Leadership in the New Parish is designed to embolden pastors, lay leaders, churchgoers, theologians, entrepreneurs, community developers, and place-makers with a heart for reimagining church and transforming neighborhoods.

Leadership in the New Parish is a collaborative, imaginative, transformative program co-created by The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology and the Parish Collective. Curated by Dr. Dwight Friesen, Paul Sparks, and Tim Soerens, Leadership in the New Parish is a practitioner think-tank that equips leaders to boldly follow God into their neighborhoods and listen well to God’s desire for shalom by engaging the intersection of God’s story, their personal stories, and the stories of their unique neighborhood contexts.

Developing Faithful Presence

At the core of the New Parish paradigm is the belief that change and shalom happens through faithful presence. Leadership in the New Parish’s innovative, think-tank model fosters collaborative dialogue, entrepreneurial imagination, and narrative awareness that creates space for deep formation for you as a person and as a practitioner of place. Each immerse weekend experience is oriented around these liturgical values and rhythms:  

As leaders and practitioners, it’s rare to find space to truly reflect on who we are and the ways in which our unique stories shape our presence, relationships, and practices. During each weekend intensive participants are invited to engage a particular story in a small group contexts. These intimate, leadership clusters allow participants to deepen vulnerability and discover the ways  your story matters to your community and how it can become a tool for understanding styles of relating and navigating leadership blocks.  

Practice in Place
During this program, your parish is your primary locus for organic experimentation and theological reflection, supported by generative readings and ongoing discussions with your cohort. The curriculum is designed to invite you to rediscover the beauty and potential of your particular place. Each cohort experience is intentionally curated to be relational, collaborative, creative — reshaping your life and your neighborhood practices through real-time reflection. Participants will develop local practices as they reflect on their neighborhood with prayerful curiosity for their place, its people, and God’s desire for shalom.

Community of Practice
Leadership in the New Parish is a cohort of on the ground practitioners led by practitioner-faculty. Our collaborative, think-tank model and small group leadership clusters provides space to dream about incarnational work rooted in particular people in a particular place alongside a particular God. Our co-learning model is rooted in the belief that traditional, hierarchical education is not helpful for the new parish model. Instead, we believe that the imaginative ideas of scholars and the grounded discoveries of practitioners can enrich one another as they participate in God’s kingdom breaking forth in our neighborhoods.

Immersive Neighborhood Experiences
A hallmark of practicing faithful presence in place in the New Parish paradigm is walking. During the Leadership in the New Parish certificate program you will have the privilege of walking and listening to a number of diverse parish expressions in the Pacific Northwest region. These neighborhoods range from urban to suburban to rural and represent a diverse demographic and socio-economic realities. Deep learning and generative dialogue emerges place through these hands-on, fun field visits in communities with like-minded pioneers imagining the way of Jesus in their unique contexts.

The Leadership in the New Parish is a hybrid program designed for an intimate cohort of practitioners converging over four intensive Wednesday-Saturday sessions in Seattle, WA.

2016-17 Cohort Dates
October 12-15, 2016
January 11-14, 2017
April 26-29, 2017
June 14-17, 2017

2017-18 Cohort Dates
October 18-21, 2017
January 17-20, 2018
April 25-28, 2018
June 13-16, 2018

Leadership in the New Parish is an invitation to audacity — to believe that the Gospel is transformative today and that God’s Spirit is at work in the particularity and uniqueness of ourselves and our neighborhoods.

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Costs & Financial Support

The leadership of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology continues to affirm our commitment to theological education and formation. We believe this is a critical time into invest in leaders who practicing presence and stewarding shalom at the neighborhood level.

Leadership in the New Parish is intentional, experiential, and intensive. The actual cost per student is $3,650. Participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging in Seattle, WA. Payment plans are available and allow participants to divide the total cost of attendance into 2 or 4 installments.

We believe the impact of this program on participants and the communities they serve is well worth the investment, but also we understand that for those without denominational support or continuing education funding, the cost may be a barrier. Scholarship and grant funding is available for candidates who have financial or other barriers impacting their accessibility to this training. To inquire about this funding, please email admissions@theseattleschool.edu.

Application Process

The Leadership in the New Parish admissions process is intentionally designed to offer you a taste of the experiential and relational nature of this program, while providing us with an opportunity to get to know more of you and your neighborhood context. To facilitate the uniquely experiential and formative ethos of this program, the Leadership in the New Parish certificate is designed for an intimate cohort of practitioners, thus seats are limited.

