Category Archives: Culture

Spokane’s religion wrap-up: Easter baskets, genealogy, Passover and Tutu

By Tracy Simmons

For kids, the best part of Easter is getting a basket filled with bunny-shaped chocolates and plastic eggs filled with coins. But when was the last time mom got an Easter basket? This year Christ Kitchen is selling ‘grown-up Easter baskets’ filled with soups, breads and other home-made goodies. You can order online.

(By the way, you still have time to get your Easter listings turned in to SpokaneFAVS, but better hurry).

Since we’re on the topic of family — are you interested in learning more about your genealogy? The Spokane West Stake will host a Family Search Symposium from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 28. It’s free and you can register online here.

Flickr photo of Passover seder by Suzie T

Let’s not forget that Easter isn’t the only sacred holiday on next weekend’s calendar. Passover begins April 7 and continues through April 13. Passover is a time to commemorate the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, who was directed by God. Traditionally on the first two nights of Passover, it is traditional for a Jewish family to gather for a special dinner called a seder in which the story of the Exodus is retold.

In this month’s newsletter from the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, the director of evangelical mission writes an interesting reflection on missional leadership. Helga Jansens writes, “Being missional means worrying less about ourselves: a self-denying forgetfulness about our congregational  size and resources. It is to be concerned with what God is already doing and what God wants to have done in  the community.” She offers some ideas in her piece about how to be more missional-minded.

Finally, you probably know Desmond Tutu is coming to Spokane later this year. But did you know his visit isn’t without controversy. The Inlander did a nice job explaining this story here.

Have something you think should be included in next week’s wrap-up? Email it to

It’s not gay couples marriage needs protection from

By Contributor Rev. Liv Larson Andrews

Rev. Liv Larson Andrews

As a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I rejoice in the opportunity now offered by the state of Washington to marry same-sex couples. Not all my siblings in faith agree with me. Invitations crowd my mailbox to pray and act to protect marriage. From what, I wonder?

People of faith are hotly divided. It’s a bit stormy out.

As a married person, I rejoice in the blessing of my spouse. It is within the community, the Body of Christ, that our marriage is kept sacred and held accountable. Public accountability is the call and the gift of marriage within the church. The risen Christ, tangible in this community, protects and sustains my marriage; and will do so for gay couples, too. Isn’t this kind of community what we humans need?

Flickr photo by slgckgc

It is not from gay couples that my marriage needs protection. War, protracted and senseless, shatters marriages every day. Capitalism has warped weddings into a circus-like industry. Brides and grooms of all kinds fear the task of wedding planning, thinking if they can survive that process together, marriage will be a cinch. So I propose we pray: Dear Lord, protect us from David’s Bridal.

When we lived in Chicago, my spouse and I attended an urban Mennonite church. At the wedding of two friends, we ate potluck style and offered our hand-stitched quilt squares into their wedding blanket. The next day was an all-church gathering at the lakeshore. Our newlywed friends showed up, riding in on a tandem bicycle sporting a cardboard “Just Married” sign. It didn’t take long for others to start requesting rides. Soon, everybody around was hopping on and off the goofy tandem bike with joy. My husband and his buddy, Doug, took it for a spin along the lakeshore path, cardboard sign still attached. As they passed by two old men on a park bench, they heard, “Huh? Two guys?!” and then “Don’t knock it. It’s a beautiful thing.” They hardly stayed upright they were laughing so hard.

I guess I agree with the second old man: don’t knock it. Marriage is a beautiful thing. And it’s a powerful testimony to marriage that so many want to pursue it.

Lastly, as a child of the ’90s, I feel it is fitting to cite the Indigo Girls as a response invitation to my fellow Christians: “To let this love survive would be the best gift we could give. Though it’s storming out, I feel safe within  the arms of love’s discovery.”

Understanding reverence

By Contributor Matt Wise

Matt Wise

One Sunday I was reminiscing about my time in Japan. I really came to love and admire parts of the Japanese culture and their small expressions to each other. I feel like the Japanese people were a good example of reverence.
There’s certain things you just don’t do in public in Japan. And there are certain things you are expected to do. While some may see these things just as customs, it seems all of these small things come together to create a sense of community and respect  people have for each other and the values they share.

