A group of Spirit of Life folks, plus Pastor’s mom, recently made a delightful and restful pilgrimage to Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat in the mountains above Lake Chelan. Holden Village is a special place, and it’s certainly hard to capture the magic and beauty of it in words. But here are some (and photos below, too):
From the website: Holden Village is a remote wilderness community, rooted in the Lutheran tradition, that welcomes all people into the North Cascade Mountains, above Lake Chelan, Washington. Over the course of 60 years, Holden Village has been transformed from a copper mining town to a vibrant place of education, programming, and worship. Holden Village welcomes and embraces people of all races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities. Holden Village has been a Reconciling in Christ congregation since 1985. For the sake of Justice, Holden is called to foster Diversity through deliberate invitation and welcome; deploy an ethic of Equity to confront and dismantle systemic oppression; and practice Inclusion by listening to, learning from, and being transformed by marginalized voices, in order to become, together, the community for which God longs.
From Walt Sippel:
Holden Village provides a wonderful respite from the adventures and challenges we call life. You have the opportunity to do as much or as little as you wish. You can learn, play, rest, meet new people, or simply soak in the mountain air, watch the river rush down the mountain, or watch the world go by unencumbered by modern, electronic conveniences. There is also ice cream in case you need it!
From Charlene Nelson (Pastor's Mom):
The Holden Village experience for me was uplifting and encouraging. In a world where respect, kindness, and "going the extra mile" is in short supply, the staff "Villagers" and the participants renewed my faith in the goodness of professing Christians.
The word "retreat" used in conjunction with Holden Village is very appropriate. To "retreat" from work responsibilities, schedules, daily news, wi-fi, and cell phones was a chance to rediscover myself and what is important in my life.
From Lois Wilson:
I had two personal goals for this special week, and feel gifted that I was able to achieve both…ahh, plus so many other high points! The hiking/strolling, mindfulness, conversations, healthy food (yes!) ok, let’s add yummy ice cream. A very productive yet restful time with amazing people.
From Pastor Marietta:
For me, the rhythm of life at Holden Village is the gift. Meals are communal and time sort of floats by. There are opportunities to “do” (crafting, classes) and opportunities to simply sit. No TV, no phones, computers or Internet. The ice cream shop is open twice a day and worship is every night. Hiking is always an option, as is dipping your toes in a mountain stream.
Dear Spirit of Life Friends,
Time and again in scripture we read about how Jesus and his disciples met with and healed people who were described in that day and age as being full of demons. From Luke 8:
Then (Jesus and the disciples) arrived at the region of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As Jesus stepped out on shore, a man from the city who had demons met him. For a long time the man had not worn any clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, shouting, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me,” for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
And time and again today, here and now, we encounter people in our lives who also suffer in the way the man in Luke 8 did. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members, and ourselves. We are in the midst of a mental health crisis. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers these current statistics:
That last one - suicide as the second leading cause of death for our very young people - takes my breath away. The second leading cause! This can all feel overwhelming - and there are ways we can help.
It is critical that we continue to pray to God and intercede on behalf of our country as these mental health challenges wash over individuals who are suffering and institutions that aren’t equipped to help. God accompanies us on this journey of life and speaks words of love and belonging over our lives, especially when we are suffering.
And ... many of you have already heard me talk about a book I recently read, The Awakened Brain, by Lisa Miller, Ph.D. It has captivated me deeply. Dr. Miller’s research demonstrates that all humans have the capacity for spirituality. And that when we are encouraged and inspired to explore spirituality, our brains become more resilient and robust. Spirituality can literally grow and nurture healthy brains. It can create resilience and optimism.
Dr. Miller’s research was fueled in part by her own spiritual experiences (she is Jewish) and by the ways in which spirituality helped individual patients with whom she worked. She witnessed with her own eyes how a connection to faith changed and improved the lives of those who live with mental illness. She was also told, more than once, that spirituality did not have a place in mental health care. So she set out to discover whether that was true. Watch this video (TW: suicide) to learn more about the findings in The Awakened Brain.
So what do we, as Lutheran Christians, as part of Spirit of Life, do with this information? Can we help alleviate the pain and suffering of so many people? Well, we can try, and we can ask God to help and guide us. My friend Nita Baer, is the one who asked me to read The Awakened Brain. She was excited to share it with her friends of faith. Nita is a mental health counselor with more than 40 years of experience. She has a long history of work with young children. She is also a faithful, lovely Christian human with a heart for Jesus and a heart for people. She will join us at Spirit of Life for several events over the weekend of July 21-23.
