Who are we?
Since 1904, Burlington Lutheran has served the community of Burlington, and the greater region of Skagit Valley. We've had a rich history of vibrant community, with a variety of pastors and congregants. We hold to core Lutheran values, such as never-ending grace, and seeing the real presence of God in the midst of suffering, but we even those who know nothing about Lutheranism feel welcome.
Yep, Lutheran, the ones who ordain women and welcome the queer community. If you'd like to know more about our denomination, you can do a deep dive here. Our founding namesake is Martin Luther, who had some brilliant theology (thank you!), and who was a raging anti-Semite (not okay in any way). He believed every person is simultaneously a saint and a sinner, and he displayed this rather well.
One notable thing about the ELCA is our effort to develop full-communion relationships with other Protestant denominations. The ELCA also seeks inter-religious relationships, because in this divisive world it's the right thing to do.
Can you sum up what you believe?
You might notice that what follows isn't a detailed outline of major categories of systematic theology. We'd like to think that what we believe informs who we are and how we walk in this world, so these are a few of the things that are important to us.
It may seem simple and trite (it's on so many church website banners), but we believe that we're to love God and love others. But wow, can this be hard. Especially the loving neighbors part. If God is love, then following God is going to be about giving that love away, and not about harming others. It's not up to us to determine who is "in" and who is "out," especially when Jesus seemed to be about the business of ever widening the circle of belovedness by giving grace to the those who were deemed unforgivable by the religious culture.
To be bearers of God's love we need to determine where we're falling short. That means we will look at our own racism, our dealings with money, our power imbalances. It also means we will acknowledge that we are not the only beings on this planet, and we have a responsibility to live justly and ethically with the natural world. It also means that we recognize that western colonialism has accomplished horrific unjustness to those who lived in this land before us. We are working on developing relationships in a good way with our Indigenous neighbors.
We believe that all life is worthy of dignity and respect.
We believe that if we all followed the ways of Jesus we would have less strife. This isn't easy, so we need each other, to support one another as individuals and as a collective as we seek to follow Jesus.
We believe that the church exists not for the sake of itself, but for the sake of bringing good to the world.
We believe that God will redeem all things in the end, but that we have work to do in the meantime.
We believe that we are loved more than we could ever understand or imagine.
What about the Bible?
The Bible is our primary source of wisdom. And, it's not our only source of wisdom. It was inspired by God, and it was written thousands of years ago by men who spoke other languages and lived in other cultures. We gain wisdom from careful interpretation of Scripture, and also from our own reasoning, our tradition, and our experience. Rather than primarily referencing anecdotal stories and popular self help mantras, Pastor Charis focuses on the Biblical text in. Every. Single. Sermon. It's amazing what is in the text. Like, did you know that God's judgment for God's people has to do with us not loving our neighbors and being unjust, and not whether we're following details of the law? This stuff is super important for how we interact with God, and how we live with ourselves and others. The Bible contains life for us, but it takes a lot of careful attention to observe the larger arcs of the story.
What is a Sunday service like?
We gather at 10am on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary for worship. You get to the sanctuary by the cement steps at the main entrance, or by going through the glass doors and going right upstairs. We have an electric lift for anyone who is not comfortable with the stairs.
There are no assigned seats, so sit anywhere you like. We've got a great balcony, too! There is no dress code. People are usually more comfortable in jeans than business attire. (Just wear something, please.)
An electronic copy of the current week's bulletin can usually be found on the front page of our website.
After a musical prelude we start with announcements, then we read a land acknowledgement (we are on Upper Skagit territory) before moving into some liturgy. There will be singing, led by our awesome music director, Sean. Words are in the bulletin and displayed on the screen. It's typically a combination of hymns (we have hymnals available for reading music) and more contemporary music - some is even original music by Sean! Someone from the congregation will read the Bible texts that we're focusing upon (we use the lectionary), then we have a sermon (typically 12-20 minutes long), followed by a time of prayer in which everyone is welcome to light a candle. Lutherans then "pass the peace" to one another (don't worry, it's not idle chitchat), and then we get to the highlight: receiving communion. After that the service wraps up quickly and we go out to serve the world (maybe by way of coffee and light refreshments in the downstairs fellowship hall).
You can always check out our services online on our YouTube channel or Facebook page to get an idea of how things flow. We will also occasionally change things up!
What are the demographics? Have you got kids?
BLC is intergenerational, so, yes, we've got kids and grandparents!! We have members in their 90s through toddler years, with all ages in between. Our average age is approximately 40ish. We do need to admit that we're really white. And we'd really like to not be so white. Approximately 5-10% of the congregation is queer. Our great hope is that this church feels safe for any demographic.
Kids are a beloved part of our community. On Sundays during the school year we offer what is known as Godly Play, for ages approximately 3-10, which invites kids to wonder, ask questions, and offer insights about biblical stories, and to express themselves through art. We're not a "memorize this data" kind of people, and instead seek to engage children through their imagination and spirit.
How about communion? (hint: it's an open table)
We offer communion (or, as some call it, Holy Eucharist) every Sunday. We've got flexibility, but right now congregants receive a piece of homemade bread (or GF cracker), pick up a small, glass cup, into which someone will pour either wine or juice. You are welcome to consume the elements on the spot, or take them to the altar rail to have some personal time of reflection/prayer.
We are really serious that ALL are welcome. Jesus gave himself for all, so to us it makes no sense to keep anyone away from the table. You want Jesus? Come on! This isn't somber, it's a celebration.
Will you make mistakes?
Yes, yes, we will. Not that we mean to. One of the byproducts of being an authentic community is that personalities and values and preferences and goals and hurts will bump into each other, occasionally causing friction, occasionally causing big feels. We aim to own our mistakes, repent (=ask for/receive forgiveness when harm has been done and make a positive change in how we do things), communicate about our differences, and live rightly with one another. Sometimes this means we aren't the best church for an individual, but more often we are a breath of fresh air for those who are looking for a faith community that is committed to living well with one another and the larger community.