July 2018 Newsletter

This month's issue includes:
Together - Looking Back at Boise, a note from Lydia Henry
Columbia District Laity Conversations
Introducing... Our Interns!

Summer Yoga Retreat at Wallowa Lake
Reconciling Ministries Picnic in the Park
On Wonder, On Joy, a note from Sara Ross
Upcoming Events and Dates to Know

Together - Looking Back at Boise

A letter from our District Lay Leader, Lydia Henry


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon us” – Isaiah 61:1

Writing this column post-Annual Conference isn’t easy. It isn’t for lack of topics. It is finding the words to paint images for you, the reader, that convey in a small way the emotional, insightful, worship-filled hours I experienced in Boise. I have been to a several Annual Conferences and my share of church meetings, convocations, and retreats, but few have left me as breathless.
There are many things that touched my soul, but I want to share these two:

The #MeToo Wailing Wall.  I have been to Jerusalem and stood at the Wailing Wall watching people pray. One day, I stooped under the rope that separates watchers from prayers and walked across the ancient stones to the wall. I stood with the other women who were in prayer – touching the wall and gently placing my written prayer into a crack in that ancient foundation. It was a sacred time connected to the lives of so many others.

I felt that way about this Wailing Wall as I stood and read the words that brought personal pain to life – maybe for the first time. That feeling continued as many of us joined in a time of lamentation at the wall. I was asked to speaks these words which cried out for justice, “I am like Jerusalem, her walls crushed, boundaries violated, vengeful and burning. She has even seen the nations invade her sanctuary, they even entered your congregation.” Later in the afternoon, the entire Annual Conference raised our voices to share a Litany of Repentance and Healing based on Isaiah 61. It was for me a very important time to acknowledge the pain and betrayal suffered by survivors of sexual abuse and harassment.

Returning land to the Nez Perce Tribe. The Annual Conference’s moves over several years to speak more openly to the truth of the impact of white culture on Native Americans has opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know and how much I have yet to learn. It was a privilege to be in the room as Todd Bartlett, Executive Director of Camping and Retreat Ministries, announced the return of 1.5 acres of land at Wallowa Lake Camp to its rightful owners – the Nez Perce Tribe. I was pulled deeply into this historic moment of restoration. Then Duane Medicine Crow, in a very moving and spiritual time, made a personal request for forgiveness on behalf of the Crow tribe who had helped prevent the Nez Perce tribe’s successful flight to Canada in 1877.

Duane spoke of how the Crow, who historically had shared with the Nez Perce, had not been neighbors in a time of need. I will not forget the powerful sacredness and emotion in the room as forgiveness was asked.

As Duane moved from the stage to where the Nez Perce guests were seated, one could sense the deep emotions surfacing. Duane turned to each guest and asked for forgiveness. Into that silence of the first request, came a response of acceptance.  One by one – we heard the voices speaking words that could start the healing. The room was silent as we witnessed this deeply personal time that ended with the ceremonial sharing of gifts and blessing.

Elizabeth Arthur-Attao, treasurer of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, shared these words with us, “We have one spirit and I felt it when we came here. Our Lord is here and so are our ancestors. They are smiling down on us today.”

Times such as those I’ve described are holy moments. Moments where we are in a thin place – where heaven and earth come close and we sense God’s presence. I am forever thankful to have been in Boise. There are many other special moments of those days in June to remember and savor. Friends made, friendships renewed, conversations around difficult topics held with respect for each person, ice cream desserts made to look like baked potatoes, laughter and tears. All part of who we are. I thank God for all the moments which brought us together in Boise in both body and spirit.


Lydia Henry
Columbia District Lay Leader

Click here to register now!

Believing we are stronger together than apart in showing God’s love to the world,
the Columbia District Lay Development team invites you into conversation.
Join us for a significant time of learning the art of one-to-one conversation.
One-to-ones are a powerful tool that will immediately deepen your relationship
to others in your church and potentially lead out into your surrounding community.

Choose from one of these options:

July 14, 2018, Trinity United Methodist Church, 10am-12pm
3915 SE Steele Street, Portland, 97202

July 28, 2018, West Portland United Methodist Church, 10am-12pm
4729 SW Taylors Ferry Road, Portland, 97219

These gatherings are a part of our larger mission to provide leadership development and a sense of community for those who will help guide Columbia District churches forward.

We hope to see you there!

