The Catacomb Churches


The Catacomb Churches 
Members of the first Catacomb Church in
Mount Vernon, Wash.

Terry Kylo has been a pastor for 21 years -- many of those years in the ELCA -- and he wants to make one thing clear: "I love the church."

"What I'm really interested in," he says, "is how we can foster an environment that supports people in being able to discern and to live out their baptismal calling."

So while Terry works half-time as a pastor at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Marysville, Wash., he spends the rest working to launch the Catacomb Churches, a synodically authorized worshiping community of the ELCA Northwest Washington Synod.

The Catacomb Churches are a small but growing community of house churches where each has its own specific mission issue -- like hunger or homelessness -- that it will work to impact in surrounding communities.

"Lutheran theology gives some really excellent help in helping folks who get really excited about an issue to realize that they don't have to fix it," Terry shares. "I think the key thing is that God is already at work on these issues, and we're just called to take part in it, and that taking part in it is how God heals us."

So far there are three house churches meeting. The first, in Mount Vernon, Wash., is made up of people from a variety of faith backgrounds -- Nazarene, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Buddhist and Presbyterian -- all of whom, Terry says, "were kind of sick of church."

The group is now going through the process of choosing between two concerns as their core mission: marriage equality or education among families of migrant farm workers.

Once they've decided on a mission, they will begin working with their community on the issue. The idea of community organizing is especially important to the vision for the Catacomb Churches. Terry hopes to see "these house churches engaging their communities even around somewhat controversial topics, but being able to do so without some of the arrogance that sometimes happens. We want to engage as saints and sinners, not as people with all the answers."

First and foremost, Terry says, it's about being human. "It's not about turning the world into a project," Terry shares. "As God called Abraham and Sarah, God calls us."

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