Wedgewood Community Council – Hunter Farm Gathering Place

Jeff Littlejohn – Imagine NW

Wedgewood Neighborhood, Seattle Washington

Lacking an outdoor green space, the community members of Wedgewood want to create a gathering space for all ages that reflects the vibrant character of NE Seattle. With the generous donation of space by the Hunter Family of Hunter Tree Farm, this already much loved space can now be enjoyed year round. Figuring out how to make a movable gathering place so the Hunters can sell their wonderful trees during the holidays has been the catalyst for ingenuity and one of a kind design.

In April of 2011, the Wedgwood Community Council partnered with the Hunter Family to submit an application for a Gathering Places Grant from Tully’s Coffee and the Pomegranate Center. We were 1 of 17 communities to apply and 1 of 3 communities in the greater Seattle area to be awarded the grant. The Hunter Farm site is located in the heart of Wedgwood, between the two commercial nodes at NE 75th Street and NE 85th Street. It’s location is an ideal and intuitive place for many NE Seattle community gatherings. The primary goal of the gathering place project was to improve the ability of the site to accommodate greater public gatherings while allowing the Hunter Family to maintain their thriving Christmas tree business.

After winning the grant, the Wedgwood Community Council reached out to several civic groups, school PTAs, and adjacent community organizations that are all stakeholders of the site to form a steering committee. This steering committee was intended to be a representative group of the greater NE Seattle community to provide logistics support throughout the project and a sounding board on behalf of the community during design iterations.

As part of the project design development, there were 2 community meetings. The first community meeting was held on June 11th at Messiah Lutheran Church. This was a full day workshop to solicit ideas and develop concept-level plans from those ideas based around realistic site and budget limitations. From this workshop, 68 unique ideas were proposed by the community and 4 concept plans were developed.

Following this kick-off community meeting, volunteer design professionals from the Pomegranate Center and NE Seattle community (Public Space Rangers) built upon the community’s ideas and refined them further using material availability, estimated construction costs, and further considerations/input provided from the Hunter Family. The result was presented at the final community meeting, on July 13th at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church, to unveil the project design.

Between August 18th to 21st, the NE Seattle community came together to build the project. Through tireless work by hundreds of volunteers, the project was largely completed by the last community build day. You can read more about Day 1 (August 18th), Day 2 (August 19th), Day 3 (August 20th), and Day 4 (August 21st).

Additional links telling the story linked with pictures and videos:

The Hunter Farm Gathering Place Grand Opening Bash
Tully’s & the Pomegranate Center – Hunter Farms build in Wedgwood
Overwhelming Turn Out for the Hunter Farm Community Build
Day 3 of the Hunter Farm Community Build
Emergency HUB planned for Hunter Farms Gathering Place Makes National News
Even More Progress Being Made on the Hunter Farm Gathering Place Project
Progress Already Being Made on the Hunter Farm Gathering Place Project

Brian Turnbull serves as president of the WCC. Brian, his wife, and their two boys have called Wedgwood home for the last five years. Brian is a missional pastor of a house church movement in Northeast Seattle, and owns a landscape company called Green House Landscaping. Brian enjoys people and the outdoors, which are two great assets we have here in Wedgwood. As the chairperson of Events Committee, Brian enjoys coordinating our annual Outdoor Cinema and Business Trick or Treat.

Asset Based Community Development Training – Portland, Oregon May 21

Partner: Clark Blakeman – Second Stories

Second Stories, one of our partners, is hosting an asset based community development (ABCD) workshop. This is taking place in Portland, Oregon on May 21. For more information on the workshop go to:

Second Story – Asset Based Community Development Training Event Page

Inhabit Conference April 29 – 30, 2011

Partner: Clark Blakeman – Second Stories

Clark Blakeman, one of our partners, is taking part in a conference called Inhabit Conference. This is taking place in Seattle, Washington from April 29 to 30. For more information on the conference go to:

Gardening on Rooftops and the Radio

Okay, so we aren’t virtually gardening with radio waves as the title implies, but we are gardening on a rooftop here in Belltown and we were featured on a local radio station just yesterday. Here is a link to the radio show blog site where you can listen: …

As you can tell by listening to the program, it’s a really cool project that is actually putting feet to much of the hype floating around about “green” this-and-that–a conversation that seems to often happen more on the internet than in real neighborhoods. This project is a beautiful collaboration that I have only recently really stepped into. It started out with Sustainable Belltown (SB) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) working together to create more sustainable food gardening in Belltown while also helping the city develop a pilot project for rooftop systems to then hold up as a model to use throughout the city. Our project is a small scale retrofit, meaning that it is a small scale container system that can be added to most rooftops without overloading the structural capacity of the roof.

