Mission Hills United Methodist Church
- Contact: 4044 Lark St, San Diego 619-296-1243 www.missionhillsumc.org
- Membership: 50
- Neighborhood: Mission Hills
- Pastor: Bailey Brawner
- Age: 26
- Born: Anchorage, AK
- Formation: University of Montana-Western, Dillon, MT; Boston University School of Theology, Boston, MA.
- Years Ordained: 3
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Bailey Brawner: God’s expansive love. Sometimes we as people of faith, as the church, put limits on God’s love, which is completely against the message of Jesus. Jesus was all about radical inclusiveness, which is something I try to live out in my ministry as well.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PB: Our mission statement is “Loving God by loving all.” It speaks to the inclusive and radical love of God for all God’s people. I am an openly LBGTQ+ pastor, and so our church is a reconciling church, which means no matter who you are, what you love, or what you do for a living or not, you are fully loved, accepted and needed by God. I started as pastor at Mission Hills in July 2019 and in September of that year I started a group called The Voyage for LBGTQ+ people of faith, and it has expanded online to people in the UK and Canada and across the U.S. We get together to talk about hard topics and fun topics; we explore the idea of faith with LBGTQ+ people, many of whom have been told by their church that they will not be loved by God until they change, and won’t be accepted and be able to marry their partner in their home church. Those raw moments have shown me what our church believes, and this lifesaving ministry speaks to that idea of loving God by loving all.
SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?
PB: One of the most profound non-traditional God-moments I had was at a drag show in seminary I attended with my best friend. We noticed the Holy Spirit in that space, showing up in this affirming and incredibly positive environment where there was no fear or shyness about showing up as your full self, and that’s something God continues to remind me — that we weren’t created to be in hiding; we were created to be fully ourselves. That authenticity is what makes us so beloved.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PB: We are called to trust in God’s care, which means living like Jesus did. Sometimes we think of faith and salvation as a “ticket to heaven” mentality, but in reality, it is about doing the work to be faithful now. I guess I’m reframing the question, but what happens when we die is less important than what we are doing before we die, how we are living like Jesus and honoring the story of Christ here and now. This idea of salvation, of being saved before we die, is something we are given through grace, and we are saved by faith through grace. So when we are born, we can do nothing to separate ourselves from the love of God. I find that reassuring. Therefore my salvation is not something I’m worried about after I die. When we shift our focus in this way, it makes it easier to do the work, to embrace the reality that faith is about action, and that no matter what happens after we die, whether it is heaven, hell or something we don’t have language for yet, we can rest in that faith and assurance from Christ.