Pastoral Reflections on a Shalom-Filled Partnership with Kol Ami

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(Just a note concerning this article: this article is written purely from my own personal experience of my relationship with our “sister” Jewish congregation: Congregation Kol Ami.   As many of you know Kol Ami is leaving Bear Creek UMC to move to Kirkland at the end of June. I plan to reflect later what Kol Ami has meant to our congregation, but today I choose to speak from my own heart.)

As a United Methodist pastor new to the PNW, one of my favorite experiences in the last three years has been interacting with and sharing both ministry and our building with Bear Creek’s “sister” congregation: Congregation Kol Ami.  These last 3 years of being in relationship with the Kol Ami community has been a true blessing!  I must admit that on hearing the news that Kol Ami was leaving us to move to Kirkland I had mixed emotions. I was deeply saddened to hear that Kol Ami was leaving us.   They have been such a part of my journey here that it felt like I had found a new sister in this loving and welcoming community, and I hated the very thought of watching this sister leave.  Kol Ami has truly become part of my family.  And as family, I will always hold them close to my heart.  But as I contemplate the reasons for this move, I am very excited about this move for Kol Ami and believe with all my heart it is the right move for Kol Ami at this time in their journey! As I ponder the new opportunities for growth for Kol Ami in the Kirkland area, I applaud their willingness to “take the leap of faith” and boldly move forward so they can grow in number and witness in the years to come.  They are making this move for all the right reasons, and I applaud their willingness to take the necessary risks that will enable them to do so!  I hope and pray that our good God blesses them on every step of this journey! 

One of the images of God and the God’s people that comes to my mind when I think of Kol Ami is the image of a cup of coffee!  Let me explain! In this image, God is the cup holding us all together.  We, God’s people, are the coffee in the cup, waiting to be stirred into action.  And “Christ” as “prophetic witness” is the stirring stick…stirring us into transformative action (whether we like that stirring or not). (a note here: another image of this stirring stick would be Moses and his “staff” stirring up his people to rise up against the Pharaoh). The steam that rises and gives fragrance to the world, then, is God’s Holy Spirit moving the world and each of us to a better place. 

I share this image, because in the last three year’s I have felt “Christ” or this “prophetic witness” move and stir me to action time and time again in and through the ministry of Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg! Her passion for social justice and her willingness to put her feet down and walk that justice into the world has been such an inspiration to me.  And at times her actions have stirred me into action as well.  I was especially moved to hear of her visit to the US/Mexico border as she tried to shine the light on what was happening to the powerless in this difficult struggle in American history. Such a brave and prophetic act!

It is for this witness that I give thanks to Congregation Kol Ami!  I have been greatly enriched by our relationship and want to work to continue to find new ways to be in ministry with you wherever we can as you make this move and find a new home in Kirkland. 

May the prophetic witness of God continue to stir in both of our congregations as we grow, not only in number but in our witness, and strive to stay true to the heart of God we both share.

Your friend and “sister” in ministry, Pastor Brook

Tim Schaaf