May 2018 Newsletter

This month's issue includes:

We Are God's People, a note from Erin Martin
You Gotta Start Sometime, a note from Lydia Henry
Certified Lay Minister Classes

Register Now for Annual Conference
The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race
UMCOR Updates & Needs

Summer Yoga Retreat at Wallowa Lake
Profound Significance in a Ball of Yarn, a note from your district AA
Upcoming Events and Dates to Know
Points of Interest Around the District, Conference, & Area

We Are God's People

A letter from our District Superintendent, Rev. Erin Martin

Dear Kindred in Christ,
It was a silly, but symbolic gesture. For the District Lay Retreat, “Light up the World!” I was adamant, there just had to be sparklers. So, on Saturday night after a full day of conversations and worship, we gathered outside around the campfire and lit sparklers from the embers of the fire.  The sparklers popped and glowed brightly in the night sky, but then, quickly fizzled out. The temptation was to keep lighting more (I think I lit 5!) because the glow was so delightful, but so short-lived

The District Lay Retreat was an amazing weekend. The Lay Development Team, under the exceptional leadership of our District Lay Leader, Lydia Henry hosted a gathering at Canby Grove Christian Center with 35 lay people from 15 different congregations across the District, April 27-29. The speakers and worship leaders were engaging, and the time together was meaningful. But, the question we all left with was, where do we go from here? Will the retreat be like the sparkler, bright in its glow, but short-lived?

In the Columbia District, we are trying to ignite nothing short of a movement. We have a dream for churches that are on fire in their spirituality and worship, sustained by a constant source of heat and light in ever-expanding lay leadership development. We see churches sparking creativity and capacity in each other through shared ministry and new possibilities across our connection, and the collective fire of United Methodists burning brightly in the world transforming darkness into light through deep community engagement. But, how do the sparks of a dream catch fire and take hold across a people? We remain committed to experimenting with continued opportunities to gather, deepen our life together and explore the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Future opportunities will include a fun reception at Annual Conference in Boise, June 13-16.  We will share food, fellowship and “speed conversations” across laity and clergy in the Columbia District. We will gather in larger clusters for fall Charge Conferences with a focus on power sharing based on examples in the Book of Acts. We will experiment with a Laity Summit in September 2018 and host other opportunities throughout the year for creativity, laughter and life. In the end, our prayer is that we will become contagious Christian catalysts for life and change.

In the meantime, I close with the words from a wonderful song from The Faith We Sing. It is verse 4 of a song entitled, “We are God’s People.” It goes like this: “We are a Temple, the Spirit’s dwelling place. Formed in great weakness, a cup to hold God’s grace. We die alone, for on its own each ember loses fire; Yet joined in one the flame burns on to give warmth and light and to inspire.” May we continue to walk toward greater warmth and light and sustained inspiration in the power of each other and the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace,

Rev. Erin Martin

You Gotta Start Sometime

A letter from our District Lay Leader, Lydia Henry


Who will walk with us and call others to join?  Is it you?

I have been blessed with times in my life where I felt the presence of the sacred – what I call the Spirit of God. It is beautiful and overwhelming at the same time. In the past year, I have experienced that sense of presence several times. But the ones that stand out to me right now were at Canby Grove Christian Center. The first was when some of us from the Lay Development team did a site visit and left the retreat grounds asking, “What if?”  That question was driven by the sense of holy ground and a place for deep conversations to begin. Our “what if” became the weekend retreat for lay people and plans for the further deepening of relationships between people across congregations of our district.

The second encounter with the sacred was the weekend of April 27-29. I have caught myself pausing this week and thinking, “it was only a few days ago that….” There were times in those short, busy, exciting, exhausting days where we were in a thin place.* 

I can still see the room lighted with candles shining against the night sky following our evening Taize service; I can hear the voices of the kids who came for Camp IWannaBe filled with excitement as they joined us around the campfire for s’mores and sparklers; I can feel the quiet of the rooms as people retired for the evening; and sense the sacred as the beauty of the outside came into our meeting space. Walking back into the empty room after everyone had left was emotional – so much grace and life had flowed through that space and blessed us.