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Columbia District Interns 2018

Experience, Excitement, Enthusiasm!
written by Lydia Henry
There’s a wave of energy flowing across our District and into many congregations and neighborhoods! The interns are here! From many locations, programs, and cultures, young people are here to be in community with our congregations and the surrounding neighborhoods. Those who are fortunate to meet or work with these young people are seeing what is next in the life of our church. It is so exciting to hear about young people who have dedicated weeks, and sometimes months, to exploring what it means to live into ministry in a new way.
Let me introduce you to some of the interns working across the metropolitan area:

Jacob Yasushi Oki Ahearn – Epworth United Methodist Church

Jacob Yasushi Oki Ahearn grew up in Atlanta, GA and went to Seigakuin Atlanta International School for elementary school, where he received a bilingual Japanese and English education. He attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, where he majored in religious studies and minored in Japanese. Now that he is a second year seminary student at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, CA, he is excited to intern at Epworth UMC and to be back in the beautiful city of Portland. He will be working with Epworth and local organizations to advocate for refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants.

Rev. Anna Cho, pastor at Epworth writes, “Given the horrible separation of families and sheer chaos trauma we're inflicting on immigrants, migrants, and asylum seekers, Jacob's interest in social justice is sharpening to find ways to alleviate suffering and pain in those who need it the most. Our church is right behind him and ready to put our words of 'no human is illegal,' 'keep families together,' 'we welcome all,' and 'all means all' into action. We're connecting with a few detention centers and agencies like Morrison Child and Family Services to volunteer in the coming weeks. On a smaller scale, it's about having an open dialogue with folks, members, neighbors, and many guests who enter our church or Ikoi no Kai (senior lunch program) about what they're experiencing and how this is affecting them. In many cases, I believe they're re-traumatized as it triggers all too similar rhetoric and cruelty set forth by the government and ultimately their experience [of being] 'caged' in concentration camps. It's definitely not a time to be silent or, as many have done in the past - don't talk about it. We must and we will, and we are.”

Sarah Kudrnas – Oak Grove United Methodist Church

Sarah is part of a team of six interns from Warner Pacific University in Portland who are working with churches and missional communities in the Columbia District for the next ten months. They are a tight knit group who not only are intentional about their involvement with the community, but intentional in their work together as a cohort, committed to building community within their group as they work in Portland neighborhoods. They bring a wide variety of talent, energy, and passion to their work, and will be with us from July 2018 through May 2019.

Pastor Heather Riggs shares how Sarah will become integrated into the mission and vision of Oak Grove. “Our plan is for Sarah to spend the summer getting oriented to the church and the neighborhood and co-creating the content of her main project for the school year.  Her project will center on continuing our relationship with New Urban High School, the alternative high school for North Clackamas school district, which is right down the street from Oak Grove UMC.  We have developed a partnership with the school to provide some of the social support that many of these students don't receive for a variety of reasons.  The church has become the school's volunteer base, stepping in to chaperone the prom, support graduation, and, in cooperation with school staff, we hosted their end of the school year party this year. The School has asked us to be more present in the students’ lives this coming school year and we are thrilled to have Sarah's help in being church.”

Project Transformation’s 14 interns staying at Faith UMC

Rev. Taylor Gould’s congregation has opened its doors to 14 interns from Project Transformation for the summer. She writes, “While they may work in Vancouver, the 14 interns living at Faith UMC also work on tenets of intentional living. They have a shared morning devotional practice, a house covenant and rule of life, as well as a shared chore chart. This is all coordinated by their House Pastor, who is the same age as the interns but is responsible for all their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.”

“They will be sharing a meal with my church community every Thursday night, and the House Pastor will be working one-on-one with me to check in and explore vocational discernment. The program is not meant to give back just to one church, but to support the entire community!”

The 14 interns arrived June 14th and will be here until August 14th. They are running a program in Vancouver called Project Transformation, which is a free summer literacy program for under-served grade-school children. There are two site churches: Mill Plain UMC and Orchards UMC, and each church has over 50 children enrolled. The interns spent their first week being trained in restorative discipline, adversity trauma awareness, diversity awareness, literacy testing, leadership, CPR, and food handling. They are now leading a 7-week curriculum that includes one-on-one reading with church-based volunteers, movement minutes, young artists, afternoon adventure, and reading rockstars. Heavily based in social-emotional learning, the program has a 98% success rate of children maintaining or improving their literacy level (whereas children outside the program, on average, experience a 3-year "summer slide" over the months away on break).

