Embodying Community with Coté Soerens | Podcast Season 01, Episode 03
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As we continue our conversation about embodying community, we spoke with Coté Soerens, neighborhood pastor from the South Park neighborhood in Seattle, about what it means to belong to a neighborhood, the role of listening and prayer, and unexpected ways to encounter God.
About Our Guest:
As a neighborhood pastor Coté Soerens has focused on discerning God’s dreams for South Park since 2014. This journey led her to see the neighborhood as an endless source of inspiration for community-based projects and community enterprises such as Resistencia Coffee, The Urban Fresh Food Collective, El Mercadito Farmer’s Market, The South Park Arts & Culture Collective, South Park Hall and South Park Neighborhood Christian Church. You can follow Coté on Instagram at @resistenciacoffee
Find the Community Support You Need
- Embodying Community with Curt Thompson, MD, Psychiatrist, Speaker and Author | Season 01, Episode 01
- Embodying Community with Jimmy McGee, CEO and President of Impact Movement, Inc. | Season 01, Episode 02
Derek: It’s interesting. I realize as we have these conversations with people about what embodied means and what community means, and sometimes we take them in separate chunks, um, that it does, it is a kind of a, is it a reaction to something, um, and the sort of abstraction of community or of the idea of community versus the nitty gritty of community. And, um, I think we were having a conversation about, Hey, what does it mean to be back in my office after being at a distance in zoom? And what’s it like to be back in this space? And what does it mean? Um, and as I think we, as we’ve been talking about embodied communities and as places of change and transformation in a good way, um, not just simply negative presence, but presence that’s, um, sustaining and presence as healing and presence that is shifting in a way that something else emerges. And so I think, I think of your work, um, both in terms of not just a coffee shop, no, it’s a community. Yeah. And it’s a community of presence. Right. And it’s a community that there’s something particularly unique about people being in the space and both coming for something and coming to give something. Yes. And, uh, that’s, I think what drew us to wanting to have a conversation with you that, that, that sort of framework and the desire to see other communities of both giving and taking emerge, and this is around a shop, this is around, you know, something we can kind of feel in common about, but there’s, there’s more,
Coté: There is a lot more actually. And, and I think you surprised me with the, with the question, cuz I wasn’t ready to, to think about it in terms of this past two years, how yes. A friend commented, like she said about our lives, like Tim and I are like the most like unchanged in comparison to other people just because we are always in the throws of the neighborhood having face to face interactions. And there was, there has been this, this, this danger of, for the pandemic to really shift society, even more into like disembodied, disconnected, um, you know, into the metaverse, uh, experience. Um, and um, and well, we are so made for, um, being around each other, like neurologically speaking. I know my, my nervous system is craving that experience that we all get to like experience together when we are all together in a room, listening to a band playing or to a sermon or any talk that we’re all like, “mhm, mhm” you know, there is something that happens in the room that our bodies enjoy and we’re made for that. And it’s very stressful when we don’t get access to that. Yeah. There are plenty studies around how women, when women are stressed, we just gather together cuz oxytocin is helpful. So we’ve been devoided no, has it, we’ve been, um, apart from that experience for two years, so at the coffee shop, because actually it was very different. So we, we, so for those of you who don’t know who I am, um, we, we started, so anyway, we, um, I, I’m part of a, of, of a group of people who really to live their Christian life inside of a particular place, geographical space, um, that, um, we do the, the practice of, um, asking, starting everything with the question, what is God doing? What are God’s dreams for this particular geographical place? And that place to ask is South Park is a neighborhood in Seattle, which is, um, you know, it’s been a neglected neighborhood in Seattle for a good century. Um, or so, and you know, it has a lot of problems, uh, but also it has a lot of gifts as any place would, and we’ve been committed, uh, my family and I to, um, live in this place for a long time and, and, and, and ask what is God up to in this place. And in following that question, uh, one of the things we landed on back in 2017 was to, uh, open a coffee shop, which many of you might be like… opening a coffee shop in Seattle, um, a churchy coffee shop in Seattle. So we’ve seen that, um, and sure there’s nothing innovative about it. Um, except for the, the level of attention. I think I feel that our attention has been the, the innovation there cuz um, you know, you can, you can do the same thing with different purposes. “We’ll bring Jesus place!” Like no, actually the spirit is already moving here. Um, uh, you know, in, in the, in the, in the, in the framework of transforming engagement, you know, like I think that many people go like I’m the leader and need to do this. And our framework is completely different is like, uh, as, as a quote unquote leader, you are connected with others and your role is to discern what is God up to and submit yourself to that process and be the hands and feet of Jesus in that place. Yes. So opening is more about opening space for transformation and building space for transformation rather than, I don’t know, making a project and executing it.
