Immigrants welcomed at Ascension Lutheran Church

Our refugee banner was slashed and vandalized

Rick Fry: The pastor saw gifts of ministry in me.
  • Rick Fry: The pastor saw gifts of ministry in me.

Ascension Lutheran Church

5106 Zion Avenue, Allied Gardens

Membership: 70

Pastor: Rick Fry  

Age: 43

Born: Springfield, OH

Formation: Wittenberg University, Springfield OH; Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Hyde Park

Years Ordained: 6

San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

Pastor Rick Fry: God’s love is for everyone and especially those people at the margins who are often invisible to us, such as immigrants, refugees, and the homeless. These people have a special place in God’s heart, and our job as Christians is to share that love in a powerful way and see with new vision how God’s love is at work in our lives and the world.

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

PF: My hope for the church would be that it takes more chances and more risks in order to be out on the street and be God’s loving and healing presence to those in need.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PF: I had a falling away from the church in my early 20s and a couple of friends invited me to their church, a Lutheran church (I didn’t grow up Lutheran) and I went and enjoyed the liturgy and theology, both of which had a deeper resonance with me. I developed a great relationship with the pastor and he saw gifts of ministry in me and encouraged me to explore the possibility of seminary.

SDR: Why Lutheran?

PF: When my friends invited me to their Lutheran church, the liturgy was powerful and enriching and life-giving. The experience of having communion, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, receiving the presence of Christ himself in the Eucharist, was a powerful experience for me. Theologically, Lutherans emphasize the importance of grace — Martin Luther had a liberating experience of God through the scriptures and understood that we are justified by God’s grace alone.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PF: We’re focused in our mission on outreach to refugee and immigrant communities. We have a welcome banner that says “Welcome Refugees and Immigrants” in front of our church, but it was slashed and vandalized. We put the sign back together and put it up again. It was a galvanizing moment for our congregation to be inspired to reach out to refugees and immigrants. We have an outdoor food pantry where anyone can come 24-7 and drop off or receive can donations. We have a food-distribution program the first Friday of each month, and we’re planning a community garden in partnership with the local library next door to us so we can offer fresh produce to people in need.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PF: I don’t think of heaven as a place we go to, an ethereal cloud with pearly gates. Rather, Revelation says there will be a new heaven and a new earth. When I think of heaven and the resurrection, I think of God’s love embodied in our earth and creation, this world transformed and transfigured in God’s love. That’s for all people. The people who are first in line for heaven are the marginalized and overlooked. As for hell, God is ultimately the judge of where we go in the afterlife, but no one is hopeless or outside God’s redemptive work in Christ. When Jesus went to the cross he died for the love of all humanity and all creation. That love is bigger and more mind-boggling than I can wrap my mind around.

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