A conversation with Barbara Rossing: How Holden Village impacts the communities of NCW
The Lutheran retreat center at Holden Village has quietly been a catalyst for deep community building throughout North Central Washington. This was driven home for my during a conversation with Barbara Rossing, a former pastor at Holden Village who lives in Leavenworth and commutes to Chicago where she teaches New Testament and the Lutheran School of Theology.
She was a scientist in training in college, where she fell in love with geology. But an opportunity to spend a year studying theology shifted the course of her life. Rossing graduated from Yale School of Divinity and got her doctorate at Harvard.
As a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Leavenworth, she’s been involved with Upper Valley MEND, which supports those in need, and also is active in the Climate Conversations NCW group that seeks constructive ways for us to talk about environmental issues that are affecting all of us.
Her environmental consciousness and sense of shared community was informed by her experiences at Holden Village. She started visiting back in the 1970s and was pastor from 1986-88. “What makes people happy is a sense of community, a sense of purpose and relationships. That’s been statistically proven over and over,” said Rossing. Another important aspect of well being is caring for creation — the natural environment. Holden Village is an exquisitely beautiful place that is self contained and where people must work together solve challenges and thrive.
She points to the impact of climate change on forest health that has exacerbated our wildfire challenges as an example of the need to get serious about moving away from fossil fuels.
We spoke about the mentality of scarcity that exists in our society and the choice that we can make to view life from a standpoint of abundance. The kind of economy we need is one where we are not hoarding for ourselves and depriving others but rather “sharing abundantly because there is more abundance than we could ever imagine.”
She is a huge fan of Pope Francis and retired Bishop William Skylstad because of their work on behalf of the poor and the environment. The Pope’s encyclical on our “common home” sparked a study session between congregants of both the Lutheran Church in Leavenworth and Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. “It was a great and wonderful experience to hear each others’ stories and to find out how we all care about creation,” Rossing told me.
This work of finding common ground is a strong theme in Rossing’s life and work. She will be joining Father Osmar Aguirre at a service at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Wenatchee Sunday, Oct. 1. The 7 p.m. service is an effort to express that sense of unity, Rossing told me. Pope Francis has taken revolutionary steps of reaching out to other faiths and “welcoming the stranger,” Rossing noted. That is a powerful example for all of us.
Rossing spends a lot of time thinking about the role of the church in society. “The more the church can lead on reminding us who we are as compassionate people — as community builders — the more we will be in a better world,” she said.
She expresses great admiration for Bishop Skylstad, a native of the Methow Valley and a key architect of the Columbia River Pastoral Letter, which called upon policy makers to see the river as a giver of life rather than just an economic asset.
“The economy is part of our lives,” she said, but she called on us to work in a way that is sustainable so that the abundance can be shared with future generations.
I came away from our conversation with a deep appreciation for the impact that Holden Village has on the sense of community that exists in Leavenworth and so many other communities in our region and for the balanced approach to life that she shares with Bishop Skylstad, Pope Francis and so many others in our valley.