AN INVITATION:  Some people talk about creating belonging and making more room at the table for others.  And then there are those who create belonging in how they live and actively invite others to join in. This past July, on one of our family trips, I witnessed the perfect example of creating belonging. 

My wife Melissa is one of those people that just creates belonging in how she lives – it’s beautiful how easily she includes others in conversations and enjoys sharing and listening to people’s stories.  By Day 2 she had met Betty and Britney, a mother and daughter from California.  Betty had suffered an ankle injury before the trip – she had limited mobility and was worried that 28-year-old Britney would be bored with little to do.  Without missing a beat, Melissa invited Britney to join us on a few of our excursions, essentially adopting her as part of the family.  I chuckled with admiration at how easily Melissa just makes more room at the table for others.

I wonder … could the same be said of us as leaders in the Salem-Keizer community who are setting ‘tables’ (gathering spaces) to foster the relational fabric that’s necessary for lasting impact?  In their Street Psalms curriculum on city transformation called The Incarnational Training Framework, my friends Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke describe it this way: “The table is the epicenter of all cultures worldwide.  The family, society, and even faith is formed around the table.  If cities are healed relationally, there is nothing more elemental than table fellowship.”

Since SLF began in 1996, one of the cornerstones to our methodology of engaging people-of-faith and people-of-goodwill has been to center our work around tables … tables where we sit as listeners and learners; tables that we set to gather advocates and leaders together; and tables that we serve so our partners can empower and heal the vulnerable in our city.  Sometimes sitting-setting-serving the table is relatively easy.  Other times it’s more complicated, as folks are invited to the table who have differing world views or don’t naturally work together well.  We are leaning into this practice.

In a world that seems to be moving more and more toward polarization and keeping certain groups out of the circle, we believe there is something healthy and beautiful about inviting our city to practice belonging … the art of making more room at the table so that the end goal (a city of peace) is realized more and more.  Grab a chair!                                               Dwayne Hilty         CaN Centers Director                                    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A FOND FAREWELL TO THE BRYANT FAMILY.   One of the many interesting aspects of SLF is how God brings people to our team.  Sometimes it’s for a long time.  Sometimes short.  Sometimes somewhere in between.  In a world where job transitions happen frequently, we’ve been blessed to be relatively stable with staffing over the years.

As I (Sam) reflect on all the amazing people who have served with SLF since 1996, a common theme is evident:  Hardly any of our hires have from a job posting.  We just always seem to intersect with folks at a time when they are in transition, and we have an opening … or not. My face and my heart smile when I think of former SLF teammates like Julie Young, Tammy Chatfield, Wayne Crowder, Carrie Maheu, Herm Boes, Billy Cordero, Kaleb Herring, Dave Votaw, Lindsey Walker, Zyanya Aguilar-Nelson, Imani Hall, DJ Vincent … and Noel Bryant.

Noel and Kate came from Texas to Salem in 2018 so that Noel could pastor a church that was going through a difficult leadership transition.  He attended the monthly CaN (Churches as Neighborhood) Centers lunches and began intersecting with SLF and DJ through other initiatives.  When the Covid pandemic struck, the church made the incredibly tough decision to disband.  Seeing that Noel was available, and having worked with Kate through her role at Salem Young Life, it was a joy to offer the Sprague Lightning Rod job to Noel in 2021.  And what a job he did, serving the Sprague-area churches, schools and neighborhoods.  He also led the South Salem Connect CPT and our Preaching Peace cohort … and with his graphic-design skills, served as SLF’s tech and creative talent.  As a pastor, he brought incredible depth and insights to our team devotions and theological journey in the city.

But with two youngsters (Lucy and Molly) and most of the extended Bryant family in Texas, Noel and Kate discerned that God was calling them back home.  A great many colleagues, neighbors, community partners, and churchmates at Trinity Covenant are grieving the departure.  And yet we celebrate, both the work that was accomplished here and the future ministry that Noel and Kate will have in Texas.  Noel will actually be consulting with SLF on a couple projects, including a web-page upgrade, so this isn’t really a goodbye, it’s just a new chapter.                                                Blessings and gratitude, Noel!