Paula Elizabeth: “Did I hear you use the ‘s-i-n’ word? We don’t even use that word at our church.”
Denomination: United Church of Christ
Pastor: Paula Elizabeth
Born: Boston, Mass.
Formation: Boston University School of Theology, Boston, Mass.
Ordained: 13 years.
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Paula Elizabeth: I can’t give you exact timing, but it usually takes me a whole week from the beginning to the end.... When I write my sermon, it will take me four to six hours at the smallest amount. I hate to say I am even writing the sermons, though; I think Spirit is writing the sermons. Spirit also intervenes and preaches it, too, because often what I have on the paper isn’t what comes out of my mouth.
SDR: Can you think of a time when you gave a sermon which flopped?
PE: I’m often surprised when I give a sermon that I thought flopped but others would come up to me afterwards and say that it really moved them. That’s what I’m talking about when I say that Spirit speaks. It often comes out of my mouth differently. I’m often wondering where it’s coming from and where it’s going to, but someone has heard it.
SDR: What is it that concerns you as a member of the clergy?
PE: I guess concern is a tough word for me. I guess one of the places I question is actually the role of religion in the world. I’m not sure how helpful religion is or how unhelpful it really is. Does it do more harm or good? So, I really struggle with that. This whole idea of so many people claim they’re spiritual because they don’t want to be religious — I get it, I really get it. Religion is sort of like politics; it’s becoming incredibly divisive and that is not my understanding of any religion at the heart of it.
SDR: What is the most prevalent sin you observe or hear about from your congregation?
PE: Did I hear you use the “s-i-n” word? We don’t even use that word in our church. It’s in the Book of Worship, but what the heck is it after all? It’s such a provocative word. Terminology and verbiage can be very harming. That can lay such a load on someone. I don’t believe that’s what we’re here for. We do have that word in our book, but I don’t use it anymore.
SDR: What is it that they find to be the biggest challenge in the world today?
PE: If you want to talk about the faith, people are challenged by living their faith and living in the world. We’re in the world but not of the world. The challenge is living out that scriptural passage. That’s where the rubber hits the road.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PE: The mission of Kensington is to serve the greater good, the greater whole, God’s whole community. They live into their name of Kensington Community Church.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PE: We are here walking a physical earthly path and we are living it out the best we can because that is where the call is. It’s not so we can get to Heaven or afraid we’re going to go to Hell, whatever those terms mean. That to me is not the Commandment; it’s not what Jesus preached about, so it’s not what I really worry about.