The Seattle School is receiving applications for our 2016 cohort beginning in October. If you’re considering joining us this fall, now is the time to apply! If you’d like to connect about Leadership in the New Parish or if you have questions, we’d love to speak with you. Send an email to admissions@theseattleschool.edu and we will follow up with you personally.

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Meet the Leadership Team


Core Faculty

dwight friesen

Dr. Dwight Friesen
Dwight brings more than a dozen years of missional pastoral experience to The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology where he teaches missional, contextual, and pastoral theology. He was the community-curate of an Eastside emerging simple church for more than eleven years; he was ordained by the Christian & Missionary Alliance until surrendering those credentials in solidarity with women seeking ordination. He is a liturgical Anabaptist with progressively Evangelical and emergent sensibilities actively seeking to root his faith practice within place while linking globally with others who are seeking to live into their contexts. Dwight lives on the eastside of Seattle with his wife, Lynette, and their son, Pascal.

PaulSparks-2Paul Sparks
Paul Sparks is one of the leading voices in the growing parish movement. As co-founder of the Parish Collective (a global network for connecting local church expressions) he has done parish tours and trainings in over 700 neighborhoods around the world. Paul is a leadership instructor at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and is the co-author of the award-winning book The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship, and Community. Paul has 25 years experience as an ordained pastor and 15 years as a community organizer. He and his co-conspiring partner Elizabeth Sparks live in a Catholic Worker Community in downtown, Tacoma, WA.

tim soerensTim Soerens
Tim Soerens is an author, speaker, social entrepreneur, and co-founding director of the Parish Collective. As co-director of the Parish Collective he convenes ministry leaders, teaches, and consults with organizations seeking human flourishing in particular neighborhoods while also working collaboratively across the city. He is the co-author of The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship, and Community. Tim is the co-founding producer of the annual Inhabit Conference and New Parish Conference UK, curator for place-based innovation for Social Capital Markets, co-founder of Neighborhood Economics, and founding adviser of Impact Hub Seattle. He lives in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle with his wife Maria-Jose and their son Lukas.


Parish Leadership Facilitators


jessica ketolaJessica Ketola
Jessica Ketola is a Parish Leadership Facilitator and has served on the Advisory Board for the Inhabit Conference. She is the Lead Pastor for Vineyard Community Church and has also served as the Executive Director of Turning Point, a non-profit founded by the church for at-risk youth and underserved families. She has completed both the Leadership in the New Parish Certificate and the Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual direction.
Jessica is an artist, songwriter, and worship leader. Jessica lives in Shoreline working for the good of her neighborhood with her husband, David and their four children.

elizabeth sparksElizabeth Sparks
Elizabeth Sparks has served the Parish Collective in many roles throughout the years both as a board member and board secretary. She has held leadership and speaking roles at the Inhabit Conference and is a Leadership in the New Parish Fellow, a Jane’s Fellowship grassroots leader graduate, and was the Lead Curator for Zoe Livable Church in downtown Tacoma, WA. Currently, Elizabeth serves as a core member of the Tacoma Catholic Worker, an intentional Christian community that works on behalf of social justice, fostering livable communities, and friendship at the margins.


Parish On-Site Field Instructors and Guest Facilitators


Karen M. Ward
karen wardKaren M. Ward is the Vicar of St Andrew and All Souls Episcopal Church, Portland, Oregon, a ‘new parish’ mission of the Diocese of Oregon (online at portlandabbey.org). Karen also directs Portland Abbey Arts (abbeyarts.org). Previously, Karen founded and served as Vicar Church of the Apostles, Seattle, WA (2002-2011). Karen speaks and consults on emerging missiology, liturgy, leadership, evangelism, ‘new parish’ and ‘neo-monastic’ approaches to church in emerging and post-Christian culture. When not pastoring St Andrew and All Souls and directing Abbey Arts, Karen likes brewing kombucha, drinking craft beer and pour over coffee, listening to electronic music, Apple computer geeking, travel and spending time with family and friends.

Nora Staffan Leider
nora leiderNora Staffan Leider is a long time resident at the Tacoma Catholic Worker (a movement of hospitality houses initiated by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the 1930s). She has co-created many initiatives within the neighborhood including
helping guests transitioning from homelessness to develop strategies toward greater relational and financial independence, advocating for fair, affordable housing and mixed income communities in downtown Tacoma, and managing the community’s organic garden. She has been a welcomed speaker and storyteller at the Inhabit Conference.

