Unless you are one of those ABCers who have been around for more than a few generations, you probably don’t know the larger narrative about my life and ministry here at the church. My father and I joined the congregation in late 1979. I was baptized by Pastor George during those first few years, and was taught, mentored, and cared for by wonderful individuals who modeled the love of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I had amazing role models who served selflessly and patiently. Carolyn Oliver, Michael Ross, Bill Dancy, and others were faithful Sunday School teachers, and Pastor Connie began as a youth leader under my watch. Pat Losie maintained a tight ship as church secretary. Musicians like Eileen Garner, Lynn Losie, Arlene Hegle, Amelia Crawford, Dwight Carroll, Ginger Csernohorsky-Hope, Norm Rhinehart, and Orlan Paulson filled the sanctuary with thoughtful worship music. Paul DeVaughn, Gene Staus, and Mickey Jackson supported the congregation with their solid ushering. Mel Stickles and Jim Hoelscher made sure we could hear everything on Sundays by running sound. Debbie Peterson, Pastor George, and Ed Reitz led Vacation Bible School fearlessly. And Alice Blackwood … well, there aren’t enough words about Alice.
I watched these adults minister as I grew up at ABC, and eventually found my way into serving in many of these roles, most notably in terms of our corporate worship services on Sunday mornings. Robert DeVaughn and I started very simply, with just the two of us using a guitar, a piano, and our voices to integrate contemporary worship music into the services at ABC. Others joined us as the elements of worship evolved and adapted, and I was brought on as a staff member in 1994. The first permanent incarnation of our worship band, formed of myself, Robert, Jim, Sarah and Bill Fiala, and Shacristala Jackson, led the congregation on Sunday mornings and evenings, seeking ways to treasure tradition with innovation as we praised God together. For the next two decades, we yearned to worship our Lord in spirit and in truth.
My life and ministry at ABC have always been anchor points in my life, throughout both childhood and adulthood. Despite having second jobs in accounting, retail, education, and even prison ministry, my role as worship leader at ABC was always how I identified myself to others who would ask, “What do you do?” It is no wonder that Shanti and I met because of our connections to ABC! Getting married further solidified the church’s central role in our lives, both individually and collectively. As Shanti enriched her vocational abilities through schooling and training to become a school administrator, I chose to further my theological foundation as it related to corporate worship, attending Fuller Seminary and graduating in 2009 with a Master of Arts in Worship, Theology and the Arts. For Shanti and myself, our trajectories seemed clear and logical. And then …
A year later, two little details changed everything. Shanti and I welcomed Olivia and Jacob into our home in 2010, and we finalized their adoption a few years later. They brought joy and depth and laughter and personal growth and more-laundry-than-we-had-ever-expected into our lives from the moment we met them. The challenges of meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs were overwhelming, yet we have been blessed with help and support from our church family. We have often remarked that we couldn’t have made this journey with the kids without ABC, and we still hold firmly to that reality today. But the task of parenting began showing us that adaptations were inevitable, which is why I initially stepped back from some of my responsibilities at church about four years ago. Although I still miss leading worship on a weekly basis, our church has benefited from the emergence of others who have shared in the role of planning, preparing, and leading on Sunday mornings.
Part of my own efforts to support Olivia and Jacob has been to volunteer at their respective schools from week to week. During this time, I found myself increasingly surprised about how much I missed being in the classroom, helping kids to excel in academics, to grow in self-confidence, and to actively choose to be a positive presence in their peer communities. I found myself missing teaching, which I had done for six years at a local, private school in Altadena. Working with children was nothing new to me, since I have served at ABC as a Sunday School teacher, youth leader, mid-week kids club leader, and co-director of VBS for more than a decade. But the opportunity to impact children on a daily basis has grown to the point where I can only assess that God has called me to return to the field of education. This past summer, I enrolled at Azusa Pacific University in a teacher credentialing program. My current goal is to complete coursework by next June, with the hope of formally starting as a credentialed teacher by the fall of 2017.
The multiple roles of being a student, taking care of Olivia and Jacob, and overseeing the worship program at ABC has taken its toll on myself and our family over these past six months. Attempting to do three things well has been a greater challenge than expected, and even though my surrounding community of family, friends, and church continue to be supportive and patient, maintaining this pace becomes increasingly difficult. And so, after months of prayer and contemplation with Shanti, I came to one of the hardest decisions I have made in my life. I will be stepping down as Director of Worship Arts at the end of this calendar year. The pastors and I have already been talking and praying together about this transition, and we solicit your prayers as we seek God’s wisdom on how to look to the future and how we continue to enable ABC to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and with one another through our times together on Sunday mornings.
The word segue is used in music to describe a transition between one song and another. Its meaning is in contrast to other musical terms like coda or fine which imply a definite ending to a musical piece. (Watch my hands the next time I’m leading, and we’re finishing a song on stage. If you see me stretch out all five fingers and wobbling my hand back and forth like a see-saw, that’s my sign to the band for a segue.) Finding myself in the midst of a life-altering vocational transition is both scary and sad. I have poured my heart and soul into leading all of you in worship over these past 27 years. But the pain of stepping away from formal church ministry is offset by the fact that we don’t have to say goodbye. Our family has its spiritual home at Altadena Baptist Church, and that will never change, regardless of circumstances. I look forward to continuing to worship with all of you, albeit in a different role. On behalf of myself, Shanti, Olivia, and Jacob, thank you for demonstrating the love of God the Father. Thank you for modeling the Grace and compassion of Jesus. Thank you for dwelling in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. May our great and amazing Lord speak into our hearts and minds as we look to new possibilities and new opportunities to glorify Him and draw us and others to Himself.
Segue to the next song…
With Love and Gratitude,
Glenn R. Molina
Director of Worship Arts