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Fellowship? EW. NO thanks.



I love to laugh. I love to chat up the next person, trade jokes, shoot the breeze, chew the fat. But I personally struggle a bit with the word “fellowship.”

I dunno, maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing. Catholics do pot lucks, casseroles and pancake breakfasts, but they don’t do fellowship. Or maybe it’s being raised in the 1960s with three older brothers, all of whom thought that being friendly was giving noogies and wedgies in between totally nailing you with their Whammo Airblaster.

Or maybe it’s the word itself. FELLOWSHIP. Hail, fellow well met! Hope you are ship shape! Let us engage in some fellowship over a flagon of mead!

It’s probably just me. MANY things are “just me.”

Still, I think it’s entirely possible that the word “Fellowship” gets a bad rap.

We strive for fellowship all the time – but I think we actually need to identify it first, just in case we are looking over it’s head for something bigger, or more polite, or holier. I mean, it IS a three syllable word, very nice and churchy, and even referenced in the Bible, so it has to have some heft and gravitas to it, yes?

Well, maybe. Or maybe it’s a little more, well, normal, than we think.

With the disclaimer that I am no expert on the subject, I do nonetheless venture to say that this is what I think fellowship might actually be, here and now, with its feet on the ground…

Fellowship is leaning over your choir chair and having a really good laugh with the soprano behind you.

Fellowship is asking someone “How are you?” and then, not only hanging around for the answer, but commiserating right alongside, because YOU don’t understand why things are the way they are sometimes, either.

Fellowship is saying “hi” back, even when your face is full of chocolate chip cookie and it comes out sounding like “hmmmfph.”

Fellowship is actually knowing what “hmmmfph” is supposed to mean.

Fellowship is noticing the person next to you is missing tonight, and deciding maybe you’ll call him this week with a “whazzup.”

Fellowship is knowing that you are totally all right with the person next to you hitting a wrong note, coughing without their hand up to their face, sneezing so loud you thought a bomb went off in their nose, or, after having eaten too many beans at Chipotle, doing that thing we all do, but don’t want to admit in polite society. You are totally all right with this, because you know that in about 10 minutes, YOU will be the offending singer/cougher/sneezer/other-thinger and it will still be ok.

Fellowship is knowing that the person sitting next to you just had a really bad day. Or a really good one. You can feel it in the way they are sitting, or breathing.

Fellowship is asking how the day went, anyway.

Fellowship is being 10 minutes late getting out of the room because you got all Chatty Cathy over there in the corner and time just got away from you.

Fellowship is freely distributing your tomatoes, zucchini, or green beans.

Fellowship is taking that enormous zuke someone just handed you, and considering actually figuring out how to eat it someday.

Fellowship is no big deal.

Fellowship is everything.

SO. What’s the point? The point is, watch this week. See when you’ve been fellowshipped, and notice a moment to fellowship right back. Say thanks. Say hey. Say whazzup. Say anything. It might not sound like fellowship with the capital “F” and angels floating around it. It’s not hard. It’s not complex. Sometimes, it’s not even attractive. But it’s connection, and it’s real, and it counts.

AND it’s a lot less calories than a pancake breakfast.




Having Fun With Voices

Bobby McFerrin leads an audience in an impromptu duet based on the pentatonic scale. All he’s got is his feet and their voices. What results is 3 minutes of magic. Here’s a thought – who can YOU connect with TODAY using just something so simple as this? Dare ya to sing in the grocery aisle today. Double dog-dare ya! Post if you did it!


Gene Kelly, the singer/dancer in this photo, had a fever of 101 when he shot this scene for the movie, “Singin’ In the Rain.” He did it in a single take.


This is Henry. He’s got Alzheimer’s and couldn’t speak or make eye contact with anyone. Until someone got him an iPod loaded with Cab Calloway songs. He remembers – and sings perfectly – every one. And then he talks about them. You can find him on YouTube.


According to medical research in Sweden, the people on the left of this drawing are synchronizing not only their voices, but their heartbeats. Thestudy comes from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, where a group of healthy 18-year-old boys and girls were asked to sing together. Research confirmed that  singing in a choir regulated singers’ heart rates so that they increased and decreased at exactly the same time. They are interested in finding out whether choral music might actually have a medical application for cardiology patients.