(This is not a full roof system, and can intuitively be applied on rooftops or balconies that are already supporting lots of people, tables, grills, etc. Obviously, if doing more, one should consult an engineer or the building’s architect to be sure about safety concerns.)

What the radio show does not make obvious, is that this would be completely impossible without the collaboration, active participation, and fiscal sponsorship of the management company and staff at the Centennial Apartment buildings. Multiple folks there have made this possible and they took a risk last year of believing that this was worth their effort and finances as a way to give back to their residents and the neighborhood. I have worked some in the past few weeks particularly with one of their staff members, a gentleman named Markham, who has been a huge force in making this happen.

The Centennial is a great example of a private business that has decided to expand their bottom line to include doing something great in the neighborhood, and guess what? When people come to check out apartments in their buildings and find out about the foodbank gardens, it is starting to become a contributing factor for people to want to rent from the building–what a great win-win for this company that has decided to help make the neighborhood a little more human and earth friendly!

So, I knew about the project when it was started up and the containers were managed by a couple of wonderful gardener/residents over at Centennial. Now that the project is underway in earnest, I am working through SB to track data and help develop a case study that SPU can use for future developments and recommend to existing building owners. Being a garden nerd, I am also helping set up a system of managing the beds, educating residents on gardening basics, and setting up the process of growing, community building, and food donation so that it will be successful for years to come (ambitious, I know).

Some of the benefits of the system include: reduced rainwater runoff, community involvement and connection between gardeners and residents, fresh local vegetables for the local foodbank (helping reduce the carbon footprint of a local non-profit), increasing awareness of place, generating excitement and inspiring other projects, bringing food production into the line-of- sight for city dwellers, educating first time gardeners about a) how easy it is for them to grow food and b) how long it takes, and difficult it can be to grow food, thus building respect for those who grow most of our food and making us a little more willing to pay equitable prices for the labor and produce of food grown well with respect of the earth and our bodies.

As you can see, I am excited about this project. It is something I did not start, and I hope I will not see end, yet I get to play a fun and helpful part in doing something that makes our neighborhood a little better to live in. In the process I have met some beautiful people, had some great conversations about how we can connect with our neighbors and understand ourselves as people living in a community together, and learned a lot about what it means to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, our neighbors, and the earth.

Peace, Daniel

*While finishing a masters of divinity degree from Mars Hill Graduate School, Belltowner Daniel Tidwell has been pursuing urban agriculture opportunities along with his wife, Jocelyn. Members of the Belltown P Patch and part of the Emmaus Road crowd, Daniel and Jocelyn have also become rooftop farmers. Within the last year, the Tidwells have seen how growing fresh produce with the intention to share has brought neighbors together. Check out this radio story from GREEN ACRE RADIO on KBCS, and listen to Daniel speak about rooftop farming and community development.

Everything You Need Is Already There

To live in a consumer society means that we live in a society that is constantly seducing us to remember what we do not have. We need, we don’t have, if only we could get, wouldn’t it be great to have, I could do this if only I had……these are all familiar chorus lines to that song you can’t get out of your head called, consumerism.

There is much that could be written about the pervasive spirituality of consumerism in our day, but for a brief moment I’d like to focus attention on how the posture of “need” influences neighborhoods and churches.

This past Monday evening I had the joy of leading a handful of neighborhood leaders in beginning to realign and reimagine the Cascade People’s Center, my neighborhood community center that is going through significant challenges amidst a rapidly changing neighborhood. We increasingly understand together that the posture that we collectively take when undergoing change is usually just as important as whatever strategic initiatives that require implementation. In other words, how you get somewhere is just as important as where you hope to go.

Due to some crushing financial realities, as well as major organizational changes, the People’s Center has found itself focusing on neighborhood and organizational “needs” instead of assets. It is very easy to be overwhelmed with the crushing sense of need. We need more money, we need more staff, we need more volunteers, it isn’t so different than most church communities is it? However, when we allow needs to be the driving force for change, consumerism oddly wins the day. Here is a diagram I’m borrowing from a fabulous book on community development.

Two Paths ——– Two Solutions Needs (what is not there) creates services to meet those needs which then creates “consumers” which results in the mantra that programs are the answer.


Assets (what is there) creates connections and contributions which then creates “citizens” which results in the mantra people are the answer.

