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Announcing Our New Identity: Oaks Parish

Bryan Buck

Until now The Portland Project has been a placeholder designation and throughout last fall I was intently curious what name God would ultimately give this church. Speaking with a mentor he suggested that because “parish” was one of our core values, we should find a name that resonates with this part of the city. Searching my thoughts as well as historical record I came up empty for months until one night. Over the Christmas holidays I caught up on quite a bit of sleep and  along with needed rest came a number of dreams. One night just before dawn I dreamt that I was with a friend discussing the name of our church. We seemed to be amidst a neighborhood gathering. Others present, but fuzzy on the periphery, he turned, looked me in the eye, and said “I think you should name your church Oaks Parish.” I awoke, my mind filled with curiosity. 

Grabbing coffee I headed to the computer to see what the oracle of Google might turn up. Immediately I knew this made sense for our parish due to the prolific use of “oaks” for a variety of cultural fixtures in our area; streets named “oak”, oaks bottom wildlife refuge, oaks public house, etc. Continuing the search, I discovered a PDF document from the Oregon Department of Forestry entitled “What’s So Special About the Oregon White Oak?” My mouth fell open as a I read the one page PDF that describe a beautiful native species whose characteristics (in italics) wonderfully correlated to the four core values (in bold) emerging in our community: 

  • gospel of grace-roots deeper than many other roots
  • parish-well developed roots…a slow grower
  • formative rhythms-strong, hard, attractive 
  • extended family-diversity…provides a favorable habitat

The incredible correspondence was only reinforced by the connection of other dots. Reading the forestry piece brought to memory one of my favorite worship songs Kindle. The first few lines go like this:

You’re on oak by an Ancient Spring, the deeper magic it will ring...

A tip of the hat to Lewis’s Narnia, the song is also rooted in Isaiah 61:1-3. Here God promises rescue for his people in exile and the last portion of verse three reads:

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Graciously God reveals himself as the one who is intimately involved with growing people in a particular place while simultaneously being transcendent enough to do so with the end-game being the manifestation of his glory. This is the healing path for all us here in SE Portland. 

Upon further reflection more resonate images came to mind affirming the name Oaks Parish. Scripture, for example ends and begins around a tree of life. Our first cultural renewal project as a community was a tree planting in our parish. I have a picture of us gathered around a tree planted that morning which will forever serve as a landmark of correlative growth. 

We aspire to become a community of integrated wholeness with God, neighbors, and parish. As a result our mission is to follow the Father into a journey of faith empowered by the Spirit, experiencing the spiritual, social, and cultural renewal of Christ. We look forward to how this dream will be unfurled under the banner Oaks Parish.