Scott Landis: “To be trite, we’re not like those other churches you may have heard of.”
4070 Jackdaw Street, San Diego
Pastor: Scott Landis
Born: Souderton, Penn.
Formation: Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa.; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
Years Ordained: 31
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermons?
Pastor Scott Landis: Actual writing time takes only about three or four hours, but research and rumination takes at least ten to fifteen hours. So I spend a lot of time doing background-reading in commentaries and newspaper articles and the like. Then I spend time in prayer and ruminating. The actual writing does not take that long.
SDR: Can you think of a time when you gave a sermon that completely flopped?
PS: I distinctly remember that it was the Sunday after [the 9/11 attacks], and I tried to express the angst I was feeling rather than offer a sermon of great assurance. I think I made a big mistake. I think people needed to hear assurances and that things were going to be okay. I think I mistakenly took people into a darker place than what was needed and it flopped big-time! And I was told about it, too.… I learned there is a balance a pastor needs to find when he or she gets up in the pulpit. It is honest to struggle with your own feelings, but it is important to not sugar-coat things but let people know there is grace in all situations, and there is hope. One of our responsibilities as clergy is that we articulate that hope as best we can in as authentic a manner as possible.
SDR: What is your main concern as member of the clergy?
PS: One of my concerns is the bad rap that church has in society today. Too often Christianity is thought of as one brand or one stripe, a more conservative brand than what we espouse here at Mission Hills UCC. I wouldn’t say it keeps me up at night, but it does force me to do a lot of explaining, especially living here in Mission Hills, to the gay and lesbian communities and other communities hurt by the church. So there’s oftentimes a need to explain who I am and, to be trite, that we’re not like those other churches you may have heard of. This church is going to be a place that’s safe, where you’ll be affirmed for who you are and you’ll grow spiritually.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PS: I had to struggle with that. My partner at the time died about five years ago. I really wanted Brendan to be someplace tangible. I finally decided that if we are created in God’s image, we come from God. My belief is that when we die we return to God. I believe we do indeed come from God; we are created in God’s image, and we are loved and affirmed by God. When we die we return to that place of holy presence, to be with God once again, and that completes the great cycle of life.
SDR: Does everyone go to Heaven or is Hell also a possibility?
PS: I never believed in the concept of Hell. I don’t think God would condemn people to anyplace of damnation or struggle. I wholly believe we were created by God to return to God.