On Friday, July 21, from 5:15 to 6:15 pm, in our sanctuary, Nita will offer a teaching session on The Awakened Brain that is geared for anyone caring for young children. Nita will share the research and also talk about ways in which integrating spirituality and faith into the lives of children can help them grow resiliency and emotional health. Please plan to attend if little ones are part of your world. We have shared this with our Little Doves families as well in hopes that they can attend. Nita will speak for a significant portion of the hour, and she will also leave time for questions and answers. We will offer free childcare. In addition, the session will be recorded and shared on our website and social media. If you would like to attend this event on Friday, July 21, please send an email to email@example.com and put “The Awakened Brain” in the subject line.
On Sunday, July 23, Nita will join us in our regular 10 am worship. For the sermon portion of our worship, I will interview Nita about The Awakened Brain. She will share from the book, and also her own insights as a Christian and a therapist about how we can help address mental health. After worship, Nita will be available for an informal question and answer session.
I pray that this will be an exciting and life giving time in our congregation as we continue to discern what it means to unpack complexity and to live in response to the Good News of God in Christ Jesus by helping others in meaningful ways.
… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me … ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ - Matthew 25:35-40
Dear People of Spirit of Life,
I want to share with you the connection that God is creating with women who are incarcerated at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.
This story begins in 2018, when I first moved back to the Pacific Northwest. I was in my third year of seminary. As I studied scripture and theology, God’s grace seeped deeper and deeper into my bones. I began to ask myself: Just how deep and wide is this grace? Who does it extend to? God guided my ponderings to this realization: grace is for everyone. No. matter. what. If it’s not, then it’s not God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. So what does that look like for the people of our world who hurt others? Who create chaos and sometimes violence? I had so many questions, for God, for myself, for incarcerated people.
After a particularly meaningful and deep Bible study on a Christian response to the criminal justice system, I connected with Empowering Life, the Southwest Washington Synod’s ministry with incarcerated women.
Joan Nelson has long been the leader of this volunteer group. At the time, Empowering Life was holding a monthly worship service at the Washington Correctional Center for Women near Gig Harbor. Empowering Life also employed Sharon Peterson, who provided spiritual care and taught classes on grief, loss, and change for the women at WCCW. I became a member of the Empowering Life Board of Directors and attended worship each month. In 2019, I was invited to preach at and lead one of the services.
These Sunday nights became for me a deeply spiritual connection with God and with the women of WCCW. In worship the women shared their own stories of grief, loss, regret, and reconnection. They found freedom in our worship together when they could sing and pray and be honest about their own situations, especially their past lives, their families, and their hopes for the future. They heard God’s words of grace and love spoken over them again and again. As we held space for them, we too were encouraged and lifted up. God moved in and through those gatherings each month.
As I heard their stories and began to better understand the women of WCCW, my prior assumption that their plight was simply a matter of making poor choices began to crumble. More questions emerged. Probably the most poignant question that bubbled up was: Why them and not me? I began to study our country’s criminal justice and incarceration systems. Peeling back the layers of complexity around incarceration revealed the well known connections to poverty, racism, and substance use. And the research also revealed less obvious connections to trauma and abuse. Large majorities of incarcerated women report being abused mentally, physically and sexually as children. As I continued to worship and pray for the women at WCCW, I began to advocate for reforms that I believe would better prepare people to leave incarceration and return to healthy, whole lives.
Little did we know when we walked out of WCCW in early February 2020, that we would never return. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the facility has struggled with staffing and coordination of volunteers. While we’ve heard that some limited return of programming and volunteers is happening, our program has not been able to do so. It has been a strange and puzzling situation.
Then in early 2023, a new opportunity presented itself.
Joan Nelson made contact with Chaplain Imo Smith, who serves Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women near Belfair. Chaplain Smith expressed a desire to have a worship service once a month that offered communion. Joan contacted me, and we identified the second Friday of each month for this service. We began in March. The services are simple - time for some prayer, acapella singing, dwelling in the Word and sharing our ideas and insights, and communion. Each time, the women are invited to write down a prayer that they would like to share. I share these prayers with Spirit of Life women who meet for Bible Study at the Landing on Fridays. The women of MCCCW are greatly encouraged that prayers are being said for them. It is so important to them that they are not forgotten.