Kate: And that also makes Resistencia unique from the like normal coffee shop model, which are often places that are high traffic or high tourism. So it’s like, where can we maximize by getting the most people into our coffee shop, where we can then be Jesus to them. You did like in many ways, the opposite, both opposite theology of discerning what’s already up there happening up in your neighborhood and you, you chose a neighborhood that’s unsexy. Like it’s not the highly traffic, it’s not downtown to Seattle. It’s edge of Seattle…
Coté: Foot traffic is a problem there. Yeah. Yes. Um, yeah, so it was one of the things that I love about the idea of opening a coffee shop in South Park is like, it did not make any business sense at all. Yeah. Um, because food traffic, which is what the first metric that you look opening, any rental spot, like it’s so bad there. And it really drew my attention to the risks that only people of God will take on behalf of a community because it demands a lot of faith to do that. Right. Um, and, and not be attached to an outcome. Um, the process of opening Resistencia in the first place came from a lot of discernment in community as well. So the first, I would say the only act we did was as a family, was to open our home to our neighbors on Wednesday nights, we had soup nights. And if you lived in South Park, you’re welcome, which was a very, a weird idea to many cuz you, you invite your friends over. We’re like, no, no, no. Um, if you live in South Park, you are welcome. And it was hilarious. Sometimes people would bring their friends from say Magnolia and I would literally not talk to them. It’s like, sure, see you later. I, but if you are in South Park, you are welcome. And uh, that actually quite a really great, uh, rhythm to those Wednesday nights. Um, it’s different for people to meet new people when, you know, you can’t continue seeing them and you are stuck there together basically. Yeah. Um, and it also invites a different level of, of, of engagement for people. I, I do, I do notice many people talk about community. What is our community? And I prefer to talk about neighborhood or neighbor cuz we get to choose our community, but we don’t get to choose our neighbors. And um, and it’s very convenient to choose your community. Right? We choose people who think like you look like you, um, but in the neighborhood you have all sorts of people. And for years it’s been wonderful to have around the table. Um, you know, our friend who makes posters that have insults to the police force, sitting with a neighbor who is a cop and both of them really enjoy CrossFit, you know, and they have, they, they have such, uh, different backgrounds. They might have even voted very opposite, in opposite ways, directions, but you know, we’re right there and, and that is so transformative. So it was through those encounters that the idea of a place where we could, uh, you know, have coffee, bring our kids, emerged. And, uh, there was this moment that it was very clear to me back in 2016 or 2017, 2017. Um, or was it 2016? It was sorry. Um, that I was, I was, I felt a very strong tug from the spirit going, I want you to open a space from where you can mother the neighborhood. And it was really troublesome to me at that moment. It was exciting, but it was also like, um, I was very engaged in, in, in immigration rights at the, at moment in 2016, if you’ll remember, we were starting to realize some people were coming out of the woodwork with, uh, hatred, a lot of hatred for immigrants. So it was a particular moment in our history where like, if you are seeking, where am I the most needed? It was very easy for me to think I most needed there. Uh, but this was a change in direction. I was like, Nope, you’re actually going to focus here in the neighborhood and you’re gonna do this. Um, and you know, it’s intimidating, it’s a retail spot in, uh, in Seattle, which is expensive in an area that it does not make much business sense, but I did look around the table and realize that we have everything we can possibly need to make this happen. But people who know how to build things. We have people who actually, uh, have money to invest. Um, we have architects, like all, all of us were just hanging out at the table. Um, so it was a barn raising. It was beautiful. So I got to midwife this neighborhood baby, right. That ended up being Resistencia coffee. Um, so anyway, so that’s the story of Resistencia. Yeah. We opened in 2018. Uh, and ever since it’s been a beloved, um, place in our neighborhood. Yeah. Um, we, we like to say it’s our love letter to South Park. Um, and we’ve been incredibly intentional about everything from how we hire, how we pay, um, how we market things, uh, how we communicate to every single group in the neighborhood that is their space. Um, it’s, it’s been a labor of love for sure. I mean, it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done. Um, so we can either talk about what is the role of Resistencia within the whole of What we do in south park, or we can talk about this past two years and connection. What direction do you think?
Derek: I wanna go back before we go forward? Cause in some ways I like that connection piece, the last part, but, um, I think what’s striking for me is a couple things you say that really quite counter-cultural in the moment, to in some ways decide, Hey, my friend from Magnolia, I’m not talking to you, it’s redrawing the boundaries, right? It’s redrawing the boundaries. And in this moment where we think inclusion means you ha have no boundaries. We really are saying no to have community in a certain way. You have to actually draw boundaries and be intentional about it. And so that’s a, a slightly bit of countercultural to the, um, assumption that inclusion means, which means it’s hard to have intimacy when you have no boundaries, it’s hard to have intimacy of some sort. So you’re really saying no, what the people in this community we’re gonna be intimate with. That means we actually have to hold out other sort of folk, even that they’re friends of ours in this moment, we’re redrawing the boundaries, other events, we can, you can be a part of that boundary, but not these experiences. The other piece is a notion of discerning and waiting as opposed to let’s get a plan let’s put it in motion, which I feel as you know, in this role, I’m always told you gotta have a plan.
Derek: And the spirit is almost like, you’re just, what are you waiting for?
Kate: What are you dragging your feet on?
Derek: That is almost like, is a fault in waiting. And listening and discerning. And so I’m hearing this sense of, Hey, how is the spirit moving? How is the dynamism, the energy, the life of God moving in this place already and how do we attune ourself to hear it as opposed to we gotta come with a plan, cuz we’re gonna save that community. And that counter to, in some ways the assumptions in our bodies. And I’ll say it that way because I don’t think we all have an idea of doing something different, but our body still drive us to do that old way. And so I love that, that sort of, um, Hey, this is different. And I like the energy say, Hey, this is one of the best things I’ve ever done. And the energy that comes from that, the life that comes from that as opposed to the programming and the task that comes from that.
Coté: To me programming and task, have always felt very heavy and joyless. And um, and there is this, I’ve always been taken by the idea that Jesus never knew what his next move was. He never had a plan basically. Uh, so if this, if, if he prayed and discerned from the Father, right, that from the Godhead of the mother, uh, from the Godhead, let’s say, um, um, that, that, you know, he needed to be present with that person and heal. That’s what he was going to do. If there was, at some moment he got in trouble, cuz that’s not, that was not what the Spirit was telling him to do. He needed to go somewhere else. And somebody actually died. He, he, he got slack from, from that, got slack from that, sorry, English is still remains my second language. And I’ve been very taken by that.
