the mountain is out!

It’s my last full day here in Seattle (unless you are in the UK and it’s already Wednesday!) The sun is shining and Mount Rainier has appeared from behind the clouds. Well … strictly speaking the clouds have lifted and rainier has always been there, but the locals say she has come out and so who am I to argue!!

The sight is pretty amazing. The skyline of Seattle is impressive but seen next to the massiveness of Rainier its kind of pales into insignificance.

To me it is a kind of iconic appearance. Here in a place like Seattle where life is pretty progressive and people enjoy life and know how to party, it is quite easy to think that we are very much in control of our lives and have to worry about nothing else. This place has been built by pioneering people and it is easy to think there was nothing here before. I have spoken to many people here and a typical topic we have got around to chatting about is that I am based in a 1400 year old cathedral. Seattle history starts in 1851, and so the city is only 159 years old. People have spoken of the history of the are being very young.

Then … a day like today comes, when this massive volcano created by God just appears, sitting quietly reminding us that this area is much bigger than city life and does have a much longer history – the present cone of the volcano is though to be 500 000 years old – that’s pretty impressive. It serves as a reminder that before us was God, and lying quietly and waiting the creator still stands and is ready to receive us when we are ready to give ourselves.

Day 17: reflect, write, cocktails

I’ve had a pretty quiet day today with very little people interaction and so I feel quite tired and drained. I love being with people, and hate having to think and write.

Today I have got to grips with what I wish to say on Sunday nightin the homily part of the service. I guess I have found it a challenge to be able to speak about something in a different culture which I do not really understand. I will be looking at the 1 Cor 13 passage on love, so there is lots to pull out but the listeners will be glad that I am focussing on a small part.

This evening I went to Sacred Cocktails with David at Chanatee’s. We were competing with a party so it was not a great turn out but we had a good chat about the idea behind sacred Cocktails and what it is all about. David mentioned that cocktails in Seattle was getting bigger and bigger; I think the same must be the case in England as withing minutes of joining the Sacred Cocktails Facebook group, 2 friends had commented along the lines of ‘we can do that here in Rochester!’ Maybe we will!

As I look ahead to the next few days I think I am really looking forward to going home. I really like Seattle, but I feel like I have been away quite a long time and just want to be home now. I’ve gained a mass of stuff here and, I hope, made some friends that I will stay in touch with; but there has also been a sacrifice to be here. The family have missed me and I have missed them and we have all missed out on the last 3 weeks of each others lives, which is hard to explain but feels really weird. I think wwe all feel quite disconnected from each other, and I don’t like that feeling.

Tomorrow is Saturday which is a quieter day again. Not too sure what I am going to do tomorrow but think I will go downtown and hang out at Pike Place and Capitol Hill and see what I notice. If anyone wants to join me, give me a shout or drop me a text!

Day 14 … reflections and chance meetings

Tuesday started with Matt and breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe. I interviewed Matt while I mounted an assault on my massive pancakes – which caused me to need no lunch, and quite a small dinner!

It was good talking to Matt as ever. He is another one of the very creative people here at COTA and at the moment leads the Liturgy Guild of COTA which is responsible for developing the liturgy for the seasons. He has a great vision for liturgy being both accessible and meaningful in a way that helps people connect in a real way with God. It was good to chat with someone else who is passionate about creative liturgy but has the freedom that many of us don’t to be able to develop things. I am in a better position than most at home, as I have a little permission to be creative with certain bits of our liturgy, but if we are to seriously engage with people outside of our churches then this permission needs to be far wider spread than it currently is.

Following my time with Matt I met up with Eric, another great guy from the COTA community., We had a great conversation about the strengths of COTA and how he and others connected with he community. He initially connected through a chance meeting with Karen at a monastery. This made me smile as I think back to the fledgling community we have at home. I think it is amazing how chance encounters and conversations result in things like churches developing. God seems to be at work before our plans and somehow things seem to come together.

I guess, though, I am struck by the fragility of it all. I reflect on conversations I have had and am very conscious how just a few minutes either way would have had different results, i.e. the conversation would not have happened. Is it chance, or is it a God engineered encounter? There’s a question!

For dinner, Ned took mye for a Mexican experience in Fremont – that was cool and very much appreciated. The day ended with Ned, Jeanette and Karen in Kells – a great Irish bar where we got to hear Liam (Ned and Jeanette’s son) sing. A good end to a good day.

Day 12 : Fremont market

Sunday morning was spent wandering around the Fremont market this morning. There were some interesting stalls, such as the Blissful Wunders Chocolate stall.

There is a big ‘retro’ thing going on in Fremont. Retro is cool and there are a nmber of shops selling stuff from my childhood … so much do I am wishing I brought a suitcase of old stuff to sell!

Deluxe Junk is a typical shop where amazing retro stuff from clothes to lampshades can be bought.

The rest of the day I’ll be involved in COTA stuff which I am looking forward to.

Day 11 : Space Needle or Reflections on the city

Saturday I had a day off so explored more of Downtown Seattle.
I started by catching the monorail from downtown Seattle to the Seattle Centre. A nice quick ride. From there I ascended the 520 feet at 10 mph in the lift, sorry elevator, to the 360° observation deck of the Space Needle. Despite an overcast day the views of the city were still quite stunning. The structure of the building is pretty impressive too, and it is hard to believe it was constructed in the 1960’s.

I had a coffee (there’s a surprise) while I looked out across the city. As well as taking lots of photos, I also walked around with the flip video and you can watch that here if interested.

