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~Pastor Steven Koski
Our Mission Statement is, “Creating Spaces of Grace to Cultivate Hope, Healing and Purpose.” Nine years ago when I arrived at First Presbyterian I asked, “ How can we be a presence of grace in the city of Bend to those who will never walk inside our church, or any church for that matter?”
There is a great deal of discussion happening today around the NONES and DONES. The Nones refer to the fastest growing demographic on the US census when people are asked to state their religious affiliation. An increasing number of people are checking the box “NONE”. The Dones are the group of people who have either been hurt or let down by the church or have decided it is no longer relevant to them. The NONES and DONES are growing at an alarming rate. Yet, at the same time, interest in spirituality among these same groups of people has never been higher. More and more people have concluded that the church as they have experienced it or as they perceive it, is irrelevant. In many cases, the Nones and Dones aren’t negative about the church, as church doesn’t even register on their radar as important.
I recognized this trend, which has only accelerated, nine years ago and suggested we think outside the box and seek to be a presence of grace where people are at instead of assuming people need to come to us. This eventually led to us establishing the ministry of The Common Table, a volunteer-driven restaurant in downtown Bend that sought to be a place of grace welcoming every one and connecting folks from many different walks of life around a common table breaking bread together. Common Table was a grand experiment lasting more than three years. Many stories can be told of grace experienced through Common Table where people began to see Jesus and what a life of faith looks like through different eyes. Many stories can be told of people experiencing the bread of life and the cup of grace in uncommon, yet very transformative, ways. Unfortunately, the building where Common table was located decided to renovate and it was no longer financially viable to continue. The ministry of the restaurant may have closed but the Spirit that seeks to reach and connect with the Nones and Dones continues to stir beneath the surface and seek expression.
At the same time, we created two worship services at First Presbyterian to connect with those who don’t find our Sunday morning contemporary and traditional worship services appealing or fulfilling. We created a contemplative worship experience that was originally on Wednesday evenings and now is held every Wednesday at noon and includes Communion. We created the Sunday evening 5:01 service to create a more relaxed, informal worship experience for those who find the Sunday morning services too large, too structured or perhaps, the morning time too inconvenient.
Taking a page from Common Table, our Wednesday noon service and the 5:01 I am excited to share that we are launching a new worship experiment this fall called Tap. The 5:01 becomes Tap, it moves to Heritage Hall and the worship time will be 6:00pm. Morgan Schmidt, our Director of Teens and 20-Somethings is leading this effort.
Morgan began this past February as our Director for Teens and 20-Somethings. She not only leads our middle and senior high youth in the Bend Youth Collective but she is also tasked with the challenge of connecting with the 20-Somethings who fall in the category of Nones and Dones. So many of you have shared with me your sadness that your children and grandchildren are not connected in any way to a faith community. Morgan has been meeting regularly with a group of 12-14 folks in their 20’s and 30’s who are currently not connected to any church, yet have a deep spirituality and desire to explore faith. They have been exploring what a worship experience would look like that would lead them to say, “Hey, if worship looked like that, I’m in!” What is amazing and exciting is that they, under Morgan’s leadership, have agreed to take ownership in designing and implementing Tap. Here’s a brief description of what Tap will look like and why:
Tap will be a worshipping community that includes and engages emerging generations through storytelling, music, liturgy, and open dialogue about faith and doubt. We are working together creatively to craft an experience of belonging and worship that feels like home to those who might otherwise never set foot in a more traditional church context. Over and over, we are asking the question: What is good news for college students and young adults in Bend? How can we embody the presence of Jesus – not just on Sunday nights – but in our work and play and relationships? One part of our answer to these questions is to extend hospitality and welcome by sharing a beer or kombucha together when we meet, because for so many that is a socially meaningful way to connect. We believe this is one small part of how Tap will provide safe, sacred space for individuals to belong and grow together as a community as we participate with the whole church in the restoration of all things.
How exciting to imagine Heritage Hall being a space of grace and used for worship for those who, for many of us, will look a lot like our children and grandchildren! In this era of church decline, what an amazing legacy we can leave; a new expression of worship that will draw future generations into a life of faith. You may even be surprised to find Tap to be exactly what your faith is needing as all would be welcome.
Stay tuned for more information on the launch of Tap and opportunities to be in conversation about this exciting new ministry. Please commit to praying daily for this new endeavor that it might be a space and presence of grace for those who would not normally come within the walls of the church.
One of our core values at First Presbyterian is: Embodying the Pioneering Spirit of Central Oregon. May we continue to be led by the Spirit having the courage to blaze new pathways where there is no trail to the glory of God.