Coté: But what does that tell us about how we are to live a Christian life of in a world that is always telling us to, um, have goal, I mean, it is good to have a plan in goals, but the attachment to the outcome or the, or, or this, the assumption that your idea was the best idea or your way is the best way. Um, that, uh, that I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m very happy to, to, to challenge that I I’m very happy to open space and be surprised. Um, and I have found that, uh, I thrive when I’m able to do that. Cause, I’m I was telling a friend that I am, um, low functioning Martha in a high function in Mary in the sense of, uh, I, I have, I have propensity to be, uh, a busy body and, and I get just busy, like so busy. And, but I’m not happy when I do that. And I’m much happier when I, when, when I I’m in a more mystical space that is still very productive. Like, you know, the coffee shop is a successful business, uh, you know, and, and it, and it was filled with joy the entire time and has been, and continues to be, and we’re getting into other projects now where I’m definitely feeling the temptation of, um, getting very stressed out about them, uh, when I could just give up and give up power basically to God and, and ride the wave in a much joyful way. So that’s always attention for me.
Kate: What does that look like? Like what, when you, when you feel the pressures to do the stress response, to have the plan, to make the strategy, like what, what does your practices, or like, how do you resist, uh, which it wasn’t an intentional pun, but then I heard it, like, how, how do you resist that mode of being in yourself in order to tap into this other self? That is also you.
Coté: So I do believe that Christian life takes a special kind of commitment of spiritual practice. And I think that, um, we haven’t really, it seems that we stop discussing the discipline that it takes to be engaged in Christian life because of this whole inclusion, like, you know, churches are so desperate, like everyone welcome, which is fantastic on the, but also there are religious practices that we have. One of them is prayer. And one of them is self examination its, its my desire to make this project happen connected to actually discerning what is God up to I, I did experience that very particularly with one project that we had in the neighborhood. Uh, one of the biggest issues in South Park is, is access to space for people. So one of the prayers we’ve been praying for years is to God free the land for the people, just walk the neighborhood and pray free the land for the people. We just we’ve been just doing that. And God is responding. The land is being freed for the people it’s been beautiful to watch. There are miracles where going through a very nice Jubilee moment in the neighborhood that is a direct response to a prayer. At some point last summer, we were looking and we had the opportunity to, to, to look into purchasing, um, particular building in the neighborhood that was so a strategically located for like youth. It made sense in all the possible ways, but there was something about the project that in the spiritual discernment, in the prayer mornings, you know, like what, however you do your prayer, right? Um, first I wasn’t feeling it like this is not gonna happen. Like, it seems that I knew it’s not gonna happen. And the other was calling myself out and like, Coté this, this is very vulnerable people. Please be mindful of this. I’m being just, you know, generous sharing this. But, um, I did call myself out as in like, Hey, all of your prayers this morning, or, or all your thinking around this building has been about how it’s gonna be the first arts center in South Park and how that will position you in a certain way in the arts and equitable development community in the city, nothing of your, of your thought process this morning has been about the neighborhood, God, Spirit, um, flourishing, it’s all, it’s been all very strategic in the sense of how are you positioning yourself in the city with the, with the community of people that you care about pleasing or having their recognition. Yeah. Um, and that was an important moment for me. I was like, whoa. So yeah. What is this project about for me? Um, and, and yeah, also it didn’t happen. I don’t think that that is why it didn’t happen, but, but that was, that was a learning moment for me was like, I, I, I could notice a difference there and it was really beautiful to be able to acknowledge that and literally repent in the sense of like, okay, that is not what we’re about. So we’re dropping that. Not that it’s not, not that it is bad to have recognition or do things, but your main motivation examining that, um, which it’s bringing me back to, to, to, um, you know studies on, on mystics and what does prayer meaning and, and, and the, and the communion and the mystery yes. Of prayer and embodiment and like, how are we God’s hands and feet in the neighborhood. So as far as like, what’s my practice or what I’m trying to do, I’m really trying to position myself in a mystical relationship with God to be the body of Christ in the neighborhood. And that demands that a lot of self-examination that we have stopped talking about in the church. Yeah. Calling yourself out and, um, really making space for God’s priorities instead of your own. Yeah. So that is not a sexy message right now.
Kate: No. Well, and it’s interesting too, even though your frame of that, cause I think we can get, we, Christians can get our language into kind of a, you bring yourself or you make yourself small, you give yourself and really the way you just framed it is, is my motivation myself as me to, for my promotion or myself as I’m coming to God and putting myself to God first. So it’s not that you’re without a self it’s, just which, which place are you relating yourself to first? And it’s a different frame. It’s, it’s a, um, it actually a allows for self examination in a way that just the message to give yourself and be small, doesn’t have space for.
Coté: Yeah. It’s pro I mean, I understand that we, we should kind of like name like this is to be examined. You know, we have so much baggage in the church and particularly within more Neo-Calvinist circles around shaming yourself and, and, and diminishing yourself, uh, or like for women in the church. Right. So, so I’m, I’m, I’m saying this hoping that, um, we have an understanding that I’m basically drawing from the tradition of, of, of well, of Christianity, but with, by way of like mysticism and yes. Um, yeah. It, in responding to the invitation of communion with God and the invitation of being part of the body of Christ…
Derek: Which, which takes it out of a bit of a, again, uh, even just a discipline one and it puts it into a way of being, I mean, what you’ve described as ways of being, and almost it’s, it’s actually sometimes hard to find the words for it, cuz it’s a way of being not to simply a practice. I mean, some of the language I think that I’ve heard, you know, and I will struggle with is how do I bring the infinite into this finite moment?
Coté: That’s so beautiful.
