Tag Archives: Spokane

Ecumenical Good Friday service celebrates the Easter mystery

By Tracy Simmons

Tenebrae "herse" (candelabrum)/Wikipedia

On Friday evening, the sanctuary at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral will slowly get darker and darker, symbolizing the crucifixion of Jesus and the suspense of his resurrection.

It’s the second year the church has hosted the Ecumenical Tenebrae Prayer Service, which will be celebrated by five of Spokane’s Christian leaders.

“It darkens as Christ moves further and further away from us,” said the Rev. Jeff Lewis, parochial vicar of the cathedral, adding that only a single candle will remain at the end of the service, signifying the unconquerable light of Christ.

The Tenebrae service is a long-time tradition at Our Lady of Lourdes, but in an effort to be more inclusive Bishop Blase Cupich, of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, changed it last year to be an ecumenical service.

About 150 people attended the 2011 program.

This year the service will be led by the Rev. Sheryl Kinder Pyle, transitional executive presbyter of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, Bishop James E. Waggoner, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Bishop Martin Wells, of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastern Washington – Idaho, the Rev. Dale Cockrum, the inland district superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist Church, and Cupich.

Kinder Pyle will deliver the sermon and the other faith leaders will read the accompanying scriptures and Good Friday texts. The Cathedral singers will lead the congregation in traditional chants and songs.

“One of the ways we can really celebrate our commonalities is through these kinds of things,” Lewis said. “It’s really a very subtle, but very unique and prayerful opportunity to reflect upon the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.”

The service will begin at 7 p.m.

Also on Good Friday, at noon, the cathedral will celebrate the Lord’s Passion with the veneration of the cross.

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?

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!

Meet Sicco Rood, our kindness, compassion and understanding contributor

Sicco Rood

Sicco Rood is originally from The Netherlands, and has lived in the United States since 1992.

He began exploring spiritual ideas in his teenage years and was drawn to those who followed a path of understanding, kindness, compassion and non-separation. This led him to Zen Buddhism and the practice of meditation. Rood is an active member of the Zen Center of Spokane.

He hopes that people regardless of faith, persuasion, and wisdom tradition, will come together to help heal the divisions among people and the systems created, as well as animals and the earth. He believes that authenticity, compassion, tolerance and the realization we are not separate, are essential in understanding each other and as responsible caregivers to the planet, he said.

He is married to Kristina and together they have three rescued dogs.

Church prays, petitions gay marriage legislation

By Tracy Simmons

Drawn by kattekrab/Open Clipart

Fourth Memorial Church will host a prayer gathering on March 29 in support of Referendum 74 and Initiative 1192, which petition Washington’s new gay marriage legislation.

The event is sponsored by Protect Marriage Washington. Guest speakers will be Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Gubernatorial Candidate Shahram Hadian and Attorney General Candidate Stephen Pidgeon, author of Initiative 1192.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the meeting begins at noon at the church, 2000 N. Standard.

Advancing your church in the Digital Age

Flickr image by James at Uni

Many churches are struggling to figure out this whole Internet thing. Does a church need a website? What should be on it? What about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest?

Overwhelmed yet?

On April 10 SpokaneFAVS editor Tracy Simmons will lead a workshop, “Advancing your church in the Digital Age” where she’ll discuss how churches can develop a true Web presence.

A new report by Faith Communities Today shows 69 percent of congregations have websites and 40 percent use Facebook.

“Ministry should be, even must be, a technological hybrid venture in this day and age. But technology is not an end in itself. It has to be employed strategically and intentionally as a component of the overall ministry effort of the congregation. It is not a matter of having a webpage, a Facebook account or projection screens, but of using these to enhance and expand the activities and communal life of the congregation,” said Scott Thumma, author of the FACT study.

Another study, by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, shows 79 percent of Americans belonging to a faith group are active Internet users. Millions of Americans are on Facebook, the average user spending 15 hours and 33 hours a month on the site. Twitter is adding 500,000 users a day, according to the Search Engine Journal.

To stay relevant to today’s digital world, churches need to meet people where they are — online (in lots of places). Find out how at the workshop, which is SpokaneFAVS first fundraiser. It will be at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Cathedral, 127 East 12th Ave. Donations are appreciated.

RSVP on the Advancing your church in the Digital Age Facebook page.

SpokaneFAVS is an online publication that covers faith news in the Spokane area through news stories, multimedia and blogs. Simmons has worked as an online journalist for nearly a decade and has studied social media, multimedia and Web design.


LDS volunteers celebrate Humanitarian Day

By Tracy Simmons

Creative amphibian creatures were just part of the agenda at the East Stake Humanitarian Day/Courtesy of the Latter-day Sentinel

Last month more than 200 Mormon volunteers spent the day serving the Spokane community.

On Humanitarian Day (Feb. 25) members of The Spokane East Stake Relief Society created “wish list” items for 15 area organizations, including toys, pictures books and quilts.

“I love the origin of this day. Instead of our sisters creating projects that we would find homes for, the Humanitarian Leader, Jill Woolf, went to organizations and schools and asked them, ‘What is on your wish list?’ They gave several ideas which we took to our sisters and they decided what they wanted to sponsor. The thrill of the day was in being able grant wishes. It’s not often that we get to do that,” said  Stake Relief Society President Karen Spear.

Check out the Latter-day Sentinel to read more about this story.

