3/11: Update from Matt McCoy—Some of the things I've learned this year

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months, and as we transition into the season of Lent (a season of preparation leading up to Easter), this seems like a good time to pause and capture some of the things I’ve learned this year so far.   Before I begin, let me define two terms: 

When I use lower case “c” church, I mean our new worshipping community here in Bellingham.

When I use the upper case “C” Church, I mean the Church historic and universal. 

Clear on that?  OK, let’s go... 

I’ve learned that when we create hospitality for people experiencing homelessness who are in a program of recovery, we cannot be hospitable to people who are experiencing on-the-street homelessness.  The Lighthouse Mission Guests who have been coming to our worship services are in the most advanced clean and sober recovery programs, they have access to support, and they are working very, very hard.   It’s not wise for them to spend a lot of time with people who are still in the midst of on-the-street homelessness, and making that distinction has been helpful for all of us.  So when I write “homeless-in-recovery” you’ll know that I’m talking about people who are engaged in relationships and training that help them reengage with life.  

I’ve learned more about how much architecture matters.   Having a conversation with people who are different than me about the connection between architecture and worship has led us to start worshiping once a month at the chapel in Saint Paul’s Academy.  There are three reasons why the Saint Paul’s Architecture has been a great fit for us  First, the youth and the homeless-in-recovery folks in our community prefer to meet in a “traditional church architecture” building.  They like the traditional architecture, as it helps them feel connected and included in the Church.  I found that interesting, because me and my buddies really enjoy worshipping in my living room, and I think many church planting folks incorrectly assume that traditional church architecture is automatically alienating to people.  

Second, we need a gym.  Play is such an essential part of being human, and we need a space where we can get to know each other, connect with each other, and worship in ways that are native to youth.  

Third, and not insignificantly, because I’ve been the Chaplain at Saint Paul’s Academy for the last three years, I already have the keys and the alarm code and everyone knows each other already.  It’s one less “new thing” in a season full of new things.  And the rent is super cheap. 

I’ve learned that graphic designers are the storytellers of the current generation.  Let me tell you a brief story:  When we had a youth led worship service this summer, I wrote out the worship plan and it looked kinda like this: 

I. Call to worship

II. Prayer

III. Dinner

IV. So on and so forth, you get the idea

After the service, the youth were disappointed that the service wasn’t more organic, they reflected that it felt stuffy and it felt like any other worship service except we were outside.  And so when I inquired as to why that service (involved dinner, teenage music leaders and preachers, and scripture reading involving actual goats) felt stuffy and inorganic, their reply shocked me:  The order of worship looked boring.  They saw the order of worship in black and white, with Roman numerals, with weird terms like “order of worship” on it, and just basic terms for things, and they hated it.

Well, that’s an easy fix.  We have an incredible graphic designer in our midst, and so now our our order of worship looks like this: 

However, the connection between graphic design and storytelling is bigger than just a great looking worship plan.  A friend of mine who is an advertising executive told it to me like this:  "Matt, demonstration leads to engagement, and engagement leads to understanding, so if you want me to understand what your church is about, you have to demonstrate in a way that I can engage with.”  Our worship plans need to tell the story of our worship time together in a way that people can engage with.  So does our website (still working on that one).  So does everything else. 

In the last few months, as I’ve been more sensitive to listening to the connection between graphic design and storytelling, more than once I’ve heard people say that getting a graphic designer was a critical step for them to be able to tell the story of their company/nonprofit/church to their audience.  

I’ve learned that we value active engagement and uncommon friendship.  At a meeting in February, this church let me know that they didn’t like the structure very much.  I had become so focused on our church’s mission being guided by the youth, the homeless-in-recovery, and the disabled, that I was inadvertently structuring the church in a way that kept people in their demographic bubbles.  But I want to pop those bubbles.

Look, our current religious culture affirms that we will intimately and profoundly meet Jesus when we are in friendship and discipleship with people who are similar to us.  And while this New Worshipping Community also considers this to be true, it’s only partially true.  We also will intimately and profoundly encounter Jesus while in friendship and discipleship with people who are different than us.  For us, uncommon friendship on the path of a common discipleship is a vital way that we worship Jesus.

And “active engagement” really matters.  We’ve had preaching from teenagers: 

We’ve had people writing songs for us to help connect to the Gospel: 

When we needed ashes for the Ash Wednesday service, we lit a fire and burned the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service: 

And we happen to have some middle schoolers who are interested in learning how to cook as well: 

Discipleship is going to be very, very hands on.  

I’ve learned that we need to engage with questions that people are asking.  In order to help everyone connect with a worship service, we’ve framed each one around a particular question.  For example, during Ash Wednesday the question was “Where is Jesus when life is hard?”  And the preacher for that service was one of our friends who’s experiencing homelessness and is doing incredible in recovery, and his story of finding Jesus in the broken places in life is incredible. 

