Welcome to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bellingham, Washington!
Hello, I'm Jonathan Weldon, Rector of St. Paul's,
Established in 1884, St. Paul's Episcopal Church is a vibrant, Christian community that looks to the past for wisdom, and to the future for hope.
At St. Paul's we are committed to strengthening our faith and supporting each other on our spiritual journeys. We use our gifts and talents to follow Christ's teachings. We are bound together by love and fellowship, not by dogma or rigid beliefs and we meet, in love, not at the table of the church, but at the table of our Lord.
We are a welcoming mix of Christians with diverse accomplishments, backgrounds and opinions. We worship. We celebrate. We question. We listen. We study. We pray. We Serve.
Come to St. Paul's. Add your voice—add your heart—to our worship. Sing the hymns with us. Pray the prayers. Everyone is welcome at Jesus’ table. Your voice can rise and join with ours as we proclaim the good news of God’s love in Christ. If you are looking for a church home, step into the warm embrace of St. Paul's.
Thank you for sharing your worship with us.
Peace and joy be with you.
Having doubts? We know the feeling . . .
On the Sunday after Easter, we always read the same passage of scripture from the twentieth chapter of John. It's the story of Thomas, the only disciple who has not seen Jesus since the horror of the crucifixion.
The other disciples tell him a fantastic story: Jesus has come back from death and appeared to many people. Jesus is alive!
Thomas is skeptical. In fact, Thomas has the audacity to demand proof. He wants to see the risen Jesus with his own eyes. He has to understand what this means, using his own reason. Then (perhaps...) he'll believe this crazy story.
Now, at this point in some churches, you might be scolded. You may be warned not to be like Thomas. "Don't be a DOUBTING THOMAS. Let the Holy Spirit guide you... it’s a mystery.”
In other words, "if the bible says something confusing or strange, just relax, we'll tell you what it means". And they're very insistent, and very sure of this. So you swallow hard and you push the questions down.
It's not like that here at St. Paul’s.
Doubt and mystery are part of the deal. We all struggle with it. All great religious leaders had doubt. All great theology dances with mystery. The Apostles—who were with Jesus every day (!)—had to fight to believe their own eyes and ears. And they usually got it wrong, just like we usually get it wrong. It's part of the deal.
In the Episcopal church, we are not afraid to admit this. In fact, we turn and look mystery right in the eye! During the most sacred part of our service, we say these words:
"We proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ will come again."
Now there's a mystery for you.
We believe that you have to embrace mystery and pursue your doubts. That, in fact, you have to seek them out to be a mature Christian. You may come to understand that there are things that you are not supposed to understand. Maybe absolute clarity and understanding would only diminish this holy mystery; and diminish your faith journey? Maybe not. But either way, we're supposed to wrestle with this stuff—broken hip and all.
Granted, this is not the easy path through life. Jesus' message is often complex, and radically counter-intuitive. Living the Christian life is not for lightweights. As G.K. Chesterton put it:
"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting—it has been found difficult and left untried."
But it's worth it. Don't let your doubts keep you from the joy of Christ's message. Dive in and experience the mysteries and richness of Christian life.
You will not regret this.
You may decide this spiritual path is not for you . . . but please don't make these classic mistakes:
Don't stay away because you just can't believe some parts of the Christian message; that it's mumbo-jumbo, or you would feel like a hypocrite because you can't accept it all in one big gulp. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you never try, you can be 100% sure to never understand. This stuff takes time. Be brave. Join us on our mutual journeys.
Don't avoid the church out of spite, false pride, a sense of intellectual superiority, or other facile reasoning. It's much deeper than you think. Most criticism of the church is based on outmoded and simplistic caricatures. Most critics set up a sophomoric straw-man version of Christianity and attack that. (And declaring yourself a militant athiest does seem to sell a lot of books, doesn't it?)
Don't waste your energy finding fault and taking pride in what you don't believe. Explore how engaging and rewarding it is to believe that you are part of something—something sacred, something awesome.
(And look—not to be snarky—but staying away from the church punishes you, not us. We're doing just fine.)
Don't try to go it alone. Tragic things will happen. Those you love will suffer. You are going to die someday. The church can help. We've been helping people deal with life and death for thousands of years. We know what we're doing.
Don't let your life be trivial. Some of life's milestones should be solemn and sacred occasions. Some should be joyous and beautiful—backed up with a thundering pipe organ. We have the rituals, the words, the symbols (and the organ). It is a mistake to let your doubts hold you back from this. Weave yourself a web of meaning. Create a safety net that will support you when you need it. Give some heft to your life.
Don't reject or ignore the timeless values and noble truths. We teach concepts that you can steer by, and pass on to your children. It's a fast-changing, frenetic world. We need to anchor ourselves, hear the timeless stories, and understand the basic symbolism of our Christian culture. Touch the infinite once in a while.
DO: Add strength to your family. Learn and share convictions born of timeless and universal love. Celebrate the holidays by doing something more profound than eating and drinking too much.
DO: Ask God for what you need! Reach out. Learn to pray. Call on clergy. Have a place of refuge.
DO: Become part of something worthwhile. Serve with us in causes and communities that are larger than just you. Feel the joy of Christian fellowship. Work hard for high and noble causes. Discover what the word "awesome" actually means.
Scenes from St. Paul's
How big is St. Paul's?
St. Paul's is a vibrant, growing parish and the second largest parish in the Diocese of Olympia (after St. Mark's Cathedral).
This from the treasurer:
Communicants & Sunday Attendance
In 2018, our total number of pledges increased from 211 to 222. This is an increase of $37,711, which is roughly 7%.
In the last four years, attendance at Easter Services has increased from 500 to 760.
In the last four years, average Sunday attendance has increased from 273 to 324.
Less than half the Communicants at St. Paul's are "cradle Episcopalians", (including our Rector). We are an amazing, diverse, and accomplished group with faith journeys from many traditions.
CLICK HERE for much more detailed information about the vibrant and engaged people of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.