Quad W Interns – Gresham United Methodist Church

Ten interns are spending eight weeks this summer aspart of the community life at Gresham United Methodist Church.*

This is the fourth year of Gresham UMC's Quad W, a paid missional program where interns live in community, share daily devotions, participate in the host church’s services, and have a spiritual direction leader. Beginning in 2014, Gresham's Quad W program was the first of its kind on the West Coast. Gresham UMC Lay Leader and Quad W Site Director LaVerne Lewis writes that hosting the intern program is “part of our mission as a teaching church.”

Quad W interns are involved in several activities, with the anchor being the summer school program that Gresham holds in partnership with West Gresham and Hollydale Elementary schools; they also support the church's Vacation Bible School.

A second intern program out of Gresham UMC is Youth Works. This program will provide 5 different teams (one a week) to help with the Gresham Summer School program. Each week, 8 high school students and 2 college students (who serve as leaders) will work with the teaching team at Gresham. The teams are on site from Monday through Thursday, with the two college leaders remaining throughout the program to provide continuity for the teams who arrive each week. The first team is scheduled to arrive on July 8th.

What better gift can we give and receive than to see God at work in new ways. Please remember the interns and the communities and congregations in your prayers.

There is a new energy in our district…can you feel it?

*Gresham UMC interns are: Kristofer LaVenske, Point Loma Nazarene University; Cendy Cruz, Portland State University; Rachel Nkonge, Martin Methodist University; Zarria Wilson, Texas Southern University; Grace Woods, University of Kansas; Yolandah Chinyani, Martin Methodist University; Luis Posadas, Arroyo Valley High School; Priscilla Arevalo, Brown University; Kynnady Mack, Alabama State University; and Monesha Franklin Alabama State University.

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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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Y O U   A R E   I N V I T E D ! 

Oregon-Idaho RUMS Picnic in the Park

Saturday, August 11th at 3 pm
Beaverton First UMC - 12555 SW 4th Street Beaverton, OR

Join us to share the heart-warming Reconciling spirit!
Please RSVP to Roxanne Ushman
by August 1, so we know how many people to expect! 

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and desserts will be provided.
Feel free to bring side dishes to share!
Questions? Contact Roxanne Ushman  503-313-0072
                       Bonnie Parr Philipson  503-547-3822

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On Wonder, On Joy

A note from Sara Ross, Columbia District Administrative Assistant

I’ve been thinking about wonder – how it happens, what it does...
Driving back to Portland on Monday from Manzanita, winding along a woodsy coastal highway, I glimpsed through the trees a spectacular view: an expanse of ocean, sunlight breaking through grey sky to bounce across the water, sharp rays of light shooting down through the clouds. These were the kind of light beams I think of as “the Glory.” The Glory from those Children's Bible type pictures of Jesus and other “heroes," where light directs our attention to something important.
Alone in the car, a sound burst out of me, something like, “Ha!” Then, “Oh, my God! Are you kidding me?”
No, God is not kidding. That much wonder really exists and when it takes us by surprise – as wonder, to do its job, must – it feels miraculous. It feels like a bright ping of joy.
This joy is a moment, a shockwave through the regular mist of mundanity, or, in this particular moment in time, through the tornado of worry about the state of our world. For a while as I drove on, I felt a little guilty. With so many troubling things going on around me, around all of us, how do I take this in too? This awe. How does it balance together?
(It’s tricky, the ingrained this vs. that mindset.)
As I thought, this morning, about writing this little piece for you, I knew I’d tell you about that moment in the drive, the laugh of joy bursting out; I knew I’d write about the power of wonder. But why would it matter? How could I even justify celebrating my one tiny moment in the midst of all the struggles, incivilities, and fear swirling through the lives of God’s people (and by that, I mean all people)?
And this scripture-song bubbled up, another relic from children’s church: “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I remember it as a silly sing-along song (and if you choose to click that link, you'll see why), but looking at the context of Nehemiah 8:10, the people to whom this line was addressed were not in a silly mood; they were weeping and mourning. Those words were a reminder: “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
That moment on the road mattered. All of our, “Oh, my God! Are you kidding me?” moments do. Because without them, we lag; without them, we get weak, we get tired of trying to stand up, trying to stay strong. The moments of experiencing God’s wonder that burst into joy – we need them because they are our strength.
Here’s to a summer of wonder, and to appreciating the moments of joy.

Your fellow wonder-watcher,

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