E.N. West, affectionately known as "E" (they/he), proudly hails from the DC metropolitan area, by way of Alexandria, Virginia. E deeply believes "we are uninhibited when we know our power" and is committed to co-creating a world where everyone intimately knows how powerful they are and directs that power toward collective liberation. They are many things, but at the heart of all of them, they are a community organizer based in Seattle, Washington.
Joey Lopez is a Southern transplant to the Seattle area. Joey has a passion and purpose for building collective power and channeling that power towards collective liberation. Joey believes that alone we are incredibly powerful people, and when we organize that power, our wildest dreams become reality.
For more information on The Church Council of Greater Seattle, check out their website: https://www.thechurchcouncil.org/
For more information on the Faith Land Initiative, visit https://thechurchcouncil.org/faith-land/.
To get involved with our work convening, facilitating and accompany faith communities toward faithful and equitable stewardship of faith-owned land, send us an email at email@example.com.
To learn more about Holden Village, visit: http://www.holdenvillage.org or to listen to more audio recordings visit: http://audio.holdenvillage.org. The Holden Village Podcast is accessible through Apple iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, and most podcast apps. For questions and inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background music by orangery: Coniferous Forest.
E.N. West & Joey Lopez
[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to the Holden Village Podcast. Holden is a community of education, programming, and worship located in the remote wilderness of the Cascade Mountains. These snapshots provide a glimpse into the learnings taking place in our community. Let's tune in to this week's highlight.
[00:00:22] Dev: Welcome to week four of the Holden Village Podcast. I am with the wonderful dynamic duo, E.N. West, also known as E...as well as Joey Lopez. So, what are you teaching at the Village this week?
[00:00:39] E.N.: Yeah, so this week at the Village we're sharing lessons that we've learned over nearly four years working with the Faith Land Initiative of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. And for folks who are listening, the Faith Land Initiative accompanies faith communities in King County, Washington toward acts of dignity, restoration, and community-based stewardship of land.
And we do that through a faithful and equitable lens...so it's combining the missions of these faith communities along with anti-racism and faith rooted community organizing tools to shape their discernment processes...and in some cases their community engagement and taking transformative action in their communities.
[00:01:22] Dev: Beautiful. How did both of you come to join this collaborative process?
[00:01:28] Joey: Yeah, I think the story for me is my professional background is in faith-based community organizing...particularly with queer and trans entities across multiple denominations. And a huge part of that faith-based community organizing is practicing discernment with faith communities who are at the time were discerning their level of explicit welcome and inclusion of queer and trans people into their faith community...and was curious when doing that work...how that toolkit that had existed for 20 years and grown and evolved could be used to support other transformative actions faith communities could practice discernment around.
And got connected with the church council and as we were just moving toward living into our faith land initiative...through our discernment cohort and really came on to help shape what that curriculum...that discernment curriculum would look like for faith communities. Grounded in these anti-racism values. Grounded in these sort of community organizing principles. So faith communities were thinking about how to utilize their underutilized land in ways that really supported the neighborhoods and those most impacted by systemic oppression...literally next door to the church.
[00:02:54] Dev: I love that you use...you seem to be focusing on the word discernment. That's one of my favorite words, but in a slightly different context. I grew up in Southeast Asia and so a lot of their faith-based teachings with discernment is how do you discern what you're attached to and what you're fearful of.
And on that topic of faith-based learning, is Lutheranism something that both of you have been associated with? Or are there other denominations or other cultures around the world that have resonated with both of you?
[00:03:27] E.N.: We both grew up in the United Methodist Church. And we also both went...we both are from the East Coast. So it's that specific flavor in some ways of the United Methodist Church. I'll say as far as Lutheranism, Holden really has been my most complete introduction to Lutheranism. I've had friends, of course, who were Lutheran and have been to Lutheran churches prior to coming here, but I feel like this was my first sort of immersive experience.
The Church Council of Greater Seattle is an ecumenical organization and always has been...and we are increasingly moving in an interfaith direction and have been for some time actually. So, while our prime or sort of primary constituency (our Christian faith communities), we do work across different types of religions and spiritual traditions.
