Practicing Our Faith In Salmon Nation

About the Salmon Nation Project

This project grew out of an endeavor by seven parish clergy and two religion professors to carry out our pastoral and teaching vocations more effectively in the beautiful but challenging environment of the Pacific Northwest. Our group was convened in March of 2004 by Dr. Patricia Killen and Dr. Samuel Torvend of Pacific Lutheran University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Cultures, and Society.

In December of 2005, we received a generous grant from the Louisville Institute allowing us to meet with some leading social, cultural, and artistic voices of our region for conversations about the place we all share in common.

About the name “Salmon Nation”

The Pacific Northwest has been known by a number of names from the time of its first inhabitants, the indigenous tribes who greeted Lewis and Clark in the early 19th century, to the present. In the 1970’s and 80’s, novelist Ernest Callenbach and journalist Joel Garreau referred to it as “Ecotopia.” More recently, business leaders and bio-regionalists have dubbed it “Cascadia.” Patricia Killen calls it the “None Zone.” Ecotrust, a regional non-profit whose mission is to promote environmental, economic, and social sustainability, has developed the concept of “Salmon Nation,” defined as “a place, a state of mind, and a gift.” We chose this term as a way of framing the region for the purposes of our project.

Through our conversations, our goal was to:

  • Listen to some leading voices of our regional culture to learn how they understand the place we live and how they make spiritual sense of it.
  • Reflect theologically on what we hear in these conversations regarding ways in which to more effectively articulate the Christian faith – ways that are true to our tradition but also make sense in the context of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Assist the people we serve to practice their faith in more meaningful ways, aware that they are likely to be a “minority” in demographic terms for the foreseeable future.
  • Offer one another spiritual and collegial support as we seek new ways to more effectively practice ministry in a region with historically low religious identification and affiliation.

Two primary questions guided our project:

  1. What shapes the lived theological imagination of the people of the Pacific Northwest? How do people in this region of relatively low institutional religious affiliation make meaning?
  2. What do Lutherans have to offer from our theological and liturgical tradition that might address the spiritual longings of the people who live here?

Project Participants

Feel free to contact any member of the Salmon Nation group; contact information is listed below.

Brian Brandt
Central Lutheran Church,
Portland, OR
Laurie Larson Caesar
Mission of the Atonement,
Beaverton, OR
Aaron Couch
First Immanuel Lutheran Church,
Portland, OR
Patricia Killen
Pacific Lutheran University,
Tacoma, WA
Martha Maier
Associate Pastor
St. Andrew Lutheran Church,
Vancouver, WA
James Norlie
Lutheran Campus Pastor
Oregon State University,
Corvallis, OR
John Rosenberg
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd,
Olympia, WA
Samuel Torvend
Associate Prof. of Religion
Pacific Lutheran University,
Tacoma, WA
Melinda Wagner
First Immanuel Lutheran Church,
Portland, OR
Frank Wilson
Luther Memorial Lutheran Church,
Madison, WI (formerly of Salem, OR)


Stand-alone resources by name (all files are Adobe PDF documents)

More about the “Practicing Our Faith in Salmon Nation” Project

Salmon Nation Quiz
(or “Some Things I Didn’t Know when I Lived in Southeast Iowa”)

Salmon Nation Quiz, Answer Key

Characteristics of the Pacific Northwest

The Religious Landscape of the Pacific Northwest

Secular but Spiritual in the Pacific Northwest

Lutheran Treasures for the Northwest

Gifts from the Attic

The Importance of Stories

“Living the Story”
Article by Diana Butler Bass

Faith Practices that Transform

Reflections on Faith Practices from Salmon Nation Participants

Quick Tips for Ministry in the Pacific Northwest

Chinook Blessing Litany

Bibliography of Pacific Northwest Writers, Artists, and Resources

Class Sessions

Practicing our Faith in Salmon Nation: A 7-Week Adult Christian Education Class (all files are Adobe PDF documents)

Introductory Information

Session 1:
Regional Characteristics of the Pacific Northwest

Session 2:
The Religious Landscape of the Pacific Northwest

Session 3:
Secular but Spiritual in the Pacific Northwest

Session 4:
Lutheran Treasures that Speak to this Region

Session 5:
The Importance of Story for Forming Lives and Ministry

Session 6:
Faith Practices that Transform

Session 7:
Where Do We Go from Here?