I believe this model is just as useful to neighborhoods and cities, as it is to churches and non-profit agencies. If you begin with what you have and work from there, the end result is almost completely different than beginning from a place of need. Think of the next major challenge or initiative you are facing. You already have everything you need to begin. Start with what you have and work from there.

Tim Soerens

Community Organizer Honors Motel Hero

There was a police report about what happened back in March at an Aurora motel. Now Karen Cirulli, a community organizer along the Aurora corridor, salutes the brave motel manager who broke up the sexual assault and subdued the suspect until police (lots of them!) arrived:

This past year I have been delighted to meet new faces on Aurora, some of whom have become friends. Samantha is one of those folks that I have had the honor of getting to know. “Sammie” is a twenty-something office manager at the lovely Everspring Inn on Aurora Ave. She is a very dedicated and hard working woman who takes great care of the Everspring office and guests, and has a heart for the community. Sammie helped host the Everspring BBQ back in November. Yes, November. Despite the slightly cold and rainy weather the community came out to listen to music, eat burgers and hang out. Aurora is not exactly a place to just hang out, let alone in a motel parking lot, so this was a beautiful picture of hospitality and light in a sometimes dark neighborhood. Sammie helped connect me to the motel owners (who, by the way are lovely too) and get the ball rolling for the event. Sammie also recently participated in one of the Asset Based Community Development workshops that I attended along with many other community leaders.

The other night my husband Kevin and I were driving past the Everspring Inn and saw about 10 cop cars surrounding the motel. My heart skipped a beat as I wondered what had gone down there. I quickly texted Sammie to find out if she and the rest of the office gang were okay. She called and said she was okay, and that she had a story to tell me, but I’d have to wait until the next day.

The next day I got to hear how Sammie essentially saved a woman from serious injury or worse. There was an altercation between two of the motel guests upstairs. Sammie went up to find out what was going on.  When she came out of the elevator, she saw a man pinning a woman down. He was assaulting her. Sam quickly ran and got her pepper spray.  When she came back, she pulled the man off of the woman. As a result, the victim was able to get away.  Meanwhile, Sammie had the guy on the ground. She sprayed the mace next to him to make sure it worked and to threaten him. Another employee, Becky, called 911. Sammie was able to keep the guy down with the threat of the pepper spray but was also dealing with her eyes and nose dripping from the little bit that had been released in that narrow hallway. The cops thankfully got there in a good amount of time and took the guy away.

Whew… what a night!  I feel like if this heroic act had happened just a few blocks up in Greenwood, Sammie would have gotten much attention. So that is why I’m telling this story, to tell as many folks as possible about the heroic act of Sammie and her sidekick Becky… here to save a victimized woman – and the day!

Thanks for reading,

KarenAurora|Seattle is a blog site committed to telling the stories of Seattle’s Aurora Avenue – the good, the bad, and the absolutely bizarre. Yes, Aurora Avenue is an old highway (aka, 99) and a boundary between neighborhoods (Greenwood and Licton Springs, Green Lake and Phinney Ridge), but it is also an emerging neighborhood with its own networks and dreams and stories to tell.

Holy Scribbles

Okay, okay, it might not look like much to you after a quick glance. But, this bunch of scribbles on an oversized napkin is indeed a very holy document for me and for our community.

It represents dozens of organizations that are feverishly at work seeking to provide housing, support neighborhood connection, advocating for environmental justice and on and on.

On this map are the homes of people in just about every income range. There are multi-national corporations beating Wall Street predictions and small start-up businesses struggling to make it another month.

This is the sketch of a neighborhood we love and showcases a God very much at work.

As I write these blog entries for the practicing church, even if I don’t mention it directly I’m going to be talking about this map because it represents a neighborhood, my neighborhood, and much more importantly, our neighborhood. Our church community has swallowed the “parish” pill, which effectively means that we are interested in joining God of all creation who is active in each square inch of this downtown neighborhood of Seattle. We figure that if we take God’s shalomic vision seriously, then we simply must begin where we are and take our locality quite seriously, the chances of losing security and comfort rise exponentially, but so far, there is nowhere I’d rather be.

Tim Soerens

For more on Tim Soerens church, DUST, visit their website:

Green Bean Coffee House Burns Down

On October 23, 2009 the Green Bean Coffee House and three other businesses were destroyed by a fire. For more information on this story visit these links:


“Hello this is Randy Rowland.”

“Hi Randy, this is Jeff.”

“How you doing Jeff?”


Randy [With gusto]: “The Green Bean is unscathed and doing just fine!”  ”On the other hand, the building is gone.”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Dear Friends of the Green Bean Coffee House, Sanctuary Church and the Greenwood community:

With that wonderfully framed perspective, a new course and future for both the Green Bean, Sanctuary Church and the community has been set.

