The “transforming-the-world conversation” of Christ United Presbyterian

Can the church hold onto its definition as passed down through the centuries?

Nathan Byrd
  • Nathan Byrd

Christ United Presbyterian Church of San Diego

  • Contact: 3025 Fir Street, San Diego 619-239-2346
  • Membership: 100
  • Pastor:  Nathan Byrd
  • Age: 54
  • Born: Washington, D.C.
  • Formation: University of Delaware, Newark, DE; U.S Army; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ.
  • Years Ordained: 25

San Diego Reader: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?

Pastor Nathan Byrd: Can the church can hold onto its identity as a faith center or as a dispenser of faith when the message is so co-opted by political forces, social forces, consumerism – a lot of isms that compete for the definition of the church? Can the church hold onto its definition as passed down through the centuries?

SDR: Why Presbyterian?

PB: The Presbyterian Church has a faithful tradition without having to turn off the intellect. I’m jazzed by the idea of conversations about the sovereignty of God in all areas of life – and therefore that Christians need to be involved in every area of life. It’s a worldview that does not limit the faith to a personal experience or personal salvation. There’s a transforming-the-world conversation in the Presbyterian Church that I like being a part of.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PB: If you harken back to the days of old England, each village had their parish church that hosted secular and religious events. We aim to be that parish for South Park. If people have a question about religiosity or Christianity, they come to us. We want to get to a spot where we’re hosting conversations, events such as concerts and venues. Space is a valuable commodity in this community and we want to offer up our building – which takes up a whole city block – as the community’s parish church.

SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?

PB: I was a tanker in the Army and I was standing one day before my tank as we were preparing for an exercise in the Mojave Desert. We were talking on the radios and getting ready to kick things off. I looked to my left and my right, with tanks on either side – the power of America. But my mind drifted. I didn’t want to think about the tanks. I was focused on the wildlife in the desert, the growth, the trees, and the vastness and beauty of the desert. It gave me a sense of comfort, regardless of my primary role. I decided at that point it was a good idea to go to seminary.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PB: The kingdom of God is upon us, and so we have a taste of it now and enter into its fullness when we go on into glory, resting in the bosom and arms of God. For the details of that idea – there are many images to capture it – for instance, in Revelation we talk about a new heaven and a new earth. I believe that this life we started here on earth continues – but what it looks like, I don’t know. I would define the opposite of that as being out of fellowship with God, and what that looks like, I am not going to claim that I know either, nor am I going to borrow medieval imagery to define that other place – I don’t want to use the words heaven and hell, since so much baggage comes with those words. I will only say we will be either in fellowship with God and out of fellowship with God – and God is the decider, not Nathan.

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