This woman, Charity Tilleman, was an opera singer with a congenital heart condition that required not only heart surgery, but a double lung transplant. Her diagnosis was terminal. She not only recovered, but continues to sing, and has served as the national spokesperson for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, working to raise awareness, increase federal research funding, expand stem cell research, and promote preventative and alternative medicine. This is her at a TED talk.


This is Kyle Coleman. He lives in the UK. He has a form of autism that makes him unable to speak, but he has a remarkable singing voice and has recorded a charity album featuring nine covers of popular tracks, by artists such as Snow Patrol, Elbow and Take That. It’s called Kyle, Therefore I Am; you can find it on iTunes.


This is a mom singing to her baby. She is also releasing endorphins in herself and in her baby, stimulating brain activity and bonding. She’s teaching opposites, such as fast and slow, loud and quiet, long and short, tension and release. She’s reinforcing her baby’s ability to learn and use verbal skills. She’s stimulating her own brain activity and cardiovascular system through deep breathing, which increases the oxygen in her blood. And she’s creating a sense of family culture, especially if she’s singing the same song her mother sang to her.

Singing awakens the amazing in all of us.


What will it awaken in YOU?




#10. Road trip to see the World’s Largest Egg in Winlock, WA.


#9. Start a squirt gun fight. Let him win.


#8. Clean out the closet. That stuff is never coming back in style. Let it go.


#7. Try that weird new veggie at the farmer’s market.


#6. Think about that diet……tomorrow.


#5. Take your best friend to the park.


#4. Try a new sport.


#3. Update your coverage.



#2. Yeah. What that says. And the #1 thing to do in August while you still have time is……..



#1. Sign up for choirs at BelPres!

New Starts


Well, we made it! Chancel Choir ended the season with a wonderful choral/brass celebration and the Wednesday choir kids all moved up to the next stage. Kindergarteners are now going to be the “old pros” in His Kids; Joysong 3rd graders move into GNG and the 2nd graders become the “seniors” of JoySong. GNG kids move up a grade, and then…..and then…..

There are the 8th graders and the most fearful word of all: AUDITIONS.

8th graders leaving GNG are lining up in droves to audition for Bel Canto. They make an appointment, they bring their parents, they stand in front of the big black piano and sing. And then – even more terrifying than singing in front of your parents AND Mr. Dean! – they have to explain WHY they want to be in Bel Canto.


It makes me smile. A really, really big smile.

It will take them a month, maybe two, before they realize where they really are. They think they are in a high-stress situation, on a highwire hundreds of feet above a yawning chasm of hungry crocodiles. But where they actually are is right smack dab in the middle of a family of very kind, very loving folks who want nothing more than to lift them up, put them strong on their feet and shine a big light of acceptance on them, in which they can laugh, and dance, and sing, and be completely themselves.

Mr. Dean is no crocodile. Bel Canto is no alien land. They will learn this when they experience a rehearsal where everyone is laughing straight out loud, the crocodile and the aliens alike. And they will wonder what the heck they were ever afraid of.

This is a place where the best audition sets you in the middle of people who will teach, uphold, encourage, challenge, befriend, support, and carry you.

Which is exactly where you are when you give the worst audition.

Kids, listen up. It’s all about growing. And I’m talking to all kids, too, not just the ones between five and eighteen. You kids between the ages of nineteen and ninety, I’m talking to you, too. It’s all about Jesus and you, singing and breathing and living together in a wonderful place full of people who make you nervous, crazy, excited, intimidated and exasperated, usually at the same time you also are making them nervous, crazy, excited, intimidated, and exasperated. We are all in audition mode, every one, not realizing we are already in. We made it. We are here.

Right where we should be.


Picture Brigade!

Thanks to the excellent eye of photographer Greg DiMichillie, we have some wonderful candid shots of the dress rehearsal on May 19th for the WTM “Sunrise Mass” of Ola Gjeilo.

Click on the link and take a peek!

