Longtime Ballard pastor heading to U District

After 11 years at the pulpit of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard, Reverend Rich Lang is heading to the University District.

The congregation at Trinity United Methodist

“Every pastor has a limited set of skills,” Lang says, “What I do best is to help congregations refocus their mission (reason to exist). Eleven years ago Trinity was an aging, declining congregation that had lost its direction and focus. Today, the church is growing, the morale is exciting with young singles and young families as our growing edge. I think God has called me into a ‘raising the dead’ type ministry. Trinity is no longer dead. It has come fully alive!”

Over the years, Rev. Lang has been very outspoken about homeless rights and was even arrested during a protest in 2008. But as Lang says, the activism doesn’t start or stop with him. “The values of social justice run far deeper than just the pastor, and those values were there before I got here: I just reminded folks of what they already knew,” he tells us. “It was Tent City and the neighborhood’s angry response to Tent City that awoke the church to its need to be Christ even in the midst of conflict. When all was said and done what became clear was that the vast majority of our neighborhood live lives of mercy and compassion, the tiny minority of bullies could not carry the day. I’m very proud to have been privileged to be their pastor. Realistically, pastors come and go, but Christian faith is a commitment to social justice, or it is not faith at all.”

Rev. Lang’s last sermon in Ballard will be on June 12th before saying goodbye to the congregation the following week. “It will be a very difficult emotional day. One cannot say goodbye without some measure of a broken heart but that is always the risk of daring to love another. I’ll take that risk every time because the joy always trumps the pain.” He will start the next phase of his life at University Temple United Methodist Church on July 1st. As of right now his replacement hasn’t been chosen, but the successor will hopefully be named in April, Lang says.

52 comments on “Longtime Ballard pastor heading to U District”

  1. My apologies in advance for the length of this post.

    I’ve been attending Trinity since 2005. The pastor and congregation described by some detractors here is not at all what I have experienced. Trinity is a welcoming congregation with a strong focus on social justice, environmental responsibility and personal accountability. Most congregants live within a couple miles of the church, though a few come from as far away as Bothell and West Seattle. Our ages range from infant to 94 and our welcome extends to all regardless of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability or distinction.

    The people who attend this church are a diverse population of retirees, laborers, stay-at-home parents, educators, techies, 9-5ers and students with a range of incomes to match. Members donate as they are able so we can maintain a safe and attractive building, create a dynamic worship experience, pay the salaries of twelve staff members (including a security guard during our soup kitchen), fund the United Methodist humanitarian organization UMCOR and other carefully managed budget minutia. One part of our outreach is to provide food, shelter and advocacy on behalf of the poor and homeless because poverty is a tragic reality that knocks on our front door and it doesn’t get less persistent or miserable when we ignore it.

    Personally, it is not always easy to have patience with people who are different than me. Sometimes people look, smell or act in ways that make me uncomfortable. But Trinity has helped me to see the landscape beyond my own walls and to walk through life in a less self-motivated manner. I’ve come to appreciate that compassion, respect and patience need to be the cornerstones of connectional living and we live in a highly connected culture.

    For its part, I predict that Trinity will continue to serve the underprivileged long after Pastor Lang leaves in July. Our values are not one man deep. I invite you to reach out and work cooperatively with the leadership of the church, regardless of your Faith. And if the time comes when your own situation is such that you need shelter from the storm, we’ll be here to give you a simple meal and defend you from those who wish you harm.

  2. This is the post that makes this whole thread worthwhile — someone who actually attends the church as well as living in the neighborhood sharing their first-person impressions of what Trinity and Rev. Lang stand for: “compassion, respect and patience”. Providing food, shelter and advocacy for the homeless is what Jesus calls us to do – go back and read the Gospel of Matthew if you don’t remember that part.

    We should count our blessings if we’ve never been hungry, poor, or without a roof over our heads. With the state budget deficit and social services provided by the government cut to the bone, churches are often the last and only hope for people who have fallen through the cracks. Are we really so selfish and close-minded that seeing a few more (it’s not like they didn’t exist in Ballard before Trinity’s shelter) homeless people on the street is too much to bear? Is the mere presence of these people in our neighborhood an affront to our sheltered existences?

    I for one thank Rev. Lang and the courageous members of Trinity for doing what the rest of the neighborhood seems unable to do: truly love our neighbors — ALL our neighbors, not just the ones that look like us and make as much money as we do — as ourselves. Thank you for your leadership. You will be missed.

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