Practicing Presence in Seattle

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The Aurora neighborhood in Seattle has been plagued with homelessness, addiction, and sexual exploitation. The people of Awake Christian Reformed Church, located in the heart of this neighborhood, understand that offering their presence will create community and help neighbors flourish.

The church recently celebrated the grand opening of the Aurora Commons. Rev. Benjamin Katt, pastor of Awake CRC, described it as “a neighborhood living room . . . a space in the neighborhood where Awake seeks to live out the gospel in an intentional and visible way.”

People who visit the Commons can attend educational classes, children’s activities, weekly meals, and coffee hours.

Some members of Awake also serve as “chaplains of presence.” They staff the Commons with open hearts and listening ears, conversing with neighbors over cups of coffee or playing cards or creating art together.

Andrew Bauman (left) visits with Denny at Aurora Commons.

Many of the neighbors who visit the Commons are homeless, in transition, or living in local motels. Several have worked as prostitutes.

Andrew Bauman, a chaplain of presence, said, “This is a neighborhood of great heartache and brokenness, and if we can offer our presence, many times that is the face of Christ they need to get through the day.”

Bauman enjoys it when people share their stories with him. “It is in this place of vulnerability that we get to experience God's image and his kindness. It is a place where mental illness and fervent prayers are often experienced at the same time,” he noted.

The ministry requires little preparation. “The only agenda is to be,” he said. “Practicing presence has caused me to try to rest and create space for God to show up in my own life.”

About the Author

Amy Toornstra is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Salem, Oregon.

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What an amazing effort. May God wonderfully bless this ministry.

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