Interview submitted by Holly Kragthorpe Shirley

Zac Calvo is the newly minted Pastor of Grace Trinity Church, a progressive neighborhood church that welcomes and affirms all identities and faith journeys.

Grace Trinity folks aren’t too concerned with image. Situated next to Isles Buns & Coffee in East Isles, the Grace Trinity Commons with the floor-to-ceiling windows facing 28th Street often confuse those passing by because from the street, it’s hard to tell that the building is a church.

I sat down for coffee with Pastor Zac who was sporting a nose ring, a pair of worn down Chuck Taylors and a hoodie. Zac’s outfit doesn’t scream “I’m a pastor,” and that’s the way he likes it.

Holly Kragthorpe Shirley: So, you’re a new neighbor in East Isles. What do you think it means to be a good neighbor?

Rev. Zac Calvo: I recently read “True Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh, who writes so simply and profoundly that “you cannot love what you do not understand.” To me, being a good neighbor is extending an authentic invitation for people to be who they are and not as you expect them to be. Many people think about church as a place where you go to learn the “right” ways to think and act, or where you learn how to be “good.” The essence of being a good neighbor is not about subjecting your relationships or communities to a purity test of actions or beliefs. It’s about cultivating a deep sense of curiosity for others.  

HK: There’s such a communal aspect to what you’re talking about. Can you talk about how faith plays a role in shaping a community?

ZC:  Call me naive, but even after seeing all of the ugliness of supremacist thinking, I still believe that faith communities are a unique cultural space that gathers people together who may not encounter each other anywhere else. Being together, in all the messiness and awkwardness of identities colliding and co-mingling, is how we are all going to heal.

As a gay man who grew up in conservative religious spaces, I know how tempting it is to believe that this cannot be true. The reason I have confidence that we can find our way back to each other is because deep down, we all crave something real.

HK: So then what does Grace Trinity see as its role in gathering folks?

It is my hope for Grace Trinity to be a community hub for East Isles and Uptown, not just as a spiritual resource on Sundays but as an asset during the week for community service opportunities, relational connection, and social justice work. One of the ways that churches can get stuck is when they only see themselves in one dimension: Sunday morning. Of course, it is vital and even literally life-saving for folks to have a spiritual home where they can belong and connect with the divine. But that is not the only opportunity for connection. For us, this looks like extending invitations to events, non-profit partnerships, and other opportunities for connection.

HK: Speaking of relational connection, I cannot resist asking what’s it like to be a newly minted fur parent to a puppy?

I should confess that I never saw myself as a dog person, and out of pride I stubbornly hoped I would never be pinned as a millennial fur parent. After we welcomed our sweet little chocolate lab puppy last year, I officially lost that battle. My husband Elliot and I are now head over heels for the little demon. He is sweet, rambunctious, and a voracious play monster who loves people as much as he loves devouring socks.

HK: I love that we’re discussing your puppy while eating “puppy dog tails.” What’s your favorite part about being part of East Isles?

I joke that my office is at Isles Bun, because I meet up with so many folks for coffee and pastries. It is heartening to see a line out the door so often. As a Seattleite, being so close to Lake of the Isles does my Pacific Northwest heart some good, especially in the summer. I am also excited to be a part of how East Isles and Uptown positions itself in the coming years as a place that pursues the intersection of authentic relationships and social justice work. This is a place I want to form some roots.

If you’re down for coffee with Zac, you can reach him at