Church #30. Meet Taryn Hauglie. She is the Director of Children, Youth and Family at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett, Washington. With an average worshiping attendance of 350 people on a given Sunday, Our Savior’s is a place where everyone worships, loves, tells, learns, advocates, prays and shares. (Before Our Savior’s, she was at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Snohomish, WA. It’s at Christ the King where Hauglie started this important work.)
During Lent, Hauglie started a program for youth entitled, “Exploring Your Neighbor’s Faith.” (This was presented as a workshop at the 2017 ELCA Extravaganza in Louisville.) Hauglie said, “Lent is usually a contemplative time looking inward. But I questioned, ‘What if we used the time in Lent to look outward? What would we do?’”
Hauglie decided to step out of the church doors during Lent by taking her youth and their families on series of field trips to visit different faith communities. Of course, they ask permission to visit before descending on a various site, and they have been warmly received at a local mosque, a Jewish temple, a Buddhist monastery, an Eastern Orthodox church, a Hindu temple, one mega church, and an online community church. Often, the leaders of these communities will meet the group in advance for a Q & A!
Photos from the Holi Festival/the Festival of Colors (Hinduism) in Redmond, WA
The goal of the field trips is to seek out the similarities between faith communities. They participate in various worship styles and practices, listen with eager ears to music and messages, and enter new ways to pray. After the worship experience, they debrief their encounter. Hauglie asks a series of questions: How was the experience like their own faith tradition? How was it different? By the end, each person is pressed to name one thing that was good about the experience.
Some experiences have given space for kids to ask some deep questions. One visit to mega church known for its strong stance on women, marriage, and gender roles had the group wrestling with isms – feminism, classism, and sexism. Another conversation opened up a safe space for families to discuss sexuality and racism. Debriefing has identified contemporary issues, opened dialogue between parents and youth, and helped students claim their faith and what they believe.
Hauglie says, “We don’t live in a bubble!” Schools, communities, and neighborhoods are increasingly diverse. Learning about our neighbors helps people be mindful of each other. In fact, this was the lesson learned by attending a Buddhist monastery. There, the group practiced calculated breathing and meditative mindfulness. The experience ended with something that Hauglie described as a benediction – a call to go out, share, and be mindful of others. “When people expand their worldview,” says Hauglie, “they walk around with an open mind and heart with an appreciation for others,”
Sakya Monastery (Tibetan Buddhism) in Seattle, WA
Why does this lenten experience matter? It matters because of the rules broken when Jesus encountered the woman at the well (John 4). Men were not supposed to talk openly with women; Jewish people would not have engaged with Samaritans. But Jesus and the Samaritan Women needed each other out of necessity. He was thirsty, and she had a bucket. She was thirsty, and he gave her living water. We have neighbors that we meet at local watering holes. People, no matter how different we all are, that need our friendship and love, just as we need theirs. It’s about encountering God in a whole new way – through an unlikely place or person. The result from this ministry is an outward focus lent that turned this 6 week season into an unexpected love for others.
For more information on this story, please contact Taryn Hauglie at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 252-0413.