New Sandpoint church shares faith through conversation
|Bob Evans, left, performs with his band at Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Annual Meeting.|
The Rev. Bob Evans’ passion is to teach the way Jesus did, in conversation and communion—not necessarily from the pulpit.
In Sandpoint, he started the Emerge ‘N See United Church of Christ (UCC) with help from Susan, his wife of 26 years. The church was received into standing with the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC at its Annual Meeting in April.
The church supports the outreach of individual members. Many were doing social work before they began attending the church.
Some work with Habitat for Humanity. Others help those needing assistance with rent. Some write for a local paper called, “The Reader.”
“We support each other in what we’re doing,” Bob said. “We’re small, but salt in the community.”
As the church evolves, he expects it may become more liturgical, but a seminar remains central to their gathering.
At 9:30 a.m., Sundays, Emerge ‘N See UCC meets at the Heartwood Center at 615 Oak Street in Sandpoint.
At 9 a.m., some gather in the kitchen, set up coffee and snacks, and catch up with each other. Others sit in silence in a circle in the worship room.
At 9:30, the group gathers in the circle. Bob opens the service by introducing the day’s topic. For example, one Sunday in July, he played his guitar, accompanying his wife Susan as she sang a children’s song to help the group grapple with meanings of “sacred” and “spirit,” and how they relate to each other.
After a gathering prayer, the congregation discusses the topic for the rest of the hour. When he refers to biblical stories, he does not quote chapter and verse, but invites people to delve into the Bible to find the stories themselves.
After the service, worshipers mingle for a while, help clean up and leave for whatever else their day holds.
Bob feels compelled to share the Christian message through conversations, which he said is the way the Gospels depict Jesus teaching.
Born in Bonners Ferry, he grew up in Sandpoint. His spiritual journey began early with asking questions like “Who is God?”
His mother recited the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” and he asked, “What does THAT mean?” She said it was about resting in a safe place.
“That prayer is a perfect introduction to the Mystery … of Being, of God. I don’t want to define it for anyone else,” Bob said.
Music plays a major role in his life.
Since he began playing violin in the fourth grade, he always wanted to play the guitar. Eventually, he learned by watching musicians who played in bars.
“I began playing with them when I was 14,” he said. “I had a chance to grow into who I was as a musician. It doesn’t happen that way today. It’s too commercial now.”
Bob took an interlude to serve in the Marines during the Vietnam era, but he did not go overseas.
“It opened my eyes to the political system,” he said. “I try to see the yin and yang. I hope we are waking up to lessons we learned there and in Iraq.”
Back from military service, Bob went as a musician from Sandpoint to Portland to Nashville in two years.
“Often I was in the right place at the right time. I played bass with actress and country music singer Barbara Mandrell,” said Bob, who played with many others in the music business.
“It was the time in my life when I experienced the deepest and steepest spiritual growth, seeing life from both sides of the stage,” he said. “I had the chance to be a star, but I had a sense that would be dangerous for me.”
Bob did commercial fishing and logging during his teen years. When he left the music business, he went to Alaska to fish with his father and stayed for 17 years.
Not agreeing with ideas of conservative churches he encountered, and not knowing about progressive churches, he considered himself Buddhist.
In Wrangell, Alaska, however, he began attending a Presbyterian (USA) church, where the pastor addressed his questions. When he didn’t have an answer, he would say so. He suggested Bob take a lay pastor’s course in Sitka. The next pastor guided him to Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine, with Presbyterian sponsorship.
The “Bangor Plan” allowed him to study for a bachelor’s degree and master’s of divinity at the same time.
On Mother’s Day 2001, a senior at the seminary asked Bob to lead a worship service at the Kenduskeag Union Church, a congregation accustomed to having student pastors. He became pastor there while at Bangor.
“The members were thinkers,” he said. “They opened up to what I was thinking.”
After seminary, Bob returned to Alaska to the Presbyterian church, “but my heart wasn’t there,” he said.
He returned to Sandpoint and joined the Newport United Church of Christ. The then UCC Conference Minister arranged for him to preach at the UCC church in Wallace and American Baptist church in Osborn. He was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 2008 and called to serve there.
Much as he loved these churches in the Silver Valley, he wanted to return to Sandpoint, where his parents lived.
He advertised a seminar on the Kingdom of God at the Gardenia Center, a spiritual center in Sandpoint.
That was the beginning of Emerge ‘N See UCC.
Bob reflected on his ministry.
“I teach from the depth of the myth that people are hungry for,” he continued. “That’s what the church is supposed to do.”
He said he started the congregation intentionally, but casually, believing the church should be a reference point for people’s spiritual journey. From there, they reach out into the community.
Copyright © November 2015 - The Fig Tree