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New Worshiping Community Provides a Multifaceted Sanctuary

Renee Notkin in the space that Union uses for worship on Sundays

Renee Notkin in the space that Union uses for worship on Sundays

August 1, 2016

From the outside it’s a nondescript place—a small building surrounded by buildings that are home to Amazon and Microsoft workers.

The first thing people notice when walking into Union, a new worshiping community in Seattle’s Westlake district, is a community coffeehouse with “this sanctuary-like space,” says Renee Notkin, who co-pastors Union, along with husband James.

One day a man walked into Union’s building. As he walked through the café and then noticed the sanctuary-like ceiling, he asked, “What is this space?”

“The person I was with said, ‘It’s a church!’” said James Notkin. “The man nodded his head, saying, ‘I knew it. I was walking down the street and I was drawn to this place. I knew this was a place of peace.’”

The man proceeded to tell them his son was one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook, the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 26 people in December 2012. Ever since then, the man said, he’s been drawn to places of peace.

“We do have a worshiping community on Sunday mornings,” said Renee Notkin, “but we also have this amazing space that is like a blank slate for the community to use.”

The sanctuary-like space that people see from the coffeehouse is converted on a daily basis for the community to use— be it for nonprofit events, business meetings, or community celebrations.

Every Sunday as part of their final act of worship, attendees set up the space as a women’s shelter for the city to use on Monday nights, when the city typically has more women who need a place to stay.

Reconfiguring the space for different purposes “has transferred into us becoming people who are serving together in all kinds of capacities,” said Renee Notkin. “Now [that] we have the women’s shelter, we are starting to provide food for those who don’t have as much we have, [and] we’re going out and cleaning up Lake Union, which is in our neighborhood.”

Church administrator Loretta Mathison Pain was initially drawn to Union because she was intrigued by its mix of both people who have been in church all their lives and those interested in spirituality.

“We have those, like myself, who had ‘pew fatigue,’” she said, “who wanted more out of their church experience, and those who actually haven’t made a faith choice yet.”

Coffeehouse regular Juan Sadder said he doesn’t go to church anymore, but he loves getting his coffee and chocolate at Union. “It reminds me of a lot of the characteristics of the church I grew up in, in Brooklyn,” he said. “The place is warm, welcoming, and there’s a strong fellowship among the people that attend Union and those who know of it, and I respect how well they have integrated themselves in our community.”

He added, “They really provide a very personal experience.”

Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus:  Seattle Presbytery

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery Staff:

Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter
Eliana Maxim, Associate Executive Presbyter
Kevin Nollette, Associate Executive Presbyter
Karen Breckenridge, Stated Clerk

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Cynthia Beach, BOP
Stephanie Becker, OGA

Let us pray

Lord God, help us find your leading in all that we think, say, or do so that we might always walk the path that you have set before us. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 62; 145
First Reading Judges 6:25-40
Second Reading Acts 2:37-47
Gospel Reading John 1:1-18
Evening Psalms 73; 9

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