Atonement Lutheran Church
Contact: 7250 Eckstrom Ave, San Diego (Balboa) 858-278-5556 www.atonementlutheranbalboa.weebly.com
Pastor: Kate Schlechter
Formation: California State University-Long Beach; Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN; Pacifica Institute, Carpinteria
Years Ordained: 24
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Kate Schlechter: Hope. We all need it. I think we can generate, create, and be it, but sometimes we tend to get in our own way. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need to wake up every morning and see that hope goes hand in hand with the good news that we need to be community to each other and that the community is the incarnate good news of Jesus Christ. As Deuteronomy says, “Now choose life…” (30:19). So God tells us to choose life, and we weave that idea back into what Jesus says, that he came to give us life and give it abundantly.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PS: I was in Japan serving as a missionary for a hearing impaired congregation, teaching the faith in Japanese… One day I had an experience on a train platform in Tokyo. I was alone in downtown Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world, and I heard this voice, an internal call: “You’re going to go to seminary but not the way it’s usually done.” That was a shock because it never occurred to me to attend seminary. I was going to finish my work in Japan and go back and live in Los Angeles to work for a shipping company because I spoke Japanese. Until then, I thought I was headed to a whole different world, the business world.
SDR: What was greatest challenge in teaching Christianity in Japan?
PS: The concept of sin and why there is a need for an atonement. It is such an individualistic idea in the Western mindset. In Japan my experience is that the people are collectively oriented and there is a responsibility to the collective whole but not to the individual. So this individualism of Christianity, the idea of personal sin, led me to start with the basics, telling the story of what Jesus is trying to tell us. Why did someone have to die for me? Who is God? What is the concept of God?
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PS: We’re in transition right now, but our mission is that we’re grounded in faith and growing to serve, learning how to serve from where and what we have.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PS: I think my soul will live on in the stars, which may be heaven, but I don’t see gold paved clouds and that sort of thing. I believe after we die we enter into complete and full communion with the divine. I think we’re all called to heaven and that’s why I go back to Luther who said we all walk single file through life into heaven and stand before the creator. When I stand before the creator one day and my life flashes before my eyes, I’m not going to see everything I did wrong, but I’m going to see those missed opportunities where I could have been more kind and empathetic to others. That’s where the judgment comes in. We judge others because we’re so afraid of how we judge ourselves. Hell is right now. I don’t think I’m going to burn in hell and I don’t think anyone else is.