Pastor blends new and old at United Methodist Church

Pastor Dennis Magnuson is somewhat of “a new kid on the block” at one of Redmond’s oldest churches.

  • Wednesday, April 9, 2008 1:32am
  • News

Rev. Dr. Dennis Magnuson

Pastor Dennis Magnuson is somewhat of “a new kid on the block” at one of Redmond’s oldest churches.

You’ve likely driven past the Redmond United Methodist Church (RUMC) on the corner of Northeast 80th Street and 166th Avenue Northeast and noticed the clever sayings on its reader board — such as “God Answers Knee Mail” or “The Time to Look Down On Someone Is When You’re Helping Them Up.”

Since Magnuson arrived last July, he’s enjoyed continuing many of the church’s long-standing traditions, as well as shaking things up with some new styles of worship services.

People who aren’t necessarily church goers tend to be aware of RUMC’s reputation as an “outreach church,” said Magnuson. The congregation sponsors a transitional living apartment at the nearby YWCA Family Village, painting and sprucing it up for new tenants.

They are one of 12 Eastside churches that hosts an annual Congregation for the Homeless — their turn to serve the homeless men is every January — and they’ve even added showers and laundry facilities to their basement for that purpose.

Their youth group’s projects have included “Sock it to the Homeless,” collecting socks for people in need and the “Souper Bowl of Caring,” to raise funds for Hopelink.

An Alzheimer’s support group, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Redmond Moms Club are just a few of the groups that hold meetings there. And the list goes on.

As for Sunday services, “The trend used to be that you went to church because it was just what you did on Sundays. The generation in the ‘60s was the one that started asking the questions, ‘Why? Why is this important?’ Baby Boomers tend to be more conservative … Gen Xers are looking for something different,” Magnuson mused.

But “something different” isn’t so easy to define.

“Contemporary, to most people, means a praise band and things projected on the wall. Traditional means sitting quietly in pews,” he said. “We’ve tried blending those and also giving options for people to sit and reflect. Life is so busy, so complicated, for some people, church has to be a way to get away from it all.”

On the third Sunday of each month, at 7 p.m., RUMC holds a Taize service in its chapel. This includes lots of chanting, some short Scripture readings and lots of silent time to reflect, he explained.

He reminisced about the practice, decades ago, of leaving sanctuary doors unlocked at night so that people with heavy hearts could come in and find solace. But in this day and age, vandalism and other crime make that too risky.

Commenting on other changes at RUMC, Magnuson joked, “In most churches, the seven deadly words are ‘We’ve never done it that way before.’ Some people get thrown by the unfamiliar … But for years, we’ve had a community Christmas carol sing-along. This time we did ‘The Messiah’ with some of our choir principals singing some of the more familiar parts and the whole crowd joining in.

“We’ve always had services with soup and bread during Lent. This year, we did a Maundy Thursday service that concluded in total darkness. Then we did a cantata about the seven last words of Jesus, interspersed with readings. One woman told me this was the first time (the story of Christ’s crucifixion) really became clear to her, the first time she really ‘got it.’”

It’s not just the worship services at RUMC that are an interesting mix of the old and the new. The physical church buildings are, too.

The original chapel — more than 100 years old — is a place of wonder in modern, high-tech Redmond. A faithful congregant, now deceased, donated the lovely stained glass windows depicting milestones in the life of Jesus Christ.

Regular Sunday services at Redmond United Methodist Church are at 9 a.m. (a shorter version) and at 11 a.m. with a full choir.

Sunday school for all ages is available at 10 a.m. For information, call (425) 883-7553 or visit http://www.redmondumc.org.

Mary Stevens Decker can be reached at mdecker@reporternewspapers.com or (425) 867-0353, ext. 5052.

The internationally famous Total Experience Gospel Choir is coming to Redmond United Methodist Church, 16540 NE 90th St. for two free concerts at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Sunday, April 27.

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