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"Every 500 years, God has a great big rummage sale."

Sharon Graff
Sharon Graff
Place

Community Congregational Church

276 F Street, Chula Vista

Membership: 170

Pastor: Sharon Graff

Age: 62

Born: Hemet

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.

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Sharon Graff
Sharon Graff
Place

Community Congregational Church

276 F Street, Chula Vista

Membership: 170

Pastor: Sharon Graff

Age: 62

Born: Hemet

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.

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Comments
3

More pious fleecing of the flock.

April 12, 2018

RE: "In heaven, I may be stationed next to Hitler..." Huh? Wouldn't he (according to Christians) be in the other place?

April 12, 2018

@dwbat: I can think of two possibilities that explain her statement.

(a) she is a universalist, which means that a person does not believe in hell and that all people will go to heaven.

(b) she believes that Hitler accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ - that Jesus died for the sins of the world, was buried, and rose again on the third day.

If Hitler did (b) then he was saved, and Pastor Graff could see him in heaven so long as she is saved also.

I lean toward her saying this due to (a), and this is a problem because universalism is not biblical. Jesus talks about a literal hell and he describes a narrow gate that will receive only a few.

If I am right, it is refreshing that she does not seem to believe in salvation by works as so many apostate pastors do, but it is troubling that she may think that God makes no judgments.

Feb. 7, 2020

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