276 F Street, Chula Vista
Pastor: Sharon Graff
Formation: Northwest Christian College, Eugene, OR; Claremont School of Theology, Claremont; San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Francisco
Years Ordained: 33
San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Sharon Graff: Peace and justice is my favorite subject because I believe that we are reflections of the divine in our words, actions, and decisions. We can make a difference in the world and God wants us to make a difference for the good. I like to urge people in that direction.
SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PG: I’m excited for the way the church as a whole is shifting and changing right now. I’m probably not going to live to see it, but I’m excited to see what happens next. Every 500 years, God has a great big rummage sale. (I’d love to take credit for the idea, but it actually comes from Phyllis Tickle, who was a professor of mine.) We’re in that season now – we’re about 500 years away from the Reformation, and I think there are some exciting things happening in the church. Some clergy see it as a negative; I see it as an exciting time to be alive and planting the seeds for what is coming up next, although we probably will not see the harvest.
SDR: Why United Church of Christ?
PG: It’s a very old denomination and also a very new one. We go back to the Pilgrims and Puritans who came to this land and inhabited it, for better or worse. We brought things like democracy and public education to the country. We’re also new, because the United Church of Christ is a product of four different groups that joined together over the years, including the Congregationalists, the Christian Church born in Kentucky and Ohio, and two groups of German immigrants, the Evangelical and Reformed churches. Those four groups came together in 1957 to form the UCC. I decided to become UCC about 20 years ago because of the UCC’s social justice stance.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PG: The church is between called pastors. This in-between time is recommended in our denomination. Our congregation is in a lengthy self-study process and is looking at the history of our church and what we can learn from it. This church is more than 125 years old and the first church in Chula Vista. There are a lot of interesting stories to come to terms with as they select their next pastor. In the role as interim pastor, my job is to help them know themselves as well as they can to be clear about their mission moving forward.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PG: I believe we go directly into the heart of God, and become part of that great experience. It may have pearly gates and gold-plated streets, but I don’t really care about that. In heaven, there will be no separation between the divine and us. God welcomes everyone. In heaven, I may be stationed next to Hitler, and I’ll have to deal with that. But everyone is loved by God, and we all get to receive that in its fullness at that point. There are glimpses of it here, when we stare into a newborn’s eyes, or have a dear friend or a dear pet. In heaven, there is no barrier to seeing the divine.