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St. Clare celebrates its mission ministry in Snoqualmie

SNOQUALMIE - As the fifth priest in 10 years, Rev. Patty Baker knew she had some trust to earn at St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church when she was appointed as vicar in May of 2004.

The little white church with a red door on Railroad Avenue in Snoqualmie had a celebration of ministry on July 9. Though it was meant to celebrate the vicar's appointment, complete with an appearance by Bishop of Olympia Vincent Warner, Baker decided to wait for a while to have the traditional new vicar welcoming event in order to use it as a way to celebrate the ministry and accomplishments of her church members.

"It wasn't so much about me as the community as a whole ... getting away from a sense of clericalism, that the priest is the only one who can do something in the world," Baker said.

Though she lives in Bellevue, Baker said she really enjoys coming to Snoqualmie and finds the commute beautiful, especially in the spring.

"It's a really neat town and I really, really love being out here. I love the people. They're great, wonderful, warm people."

Baker said she felt a calling to work in the church for a long time. She received her master of divinity from Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry and was ordained two years ago. She served as an intern at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Laurelhurst for three years before being ordained. Baker also worked in children's ministry for five years at Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church in Bellevue.

The native of Eugene, Ore., moved to Washington with her family in 1985 and has lived in Bellevue for 20 years. Baker is a Mariners fan, she loves kayaking and spending time with her family, which includes her husband and two "almost out of the house" children.

Church members spent June painting and fixing up the parking lot and grounds, partly to prepare for the celebration and the bishop's visit, and partly to help the congregation take pride in their church, which needed a little attention.

"It reflected a sense of our faith, that we wanted to worship in a space that was as nice as we could make it," Baker said. "We had over 25 people out here during June working on one thing or another."

Looking back over the past year, Baker believes she is off to a good start with her new congregation.

"It's been really great. We've worked really hard in the past year."

As the only Episcopal church in the Valley, St. Clare's has more than 50 active members and has been a mission church for more than 15 years. In the Episcopal faith, a mission church is a smaller church that is governed and supported by the diocese and has a vicar, whereas a parish church is self supported and has a rector.

"One of my goals for this church is to be a community that goes out into the world and recognizes that we have a real ministry. That's really important to me," said Baker, who wants to make St. Clare's a church that people notice. She hopes the church will become the kind of ministry that is felt and seen vibrantly in the community.

"If St. Clare's disappeared, would anyone notice it was gone? We want to change the answer to that," Baker said. "There's so much we can do here because the people are so gifted, it's just amazing how gifted the people are."

The new vicar is seeing lots of progress already, noting a new sense of energy and hope for the future among her congregation. She knows that her enduring presence at St. Clare's will also encourage her parishioners.

"[Losing so many priests] is kind of disheartening to a lot of people. I hope I'm conveying that I'll be here for a long time."

Staff writer Melissa Kruse can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at melissa.kruse@valleyrecord.com.

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