We are excited about our new, local storytelling strategy - Spirit Stories.
Periodically we will share stories of how and where the Holy Spirit is moving and dancing in our synod. Hopefully these stories will inspire you in your setting - to wonder, to imagine, to experiment ... AND we would like to hear YOUR stories of what God is up to in your neck of the woods. We will be sharing these via email, social media, and post them on our synod website at www.lutheransnw.org/spirit-stories .
Beyond the Garden Gate at
Advent Lutheran Church
Deb Squires, Pastoral Intern at Our Savior's - Everett

The sign at the gate to the church’s community garden says, “Keep Rabbits Out.” Everyone else, however, is at welcome at Advent Lutheran Church and the garden is just one of many pathways beckoning people in.

The congregation partners extensively with the surrounding community of Mill Creek, Wash., and the doors swing both ways. About 175 children fill the sanctuary—they have to cap enrollment—each summer for Vacation Bible School. Most are neighborhood kids from outside the congregation. Prince of Peace Preschool is located on site. The usual host of scouting, AA and other groups find a warm welcome and room to meet. Advent also provides space to the community to store band musical instruments, a clothes closet, and meal preparation. A mobile food bank finds space in the parking lot. Little red wagons purchased by the Adventure Grannies roll out from the church down the street, to be filled with lunch bags for nearby Penny Creek Elementary School. The Garden of Giving harvests about 3,000 lbs. of food to give away, minus what a sneaky rabbit or two can snitch.

With a small but mighty staff, volunteer lay leaders such as master gardener Sandy Barrett are critical and empowering everyone to lead and to welcome is key to the church’s partnerships and programs. “‘Yes’ is the default,” says Pastor Scott Postlewait, who is passionate about Advent serving as a hub for people of all walks of faith—or none. Still, for all the emphasis on learning about and reaching out to the church’s neighbors, Postlewait is even more adamant that the congregation’s life is grounded and centered in worship.

“Everything is based in worship,” he says. “You can’t do it without the Holy Spirit, otherwise you’re just a community service club. Nobody needs another social group. They want to live out their faith.”

Between 150-170 people worship each Sunday in the sanctuary at 132 nd  St. SE in Mill Creek, and the congregation is continuing to grow after nearly dying some years ago, a story familiar to many Lutheran churches. “It was down to about six people and cat,” says Pastor Scott, who has served there since 2013. Advent’s current address is about a mile farther east of where it was founded in the 1980's. It got a fresh start under pastor Kevin Bates. Now, about 25 new members join each fall, with everyone from preschoolers to Adventure Grannies finding a place to plug in.

Things are not perfect—when are they ever? Like most congregations, Advent could use more money, extra hands and upgrades to its facilities. Things go wrong. When the community garden was vandalized, the congregation posted signs telling the community that the garden provides food for the hungry and asked for help. It worked. The vandalism stopped and several community members became volunteer gardeners. It’s not magic, Pastor Scott says, or even anything new insofar as ways of building church and community. It’s just reinforcing the congregation’s strong sense that the Spirit is moving, working when human efforts aren’t enough, reminding us all that this is God’s church, God’s work, God’s world.

Such faith-centered worship and authentic service is seen and felt by others. It’s contagious in the best meaning of the word. Even the very young can catch it and sense its life-transforming value. As one elementary school child wrote in her thank you note to the wagon-wielding seniors, “When I’m old, I want to be an Adventure Granny, too.”