We Did It

For those who were able to be part of the Worship Through Music experience last Sunday, a note from a member:

Dear Scott,

I’ve gone to church my entire life. I am hard pressed to think of a service that moved me as deeply as today’s worship. It embodied the words of Pascal, who wrote that “the heart has its reasons that Reason knows not of.” Christ, and the sublime reality of His truth, was honored today.

For your dedication to sacred music…for the prayerful intensity of your leadership….for the deft skill of your direction and the choir / orchestra’s unspeakable talent….thank you.

With gratitude, Jeremiah

And folks, that’s why we do it. Thank you.

Ay Caramba!

From left to right: John Leckenby, Chris Martenson, Scott Dean, Kyle Harmon.

Why? Staff lunch. Not enough explanation for you?

It’s 80 degrees and we’re less than a week from the church’s “Worship Through Music” Sunday. This is called, “decompressing.” They do it pretty well. Plus, they can make those sombreros look GOOD.


This guy looks concerned.

Let us put this snapshot in context.

This is the FPCB Children’s choir program, roughly thirty years ago. Maybe more, it’s hard to tell.

We have changed a lot since then. Our children’s choir program now has four separate choirs, His Kids for kindergarteners and first graders; JoySong for kids 2nd-3rd grade; Good News Group for kids 4th-7th grade, and Bel Canto, a university-caliber choir for kids grades 8-age 18. They don’t all come together wearing little mini-cowls with scarves like this anymore. They all sing different things, and they all learn different aspects of worship leadership, musicianship, fellowship and faith as they roll along.

But there is still one thing that is exactly the same as when this picture was taken.


This church has a unique circumstance in that there are so many people involved in choirs and music that the life stories of all of them begin to intertwine.

A kindergartener has a grandma in Chancel Choir. A Bel Canto alumni starts singing in Chancel Choir himself, after years of moving through the choir ranks. A kid in JoySong writes a note to a tenor in the adult choir, whose daughter sits next to the kid who wrote the note, who is also related to the Bel Canto alum, who is sitting next to the tenor in the choir. The tenor in the choir comes to hear his father in law play with the trombones. The trombonist is married to the violinist who plays in the orchestra at Christmas, but who comes early to hear her daughter sing at the 5:00 service with Good News Group that evening.

This makes for a complicated emotional life.

When I first started working here fifteen years ago, I thought this was a church full of sick and dying people. I had never experienced so many people I knew personally having health issues, or passing away. It was depressing, and I began to wonder if it was just my perspective on life. Maybe I was just looking too much into the dark. Maybe I was facing my own mortality. Maybe I was becoming fatalistic. Or just feeling old.

Well, no, that wasn’t it at all. I had never experienced so many people I knew personally having health issues simply because I had never experienced knowing so many people. In other churches I had attended, I knew faces but not names, or names but not faces, or groups of faces that all looked pretty much the same to me and I clumped them under “parish council” or “altar society.” They were elements in my life, like the chairs or the walls or the cars on the street, but they weren’t known to me, nor I to them. They just were, and so was I, and if we didn’t irritate each other too much as we passed by, well, that was fine.

Here, I suddenly was dropped into the deep end of relationship. Not only were there hundreds of people to meet, there became hundreds of people to know. The choirs began to interlink, like links in a long necklace, one individual life leading to another, and another, and another. My life got BIG.

Right now, I am mourning the loss of a chancel choir member who died this week. But I am celebrating his life, too. And I am also celebrating the blossoming of a young choir member who sings her lungs out on Wednesday afternoons, which amazes her mother, who has always thought her child very withdrawn and shy. I am saddened that one of my friends in the Chancel Choir is moving because of a job opportunity. But I am also rejoicing that a friend of mine has a child who is finally old enough to join His Kids, and who already intends to sing in Bel Canto someday, like the big kids. Folks moving on, folks moving in.

It is overwhelming sometimes, like being on a roller coaster at the top, knowing that the rest of the ride will be a series of crazy loops and dives, pitches and whirls. I will be white-knuckled, and I will be laughing.

Because that’s what connections do. They scare you into laughing. They drop you headlong into joy.

By the way, Worried Looking Kid in the Photo? I know who you are, dude. I know who you are.                          Karen Nelson

If I were going to tell someone why they should join an FPCB choir, I would say, “Hey! I’ll bet you didn’t know that –___________!”