Pastor's Blog

Scott and Rhonda Archer being prayed over during installation service

Ten Years and Counting

At the end of 2012 and into the beginning of 2013, after ten years of fruitful ministry, growing fellowship and meaningful outreach, our time at our previous church was coming to a rather unexpected end. I was the worship leader and the Associate Pastor for a small but growing congregation near what was then Qualcomm Stadium, and when it became clear that a change was coming, Rhonda and I found ourselves in a rather anxious state of Limbo. We knew it was time to move on, but we had no clear sense of where God was moving us to.

As we began to pray and explore options, the opportunity to interview for the pastorate at a church north of LA, in Agoura Hills, presented itself. At first, this seemed like an ideal possibility, as Agoura Hills is just twenty minutes south of Ventura, where Rhonda and I grew up, and where much of our family still lives. However, after dinner and a question-and-answer time with the church's leadership and their spouses, it became clear to them – and later to us – that after twenty years in the area, we were not ready to sever our San Diego roots.

During this time of searching and uncertainty, I was driving with my good friend, Don Brennan, through La Mesa and we happened to pass by Central Congregational Church. Though I had certainly driven by the church multiple times, I had never noticed it. Don had recently installed a new sound system for CCC, and knowing both the church’s situation and ours, casually mentioned, You should be the pastor of that church.

Fast forward about six months, and I found myself once again driving by CCC, this time with my dear friend, Mark Arapostathis. Dr. A, as we call him, though he had never met Don Brennan at the time, had his own connections with CCC, and, like Don, remarked that I should be the pastor of that church. Obviously, I couldn’t just go pronounce myself, Pastor, anywhere I chose. But after sharing this second episode with Rhonda, we began to think that God might be up to something, so we began to pray more specifically and explore the possibilities.

Through my connection with Don, I spoke for the first time at CCC on January 6, 2013, as a guest minister, giving then-Pastor, Ted Selgo, a much-needed break. A few weeks later, Pastor Selgo’s medical procedure sidelined him for a few days, and I was asked to speak again. The church leadership and Pastor Selgo worked out a retirement package for Ted in the following weeks, and a formal pastoral search commenced. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted and asked if I would be interested in applying for the job. Even though we barely knew what a Congregational Church was and were rather taken aback at this turn of events, Rhonda and I sensed the Spirit of Jesus leading us to accept this invitation and to throw our hat in the ring, as it were.

As it turned out, there were no other hats in the ring, and after preaching a couple of more times, an official interview by the current church board, and a cordial but pointed question-and-answer time with the congregation, I was elected as Pastor of La Mesa Central Congregational Church and preached for the first time as the Pastor on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

In 2013, the CCC church family was made up of a wonderful but small group of senior citizens. Current CCC member and then Board Member, Don Dodson, likes to joke that back then he and Kathi were the youth group even though they were both in their sixties. As was brought up during the Q&A just before I was elected pastor, there was a recognition by the congregation that changes needed to be made for the church to grow, but an understandable apprehension as to what those changes might be. And as is true for many established churches across the country, much of the concern regarding needed change centered on worship music and style.

Contrary to what often happens when a younger minister is elected or appointed to a more traditional church – cancel the choir, toss the hymnals and immediately incorporate loud, contemporary worship music – it was my desire to honor the current congregation and their long-held traditions, while slowly bringing up new ideas and implementing needed changes. One of my deeply held convictions that I shared with the congregation before being hired was the need to learn to worship together; young and old, contemporary and traditional. The idea that a church must decide between contemporary and traditional worship styles is a false choice.

With a commitment to learning to worship and serve together, Dain Norman lead our choir in a weekly anthem, and then-organist, June Ekard, opened our services with a beautiful prelude and lead us in a hymn, while, with a bit of trepidation, I began to introduce some modern worship songs leading with just my guitar and me. As we moved along, we added a few younger couples and families rather quickly; for the most part, all went well. However, after a time, we lost a few of our senior citizens who felt we were changing too much, too fast, and at the same time, lost a few of our new, younger people, who felt we weren’t transitioning to their preferred style of worship and church life fast enough.

In due course, in addition to a youth and a children’s director, God saw fit to send us Steve Duff to lead us in worship, and Rev. Tom Cook, to care for our senior citizens. And when our organist retired, God blessed our CCC family with Joan Rollins, our current organist. After all these years, it is a privilege to continue to serve this body with Dain, Steve, Rev. Tom and Joan. Additionally, we are grateful for Bela Duff, our current Youth Director, and Enriqueta Saucedo, who cares for our elementary children on Sunday mornings, and we extend our gratitude to Kara and Dave Dirks and Jaycie Hall who served our youth and children respectively for the past several years. And as a Congregational Church, where every member is considered a minister, I am especially grateful for the wonderful Lay Leaders that have and continue to serve on our Board of Directors and in many other important volunteer roles, from Greeters and Sunday School teachers to worship team members and audio-video technicians.

While our congregation has grown over the years, we have had several individuals and families that were an important part of our faith family that have moved away or passed away. In fact, in the past ten years, almost thirty of our beloved CCC family members have gone to be with the Lord. We miss them all but are grateful for their contribution to the work of the Lord in and through CCC.

As Rhonda and I reflect on the past ten years, we are amazed and filled with gratitude for all that God has done and the incredible group of people that he has drawn together in this expression of his body that we call Central Congregational Church. We love each of you – those that have been a part of CCC long before we came, and those of you that have joined us along the way. Rhonda and I are more convinced than ever that we are here by God’s design, and that each of you, from the youngest to the oldest, has been drawn here by the Spirit of Jesus Christ as he continues to build his Church and lead us into his good purposes. And I am convinced, as the song says, We’ve only just begun. In these uncertain times, God’s purpose for us remains constant and imperative; that we continue to love him by loving each other, and more than ever, working together in the name and way of Jesus For the Glory of God and the Good of Our Neighbors Near and Far until he comes.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scott