Looking at the patterns and variation of the city caused me to reflect upon more of whay I am here and how varied, yet ordered God is. You can tell from the video and photos that Seattle is a fairly varied city. There is Pike Place market, the area around the Space Needle, the water, the skyscrapers, the low apartment blocks, industrial areas, dock areas …. I could continue to list. It’s very diverse and yet it is all Seattle.

Like wise, you can’t point to the Space Needle and say ‘that is Seattle’. As much as I, and many others love Pike Place Market, you can’t point to it and say ‘that is Seattle’. You might like the waterfront, but again you can’t point to it and say ‘that is Seattle’. Seattle isd a collection of them all. Without one part, something of the character of Seattle would be lost. To get an understanding of Seattle I need to visit a variety of areas. I am told to get the best understanding of Seattle I need to go on the underground tour. This shows the original Seattle that has been built on top of. To understand Seattle, I would need to look underground to learn something of its history.

In many ways this is similar to how we can grow in understanding of our faith in God. Our different interpretations of scripture or prayer are as varied as the buildings and neighbourhoods of Seattle. To understand more we need to observe and listen to all areas. To gain greater understanding of God we need to go underground with him, and explore the past roads of faith.

As we do this we need to realie that we will never come to a full understanding of God! Sermon over!

After all this reflection I soent money on gifts for the family to take home and then I met up with Ned to listen to some music in the 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea House – (just look at all these coffees they offer!)a pretty cool end to the day!

Last night …

 Today also had some goodbyes.

This past week I have enjoyed chatting with Sue and Scott, church leaders from Victoria, who came over on the Clipper Service last saturday to have a break in Seattle and drop into some of the stuff we were doing. We have had some great chats over beer, pizza, sushi and more beer …. or strawberry lemonade, coffee and … well you get the picture. I’ll miss them being around next week. I may well take a day out and visit them in Victoria though – who knows!

We also said good bye to the Lutheran students from Wartburg Seminary tonight. They have been on J-team and spent the week at COTA learning about emergent church. They have had a rough week as one of their fellow students, Ben Larson, was killed while on a similar team in Haiti. I can’t believe how his family must be feeling, nor how the students coped!

It’s been good having these guys around as well. I’ve laughed with them, joked about the language differences between the US and the UK and even found an ally in Jutta, having a year out from Germany, in talking about real football …. although she did seem to forget the 1st September 2001 in Munich.

I’ll miss laughing with these guys and sharing with their enthusiasm. I hope they have a good trip back (they will be on a train for 30 hours!!!!) and, who knows, if they ever visit God’s own country of England we may catch up again.

still learning

Today is the start of Thursday in Seattle, although I have just spoken to Sarah and the children as they are coming home from a day at school and work and now looking forward to Friday! I dont think I will ever get used to the 8 hour thing, and it is frustrating as I’d like to talk to Sarah alone, but it’s just not possible.

Yesterday I joined Karen at the Olympia Diocese clergy day, which was a pretty long day. Bishop Greg Rickel calls these meetings 4/6 times a year and each meeting is repeated, one in the north and the other in the south of the diocese as the area is quite large. It was interesting to see how the diocese is working and what is on its agenda. The morning was taken up by looking at Clause IV, the clergy discipline measure which the CofE has had on its agenda recently. I can’t pretendit was exhilarating stuff, but it was interesting to be part of the day. There was also a great passion to get involved in Haiti and helping there when the time is right. The diocese has been sending teams to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, which the press have allowed us to forget about! Sadly the same will happen wit Haiti, but it looks like this diocese will continue to support there long after the TV cameras and press photographers have gone.

After the 45 min drive back to Seattle I wandered around Fremont again looking for Far east Handicrafts in search of a singing bowl. I have been looking for one of these for a while with my thinking being to sue these as an aid to worship in a similar way to bells being used in high churches. I was intrigued to see that singing bowls are used in a similar way withing COTA and they have bought them from the same shop.

I got to the shop and met Kirk. After chatting a little about the bowls I found one with the note I liked, but Kirk did not think the bowl sang for long enough so we went to the back of the shop to find a bowl that had the note I was looking for and sang longer. I ended up paying a few dollars less. The amazing thing about this place, though, is how it supports people in the areas of Nepal in which they work. First they only import what the people naturally make (e.g. they don’t get Buddhist making nativity scenes) and they fund 2 schools and a mobile cataract surgery that ‘brings sight to the blind’ in remote ares of the country. This is paid fro from profits and donations. So … as well as finding my singing bowl (or, ;-), did it find me) I have become connected to these brilliant projects.

At the end of the day we ate at Ivar’s Salmon House which I was told was a must while in Seattle. We had the most amazing salmon meal and I wasn’t disappointed.

Today I will spend more time with the Lutheran seminarians learning about the COTA rule of life and tonight we are catching up with Jon Myers again in pub theology, which sounds great to me.I hope we can get some good conversations going.

I’m continuing to reflect on my time here and experiencing more and more what Christianity COTA tyle looks like. A 24/7 Christianity means that these people like to spend time together. It is not just a church meeting or Sunday mentality. Lines between spirituality and normal everyday life are hazy, which means it is hard to work out what is happening, but I believe that is how it should be. I am really looking forward today to hearing more about the rule of life that COTA endeavors to follow, as I think this will go a long way in helping me to understand how things look and why they look as they do.

As I look down the long tunnel of COTA the mist is starting to rise a little for me … but only a little. I discover more things and learn more things, which in its own way brings more questions as well.