EVERETT — Rebecca and Luke Sumner, married co-pastors at a fledgling Christian church in North Everett, try to look at everyone as their neighbor.
It’s the foundation of their ministry, Our Common Table. They call it a “community of welcome and justice.”
The two moved from Portland to Everett in January 2015. For Rebecca Sumner, the move brought her home. She grew up in the Silver Lake area. Luke Sumner is from Eugene, Oregon.
“We spent a while just listening to Everett and asking what would be good news to Everett,” Rebecca Sumner said.
They heard there was a need for safe places for people who are homeless, so they started Our Common Ground, a hospitality space inside Everett United Church of Christ where, during winter and spring afternoons, people could find snacks, water, coffee and a place to rest.
Our Common Ground and Our Common Table started in November. Our Common Table meets for church services on Sunday evenings at the United Church of Christ, 2624 Rockefeller Ave.
The Sumners also heard there was a need for a place where progressive Christians could talk, so they started Theology Pub, a group that meets every first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at The New Mexicans restaurant. Past topics have included shopping, vacation, sexuality and Christian teachings. Anyone is welcome.
Our Common Table meets every Sunday. The gathering isn’t a traditional sermon. There’s a potluck at 5 p.m.and an hour-long service at 6 p.m. Most of the service is a question-and-answer time where people discuss faith. Kids can run around at the back of the church, and there are art supplies if someone wants to draw.
Every week this summer, the group plans a blessing for different aspects of life in Everett. A few weeks ago they had a blessing of the sidewalks where churchgoers wrote messages of love and hope in chalk on local sidewalks. Last week they had a blessing of electronics. They prayed over an iPad that a child with autism used to learn to speak, and did the same for an electric wheelchair used by a man who no longer is able to walk.
A blessing doesn’t suddenly make something better than it was, Rebecca Sumner said. Instead, the blessings draw people’s attention to how any place or object can be holy and a gift from God, she said. A sidewalk is a holy place if that is where people show kindness to their neighbors. A computer tablet is a holy thing if a child uses it to communicate for the first time.
“We think that there is goodness and love available to us wherever we go,” Rebecca Sumner said.
They usually have about 10 people at services. It’s rarely the same group twice.
Moving forward, the Sumners hope to add a group for parents who are struggling with how to introduce their children to church, maybe because they had a negative experience as a kid. They’d like to start a women’s group focused on dynamic women in history.
The couple also plans to have Bible studies every Monday in August at 7:30 a.m. at CafeWorks, 3331 Broadway. The focus is on faith and the LGBT community.
“It’s something I’ve been passionate about for a long time,” Rebecca Sumner said. “But after Orlando and seeing how some Christians responded hurtfully, I think we really need to talk about how we can welcome our neighbors.”
Welcoming people into the church requires more than letting them step through the door, Luke Sumner said. It means being open to questions, opinions, experiences and talents. Everyone has something to contribute, he said.
Eventually, they want a storefront that could be used as a community space for musicians, artists, support groups and other activities throughout the week.
That’s a ways down the road, Luke Sumner said. In the meantime, they’re looking for more ideas.
“We’re still very much listening,” he said. “We’re still experimenting. We’re still exploring.”
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Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.