Church of The Apostles

4272 Fremont Ave N
The Fremont Abbey
Senior Pastor: 
Karen Ward
Relevant While Keeping a Rich Liturgy

I gave Church of the apostles (COTA as they call it) a four for preaching not because there wasn't really a "sermon", which I loved (it was a Saturday night service for lent). I gave a four because the Scripture they read came from a printed page not a Bible. In a church with such rich liturgy I'd think a Bible would be essential for the reading of the Word. Other than that it was the most meaningful and refreshing church experience I have had in quite a while. Thank you COTA. If you have a chance go.


If the words for the reading were transferred the printed page in a bound book to a sheet of paper, and that's all that kept the worhsip from being a 5, consider this idea:
When I read the scripture at worship (and we also use a sheet of paper) the font size is enlarged and I am able to make notes for emphasis and pronunciations.  What would the rating have been if the reader stumbled or mis-prononced words?  Which is better?  Which make the message clearer to the listener, especially if unchurched?

Lagraham, I see that you marked this church down because they read a Bible passage from a printed sheet rather than a Bible.

I don't understand why that matters, if it's the same words on the sheet as in the Bible.

Could you explain why tha's important to you so I can understand better?


It started when we walked in the door and were instantly greeted by someone who had seen us come in. She wasn’t the delegated door greeter, but she had seen us come in and didn’t recognize us. Of all the churches, this was the first one that I really felt community just bursting from the seams. The service itself was only a testament to this. In our time of worship through singing, the focus was upon the words and the Eucharist table that was located in the middle of the room, as the band was placed in the corner of the room away from everything. While I personally did not know the songs we were singing, I was able to focus more on the words than the band as we worshipped for they were not their for us to watch. The service itself made many invitations to community through the Eucharist, communal confession of prayer, and even small groups in the middle of the service. One could look around the room and see that the focus of this ministry was not to overwhelm the people with religion, but to bring people in from all different backgrounds to experience the real beauty of Jesus Christ in a variety of ways. The way they ran the service was awesome and I walked away even more encouraged for what God was doing here in Seattle.


This service was the most beautiful service I have ever attended.  It was so full of tradition and it was amazing to experience and to see people draw close to God in different but ancient ways.  People were incredibly inviting and friendly.  The singing was simple and beautiful.  The preaching was amazing and I felt as if I was truly experiencing the time of lent as it should be for the first time.  Attending this service was eye opening and life changing.


These days, so many people are obsessed with seeker-sensitive models. They ask, "what things might scare away newcomers?" And then they get rid of those things. Churches become watered down, and they don't participate in the very things that make us christian, for sake of not wanting to be to - Christian? The Church of the Apostles is on the contrary of this. It very much seems like they are doing things an an incredibly, sacred and reverent way, things that have been done for centuries -like invocations, and benedictions, Eucharist, labyrinths & the passing of the peace. And the thing is - that the building was packed. With all kinds of people. I understand the important of a seeker-sensitive church in some contexts, but after seeing the Worship Service at the Church of the Apostles, I further believe that people have a primal longing for the authenticity of worshiping God. No no. I'm not talking about an "authentic rendition of  How Great is Our God" or a sermon on Authenticity - I'm talking about Jesus. The worship service at COTA focused on one thing - our Lord. It was evident what the purpose of the evening was, and I could tell that people were showing up, not because they were committed Christians, or because their small groups told them to go; but because they could feel the real, thick, presence of God's spirit. You could feel it from the very moment that I shook hands with the people at the front lobby. I could see it in their faces, and feel it in their handshakes. I could hear the authenticity in the voices as people sang songs specifically tailored to this night, written by church members. I could see the authenticity in the walls and in the candles. I could see the authentic longing for people to seek God. And they were seeking to be connected with God, like I think we all are, whether we know it or not. To me, COTA represented a true example of a seeker-sensitive church; a place where people seek to be connected with God, in everything that they do. COTA is a place where the seekers, will find what they are looking for.


