I'm trying hard to figure out how to explain Soma School. For a couple of weeks now I've been in processing mode while unfolding the story of my week in Tacoma for my wife and kids, our church leaders and some of our members, our community group, and our church as a whole.
As a part of processing I'm working on a few posts to explain what I did at Soma School and what God is doing through what I learned there. First, what we did. The Soma School schedule for the week was well constructed to immerse us both in what they say and what they do by hearing it and actually doing it. You can view a general schedule online but it has been tweaked. Here's my brief overview with the tweaks included as well as some of my experience. I tried to be brief. Also, click on photos for larger version.
Tuesday: Fly in. Reception dinner & introductions at Shakabrah (Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski's restaurant). GCM vision, Soma vision, & expectations for the week were also discussed, along with some exhortations about being teachable.
I enjoyed some time with a few other Soma attendees from Toronto between landing and the evening beginning. We met on the car ride from the airport and had an amazing story. More on that another time.
We each left with our host family as they came to pick us up.
Wednesday: Story of God. 10 hour story from creation to consummation, compressed to about 6 hours. and taught in two 3 hour sessions. In between we visited Network Tacoma for lunch and to see how they serve the homeless community.
Everyone was assigned a missional community (MC, more info) to attend either Wednesday evening or Thursday evening. I was assigned Jeff Vanderstelt's MC on Wednesday. Jeff brought us to their house and people started showing up. A few folks brought dinner and cooked it as most folks were hanging out and talking. Dinner was served and people were spread all around the house, still talking. Then we all gathered in one room as the MC was finalizing their MC covenant. They didn't talk much about it after the conversation got side-tracked to one woman's concern with how often Jeff, the leader of Soma and the MC, travels. It made for an interesting and eye-opening discussion on expectations, some good ones and some not as much. But it was an open, beautifully messy conversation about who they are and what they are trying to do together.
Both Wednesday and Thursday included pub nights, where Soma School attenders could go out with some Soma guys and talk about pretty much anything. I went both nights (Parkway Tavern), and it was lively conversation.
Thursday: 6 hours on Identities and Rhythms. Lunch in between with Seth McBee and other Soma School attenders to discuss various topics. A handful of Soma leaders were available so attenders could choose who to go to lunch with to discuss their areas of expertise. Really smart and helpful.
Without an MC to attend, Josh Cousineau and I grabbed dinner, late coffee, and headed to pub night. Banter with Jeff Vanderstelt and Sam DeSocio, stories of other conferences, and a packed table with tons of laughter filled the evening.
Friday: 6 hours on the 4 G's: God is Great, God is Glorious, God is Good, and God is Gracious. Followed by 90 minutes of time to repent together in triads. Wow. Powerful. I hate when I'm forced into something like that. It was a running joke that if we knew that was coming we might not have attended Soma School. But it was one of the best experiences of the trip for me, to have 30 minutes for me to tell two brothers how I'm struggling to believe in my heart that God really is these things. Lunch was with Seth McBee again. Also Caesar Kalinowski. Teriyaki. Mmm, good.
Friday night was the songwriters's showcase at Shakabrah featuring Aaron Spiro and others. Packed room enjoying good music.
Saturday: Sacred Space work. Nearly 6 hours of work at Wapato Park. We attacked a large section of the park and took out massive amounts of unwanted growth. Exhausting, but dozens from Soma and Soma School did some beautiful work. What a lesson in a community of faith serving her city.
Then I showered and tried to rest a bit before an expression dinner that my host family is connected with. Great conversation with Justin and Chris and their wives, as well as many others. It was one lady's birthday and they took significant time to surround her and let her know how they see God at work in her life and then pray for her. Eye-opening, beautiful, and something I'd never seen done except very superficially.
Sunday: Attended both morning Soma Tacoma Gatherings with Josh Cousineau. Loved how they did the Lord's Supper. MC's are encouraged to take it together. So they go to a table with a loaf of bread and both juice & wine (intinction), and then they walk away together to circle-up and pray. I took at the 9am gathering with my host family and at the 11:15am gathering with Josh and a couple other Soma School guys.
After, our Soma buddy Lairs took us to Seattle for some burgers and the 5pm Mars Hill service. This was optional, and most other Soma School attenders carpooled up for sightseeing in Seattle. But we did our own thing.
Monday: This is where it all came together. About 6 hours of teaching on building a missional community, which included significant time for questions and answers from two different panels of Soma folks and other discussion.
Lunch for me and a handful of others was with Sam Ticas where we discussed various Soma things, systems, etc.
Dinner was with my host family, John, Trisha and little Aaron before we went to Shakabrah one more time. This time it was host family (John & Trisha, for me) & Soma School attenders together to close out the week, with the opportunity for each attender to share one takeaway from the week. I'll share mine in a future post.
There was a great move of the Spirit in the room as attenders opened up and shared amazing things God was doing. Someone asked Jeff Vanderstelt how we (attenders) could pray for Soma. We then spent a significant amount of time praying for Soma, which was completely unplanned. Wonderful. Then they prayed for us and we left. I packed up and prepared for my flight home on Tuesday.
That's a brief overview of the week not only according to the schedule, but as I experienced it. I probably forgot a few significant things. I purposefully left out some of what God was doing in me as I want to give that a more singular focus. All in all it was a week I'll never forget. John & Trisha were great hosts, loving me and serving me well. Teaching from Caesar Kalinowski, Abe Meysenburg, and Jeff Vanderstelt was excellent. But the whole week learning with head, heart, and hands was remarkable and is incomparable with anything else I've experienced. If you are considering attending Soma School, I highly recommend it. More posts to come.