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Not your stereotypical pastor
WRITTEN BY :   Rev. Christie Melby-Gibbons, Contributor

DOWNEY – On Sunday, June 2, at 12 p.m., Bishop Kay Ward will be consecrating me as a Presbyter.

The Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Moravian Church Northern Province, with the recommendation of a supervising Presbyter and the Joint Board of the Moravian Church of Downey, believes that I – after nearly four years as an ordained deacon – have shown myself to be “sound in doctrine and faith,” and that I have shown a “sincere intention to serve Christ and the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Translation: I’m being affirmed as a good pastor.

Being a tattooed female artist in her early thirties with a tendency to hang out with those who are far removed from the realm of church is not what some people believe to be a “good” pastor. Truthfully, in most settings when I reveal my profession, people are either shocked with dismay that a person like me would have “Reverend” in front of her name, or they are delighted to find such a down-to-earth, fun-loving, non-stereotypical person in the role of pastor.

My days are filled with planning and leading spiritual worship gatherings, visiting people who are lonely or ailing, rescuing “expired” food from local grocery stores and cafes and distributing it with volunteers to local families in need, meeting with local mental healthcare providers to talk about how faith communities and the local DMH can work together more to bring healing and hope to neighbors struggling with mental illness, doing outreach to homeless neighbors in the city of Downey with local volunteers and agencies to get them housed and connected to appropriate resources, teaching art lessons to local at-risk youth, dining with folks at Open Table (a free community meal made from rescued food), composting and gardening, and doing art projects with local artists.

I take the words of Jesus very seriously: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He said that this was one of the greatest laws in the world and that all other laws hang on this one! The beautiful thing about Moravians is that we really try to live into this law. Our denomination’s motto is: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”

Love is what guides my life and I am sad to learn that so many people have felt unloved in church settings. I am grateful to be working alongside a congregation of Jesus-followers who also take this love-you-neighbor-as-yourself law seriously. The Downey Moravians have a keen awareness that we are being the church when we are loving others (and our selves!) well.

Over the past four years of being pastor at the Moravian Church of Downey, I have learned a very important lesson: God’s embrace knows no bounds (and neither should ours). I look forward to another year of reminding our neighbors that they are included in God’s loving embrace. If you’d like to learn more about our congregation, check out our Facebook page: The Moravian Church of Downey. (We also have a Facebook page for our intentional community: The GAPS Community.)

If you’re curious about this earthy, unconventional pastor and the shenanigans of her congregation, come be a part of the consecration service. A big party will follow.

Rumor has it there’ll be free tattoos for everyone who comes! (Washable, temporary tattoos.)

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Published: May 30, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 07



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