After my time in Japan, coming back to America, surprisingly, I had a bit of culture shock. It was louder, more chaotic and people seemed to care less about each other and their community. While part of me always remembered Japan, after a while I slowly became re-Americanized, you could say.

It’s not that Japan is perfect, they have their own set of issues to deal with. But it really did cause me to question everything about America and our culture. But that’s the thing; I’ve come to realize that in America it’s not really a question of “our” culture but a question of “which” culture.

It’s interesting. Maybe I’m just getting older, but it increasing seems that as the music, movies, entertainment and news media get louder and louder, I’m more and more drawn in the opposite direction. I find myself enjoying more classical music, nature documentary’s and thoughtful and quit conversations.

Reverence seems like such a simple and small thing, but it also seems to affect the way we treat many things such as our body, mind, spirit, family, neighbors and community. It also seems to be connected to many valuable attributes such as humility, gratitude, awareness, discipline and ultimately love. Because of that it’s hard to put a delicate feeling or sense into words sometimes. Here is my try at it:

Reverence is realizing the delicate nature of love and life, and actually respecting and standing in awe of that delicate balance.

After much questioning I’ve found a sense of optimism for America though. I believe  many people here are willing to learn, innovate and improve for the better here. I hope for the benefit of our community’s and our future that we won’t undervalue or over look profound yet simple things as cultivating reverence in our lives and in our community’s.

Should we give locally or internationally?

By Blogger Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

I used to work with middle school students. One of the things I’ve realized over the years is many people seem to look for this age group to be immature, lazy, selfish or otherwise incapable of engaging society in a positive manner. I used to tell my students to never make it easy for others to stereotype them. Given this, you may or may not be able to imagine my frustration at a comment after an article was published in the news a few years back. The article highlighted the efforts of our junior high ministry, which had fasted for 30 hours, raised $30,000 (one of the largest amounts in the nation) for World Vision, and served alongside eight local ministries. The comment was this: why should we care for those elsewhere when there is so much need in our own community? It seemed this comment negated the importance and value of the students’ efforts.

Over the past 13 years I have engaged in regular work with impoverished and marginalized people. In a lot of places: Spokane, Seattle, Bremerton, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tijuana and Northern Kenya. Locally, I have been a part of organizations with long-standing relationships with Cup of Cool WaterUTF (Under the Freeway), Mission Community PresEn ChristoAlberta HouseUnion Gospel Mission and Catholic Charities.  I have worked with World Vision International and their United States division in a variety of ways. I have succeeded and failed in implementing local service opportunities for teens and their mentors, researched local and global disparity and the systems that enable it to continue. I am eager to see a decrease in the opportunity gap everywhere.

Why am I bringing this up? To shed light on my background before I raise the following question: Why is it that seemingly every time I raise issues of global disparity one of the first responses is a reminder that poverty exists here in Spokane (or wherever else I was living at the time), often with the suggestion that local needs should be prioritized above all else? Is it a perceived need for fair airtime, or something else?

Women struggling with poverty in India/Flickr photo by s_w_ellis

Personally, I don’t get it. I don’t get the comparative statements; I don’t get the advocacy that says here is better than there, or vice versa. I’m being sincere when I say that I would like to learn from other viewpoints. To answer my question, some have pointed to the progression of Acts 1:8 as if there was some normative sequencing or priority to sharing God’s love with people based on location confuses me. The statistics for both areas regarding growing disparity in nearly every part of the world point to resource distribution, levels of involvement and apathy that are disgusting and unnecessary. They are still only statistics, however. Stories drive action. Stories provide a connection point.  I have been with people as they garbage pick for dinner in Spokane, Seattle, San Francisco, Tijuana and Kenya. I can’t say any of those experiences was more palatable for my psyche than the other. More importantly, I can’t say one person’s suffering and stolen dignity has less value than another, near or far.

I suggest there is a responsibility for those of us with the ability to access this post. We have a responsibility for local service and global impact. Yes, both. We cannot escape the globalization of our local living, which means that we are complicit in what is occurring beyond our region, state or nation (if you believe those human boundaries are still applicable). Likewise, we cannot live with integrity if we care for “the world” but ignore the needs of our local community.  Actively loving others, whether distant or local shows us that we are connected to and responsible for one another.

