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It’s not about the religion; it’s about the relationship

The appropriate response to grace is a life of thankfulness

Glen Larsen of Community Church of Poway
  • Glen Larsen of Community Church of Poway

Community Church of Poway

13501 Community Road, Poway

Membership: 250

Pastor: Glen Larsen

Age: 70

Born: Waterbury, CT

Formation: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.; Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; Claremont School of Theology, Pomona

Years Ordained: 41

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

Pastor Glen Larsen: I preach in series and I’ll try to pick up on a notion I feel bears digging into. Ours is a congregation where half of the congregation comes every week, and another 25 percent every other week, and another 25 percent once a month. We don’t have a strong dogmatic approach, and we don’t do any finger waving about where you were instead of in church this past Sunday….We have a sign as you enter the church which says, “It’s not about the religion; it’s about the relationship.” We don’t tell people in our church what to believe, we invite people to believe, to take responsibility for their own faith.

SDR: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?

PL: I would want to preach on grace. We all need it, and we try to justify ourselves in so many ways. The world tells us to be rich, famous, powerful, but none of that is the answer. Grace is a gift, and it can only be received. The appropriate response to grace is a life of thankfulness. So I look at God’s love for us as human beings as God’s grace — God’s gift.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PL: I practically grew up in a locker room, playing football, basketball, and baseball through to college…. What’s great about sports is that you can passionately throw yourself into something, and invest yourself totally in it, and be physically spent by the end of it. If you won — wonderful! If you lost, well I can live with that, but I played. To me, the journey is the victory. I take that over into my ministry. It’s what led me to ministry. I saw myself engaged in this cosmic battle of the forces of good and evil in the world. I wanted to throw myself into it and be spent. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose, but the key is that I’m still at it.

SDR: Why United Church of Christ?

PL: In the United Church of Christ…there are no bishops or hierarchy. It’s not a top-down system, but a bottom-up system. The primary decisions made in our church are made here at a congregational level. We have quarterly congregational meetings and we discuss all the things that are going on — the things on people’s minds, the kinds of ministries we should be involved in. People talk about what they don’t like, what they do like, and what we need to improve on. That polity resonated much better with who I am.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PL: I firmly believe there is a heaven, an afterlife. I know little about it or what it’s going to look like. But I’m confident that it will be a place in which love and forgiveness and resurrection will all be the byproduct of getting there. Based on my own human sense of justice, I’m hoping there is a hell — some of these people who have done terrible things are being held accountable for it, but am I imposing my own human sense of justice upon God? Hell would be separate from God and heaven would be to live in God’s presence.

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