, your parents divorced when you were young.  (Mine did…before I was born…but they got married again…to each other…and had three more kids, including me.  Crazy story, I know.)

And I’ll be honest with you, at first hearing Jesus sounds a little cranky in these verses.  I don’t know, maybe it’s because he’s aware that, as the text says, the Pharisees were trying “to test him.” They were messing with him, trying to back him into a corner.  They knew their question, “Is divorce lawful?”, did not have an easy answer, and Jesus would hopefully offend someone.

But does it help if I tell you that if we really pay closer attention to this passage, and the larger context, it could be titled something like “the good news if you’re divorced?”

You may think that’s a stretch…but I think it’s true, with not an ounce of hyperbole on my part.

So, I invite you to join us for worship this Sunday, whether you’re married, or single, or divorced, or remarried, or straight or gay…to meet Jesus and hear some good news.

I love you guys!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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September 27 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone  –

I am loving these warm, sunny fall days and moonlit nights! In my neighborhood the full harvest moon rising over the Canal has been absolutely stunning!

But I’ll also admit there has been a heaviness of late, with so much tragedy around sexual harassment, abuse and violence in our nation – and the Church. As my 17 year-old granddaughter texted me on Thursday morning: “It feels like a really dark world we’re living in lately.”  

I am grateful for courageous victims speaking out, telling their stories. I pray for justice for them, and for their healing and wholeness, even as we long for and work for radical change in our culture. God help us all.

~~~~~~~~~~ 

In our text for Sunday – Mark 9:38-50 –Jesus is still trying to help the disciples grapple with who they are, with what defines them. Will they let Jesus define them?  Will they follow the Jesus way?

As the passage progresses Jesus has some strong words for what his way looks like: Don’t cause anyone to stumble in life and faith, otherwise “It would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.”  He doesn’t let up: “If your hand or foot gets in God’s way, chop it off…  If your eye distracts you from God, pull it out!” (The Message) 

Wow! Is Jesus really serious here?  Wouldn’t we all be walking around maimed?  What do you think?  Let’s talk about it together on Sunday…

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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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