My Heart is Full of Thanks

Conference Moderator

I completed my second and final year as Moderator of the Pacific Northwest Conference at the Conference Annual Meeting – April 27-29. One pastor said “This was the best annual meeting I have attended in my 32 years in ministry here.” It was a good ending to my two years in leadership as Moderator. I took on this position with a commitment from the board to help lead into change. I celebrate that we broke through some of our stuck places and found new ways to meet and gather and step into a renewed focus for our ministry and mission – deepening relationship.

Sabbatical Coverage

I enjoyed ministry challenges and learning as I took on new responsibilities during David Anderson’s sabbatical this year. I enjoyed working more closely with Council, Personnel, and working with Wendy Blight, our interim administrator. Thanks to great leadership – Carol Bryant, Jan Von Lehe and Margaret Stine!

Continuing to Learn

This Spring, I was blessed by being able to attend a six-day racial justice training: Doing our Own Work – An Anti-Racism Seminar for White People, co-led by Diane Schmitz, our co-consultant for our racial justice initiative. I celebrate the great ministry with our Racial Justice Action Team leadership – Toni Higgs, Carol Hamilton, Gwen Sweeny, Rosh Doan, Ginger Warfield and working with our Racial Justice Consultants – Diane Schmitz and Cynthia MacLeod to lead trainings/conversations on race with UCUCC staff, Seabeck teachers and UCUCC church leadership.

Parish Care

I treasure the privilege of walking with members and friends of our congregation in “trials of the spirit and times of joy.” Parish Care Associate, Judy Strausz-Clement, provided such wonderful support for this ministry to Amy, Catherine, our congregation and me in extending our outreach and connecting our ways of care. We are so grateful for her ministry with us and miss her deeply.

Liturgical Art Endowment

Judy asked to be remembered through gifts to the new Liturgical Arts Endowment which will help our congregation continue to deepen and grow our arts ministry.  It has been a gift to work with artist-in-residence, Kris Garratt, writer-in-residence Debra Jarvis, Judy Strausz-Clement, Lori Vanderbilt, Carolyn Stark, Betty Spieth-Croll, Beth Amsbary, and Yale Lewis, chair of the Worship and Music Ministry to move this proposal forward.

Come for a Sail

Come for a sail with me this Spring or Summer for an hour on Lake Union, or join me for tea. I look forward to hearing what you have been exploring, learning, growing with this season.

In faith, hope and love,

~ Peter Ilgenfritz

We can’t do this again!

“We can’t do this again! We can’t!” And yet, here we were, doing it again.

It was the same old pattern. The meeting began with great connection, vision, dreaming and energy. But after the lunch break, as the conversation turned to plans on what to do next, all that energy we’d experienced fled the room.

We turned to making long to-do lists, agonizing over all we had to do, remembering everything that we’d once tried that hadn’t worked. Hopelessness and despair descended like thick fog over our morning mountain top of clarity and excitement.

It had happened to us before – one, three, five – too many times. And this time, we were headed that same way again until someone interrupted our pattern and said, “Stop. We have to stop. We can’t do this one more time.”

For almost the past two years I have had the privilege of serving as Moderator of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ. My term ends on April 28 at our Annual Meeting. And yes, we have a great new moderator waiting in the wings – Wendy Blight! It has been a gift to team with Wendy, our Conference Minister Mike Denton, and Minister of Church Vitality Courtney Stange-Tregear, as we have helped lead our board of directors into leading into the new. After a year of coming up against some familiar barriers, something began to happen. And then, we returned to our familiar patterns.

But on that day, last month, we did something different. We stopped. We put down our to-do lists, raised our heads from our hands, unclenched our fists, and got curious about what we were doing. We talked about our fears. We acknowledged that as a board we had a lot invested in our time, energy, histories in holding this work together and keeping it going. We remembered however that our call wasn’t to keep things going as they’d always been, but to do things differently, to lead into change. We wondered if we kept falling back into our familiar pattern of stuck and despair, so that nothing needed to change.

My experience at the meeting made me wonder what patterns I might be invited to interrupt today. I mean, when we find ourselves falling back into the “same old same old”, what if we stopped and acknowledged that we were stuck again in a life-draining way. What if instead of pushing through it, we got curious about what was happening? What if we tried doing something differently?

The meeting that day, ended not with us fleeing the room exhausted and weary, as we had done so many times before — but looking around at each other with delight and giving ourselves a round of applause. Instead of a long list of things to do, and not sure who was going to do it, we came out with just a couple of items that a few folks gladly took on.

If the season of Lent might be an opportunity to practice some new ways of being, what pattern might you be invited to interrupt today?

How might you pause and reflect on the way things always are — to make room for the new that might possibly be?

