St. Brendan’s, Bellingham: A Church that Walks the Talk
Four years ago, a group of 14 founding lay members in Bellingham, Washington, asked themselves, “How do we recapture this city for Christ?” Calling on the Holy Spirit to guide them in setting the initial values and DNA of St. Brendan’s, these servants engaged in outreach ministries with huge impacts on the City of Bellingham and all of Whatcom County. Today, the church averages 60 to 85 on Sunday and continues to grow both in new members and community involvement.
“The Holy Spirit called us not to develop our own church ministries for outreach, but rather to invest our volunteer time and talents in the existing community service programs and organizations in our city and county,” said Bishop Allen who also serves as rector of St. Brendan’s. “Our primary motivation at St Brendan’s is to be a difference-maker by showing Christ’s love to our local community.”
St. Brendan’s allocates five percent of its total budget to local outreach grants and five percent to international missions. Beyond monetary donations, the church is taking creative initiative and going where few have gone before., St. Brendan’s became the first and only church to be a corporate sponsor of the Annual Relay for Life Cancer Walk in Bellingham. Additionally, through Bishop Allen’s participation as the annual celebrant for the Blessing of the Fleet, St. Brendan’s partnered with the Bellingham Yacht Club and others to endow a scholarship for graduates of recovery programs to earn a vocational degree in the maritime industry.
At Western Washington University, St. Brendan’s is a founding cosponsor of the Annual Religion and Philosophy Lecture Series. And on Good Friday every year, the church organizes “Seven Last Words from the Cross,” a service led by the university’s students and faculty.
The congregation also invests countless hours volunteering for programs like the Lighthouse Mission Ministries for the homeless, which honored St. Brendan’s with a “Volunteer of the Year” award. The church is deeply involved at Amy’s Place for Youth which ministers and cares for homeless children and young adults. This spring, they sponsored and organized a fully subscribed charity golf tournament to raise funds and awareness for the ministry.
In addition to these community groups, some members use their talents by serving on school boards, non-profit boards and as leaders in other service organizations.
“We looked for community programs that needed leadership and hands-on volunteers where our church could make a real impact,” said Bishop Allen. “I am very proud of so many of our laity who have made significant contributions of their time and talents, and through these have become great witnesses for Christ!”
By volunteering and sponsoring local organizations, boards and ministries, the pews continue to be filled by people who have witnessed this church’s immense love for Christ and their community. Bishop Allen recalls one family who decided to attend a service after discovering St. Brendan’s booth at the Relay for Life Cancer Walk. Another family came in after hiring some of the youth members to do garden work and seeing their servant-hearts. This past Christmas, nearly 20 percent of attendees came as a result of city outreach and contacts through these types of programs.
St. Brendan’s strongly believes that fellowship is the key to genuinely orienting those outside the Church to Christianity. “We are continuing to grow each year, both in numbers and missions,” said Bishop Allen. “Within the next few years, we hope not to just create a large congregation, but a congregation that multiplies in neighboring cities.”
This church’s unique way of ministering to its community has truly been an inspiration to others who are passionate about spreading the love of Christ. Please join us in lifting up this incredible group of disciples as they continue to share the Good News with their community.
Photo caption: St. Brendan’s held a golf tournament to raise funds and awareness for Amy’s Place for Youth