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A little sanctuary surrounded by buffalo wings and Guinness beer

These people were telling stories of hurt, vulnerability, divorce, drug addiction

Pastor Choi: “We live in a boisterous, alpha-driven world.”
Pastor Choi: “We live in a boisterous, alpha-driven world.”

First Congregational Church of Escondido

Contact: 1800 N Broadway, Escondido (North County) 760-745-3320 www.fcceonline.org

Membership: 120

Pastor: Holgie Choi

Age: 38

Born: Seoul, South Korea

Formation: University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ; Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA;

Years Ordained: 8

San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

Pastor Holgie Choi: Redemption, in a word. If you look at scripture and our modern-day lives, we all have certain stories of brokenness, hurt and pain. In our congregation, in North County or in San Diego, we meet people, and everyone has a distinctive story of pain. We believe in a God who redeems through his grace and love all of our lives, and gives us hope.

SDR: What’s the mission of your church?

PC: Our primary mission is to welcome all who come through the door, hear their story, and provide a healthy community where we can support one another in our vulnerability, our pain, and our joy. We try to be that extensive community with one another. Then we take that commission of grace and love for one another and bring it out to the greater community.

SDR: What book best inspires or informs your pastoral work?

PC: The modern psychologist Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. All her books talk about our connection to one another. We live in a boisterous and alpha-driven world where the louder and more strength you show, the better. But her analysis is that we connect better when we’re vulnerable and share our stories of pain. That’s when we have a deep, human, heart-to-heart connection we all crave

SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?

PC: Back in Boston, Thursday nights were trivia nights at the local pub, where I went with my friends after we hit the gym. One Thursday night, we’re sitting there, playing trivia, eating Buffalo wings, and the team next to us start asking us questions. Who were we and where were we from and what did we do? I told them what I did – I was a pastor – and then there was a drop-dead moment of silence. I reassured them I was only there to have fun. Then I asked them to tell their stories. This was a loud Thursday night at a pub, but we made a little sanctuary, surrounded by Buffalo wings and Guinness beer, to tell our stories. God was there. These people were telling stories of hurt, vulnerability, divorce, drug addiction, all that stuff. That was a God moment in my life.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PC: Many people focus on the future – one day, the Kingdom of heaven will come and all will be fulfilled – and that makes sense in terms of the scriptural theology. Jesus talks of these things. But I like to believe more in the present – what does the Kingdom of Heaven look like in the present time, in your current street, community, family? Are there little theatrical trailers, previews of heaven in your lives? It is the hope of our Christian faith that death is not the final answer, but life in heaven is with our creator. I do believe in hell too, and looking in our current world, hell is right there. The existence of evil and hell – I call hell the separation of our relationship with God. Whether it’s a cosmic realm or the present realm, we can experience hell.

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Pastor Choi: “We live in a boisterous, alpha-driven world.”
Pastor Choi: “We live in a boisterous, alpha-driven world.”

First Congregational Church of Escondido

Contact: 1800 N Broadway, Escondido (North County) 760-745-3320 www.fcceonline.org

Membership: 120

Pastor: Holgie Choi

Age: 38

Born: Seoul, South Korea

Formation: University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ; Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA;

Years Ordained: 8

San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

Pastor Holgie Choi: Redemption, in a word. If you look at scripture and our modern-day lives, we all have certain stories of brokenness, hurt and pain. In our congregation, in North County or in San Diego, we meet people, and everyone has a distinctive story of pain. We believe in a God who redeems through his grace and love all of our lives, and gives us hope.

SDR: What’s the mission of your church?

PC: Our primary mission is to welcome all who come through the door, hear their story, and provide a healthy community where we can support one another in our vulnerability, our pain, and our joy. We try to be that extensive community with one another. Then we take that commission of grace and love for one another and bring it out to the greater community.

SDR: What book best inspires or informs your pastoral work?

PC: The modern psychologist Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. All her books talk about our connection to one another. We live in a boisterous and alpha-driven world where the louder and more strength you show, the better. But her analysis is that we connect better when we’re vulnerable and share our stories of pain. That’s when we have a deep, human, heart-to-heart connection we all crave

SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?

PC: Back in Boston, Thursday nights were trivia nights at the local pub, where I went with my friends after we hit the gym. One Thursday night, we’re sitting there, playing trivia, eating Buffalo wings, and the team next to us start asking us questions. Who were we and where were we from and what did we do? I told them what I did – I was a pastor – and then there was a drop-dead moment of silence. I reassured them I was only there to have fun. Then I asked them to tell their stories. This was a loud Thursday night at a pub, but we made a little sanctuary, surrounded by Buffalo wings and Guinness beer, to tell our stories. God was there. These people were telling stories of hurt, vulnerability, divorce, drug addiction, all that stuff. That was a God moment in my life.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PC: Many people focus on the future – one day, the Kingdom of heaven will come and all will be fulfilled – and that makes sense in terms of the scriptural theology. Jesus talks of these things. But I like to believe more in the present – what does the Kingdom of Heaven look like in the present time, in your current street, community, family? Are there little theatrical trailers, previews of heaven in your lives? It is the hope of our Christian faith that death is not the final answer, but life in heaven is with our creator. I do believe in hell too, and looking in our current world, hell is right there. The existence of evil and hell – I call hell the separation of our relationship with God. Whether it’s a cosmic realm or the present realm, we can experience hell.

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