Vineyard Community Church: Shoreline, WA

The community of storied ones in which I participate is Vineyard Community Church (VCC) in Shoreline, WA. My pastors are Rich and Rose Swetman. Here is a feel for how story has become important to the ongoing journey of this community of faith. Rich and Rose Swetman were asked to serve as co-pastors to Vineyard Community Church in late 1999. What they inherited was a Sunday gathering whose style was seeker sensitive, which met in Lynnwood, WA. This dynamic couple are true co-pastors, sharing all points of pastoral ministry including the Sunday teaching time. For them they have solved the “women in ministry” and “women can’t teach men” conundrum. In her own ministry, Rose has received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Bakke Graduate University, Seattle, WA and teaches for The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle and is the Regional Director for VineyardNW for VineyardUSA. Over the first three years of their journey they began to understand what VCC’s specific calling and purpose was. The seeker style just did not fit what they thought their community of faith should continue to participate in, where attendance at the Sunday morning gathering was the watermark of success. Their exposure to a greater range of voices in the larger body of Christ began to give them more focus beyond Sunday morning attendance as a success marker. They began to read and hear words like: missional, for the sake of the world, spiritual growth, otherliness (a word usually restricted in theological terms to God, but now being coined to mean ministry to others), spiritual disciplines and practices, and inward and outward journey. These thoughts and words were coming from many different and credible sources within the larger Christian community. They resonated with them. They began to reevaluate the church story they were living in and what it meant to be a community of faith. They asked questions like: What was the real reason that they existed? They began to use their imagination to think about what it would be like if they quit measuring their success by the three “Bs”: buildings, budgets, and butts in their Sunday morning services. Their journey led to a new way of measuring success, which seemed much more in keeping with the biblical Story they were beginning to understand. They now measure success as a community by the three “Cs”: conversations, connections, and collaborations. Modernity was being left behind in favor of a more postmodern view of their story. They began to explore as a community of faith what it meant to be missional, as the agents being sent by God to be “a living, breathing expression of Christ” in a neighborhood. At this point in their journey, they were meeting in Lynnwood, WA, but began to actively seek God for a specific place in their neighborhood where they could serve people that were economically disadvantaged. They began with a low-income apartment community that was owned by the King County (Seattle, WA) Housing Authority. They asked if they could deliver dinners to its residents. The answer was “yes,” but with one restriction. They could not tell the residents, unless asked, where the meals came from. They accepted the condition and delivered thirty-five full Thanksgiving meals to families in the apartment complex. This was the first step that began a four year relationship with that apartment community, which included Christmas parties, gifts, back to school supplies, BBQs, and housecleaning for the elderly. During this time they began to speak of themselves as an “incarnational missional community.” In April of 2004 the community of faith moved into a facility in Shoreline, WA, for the purpose of serving the city of Shoreline. They leased a facility with the primary purpose of serving the community as well as for their Sunday gathering which is no longer seeker sensitive. It then had a much more ancient-future feel with the interactivity of worship stations set up throughout the meeting room to allow congregants to take communion, pray for those that God misses, give gifts to the poor, and pause for personal reflections. During the first year after their move, they have built and are still working on building trusting relations with each other and the Shoreline community (conversations and connections), which includes families that live in Shoreline, and the many agencies (collaborations) who are also ministering to low-income families. Congregants serve as tutors at a low-income apartment site. Some are on special committees for back to school supplies for the 2000 plus children who live in Shoreline who are on assisted or free lunch programs. Recently, within the framework of the community of faith, a new ministry has been started called TurningPoint which will serve as the arm to partner with the City of Shoreline to minister to the economically disadvantaged families providing education, coaching, and care. This community has changed stories from one that preaches a modern success requirement of how big is your building, budget, and how many folks do you have in attendance on any given Sunday. They have changed to a service model: serving God, others in their community, and those in need in the community of Shoreline. This new story, a much more biblically-based model, has them on a journey to continue to discover what it means to be an incarnational missional community to serve others as they improvise by the leading of the Spirit. From the first building, the congregation has moved two times and in 2013 will move yet again with the focus of staying in Shoreline, WA. The 2013 move will be a new adventure of sharing facility with a Presbyterian congregation and working together in mission projects for the city of Shoreline, WA.