Derek: How do I, how do I hear God in this before I do the plan? Because the plan is I’ve gotta get to objective A and even in terms of the, the, the thought of when you’re praying, it’s like, I don’t think God’s gonna allow us to do this thing because it’s the noise provides me a platform and I’m not thinking about in some ways, the infinite in that I’m thinking about the finite in that. And I think that’s a challenge. I mean, I find it a personal challenge, um, in leadership of when you’re supposed to have a plan, how do you wait for God to be in the midst of that? The infinite how to have discernment about that and there is a certain discipline and a struggle. You know, I think that’s a, that’s a human, I’m gonna call it human of, I can see it, let me go for it. And that may not be the best thing or the desire I have for it. Infinitely speaking, not finitely speaking.
Coté: Or maybe the, the balance is like, cuz I, I think that sometimes you do need a, a plan and you, you do. Um, but um, I did grow up with this fantasy of do it very well and success will come from it. And the Christian narrative does not say that. The Christian narrative never, never promises success. Um, so that actually promises
Kate: A little bit the opposite.
Coté: The opposite. Yes. It’s, it’s really, it’s really intense as far as like what the promises of like in this world who you’re going to become, who like it’s, it’s not a life of success. Um, so which also it is a reality like that that’s that’s right. They’re in our traditional text. So to me has become a, let’s make a plan and let’s not get attached to an outcome because you know, even, even the, the prophets, sometimes God would call him to do things that were super silly and pointless, but there was a point in the pointlessness. So I’m aware of that too. Hey, this whole thing might be a way to show something, you know, like it might be like a prophetic, prophetic performance, you know? Hmm. Um, uh, fail at this very publicly. Uh, so that’s always part of the equation as well. So it, it takes a lot of risk I think. And, and, and I personally love risk. I, I, it it’s part of what keeps it very fun. Um, yeah. I’s like a, there’s
Derek: There’s a certain constitution that would, could say that.
Coté: No again. So yeah. It’s like, and it’s like, what’s the worst thing that can happen. I’ll just make a fool of myself. I can deal with that. Let’s go, um, different from, you know, I may put my children in danger. I don’t know if I wanna do that. But, uh, um, so, so, so as far as, um, goals and plan and, and be being mindful, you know, why is it shrud like snakes and peaceful as doves? So you gotta do both. Um, so that’s a plan. Yes. Let’s make a plan. Let, let’s make sure we’re not in debt. Let’s make sure that, you know, um, we’re responsible, uh, but it may not work out. And are we okay with that? Sure. Let’s, let’s go. Yeah.
Derek: And I, I agree. I, I think that the, the thing that’s striking for me is, again, probably how do I say, countercultural, more so than don’t make a plan. There is a sort of frame of how the world is supposed to work, that it really goes against. So yes, make a plan, but the frame is without a plan, it doesn’t work at all, or God is not active in it, or there is, you know, there’s not an infinite thing going on. And I think I like the, the both and quality. And even in terms of the some, like, you know, the, the Center for Transforming Engagement, you can’t plan for transformation.
Coté: Absolutely not.
Derek: You know, this is an experience that you can only facilitate, hope for, trust in and believe there’s a possibility of, but you can’t plan for it. You can’t make it happen. Or else, I think there’s another adventure. So you’re not in the, you’re no longer in the sort of people holding, engaging, and caring for business. You’re in some other sort of something you’re of other sort of business. And so I think that, that openness, that, um, the trust that God can be active in human affairs and that the finite and the infinite can touch and there can be a transformative moment, seems pretty powerful. And I appreciate the way it’s shaped in the sort of work that you’re doing.
Kate: Yeah. I think there’s like a, okay, you can’t make the transformation itself happen. You can cultivate a context in which it happens. You can hold the boundaries in which it happens. Don’t talk to the people from Magnolia, not as a general rule, just in South park. Um, but the, this, the whole, and the boundaries then instilling the values, the creating the context for interactions, inviting the people for interactions. I think that’s so much of what you do is you, you hold a context where transformation becomes possible. And I, I feel that in your space, both in your home and in the coffee shop. And I, I think that there’s like a bit of a magic to it where I walk in and I know it’s there. And I’m like, how did this come to be?
Coté: We have this metaphor that we’ve been talking using forever, which is, um, building a garden bed basically. So our role is to build a garden bed, we have no control of what kind of plants are going to grow, how are they gonna grow? And what happened with Resistencia was that we built a garden bed and then the tomato plants were going crazy, you know, but it’s so beautiful, cuz I do feel that, you know, the, the, the church environments where I grew up, it was so much about the one lone leader, especially also, uh, if you look at all the, um, ways in which church planting, um, budgets are made, or church planting funding is done, it’s all around this charismatic leader who will make it all happen. You know? And, and it seems that the task is completely different, is let’s build a space and you have zero oh, ownership of what goes through. That’s why also we’ve been talking about it as midwife thing. You help new creation be born, but you don’t own that baby. And it’s the same. Any parent can relate to this. You’re very responsible, especially women who have been pregnant, you are, you are responsible of, of nurturing this child and help this I’ll be born. But this child has, has its own their own life, their own relationship with God, right? And you have zero power over it. And I feel that that translates very well to leadership and ministry and, and, and engaging, transforming engagement. Um, it translates like you don’t own the project. The project is never yours. The people in the project, you don’t control. The people are engaged with the project in their own journey, and God has their own journey with them. Your role was to make that space. One thing that we have done, however, and I don’t know how my neighbors will feel about this, but, um, building spaces, actual physical spaces in the neighborhood has been a task. We we’ve done each new space. We pray, we pray and we invite God to inhabit that space. Um, and it’s been beautiful to see how some people who are not churched, um, have mentioned that there is something about this space that I can’t sell what it is, but it makes me feel at peace. Um, some people sometimes have come right as we’re closing. It’s like, Hey, do you mind if I sit here for, for a little while, I was very anxious at home and I need a place to be. And somebody who is very challenging, uh, in the world comes to the coffee shop often. And then he mentioned at some point, it’s the same thing, thing for him to go sit in inside a sanctuary, like a Catholic church. There is a similar energy for him, um, which I go back to, uh, yes, we did invite God to inhabit this space. And, um, and whenever we have, um, arts events and things for like, um, something that show up, you know, like there is a little bit of a, of a spiritual engagement that we all will share. And of course, we’re not like putting names on it for people, but there is a recognition that, Hey, there is something bigger than us that we are connecting with. And it feels really nice,
