Lodi United Congregational Christian Church
Address: 701 S. Hutchins St., Lodi
Congregation size: 300
Time at current location: Four months
Service times: Sunday morning services at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
Special features of church: 9 a.m. "Wellsprings of Faith" alternative worship service for seekers, and our recent study of Islam (which will extend into a study of world religions). I am constantly amazed at the flexibility and friendliness of this community of faith. It is a church family that is loving, open and committed.
Youth services/activities: The DOGs (Disciples of God) youth group for seventh- to 12th-grade youth meets on Sundays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. They recently earned money to visit the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
National church affiliation: LUCCC is dually affiliated nationally with both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Leading the way
Rev. Michele Bagby
Where did you grow up?
Clarksburg (north and west of here, in the Delta near Sacramento).
My parents still reside in Clarksburg, and I have an older sister in the Bay Area.
B.A., religious studies from University of California, Santa Barbara; master of divinity from Harvard Divinity School.
Because I have recently graduated from seminary, my previous pastoral positions have been serving in churches in preparation for this position. I served as the student associate minister at North Prospect UCC in Cambridge, Mass., for two years and as an intern pastor at the First Congregational Church of Murphys for one year.
I am so pleased to have recently joined AAUW (American Association of University Women) in Lodi. I am finding out about the good work they do for girls and women in the community and enjoying finding my place of service within that organization.
Other pastors at the church
The Rev. Dr. James R. "Bo" Crowe is the lead pastor at LUCCC. How fortunate I feel to work with him on this pastoral team. He has been the sole pastor here for the past three years, doing the preaching, teaching, pastoral visitation and visioning (with the congregation, of course) for the church. I am so impressed with the way that we have connected as a team since I came on as the associate pastor in June.
My role, in addition to sharing the preaching, teaching, visitation and visioning with him, is focused on Christian education (for all ages), spiritual hospitality and outreach, and worship development.
Hobbies, sports and diversions
Happily, I perhaps have too many hobbies, sports and diversions. I am often refreshed by singing and playing the flute, taking photographs, cooking and reading. One of my favorite pastimes is dancing the lindy hop (a high-energy swing dance that grew out of Harlem during the 1930s). I have also recently become a fly fisherwoman, a hobby that I fear will be taking much of my time in the future. I'm hooked.
The most significant things while you have been a pastor
Personally, the most significant thing that has happened while I have been a pastor is that I have been recently ordained. In my tradition, the pastoral candidate is blessed and commissioned through prayer and the laying on of hands of the entire congregation.
The power and blessing of more than 200 friends and church family members holding me in prayer was an experience that I am still trying to find the words to express.
Generally, the most significant thing that has happened while I have been a pastor has been the attacks of Sept. 11 (just three days after my ordination).
The attacks and our grief in response to them have permeated everything in our society, I believe.
I have seen the counseling part of my role as pastor come to the fore and have been very concerned about the way we will work our way through the grief process as a community, country and world.
Describe one of your strongest childhood memories
When I was a teen-ager, I climbed a 10,000-foot peak in the Sierra Nevada with my dad. I can still see the layout of the mountain ridges and the Silver Divide in my mind and remember the most perfect nap that descended upon us both when we made it back to the lodge where we were staying.
What is it that prompted you to become a pastor?
My tradition, like many others, has an understanding of call that is difficult to explain. When I was a teen-ager, I had a very strong "call experience." In an instant, I knew that I was "supposed" to be a minister, offering myself in Christian service.
While I resisted that call for a time, a short-term mission trip to India with Habitat for Humanity International prompted me to listen to and follow that call by becoming a pastor.
What is your approach to being a good pastor?
Ultimately, I think it comes down to loving and serving God and my neighbor. This may seem overly simplistic; however, I believe that this is the basis not only for being a good pastor, but for being a good person. If I take the time to listen for God's will in my life and seek the face of Christ in all that I meet, I trust that there will be guidance in what I do as a pastor.
What do you think makes a good pastor good?
This is a good question. I think it is different for every pastor. Perhaps a good pastor is one who knows the gifts that she or he has for ministry and uses them. On the flip side of that, a good pastor knows where his or her gifts are not, and seeks others to help compensate.
Ultimately, I think what makes a good pastor good is a willingness to help others find their place of personal spiritual growth and ministry in the world.
What is one of the most difficult decisions you have had to make?
When I first moved to the East Coast for seminary, my father had a stroke. I had to make the decision to stay on the East Coast during an incredibly difficult time for my family.
What would like to do personally or professionally within the next 10 years?
I would like to become fluent in Spanish.
Is there anything you like to do (eat, listen to music) while you are preparing your sermons?
I like to hike and fish in preparation for sermons. Finding the quiet time to reflect is one of the most important things for my writing process. I also tend to drink a bit too much coffee as I do my study and writing (a bad habit picked up in seminary).
Do you provide any counseling or classes or do any work with the community?
I am helping to teach Bible classes within our church and have recently started volunteering as a tutor at Tokay High School with the AVID program.
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