Since 1912, the crisp, white Methodist church surrounded by a riotous bed of wildflowers has sat atop its perch in Boulder Creek, and Pastor Clyde Vaughn sees the blessing that comes from being a staple in the community for so long.
“I’ve been pastor here for 14 years, but I’ve been on Zoom for 14 months,” he chuckled.
Previous iterations of the church building burned to the ground twice in the last two decades; the current building has outlasted its predecessors, but all told, the church has been active in the community for 150 years.
Vaughn is looking forward to getting out from behind the camera, and returning to behind the pulpit. In-person services at the church are scheduled to resume May 2, and Pastor Vaughn is ready for the new chapter.
“We’ve had a variety of clergy, and it’s been an interesting history. For a church to survive, we have to grow,” he said. “We have plans for an activity program this summer, and we’ve hosted several activities in the community. We welcome all children to get involved in our programs.”
And adults, too. Vaughn said newcomers are interested in the church because they’ve become a “reconciling congregation.” (That’s a Methodist term indicating a conscious decision to open the doors to the LGBTQ community.)
This location boasts a rainbow welcome flag out front, and a small rainbow fish on its signage.
“It’s our way of saying that all are welcome. We want to include everyone, because we’re all children of God,” he said. “We want to minister to you, and we want to use your gifts in ministry.”
While the church only boasts about 50 members, Vaughn says twice that many checked out the church’s Facebook page on Easter Sunday.
“There is an audience out there, and we’re planning to do a hybrid service with the doors open, but if anyone doesn’t feel safe despite our sanitization and social distancing efforts, they are welcome to join us for online worship,” he said.
And all of it is in anticipation of the church’s upcoming 150th anniversary this year, although Pastor Vaughn isn’t sure what that event will look like, nor when it will be held.
“We’re hoping to have a community celebration for that anniversary,” he says.
For all the gifts that come to the church from its congregation, Pastor Vaughn and his team work hard to return the favor to the community. The swath of land owned by the church houses several Section 8 cabins for low-income and underserved populations in the area. In addition, the church owns and manages its own pool, which is open to congregants for use (or will be, once the pandemic subsides). The church is also a meeting place for several 12-step groups, and although those meetings were stymied by Covid-19, at least one group continued to donate to the church during the downtime.
Pastor Vaughn said he has seen the church move into more progressive circles, both in technology and acceptance of its parishioners, during his tenure and he’s watched those transformations with wide eyes and an open heart.
“I’ve learned more about technology than I ever wanted to know,” he said. “Currently, we’re looking to expand our social media reach, and we need a few folks to help us get out there with our broadcasting and recording.”