It has been nearly a year since my appointment to serve Sunnyside Church and University Park Church was made. This week I updated the congregations on our progress. You can support the work of progressive Christianity in Portland with a gift to support our ministries.
Dear Members and Friends of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church,
We’re just a month shy of the one-year anniversary of the appointment that brought a United Church of Christ minister to serve Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church.
At the Annual Conference of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church – held this June in Boise – our two congregations will be presented for a special award for the ways we have lived out this new partnership.
Together we’ve held joint services for Christmas Eve, Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, Ash Wednesday, and Easter. These services have drawn together far more people into our churches than either church could have ever done alone. Media attention has followed. At the same time, along with the people of Ainsworth United Church of Christ, we’ve held successful and well-attended adult education programs this past fall and spring using the books Remedial Christianity and #OccupyTheBible. We’ve used social media this past year aggressively to get out our message. We'll worship together again soon at University Park Church on June 16th at 9:30am, and then those who are able and interested will gather downtown with the Community of Welcoming Congregations to march in the annual Pride Parade. There will be no service that morning at Sunnyside. More information will follow.
Now we are launching a new “partnership planning process” to more intentionally discover ways our two congregations can be in mission together for the benefit of the community as we preach a progressive Christian message of hope. We're also kicking off a Thursday morning Bible study for all interested members and friends for the summer months.
During this past year we’ve also gathered for special social occasions – a summer BBQ and Christmas drop-in – not to mention potlucks at both churches. Pastoral care has been offered. Memorials have been held. We’ve had a baptism and welcomed new members at Sunnyside. University Park Church has done food drives for those suffering hunger and Sunnyside Church has teamed up with Bread for the World to ask Congress and the President to do more to fight hunger.Members of both congregations became active this year in the effort to reduce gun violence and to promote marriage equality.
In the midst of all this, we’ve wrestled with a challenge about how best to assist people experiencing homelessness around University Park Church (and fought off fines imposed by the city for allowing people to sleep on our campus). At Sunnyside Church, we dealt with staffing and building issues. The leadership of the congregation made the difficult decision not to renew to building user agreement for the Sunnyside Swap Shop, a much loved program, and the future of The Roost, the after-school program housed at Sunnyside, is in question after Camp Fire decided they could no longer be the sponsor (they’ll still be operating the hugely successful summer program at Sunnyside). All of this impacts us in many ways, including financially. We still have a lot of work to do.
This note just touches on the many ways our two congregations have been in partnership and mission. As we prepare to move into a second year of ministry together there will be hard choices to confront about what it means to be church in our time. Hard doesn’t need to equate with bad, however. We need to be thinking in terms of what legacy we what these two churches to leave – what legacy we want to leave – for the next generation…and about resurrection, about how we bring new life to our work of proclaiming the Gospel.
Sunnyside Church and University Park Church are blessed with tremendous lay leaders who care deeply for the church and for the common good of our community. Few churches are as fortunate. All of you are in my prayers. I invite your prayers as well as we move into a second year of ministry together.
Rev. Chuck Currie
University Park Church worships each Sunday at 9:30 am and Sunnyside Church worships at 11am. All are welcome.