Why do we attend and support EastLake? As we brainstormed, it wasn't as straightforward as you would have thought. Our transition into EastLake originally was a challenging one. We had both grown up Catholic, attending mass every Sunday in a quiet, methodical, and predictable way. When we met in San Francisco, both of us craved the feeling of belonging to a church but could not, for the life of us, stay focused during the Catholic service or get any takeaways that were applicable to our current lives. We realized how little we actually understood about the whole God thing and how challenging it was to get anything applicable out of the services despite the fact that we could recite the entire service without a second thought (and specifically realized that we weren't giving it a second thought -- reciting things that may not be reflective of what we truly believed).
A friend brought us to EastLake shortly after we moved to Seattle when we were in the midst of trying to find a church that we could connect in to. We were instantly uncomfortable as we walked into the upstairs gym at Kirkland Jr. High. First of all, it was a Junior High School. Where were the candles, the echoes, the incense? Why were these people singing so loud? Don't they know this is church? And some of them have coffee in their hands! Wait - are they seriously handing that out?
For the first two months, we intentionally came 20 minutes late. It was just too foreign for us to worship in that way. Now, the music is by far one of our very favorite parts. I am always choked up and Brie has no problem singing out. And the thing is, from the beginning, EastLake made sense to us and spoke to us in a way that was different from any other church experience. It has always felt like a group of people that was on the right track. Instantly appealing was that love seemed to be the focus rather than whose religion is right, whose is wrong, what you are supposed to call God, how you are supposed to act, what you are supposed to say. From the beginning, we felt like we had tangible takeaways and left with the desire to better ourselves.
Our spirituality has grown and evolved with the church. This isn't a place you come to to hear the same old thing every week. It is NEVER predictable what is going to come out of Ryan's mouth or any of the other speakers that we are so privileged to hear. For Brie, who grew up Catholic but with parents who went to school at Berkeley in the 60's, it was an easy evolution - she has been hearing Ram Das, the Buddha, Andrew Weil, and others for a long time. For her, it was a place that felt like home from the beginning and she was instantly attached. I grew up in a more strict Catholic environment and for me, EastLake has flipped me upside down, shaken me up, and spit me back out. I still spin and yet it still feels right in my heart. In the end, we love this church because it is not brainless worship or belief. We are constantly being challenged to think deeper, bigger, more. And we are constantly encouraged and reminded to forgive, accept, and love.
We were a part of this church in the midst of an extremely challenging time in our marriage. The support we received from the members we opened up to, from Peter, from Jake, was a reflection of what this church stands for: forgiveness, acceptance, love. I am confident that our marriage would not have lasted without this community.
Today, we come to EastLake not just to hear and be inspired by wonderful speakers (though it is hard not to be). It is a place we come to question, to be confused, to admit that we don't know, yet to do it together. It is a place that admits that it is impossible to know for sure, and yet strives to be better despite that. That, for us, is so much more real than any other church we have been a part of.
We don't financially support EastLake because we believe we are going to hell if we don't tithe. We never tithed before so why start now? The quick answer is because we believe that this community is doing something that is moving this world forward and closer to One. If we don't do it, who will? We hope that as time goes on, others will follow and this world will be better for our children and grandchildren. We believe in the statement that "if you want to change the world, then change yourself" and the EastLake community has and continues to change us in positive ways. We recognize that without financial support, there will be no EastLake. And even though the people will still survive, the community may not. And we are more likely to effectuate change in numbers. We believe in the direction and want it to thrive. End of story.
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