In the days since then, I’ve had a chance to read through the evaluations. In response to the question, “Name one thing that you will remember about the retreat as you go home”, one attendee wrote, “God’s presence and the good people of the United Methodist Church.” Another said, “Open communication and being engaged. Creating new relationships”.
When you come to an end of an event, people often ask what’s next.  This is what we know now: Plans are underway to set the dates for the 2019 retreat. Through the summer, a team of lay persons will be meeting with others in the district for conversations about the church, neighborhoods, new life. On September 22, there will be a Laity Summit at Lake Oswego United Methodist Church.

My prayer and question is this: What do the next steps look like and who will walk with us and call others to join?  Is it you? If so, send me an email and your name will be added to my list of lay people who want to contribute to the conversation.

I would be remiss if I did not pause here and thank all those who worked, prayed, and believed that a retreat for Laity was a first conversation of many and to the presenters who brought the dream to life: Our District Superintendent, Erin Martin; the Lay Development Team:  Charlie Collier, Scott Jansen, Sandy Lofy, Kim Gorman, Ben Quintel, and Gwenda Richards; Presenters/Worship Leaders: Laura Jaquith Bartlett, Christy Dirren, Brian Shimer, Charlie Collier, and Beth Estock; Camp IWannaBe staff: Kim Gorman and Kim Sloop; Marketing/Publicity/Administrative support: Sara Ross.

In closing, let me share these words from the song, “City on Our Knees,” by Toby Mac, “If you gotta start somewhere why not here. If you gotta start sometime why not now. If we gotta start somewhere I say here. If we gotta start sometime I say now.”


Lydia Henry, Columbia District Lay Leader

*"A thin place is a term used for millennia to describe a place in time where the space between heaven and earth grows thin and the Sacred and the secular seem to meet”. Lacy Clark Ellman

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Certified Lay Minister Classes - Underway Now!

CLM classes began with a weekend intensive at Collins Retreat Center mid-March, followed by Evangelism & Mission Field Engagement in Vancouver and Boise in April. Information about the final spring 2018 sessions is below.

Leadership in the Wesleyan Way: Spiritual Formation & Disciple Making
May 19, 2018 - Boise
May 26, 2018 - Vancouver

Questions? Contact Hollie Swanson at or Rev. David Nieda at

The Annual Conference Session in Boise is coming soon. Want to breeze through check-in?

Get all the details and register before May 29th at

The late fee for registration after May 29 is $50.
To register after June 5th, the in-person fee will be $75.

Need child care? You must register by May 29th.
. hereDetails are available

Questions? Concerns? Email or call Sara at (503) 802-9227

A Study Series – The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race

All are invited to join Brett Stuvland, former student of Willie James Jennings, in an ongoing study of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, in which Jennings explores how the Christian faith was an immediate partner to contriving racial identity (and stratification) and how it theologized justifications for this classification of humanity; how far back this theological framework goes and how it has threaded its way forward to our day.

The study Brett has organized addresses the European origins of racial existence, its American manifestation, and the reality as expressed in Oregon. He will present a few of Jennings's own alternative, and specifically Christian, responses to the modern racial vision that seeks to tell the story of Gentile inclusion into Israel via Jesus -- countering the long-held idea that God’s Chosen People became those who were white (and primarily of European origin).

This study is meant to augment and amplify the February 3rd event featuring Dr. Christena Cleveland (of whom Brett was also a student), and help us reflect further on her remarks and her book, Disunity in Christ.

This 8-week study series will meet on Thursdays at 7pm, April 19 through June 7,*
at Fremont United Methodist Church at 2620 NE Fremont Street in Portland.

Questions? Email

To register your plan to attend the series, please email

All are welcome and participants are not required to read the book.

*NOTE: There will be no meeting on May 17th.

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UMCOR Updates & Needs

UMCOR has received a 4-star rating on - the highest rating there is!

Thanks to the collection point churches who have agreed to store kits until they can be transported twice a year to West Depot in Salt Lake City! April pick-up dates are behind us, but there will be a pick up of kits and kit supplies at Annual Conference, June 13-16 in Boise! Items we need are listed on the UMCOR website under Relief Supply Kits. On the same page, you'll find videos detailing how to build school kits and cleaning kits.
Note: If you're bringing the kits to Annual Conference, please disregard any shipping or monetary instructions.

Questions about kits and drop-offs? Contact Donna Waltman at

Looking for general information about UMCOR needs, money, transportation, housing in SLC, etc.? Check out the new Mission Opportunities page on the Conference website!