Spokane’s religion wrap-up: St. Pat, books, congrats and an eye-opener

By Tracy “Irish” Simmons



Tomorrow is St. Patty’s Day, which for many means green beer, green clothes and red hair. A parade begins tomorrow at noon downtown, and marchers will go right by Auntie’s Bookstore, whose staff will be giving away free books.

Speaking of books, The Book Parlor suggests a few good reads, “How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels” and “The Jesus Discovery: The New Archeological Find That Reveals The Birth of Christianity” are two of the texts the store has on sale this week.

This doesn’t really have to do with religion news, but I thought it was a good idea to let our lady readers know the Spokane Police Department is offering free self-defense classes for women in the community. Enhancing the Survival Mindset Level 1 will be held at the Spokane Police Academy from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on March 22. For info call (509) 742-8100.

Rev. Martin Elfert

OK, back to faith stuff. Congratulations to one of my FAV contributors the Rev. Martin Elfert, who will celebrate his Ordination to the Priesthood at 7 p.m. on March 23 at Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

And another kudos to Whitworth University for being recognized as one of the top schools in the U.S. for its commitment to community service. “More than 90 percent of the Whitworth student body engages in community service, with service-learning opportunities incorporated into every academic department,” the school reports.

In case you didn’t already know, Catholic Charities of Spokane is celebrating its centennial year. Lots of festivities are planned throughout 2012, including a Volunteer Appreciation Event on April 26.

The Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church published an eye-opening piece this week on elder abuse. “But what you may not realize is elder abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in our society.  My theory is that elder abuse is so frequently un-reported because it reeks of scandal.  No older adult wants to admit that he or she is being abused in some way because it makes him or her seem so powerless, “ The Rev. Paul Grave writes. In his article he suggests ways you can help put a stop to this.

Have something you think should be included in next week’s wrap-up? Email it to tracy.simmons@religionnews.com

Art bridges social, cultural, generational gaps

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

In East Central Spokane I’m discovering how art has the power to bring different cultures, generations, backgrounds and social classes together.

Over the last six years working in this neighborhood my church has hosted numerous artistic events designed to celebrate, educate and nurture artistry and beauty here in this community.

Poverty can often produce a chronic underlying depression, a subconscious drain on motivation, the  great “whatever” of disempowerment and hopelessness.

One of the dead fruits of such debilitating vision is ugliness.

Ugliness manifests itself in many ways around my neighborhood. Graffiti, trash accumulation and careless distribution, overgrown or uncared for vacant houses decaying from years of absent out-of-state landlords, over worked single parent homes, fear based need for guard dogs that result in destroyed yards, a tapestry of tarps draped on countless roofs, cars and buildings — cheap fixes for welfare budgets. Boarded, barred, fenced, and darkened drug dens, broken down Jalopy land are the results of little cash, no repairs and purchasing habits that reflect low-income realities and predatory auto sellers.

Then there’s ‘Pajama Pant Syndrome;’ one of the ills of welfare, unemployment and neighborhood violence. Many people live ‘inside lives’ and hardly come out into public. When they do it’s from necessity, not pleasure. Many folks around here  live isolated, lonely, nervous and secluded lives all because of poverty’s power.

On and on I could go. Lack produces an environment and mentality of disbelief and despair.

Group works on community art project/contributed by Eric Blauer

Art is one way to awaken hope and joy in communities where seeing beauty is often an act and practice of faith.

We do a lot of work with refugees, who in struggling economies and with limited education and english skills, are often living in the center or the margins of poverty.

We’ve found that creating art together is one way to develop friendship, teach conversational English, tell life stories and give back the gift of beauty to one another.

Creating art becomes a potent weapon in the fight against poverty. Teaching and learning to see goodness worth retelling in different artistic mediums is an empowering skill for those who often feel like they are imprisoned.

Last night I attended our “English Language Experience Group” for refugee kids run by three awesome women volunteers. During this quarter they are focusing on art. I was invited to come and share my art, answer prepared questions from the kids and join them in creating something together.

I talked about the ins and outs of ‘Impressionism‘, explained its impact on me and the freedom I think it gives budding artists. We viewed work from various famous and then  created our own masterpieces.

A group of refugees work on art project together/contributed by Eric Blauer

I’m reminded of the artist Robert Henri‘s scathing, but often true, critique of religious leaning souls as I think about sitting there talking, laughing, making messes, exploring new skills, practicing communicating and nurturing creative minds and hearts.

“I am always sorry for the Puritan, for he has guided his life against desire and against nature, he found what he thought was comfort, for he believed the spirit’s safety was in negation, but he has never given the world one minute’s joy or produced one symbol of the beautiful order of nature. He sought peace in bondage and his spirit became a prisoner,” he wrote in his book, “The Art Spirit.”

Last night, and through our the last six years we’ve been proving Henri wrong. Faith and purity are powerful sources of transformation.

In East Central Spokane, I’m seeing art change lives picture after picture, painting after painting, poem upon poem and song upon song.

BRIEF: Union Gospel Mission to host annual banquet in April

By Tracy Simmons

On April 25 Union Gospel Mission will host its annual banquet “Impacting Lives Together.”

The event will be at Mirabeau Park Hotel in Spokane Valley. The lunch banquet will be served at 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 11:30 a.m.) and the dinner banquet will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Reservations can be made here. Table sponsorships are also available for $250.

For details visit the event website.