One in Christ: Northwest Coast Presbytery Coming Together
By Rev. David Dobler, Pastor to Northwest Coast Presbytery
Having led the gathering in a Makah version of the Lord’s Prayer, delegates from Washington’s Neah Bay congregation presented shell necklaces to the new members from Alaska. In response, the Alaskans offered their hosts a copper tinaa (engraved shield) and a spirited rendition of “At the Cross” in Tlingit and English. And thus the Presbytery of Northwest Coast was born.
Our new presbytery embraces 1,100 miles of God’s people and creation: From the Makah people of Neah Bay on the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to the Tlingits of Yakutat on Alaska’s North Pacific Coast. From the islands of Puget Sound to the western slope of the North Cascades and up through the Alexander Archipelago of the Inside Passage. From metro Seattle to small mountain communities.
From our largest congregation—the 1,750-member, with over 3000 attending in worship each Sunday, Korean-speaking Community Church of Seattle—to the new missional community of Tidelands in Stanwood, Washington.
The richness of our seas and forests is matched by cultural and ethnic diversity. How do we proclaim Christ amid such vibrant variety? Differently, of course. The presbytery’s mission is “to engage, equip, and encourage” our congregations. So first we listen.
At our inaugural meeting, March 2014 in Bellingham, WA, we discussed and held panels on Native ministry, the Korean American Presbyterian experience, and the discipling of new Christians.
The Pacific Northwest is sometimes called the “none zone,” because so many people in our region claim no religious affiliation. Yet in the midst of an increasingly secular culture, the congregations of our presbytery are thriving communities of faith.
According to Luke’s account, when Jesus was handed the Isaiah scroll to read on that Sabbath in Nazareth, he left out mentioning the nations coming to Israel as slaves and laborers (see Isa. 61:5). How are we to serve the myriad faces of need and longing that surround us?
Amid these troubled times in church and society, the following lines from “When We Paddled upon the Waters,” a poem written by pastor George Pasley of Ketchikan, Alaska, for our new presbytery, offers a poignant reminder:
But these waters have always known trouble—
Ask the deep. Ask the abandoned villages.
Ask the men looking for work,
The women looking for respect,
The young looking for purpose
And the nets looking for a catch.
These winds have blown hard,
And the times have always demanded
More than we could easily give—
And beside, the current moves one way,
And it is not backwards. Even more,
We remembered Job, who called upon God
And was given appointment with the whirlwind.
So briefly, we enter sanctuary—
We sing doxology—
We make testimony about the Living God—
And our strength is renewed while we pass the broken bread.
So we pray, and listen. Worship, and reach out. Experiment, and evaluate. And we give thanks to God for this new family of 43 congregations in the Presbytery of Northwest Coast.
Ketchikan, Alaska on September 26-27, 2014 is the site of our next Leadership Summit as Northwest Coast Presbytery .