The people, people in community, all alive and unhurt are intact, present and will move on through this crisis.  In-fact they will be more vibrantly alive and mission-driven than ever before.  The stuff of brick and mortar, lath and plaster…went up in smoke or fell to the ground.  Yet the substance of meaning, care, life, spirit, joy, and future – was only fed toward advance, perhaps like never before.

So you know by now of the fire.  The fire raged rapidly and totally consumed the Green Bean and 3 other businesses just adjacent the C.C. Teriyaki, Szechuan Bistro and Pho Tic Tac.  In addition to the businesses, the Taproot Theatre was severely impacted, not burned but suffered major water and smoke damage.

What started out as shock followed by tears then by profound grief, began by noon to turn toward hope: “What’s next?”  Talk began among people gathering across the street: “This is a community thing…we’ve got to pull together.” Talk was beginning to swirl that nearby businesses, untouched by the fire, where exploring how to turn some of their net receipts toward those impacted by the fire.

I stood on the street for about 3-hours.  Once people were allowed to gather on the sidewalk across the street from the fire – most just came, stopped, stood quietly…and simply stared at the smoldering ruins.  It was easy to start conversations…”It’s so sad.”   Replies came:

  • “Yes…so sad…I loved the Green Bean.”
  • “This hurts, the Vietnamese restaurant was the most authentic in the area…tragic,” says Dave (a travel journey tour guide)
  • “My 10-year old son is in a play at the Taproot…I am am afraid to tell him what has happened here,” say Robin (a mom of 3)
  • The Green Bean was such a wonderful, safe place for so many of us in the neighborhood,” anonymous.
For me, the most gripping moment was when I turned to my left and saw a Japanese mother with her 2-year old daughter on her back, her other young daughter in her grasp as she kneeled on the sidewalk.  The youngest was verbalizing, “Fire-man!”   Below her sister and mom was the saddest face in the neighborhood I think.  That little 5-year old girl was transfixed on the remains of the Green Bean…her face hid none of the big grief welling up in such a little heart…so transparent it was.  It was the saddest thing I saw.

This sweet one, not fully understanding what was going on or why, knew without a measure of doubt she had lost something valuable-a place where wonderful people of all kinds gather and softly celebrate every day.  This place, the Green Bean, held people in community in such a way (whether people knew or not) they were experiencing the King’s Kingdom, His Presence, a foretaste of His Fullness “heaven on earth”.

This little 5-year old knew somehow that something near & dear was taken away.  But of course we know, as Pastor Randy Rowland so well expressed, temporal stuff may be gone, yet that of eternal, living and true – continues on.

I trust soon, this little Japanese-American girl will walk through the doors in a newly remodeled building somewhere near Greenwood and 85th, where a restored Green Bean and community freshly arise from the ashes.  And we will see a smile that sings:  ”Joy!”

So community…continue to pray.  I can’t wait to see how the Lord is going to keep on doing His good work.

Jeff Littlejohn

For ways to help and more updates on the Greenwood arsons visit these links:
Coffee Shop Owner Has Message of Forgiveness After Arson
2 More Arsons in Seattle’s Greenwood Neighborhood
Greenwood Business Owner Threatened After Arson at his Restaurant
Greenwood Arson Suspect is a Convicted Firebug
Greenwood Arson Suspect Charged

Greenwood Arson Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

1st CRC of Seattle

1st CRC of Seattle from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

Instead of trying to get people into their church members of 1st CRC of Seattle go out and meet people where they are. They have started doing this through Asset Based Community Development, community block parties, and something called Service Sundays. On Service Sundays the worship service consists of church members going out into the community and helping others.
Posted: June 16, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (5:03)
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The Green Bean Story 1

Green Bean Story 1 from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

This is a story from the Green Bean coffee house in Seattle, Washington. For more videos on the Green Bean follow the links below.The Green Bean
The Green Bean Story 2
Posted: June 7, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (2:09)
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The Green Bean Story 2

The Green Bean Story 2 from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

This is a story from the Green Bean coffee house in Seattle, Washington. For more videos on the Green Bean follow the links below.The Green Bean
Green Bean Story 1
Posted: June 7, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (1:12)
To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.

Ground-swell for Community Garden

A new community garden is just about to emerge.  Just south of Aaron Drive, located in north Lynden, WA., members of Sonlight Community CRC have been meeting with nearby residents asking if they would be interested to organize a community garden.

