Visit with the apostles

Thanks to Karen and the apostles for their hospitality during their "Learning Party" this past weekend.

Church of the Apostles (COTA) is a small and vibrant community that reflects the young, artistic, progressive Fremont district of Seattle that it serves. It's a joint Lutheran-Episcopal church plant, smack in the middle of what pastor Karen Ward calls "ground zero of the 'none' zone" -- Seattle is one of the most unchurched cities in the US, and 95% of people in Fremont are not affiliated with a faith community. The congregation -- with a core group of de-churched young people, many former evangelicals -- reached into the community running a tea-shop/internet cafe before buying a former church/shelter that it is raising money to renovate into an arts center/abbey (they have two "brothers" living in now) and plan to put a restaurant in the basement (to be called the Refectory) to tap into Seattle's Sunday brunch culture, which is way bigger than church culture.

COTA offers an eclectic yet "traditional" worship life. The space this week focused around a prayer labyrinth on the floor, surrounded by stacking chairs and some very comfy couches. Icons adorn every windowsill, with large icons aross the front painted by their 20-something in-house iconographer. The Mass shows orthodox and catholic influences. The band's original music (sometimes accompanied by pipe organ), a reworking of Amazing Grace, electronica and recorded U2 music layered around and underneath readings and prayers in the Western rite, yielding a flow and integrity that any congregation would do well to emulate. COTA's cycle includes monthly Taize services, an elaborate Easter vigil -- complete with interactive stations and baptisms -- held at a local club or theater, and a forthcoming electronica evening prayer.

It's a laid-back and spiritual community that opens itself to the community -- they're working on equipment to allow members of the local DJ community to spin their records after the service -- and leaves space for people to flow in and out of the cycle of small group gathering, theology pubs, social events and worship. Pretty appropriate for a community whose centerpiece is a huge statue of Lenin, and lights it at Christmastime.

The learning party was an intersting mix, with several of the Northwest's key church planters sharing their takes on emergent practice and theology, and sharing of a range of models, from COTA's monastic bent to small house churches (planted by evangelical denominations). My head was full by the end of the day, and I'll be processing this download for a while. I'll be posting on these in the near future.

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