Summer volunteers -- UMCOR needs you!

West Depot is looking for individuals and teams to help out this summer -- for just a few days or longer. Besides quality control and packing kits, you can experience mission projects in the area such as Crossroads Urban Center,  an ADVANCE from our General Board of Global Ministries.

Contact Rev. Brian Diggs, director, at for details.

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Summer Yoga Retreat at Wallowa Lake

A message from retreat leader, Rev. Beth Ann Estock:

As we witness the speed and magnitude of change with our technology, environment, work, culture and institutions it becomes increasingly important as leaders to find our quiet center and live out of our deep purpose. But for many of us we don’t know how to find that place of depth, let alone live out of it.  No matter how hard we try to power through the frenetic pace and chaos that we find ourselves in we are left feeling tired and defeated.
As I reflect upon my 23 years of yoga practice I have come to realize how it has shaped and formed me as a creative and resilient leader. The practice has helped me to connect with the wisdom of my body and befriend my soul. It has helped me to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit and given me eyes to see Goodness, Truth and Beauty unfolding all around me. Yoga has given me metaphors and practices to help me face uncertainty, pain and anxiety that would have normally devastated me.
This summer – July 24 to 28 - I am offering a retreat for leaders who are longing to take a step away from the chaos and discover their quiet center as a guide for their lives.  Each day of the retreat we will focus around themes such as relaxation, resilience, alignment, and discernment. We will use body movement, meditation, breath work, journaling and the beauty of the Wallowa Mountains to help us discover our deep joy and wisdom.
This camp is open to folks who are curious about yoga as well as those who have a regular practice. The practices will be gentle for beginners and deepening for yoginis! If you are longing for renewal this retreat is for you.

For more information, please visit

Rev. Beth Ann Estock is an ordained elder in the United Methodist church, a Prakriti yoga instructor and a certified integral coach.

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Profound Significance in a Ball of Yarn

A note from Sara Ross, Columbia District Administrative Assistant

“One consequence of religious belief is a habit of assuming that life has a profound significance, in its broadest outlines and in its finest details.” Marilynne Robinson (Reform Magazine, September 2010)

It was Mother’s Day 2015 and I hadn’t been to church in a while. A long while.

I knew I wouldn’t return to the particular style of belief I’d grown up with and, since I am an avid devotee of the fiction of Marilynne Robinson, a Congregationalist, my brother suggested I visit a Congregationalist church. I was nervous. Feeling alone, I entered a strange new place. I didn’t know a single one of these smiling, comfortable people. It hadn’t occurred to me on a conscious level that – walking into church for the first time in, well, let’s stick with a long while – I had chosen to go on Mother’s Day.

This was complicated. I was in my late thirties; my mother had passed away six years earlier and it had been nearly a year since I’d lost the capacity to become a (biological) mother myself. There I was in a lovely stone church, metaphorically fathoms away from the church I’d known as a child, on Mother’s Day, without a mother and coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be one.

What’s that old saying? Oh yeah… The Lord is good and his mercy endures forever.*

This was not the kind of church that slips past sensitive holidays like this one, but the kind of church that celebrates them. As talk of Mother’s Day bloomed in the worship service, I felt a sadness seep through me, a weight. Beautiful little-ones were called to the front; they were dressed for spring – sweet pastels and bright whites – and carried baskets decorated with ribbon. They had a gift, the speaker said, for every mother in the room. The weight grew until, “Every woman in this room is a mother. Women, please stand and receive a gift.” The congregants paused. “Yes,” the speaker confirmed, “I mean it. Every one of you.”

I’m not gonna lie, there were tears in my eyes as I stood, awkward and uncertain and aching with wonder. A little girl came timidly toward me, this woman she didn’t know, and handed me a small ball of yarn, the rich pink of a faded rose. It wasn’t much, a small bit of string, but it was enough to remind me that I was seen, that the fabric of myself is knitted up with Something Greater. There was a profound significance in the ball of yarn that little girl handed me.

I didn't make it back to that church, but the experiences of the morning drew me into connection with an openness of Spirit I wasn't sure I could find. That ball of yarn was nothing less than a lifeline.

Prayers for peace and gratitude and connection as we move through this amazing month of celebrating spring and new growth and all the boundary-breaking mother-power that surrounds us.

In peace,

*(I Chronicles 16:34)


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