Kate: Which is interesting too. Cause, I’ve written, earlier a question I had written was in what ways is Resistencia a faith community, is it a faith community? And which is both recognizing that congregations are diminishing attendances, increasingly low, people aren’t coming back as, um, COVID restrictions, ease, and just a lot of questions around what does it mean to be gathered around faith? What it mean to be a people of faith. And, and again, like in your, it’s not, you’re not getting sermons, you’re not handing out Bibles. You’re not getting people to pray a prayer, but you’re creating a context where people feel something that is about putting in a relationship more than getting them to, to a certain something
Coté: It’s, it’s challenging. Cuz part of me is like, well, when do we do the discipleship, right? When do we talk about Jesus? Uh, cuz cuz I, I do feel the, I, I worry about my children, you know? Um, I feel that in our circles we complain a lot about, um, you know, the, the very, earnest evangelicals with their tracks and stuff. Yes. Let’s be honest. I would not be a Christian today, if it wasn’t for one of those people, you know, who wanted to do the prayer meeting at my mom’s house and you know, showed me the, the four steps or whatnot, you know, and had me say the prayer, you know, like, um, so I, I owe a great deal to those people. Yeah. And we are not being those people, you know? So because you know, there are problematic things about it. Uh, but so part of me is kind of like, okay, so are we holding this well? You know, cause I have a few stories as far as, um, you know, a by, by creating this garden bed that I think the most beautiful part of it is that people, a lot of people feel that this garden bed belongs to them too. It’s not Coté’s garden bed is the neighborhood’s baby. So many people can come cultivate things in it, which is the name of the community development, Nonprofit Cultivate South Park, which I a co-founder of with many other neighbors, right. It’s a neighbor-led name. And um, and from different faith traditions or no faith tradition at all, people do connect and we do live our life together and we’re always like scheming around, you know, how do we, the, the kids, man, they need like, you know, arts programming or let’s just make it happen. How do we make it happen? Should, I think there is this grant, let’s try to make it okay. And that’s how we’ve been rolling. And the food collective was the same thing, a huge, beautiful story. And how South Park fed South Park, the, in the pandemic, um, it’s been written about, um, amongst all those people, um, who have been teasing me for being a closeted Christian, my friend, she and I was like, it hit me there. They, you and Tim are closeted Christians. Like that’s true.
Kate: And you’re also so public about it.
Coté: As of late. No, but I was, I gave myself permission to be public about it because my friends in the neighborhood figured it out and there was enough trust for them not to freak out about it. So now, yeah, there was recently an article in the Seattle Times, um, about one project that I’m involved in. And at the end of the conversation, the reporter just asked me like, Hey, I heard somebody, you you’re a pastor. I’m like, uh, yeah, well this, this and that three sentences. They were the opening and the closing of these. So it was in the cover of the Northwest section of the Seattle Times on a Saturday, um, my whole faith. Um, so my, my cover was blown, but, um, but by now we do have enough trust trust in the neighborhood that people will know I’m not gonna be doing bait and switch or they, they really know that I truly don’t care if they go to Hell, but, uh, but, uh, but no, there’s a trust. And now, now, now I, I feel I can be very public about it without, without, um, endangering relationships. Uh, so at any rate, uh, so because we work together, we try to do challenging things together. And because to me it’s such a prayerful experience. It came to be known as Coté’s prayers get answered. Um, that’s been the comments Coté’s prayers get answered. And I’m like, well, you can pray too, you know? And no, no, no, wait, this was really actually incredible. Um, but then my friends were like, yeah, but nobody’s teaching us or people how to pray. What’s the right way of prayer. There are people who are praying and you’re like, you should really stop praying right now. Like basically like, what is that element of, of self, self inspector, self inspecting, inspecting one’s heart, um, keeping oneself accountable. Yeah.
Derek: Yeah. And I, I, I appreciate that. You know, I think even in terms of the cultural picture of how I came to Christ, someone gave me a track sort of thing and the sort of animosity towards Christianity right now that that’s not, that’s not an appealing thing anymore. Right. It doesn’t mean that God’s not active in human affairs. And so what you described for me is in your self inspection and prayer and disciplines, you’re saying, Hey, God, show us when to step into that. Right. And, uh, somebody wants to step into that because that’s, that’s what I know. Um, but I also hear you saying, Hey, we wait and listen and yeah. And God calls you out and puts you on the face of a newspaper anyway. And it’s a bit of a testimony that, that wasn’t necessarily worked at, but in some ways arrived at, and it has much more credibility. And so I’m appreciating again, just listening to your journey. And again, I’m even thinking about my own kids and how different my journey is. And at times I wonder, will they ever know Christ the way I want them to know Christ and the sort of trust that I have, this is a different period than when I’m raised in a different cultural environment that they’re gonna have to find something. I simply keep inviting them to discover. And I think there’s a keep inviting people to discover. I’m not gonna withhold it from you, but I’m not gonna force it on you. And it does feel very different. And like I’m not meeting my quota, you know, which I think is an old, not a, I’m not sure if that’s a God thing as much as an old church thing. And how do I is Christ says I only do what I see the father doing in that sense. Yeah. How do we live a life that looks for the Spirit to be moving, um, and holding and hugging and feeding and nurturing. And not only simply proselytizing, I, I think this is, and it’s a, it’s a different shift. It is a different shift how to live with not live at.