I’ve learned that we need space to connect at the end of each service.  We added a small group discussion time after the sermon, so people could process some of what is happening during the service.  I never thought of anything like this before, and I absolutely love it. 

After the sermon, but before the last song, we get into small groups and engage more deeply with whatever the question is for that particular worship service.  We get to hear and be heard, see and be seen, learn from each other, and pay attention to what God is doing in our lives. 

I’ve learned that the rate of coherence for this group is going to be incredibly slow.  There’s all sorts of cultural reasons why we don’t all naturally hang out with each other.  And it’s going to take a long, long time for us to be formed into a community.  Another opportunity for me to cultivate patience!  Ahhh…. 

I’ve learned that the youth have a lot to teach all of us about Christian community.  Do you ever feel like other people don’t understand you?  Do you ever assume that your way is the best way, only to later discover you were wrong?  Do you ever want to share deep, real, important things in your life with other people but don’t always know how?  Becoming friends with people who are young is a great way to learn!  Seriously, I’m a better friend to everyone because of my friendships with the youth.  

I’ve learned that the homeless-in-recovery have a lot to teach us about how to lean on Jesus in the hard times.   Do you struggle with anxiety?  Are the hurts from your past sabotaging your life in the present?  Do you have a family member who is making terrible decisions and don’t know what to do?  Due to the very intense nature of their recovery, these friends of mine have a lot to offer anyone struggling with the broken places in their lives.  

I’ve learned that people with disabilities can help us redeem our sense of time.   Do you want to be more mindful, in the moment, and/or fully present?  Are you constantly in a hurry and don’t know how to slow down, take a day off, or relax?  Do you need constant entertainment, stimulation, or distraction?  My friends with disabilities has a lot to offer anyone who have an unhealthy relationship with time.  

And, of course, all these friendships are more multifaceted that what this email could encapsulate.  I playfully described things in a utilitarian sort of way so that I could highlight that we experience Jesus when we pursue a common discipleship with uncommon friendships.  And that is because it’s a friendship, which means it’s reciprocal, which means I receive from them.  I know a lot of people who know what they want to give the homeless; I know a lot fewer people who know what they have to receive from people experiencing homelessness.   

For your love, care, prayers, support, I am very grateful.  Thank you.  

Matt McCoy

Praying for New Zealand


Our hearts break for the victims, families and Christchurch, New Zealand community in the aftermath of mass shootings at two mosques, that left 49 worshippers slain and 20 injured. At this tragic time we look to God for comfort and strength — and wisdom in responding to this sickening act of violence. Give us the grace to hear your truth and be healed through your mercy.


Read the full prayer online.



Please join us for an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the New Zealand mosque massacre followed by a teach-in about combating Islamophobia in our communities.


“Connecting Activism and Advocacy to Combating Islamophobia and Hate,” by CAIR-WA Executive Director Masih Fouldai

“The Roots of Islamophobia,” by MAPS-AMEN Executive Director Aneelah Afzali

Other guest speakers include local interfaith leaders and elected officials.


Muslim Association of Puget Sound - MAPS

17550 NE 67th Ct, Redmond, Washington 98052

Learn more online.


Read the full statement online.

Rev. Jean Kim's new book

Message from Rev. Jean Kim (HR):

Dear friends,

I just crossed the threshold into the New Year of 2019. I left all my pain in the year of 2018. But carried amazing grace of God and all of you with me in my heart and soul on to the New Year.  Last year without your prayers, love and support I couldn't have made it.

I wish you an abundantly blessed New Year with good health, many dreams come true, and piling up tons of gratitude throughout the year.

In love and forever gratitude,

Jean Kim


The revised and updated English version of “Hope in Color Purple,” is being published and www.amazon.com is selling them. My life stories are weaved in with the homeless stories. I am humbly announcing that the total profit from the book sale will support homeless missions.

See the attached publicity flyer.

Kaleidoscope Academy @ FPC Snohomish

Kaleidoscope Academy is a community outreach ministry of FPCS and we are excited to have a new Biblical scholar coming on our staff.  Felipe Ocampo is a recent Th. M. grad from Princeton Theological Seminary with experience doing research on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Kaleidoscope Academy has invited him to teach a four week class on Discovering the Dead Sea Scrolls which will be offered on Tuesday evenings from 7-8 PM, Feb. 5-26 at First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish. 

Felipe has two primary passions, music and Biblical studies.  As a musician, he is offering classes in guitar, ukulele, banjo, drums, and piano.  As a multi-lingual person, he is offering classes in Spanish and German, and can offer instruction in Biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  As a Biblical Scholar he is offering a class on Ancient Israel for homeschool students and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  And as a fun-loving guy who enjoys dancing to stay in shape, he is teaching a class on Latin American Dance.

Dead Sea Scrolls class information

Kaleidoscope Academy Classes Winter 2019

1/3: Update from Matt McCoy—Once-a-Month public worship service

January 3, 2019 Update from Matt McCoy:

This Sunday we’ll be starting our once-a-month public worship service.  Details are on this invitation

We’ll start our time together with some reminders that it’s God who invites us to be the church, then we’ll eat together, and then we’ll continue worshipping together in a way that is lead by the youth, by people experiencing homelessness, and by people struggling with disabilities. 

