City of Bellevue
by Jody Robinson, Assistant
When I received an email this summer from Pastor Keith with a request to share my thoughts about this church’s connection to the City of Bellevue, I readily accepted. As I read the request I pondered: what would I say? I recognize the significance as Jody, the assistant city administrator of Bellevue, and as the Main Street Manager tasked to support the revitalization efforts of Fairfield Avenue. However, I quickly realized that I also was compelled to filter the request as Jody, the resident of Bellevue, and with my respect and gratefulness as a friend of St. John United Church of Christ.
I made my way to Bellevue in 2006, filled with excitement about serving this community. It was not long after that when I first met Pastor Keith. I was saddened at first to sense there had been tension in the past between the city and this church, but within moments it was clear the past was the past and the church’s desire to be part of the community was filled with potential. A potential based on inclusion and a sincere desire to reach beyond those of you who fill these pews and reach into our community. It is uplifting to see the steps of progress become confident strides.
As I reflected on St. John’s mission, a series of images raced across my mind and I realized I was leaning back in my chair with a smile on my face and a sense of how fortunate we are as a community. When the church was looking for new opportunities to fulfill their mission, I was asked to be interviewed. I recall thinking what an exceptional thing it was to be invited, and through the interview process itself, how valued and open the dialog was. During the interview, we spent a fair amount of time discussing the needs of seniors, and with next Saturday’s free senior luncheon how lives will be touched and new paths to assisting our seniors will be discovered.
Bellevue is truly blessed by the events and activities provided by this church. As you reach out with a welcoming embrace, Bellevue gets to show its best side. In a few months, visitors will gather within these walls to hear the beautiful music provided by the Music on the Avenue series. Through conversations and my own observations, I am delighted to see jazz and classical music made more accessible by not only being heard in this location, but through the captivating introductions to each selection of music. There’s always a sense of electricity in the air as people settle in their seats waiting for the concert to begin and lives being enriched. It spills onto the street with many of the concert goers becoming faithful patrons of Fairfield Avenue. We look forward to enjoying and helping promote the upcoming seasons.
Earlier I mentioned steps of progress becoming confident strides and Bellevue Renaissance’s Shop Bellevue! and Third Saturday Celebration events certainly demonstrate that. The easy thing to do is to take the attitude of “it’s Friday night or a Saturday and we’re closed.” Instead a connection is made to the church and the block comes alive, helping connect the business-dense blocks with the blocks needing more support to draw visitors to them.
We’re progressing beyond sharing only the two Music on the Avenue concert dates during Shop Bellevue! and “Our” Santa and Mrs. Claus–Ed and Janet Ulsas, longtime dedicated members of this church and our community. For the last three years, Pastor Keith graciously provides animal blessings during Renaissance’s Dog Days of Summer event. Recently a drumming circle was added beginning with a few people participating and each month the number has increased. As the drumming circle takes place, Avenue patrons are welcomed to join in. Together we will grow this communal symbol of equality.
The diversity of our community and the role of assistance and inclusion of St. John can be seen through the rummage sales where shoppers looking for interesting items at bargain prices shop next to shoppers that need access to low price items. Halloween is around the corner and kids know they will be greeted at the steps with a smile and a piece of candy. More and more, St. John is recognized as a focal point for building community noted by these things, but also more intimately with the Pastor’s Discretionary Assistance Funding, providing a helping hand to individuals. The City and St. John share an interest in supporting the children of the community–our future. As basic as it may seem, St. John’s providing school supplies to students attending Grandview Elementary is contributing to a better future.
As the relationship with the city and this church continues to grow, the frequency of “what do you think” inquiries to Pastor Keith are increasing, and each one is warmly welcomed and more are encouraged. Today we have Mackey Advisors flanking the north east corner of the intersection because of St. John’s willingness to enter into a shared parking agreement. When the City at the last minute found out The Party Source would not be able to accommodate the Bellevue Farmers Market, St. John was willing to provide the parking lot to salvage it. Our excitement grew as we could envision the value of the location and partnership, but sadly the City was informed too late for the farmers to accept as they had found other locations.
The topics change as do the leaders in the church that I have the opportunity to work with. The common denominator was, and continues to be, the desire of working together, of building a better community. When the City wanted to assist St. John by providing a home during the hot summer months, we had to evaluate the ramifications. Happily we were able to develop a policy to open the doors of the Callahan Community Center for your Sunday worship. We had come together for meaningful dialog to work on common goals, such as the creation of the handicap access to this space while honoring the architectural integrity, as well as storm water management which brought in SD1 as a partner to assist in building the first rain garden in Bellevue. I was honored to participate in the dedication of the accessibility project knowing a win/win was accomplished through a genuine interest in working together.
I chose Bellevue as my place of work and my home because I saw the community character defined by love, kindness, acceptance, and integrity. With these same qualities I see St. John, through your ministry, helping transform lives and this community. I look forward to continuing to work together on this journey of strengthening our ability to build a better Bellevue.