Spirit of Grace, initially named Mission of the Atonement, was born over 30 years ago when a small group of people believed that conversation and prayer across religious lines was worth the effort.

SPIRIT OF GRACE timeline

1985-1986: When Atonement Lutheran Church faced inadequate financial resources and declining membership, members began meeting with members of St. Anthony Catholic Church to explore possibilities.

July 1986: We celebrated our first “simultaneous yet separate” worship service.

1989: We hosted our first-of-many ecumenical outreach events with church dignitaries—the Lutheran bishop and Catholic archbishop.

Early 1990s: Several Lutheran-Catholic couples formed an Ecumenical Couples group and met monthly to discuss issues related to interfaith relationships and parenting. We also discussed the Lutheran-Catholic dialogues during our adult education hour.

1996: Laurie Larson Caesar joined us as our then-half-time Lutheran pastor while also serving Portland State University as a chaplain.

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2002-2003: After 15 years with us, Fr. Matt announced his retirement and Fr. Neil Moore joined us. We entered into a covenant with Bilal Mosque.

2004-2005: The Oriental Mission Church, which had been renting our property for several years, moved to a new location. Mary Follen was hired to be our Catholic lay leader and minister of spiritual programs. We began every-other-year trips to Holden Village as a community.

Holden Village, 2007

Holden Village, 2007

2006: After several months of discernment and education, we became one of the first Lutheran churches in Oregon to become Reconciling in Christ (LGBTQIA-affirming).

2007-2008: We established a Long-Range Planning team and began a visioning process, with small discussion groups meeting in homes.

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2009: The congregation approved the Long-Range Plan. We built the labyrinth and began working to improve the landscaping and memorial garden. Fr. Neil retired again.

2010: We dedicated the labyrinth with a party and added a second service.

2011: We celebrated 25 years as a faith community, and Kathy Truman answered the call to be our Catholic lay leader.

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2013: We celebrated the Liturgical season of Creationtide, created by Pr. Brian Brandt, for the first time; received a generous grant from ELCA Churchwide; and welcomed our first-ever Lutheran intern, Pr. Nathan Allen, and his family.

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2014: We said goodbye to the Allen family and welcomed perhaps the first-ever-in-history Catholic lay leader intern, Puanani Lalakea. Pr. Laurie and Kathy Truman joined a group from the Oregon Synod to visit the Holy Land. We had our first AIDS Walk team, in addition to annual appearances in the Portland Pride Parade. We held our first annual Advent auction and party.

2015: Our young people traveled to Detroit for the ELCA youth assembly in lieu of their annual mission trip, and we celebrated “Christians Coming Out Day.” Our Advent auction theme was “Party Like a Magi.”

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2016: We changed our name to Spirit of Grace, adopted with unanimous consent after a long process of discernment, research, and voting. Pr. Laurie participated in a “pulpit swap” with other Beaverton pastors called “Got Questions?” Many of our women began a series of meetings with Muslim women. In Advent we celebrated “Los Posadas.”

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2017: Over 20 members participated in the Women’s March. Our Muslim friend Nura spoke from our pulpit on Mother’s Day. Pr. Laurie set off on a sabbatical for the summer. Our Advent party theme was “Decemberfest.”

2018: Pr. Laurie and a few others traveled to Washington DC to take part in “March For Our Lives,” while over 30 of us marched in the Portland version. Pr. Laurie also took a trip of pilgrims to Germany to visit famous places of Luther, and Kathy Truman had a sabbatical in the fall. Pr. Laurie officiated at her first same-sex wedding. We held a healing service for women who had been affected by sexual harassment, abuse, or assault. We had the best Advent auction yet with “Party Like Gatsby.”

2019: We hosted our first ordination (of our former youth leader, now Pastor Crystal Larsen) and produced a series of three videos to showcase our unique community. Pr. Laurie was elected as bishop of the ELCA Oregon Synod, and we sent her off with all our love, tears, and support, with the biggest Saturday night party and Sunday blessing ever. Logan McLean joined us as our first-ever summer seminarian. Pr. Brian Brandt began as interim pastor.

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