St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church leader to retire

January 22, 2013

ContributedThe Rev. Ann Lukens, leader at St. Michaels and All Angels Episcopal Church, leads parishioners in worship.

The Rev. Ann Lukens, leader at St. Michaels and All Angels Episcopal Church, leads parishioners in worship. Contributed

The leader at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, the Rev. Ann Lukens, plans to retire from the post Jan. 27 after a dozen years.

Lukens spearheaded and oversaw significant expansions at the downtown Issaquah church, including a modernization and expansion of facilities, encouraging more music in worship and deepening St. Michael’s ties to the community.

Throughout Lukens’ tenure, St. Michael’s adapted to accommodate a burgeoning congregation. The church remodeled and added space for Sunday school classrooms a decade ago and, in June 2011, consecrated a 4,985-square-foot addition to almost double the church’s footprint.

St. Michael’s, founded in 1953, used the 2011 expansion to refresh the church façade and add a music center to make room for popular music programs and children’s ministries.

From the pulpit, Lukens led meaningful Holy Week services — Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday — offered parishioners a chance to worship in festive attire on All Hallows and, before Lent, Fat Sunday.

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Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church ministry is journey for pastor

December 11, 2012

Pastor Debbie Boyce (middle) is ordained by Bishop William Chris Boerger of the Northwest Washington Synod and installed as a new pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. Beverly Piro (left), assisting minister for the ordination, looks on. By Mike Nordal

For many years, Debbie Boyce felt her spiritual life was giving her a nudge. After raising five children, she embarked upon a new journey — going back to school, starting out as an undergrad.

Fast-forward nine years. Boyce, 53, graduated from seminary school last summer and became the new pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Issaquah.

A Montana native, Boyce lives in Kent. She said church members have made her transition from student to pastor an easy one. Not only is she the first pastor to be ordained at the church, but she is the first female to hold the role — and both traits are embraced by church members.

“I’ve felt really welcomed, just a wide-open welcome door,” she said. “Lots of warm hospitality, lots of eager energy to welcome me.

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Hallelujah! Sing & Play Along Messiah! returns

December 11, 2012

Christmas revelers can create a joyful noise and benefit Issaquah Community Services as St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church hosts Sing & Play Along Messiah! — a concert to aid people in need throughout the community.

Proceeds from the event go to Issaquah Community Services’ Merry Christmas Issaquah fund.

“The real intent behind ‘Messiah’ was and still is to benefit the needs of the local community,” said Jason Anderson, associate for liturgical arts and youth formation at the downtown Issaquah church.

George Frideric Handel composed “Messiah” in 1741 to illustrate scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. “Messiah” ranks among the best-known musical works from the Baroque period, and the piece is especially popular around Christmas

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Eastridge Church welcomes singer Steven Welch as worship pastor

November 20, 2012

Eastridge Church Worship Pastor Steven Welch recently released his latest faith-based album, ‘Color of Love.’ Dream Records photo

Worship Pastor Steven Welch has drawn the faithful at two of the largest churches in the country, combining his passion for music and faith to lead the masses through Sunday services.

Faith was always an important part of Welch’s life growing up in the Midwest. The son of a pastor, Welch attended Bible college, and during that time started playing music and touring the country with a band.

After time spent serving at The Chapel in Chicago and the James River Assembly in Missouri, Welch and his young family have decided to call Issaquah home, where Welch has been named the new worship pastor at Eastridge Church.

“Steven’s had a place of ministry in a couple of America’s really elite churches,” Lead Pastor Steve Jamison said. “He has really been one of the elite leaders in our country, as far as it comes to being a worship leader, and it’s been just an amazing blessing for us to have him.”

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Mormon ward is meant to attract, match singles

November 13, 2012

Being single on a Sunday is hard — just ask anyone of the 60 or so singles that will soon be traveling from around the Eastside area to join the Tiger Mountain Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We were hearing the same thing from all parts of the country,” explained Robert Johnson, president of the Bellevue South Stake. “It’s hard to concentrate on the message when there you are, single, alone and feeling completely at odds with the families on either side.”

Over the past 30 years, the LDS church has sought different ways to address the growing number of individuals who are divorced, as well as the rising number of individuals that simply choose not to marry. In the early 1980s, congregations were established for “young singles,” 21- to 31-year-olds on the Eastside and in Seattle, and have been operating ever since.

“This was a natural evolution around colleges,” Johnson said.

