Community United Methodist Church of Julian
Pastor: Cindy Arntson
Formation: San Diego State University; Clairemont School of Theology, Clairemont
Years Ordained: 19
San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Cindy Arntson: Love of God and neighbor is probably my favorite. I think it’s the basis of who we are and why we believe and what we’re supposed to do.
SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PA: Folks get caught up in traditions and old ways of thinking, and that can get in the way of appealing to each new generation or being heard by each new generation. The gospel of Jesus is always relevant, but we sometimes add things onto the gospel that aren’t relevant. So we always have to be discerning what is the gospel and what is the stuff we’ve added on, our traditions and ways of thinking.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PA: The simple answer is that I was called by God. I tried to say no and God didn’t take that as an answer. I was working as a pediatric nurse and I had a powerful conversion experience. I began to feel the call to become a pastor, told God pretty adamantly, “No!” — I had a perfectly good career and didn’t want to work every weekend. But I eventually told God I would give it a try and it turns out God was right. Not only did he gift me the skills I needed to do this particular work but I found it so much more satisfying than what I was doing before.
SDR: Why Methodist?
PA: In the days of the first Christians, people would say, “See how those Christians love one another!” When I first attended a Methodist Church, that’s what stood out for me as an unchurched person. I said, “Look how these people care for each other.” And not only how they care for each other but also for strangers. As I learned more about the beliefs and practices of the Methodist Church, those initial impressions were confirmed. I discovered that Methodists really strive to live their beliefs. They want their lives to reflect their beliefs — it’s what they call practical divinity. It’s not about “How shall we get to heaven?” but, “How shall we live lives worthy of the gift of salvation that God has given to us? How do we demonstrate love of God and neighbor? How do we bring God glory? How do we share the good news we heard and experienced?”
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PA: Because of the life and teaching, the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can know more fully who God is and enter into God’s presence without fear in this life and in the life to come. I don’t believe hell is a place created for making our souls suffer through eternity. A God who would create hell seems inconsistent with the God that Jesus incarnated. I believe that we can choose to be in God’s presence or not. To be separated from God is “hell.” Heaven and hell are not about “where we go” for eternity but “with whom we spend” eternity. Coming to know and love God in this life, letting the Holy Spirit transform us into the likeness of Christ prepares us for eternity with God.