So far over 35 residences have showed interest.

On Saturday, April 25th, the overall general membership met to decide on a number of organizational matters that charted the course for this community effort. Planting of seeds and transplants will likely begin the following week.

More information may be gleaned on the goings-on with this new effort via a link to their blog:

A recent article on the garden was published by the Lynden Tribune, link to it here:

Community Garden Draws People Together from Area Neighborhoods for Common Goal

Tim Newcomb
Tribune assistant editor
The Lynden Tribune
Country Life

April 8, 2009

LYNDEN — It is a garden for the community, by the community. And it is that way by design.

Sonlight Community Church has donated three-quarters of an acre along Aaron Drive for use by the local community as a plotted community garden.

Behind the initiative of church-goer and community activist Jeff Littlejohn, nearly 300 homes in the neighboring high-density community were invited to participate in the new garden.

The church is simply donating the space and letting the community take charge of planning it.

Littlejohn said it has been a true community effort.

Melissa Nienhuis, resident, said that she was “surprised to see a group who didn’t know each other agree on a plan (for the garden) and work together.”  “I have never felt that sense of community,” she added.

Lisa Kusick said the initial meeting of interested residents was shockingly “inspiring.”
She said she got involved because she wanted to grow peas like her “granny” did. “It went from growing peas to growing a community,” she said.

Neighbors from Heartland, Parkview West Apartments, Lynden Manor, Lynden Manor Condominiums, Heritage Park and Fishtrap Landing were all invited to participate. All of those areas are high-density, providing residents little to no room for a garden of their own. The garden still has room for residences of those areas to join in.

Littlejohn said it simply worked out that the location of the garden is surrounded by high-density housing.

A dozen people on a steering committee are planning the rules and bylaws for the North City Community Garden, which is expected to have about 26 households participating. The first order of business was to determine the garden is going to be organic. Other decisions are on the way.

Nienhuis said that it is turning into a great family event, as kids are excited to participate in the learning process.

The garden itself will feature three different sizes of plots ranging from 4 feet square to 10 by 20 feet.

Plans include a communal plot for corn, shrubs, flowers and trees on the outside of the garden, a split-rail fence along Aaron Drive, the creation of a gathering area outside of the garden and the fixing-up of a nearby shed (which at one time was used as a residence for a farmhand) for use by the gardeners.

Discussions over creating raised beds, making it easier for older members to participate, are in the works.

“We want the old-timers to help,” Littlejohn said.  “We have so much to learn,” Nienhuis   added.

The garden will be planted when the weather allows. Littlejohn said he was able to get Whatcom County and the City of Lynden to work together — a feat in and of itself — to bring in river silt, which a local farmer spread. Edaleen Dairy offered free manure, which was tilled by Eldon Heutink. The most recent layer of compost is germinating, getting ready for planting with another mix of high-quality compost.

Nienhuis said she is looking forward to the opportunity to learn and share in the knowledge of gardening and the community it brings.

Kusick said she has already met neighbors she hadn’t known before. “That is the other part that is so much fun,” she said. “Strangers are coming together with this purpose in mind. That is a big part for me.”

There is hope that in the fall, the plot of ground can be used as a winter garden showcase and that the Lynden Boys & Girls Club, which meets at the church, can play a role in the gardening. Nienhuis thinks that enough food can be raised to donate to Lynden’s Project Hope.

Littlejohn praised the efforts of Third Christian Reformed Church in planting a community gardening seed across Lynden.

Last year, Third kicked off its own community garden (as chronicled in the Tribune) under the direction of Dave Timmer. Littlejohn said that that plan sparked the thoughts of starting one at Sonlight.

Alyce Werkema is also spearheading a similar effort at United Methodist Church of Lynden.

Master Gardeners
The WSU Whatcom County Master Gardeners will visit the North City Community Garden of Lynden at 10 a.m. on April 18 to help neighbors get ready to grow their own groceries. They will be teaching how to prepare soil, which vegetables are best for our region, how to build raised beds and other useful structures and how to site and design your garden. All are invited to this free event.

Demonstration Garden
As part of Littlejohn’s Imagine Northwest community partnership organization located at Lynden’s New Hope Center, 205 South B.C. Ave., he has created a demonstration garden in the front of the building.

The small garden, which is simply layers of compost and straw on top of cardboard (to keep the weeds out), is designed to allow people to learn how to garden. The style Littlejohn uses enables layering, which replaces tilling.

It has also served as a teaching tool for the youth housed at New Way Ministries, as they helped with the initial planting recently.

