Q: What do you hope people will get being in church? What do you want them to experience and walk away with?
Pastor Larry Davis: When they come to church I want them to be extremely welcomed by people, for them to feel like they belong here—to always feel that sense of belonging that no one is left out.
Also, to be fed the word of God, which is what we’re all about as Lutherans. Church is a three-prong process: You bring them in, you feed them with the word of God, you feed them with love and welcoming, and you send them out with that same spirit so they can feed other people and make other people feel welcome in Christ.
Q: Talk about the importance of a support system, that the church is a family.
Davis: We know each other well, and hopefully have taken the time to learn each other’s stories, and taken the time to get to know who your neighbor is, to ask them questions, and get to know them better.
We find that in sharing our stories, and sharing during fellowship that we have a lot in common when it comes to our joys and sorrows, and we can sit here and support each other. There’re a lot of people in our church who feel somewhat disjointed, or disenfranchised from the world. They feel lonely. We’re all broken … so we need healing.
As much as you’re being fed here, you’re being healed here, you’re being accepted here, we want other people to feel that same way when we go back out into the world again—whether it be in our work place, be in our schools, playgrounds, wherever, we represent Christ.
Q: You welcome visitors as family members as soon as they walk in?
Davis: Right off the bat. This church has been very good.
I have to give credit to all the people for that, the people here in the church. I’m just one person. They’re running into other people in the congregation. Welcome here, you’re part of us, join us, be invited to this certain event. Our arms are always out. The image I always use is Jesus’ arms are open to all people. That’s how we are here.
Q:Talk about the open Communion at Trinity Lutheran.
Davis: Part of the welcoming again. In Lutheran circles, the means of grace, especially in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, is that both of those sacraments belong to God—not to the pastor, not to the people. When it was instituted it was open to all people.
In many other churches you have to be a member, you have to do something to receive Communion or Baptism. That goes right in the face of what we believe as Lutherans: that we don’t have to do anything to merit God’s grace or his love. These are gifts that God freely gives to people that come here. So, the table is always open to all people. Again, that image of Jesus having his arms open to all people. That’s what we’re about.
Q: So, it’s unconditional?
Davis: It’s non-judgmental. Communion and Baptism is between you and God…That welcoming aspect of our church carries many things around here of what we do.
Q:What are some of the things you do during the week?
Davis: There are three things that I have to do: Visitation, preaching, and teaching. Because of the age of our congregation, the nature of our congregation, I do spend a lot of time with visitation in hospitals. I commune about 5 or 6 people a month. I visit new members. A lot of my time is spent with members, and any concerns they might have.
Q: Why did you decide to become a pastor?
Davis: Looking back on my life, I’ve always been a servant leader. I’ve always liked working with kids, working in organizations that helped people. The story goes when I first received my call, at first, like most prophets I said, not me, not me. But then the funny thing is when I went home, talked to my parents—and here I haven’t been to church in 19 years and my parents dropped out of church a long time ago—both of them said, almost in unison, ‘We always thought you’d always be a minister.’ That was one of those God moments. That was the first time I had ever asked a question of a religious nature to my parents. I was 22.
Q:Where did you go to school?
Davis: I went to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California (following junior college). I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a minor in child psychology…. After college I worked as a sales manager in Los Angeles for about 2 or 3 years. I went on to seminary, after my calling, to Lutheran Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Big culture shock. Of course, all Lutheran out there.
Q: What is the challenge for the congregation?
Davis: The challenge for the congregation is volunteerism. We don’t volunteer that well. I find that is very typical in many of our churches.
Q: But you do have a lot of committees.
Davis: But there is a lot more to do. We can do a lot more if we use our talents and our gifts. But I do realize how busy people’s schedules are. But we do need to put a little more extra effort into the service part. A little bit more involvement.