Coté: It’s very countercultural. Right now specifically, like, especially when you look into committing to a place we are, are talking about taking responsibility and having limitations. Tim always says that, my husband’s like we’re selling something that is not very popular right now, basically. Living connected to a particular place. Yeah. Um, and, and, and having accountability and I, and, and accountability the other day. Uh, it’s so funny cuz I’m, I’m so much more in like, um, civic spaces rather than, than in church spaces. So the other day we’re in a, on a podcast for par collective and I keep talking my accountability, accountability, and then it hit me like many people who grew up evangelical hear that. And, it’s a triggering word, but I, I don’t, I came at 25. So that word doesn’t trigger anything on me. You know? Like, like I don’t know. But, um, I was talking about accountability of our church to the neighborhood, basically community accountability. How are we accountability to our community? Right. So what are we, what is our church mission doing in our community? That’s, that’s what I mean when I talk about accountability, um, just wanted to clarify that. So it’s, I just…
Kate: And it’s a very different metric than like the things churches count about like how services you have, what’s your Sunday attendance, what’s your, like so much of the ways we look at impact much more than accountability and accountability kind of flips the, who gets do the measuring and even what’s important to measure. It’s not necessarily what your denomination asks of you as far as donations and attendance, it might be hyper particular to the kind of change that that neighborhood needs and needs to see from a, a gathering I’m hesistant to say congregation there, but might need to see from its institutions.
Coté: Yeah. I mean, it is, it is a, it’s a complete, it’s a, you could do a whole podcast series and this it’s just basically no, it’s, it’s a, it’s a, both a behavioral sciences and, and, and management problem. How do you measure impact? Yeah. And I feel that the metric of numbers being generous comes from acts, you know, like they keep talking about how many thousands of people converted that day. So, you know, like I’m not blaming them for focusing on numbers, but it isn’t a healthy metric right now, I think. Right.
Kate: But we become, fix it on as a singular metric, as opposed to one thing we look at among many different types of impact and different types of relationships.
Derek: Well, it also feels like, again, throw back to a production metric. And, um, and I’m still working with the sort of notion to be in relationship with you. I can’t really count relationships in the same way. It’s okay. You smiled to that. We’ve got three smiles. I mean, is that it’s an interest, it’s an odd way to measure certain things. And in some ways we’re talking about measuring. Yeah. We’re talking about measuring human, shifting into relationship in a different sort of way, or humans discovering God in a different sort of way. Yeah. It becomes very hard to a measure just when the production modality. And so, and even to recognize that maybe modern church, as we’ve known it is built in a production model as opposed to kind of relational…
Coté: Absolutely. It’s annoying
Derek: …communal model. So in some ways, again, this sort of countercultural cause it says, Hey, let’s sit ourselves down in this place and we’re not necessarily thinking about all the commuters who come from other places, but we’re inhabiting in this space. We are living in this space and inviting people to live with us. So
Coté: Yeah. What does it mean to be countercultural? It’s super annoying. How, um, you know, I feel that the church of the eighties and the nineties, bought so hard into the whole like marketing techniques and yeah, there was nothing countercultural about that
Kate: In a lot of ways, the church still kinda operates off of like how can I learn from business world, but like 10 years later, like it’s like doing for profit, but late and badly, and which is not compelling. It’s not,
Derek: But again, I think we’re talking about, and this is a sort of, I appreciate the caution. We’re saying it was a successful model for a period.
Coté: Yeah, yeah,
Derek: Yeah. And then the sort of, it may not have enough life and maybe no model has enough life in it. You know, this is the movement, the Spirit again, and maybe why there’s a sort of dynamic quality, I’m it again is sort of, you know, reminding me, I need to listen to God a bit more carefully as to what are next steps as opposed to the plan. Cause I am still plan driven and I don’t think that’s bad, but how the infinite again, interacts with the finite becomes important. And I think as we’re talking about again, transforming engagements, it is, creating in those context and facilitating and being in those spaces and then in some ways hoping, wishing, praying. Um, and I’m not sure if we pray enough once you have a plan.