Maybe you’ve got a child who is discovering they have gifts, and you and/or your child would like to try using those gifts in a worship service.  Our worship services involve the youth in every level, from preaching to music, from art to prayer, from dancing to silent contemplation.  If so, I’d love to hear from you.   

Maybe you’d like to make a friend with somebody who’s experiencing homelessness, in a setting where the boundaries are clear, the worship is real, and the food is good.  Many of us know what we want to give the homeless, but the real fun begins when we discover what we have to receive from the homeless, and we’re able to start walking together in friendship.  If so, I’d love to hear from you.    

Maybe you have someone in your life with disabilities, and you’d like to worship in a setting where your special someone is loved, their experience of life is cherished, and they’re integrated and included in the life of the community.  If so, I’d love to hear from you.     

Maybe this connects to you in some other way that I can’t even imagine.  If so, I’d love to hear from you.  

Maybe you know someone who would want to be a part of this.  Maybe as you read, this New Worshipping Community sounds like something that would be a good fit for someone in your life.  Please feel free to forward this along, as I’d love to hear from them.     

If you’re interested in learning more, and you’re already connected to a church, please maintain that connection.  We’re not looking for people to quit their existing churches in order to join this church.  We’re creating space for people to maintain their Sunday morning church while helping us discern the mission for this new worshipping community. 

If you’re interested in learning more, and you’ve never been to a church service before, I think you may be pleasantly surprised.  One of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received after one of these worship services was from a friend of mine who is not a Christian who said, “Look, I disagree with you about who Jesus is and what the Bible is, but at least now I get why you do this whole Church thing.”  

12/31: Update from Matt McCoy—Christmas at the Lighthouse Mission

December 31, 2018 Update from Matt McCoy:

As we approached the end of Advent, we continued to put ourselves in the Christmas Story by playing Follow the Leader.  On Friday 21 December, we went to the Lighthouse Mission and spent the afternoon putting together gift bags.  These gift bags will be handed out to the Guests at the Mission at the conclusion of the Christmas Eve service.  

I love entering the Christmas Story through working alongside our friends, getting to know each other, and helping share the love of Jesus with people in a physical, practical way. 

On the one hand, it’s merely the classic gift items at a homeless shelter:  socks, soap, deodorant, hat, gloves, candy canes, and a handwritten note all wrapped up in a gift bag.  But on the other hand, it’s a way to help the Guests at the Mission know that we see them, we care about them, we love them, and we want them to get something meaningful for Christmas.  And it’s a good opportunity for us to stop and be reminded that this is a very hard time of year for Guests at the Mission, because they tend to feel the pain of being separated from their family and friends even more than usual.

We all have difficulty navigating the hurts, issues, and frustrations of being a part of a family and being a part of a community.  Packing these gift bags is a good reminder of what really matters.  

After we finished up, we put all the gift bags in a van to store them until Christmas Eve…

**Note:  We spent the Christmas Eve service at the Drop In Center at the Lighthouse.  There’s no photography in the Drop In Center, so I’m afraid I won’t have any photos to show you, but here’s a brief description.***

This is a strange King, and this is a strange Kingdom.  Instead of Jesus coming in power, Jesus emptied himself and came as a baby.  Instead of angels announcing the arrival of Jesus to the important and powerful people, the angles made their announcement to foreigners and shepherds, a very disrespected occupation in those days.  Celebrating Christmas Eve at the Mission is a beautiful way to play follow the leader, as we worship Jesus among people foreign to us, among the disrespected, alongside those on the margins.  

We started off by lighting the advent candles, and giving a brief explanation of how the wreath represents the world, and the lighting of candles represents the coming of the Light of Christ.  We sang some Christmas carols, and then Hans (the Executive Director for the Mission) shared the Christmas Story with us.  

Then it was Open Mic time at the Mission, and the Guests had the chance to share what they were thankful for, where they’d seen Jesus this last year, and what they were hopeful for.  The folks at the Drop In Center have a hard life, and the things they shared reflect the challenge of their circumstances.  And, in the midst of their pain, they find God.  It’s a good lesson for all of us in the midst of our own struggles.  

As a father of three inquisitive and interactive children, I’ve received all sorts of negative feedback when it comes to attending worship services.  Like, I’ve heard it all:  This Church is boring, I don’t understand your preaching, what is the point of all this?, why are we even here?  One of the things I love about the Christmas Eve service at the Mission is that, even if they don’t necessarily want to be there, they can immediately understand that this is a thing worth doing.  This is a service worth being a part of, and they’re woven into a Christmas Story that is bigger than themselves.  It’s a good lesson for them, it’s a good reminder for me, and it’s a great way to celebrate Christmas. 

O come Immanuel…. 