Recently, Chaplain Smith invited me to teach a class on baptism. We had six in the class that was held in early June, and we had a wonderful discussion about the scriptural basis for baptism, the Lutheran understanding of the sacrament, and the promises that are made in the rite. At our July service, five women will be baptized. We will also have a musician, Heather Clauson, for that service. She is a guitarist and member of St Mark’s by the Narrows. She previously volunteered at WCCW with Empowering Life. Consistency, good music, and quality relationships will help the worship be fruitful and faithful.
I share this with you, the people of Spirit of Life, because without your call, I could not do this ministry. So thank you, for calling me to serve as your pastor. And thank you for giving me space to grow in my own gifts and share them with the women of Mission Creek. I am intrigued by what God is up to through this opportunity and will continue to listen to where God will take this. I ask that you pray as well for the people who are incarcerated at Mission Creek and for the people who work there.
April 8, 2023
The rocks were still warm.
Last night after Good Friday service, I knelt at the foot of a cross to pick up rocks that people had placed there during the service. As my fingers closed around one of them, I felt warmth. Then the next and the next. “The rocks are still warm!” I exclaimed aloud.
Our Good Friday service did not offer bulletins, which people would have held in their hands. This year, we moved together through the crucifixion story with readings, silence, and song prompted only by the voices of our worship leaders. As we moved through the crucifixion story from the Book of Matthew, as we sang Were You There? seven times, as we sat in silence remembering the hours Jesus hung on the cross, the people had held these rocks in their hands. Into these rocks, they were encouraged to pour their sorrows, their worries and fears, anger, pain - all the emotions we encounter as humans. All the emotions that Jesus encountered as fully human in the crucifixion. At the end of the service, everyone was invited to place their rocks at the base on the cross. To leave the things in their lives that hurt them the most, knowing that Jesus’ suffering accompanies their own. They are not alone.
As I knelt continuing to gather the rocks, I pictured the hands of the beloved people who had held them, and the sorrows and pain I knew existed in their lives. Holding the warm rocks in my own hands, I knelt in silence for just a few seconds. “The rocks are still warm,” I said to myself, this time in a whisper. Giving thanks to God for this community that I serve. Giving thanks for people willing to share their vulnerabilities and entrust God in Christ Jesus with their hearts and lives. Giving thanks for God, who loves us.
- Pastor Marietta
Our Lenten devotional booklet was copied in black and white due to costs, so here are the images in color for you to enjoy. The artists' statements on each piece of artwork, can be read here.
On Sunday, February 26, Spirit of Life Lutheran Church celebrated 30 years of ministry. Many memories, kind words, and songs and prayers were shared. A few tears were shed, too. Bonnie Ruehs-Lutz, Alicia Wells, Trevor Boe, Ed Higgins, and Bishop Richard Jaech shared stories. Rebecca Brown wrote an original song that includes the line: "Stack the chairs!" Brilliant.
Ash Wednesday service will be held on Wednesday, February 22, at 7 pm in the sanctuary. Please plan to join your friends at Spirit of Life for this special service as we enter the Lenten season and prepare in 40 days to celebrate the joy of Easter.
Each Sunday throughout Lent our worship services will be centered around the theme of Seeking:Honest Questions for Deeper Faith. We will study the questions of scripture: Is this the fast I chose? Who will you listen to? How do we begin again? Will you give me a drink? Who sinned? Can these bones live? Where are you headed? Will you wash my feet? Why have you forsaken me? And finally on Easter: Who are you looking for? These questions and your questions will be heard and respected. Please bring your open hearts and questions to Spirit of Life as we move through Lent together.
Each Wednesday beginning March 1, we will enjoy soup, fellowship, and a short, meaningful time of worship with the Holden Evening Prayer liturgy. These gatherings start around 6 as we come together to eat first (about 6:30 pm) and then move into worship. They are informal and family style.
For more than 30 years, Spirit of Life has been spreading the Good News of Christ in South Kitsap County. This year we celebrate the church's official acceptance as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Spirit of Life became an ELCA congregation on February 28, 1993. Pastor George Larson was the mission developer pastor who helped, with many charter members, establish this congregation, the childcare center, and the food bank.
On Sunday, February 26, we will celebrate this anniversary with a special program, fun treats, songs, stories, and fellowship. You are invited! Please invite friends and family who have been part of Spirit of Life over the years. The event will be held from 2 to 4 pm in the church sanctuary.
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