Today we are continuing the Listening in Place Project with Cassie Carroll (Master of Divinity, ‘16), which we feature monthly here on the Intersections blog. After graduating from The Seattle School, Cassie launched Listening in Place, a venture in which she is collecting stories from church planters, practitioners, pastors, social entrepreneurs, and theologians throughout the United States who are practicing new, innovative, and compelling visions of what it means to be the church.
In this episode, Cassie talks with Jeff Richards, who pastors a church called the WordHouse in Sacramento, California, which gathers in homes, coffee shops, and pubs as a reflection of the desire to be intimately connected to the surrounding community. And rather than a private office, Jeff also works out of a Sacramento co-working space (where he and Cassie recorded this conversation, which you can listen to below).
Cassie: “What you guys are doing is fun—and really, not just fun, but important.”
Jeff: “There’s hope that I can be about what the Kingdom is doing, here in a place where people who aren’t Christians but have this spiritual sense that what we can do together is greater than we are and maybe even points to something that is more true.”
Jeff shares his story of seeing the disconnect between the vision of community God was growing in him and the practice of church that was largely based on Sunday mornings. Now, he and the WordHouse community work to partner with people who are part of other churches and denominations, as well as people who have distanced themselves from any kind of church or ministry. Jeff talks about his desire to connect with and work with anyone who cares about the growth and renewal of their neighborhood, regardless of denominational or cultural boundaries that might separate them.
Jeff: “That ties into God’s kingdom, where we’re all one, where there’s no Jew or Gentile, there’s no male or female—”
Cassie: “Presbyterian or Baptist.”
Jeff: “Right! Those things maybe say something good, but those don’t have to be barriers. They can actually help color our world in a way that’s beautiful.”
Cassie and Jeff also talk about the desire to participate in what God is already doing in their neighborhoods, rather than feeling like they have to reinvent the wheel or accomplish something grand based on their own strength or merit—especially now that the social position of the church is not as prominent as it once was.
Jeff: “The church in that sense has lost its sway and hold on society. That can be a scary thing, but that was not a healthy way of being. It’s actually kind of grotesque. As we learn to let go and have our hands open, and to learn from people and see what God is already doing, and to allow the Spirit to place things in our hands, we actually find ourselves in a more holy place than we could have ever imagined. And it’s beautiful. It’s like heaven on earth.”
You can learn more about the vision behind the Listening in Place Project here, read more from Cassie’s time with Richard, including the top three things Cassie learned that day, over on the Listening in Place blog. And for more from Cassie, check out the presentation of her Integrative Project, “The Pastoral Both/And: A Complicated Story.”