3 Bellingham Congregations Imagine Experiments Together with Al Roxburgh

“Where are they now?”  These words are often the start of a story about someone who has had their 15 minutes of fame and then disappeared completely from the news. Do you remember the books that were handed out at the Verge conference last year, in 2017?  I began to wonder, “Where are they now?”  One was Alan Roxburgh’s book “Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time.” [https://www.amazon.com/Joining-Remaking-Church-Changing-World/dp/0819232114 Here’s what happened to my book: Like many of you, I took a copy and was interested in what Roxburgh had to say.   He acknowledges that the church is in a time of change.  The old structures are “unraveling” and new ideas are emerging.  What hasn’t changed is God.  God is still at work in our churches.  And God is already at work “ahead of us” in our neighborhoods. Roxburgh invites his readers to get out there and see how God is at work. Sounded interesting, but then I put the book back on my shelf last fall and didn’t think about it much after that. 

But not everyone put the book on the shelf.  Wondering “Where are they now?” it turns out that several churches took the book to heart.  Our brothers and sisters in the three Bellingham churches – Birchwood, First, and St. James- read the book, and took it to heart. As Pastor Doug Bunnell writes,

“The Roxburgh book is the most hopeful book that I have read in a long time. It seems to take a very realistic view at where we are but hold tight to the faith that God is doing something.”  

They then invited the author, Alan Roxburgh to visit with their pastoral leadership.  That led to a follow-up visit this past month where the church staff from the three churches had several hours with Alan talking about the kind of leadership needed in this new time of the church.  That was followed by an evening session with him and many of the session elders from the churches, where he further unpacked lessons from his book.   The pastors from the three churches are planning to meet in 2019 to encourage one another as they put Roxburgh’s ideas into practice for themselves and their churches in unique ways.

Pastor Greg Ellis from Birchwood summarized what he learned this way,

“Roxburgh's book brought several things into focus at once: 

·      how the Church has been trying for decades to fix itself by applying the latest and greatest marketing, entrepreneurship, or organizational development ideas...

·      how God is subtly at work elsewhere--in the lives of our neighbors...

·      how we followers of Jesus are called out to discover these myriad creative ways the Spirit of God is out ahead of us in our neighborhood.”

Reading and pondering this book has already led to experiments – small projects designed to listen to our neighbors.  Pastor Doug Bunnell describes his experiment this way,

“This book finally challenged me to do something I have wanted to do for a long time, set up a book group with my neighbors. We have hosted parties for 15 years, but last year we invited people to our house for a weekly book study and over 10 began to show up regularly. We read 3 books over this past year, and we are excitedly looking forward to starting again in January with a 4th book. This has been a wonderful chance to listen to my neighbors and learn their stories. God is good all the time!” 

Does that pique your curiosity?  Have you been doing something similar?  Or maybe it’s time to dust off the book, give it a read, and then give me a call. I’d love to chat with you what you are learning from those in your neighborhood.

12/18: Update from Matt McCoy—Advent in a Barn

December 18, 2018 Update from Matt McCoy:

For younger children, this Advent I’ve been talking about playing Follow The Leader.  

I’ve enjoyed framing what we do through the game Follow The Leader, as it’s helped younger kids latch onto the reason why we do the things we do around Advent. 

For last Sunday’s Advent Service (16 Dec), we took a Reformed Advent Liturgy and played “Follow The Leader” with it, so that we could locate ourselves in this story as best as possible.

Our Gathering Music (Latin enthusiasts would call this a “Prelude”) was a guitar, a cello and a clarinet.  

We then lit the Advent Candles, and ate a dinner of tortilla soup together. 

I asked the classic Advent questions, “What are you waiting for?  What are you hoping for?” And as we sat with those questions, we read our Old Testament reading.  We looked at the prophecy in 1 Kings where we get the oft-quoted prophecy “The virgin will give birth to a child, and his name will be Emmanuel - God Is With Us.”  We talked about how King Ahaz didn’t want to wait on God or hope on God for help with the coming invading army, and how Isaiah gave him, and us, the prophecy of Emmanuel in the context of God’s amazing grace to a stubborn king.  

Since this prophecy was fulfilled in a barn, and since we were playing follow the leader, we moved our service out to the barn. 

We sang some Christmas carols, and read in Luke 2 about how the angel appeared to the shepherds.  We made sure to notice that when this prophecy was fulfilled, that the first people to find out about it weren’t the kings and queens and rulers and scholars, but the outcast and overlooked shepherds.  

And so, when I play follow the leader with Jesus as my leader, I notice over and over again that the Holy Spirit shows up to people who are outcast and overlooked.  I then asked the advent questions again:  “What are you waiting for?  What are you hoping for?” 

Talking about waiting and hoping with middle schoolers, and friends who are experiencing homelessness, and grownups trying to play follow the leader, is always fun.  But doing this in a barn, in the dark, in advent, with farm animals, living into the Christmas Story, was spectacular. 