I thought this church was a great church to visit. It was something that I was not used to in my modern evangelical view of church. When I entered the building, the environment was warm and inviting. We were greeted right away and immediately the mood of the church began to set in. I wasn't too sure what to think about the guest book as we walked in...but it wasn't a bad or a good feeling, just a different feeling. The order of service was great! Although, I wasn't quite sure what to do at one point. I thought the service was over but we were just greeting each other again. The music wasn't exactly my style but that's ok. I appreciated the instrumentation, but the lyrics were just different than what I was used to. I appreciated the fact that the musicians were off to the corner instead of being front and center to the congregation. It reminded me that it wasn't a concert and that we were here to sing songs to God. The baby dedication was great, but the scripted prayers seemed like they were fake. When the family was reading through them, I wasn't too sure if they had read what they were saying and that they bought into it (not that it was important to the church service). Taking communion at the end was a beautiful experience. I thought it was great that we were encouraged to come and receive communion in a way where we were given the elements instead of us taking them.


The Church of the Apostles had a very strong sense of evangelism but not in the sense many people would like to think of it.  They did not stand up front and preach hell fire and brimstone or seek to purposefully convert someone.  Everything that was within the church seemed very relational.  There was little or no pressure to convert to Christianity, even when the Abbess was speaking up front and giving a short message.  I think that they really would hold to the idea that everyone is on a journey and they would simply be willing to come alongside and walk with someone on their spiritual journey.

They were also very engaging of the culture around their building in their community.  There did not seem to be any sense of a modern framework that they were operating out of because that it why so many people have been turned away from the Church in the first place.  They seem to have created an atmosphere to reach out to the more contemplative and artistic crowd that is very common in the Seattle area.  But above all it was simply a community that welcomed anyone who might want a place to feel safe and accepted, which I think is relevant in any area.

It seems that they were not very concerned with church growth in the area of numbers.  I know that they desire to see their church grow but not to say that so many people attend their church.  And if it did come to the point where they felt they were getting to large I could see very possibly that they would seek to find a second location and plant another church with the same kind of atmosphere.


Church of the Apostles is an excellent representation and embodiment of emerging churches.  They have a wonderful community atmosphere along with a very intentional and theological pact worship gathering. 
During my experience I found myself in definite church building without anything churchy in it.  We all sat in a circle while the music team played and participated in musical worship with us.  This allowed for and fostered a great sense of community as we were all focused on each other while we worshiped. 
The service was very liturgical; we read scripture together and listened to scripture read.  There was a lot of symbolism in the few items displayed in the service.  An offering was taken and we participated in the Eucharist.
During the service there was an opportunity to participate personally in a variety of worship stations which evoked a variety of emotions and personal connections. 
There were also a few small children making noise and causing some distraction, as there is no nursery available.  However this was very accepted behavior and everyone just moved along and did not let it hinder the worship service. 
What I did find to be a little unhelpful was the general lack of structure in the service or the announcement of structure.  We were given very little direction as to what was going on during the service.  There where at least two times where I consulted those visiting with me if were time to leave, and both times we were mistaken.


As I walked into this building where the service was going to be held all I saw was a couple people, some chairs, some candles, a table decorated well, and a big room that it was all placed in. I was not impressed at all. But in the end that was really one of the most impressing things about it to me. I get choked up just writing about it, but the most beautiful thing about this church was that it was formed as people entered it. The chares were in the center and in the shape of a crescent moon. So it forced people to look at one another and to be next to each other. This church was so well organized and yet let the spirit lead them. They were very liturgical which I fell in love with after experiencing it. They had several different worshiping stations, which they explained at a certain time in the service, and they made people feel welcome to go to them any time that they wished. There was so much meaning in every prayer said and every song sang and there were a lot of both. What I also loved about this church was that there really was no leader. I saw many faces stand in front of us and either read scripture, lead communion, lead a baby dedication, or pray. I not only felt a strong sense of communal and personal worship but I also felt a strong sense that God was really with us there. That we, as a community, were truly calling God among us, to be with us, and dwell among us while we worshiped God as our king and savior. This was by far my most favorite over all experience on this trip. I can truly say that I loved it.


I really enjoyed this experience. It was unique in how the intentionally set up the room to create a better sense of community. I also appreciated the liturgical elements that were used throughout the service and the reverance towards them. Overall, a very good experience and would certainly like to attend again.
One note, there were times when I was confused as to what was going on, so it would have been nice to have had a little more instruction.


