Becoming Christian Catalysts for Change
A letter from District Superintendent, Rev. Erin Martin

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going…”

Dear Kindred in Christ:
Greetings! It has been a while since I have been able to communicate with you through a District newsletter. The transition in the District Office is complete and Sara Ross, the new District Administrative Assistant, is wonderful. I am looking forward to a year of renewed life and ministry together in the Columbia District.  What can we look forward to this year? So much!

The Spirit is definitely moving in the Columbia District. In 2016, when we developed the District Strategic Plan, a vision for the District emerged. What if we could become Contagious Christian Catalysts for life and change? Understanding the changing landscape of American Christianity, it seemed that the call for us in the 21st century was not a call to return to what we have always known in the church, but rather a call to ignite a new Spirit-led movement that would lead us out of our buildings to a new engagement with the world. What if we could be  sparks that started chain reactions for new embodiments of Jesus’ Kin-dom of God in our communities?

Since the District Strategic Plan was first published, we have accomplished much to lead us toward igniting a movement. We have launched 4 new start/revitalization projects in diverse communities with a focus on multi-cultural Christian expression (1. The Woodlawn MIC – amplifying voices of color in the Inner NE, 2. Wilshire Native American Fellowship – appointing the first Native pastor to undergird and grow a revitalized Native Christian witness, 3. The Rockwood Center – a social business model reaching immigrant communities and non-native English speakers, 4. Sunnyside Community House – a ministry for and with the unhoused in SE Portland).  All of these projects are just beginning to precipitate even greater life and change in Jesus’ name.

At the same time, under the leadership of Lydia Henry, our Columbia District Lay Leader, we are igniting a revitalized lay movement within our churches this year.  What if the laity were empowered to lead new ministries of impact within their communities? This dream has compelled Lydia and her Laity Development Team to plan the first ever District Lay Retreat in April, followed by strategic 1:1 meetings with laity throughout the summer culminating in a Laity Summit in September.

Also, the District Missional Strategy Team has begun to dream about the possibilities of missional hubs in various areas across our city. What if we could do more together than we could apart? What if we leveraged our collective assets to stimulate larger social change? What could we do if we dreamed together? The Missional Strategy Team has started a listening season to see if the Spirit will lead us to localize an experiment this year moving us toward a potential missional hub model.

These things are only the beginning of our hope to becoming Contagious Christian Catalysts for life and change. This Spring, we will break ground on our first ever affordable housing project at Portsmouth Union (formerly University Park UMC), and there is combined effort to dream about bringing several of our church properties into a larger conversation for multiple housing projects. What if?

So, I end where I began. The Spirit is definitely moving in the Columbia District! I give God thanks and praise for our clergy and our congregations as we open our hearts to new possibilities and step forward to offer our energy and gifts to God’s greater vision of shalom for the world. Thank you for being with me on the journey. This year, let us remember, it only takes a spark…

Grace and peace,

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 Light Up the World, A Laity Retreat
An invitation from Columbia District Lay Leader, Lydia Henry

You are the light of the world! YOU are the light of the world! You are LIGHT! Light up the world!
Doesn’t that make you want to dance or sing praise songs? Light up the world rings with hope and energy! It is the call that Jesus made to us – come, you who will follow Me, and be light in the darkness. Be the shining city on the hill. Be the one who cares enough about another person to sit through a long night vigil of prayer. Be the group who feeds those living in homeless shelters. Be the church who redefines itself to serve its community. Be Light. Be Life. Be My representatives in the world. Light up the World in the ways that reflect your call to ministry.
It is because of that energy that the Columbia District Development Team has chosen “Light Up the World!” as the theme for the first ever (that we know of) Laity Retreat. A retreat that asks, “Who are we as disciples of Christ in our churches, our neighborhoods, our world?” “How do we lift up our voices and be bold as our churches change?”
Those who join us in April will have the opportunity to answer the questions for themselves and share them with others. We will dig deeper into scripture and, as a supportive community, explore, experience, and engage in conversations that have the potential to be life changing. We will begin to find our voices as lay persons in community across our district.
This retreat will also provide time for reflection and seeking insights. We will make new friends and deepen connections with others. As people from different congregations gather, we will build new relationships, find commonalities and differences that will allow us to grow. We will leave with a different sense of self and how we are called to be in mission.
You might ask, “Why would I want to come to this retreat?” My answer is: because you want to be part of a new community. A community of leaders who are committed to being missional followers of Christ in the world.
Curious? Come and connect – be a part of something new. Join us at the Canby Grove Christian Center as we study, pray, laugh, worship, and grow. 


Light up the World is reaching out to all members of our District. It is a family-friendly retreat. A separate program for children will run parallel to the adult program with times set aside for family time.

In the coming weeks, look for more information about our faculty, schedule, etc.
Online registration will open on March 1, 2018. Adult registration is $115/person (double occupancy, includes two nights lodging and 5 meals). Family rates are available and will be listed on the registration site.

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Living Into Faith, Justice, Reconciliation
Reflecting on the February 3rd event featuring Dr. Christena Cleveland.