  E-mail Tim Newcomb at .
[Found at: ]
You can visit the North City Community Garden (NCCG) blog by clicking here .

Improving Our Serve: What We’ve Learned Through Service Sundays

Our church in Shoreline, Washington, wanted to be more involved in our community.  We didn’t necessarily want to create a new program or event that would draw our neighbors into our church.  We wanted our members to get out into the surrounding neighborhood and build relationships.

We held our first “Service Sunday” in March of 2008, where church members went out in teams on a Sunday morning to help out neighbors in very practical ways.  We’ve had two other Service Sundays in June and August, on days when there was a fifth Sunday in the month.  Reflecting on our three experiences, we’re thankful we were led to dive into this sometimes uncomfortable approach and we praise God for the developing connections and relationships that are taking place.

We’re glad to share some of the things we’ve learned:

We meet for worship at the same time as usual, so visitors don’t come to an empty church.  Our worship service is short, albeit enthusiastic.  Within half an hour, members are gathering into their teams and heading out to their jobs.  The list of jobs (18 projects for about 130 participating members.) includes tasks that could always use an extra hand (such as garbage picking or pulling weeds out of the community forest) so that any last-minute person could join in.

There are about two and a half hours allotted for our various jobs.  We need plenty of time to help encourage our goal of relaxed, fun relationship building.  It’s also important to have enough time to complete the task well.

As teams finish their jobs, they head back to the church.  Several teams have remained in the church building: for prayer, to do indoor projects (like assembling first aid kits for our sister church in Africa) and to prepare our meal.  We gather together for lunch, having learned to begin the meal even if a few straggling teams haven’t finished up yet.

During these meals, conversation is buzzing and enthusiasm and story-telling are at their all-time high.  It’s a delightful time.  Recipients of our tasks (and any people we’ve met along the way) are invited to join us.

Our first Service Sunday meals were potlucks.  Everyone brought more than enough to serve extra people and it worked just fine.  We got the feeling, however, that many un-churched people were not used to the idea of a potluck and felt uncomfortable with the idea.  Our third Service Sunday was a large BBQ lunch, with church members frying up burgers and hot dogs, providing a more familiar palate and environment for everyone involved.

We concluded our first Service Sunday with an afternoon worship service right after lunch.  It was intended especially as time of singing, sharing and praising God for His presence.  We were quickly aware of how uncomfortable some of our visitors were with this approach.  Not only were they unfamiliar with the songs, but they were unsure of what would happen next – as if they suddenly lost their trust in us and worried that we were about to Evangelize.  As well, the sharing time turned into some playful team competitiveness, with an air of our great ability to interact with our neighboring heathens.  We decided to cancel the service and to instead simply allow the lunch to linger.  This meal time has become a highlight for many people – there’s evidence of relationship building in true fellowship void of cliques.

The Jobs:
The church members who volunteer to set up our jobs have been very organized – and they really need to be.  Getting 130 people out the door with the tools they need is a big job.  We’ve chosen to include both public and private jobs, and appreciate the balance this provides.  Public jobs include picking garbage along city streets and trails, cleaning up school yards and pulling weeds from the local park.  Private jobs include projects for particular neighbors: weeding, painting, washing windows, hauling out backyard junk, etc.

Each team has an appointed leader who takes the initiative with the assigned job.  S/he often makes contact with the recipient before Service Sunday and lets the members of the team know what tools they’ll need to take along.  Team leaders arrive early, are sure to have members sign any necessary city waiver forms, and hand out t-shirts.

We chose to buy t-shirts for a number of reasons, and we’re glad we did.  They build cohesiveness and add enthusiasm.  T-shirts get handed out by team leaders and are promptly returned to be washed and stored for the next Service Sunday.  We’ve kept them simple, with our church name on the front and the words “neighbors helping neighbors” on the back.  A surprising, but big benefit to our matching t-shirts is that other people recognize us as a group and feel more comfortable approaching us.  An organized group seems more trustworthy than a collection of random individuals.

Another expense we’ve had with Service Sundays is the dumpster rental.  We bring a large garbage and yard waste dumpster onto our parking lot so we can completely take away the trash or weeds we haul out of someone’s yard.  People are very appreciative and we often give church members and other neighbors a chance to add to the dumpster for a few days before they’re hauled away by the city.

At first, menial jobs like picking garbage were meant to be replaced by more meaningful tasks.  But some wonderful stories have come from teams in these jobs.  Although not officially signed up to work with any neighbors, they always end up meeting people and engaging in interesting discussions.  We’re planning to keep our menial tasks!