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Church members rise to challenge of building homes in Mexico

September 11, 2012

Volunteers from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, in Issaquah, staple tar paper and chicken wire to the exterior wall of a new home before applying stucco during their mission to Tecate, Mexico, in July. Contributed

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church members recently returned from a weeklong mission in Tecate, Mexico, where 14 volunteers began building a house.

This is the 12th year of the mission and Karen Stillwell has been involved since the beginning. In those years, the Issaquah church has helped with more than 15 homes in the community. Stillwell said the town has gone from all-dirt roads to almost all of them being paved and has expanded tremendously.

“We detect a huge community spirit there now,” church member Jeff Matson said.

The mission started as a youth group opportunity for high school-aged students but this year only five young people participated.

“The adults get such a kick out of it. They really enjoy it,” Matson said.

For families to qualify for a house, they must be living in the community and wanting to stay there. One parent must have a job and the tenants must have bought the property. The family this year wasn’t sure who exactly would be moving into the new house.

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End of Ramadan draws thousands for Eid prayers

August 28, 2012

After fasting for the month of Ramadan, several local families joined thousands for a morning of prayer and celebration Aug. 19 at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound’s Mosque in Redmond.

Area Muslims, celebrating the end of Ramadan, pray during the Eid prayer Aug. 19. By Lillian O’Rorke

“This is the day that should be the most happy day of the year,” speaker Abdurrahman Hejazi told the crowd of more than 2,000 that gathered for the first of two Eid Al-Fitr prayers. “When you feel this happiness, make sure you want others to be happy.”

As the 9 o’clock hour rolled in, police officers directed traffic and a steady stream of people flowed into the mosque’s doors. Women used the occasion as a chance to catch up and socialize. By the time everyone knelt to pray there were so many people gathered that the doors were opened and a tarp was spread on the ground for men to stand barefoot while the celebration overflowed into the open air.

“It’s a culmination of a monthlong activity that has us focusing on generosity, spirituality, patience and community,” said Salah Dandan, of Sammamish. “It’s important to celebrate and feel happy with friends and family.”

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Musi-quah explores music of world religions at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church

August 21, 2012

St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church underwent a dramatic transformation more than a year ago, adding classrooms, meeting rooms and a music center to the Issaquah church.

Now, the staff is excited to add a chorus of children’s voices to the music center through Musi-quah, the church’s new musical education program.

The weekly afterschool program, for third- through fifth-graders, allows children to discover their own musical voices while exploring the melodic riches of different cultures and faiths, according to Jason Anderson, Musi-quah’s director.

“We were really taken with the idea that you can explore a variety of music from a variety of faiths and cultures,” he said. “There’s no indoctrination or anything, it’s just an exploration.”

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Community Bible Study marks 10th year, moves to Faith United Methodist Church

August 14, 2012

Community Bible Study celebrates its 10th year on the Sammamish Plateau this year.

“We have been blessed to serve over 500 women in the Sammamish area since inception of this class in January 2003, and look forward to serving many new women and their children in the coming years,” Sue Wood, CBS teaching director, said. “It is so rewarding to see so many women of different denominations studying together. We focus on our similarities rather than our differences.”

The class will be moving this year to a new location — Faith United Methodist Church at 3924 Issaquah-Pine Lake Road — on a new day, Wednesdays, starting Sept. 12. The class is from 9:45-11:45 a.m.

The Sammamish Plateau Community Bible Study also provides a caring children’s program for children from birth to kindergarten, but space will be limited. Learn more at or email Julie Guse at

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Pastor leaves Alaska for Pine Lake Covenant Church

August 7, 2012

Mark Meredith is the new lead pastor for Pine Lake Covenant Church in Sammamish. By Greg Farrar

If you ask the Rev. Mark Meredith if he is a fan of “churchliness” the answer is “no.”

“I hate churchliness,” he said.

He defines the term as being church-bound and thinking that within the four walls of a church is where God is most active.

“We gather on Sunday so we can have our batteries charged so that we can really be about God all week,” he said.

While he has only been in Sammamish for a few weeks and is still looking for a house to buy, Meredith has already started his new post as lead pastor of Pine Lake Covenant Church.

Keeping the lessons of Christianity present in everyday life has been something that has appealed to Meredith since he first committed to the faith in his mid-20s. That was nearly three decades ago, when he was living on Mercer Island and just getting started as owner of a small variety store.

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