Rochelle Webster is a Senior Pastor at Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in National City, California. She is currently a TEAM recipient.
"My life has been profoundly shaped by both the promise and failure of the church.
I was 14 years old when my father was asked by the Southern Africa Union of Seventh-day Adventists to spearhead the official statement of apology to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, acknowledging the failure of our denomination to be an authentic witness in the face of the heresy of apartheid. My family is South African, and although I was born in the United States while my father was pursuing his studies, we moved back to South Africa when I was eight years old. My family has deep roots in our denomination, and so my experience of church as a child was filled with a profound sense of identity and warmth and connection. Yet as I grew older, I was confronted by the reality that this same church had allowed apartheid’s segregating policies to shape how we worshiped and who we worshiped with.
I share this story because this question of what it means to be an authentic witness to the transformative, boundary-crossing love of God has become a propelling question in my life. I love the church, and I longed for it to better reflect the radically inclusive Jesus of Scripture.
As I grew into adulthood, I resisted a growing sense of calling to become a pastor, working instead briefly as a teacher and in various non-profits. Yet over time, I began to feel a little too much like Jonah, running from a call from the Lord. The church, with all its brokenness, still had a mission. I, with all my questions, could still be used for God’s glory.
I feel deeply grateful to have ended up pastoring a local church community that has embraced diversity as one of the markers of what the church is called to be. We have more than 60 nationalities represented, and if you visit our church campus you will hear a multitude of languages spoken, including Tagalog, Spanish, French, Creole, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, Laotian, etc. Although ministry continues to be messy, it is also profoundly beautiful as well."
Pastor Rochelle Webster Senior Pastor, Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church http://www.pvchurch.org