Many of our jobs return to the same places or people at the next Service Sunday.  These ongoing relationships are most exciting.  Not only are we getting to know our neighbors, but they are connecting with other neighbors through us.  And when we return to the local park to pull weeds, it’s great to know that we’re making a visible difference in our community.  Often church members continue developing these new relationships on their own, stopping to visit a neighbor they helped out or to attend a community park clean up.

We’re so excited about this avenue of service and outreach.  By serving our neighbors in this way, we’re developing relationships and creating a connectedness throughout our neighborhood!  It’s been an exciting journey – praise God!

Erika Bakker

To find out more about 1st Seattle CRC and their Service Sundays click here.

A New Kind of Expression

To live out the Great Commission is to live out our Christianity beyond the Sunday morning church service. Bearing witness is to embody Christ and publicly testify to him everywhere we find ourselves. But witnessing is not enough—we are called to make disciples, to actually help in the furthering of God’s Kingdom on earth by growing more Christians (followers and worshippers of Christ) and we are called to do this in all nations.

The Greek word used for “nation” is ethnos which means race or tribe. Jesus is saying that this gospel is to be shared beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem, to wherever people are, regardless of their race or tribe. For the In, For, and With Community Church Network, the Great Commission’s expression takes on some unique forms, one of which is the Community Liaison program.

A community liaison can be an In, For, and With the Community Church participant or a neighbor who is not a Christian but lives in our local neighborhood. Their goal is to have a designated number (say 10) “listening conversations” during the course of a month. These conversations are held with neighbors and the purpose is to find out what that neighbor is interested in seeing different in the neighborhood and how they’d like to participate in making that difference happen.

There are three questions asked of the neighbor: if you could make one good thing happen in the next year in this neighborhood, what would it be; what skills, strengths, assets, or abilities do you have to contribute to making this one thing happen; and if there are others in the neighborhood who desire to see the same thing happen, would you work with them to fulfill that good thing.

This community development practice calls neighbors into action for the good of the community and has tremendous implications on the neighborhood. Here the church does not as much “do for” the neighborhood as it really acts as a catalyst for what is already in the neighborhood. This may not be direct disciple making per say, but it does call the church to “go” and for the community liaisons who are not Christians, it calls them to recognize the church as valuing the very places they “go” to. In a sense, for the church to develop and operate a community liaison program is to practice theologies of place, neighbor, and community with no strings attached thus our love for God and neighbors is personified in community development work.

For information on Roosevelt Community Church visit their website by clicking here.

Five Loaves Farm: 3rd CRC Lynden

Last spring, though the rains incessantly continued, the days were lengthening and we broke ground on the backyard.  Our church was trying something new.  We planted a garden.

As the tiller chewed the sod, with optimism, I wondered where this was leading us.  Our hope was to bring our church outside the walls, bringing church members, neighbors, and the community together in some small way.

The idea was to accomplish that through tending the soil, creating a beautiful space, and sharing the bounty.  While we somewhat blindly felt our way through the first growing season, it worked.  Five Loaves Farm brought together people from our church, neighbors, and those in need.

One evening while we harvested produce to distribute to the neighbors, a family who often walked by the garden showed a strong interest in our activities.  They walked through the garden with tons of questions.  The mother and father – who spoke no English – pointed and smiled at the different plants.  The son and daughter asked about the artichokes and told how their mother uses different foods in her traditional Indian dishes.  After several minutes of conversation and sharing stories they joyfully continued their walk with a bag overflowing with tomatoes, squash, beans, and peppers.  We went back to our harvest.

An hour later, a car drove up and the son jumped out with a bag of Swiss chard.  He handed me the bag with a smile stating that, with gratitude, they wanted to share with us something from their home garden.  Perhaps next year, I’ll taste one of his mother’s meals.

Dave Timmer

Community Toy Store 2008: Roosevelt Community Church

The Community Toy Store has completed its third year of service to the community at large, thanks in large part to neighbors and neighborhood institutions that have an invested interest in helping families through the holidays.  Wanting to provide a help up instead of a hand out.

You see, typically the way community responds to need during the Christmas season is to give things away, especially toys.  Families in need are given toys for their children which makes the children happy but leaves the parents with a feeling of low self worth.

Our goal through the toy store has always been to provide a way in which parents can provide toys for their children but at a reduced cost.  We take brand new donated toys and sell them at 70% of there purchase price.  All of the proceeds then go to two non-profits that are already working with many of these families, The Whatcom Dream (Teaches financial skills classes to poverty families) and Rebound of Whatcom County (Works with at risk youth, single moms, and low income families).

