1200 East H Street, Chula Vista
First United Methodist Church
Pastor: Brian T. Parcel
Formation: Louisiana, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA; Claremont School of Theology
Years Ordained: 16
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Brian Parcel: I spend probably about ten hours a week on sermon preparation. I try to help folks understand the Bible in such a way that they can place themselves and their life issues into the Biblical story, and therefore be able to discover life’s answers for themselves from the biblical story.
SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?
PP: The kingdom of God. God is constantly fashioning this world according to the ways and values of God. That’s not something that is going to happen someday, but that is God’s mission — to make that happen today. We have a part in enjoying that and a responsibility to help make that true in our lives and the lives of people around us.
SDR: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PP: A huge concern right now is the state of our nation. This political season has been very divisive. It has divided political parties, along racial lines, churches, communities, and families. Just about any way we can be divided we have. We have lost the ability to converse with one another. Person A has his ideas and Person B has his ideas, and there’s no way of meeting in the middle and converse with one another without demonizing the other person…. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, appreciated a saying by a group called the Moravians: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” It still rings true within Methodism….We have to get to a place where we agree on what the essentials are and allow one another to be free in all the other decisions we make that are non-essential.
SDR: What’s the mission of your church?
PP: Our mission is to make new and stronger disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. There are on any given week hundreds of people from our congregation involved in work to make the community a better place, whether that’s through feeding people, clothing people, teaching kids, or going on mission trips to foreign countries or working with the homeless.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PP: Our spirit lives forever and our bodies return, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, to the ground. We believe that eternal life begins now. When you give your life to Christ and live as a child of God, you are connected to God from that moment forever. Our life here on Earth may die but our spirit is forever united with God. We believe that God is a God of grace. No one can answer the question, but God’s grace is certainly beyond our understanding. We may get there some day and discover, in life and death, that God’s grace is beyond whatever we can imagine. Perhaps someone who never gave his or her life to Christ or never had the opportunity to give his or her life to Christ would live with God in spirit forever. I hope that’s the way it is. We don’t talk about hell much; I would say the best definition we would give is to say hell is being separated from God.