We then came back inside and celebrated Communion.  Here is how we wait.  Here is where we find hope. 

Afterwards we hung out for a bit, and decorated some gingerbread houses.  

We’re very much looking forward to Friday afternoon, as we continue to play Follow The Leader by putting together some gift bags for the Christmas Eve service at the Drop In Center at the Lighthouse Mission!  

Sunday, December 16 Worship Service

Keeping up with Collide


“On your worst days, in your biggest mistakes, do you know what God calls you? He calls you Beloved.” -Bob Goff

We had the absolute joy of welcoming well over a thousand of you to our Always event last weekend and what God did there exceeded even our highest hopes and boldest prayers. There were crazy fun elements like a parade (complete with balloons, cheerleaders, a drum line, tandem bikes, and banana costumes…) and sweet moments like a break for cookies accompanied by cartons of milk with colorful straws. There was singing and laughing and tons of cute photo ops. But what was truly incredible, is that women walked away from that night having collided with Jesus in a brand new way.

The message of the night was this: You are Beloved and it’s out of that truth that you can love the world around you. Even on your worst days, God calls you His daughter and asks you to view yourself that way, too. It can be so difficult, can’t it? With a world constantly shouting at us that we’re not doing enough, not performing well enough, not looking good enough… to hear ourselves described as Beloved feels almost unbelievable. But Jesus tells us something different. He looks right at our mistakes and failures and disappointments and calls us not only enough, but Beloved.

At the event, we got to place a medal around the neck of each woman, symbolizing their identity and giving them a tangible reminder that they are seen, set apart, and made with the capacity to love the world. So take these words as your virtual medal: The God of the universe knows you and His name for you is Beloved.

Read the full update online.

Cyclical Cascadia October 2018 Discerner Gathering

From Rev. Paul Kim, New Expressions Catalyst (paul@northwestcoast.org or 404.519.5873):

Oct 29th, 15 people gathered for the very first Cyclical “discerner gathering”. Our friends from the Vancouver area joined us, as well as people in our region. We definitely sensed something amazing was forming. It was an evening where people felt safe to share their hopes, vision, and discernment. We engaged in dialogue with one another and in the midst of mutual consultation there was definitely a sense of our thoughts and our hearts being formed more succinctly for what God is doing in our lives. 

Brandon Bailey was our ‘specialist’ for the evening. He asked us questions around the topic of “what do we do?” He shared that some of the first questions we should ask are: who is God, what is the church, what is our mission, and how do we see Christ in it all? It encouraged rich dialogue and excitement. Participants were eager to learn more, formulating greater thoughts and allowing God to stir the pot even more. 

Our next Discerner Gathering is Nov 26th, 6pm at Beardslee Public House. We hope that more will join the process of discerning and being with people faithfully seeking to engage in dialogue, discern, and dream together. 

Where we've been and where we're going!

Screenshot 2018-10-29 18.34.27.png

October 19, 2018 Leadership Summit Executive Presbyter Report

Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall

Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall

I am honored to be in the service of our Creator with you as we engage, equip, and encourage one another as we follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior who said to his followers in John 10:10 “I came so that you might have life and have it abundantly.”  At our combined Exec Board, COM and CPM Retreat last January, this scripture set our theme.  As we consider this abundant life, let me share with you some of the most important developments in our ministry over the last year and where I see us moving in the coming year. 


Renewed Commissioned Pastor Development Process:  Janice Smith has been the architect of this and COM the steward of providing a robust, developmental pathway for people with a pastoral calling become prepared and equipped to do so in a way that honors our reformed theological identity and values.  We get to celebrate Kevin Riley being commissioned to serve Mt. Baker PC in Concrete, WA later in the evening.   Thank you Janice.


Renewal is afoot in congregations like Calvin PC.  I hope you will take the time to read the Exec Board’s budget narrative for their proposed budget.  In it there is a short testimony of the renewal of mission and focus happening at Calvin PC. After several years of working through healing from the past and confirming their denominational home, Pastor Neil Trainer said about a year ago, “It feels so good for our staff, elders, and deacons to be unified in our vision and all pulling in the same direction. More than ever, we know who we are, why the Lord put us here, and why we do what we do.” Thanks be to God. 


New Expressions are taking next steps and discerning God’s call.  In Collide, I think we may be witness to a Book of Acts style movement of God’s spirit. 

In addition, Rev. Matt McCoy gathered a discernment team this year to inquire whether God wants a new expression of the church to be born.  Their early sense is that this expression of the Church ought to be led by the people it is called to serve--young people, people who are homeless and people who have disabilities.  Praise God!

To undergird and support these advancements we have made several infrastructure improvements of important yet unsexy things like databases, technology, and liaisons. 