So, by design the Community Toy Store not only helps low income or financially struggling families through the Christmas season but also completes the cycle of neighbors and neighborhood institutions coming together.

The planning for the Toy Store began in earnest towards the end September with the church (Roosevelt Community Church and Northwest Community Church) partnering with Rebound to make the Community Toy Store bigger and better than ever before.

The results?
Over a dozen neighborhood institutions (from churches to the Prosecutors Office to Starbucks) working to collect toys, a neighborhood private school donating the space to host the Toy Store, a neighborhood church donating its basement to store the toys leading up to the Toy Store, over $6,000 in toys donated, 35 volunteers logging collectively over 200 hours to make the Community Toy Store a reality.  We served over 80 families on a Friday night and Saturday morning.

Some of the highlights:
One single mom was so excited that she was able to provide toys for her two children that she stayed an additional hour after she was done shopping so that she could volunteer as a gift wrapper.  In fact, we had at least three moms that shopped at the Community Toy Store and then volunteered in whatever capacity they could.  One single mom remarked “Without this I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family.” Another couple commented “We can’t wait until we are in a position (financially) to donate to the Community Toy Store because it has meant so much to us over the last couple years.”

For more information on the Community Toy Store Click Here.

For more information on Roosevelt Community Church Click Here.

Baron Miller – Roosevelt Community Church Pastor

Down and Dirty – Service Sunday

The most impressive stories came just after our first Service Sunday this last March.  This event was a new experience for us all; mobilizing the whole church on a Sunday morning to serve our neighbors by using teams and trucks to clean up the schools, homes and parks nearby.
We really didn’t know what to expect.  Needless to say, much prayer and planning preceded the event.  Two hours after a brief but energizing worship service, the workers returned from their sites of service; sweaty, dirty, but glowing with the presence of the Lord.  Not one complaint was heard even though it was during the hottest time of the day and some of the teams encountered overwhelming heaps of home owner accumulation.
One mother of young children came directly up to me upon returning from her work site.  She spoke with wonder and excitement how the dynamics of Service Sunday provided a rewarding experience that everyone in her family and the church family could participate in, both young and old.  This was a fresh experience to her.
Another member remarked how she appreciated that the church members did not choose but were assigned to a team.  As a result, she had a rich experience getting to know her team members as they worked side by side.   She also observed at the Service Sunday potluck, people sat with other members that were not part of their customary “church cluster”.  At the potluck, where homemade food overflowed, the volume of conversation and laughter was an affirming sign of good times had by all.

Sarah Zerkel

Birchwood Greeters

At a meeting with a member of the Birchwood Neighborhood Association it was suggested that I contact PW, a member that had expressed interest in a “Welcome Wagon” for the Birchwood Neighborhood that would serve as an instrument to welcome people to the neighborhood.

I first met PW at a neighborhood BBQ over the summer and so it was an easy meeting to arrange as she was already familiar with who I was in the neighborhood.  We then met for coffee in late November in which she expressed her interest in a “Welcome Wagon” for the Birchwood Neighborhood.  We began the process of working together, drafting up her ideas and putting them to paper.

Together in December we met with the Birchwood Neighborhood Association Board and got official recognition as a Birchwood Neighborhood Association Committee and the blessing of the Board to continue our efforts on a larger scale.

As of early January we have several neighborhood businesses that want to contribute to a welcome packet, including free pizza and a free oil change.  We have 6 people wanting to volunteer to welcome new residents to the neighborhood, the neighborhood elementary school is going to give us new enrollees contact info (if they are new to the neighborhood and sign a release for us to attain their names and addresses), and we have two apartment complexes (more coming on soon) that are willing to pass on information about new residents.

Starting this month and on into March we will be working with a group of students from Western Washington University (Human Services Majors) to expand our networking efforts with neighborhood businesses, to create an Asset Map of the neighborhood (which will then be turned into a neighborhood directory to be given out to new residents), and to create a “How To” guide for how to do this process in the future.  The How To Manual will be made available to anyone interested in doing this type of effort in another neighborhood.

More to come on this as things are really starting to progress quickly…

Cameron Garcia
To find out more about what’s going on in the Birchwood neighborhood click here.

The Green Bean

The Green Bean from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

The Green Bean coffee house is a non-profit approach to coffee. For more videos on the Green Bean follow the links below.The Green Bean Story 1
The Green Bean Story 2
Posted: Feb. 9, 2009          DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
General (3:51)
To download Quicktime right click (control-click for Mac) on the “DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME” text and choose “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or “Download Linked File.”

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