I can say for myself personally, I have resonated with some aspects of Buddhism over the years...and I appreciated what you said about discernment...coming from your experiences. I think some of the questions that we often are grappling with as Joey and I and our other colleagues over the years have accompanied faith communities in the faith land initiative...have been around issues or just genuine feelings of attachment...of fear of what's coming next....fear of even taking a step forward because there's so many different pieces moving and people have uncertainty and moving urgently sometimes or don't move at all has sort of a polarizing effect.
So I feel what you were saying with that. I think helping people move through the emotional side of attachment so that they actually can be clear enough about what actions they need to take next...I feel like is a huge part of what we end up doing.
[00:05:20] Joey: Yeah. As E mentioned, I grew up United Methodist and still pretty active within the United Methodist Church. Throughout my organizing life, I've worked in United Methodist related institutions, Presbyterian related institutions, Episcopal related institutions. And actually, I think I got my first deeper dive within the ELCA as a trainer with the Organizing for Mission Network during the pandemic. And so that was really my diving into the deep end of the ELCA and working with folks who are part of that organizing network and supporting them in their local contexts for organizing. So I've dabbled across the denominations a bit.
[00:06:06] Dev: Beautiful. This is both of your second time at Holden?
[00:06:13] E N: This is my second time at Holden.
[00:06:14] Joey: My first.
[00:06:15] Dev: Okay. Welcome, welcome...and welcome back. A question for you E specifically is how would you describe coming back has changed your view of Holden or an enhancement of what it feels like to live in community...or being in such an isolated and remote area? Also curious to hear about what your first impressions are as well Joey.
[00:06:38] E.N.: Great question. I think I'm still working through that since we're still in the midst of the week. I'll say the first time that we came...it was myself and then our former colleague, Mel Morales, and we came the very first week of the season.
[00:06:53] Dev: That's a very different experience.
[00:06:55] E.N.: Very different experience. And it was intentional for us to come that week. Stacy was really excited for us to come in with this larger cohort, which included Glocal, the musician group, and included several indigenous trainers from across the country...among others. And so our sessions really meshed in a way that showed that intentionality.
This time around when we were thinking about what sort of experience we wanted to have...some other reflections from the previous time is that coming back so close to, for me, Juneteenth...and then for Seattle and for us as queer and trans people...so close to Seattle Pride that it was a hard transition to make. Doing that back-to-back from Holden to back to our normal lives. And so we wanted to come a little bit after that sort of full sprint. And so we decided to come this week. And we also were blessed with the beautiful weather because last year we definitely did not have beautiful weather during that week.
So to wrap it up, I think what I'm working through now mentally is I've had some really cool experiences that I'm not sure would've happened if we had come again that first week. But there are also things that I miss about...particularly the groups of folks who I now understand came again that first week...that we didn't have the pleasure of sharing space with them this time around.
And just thinking about how our curriculum even for the week may have shifted if we had been in that same faculty cohort. Cuz last year we very much adapted based on who we were with. So that's something I'm working through. But I will say something I've really enjoyed this time around...that I didn't experience last time and has really made the experience...I feel like I've been able to connect with staff a lot more than last time.
People have just been so welcoming...and I think they're really in their groove...whereas last time people were still very welcoming, but they were also up and running themselves. And so we're kind of focused on what they were doing and I connected more with the guests last time. So I think that's a nice difference that's adding a new flavor to my experience at Holden.
[00:09:13] Joey: I think one of the things that comes to mind for me around the communal aspect that is Holden is what does it mean...what does it take to practice community with over 300 people. Right? This is the largest week of the summer...over 200 guests...and like, it's really interesting and fun and juicy parts of like communal life when you have so many people from so many different places...and those values start to like collect and rub against each other. And then there's also this practice of like clarity of values because welcome and inclusion may mean one thing, but to you it may mean something else.
And so how do you start to build that clarity? Not necessarily to get in onto the same page, but at least to be in the same chapter. And so it's kind of interesting to sit back and sort of watch this sort of culmination of values grow in such a large communal space.
[00:10:14] Dev: The summer theme is Eden is Calling. I'm curious for the both of you, what does that mean and what have you been wrestling with in that theme?
