3502 Clairemont Drive, Clairemont
Contact: 3502 Clairemont Dr., San Diego; 858-273-1480, stmarksumcsd.org
Pastor: Craig Dorval
Born: Philadelphia, PA
Formation: Washington and Lee, Lexington, VA; Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA
Years Ordained: 17
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Craig Dorval: When Jesus was challenged about violating the Sabbath commandment, he said that we haven’t been created to serve the law but the law was created to serve us. There are a certain number of Christians and religious people in general who are legalistic and consider it their role to be cops and police the truth. One of the best known teachings of Jesus is the Greatest Commandment — love God and love your neighbor as yourself. That gets completely forgotten and instead it becomes all about enforcing the rules. The Greatest Commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PD: I’m a second career minister. I worked before this at KPBS radio [San Diego] for 26 years as manager and program director for a while, and I also did a lot of on-air fundraising for radio and TV. My wife and I became active at First United Methodist in Mission Valley a few years after we got married. One Sunday I was sitting in church and it simply dawned on me that maybe I could do this work. It was one of those moments that seemed very right. I started looking into it, and every step of the way, including when I eventually enrolled in graduate school, I ran into one encouraging sign after another. It always seemed right — and I’m having a blast. There are problems and stress, but I love the work.
SDR: Why the United Methodist Church?
PD: The United Methodist Church is not really a confession, because there’s not a creed or catechism in the church. Our theology is based on the 51 sermons of John Wesley, which is why it can be confusing for newcomers. It isn’t clearly spelled out in a short statement. What initially impressed my wife and I about the United Methodist Church is how diverse the church is and how accepting it is. They not only accepted us but embraced us from the very beginning. That is an expression of what United Methodism is — the sense that God’s grace is there for every single person, no matter who you are, your background, or what you look like.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PD: That’s a good question and I’ll give you an honest answer. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does. I speak of it in terms of eternal life. The real question is not “Where do you go when you die?” but “When does eternal life begin?” For me, there’s no reason to be afraid of death or of life. Eternal life begins now. I think reward and punishment is in eternal life. We make our own hell. The thing that makes it hell is what we don’t know. That hell is separation from any sense of God, kindness, or connection with the grace of God. It is not an actual place but a state of mind. The doctrine about heaven and hell is about us more than it is about God; about who we are, not about a judgment coming from God.