Ramona’s First Congregationalist wraps up Operation Christmas Child

Pastor David Auten: “My awakening was a turning out toward others and in a sense an effacing of myself.”
  • Pastor David Auten: “My awakening was a turning out toward others and in a sense an effacing of myself.”

First Congregational Church of Ramona

404 8th Street, Ramona

Contact: 404 8th St., Ramona, 760-789-3348


Membership: 240

Pastor: David Auten

Age: 35

Born: Erie, PA

Formation: Yale University, New Haven, CT; University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT;

Years Ordained: 6

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Pastor David Auten: My week is broken down into three parts — Sundays, society, and strategizing. I try to devote a third of my week to preparing for Sundays — the most important time of the week. I give another third to society, a lot of visitations to members in the hospital and homebound members, and visiting with new families to the community at my other office — Starbucks. The last third of my time is spent strategizing, which is envisioning the mission of our church through our church council, boards, and committees.

SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?

PA: The church is supposed to be this ultimately relevant vehicle for connecting people with God and vice versa. Sometimes the church does that very well; other times, it misses the mark horribly. I try in my own small way with compassion to make sure we are being relevant here, whether through Christian education, worship, or Christian missions we’re devoted to in making a difference here in Ramona.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PA: My first years getting involved in the church after I became a Christian became a sense of calling. My awakening was a turning out toward others and in a sense an effacing of myself. The Scripture that caught ahold of me at the time during the transition was John 3:30 — “I must decrease but he must increase.”

SDR: Why Congregationalism?

PA: There are the basics in place — Jesus is Lord and Savior, the value of worship and Christian fellowship, and things like that. But there’s room for being yourself, which is a wonderful thing. It goes back to the statement [variously attributed], “In essential things, unity; in non-essential things, diversity; in all things, charity.”

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PA: We just spent two years examining our mission and recently recast it: “To live a life of love.” We plagiarized Paul there from Ephesians 5:2. We do that in various ways. We go down to Mexico once or twice a year to build a home for a family that doesn’t have one; we serve the hungry here through the Grange; we also recently wrapped up Operation Christmas Child here, collecting shoeboxes for kids for Christmas.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PA: Jesus teaches about a heaven and a hell. So we have to start there as Christians, and at the same time that aspect of reality is shot through with mystery. The greatest theologians throughout the centuries have affirmed just that much. We would hope that because of the awesome love of God which defines the heart of God that all would go to that good place, but we just don’t know. Hell is one of those areas in good Congregational fashion where there is a great diversity of opinion….

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