[00:10:25] E.N.: I think when I think of Eden is Calling, I think of a better world is calling. I think that's the bare minimum of what I think about. Our last session for the week is encouraging people after going through the previous sessions...to bring together their own stories, which are rooted in their own context...whether it's related to their faith community or their sort of individual life...and think about, you know, what does it look like to both materially and spiritually, morally, relationally, however you want to think about it....do things with your community that lead to transformation...that lead to that better world...in a way that's rooted in not just your own individual vision, which may be great...but is in conversation with the other folks in your community who maybe have not had as much opportunity to craft their own Edens. Or perhaps their Eden has been taken away. Right?
And so that's something that I've been noodling on while we've been here. Admittedly, you know, the theological piece I feel like is the hardest part when it comes to most things. But especially at Holden. Because I'm like, wow, this is like way over here...and then I feel like our work is very much in front of us. It can get very nuts and bolts sometimes. And in some ways it is nice to be able to zoom out a good amount and look down with a framework. And I think Eden is calling is a good framework to kind of put together what the nuts and bolts of our work and say like what are we aspiring to? Right? What are we trying to encourage people to envision?
[00:11:58] Joey: I think a huge aspect of the work that we do with faith communities is to really get them to get grounded in their vision for the world as it should be or as it could be. The theme Eden is calling Gives us inspiration to think about what that could be...and like for me personally...that's like a deeper practice collectively of anti-racism and leaning in towards what does joy and liberation look like for everyone...and who gets to experience that joy and liberation? Or who gets to experience that joy and liberation because for so long they haven't? And how do we really start to lean into the recreation of that world towards joy and liberation?
[00:12:45] Dev: What are some associations that both of you have with those two words, joy and liberation? What does that feel like, sound like...?
[00:12:57] E.N.: I think for liberation, this is very basic, but my entire life I wanted to be able to leave my house theoretically at any time of the day. And if I wanted a Twix, like a Twix bar, I could just go and get it and not have to report to anyone that I'm doing that...or account when I get back...and demolish the entire thing in like 30 seconds. As a kid, that was my dream. And then as an adult, I remember the day I decided for the first time to just do that at like 10:00 PM...and I went to a 7-Eleven...got my Twix, came back...had my moment...and went to bed. So for me, that is honestly liberating...
[00:13:36] Dev: That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.
[00:13:40] E.N.: For sure.
[00:13:42] Joey: The thing that has like been bringing me the most joy...like deeply leaning into a liberated itself is being able to cook...being able to be in my kitchen and just cook with no boundaries of time...making a full three course meal for friends.
And then having friends around to just enjoy...to sit and eat and like be one of those moments where you finished eating 20, 30, 45 minutes ago, maybe even longer, but you're still just sitting around the table. Sort of passing around the wine or the water and just like continuing to talk and just exist together. I think that brings me so much joy. It unearths those values that help me understand what my liberated self would be or could be.
[00:14:42] Dev: Beautiful. See...there are similarities with both of your answers. That food...
[00:14:53] E.N.: Our most basic self.
[00:14:54] Dev: Yeah, totally. That's fantastic.
[00:14:57] E.N.: Can I also say one more thing around the joy piece?
[00:14:59] Dev: Of course.
[00:15:01] E.N.: I'll say I have felt joy here at Holden this week. And you asking that question made me realize that I felt specifically that emotion...and I think that the porch has a lot to do with it. So Joey and I are here with a friend, Rachel, who's our plus one...our biggest groupie, if you will for the week.
And I think that the three of us...we've had some of our best times together and I think individually when we've just been able to hang out on the porch at various points of time in the day. And I think specifically, I feel like last night we had a really nice time with sharing a drink together and watching the parade go down the main road...and making jokes and having a nice time.
And the weather was perfect and the sunset was happening. It was just a very idyllic kind of moment. And I think that container...that sort of space during that time facilitated the rest of a very lovely evening that we ended up having...that we didn't expect necessarily to have...it wasn't like on the schedule.
So I have been thinking a lot about what types of physical spaces do I need...do maybe people larger need to really feel your highest sort of emotions...especially positive emotions. And I think porches are something that are really important for me.