And tonight as we gather, we witness that God has assembled a team of people who will help catalyze the initiatives we discerned in 2016.  Two years ago, these initiative were just a generative seed of what we believed was God’s will—that NWC Presbytery stretch to pursue 1) Village Ministries, 2) Congregational Renewal, and 3) New Expressions of the church.  Today, we are positioned to pursue these initiatives with a full team of people to give them life:

Janice Smith and Nettie Covalt (Nettie started in August as SE Alaska Cluster Coordinator) —Village Ministries

Paul Kim started in August as Cyclical Catalyst to catalyze New Church Expressions

Amy Delaney just started this month, as Studio E3 Catalyst for Congregational Renewal.


At the request of Sitka PC, last February we formed a commission to walk alongside the church as they celebrated the completion of 130 years of ministry and are now considering options for the Sitka PC Facility.  Then in July the Trinity United PC session asked us to form a commission to assume session governance and operations of Trinity United PC.  And in October, the Edmonds PC congregation asked the Exec Board to consider assuming primary stewardship of their facility as the session continues focus on their worship, fellowship and mission-life together. This was not foreseen at this time last year.  Because of this activity your Exec Board is forming a real property development team to partner with congregations at their request to exercise good stewardship at the completion of ministry or shifting of ministry emphasis.   

Now what is next for us! 

Out of this combination of activities we articulate our future focus like this: 

“We are in the middle of one of the richest periods of new ministry development. Several congregations are vital and healthy. Some are renewing their mission and focus. At the same time, existing ministries who have served well for so long are reaching the completion of their present life (such as Sitka First PC). “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:29) that we continue to E3 (Engage, Equip, and Encourage) the vitality and health of existing congregations and ministries, stimulate God’s economy through renewal and new expressions, and faithfully steward the end of life as it has been known, holding fast to our knowledge of the resurrection and that end-of-life is never end-of-story.”

As your Executive Presbyter seeking to help execute the priorities set by the board and you I think of it this way:


The executive board proposed a 2019 budget in order to pursue this future. And we are proposing to invest more than our income.  Why? Why would we do that? 


Window of Opportunity!  We have a moment in this era of Christ’s church where so much is growing and so much is shifting to seize a window of opportunity. God has blessed us with the vision, the people, and the resources to leap.  We have been given a big vision for the renewal of Christ’s church in our time, it is our responsibility to grow worthy of this calling to which God has called us.  To seize this window of opportunity!

As we do that, I am recalling 2012 in the former North Puget Sound Presbytery.  It was the first time that as a presbytery we budgeted to spend more than our income in faith to take a leap.  We sensed God calling us to help start Tidelands, Wellspring, and call an Associate EP for Korean Ministry.  That year through God’s grace we came out in the black, even though we were quite sure we wouldn’t. 

So the next year we leaped again. Then we merged with Alaska Pby.  Then we leaped again.  Then we merged with CW Presbytery.  And we leaped again.  Every year since 2012 we have become a little bolder planning to spend more than our income; and every year since 2012 God has increased our collective assets through one means or another.  It seems that God is finding a way to get God’s resources to fuel God’s abundant life.

Given where every one of us were in 2013…5 years ago…it is hard to imagine where we might be in 2023. Given where we were in 2013 It is not hard to imagine God might lead us to a new place through faithful stewardship of this window of opportunity.  May God in Christ do more than all we can ask or imagine, from Yakama to Yakutat and every place in between!  Thanks be to God.

10/17 Update from Matt McCoy

Have you ever been on a long hike that involves a lot of elevation gain? The kind of hike where you get to a ridge, and you know you have a long way yet to go, but you want to stop and grab a drink of water and take stock of where you’ve been before setting onward? I love those moments of stopping, looking around, absorbing the beauty of where I am and who I’m with and marveling at how far we’ve come. This feels like one of those moments to me.


We’ve had a big year, and we’ve got another big year ahead of us. But before this next transition point comes and goes, I wanted to pause and take stock of where we’ve been. Like a long hike, we’re standing at a ridge, and I want to gather everyone together and capture this moment. If this were an actual ridge, I’d be pulling my camera out of a sweat and rain soaked ziplock bag and taking a picture of everyone. Today I’ll just tell the story.

In October of 2017, Denise and I felt like we were ready as a family to lean into the desire we’d been feeling to connect our love of the church with our love of the people in our lives. In order to help us with that, we put together a discernment team of 12 people. And in order to paint with some fun colors, and hear from voices different than our own, of those 12 there were three who were experiencing homelessness, two who are teenagers, and one who is not connected to a faith community. So very cool.

This discernment team met for the first time in February, and the commitment was to meet once a month for a year. I wanted us to be in physical spaces that felt more natural and comfortable to the people in our lives, so we met in a school, in a homeless shelter, in a hospital.

In June I wanted us to feel both inside a church and yet feel like an outsider, so we met in a church that nobody except me had been inside before: Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church (thanks Father Michael!). I asked the question, “Who will be the guides that will show us what the Kingdom of God is like?” The discernment team responded by asking me who I was already connecting with, and start there. That gave us the clarity to start with the Youth, the Poor and the Disabled. I observed that our method of discernment, which is the centuries old Ignatian style “conversation and contemplation” is fantastic but is also alienating to the youth, my friends at the Lighthouse, and the disabled people I knew. We need to embody what we want to discern, so we decided to put together three discernment worship services.

