I've loved connecting with other young Nazarene pastors through the Young Clergy Network, at the conference held this March and through their podcast, This Nazarene Life. I've been listening to the podcast every week since it dropped on iTunes, so it's such a joy to have been featured! Check out my interview, season 2 episode 11. In every interview, Brit always asks three questions, and I'd like to present them here on the blog.
How did you end up in the Church of the Nazarene?
I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene, although not in the way people usually mean when they say that. I don’t have a Nazarene family tree or a Wesleyan legacy (that I know of). Ironically, I might be the only Nazarene in my family.
My parents came to know God when I was really young, and they started going to church mostly because our next door neighbors believed that when Jesus said love your neighbor, he probably meant it. They befriended my parents, shared meals with them, swapped babysitting nights, basically just were great neighbors. And they invited my folks to church. My parents didn’t know anything about denominations or theology. They just knew that suddenly Jesus had changed their lives, and their friends went to this church, so there they were every Sunday. But then our neighbor friends moved away and, on top of that, the church they were going to was deeply hurt by a scandal of pastoral indiscretion, and my parents found themselves in need of a new church home.
That’s when we ended up at the neighborhood Nazarene church. They loved the preaching, the worship music, the ministries... They had intended to visit a handful of other churches around town, but they never made it. Our whole family got super involved right away, and it was such a warm and welcoming place, really a place of healing and growth for all of us. So, that’s where we stayed: New Life Community Church of the Nazarene in Pismo Beach, California. That’s where my parents still attend, and they’re deeply committed to that community. But even so, they don’t really self-identify as Nazarene. They’ve got such a sweet ecumenical spirit, and they’ve been more shaped by broad evangelical culture rather than a specifically Nazarene or Wesleyan-holiness perspective.
I, on the other hand, fell in love with the Church of the Nazarene. It began the moment I stepped in the doors of New Life; that place was always a home and a family to me. Even more so, I grew to know and love the Church of the Nazarene when I was studying at Point Loma Nazarene University and attending Southeast Church of the Nazarene in San Diego. I learned about the history of the Church of the Nazarene-- from it’s inception a global denomination, affirming of women, deeply compassionate and justice oriented. I found myself caught up in the liturgical rhythms of the church year as we moved through Advent and Lent. My world expanded as I joined a diverse inner-city church and experienced the global Nazarene community through global church work in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought, “If this is what being Nazarene is about, then I’m all about it!”
Even though I had a brief stint in a non-denominational church right after college, when I discerned a call to pastoral ministry, I knew I wanted to be ordained Nazarene. The Church of the Nazarene for me, had always been my home and my family, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
How did you know you were called to be a pastor?
At the time I clearly discerned a call to ministry, I was finishing up my MA in English and teaching freshman writing at San Jose State University. I was climbing the academic ladder, looking toward a PhD and eventually a tenure-track teaching position at a university. Teaching had always been my dream, and at that point in my life I thought I had finally begun to arrive, finally begun to make some progress toward that dream job, and even though I loved it... in some really significant ways, I was deeply unsatisfied. All I wanted to do was talk to those students about what they were learning and how they were growing and how they might feel God speaking to them-- having to grade and evaluate them was crushing me. At the same time, I was becoming more deeply involved in my local church community-- writing and teaching and leading there in ways I had never really considered that I could at church, even though I’d been serving in church my whole life. As I continued to lean deeper into my teaching job and my volunteer positions, during the summer of 2013 specifically, it became clear that God had long been calling me to the ministry, a consistent voice throughout my life that I had never fully heard before. The elements I loved about teaching were really about discipleship, shepherding, and really pastoring. I realized that God had always been whispering this call to preach and teach and it just took me a while to really hear it.
What inspires you to stay in the Church of the Nazarene? What keeps you here?
I'm inspired again and again by clergy in the Church of the Nazarene who are committed to preaching holiness, caring for the poor, and shepherding their people in the way of Jesus. I'm especially inspired by young clergy who are committed to hopeful engagement in the future of our denomination.
I stay because I believe the Church of the Nazarene has something unique to offer the broader conversation of faith: especially a theology of love and compassion and holiness.
The Church of the Nazarene has always been a home and a family to me-- and I love her the way I love my family, imperfections and frustrations and all, because we're family.