If you were told by a friend who lived in Fremont that they were going to be attending a church on their Saturday night, most would A) laugh or chuckle and be a little surprised and B) no one would know what they called “church” would look like. Shed all your bias's and be ready for something that is definitely unique, and definitely Spirit led if you happen to attend Church of the Apostles sometime. During my visit I was actually quite interested to see how a small (yet thriving) community was going to handle having two youth groups of at least twenty and our group of twenty their to visit. By the looks of it, our presence would have destroyed their 'normal' atmosphere, however I was quite wrong. Not only was the community presence felt, it excelled. They were so welcoming that one wouldn't even know that there were a bunch of visitors (aside from the difference in appearance and age) attending that night. Maybe this is because you get the feeling that the people who call themselves apart of that community or even those who just drop by on occasion understand that we all have issues, all are broken, and all need love. I do not know if I have ever felt so welcomed in a foreign space as I was that night. If one is looking for something that is artsy, hip, loud, a production, or what one might call 'church' look elsewhere. If one is looking for a place that values people, that does not care about church but the people (at least an observation from my visit), and would like to have a genuine personal encounter with God and people seeking God, this would be your place. I'm sure there are pitfalls, and issues just like we find in any human organization, however I will be back to COTA the next chance I get (2 weeks) to observe and participate with real people.


I visited COTA with a small group at Christmas time. Here are some comments:

"This was the first church in years where someone actually came up to me and asked if I was new there. Other people actually initiated conversation with me"

"There is so much over-stimulation. It's like Willow Creek where people have to be entertained every moment. I think that was kind of insulting to me. And Christmas lights on the altar? Everything felt so contrived, like they were trying really hard to be hip."

"I loved the fact that the sermon was not "the main event," the Eucharist was. The sermon sort of simply prepared the congregation for that celebration. I was a little nervous sharing from a common cup [optional] especially in this day and age, but I asked God to deal with it. The Eucharist there was so meaningful. The attitude of the abbess and the servers, it was special. It wasn't like we were expecting some transubstantiation to happen, but it was a very sacred moment. I felt my affiliation with a 2,000 year-old heritage."

"The music was interesting, but it all sounded kind of the same to me. At least it wasn't that CCM drivel."

"The whole atmosphere was warm."

"I didn't understand some of the things that happened. But I guess they shouldn't have to educate people every time. Still, I wish there were cliff notes or something."

"When Karen Ward greeted me there was a sense that she was really interested in who I was and that she was glad I was there. She gave me time even though she was in the midst of organized chaos."

"The time where people could do different things in different parts of the room was a little weird for me, but I kind of liked it."

It looks like this church is BOTH Episcopal and Lutheran; is this correct?  I see that it references both church associations on its Web site, as well as an "emerging" church site.  I've heard of Episcopal and Lutheran church associations giving mutual recognition to each other's ministries, but not of congregations somehow being both at once.  Does this mean that sometimes an Episcopal liturgy is used, and at other times a Lutheran liturgy is used?  What else might it mean in practice?

Yes, COTA belongs to both the Episcopal Church at the ELCA.  And no, it's not the only church that holds both affiliations.  After the two denominations signed a full communion agreement in 1999, a handful of new churches have been founded belonging to both denominations, some ELCA congregations have combined with Episcopal congregations to form bidenominational churches, and some churches such as All Saints Big Sky ( decided to seek membership in both denominations long after they had been established as either an ELCA or Episcopal Church.

The full communion agreement exists, in large part, in recognition of the two denominations' common call to ministry in this world, and COTA is a prime example.  Church of the Apostles was planted to reach out to a segment of the population largely unreached by the Church--in this case, young, west coast urbanites, especially artists.  By using the resources and guidance of both denominations, COTA was able to be established and flourish.  And without the resources of both denominations, it likely would not have been successful.

As for the liturgy, well, if you're expecting to go to COTA and be able to pick out whether an ELCA liturgy or Episcopal liturgy is being used based on the verbage, that's not going to happen.  While worship follows the general pattern of BOTH Episcopal and ELCA liturgies (which, by the way, are almost identical), it is flexible, adaptable, and not rote.  COTA will force you to think outside the box with regard to church and denominations both.  If you really want to understand it, visit sometime.