Coté: I think that we really have lost the emphasis on prayer and I, I wish we would recover it cuz I I’m actually worried about, um, I, I, I think that the church has a role that is irreplaceable in societies. We were, before we start recording, we were talking a little bit about the state of neighborhoods and how the health of our society relies on the health of neighborhoods and you know, for anybody living on, on coastal cities right now who have been looking at the effects of gentrification and, and the erosion of the neighborhood and the ability to live, where your parents lived and have that network of support, et etcetera, um, it’s become incredibly alarming to see, um, like our lack of access to neighborhood. And here is a place where I feel that it is a worthwhile and, and, and endeavor to fight for the fabric of care and life in the neighborhood, which demands a lot of risk, taking a lot of strategic thinking. And a lot of, um, a lot of Hail Mary’s. I’ll say, you know, the, no one has resolved, no one has solved gentrification so far, you know, I don’t, I haven’t seen any, any city that has done it successfully yet. You know? So it’s definitely like, it’s like climate change, right? Like how do we, these are these issues that you feel so powerless about? Yes. And it is in those places where I actually wonder, oh my gosh. If the church were, were were to see what a beautiful force of change it is, we’re talking with a group from SPU once about how the church was like, uh, this beautiful girl with very low self-esteem right now, you know, like they can’t see themselves as this teenage girl, you know, like they can’t see how beautiful they are and they keep seeking, wanting to be like, let me be like secular activism. No, no, no. Let me be like business. Oh no, no, no. Let me be like social media. Like no, no girl. You’re beautiful. And you have your place in the world. You have your place in the neighborhood. If you were only see yourself, if you would only have eyes to see yourself and unleash that power that comes from prayer or comes from intentional self-examination, that was the word I was, was missing self-examination. Um, they’re, those are pretty powerful forces. I, I, I think, and um, and to me from our little corner in South Park so far, I think that, you know, we are, we’re scratching the surface around what the spirit can do when you have a group of people willing to listen and willing to act on it. We are seeing miracles right now. And I mean, we’ve seen a miracle for two years of families, um, having access to fresh, healthy food, uh, in a place that is designated as a food desert. Um, for example, that, that, that, that was a miracle. Um, and right now, um, we are looking into ways in which, uh, the land is being freed to the people, you know, for people use and that those are other miracles that are happening that I can’t be too public about right now, cuz it’s real estate. But, um, but there, there is transformation happening and I find as churches being so distracted right now trying to chase whatever it is that will keep you relevant, that will keep you in favor. And um, and yeah, I just wish that we were to focus a little bit. I think that if you were to focus back into, um, practices in a particular place, um, it would be miraculous what we would see. Um, so, um, it would be very trans, I mean, again, you can’t program transformation, right. But, uh, but you can definitely more possible. We can all, like I think each one of us, we can all, uh, place ourselves in a position of prayer and discernment and focus on a particular place. That’s something that we can all do now. Um, and we are tapping into communion with God. I mean, that’s, that’s not a minor thing. I mean it’s God, God created the world and yeah, by saying things it’s pretty powerful. So it’s not a minor endeavor, I’m sounding crazy maybe right now. But, but, um, but I, I do believe, I do believe in the power of, of, of, of, of the body of Christ. I do believe in the power of that invitation. Like, um, I feel that, you know, Jesus did die on a cross and resurrected and that meant that, um, that meant a big, yes we can. That meant a, a, a big like, um, Hey, systemic oppression cannot kill you. Like I will come back from the dead in a certain level. It was a great, like “suck it” to the, to the Roman empire. Like you wanted to kill me and you didn’t, you know, so I feel that that, that the resurrection has opened the door for us to be able to tap into resurrection here today in ways that might be suppressing to many of us. If we’re only to position ourselves in this relationship with God in a particular place.
Derek: That’s lovely. You challenge me. I mean, as I think about my own neighborhood, I, I was walking my dog and I live in a primarily middle class, upper middle class neighborhood and probably one of few people of color in that neighborhood. And um, the question of God, what are you doing in this community? When we tend to all go in our homes and close our doors and don’t really talk that much, we kind of, occasionally we’re starting to wave. And I actually feel like I’m making people wave at me cuz they’re not Seattle-ites don’t necessarily wave and say hello. And, um, there’s one of my neighbors is an older gentleman who travels a lot and he’s been hard on him, the pandemic cuz you know, he’s, he’s got a trip planned every couple months to Asia or someplace and I was walking with him. I kind of waited for him and was walking with him. He was going back home and we just talked about Ukraine and a few other things. But as you’re talking, it reminds me that I have a responsibility in that place to listen to him, to hear him. And he changed his direction cuz he saw me and decided he went, well, I’m gonna go back home. And he’s gonna walk me past my home to get to his. And it was, the conversation was maybe in some ways less important than the contact. Because I knew he had not, he lives alone. And I could tell just how much he wanted to tell someone to talk to. Yes. And so we stood out my front door for about 10 minutes, just talking about things because, and I realize that’s more I, as you’re talking, I have more responsibility than just simply that be something that happened. And I tend not to think that way, but this is challenging me to think in my place, in the place that maybe at times I feel alien and the place that doesn’t always feel like safe for me. I bring a bit of safety and connection and contact and the possibility that something could happen. And so thank you for that serendipitous, but trust in and the practice of, and appreciate you enlivening that for us,
Coté: There are a lot of people like that on the country reminding me of DN who the in Indianapolis, his role. So DMA is somebody who has done really transformative work in Indianapolis and all he’s done. And I love that he started doing this when he was a stayat home dad, he calls himself a roving listener. He just started listening to his neighbors. And identifying gifts, connecting those gifts and celebrating them. And a lot of transformation has happened in that neighborhood just because of doing that. Um, so he’s somebody I look at too a lot. Um, he actually came to talk to us, the Cultivate crowd, um, during the pandemic he came in and we got all had to listen to him and we adopted that as our model. Yeah. Identifying gifts, connecting them, celebrating them. It’s really powerful.