[00:16:30] Dev: I'm actually really glad you brought that up cuz porch-chilling is real and you have the best one in the entire village. Chalet two has an amazing porch. Chalet one has a good one as well. There should be a whole manifesto on like the etiquette of porch-chill.
Okay. Awesome. This is going to be a two-sided question and you can answer it in any which way. One is how would you like to see your work evolve? And another is, are there any particular topics within your work that are particularly controversial or things that you've always wanted to say? That's the two-headed question that I have.
[00:17:13] E.N.: I think speaking to the first side of that question...how would we like to see the work evolve. We've talked a little bit about this...something that I think we're becoming increasingly aware of...both because it's kind of obvious if you do a little bit of research...and then also because people are literally telling us. We're experiencing the solo nature of some ways of the place we're at as a place for faith communities to discern what they're doing, but not necessarily technically enact what they're going to do...you know, in this space.
There's a lot of creativity and I feel like a lot of faith communities...especially the ones that come to us...they come in often sort of single track minded. A lot of them...and for good reason are very focused on addressing homelessness and displacement...usually through creation of affordable housing, which is great. That is one amazing outcome and we're very happy to facilitate that happening in the world.
And there's just a real need for places where faith communities can explore all of the options that are rooted in values...rooted in an organizing process that builds power. And there's not a lot of spaces for that in the country. And that's something that we're very much feeling...we're focused very much in our local context. I think that makes sense and it's good to be in a place where we feel very confident and our support can be extremely hands-on because we know who all the actors are.
And at the same time, I could see down the road a bit...scaling to support others. And I don't know if that needs to be national. I think even just Washington as a state would be enough because there are many faith communities in Washington...and this is generational work that we are a part of. This is not going to go away in five years or 10 even...probably 10 years.
So that's one thing that I definitely see. I'm hoping that, you know, we can be around for as long as we need to be around, right? We don't want to belabor it...if it needs to go away...it needs to go away. But I think we are necessary, and I'm hoping that as more and more examples of faith communities taking time to do discernment work...taking time to go deep in what they're doing...and go slowly so then they can ultimately go fast right down the line.
But that inspires others to maybe shy away from the...let's just call up the first developer and do all the other stuff on the back end...usually messily and unsuccessfully. And instead, you know, decide to discern a bit. So that's something that I think I'm excited for and excited for all the possibilities that can come out of that...as far as the Eden's we can create.
[00:20:12] Joey: I think the piece that's coming to me from the question is the more controversial end. I think E and I stand really firmly in our power and our place and supporting, facilitating, convening and accompanying faith communities in their discernment process.
So we know and we share and we believe...and we honor this commitment that we're here to support you in whatever process you discern is best for your faith community. The outcome is the outcome. We trust you to design the process...and I think that more controversial bit is we have very clear intentions of what we long to see faith communities do, right?
We realize what we work with predominantly and historically white faith communities more often than not and the ways in which white folks in this country, in the state of Washington, in the city of Seattle were able to access and acquire land was very easy. I think as part of our longing...our own sort of inspiration or passion for this work is like...what does it look like for those resources to be sort of mobilized toward supporting...restoring dignity to...building power with BIPOC communities? Right? So like, what does it look like...these resources...these assets that have been acquired or taken...to really be given, mobilized, redirected toward BIPOC communities.
To live into the world as it should be, but if lot of churches heard that...they're always nervous that we're just trying to take their land and give it away to someone. But we don't do that. That's not us. That's your decision to make. We're going to support you if you decide to develop affordable housing...or if you decide to do nothing at all but you like did a process...or if you decide to like gift your land away to a BIPOC led group.
We're going to support churches in any way shape or form, but like deep, deep down...like our inspiration...our passion...our like motivation to do this work is about that resource mobilization to really support BIPOC communities because of the way in which access to land and the power that comes with access to land has always benefited white communities.
[00:23:07] Outro: Thanks for joining us. Be sure to view the links in the description for more information or visit our website to find out more about the village. We hope you will make a pilgrimage to Holden. Blessings and peace to you.