This spring, I was invited to be the Associate Professor of Theology & Culture here at The Seattle School. I am excited and humbled to be called faculty.
This new position comes after years of transition and disorientation. Five years ago, I left the place I loved: New Horizons Ministries. I had served marginalized young people for 27 years there. In that time, I completed my B.A., M.S., and D.Min. degrees, met and married my co-worker, and raised two sons—I literally grew up there. The kids I served had been my teachers and the place had been my seminary. Serving and loving those young people and working with a group of people united to care for kids some labeled delinquent or incorrigible was an amazing journey. I had learned what it means to have a job you are so passionate about that you never really feel like you have to work.
Then so quickly—27 years quick—it was time to step out into what felt like nothing. My wife, Linda, was launching Street Bean Espresso and we both decided me working contractually and completing my first book might be the best way to support her new adventure employing these young people and creating a beautiful café.
We were both leaving all we knew for what we could not see. It was a crazy and terrifying time. We had left what was familiar and home for what felt often like wilderness.
Soon, I was given the opportunity to build on what I loved: doing theological training and spiritual formation with grass roots leaders who feel called to love their communities. I was ordained as clergy with the Center for Transforming Mission, now the Street Psalms community, a group filled with men and women who, like me, saw those that they served as their teachers and their community as their seminary. Through Street Psalms I was able to serve in some amazing places: teaching in Guatemala; Kenya; and a little closer to home in places like Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska; Cincinnati; Portland; and in Seattle.
As amazing as these opportunities were, there was still a lack of stability and centering that New Horizons had given me. During this long period, some days felt like we were sustained with daily bread; other days felt like we were treading water.
During this time, Linda, myself, Tali Harriston, and Lina Thompson created a theological round table for young leaders who desired to talk about justice, beauty, and community. These weekly conversation became a beautiful place where Linda and I found great friendships with young leaders and began to understand the deep connection between spiritual formation and hospitality.
This Tuesday night group became the centerpiece of our community and our call. The group lasted 28 months. Linda and I continue to hang out with the amazing people that came to our home during this time. They are an incredible sampling of the pain, frustration, brilliance, and courage of young people trying to live and love in the Rainier Valley, the 98118 as the kids in my neighborhood loving call it.
I have always loved cities— especially the 98118 where Linda, our sons, and myself have lived for 25 years. I love cities because of all they teach me and reveal to me in their complexity. I see the transcendence of God in the lives of those who we call neighbors and friends. I have found that spiritual formation seems to have a lot to do with walking out into what we cannot see.
As I step into my role as Associate Professor of Theology & Culture, I bring all these experiences and loves with me. They are what have prepared me for my new role as faculty here more than anything. My hope is that I can now give away all that we have been given and to bear witness to the truth I have found in my experiences. My hope is that I can help students walk out into unfamiliar disorienting places and have them remain hospitable, open, and willing to see those they encounter there as their greatest teachers.