What would it take for your day to end with applause?


Our Migration Stories

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

Stanely Kunitz, from his poem, “The Layers”

This Fall, we begin a year-long worship series on migration. We begin with exploring all it takes to even contemplate leaving home, and the choices we need to make, not so much about what to take – but what we need to leave behind. Sometimes our moves from home are by choice – a new job, new school, new relationship, a desire for a change – but for many people in the world the exit from home is forced upon them by others through enslavement, war and violence at home, flooding and other natural or man-made disasters, or the need to find food.

The exodus story, of the migration of the people of Israel from Egypt, is a story of such a forced migration – a people needing to leave enslavement in the hope of finding a place of safety to call home. We’ll be following their journey through the desert each Sunday this Fall, and each Sunday asking the same question – what are we called to leave behind?

We are delighted that Debra Jarvis, one of our covenant partners, and writer-in-residence, will be helping us on this journey through preaching and Sunday morning worship leadership.

Thank you, once again, to Kris Garratt for her extraordinary gifts in liturgical art that carry us through this Fall and coming seasons. You can help support our Arts Ministry through the Worship and Music Liturgical Arts Fund. Consider sending in a gift to show your support!

During the rest of the year, our journey of migration continues. Through Advent and Epiphany, we will be exploring Leaving Home; in Lent, the experience of Wilderness once we have left home, and concluding in Eastertide with Journeys Ending.

Today, the reality of forced migration is so present throughout our world. This is a time when many feel a dis-location and not-at-home-ness in a variety of ways. This is a time when it is imperative, as church, to explore all that migration can mean physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so that we can be companions of hope, compassion and justice along the way.

  • Where would you like to be headed during this coming season?
  • How would you hope to be, during this time, as you walk through your own season of migration.

We have envelopes and note cards in the church office, and we invite you to write a note to yourself about these two questions. We’ll mail your reminder to you next May as we conclude our series.

In all the journeys we will travel as people, church, nation, and world during the coming year, may we remember God’s promise of being present with us always. May you know such hope, encouragement, strength and love with you today.

Leave of Absence Announcement

~ Peter Ilgenfritz
The Personnel Board has granted me a one-month leave of absence, November 6 – December 6, so I can complete a writing project. I have been working on a book on learning how to sail, and my journey through fear into the unknown. I am so grateful for this focused time that will enable me to immerse myself in this project, and have my next draft done on the other side!

I am grateful that Debra Jarvis will continue be help carry some worship leadership responsibilities during this time.


Ministry Update: what’s up with worship?

In February our Worship and Music ministry brought worship consultant Marcia McFee to work with members of our worship and music lay ministry and staff. Peter Ilgenfritz, Heidi Blythe and Kris Garratt had all studied with Marcia previously, and her model of worship-leadership including: long range planning, worship series, and multi-sensory worship has long been part of our worship shaping. However we knew that to continue to grow and deepen in our worship life, that we needed some guidance on strengthening particular parts of our worship life and structure.

Marcia encouraged us to try some new ways to strengthen how we structure our worship ministry life. She celebrated the gifts of the many talented artists we have in the congregation, and helped us look at new meaningful, and easy ways to get the congregation involved in making our worship life truly a “work of the people.” We have jumped into beginning that restructuring, and will be evaluating how this is going in June.

Marcia encouraged us to do a walk-through of the Sunday morning worship service with our worship staff, and we have been doing that on Thursday afternoons. We are practicing better ways to lead flow between elements of worship, and keep alive a consistent worship theme. We hope to explore ways to do this walk-through with our lay liturgists before Sunday mornings as well.

Finally, Marcia also encouraged us to try on some new ways to bring alive the different theological and worship emphases of each liturgical season. You may have noted already differences between the seasons of Epiphany, Lent and Eastertide. We will hold to a consistent order of worship during each liturgical season, but between seasons you may notice some changes in order and style.

We were reminded in our work with Marcia that worship is about building up the people of God for the body to do its work in the world for encounter with the holy, living God. We know that we all come to worship with our particular likes and dislikes, and we celebrate that we have grown as a community in our appreciation that though something may not be the way we like things done, that this way may speak
deeply to someone else here. Marcia encouraged us to continue to do e-value-ation of our worship – to look for what is of value in helping us worship God that we want to do more of. We welcome your feedback along the way about what is of value to you!

Want to learn more?
Want to become engaged in the shaping of our worship life?

We have opportunities for brainstorming worship ideas, helping develop worship resources for each liturgical season and joining our Worship and Music Ministry.

Contact Yale Lewis, Worship and Music Board Chair or Peter Ilgenfritz, Leadership Staff liaison to our Worship and Music ministry.

See you in worship!