Kate: Yeah. It’s beautiful. Thank you. Um, yeah, I’m like, I, I I’m watching time, like okay. We should be wrapping. Um, and I wanna ask like, I mean, I want you to give us a last word and a little bit, you gave us an addiction with, um, your last statement on, um, I think, I think of my questions. Like what, What do you hope, maybe the church in a really broad sense? What do you hope Christians knew about loving their neighbors? Um, I tended to tie it back to embodied community. What do you hope Christians know about what it means to be embodied? But I, I think I I’ve, I’ve heard from you that being embodied means being in your neighborhood, even the value of not choosing who your neighbors are, what do you, what would you hope Christians everywhere do differently? That that’s a big question. I know
Coté: That’s a big question. Um, I mean, I think we get to a bit of, of, of Remember who you are basically, um, like, oh my gosh, we have a role in the world and I feel that we left the scene so easily. We just, uh, again, back to the, the church today is like a teenager woman with very low self-esteem that it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful, like beautiful, talented woman who is, uh, you know, wanted in the public sphere and she refuses to go cause she’s so insecure, you know? Yeah. So basically, um, remember who you are. Um, yeah. I, I have a lot of grief for the church right now and um, it’s, it’s, you know, um, you know, my husband co-founded Parish Collective. Um, and so I was saying before we started recording, um, you know, it’s, it’s very easy in the evangelical culture to, to see the, the wife and the husband working together by my journey into it. Uh, it’s been my own in the sense of yeah. You know, um, I found it very persuasive, uh, you know, to, to, to give my life to this idea of, um, um, the church has a very important role to play, um, in the public sphere. And, um, just for the blessing of the people, just for the blessing of, you know, like, uh, if we’re to tune into what are God’s dreams for our world, you know, and you go into passages, like Isaiah 65 where, you know, can be understood as everybody has a roof over their heads, food, friendships, nobody’s alone, you know? Um, and we are to enact that in the world. And how are we doing that? You know, like getting distracted by, um, political issues, for example, you know, like how, how easily we have, uh, bought into different sides of, uh, I’m not gonna go both sides of this. Um, but, but different, different camps, you know, um, and, and forgetting about, um, our main task, which is to love God and love our neighbor. And if you take that very literally, which is very countercultural, um, and let yourself be surprised. Um, yeah, I just, I think we, we’re having a crisis, an identity crisis as, as, as a church right now. And so, um, anyway, I found out that, you know, the people who know who they are, the most delightful people to be around, you know, cause, uh, that’s also part of, you know, for people who are psychologically trained, you know, if you go fully… On it, you know, like I, and out relationships, you know, and that’s, that’s my hope for the church that we have, I, and out relationships with our neighborhoods and with other religions, you know, or right now we’re a little meshed. We’re a little like we don’t know, is it Oprah? Is it, um, you know, is it like, um, um, what, what’s her name? Um, oh, blank. Sorry. Um, eat, pray love, um, oh, you know,
Kate: Uh, yeah, what is her name, but yes.
Coté: Yeah, yeah. You know, um, is the universe or secular religion is the self secular religion. Like, like it seems that it’s, it’s, it’s white supremacy or secular religion. Like it seems that every, every corner you look around the United States, like it seems that churches don’t know who they are anymore. And, um, so yeah, I’m hoping for, um, a re- understanding, uh, reclaiming of like the beauty that they’re is in the Christian tradition around service and love and, um, transformation, uh, in the neighborhood. Um, but again, I’m, again, I, I, I don’t think I can speak eloquently about it.
Kate: Feeling is there, it’s enough.
Derek: Well, I, I think like going back to human relations, I, we’re not in known in isolation of our relationships. And so what I hear you also saying is can we begin to mirror each other who we are, and not just in the abstract church, but we are a church and I mean, you, that’s probably how you’re touching me as I’m thinking, I need to, I need to think seriously about my walks with my neighbors. Right. You know, the conversations I’m having. And so you’re mirroring something and can we mirror for each other what we’re called, the beauty that we are. So, yeah.
Kate: Did you have a wrap up question you wanted?
Derek: I didn’t have any wrap up questions. I’m just,
Kate: You wrap thought that you said you,
Coté: I, I feel that I gave you an ear-full. I’m kinda sorry. Actually,
Kate: I’m not at all. Sorry. I mean, I’ll let you work out…
Coté: I’ve been, I’ve been in a very hands on space lately, so it’s funny cuz uh, you know, years ago I was never very like book wormy place. I was like, and I’ve been in a, I’ve been doing hands on for, I don’t know, five, six years now. Yeah. So it’s, it’s more challenging when we come into these conversations. So like have my one liner
Kate: Come back into the abstract with us.
Coté: I also don’t tweet or the on Instagram. So that’s a good exercise to get me the one liners. Right.
Derek: That’s true. It does probably shape sharpen that skill. But I would, I don’t have that. I would say, um, no, I think it was touching for me, is this, I needed to hear some of the things you’re saying. Oh, so, um, and it’s not like, oh, this brand new, it was just reminders. Like, yes, that’s just true. That’s true. Well,
Kate: I think there’s a, like so often or theological conversations can be in this like abstraction of beautiful thoughts without any presence or action or practicality behind it. And so hearing you speak of it from having been in the hands on context, changes even the way I hear the abstraction. Cause I know you’re living this way and it’s not just hyperrational, it’s not disembodied and disconnected. It’s coming from something very embodied, very connected.
Coté: I do want to, uh, affirm something that you guys were talking about in your theory of change for the Center for Transforming Engagement, as far as like what leadership is. I’ve been thinking a lot about, you know, in Encanto, let’s talk about Encanto for a second. The Disney movie Lin Manuel Miranda wrote there is a line there I think is one of the most powerful things it’s been said in popular culture, about leadership like, but stars don’t shine they burn and um, as far as like transformation and, and um, so it’s been really interesting for me to see like the, um, I, I do, I, I have felt the, the weight of, um, of how my character has had to transform and how… Ever, ever since like, I, I, I walked into leadership, okay, we’re gonna make this coffee shop happen. You know, where we’re and there are a lot of like brilliant ambitious projects. I mean, that, it’s crazy how many projects we have going on right now. But the growth, the, the growth that has come from being in throes with people and in the neighborhood being called names, you know, like it hasn’t been a flowery, you know, um, there, there, um, it, it it’ll be really, I think it’s really important for people to track that that burning, that has happening in relationship with people throughout. I think that you guys are really onto something there. I kinda resonated with like, yes, I have an embodied experience of that growth throughout the years. Uh, in this very transformative space of my heart, really shifting and being shaped by the people. I found, I’m finding I’m a lot more vulnerable to people. I was more able before to keep arms length. Now I’m very affected by people because even Timothy has been a part of it now like, Hey, now we have relationships. Um, anyway, so I think that you are onto something there. I just want to affirm as, as, as beautiful too, I’m looking forward to hearing more about what you guys are discovering with other conversations. Yeah. And how has it been for other people? Yeah. That’s – thank you. Thank you.