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The Garden and the INN

Dear Friends,

I write today to share a big decision: the FPC Session has decided with great faith, hope, and sadness to end the ministry of the Garden (which used to be the INN). This decision was made upon reflecting on the significant decline in young adult participation over the last several years. This is not isolated to FPC, but a trend observed across young adult ministry in general. While there are good reasons for this decision, there is a deep grief as well. Consequently, Fred Hartsook has stepped down from his role as Director of the Garden. 

We are deeply thankful for the almost 50 years of the INN and the Garden ministry. It was a significant part of FPC for many years, an important mission in our community, a home, and a springboard for thousands of students, interns, and staff. Many in our community have foundational memories of faith and deep relationships from their time at the INN and the Garden. I, too, have fond memories of my own 20 year journey with this ministry. The end of the Garden is truly the end of an era. 

We are also thankful for Fred and his leadership. He has been a valuable part of the FPC Staff and a beloved colleague. Fred brought a unique perspective to the position and constantly asked how to integrate the ministry with the church and better share a living faith across generations. During the height of COVID he took on a greater discipling role with students individually. Fred has taken a position as Director of Operations and Development at Kidstown International. He and his beloved family, Celeste and Felix, will continue to be an active part of the FPC community.

While there is grief for all of us as we come to grips with this season being over, FPC will continue the work of engaging with young adults and supporting their spiritual formation as we remain focused on intergenerational relationships and being a light in the world. The author of Ecclesiastes tells us in chapter 3:1-3, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.” As we reflect on this particular time, we look hopefully to what is coming as we share a living faith across generations; we hold onto the truth that the Kingdom is growing. 

Please join us as we unite to better love God, love others, and help others love God.

Rev. Doug Bunnell

On behalf of the FPC Session

In the near future, we plan to come together to remember the ministry of the Garden and the INN and celebrate its legacy. We hope to recognize the deep impact it had on this church and community. We acknowledge the loss of a beloved part of FPC’s ministry and bear witness to the good that came from this remarkable five decade ride. More info will follow on the websites of the Garden (thegardenbellingham.org) and FPC (fpcbellingham.org).

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