Congregation Close-up: St. David of Wales, Portland

Congregation Close-up: St. David of Wales, Portland

At St. David of Wales in southeast Portland, worship is a unique blend of tradition and informality, a high church liturgy in a relaxed atmosphere. Many Sundays, the services close with a small dance party of children filling the central aisle as music director Ben Landsverk leads the congregation in singing anything from “Be Thou My Vision” from the 1982 Hymnal to “Purple Rain” by Prince. As the Rev. Kerlin Richter puts it, “We are a church focused on worshipping God. Especially in a liturgical church, it’s important that we’re not idolizing the way we worship.”

Senior Warden Barbara Brecht shares a recent experience of this: “For one child, the dancing has become a very authentic form of worship, where she is really moved by the Spirit. During ‘Precious Lord, take my hand,’ she slowly danced up the aisle, and then up the steps at the front, and as the song ended, she bowed to the altar. It was so dear to see this child open to the Spirit, and that this parish and our service will allow this to happen without anyone getting cranky.”

This generationally diverse but deeply committed membership is one of St. David’s primary strengths. In the pews and in leadership (vestry members range from their 20s to their 70s), people of all ages experience what it means to have their voices heard and respected. This is not always easy, but Kerlin+ observes that there is a unique beauty that blooms as the people stay engaged in the inevitable places of tension. “It is neither glorious nor awful; it’s just how we do things.”

Visit the St. David’s website.