In August we met at our house, and had a service that was lead by the youth.


In September the service had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the flu bug hitting the Lighthouse Mission pretty hard, so once everyone got to feeling better we had a game night instead.


Coming up the last weekend of October we’ve got our third discernment worship service, and I’m over-the-moon excited about it. We’ll be exploring forgiveness, and reading the story of the reckless, runaway son (you might know it as the prodigal son, but most people don’t know what a prodigal is). It’s a little different, reading this story alongside people who have actually run away and lost everything, and then praying about forgiveness.

Then in the first week of November we’ll have our last discernment team meeting as a gathering of 12. We’ll get together to pray, to reflect, to eat and laugh and bring this spectacular season to a transition. I am so very grateful for the time, energy, attention and are that this discernment team has shown me this year.

And then what?

Then it’ll be time for this transition to the next season of this New Worshipping Community, which is why I wanted to pause today to take stock of where we’ve been.

Once we’ve had a chance to integrate the wisdom we’ll glean from the last discernment worship service and the last discernment team meeting, we’ll let you know what comes next. At this point I’m thinking it will likely look like a once-a-month Sunday night worship service with a focus that sounds something similar to this:

Cultivating a New Worshipping Community whose Mission is discerned and guided by the Youth, the Poor and the Disabled.

You see, we still don’t know what the Mission of this New Worshipping Community is, and we probably won’t know for awhile. The rate of coherence for this community is going to be incredibly slow. And besides, these three groups of people aren’t the Mission themselves. Rather, the Mission will be discerned as we worship Jesus together, as we grow in friendship together, and we discover how we might join the Holy Spirit in what’s already happening around us.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us, wherever you are, and in whatever capacity you’ve been a part. Soon we’ll be putting the cameras back in the sweat and rain soaked ziplock bags, as it were, and moving onward. But just as we all huddle together to take a picture before that transition happens, I wanted to capture this moment on email together with you, and say thank you.

-Matt McCoy

Recovery Efforts - Presbiterio de San Juan

Everett First PC wanted to give a small amount toward the huge recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.  Shirley Morrow at Everett First connected with Michelle Muniz who is helping to guid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.  Here is a very helpful report about the recovery with ways you can help!   And if you want to connect directly with Michelle you can reach her at disastercoord.psj@gmail.com 

Michelle Muñiz, disastercoord.psj@gmail.com Disaster Recovery Coordinator / Coordinadora de Recuperación de DesastresPresbiterio de San Juan

Read more.

Collide: Back with BIG News!


From writing our next Bible study to improving the resources we create for you, to planning our fall event, it’s been a busy summer at the Collide office! We are welcoming fall with open arms. With crisp autumn air and a rainbow of falling leaves, we’re ushering in a season steeped in grace, hope, and renewed excitement for the work God is doing through this ministry.

The question we’ve been continuing to ask ourselves amongst preparing for another Collide year is “What would it look like to operate in relationship from a place of honest love and affection, rather than the oh-so-common place of bitterness and fear?” So that’s exactly what we’ll dive into at the Collide on November 2nd titled “Always” at Cornwall Church. We’ll be taking a look at the way Jesus does relationship and being encouraged as we discover what it means to always love, even when it’s not always easy. What we’ve been finding in the scriptures is that Jesus gives us a way to do that, even when it’s difficult. We are called to love others, because God first loved us.

As we’ve been praying and dreaming about our fall, we’ve been considering speakers who truly embody what it means to love people with the joy, fervor, and unconditionality of Jesus. We are extremely thrilled to announce that our new friend Bob Goff will be joining us for this very special Collide on November 2nd! Bob is a New York Times bestselling author and encourager to millions, and we can’t wait to welcome him to a night for women at Cornwall Church to share a message of radical love. Mark your calendars and snag your tickets HERE - this is one you’re not going to want to miss! We've got lots going on around here so check us out!

Read more.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: Hurricane Florence

God is our refuge and strength

Therefore, we will not fear … though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. —Psalm 46

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) urges your support for those affected by Hurricane Florence. PDA is delivering immediate aid to those impacted by the storm on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Initial assessment suggests catastrophic destruction, but the full scope of the damage will not be known for many months. 

The storm’s path is cutting across areas still recovering from Hurricane Matthew (2016). While these winds and waters have meant loss and destruction, the work of PDA might become, as the psalmist says, “a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

PDA is deploying teams to affected presbyteries to meet with Presbyterian and community leadership to assist in coordinating relief efforts and mucking out homes and churches. After initial needs are addressed, PDA will remain — providing spiritual and emotional care and long-term recovery to address the unmet needs of those impacted. Through your prayerful gifts, we draw hope out of the chaos.

The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the "GAP"— Give. Act. Pray.