Sean Hall
sean hallSean Hall is a social entrepreneur, church planter, and life coach within the growing parish movement. He is a Leadership in the New Parish Fellow and regular Inhabit Conference speaker. Sean is a certified trainer and longtime visionary with the Parish Collective and has does extensive touring and teaching around New Parish themes. As an accomplished singer and musician he has travelled internationally with the band February Birds, and has taught many seminars and workshops on developing new imagination for worship and artistic practice within the church. He is the co-founder of Two Roofs, an innovative social startup and the pastor of Fountain Parish in Bellingham, Washington.

Maria-Jose (Coté) Soerens
maria joseMaria-Jose (Coté) Soerens has held key roles with the Parish Collective since its inception; serving on the board for several years and speaking and advising on multiple occasions.
Coté is the founding executive director of Puentes, an immigrant-led organization mobilizing mental health resources for immigration justice. A new immigrant herself, Maria-Jose was born in Chile and has made Seattle her home, where she lives with her husband Tim and their son. Maria-Jose is an avid student of undocumented women’s narratives of suffering, writing academically on cultural psychology and migration studies. She speaks and writes often on immigration and mental health, and the role of the body of Christ in fostering social transformation.

Charis Weathers
charis weathersCharis Weathers is a courageous explorer, imagining new ways of being and doing church. She is believed to be the first female solo church-planter in Whatcom County, having started the vibrant community of Echoes. Charis is a Leadership in the New Parish Fellow and has led cohorts on guided liturgical walks in Bellingham. Her adventurous spirit often compels Charis to get outdoors. She’s done self-guided adventure travel on five continents, and in many, many fascinating, beautiful places in the North American West. Having survived challenging circumstances as an adolescent, having faced a wide variety of fears in her lifetime, and having journeyed with many people through complex emotions and life experiences, Charis is eager to help others process through their own understanding of fear.


Online Moderators and Guides


Chris Elisara
chris elisaraChris Elisara, Ph.D., is the visionary educator and founder of the
Creation Care Study Program (CCSP), Center for Environmental Leadership, and the award-winning production company First+Main Media. He also leads the World Evangelical Alliance’s recently formed Creation Care Task Force. A native New Zealander, Dr. Elisara earned a B.A. from the University of Auckland, an M.B.A. from Eastern University, and a Ph.D. in cross-cultural education from Biola University, CA. Closer to home Dr. Elisara is a board member of the Volcan Mountain Foundation, a conservation organization which has preserved over 17,000 acres of critical habitat in San Diego County.  

Jodi Theut
jodi theutJodi Theut is a Leadership in the New Parish Fellow and a member of the Parish Collective Organizing Team. She is a connecter, problem solver, thinker, feeler, and friend. With over 12 years of public policy experience in the non-profit and private sectors, she has helped shaped issues in both local and international arenas. She has 5 years cultivating cross-cultural community through serving, worship, and friendship expressions in Brussels, Belgium. Jodi holds a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies (Beloit College) and an MA in Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning (Tufts University).

Ivan Gonzalez
ivan gonzalesIvan Gonzalez is a serial social entrepreneur
working with startups and mid-size enterprises to develop new economy businesses. He has been inspiring and equipping leaders for over 25 years. He serves as an Advisory Partner for the Parish Collective and has been a frequent speaker at the Inhabit Conference and Neighborhood Economics. Ivan is committed to fleshing out what the kingdom economy looks like at the intersection of the marketplace and ministry and how to attract and keep business, government and ministry leaders excited and engaged in that discovery. He has been involved in leadership with Criterion Institute, CCDA, Willow Creek, World Vision, World Relief, Chicago-based nonprofits & social enterprises. Ivan is part of a multicultural neighborhood church expression in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

John Pattison
john pattisonJohn Pattison is a prolific author, editor, and placemaker. He is a Leadership in the New Parish Fellow and an Advisory Partner for the Parish Collective. John has served as an ABCD trainer for the Inhabit Conference and has toured North America speaking on themes related to the Leadership in the New Parish. He is the co-author of the award-winning book “Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus” and he is the founder of The Resourceful Community which connects community leaders to the resources of community flourishing.