A lay-led Catholic community? How is that possible?

    The easy answer: With God, all things are possible!

Lynne and Joe presiding at Easter Vigil

Our Story

In the 1980s, back in the day when many things were possible in the Catholic Church, a group of faithful folks was celebrating liturgy and being community with one another at Koinonia House, the campus ministry center at Portland State University. This Catholic community held ecumenical services with the neighboring Episcopalians and Lutherans, causing then-Archbishop Levada to become concerned about these decidedly Second-Vatican-Council inspired liturgies, the involvement of women and the welcoming of gays and lesbians.

In no time, our pastor was reassigned to another Catholic parish across town, and although many folks from Koinonia House followed him, the new parish was not prepared to accommodate this unusual group that imagined church in such a different way. After a few difficult months, our pastor was again reassigned which left the Koinonia Exiles homeless and leaderless. Still, we felt a strong call from the Spirit to continue as a community, somehow.

The Journey Begins

So we met in the upper room, so to speak, and called together everyone who had been part of our band of misfits: choir members who had met years before at Holy Trinity Parish, Koinonia House folks, and friends who might feel called to be in community in a new way.  We knew something unusual was emerging, from this unique and vibrant community that had experienced true ecumenism, openness to a variety of ministries, creativity for both women and men in music and preaching and liturgy. So together we prayed, and wondered, and sang, and waited...and something tangible began to emerge.

Gary McInnis, a priest who had been a friend and ally of the group, was called to act as pastor. A home was found for liturgy at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Portland. And then the community found a name: in the midst of a prayerful conversation about who we might be, a voice offered, so simply, “The journey will name us.” A week later, a check was mailed to the group, made out to The Journey Will Name Us Catholic Community. That was in August 1989.

Carrying our banner at Portland Pride ParadeSearching? So are we!

An alternative to traditional Catholic parishes, Journey has been a place that welcomes all people, Straight Gay Married Divorced Single Childless Childfull Young Old Catholic Christian Questioning Searching; that invites all those who feel called to Preach Preside Sing Meet Discuss Decide Become; that serves those who are Hungry Sick Outcast Voiceless Marginalized Imprisoned Violated Oppressed Ignored Excluded. Ours has been a unique adventure. Appropriately, our advertisement in local papers used to say, simply, “Searching? So are we.”

After 5 years of service to the community, Gary discerned his need to move back home to Michigan to be with his family. Another leader was called, this time a woman – Nancy Bannister – who had been just as much a pastor to the community in her full-time commitment to ministry in music, preaching and presiding. The community underwent yet another discernment process as well, eventually acknowledging where the Spirit had brought us by claiming ourselves as a lay-led community. We have been proudly and humbly celebrating liturgy in this new way, with a variety of presiders and preachers, in the Catholic liturgical spirit mixed with our ecumenical leanings, ever since.

Why Stand Staring at What Has Gone Before 

As life would have it, we caNancy (Chvatal) Bannister, d.2006me full circle in a sense when our friends back at Koinonia House, where a large community had continued to celebrate liturgy at PSU, ended their many years together and went in search of a familiar faith community, finding kindred spirits in Journey. So in 2005 we became Journey Koinonia Catholic Community.

As life would also have it, we had to bid adieu to our beloved pastor Nancy, who went into the hospital for cancer surgery singing a community favorite song, “Why stand staring at what has gone before…” a song we would soon be singing at her funeral as we blessed and thanked her and sent her on her way Home.

Today, we continue singing our songs, fulfilling our call as an alternative and welcoming place ever faithful to the Christian commands of service, table fellowship, gospel teachings, and community. We invite women and men to serve equally in every aspect of community life. We welcome people of every experience to enter the circle and take a place at the table. We offer our service to anyone in need, not just with generous giving but in solidarity and hope. We stand as a living symbol of justice in a Church tradition that denies the fullness of humanity shared by all God’s people. We open ourselves to you in our holy broken wholeness, a community of faultering faithful, each of us looking for a home in Christ, in each other. 

Join us. We meet every Sunday evening at 6pm for Eucharist at St Stephen's Episcopal Church in downtown Portland. Our radically inclusive preaching and presiding team, and everyone at Journey Koinonia, look forward to gathering with you around the Table.


All Are Welcome at the Table !