The U District is my neighborhood.
In some ways it has felt like my neighborhood since I started coming to Husky football games as a second-grader. Taking the bus from downtown, I would get excited seeing flags and signs with UW’s distinctive “W” in storefronts and dorm windows. Even as a child, there was a strong sense for me that this is where I wanted to be.
A decade later I moved into the neighborhood as a student at the University of Washington. Like all UW students, I was immediately enamored with the wonderfully scenic campus. I remember walking down the stairs between the music and art buildings on the north side of the quad on a beautiful fall day when the reality sunk in that “Wow, this is my school… Awesome!”
Throughout my time as an undergrad, the gothic Graduate Reading Room in Suzzalo Library became my study sanctuary. There is a large part of me that believes that I would not have graduated without a space like that. Even now, the feeling I get when I walk into that great room is what I imagine the students at Harry Potter’s Hogwarts feel like. It’s a place that reminds me what I’ve learned and that there’s still more to learn.
During my time as an undergraduate I lived in a fraternity on 17th Ave. To this day, my closest friends are guys from that house. These are the same guys that first invited me to The Inn and supported and encouraged me as I began to grow in my faith around the middle of my sophomore year. The fraternity was a great time, to be sure, but its legacy in my life has less to do with partying and more to do with deeply rich relationships. It’s fun to have so many guys from that house participate in various UMin activities today.
So much of the mission and ministry of UMin is executed outside of UPC’s facilities. One of the common disciplines of the UMin staff is to walk around the blocks of fraternities and sororities and pray. So for more than a decade, I have walked individually and with others around the neighborhood, praying that God’s kingdom would come in this place.
I vividly remember praying that we would know the names of at least one person in every single sorority and fraternity. Today, we do know someone in every sorority, and we’re getting closer with the fraternities. Having been here for as long as I have, it’s a joy to get to see and experience a decade of prayers beginning to be answered. If I’m honest, I don’t think I expected to be around to see the fruit of prayers prayed a decade ago.
Many of my peers graduated and moved to all sorts of cool places a long way from Seattle—the Middle East, Central America, Manhattan, or Los Angeles. I’ve made it all of four blocks north.
When I was called to my current position as director of University Ministries, my wife and I felt a deep conviction to live in the neighborhood, to be close the students and close to our church community.
Moving into the University District is easier said than done. As Julie and I sought to be faithful to our conviction to live in the neighborhood, we noticed a house just a few blocks from church that we thought would be perfect for the vision of living among the students. After a price-check and a walk-through, we judged it a pipe dream. That was October.
Fast-forward to a snowy Christmas Eve when our 3-month-old son Carson was baby Jesus in the family services. Because of the snow we couldn’t go home between the early services and the services I was assisting in that evening, so we found ourselves at a local restaurant—Cedars, of course—for Christmas dinner. At dinner, Julie said to me, “I can’t stop thinking about the house we walked through.” I replied, “I can’t stop thinking about it either.” We then decided that if the house was still on the market after New Year’s that we would make a play on it. Over the next four months, we saved some money, sold our house, sold a car, and moved into the house we’d thought would be impossible for us to live in.
Of course, since moving into the neighborhood, it feels that much more like my neighborhood. The U District is both wonderfully and annoyingly eccentric. We have loved having students over to our house for dinners, BBQs, or even to live in our basement.
As much as I’d like to think that this is my neighborhood, I rejoice all the more knowing it is our neighborhood. As I have experienced since my freshman year back in 1994, God is at work in this little corner of our city. What a joy that we get to be a part of it.
This truly is our neighborhood.