Give: Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR000169, which supports the church’s response to hurricanes impacting the U.S. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.


  • Download and use the bulletin insert.

  • Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources and share updates with your congregation.

Pray: Pray for those who suffered loss of home or for those who are working tirelessly to provide rescue, humanitarian aid, and spiritual and psychological support.

8/26 Update from Matt McCoy

8/26/18 Update from Matt McCoy:

The youth, the poor, and the disabled are the guides for us as we seek to cultivate new worshipping communities here in Bellingham.  We had a worship service at our house on Thursday, 23 August, from 6pm-8pm, and there was so much about it that I loved.  

I love how it was put together by about ten students.  They wanted tables outside, set around the altar, where we could all worship together.  While we were worried that all the smoke from the recent wildfires in B.C. might force us inside, the wind shifted and we were able to set up just as they requested.  


I also went to the Lighthouse Mission and picked up five friends of mine who are Guests there, and they joined us for the service.  We had the tables all set up ahead of time, but do you know what we forgot to put on the tables?  We remembered the colors and paper for the kids, and we had water, and we had flowers, but we still forgot:  Ash trays!  Many of the Guests at the Mission still smoke, and we want them to feel at peace, so we improvised.  Denise has the idea of going to a pottery place and making something nice for this before next month. 


The scripture we were focusing on was John 10:27-30.  

John 10:27 My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  28 I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.  29 The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him.  30 I and the Father are one heart and mind.” 

We had our Call to Worship, then we read the scripture, and then we prepared for Communion.  Naturally, with a youth led service, the first thing they wanted to do was eat.  And we talked about how the first Communion was an actual meal, so we ate a meal together.  


I want to pause here, briefly, and share a story of what happened back in May.  As I was preparing for a communion service in May, I was praying as I put out the elements, and I was reflecting on how frequently the Bible tells stories about eating with people.  Who we eat with, and where our hearts are as we eat with them, reflects so much about what we believe.  And I was convicted that I spend a lot of time with people experiencing homelessness, but I don’t eat with them often.  I could go to the Mission and eat with them, but I was wanting to do much more than that.  This evening was an answer to that prayer.  


Well, the youth love to have the scriptures made real and tangible (honesty, now, who doesn’t?), and so we had a skit where Jackson represented Jesus, Kevin was a good sport about representing evil, and Honey the goat represented us.  Both Jackson and Kevin called to Honey, and we got to see what happened.  


One of the many fantastic teenagers with us then preached on the text, 


And we spent time at our tables talking about “how do we hear God’s voice?” We had colors for people who would rather reflect on this question without using words…


We concluded with singing,


And the Youth wanted a gong for ringing in the Call to Worship and the Blessing and Sending.  We didn’t have a gong, but we had a convincing pot lid. 


These pictures speak beautifully to the joy of worshipping with the youth, the poor and the disabled, and I can’t hardly wait for next month’s service...

Matt McCoy


Israel/Palestine Educational Events

A special invitation from: 
Charlie Lewis (Co-Pastor First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish)
Along with: John Berg (ELCA), Karen Carpenter (ELCA), Rev. Alan Dorway (PCUSA), Rev. Dr. Duncan Ferguson (PCUSA), Ursula Gallagher (PCUSA), Brad and Sandra Gerrish (PCUSA) Rev. Jim and Judy Kutz (PCUSA), Rev. Mary Robinson-Mohr (PCUSA) and Heidi Saikaly (PCUSA), Alan and Dottie Villisvek (PCUSA). (Members of the Israel/Palestine Ecumenical Network of North Puget Sound)  Huda Giddens and Mary Segall (Kairos- Seattle).

We are very pleased to offer at no cost three different educational events in our area this fall to foster a deeper understanding about issues pertaining to the Israel/Palestine conflict.  In late October, we'll be hosting Pilgrims for Peace advocates Mae Cannon, Sami Awad and Jessica Montell. From November 8-13, a group of three graduates and a teacher from the Mar Elias School (founded by Archbishop Elias Chacour) will be speaking as peace ambassadors.  And on November 15-18, writer and activist Alison Weir will be casting light on what we Americans don't know but should know about US/Israeli relationship.  As Christians seek to stand in solidarity with efforts to promote human rights and a just peace in Israel/Palestine, these speakers provide an avenue for opening minds and hearts to the harsh realities on the ground and what we can do in response as followers of Jesus. 

While these events are all free, there will be an offering taken to offset costs and support their educational work.

Download schedule.

Sedro-Woolley City Scene Features Kevin & Danielle Riley

Sedro-Woolley City Scene, August 2018

By Amy Muia, Executive Director New Earth Recovery

Kevin and Danielle Riley know the darkness well.  From their youth they'd been using drugs and alcohol, and then later, on the heels of painful divorces, they met on the Plenty of Fish dating website.  Soon they were using meth together.  Things went downhill fast.  Danielle lost her 10-year job at a local hospital, and they both landed on the street.

Read the complete article.