The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Catacomb churches

In the Pacific Northwest, some faithful meet in homes

It’s a Wednesday winter evening as black as ink in Burlington, Wash., an old logging town perched above the fertile Skagit Valley. Inside the cozy home of Nate and Giordi Yunge, the children are in full, loud commotion as a handful of thirtysomething friends gather for a simple meal of beans, salad and bread.

They’re joined by Terry Kyllo, a longtime mission-developer with the Northwest Washington Synod, who starts the conversation:
• “What was life-giving for you this week?”
• “What was life-taking?”

Nate, an electrician, said his company has more work than it can handle, but he’s glad he’s not unemployed. “It’s just very stressful right now,” he added.

Bethany Somers, a Nazarene clergywoman without a church right now, said she had a lot of pain the day before as doctors pressed around her abdomen, trying to rotate her breech baby, due any time. She is grateful for the new life.

Her husband, Beau, a home security-systems manager, feels as if life is out of control. His mom is leaving his dad. Giordi, an elementary-school teacher, and Juan Gaona, a school administrator, acknowledge his pain.

Welcome to Catacomb
This is the social start to an evening of worship at one of three small groups that make up the new Catacomb Churches, named loosely after the early Christian house churches and begun by Kyllo. These worshipers are longtime friends and come from Lutheran, Episcopal and fundamentalist backgrounds.

Like the other two groups forming between Everett and close to the Canadian border, they’ve turned from sitting in pews to taking on authority and responsibility of being Christian leaders themselves — outside of church. They are trading the traditional hierarchical model of pastor over congregant for one of “mutuality,” Kyllo said.

The goal is for each Catacomb church to have a mission, such as helping middle-schoolers avoid drugs or taking on a political cause. In the process, the newly empowered leaders invite others to join them.

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February issue


Embracing diversity