SNOQUALMIE – Evenings during Advent and Lent, parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish gather in the parish hall for a “fireside chat” with Father Jan Larson.
“I find people are hungry to learn more about the history of the church and go deeper into the significance of the sacraments,” said Father Larson, a senior priest who celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination in 2018. “I hope what I offer them at these talks enriches their spiritual and prayer life.”
During the Advent season that just ended, Father Larson explored such topics as why ancient people became religious, when and where today’s religions originated, and how those religions are similar and different.
Parishioner Nancy Walton-House said the series seemed especially relevant today.
“A lot of people are really questioning the value of religion in our time,” she said. “There is so much deep disappointment, concern, anger and a desire to turn away from the church.
“Having the opportunity to be reminded there’s a value to religion, in the transcendence it provides from the immediacy of our lives, is so important,” Walton-House added.
Adding a real fire
Father Larson served as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows from 1992 to 2007, and now helps out on the weekends at the Snoqualmie parish and its mission, St. Anthony of Padua in Carnation. About five years ago, he began the seasonal chat series as a continuation of his lifelong ministry of sharing knowledge, Father Larson said.
“Seeing more of the history of these things we do in Mass makes it a richer experience,” he said. “And people end up loving it more.”
Having a real fire at the fireside chats only began last year, said Carmela Wolf, liturgy and parish life coordinator at Our Lady of Sorrows.
“People were nervous about using the fireplace in such an old building, so they were using an iPad with a fake fire,” Wolf said. But after the parish determined the fireplace was functional, “now we officially have a real fire,” she added.
Along with the cozy fire, warm beverages are served to make the event hospitable and welcoming for the 15–20 parishioners who attend, Wolf said. Whatever the topic, the chats give parishioners “a new way of looking at our faith,” she said. “It really makes us well-rounded.”
During Advent and Lent, Father Jan Larson offers faith-related “fireside chats” at Our Lady of Sorrow Parish in Snoqualmie. Photo: Carmela Wolf
Active engagement with faith
As a “cradle Catholic,” parishioner Chris Brookes said he sometimes takes his faith for granted, but hearing Father Larson’s chats about different religions broadened his perspective. Spending an hour with faith topics during the busy holiday season “helps me pay more attention to my prayer and spiritual life,” Brookes added.
He also appreciates that Father Larson has time to help parishioners deeply explore faith topics.
“When priests present their homilies, they usually have around 10 minutes to do some teaching,” Brookes said. “Here we get six Sundays’ worth per sitting.”
Father Larson also leaves time after his talk for a question-and-answer session. Being asked questions makes it a learning experience for him, too, he said.
“I learn. I have to look things up,” Father Larson said. “It’s a shared experience.”
Walton-House said she appreciates the opportunity to ask questions and share observations.
“Our faith should be dynamic and interactive,” she said. “This is a place we can have an active engagement with the faith.”