Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memories of Grace Seattle

From the age of ~8 until the age of ~31, I generally went to Sunday Morning Church® gatherings every single week, at least 45 weeks per year. The very last church I was ever involved with in this manner was Grace Seattle. Grace was the place where I nearly finished my journey out of Christianity and into Pastafarianism. I was thinking of Grace today. Here's a couple memories I have:

There was a truly charismatic and delightful fellow by the name of Dave Sellers who was interim pastor at Grace when we started attending there. They had lost their founding pastor due to some scandal about which no one would talk. Dave had been the associate pastor at the time of the scandal, and had stepped in as interim pastor while the pastoral search committee looked for someone new. He had also applied for the position, but the committee didn't choose to hire him. His response to my and Megs' perhaps-not-always-so-gentle negativity towards what we saw as bullshit was delightfully non-defensive and open and inviting. He told us that he was really glad we were at Grace because he felt the church had a lot to learn from us. I'm glad for his sake that the church decided not to hire him as permanent senior pastor.

My memory of the pastor they did end up hiring, John Haralson, revolves around two episodes. The first was one Sunday morning in the foyer of the church. John was clearly angry at me because I would write perhaps-not-always-completely-gentle-and-politically-correct notes on the response cards which everyone was invited to fill out. One Sunday morning I guess he'd had enough, because he came into the foyer, noticed my response card in the basket of response cards, picked it up, walked swiftly over to me, standing very much inside my personal bubble (perhaps within 6 inches), and in a perhaps-not-entirely-soft-and-gentle-voice demanded to know why I continued to write such things despite previous warnings. It's kind of funny, looking back, 'cause I was SO frightened of him, and he was clearly at least somewhat frightened of me. Sigh. Frightened leaders and frightened parishioners do not the most brilliant combination make.

My other memory of him is a conversation I had with him when I had decided to no longer be involved with the church. He was, again, quite frightened for my future prospects--not so much about leaving Grace, but more about the fact that I was deciding not to be involved in church at all anymore. He was fearful for the temporal and eternal consequences of that decision and the accompanying deconversion with which he rightly understood it to correlate. He tried to warn me off. I guess he was doing his duty as watcher on the walls, so he didn't end up with blood on his hands (there's a little Biblical language for you, with apologies to the uninitiated).

One other memory sticks out for me. When we were looking to get involved with a small group at Grace, early on, we had rather a lot of trouble. The first group we investigated said their group was closed for a while because some members were having some sort of intense difficulty. The second group we investigated shared with us that the group didn't have any other small children, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable with Megan breastfeeding our infant daughter in the group, although they'd be glad to set up a separate room in the house where she could take her daughter to breastfed her in private. Sigh. So very American, that. All hail our Puritan fathers.


  1. I think all together there were 4 or 5 small groups turned us away. Grace Seattle was a funny experience - some of my dearest friends I met there, or met through people I met there - Katie, Arenda, Nathalie (through Yoon), Renee, Dani, Karen & Jennifer (through Linn and Nicole, and yet after Dave and Carrie left, there was an awful lot of nasty, unbridled judging going on. My story group leader, Lisa Fann, had left, and encouraged me (in a cell conversation in which I was wandering about in Central Park, NY,) to stay there and gently woo the church into God's kindness, if I felt up to it. (I didn't) I love you dear Bens, and honour your eloquence in sharing these stories.

  2. You make that experience sound like a tiny miracle that was invisible and uncomprehendable; ie primarily for the amusement of the meatballs, to translate it into the pastifarian conceptualization, as I understand it.

  3. I re-read all of this, and it still sounds so life-like. I think the idea of writing comments on the comments card is unexpected and magical. I suppose you don't have videotapes of everything?

  4. Martin,

    sorry I haven't noticed your comments 'til now. This poor blog gets left out of my loop, a bit.

    I love the way you describe your impression of my impression of it as like a tiny miracle, invisible and uncomprehensible, and primarily for God's personal amusement. I suppose there are rather a lot of such miracles happening all around us constantly, and perhaps if we looked we'd see more of them.

    Alas, no videotapes. my blog post above is the only record, I suppose =). Yes, it is kind of delicious, writing comments on the comment cards. I do get SO bored during sermons, when I'm exposed to them, usually, that writing such comments is a delicious relief.