Bible in one hand and New York Times in the other

Pastor Madison Schockley explains why his church is named "Pilgrim"

Madison Schockley: “I was very much drawn to the United Church of Christ for its broadness.”
  • Madison Schockley: “I was very much drawn to the United Church of Christ for its broadness.”

Pilgrim United Church of Christ

2020 Chestnut Avenue, Carlsbad

Pilgrim United Church of Christ

Membership: 300 (125 average attendance)

Pastor: Madison Schockley

Age: 61

Born: Los Angeles

Formation: Harvard University, MA; University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; Union Theological Seminary, NY; Claremont Graduate University, Claremont , CA

Years Ordained: 38

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

Pastor Madison Schockley: I’d say easily anywhere from eight to ten hours. I went to Union Theological Seminary, which is a progressive seminary, and they taught us that when it comes to preaching to have the Bible in one hand and the New York Times in the other. That’s always been my approach. It’s very topical in terms of what’s going on in our lives.

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

PS: My concern is that we need a liberal progressive expression of the faith now more than ever as we enter a very dangerous and negative time in the life of our nation with a president who is articulating a position of torture, of collective punishment of those he conceives to be our enemies, of the expulsion of children brought to America and undocumented persons simply trying to feed their families. We are the richest nation the world has ever known — and this attitude of fear and “American carnage” is simply contrary to the reality that we see. Our expression of the Christian faith is one that holds out hope and light, and that reaches out in compassion.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PS: It was that classic call, that feeling that God was calling me to serve in this particular way. Once I said yes to the call and the ministry, I felt this complete peace. I am where God wants me to be, doing what God wants me to do. That’s been my life for almost 40 years now. I still approach the pulpit with excitement every Sunday. Ministry is still vital and even fascinating. It’s a real privilege to have an opportunity to have a positive impact on a person’s life.

SDR: Why United Church of Christ?

PS: I found my way to the United Church of Christ because our history goes back to the Congregational Church and to the pilgrims in New England who got off the Mayflower, which is why half our churches are named ‘Pilgrim.’ This church has had a progressive history — it was the first mainline church to ordain women, blacks, openly gay ministers, and the first to affirm marriage equality. I was very much drawn to the United Church of Christ for its broadness.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PS: We say here in our weekly affirmation that we are an open and affirming community within the United Church of Christ with a commitment to spiritual growth and a passion for social justice. These are the three commitments we have right now — LGBTQ rights, undocumented and immigrant rights, and opposing racism.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PS: My metaphor for what happens after we die is this: when we were in our mother’s womb, we had everything. Life was great…. Our relationship with the next life is the same as the relationship of an embryo in its mother’s womb with no concept of what awaits it. I’m fine with that because I trust God’s love. Love casts out all fear, is what the text tells us, and so we should not fear that the God who loves us could conceivably punish us for eternity.

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