On Saturday, February 3rd, over 200 people, clergy and lay both, from a variety of denominations, gathered at Portland First UMC for a one-day interactive event organized by the Columbia District Lay Development team. Dr. Christena Cleveland, social psychologist, minister, and author of the perspective-changing book, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart, centered the day through talks, a Q&A session, and facilitated conversations. To give a taste of the event, here are reflections from two participants, Sandy Lofy and Cynthia MacLeod.

Seeking First the Kin-dom of God: Towards Equitable Unity
A reflection by Cynthia MacLeod

“Where there is death, resurrection is just around the corner,” was one of the major themes that Christena Cleveland used to inspire, challenge and convict the 200 souls that gathered at First United Methodist Church last Saturday.  We arrived from all parts of one of the whitest cities in the U.S. to talk about race.  While many in attendance were from the faith communities in and around Portland, some of the participants were college students, social justice activists, and ordinary people searching for a path forward toward unity and inclusion in a city they love. 
Dr. Cleveland offered us the questions “What kind of person do I need to be to choose hope, to choose the Cross?”   We were asked to examine our responsibility as Christians to interrupt systemic racism and inequity.  What might it cost us and were we willing to choose the death of the status quo for a new life of inclusion and equity for all?     
Christena’s message created space for Christians to personalize the ways that we, as the church as well as individuals, use gender, race, age, and sexual orientation to marginalize and “other” our sisters and brothers in Christ.   It is in the death of our complicity in the marginalization of those that are different from ourselves, that we will be healed.   In that hope-filled space the voiceless will speak, the last shall be made first, all will experience new life, and heaven will reign on Earth.  

"The last shall be first..."
A reflection by Sandy Lofy

Until recently, (within the last few years), I hadn’t even heard of white privilege. I’m not sure why that is. I can blame it on growing up in a small and conservative town, being naïve, or just plain unaware.  I wonder though, are those valid excuses?  Claiming innocence to such a degree that I do not even recognize in myself my own whiteness, my own white privilege?

Dr. Christena Cleveland’s event was intense, powerful, passionate. It was also formidable, intimidating and disheartening. Cleveland shared so many concepts and examples of white privilege that it felt like I was exposed under a magnifying glass…quite clear and in high definition.

After listening to Cleveland, I concluded that I could be better, that I need to be better at dismantling my own privilege to make space for others to have a voice and thrive. Christena spoke a lot about what would it mean to be last. Matthew 20:16 states that, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Can I adjust my privilege enough so that I become last? Can I take a step back and listen to the people who are usually last? What would that look like? I’ll be the first to admit that I have no problem speaking up first, sharing my opinion first, and I will even go as far to say that I assume and judge first before knowing one’s story. Every individual has a story. What if I waited to speak, what if I listened to the entire story first before criticizing or condemning? What if…..? Would empowerment of others happen? Can I be last?

I have more questions than I have answers right now. I would like to think that I can be last with enough practice. Jesus was the best example of this by giving grace, giving voice to the oppressed, and listening to people’s stories. My story is that I will continue to make mistakes with my white privilege, but I will also continue to talk about privilege and make more space for others. I will do better. 

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Marriage & the Bible
working through relevant passages

A One-Day Event on April 14th at Portsmouth-Union UMC

Facilitated and taught by biblical scholar Jennifer Bird, PhD. a United Methodist and Adjunct Professor at University of Portland and PCC, this workshop is intended to offer information, not to convince of a particular perspective. The morning will focus on the Hebrew  Bible, and the afternoon will revolve around the New Testament. We’ll read and discuss passages together, then hear content drawing from  biblical scholarship to engage a more complex understanding of our sacred texts. Prepare to engage in deep, prayerful study of the Bible and fellowship with your siblings in Christ.

What: Full-day workshop, with lunch
When: Saturday, April 14 2018 8:30am~4:30pm
Where: Portsmouth Union Church
              4775 N. Lombard St.
              Portland, Oregon 97203
Registration: Email Rev. Julia Nielsen at
Suggested donation: $15/person (covers materials and lunch)

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A note of thanks...
A letter from Sara Ross, new Columbia District Administrative Assistant

Dear Columbia District,

Thank you for your gracious welcome!

My first month on the job has been brimming with activity, events, people to meet, and things to know. It was a pleasure to see so many of you face-to-face at the Faith, Justice, Reconciliation event on Saturday, February 3rd!  

Thanks also to those who have submitted church & clergy year-end paperwork! I will be plowing through that in the coming weeks and will get back to you with any questions or concerns. If you’re having trouble submitting, or have specific needs, please feel free to reach out to me.

For the five months before I landed in Portland (and this job!), I drove my little blue car around the U.S. experiencing landscapes I’d never seen and spending life-changing, quality time with family and friends. Some people might call this living the good life (and it was so good!). What I’m holding onto during this time of re-settling is that the good life lives in community and gratitude and wonder.  

I feel blessed and awed to find myself in this particular community at this particular time, trusting in our good God to lead to what's next for us together.

In Peace,

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Columbia District Office of Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
1505 SW 18th Avenue, Portland, Oregon, 97201 ~ (503) 249-1851 ~