It seems for students, at least, getting them out of their comfort zone and away from the familiarity and distractions of their daily lives allows them to engage with others in a whole new capacity. For some, this can be a one-time foray into the world of the underprivileged. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the summarizing thought, “I’m just so grateful for how blessed I am!” As if that is the intent of the experience. For me, these experiences serve two goals: first, a milestone that points to a location and moment in time that God is real and at work in human life. Second, a training event that shows students what they do in one location can be continued on in their lives. As we prepare to leave we begin the work of bridging the context. Bringing them home and pointing to avenues that we might have overlooked earlier; places where we can connect and learn and contribute.

I must engage poverty and disparity. I must decrease the opportunity gap. There is an element of this I can touch: local people, local ministries and local political systems. There is an element that is more distant: people, ministries and political systems. These arenas have different needs and different solutions, and that must be respected. Some will be drawn closer to one arena than another based on their experience and their connection with the stories of others. But, I’m curious, is it unreasonable to expect action in both?

Intelligent design is religion, not science

By Contributor Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer

The NASA case involving David Coppedge has brought to light the issue of intelligent design again. Coppedge was a computer analyst and team leader working on NASA’s Cassini Saturn Project until he was fired for inappropriate conduct in the workplace. He claims religious discrimination, but NASA says he was harassing his co-workers.

Whether he wins or not, Coppedge’s case involving religious discrimination would tend to support the argument that intelligent design is religion and not science. I agree.

That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of intelligent design. I do. I’m a big fan of Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion, where Anselm regards God as, “that of which nothing greater can be thought.” That’s intelligent design on steroids. It’s very different thinking than life from the primordial murk, a hurtling comet, or a mathematical construct. My personal belief is that the creator must be greater and more intelligent than that which is created.

But it’s not science by any stretch of the imagination: yours, mine, or Anselm’s. Science requires a testable hypothesis, and there’s no way to test whether a design is intelligent or not. I might think there are hidden dimensions filled with dark energy, but until I can form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, publish the results in a scientific journal, and until there are peer reviews, it’s not science.  What test are you going to run to determine if something is intelligently designed?  Your idea of intelligence will differ from mine and Anselm’s. Immanuel Kant’sCritique of Pure Reason concludes that there are limits to what reasoning (think science) can achieve.

There is no way to either prove or disprove God or intelligent design. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to accept it all on faith.

BRIEF: Panel at WSU to address gay friendly churches

By Tracy Simmons

Faith leaders from Pullman-area gay friendly churches will participate in a panel discussion from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at Washington State University.

The panel, organized by the Gender/Identity Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center, will address two main questions. First, What is the significance of being able to live openly in one’s place of worship? And second, how does your faith community show that it is welcoming and affirming to LGBT members?

The panel will be in the Campus Union Building lair.

Church should help those who “can’t play the game”

By Contributor Rev. Alan Eschenbacher

Rev. Alan Eschenbacher

In an effort to get my head around all the things happening in the world, the United States, Washington State, and right here in good ol’ Spokane I have re-examined our primary purpose as a gospel bearing community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I looked at what we have in our church mission statement.

All Saints Lutheran makes community and relationship building its primary purpose.

At All Saints:

  • People can explore their idea of Christian faith in community.
  • The Holy Spirit is called upon to enliven and support, especially in relationships where there is weakness, mental illness or with any person living on the margins.
  • We share in joys and pains of our All Saints family and the community at large.
  • We reach out to the “mainstream” for support and partnership.
  • Building a new, faithful, sustainable community for all is our mission.

I have been working with and making friends with the homeless and mentally challenged community here in Spokane for last eight years. I have found a very different group of people than I expected.

There is a substantial link between the people who live on the margins of society and the financial results of the way our economy operates. Our economy is a game, and how you are equipped to play the game means everything. My work in the financial field as a salesman gave me much insight and knowledge of how people think and act in society, especially in relation to commerce and capitalism.

As a result of all those years working with people and their money and my experience working with those on the margins, I have an unusual view of the economic situation in which we find ourselves as a country. The economic situation as it stands now is, simply put, the result of greed. We don’t need to look any further; greed answers most problems in the economy and many problems involving government programs. Obviously it gets more complicated in the detailed explanations but the root cause is the love and worship of money and materialism.

Why do I tell you all this? Tell me something I don’t know, you say. First, I needed a good rant, but more importantly I am convinced the future of this country is tied to how we deal with this crisis. The Occupy movements around the country and the world have gotten us off to a good start in the last year or so, keep up the good work!  The way people think about money must change, the new buzzword needs to become “enough.” But what is enough? When have I reached the point where I can say, “I have enough”, push back from the tough, and then be able to give to another who does not have enough. The age-old arguments — everybody has to “pull their own weight” or “if you don’t work you don’t eat” — have limited merit and lead to a totalitarian idea that we must apply across the board. And, if we are honest, we all know it does not apply to everyone.

Flickr photo by graywolfx47

There are, have always been, and always will be those in society that cannot “play the game.” These may be the homeless, those with various disabilities, addictions and mental illness, in other words, those on the margins. What, as society, do we do with those who fall behind or through the cracks and wind up in desperate situations and in need of care of some kind? That becomes the crux of the situation and impacts all other things, especially financial considerations. Take taxes for instance: you can’t tax me, because that will discourage me from using the gifts I have, and then I won’t create business and jobs and everyone suffers. We are back to greed, if we could rely on people to be generous with their gifts and talents, as indeed some are, but alas, we cannot.

When times are difficult economically giving goes down, that’s a fact. When times are good giving only sometimes goes up. It often takes years for charitable giving to return to previous levels after an upswing in the economy. My tirade goes on.

I think I know the solution, but so do many others. The only thing that will cure our national greed is the understanding of what “enough” is, followed by community building and relationship forming amongst the classes.

Currently at All Saints Lutheran

Our feeding program is in its seventh year, a meal on Tuesday evenings and a food bank that is open Monday-Thursday.

We are a member organization in Spokane Urban Ministries (SUM), a low-income housing consortium. SUM owns a 47 unit low-income housing development called Walnut Corners. This housing development is in two buildings on the corners of Walnut and Mallon and Walnut and Broadway in Spokane’s West Central Neighborhood. The Broadway building has 18 units devoted to chronically mentally ill homeless folk; there is a live-in manager and office space for counseling. It also houses The Book Parlor, a full service bookstore and gift shop, as well as Indaba Coffee, a now 2-year-old business that has espresso and sandwiches and pastries. These two businesses have become a vital gathering point in West Central; a place where diverse people meet and share coffee and food, books and ideas.

All Saints Browne’s Addition location has a community garden for last five years. This provides some local residents a space to grow their own vegetables and it also provides donations of fresh produce that are used in our meal program. The garden is a safe space for varied folks to gather, grow, talk and develop community.

A new development is the Spokane Mental Health Chaplaincy. Still in its infancy, the chaplaincy will work with local mental health professionals, churches, hospitals, the police department and other government agencies to provide mental illness training to the public. The end result will hopefully be a “companion” for some of the mentally ill here in Spokane. Companions will be volunteers that are trained to assist, befriend and work with people suffering from brain illness. The goal is to provide more stability and to hopefully decrease the use of emergency medical facilities and jails in favor of less costly alternatives. The economy doesn’t cause brain disease, but the difficulties of competing in and playing the game are, for some, cause to drop out and remain on the sidelines. What happens with these brothers and sisters who have dropped out or cannot play the game?

All Saints is a worshipping community of old and new Christians coming together to study and worship in a mostly traditional Lutheran setting. We take comfort in the consistency and love found in the liturgies used and in doing this together as community. The worshiping group is diverse with ages 0 to 102, from all walks of life, the homeless and mentally ill are welcomed and loved by our open family mindset. The future is being created as we go. If we are faithful to the now God will bless our tomorrow. I would love to see the Spokane Mental Health Chaplaincy get off on the right foot and begin to provide much needed help for those with brain disease. I would hope to have the funds to hire a chaplain and to raise awareness for this need, not just for the indigent that are mentally ill but also for those elderly and children who have brain disease and need help. The time is now for training many more people to recognize and to be able to help others in this area. We have many opportunities and we now need workers, financial supporters, prayers and love to make it happen!