Episode 5 - Janna Ziegler
Nick: Hey, this is Nick from the Start in LA Podcast. Here are a couple of announcements for you. On February 1 and 2, we'll be hosting our second conference. That'll be in Pasadena at a couple of different locations. Please register for that conference at StartInLA.com. Also, our quarterly event will be held on November 15 at Fuller Theological Seminary. That'll be from noon to 1:30 and, again, details are on our website at StartInLA.com. If you'd like to add any announcements to the Start in LA Podcast, please email us through the Start in LA website, and we'd be glad to post them for you. Enjoy the podcast.
Nick: Welcome back, everyone. We're so glad you're with us. This is the Start in LA Podcast. I'm one of your hosts. My name is Nick Warnes. I am the director of Cyclical LA and the executive director of Cyclical Incorporated. I am here with my friend, colleague, my rabbi, Dr. Bethany McKinney Fox.
Bethany: Hi, Nick.
Nick: Good to see you.
Bethany: Great to be with you guys. Janna, I am really actually so excited that you're here with us today. I have enjoyed getting to know you in the conversations that we have had here and there over the years and I feel like there are things you've said that have stayed with me that I have repeated to others over time. So, I've just really been looking forward to this time with you.
Janna: Thanks for having me.
Bethany: Yeah, thank you. Why don't we just get started by hearing some about your story? How did you do this wild, wonderful thing of starting a church in LA?
Janna: Yeah, I often think if somebody asked me if they should plant a church, what I would tell them. I probably would tell them, "Don't," at this point in my story, but when I ... I never thought I would plant a church and I never even knew what church planting was. I grew up in a church but I grew up in an established church that had been around for a long time and so it was never in my mind that that was even a thing. Then when I moved to LA, I became a part of a church that was newly planted. That started getting some wheels turning, that that was the thing that people did, and maybe that might be a thing that I would do.
Janna: So, being a part of a newly founded church was a really exciting thing. There was all these possibilities and yeah, lots of opportunity, I guess. When my husband Jon and I finished up seminary, we were trying to discern what to do. We had recently made a move denominationally and so we had transitioned from ... We both grew up in a Pentecostal tradition and so we had transitioned into an Anglican tradition and we thought we probably should go work for a church because we became Anglican yesterday, so how could we plant an Anglican church? So we went up ... There was a church, a small kind of newly gathered group of folks in Davis, California, and they invited us to come because they needed a pastor or pastors, and so we went up there, and it was great. Davis is a really nice place. You can ride your bike and eat vegan stuff.
Janna: So, we went up to visit and we had a really nice time and we thought, "Maybe we should come here." This was kind of our only opportunity.
Nick: What year is this, by the way?
Janna: This is 2014.
Janna: Spring, 2014.
Janna: So however many years ago that is. Four. About four years ago. Just a little over four years ago. So, we went up there and it was great and we thought, "Yeah, maybe we should come here. Maybe God is leading us here. Maybe this means something." Then we came back to LA and they had invited us to come back a second time about two weeks later. We were thinking in those two weeks like, "Yeah, we're gonna go to Davis. We're gonna move to Davis." Then some weird stuff started happening. We had almost every day in that two week timeframe a phone call or a conversation or an email about starting a church in LA, starting an Anglican church. We're looking for an Anglican church. Just very weird, from people that we didn't even ... they didn't even know we were Anglican, and they didn't even know that we would ever even consider planting a church. So, after a few days I thought, "You know, this is weird."
Nick: It's coincidence.
Janna: It's such a coincidence.
Janna: Yeah, purely coincidental, but maybe we should pay attention.
Bethany: I feel like this is where your Pentecostal background is helpful.
Janna: It is.
Nick: Yeah, taking in [crosstalk 00:05:17] ...
Janna: [crosstalk 00:05:18]
Bethany: It's the movement of the spirit.
Janna: I should say that I am still very much Pentecostal. I'm no longer a part of a Pentecostal tradition but I know where I came from.
Janna: So, yeah, we started to pay attention. Maybe God is doing something, and when we went back to Davis the second time we were driving up there and we just knew we weren't gonna go. We didn't have a plan or this big explanation for why we weren't gonna go. There wasn't a job. There wasn't any money. There was a few random people that we had had a few conversations with. There weren't any people gathered. It was just something in our gut, which I refer to now as the Holy Spirit. So we went up-
Nick: This is something we've talked about a lot and can we just go here for just a second?
Nick: This is something we've talked about a lot in this podcast and that's the difference between pneumatology or theology of the Holy Spirit and our own intuitions. Obviously they kind of overlap but they're also different.
Nick: Have you reflected on that at all? Can you offer something there?
Janna: Yeah, I think sometimes for me, something that's intuition often seems like a good idea and this actually seemed like a really bad idea, that there was ... I should say I was nine months pregnant at the time for our first child, and we had accrued a decent bit of school loan by this point, so we were not in a situation in life that it would be a good idea to not take a job and to try to start something from nothing with nobody and no money. I think there was that piece there, that it seemed like if this was gonna be a thing that was gonna work, it could only be God. Then I think there is a ...
Janna: I don't think I could've named at that moment, "This is definitely the Holy Spirit." I think I can name looking back that that was definitely the Holy Spirit, and so I think it was a bit of like a ... in that moment, a bit of a, "I think this might be what God is doing and I'm just going to go for it. If it's not something that God is doing, then that's okay too. Then we missed it and we just reassess and see what God is doing." So, yeah, I think sometimes in those moments it's actually ... You're not sure until you look back and then it's like, "Oh yeah. Man, God was definitely in that." Actually in those two weeks I wouldn't have even been able to say what I just said as I said it. It was just like, "Whoa, this is kind of strange."
Janna: So yeah, I think it's a little of both. It's a little bit of instinct and a little bit ... Mostly the Holy Spirit and I think also a little bit of our awareness of it, and I think for me, the awareness is always like ... It just takes, actually, a little tiny bit of awareness, and then you lean into that and then you look back and say, "Oh my God, look what God has done among us." That's what happened, and so in that summer we started gathering some people. Jon actually was set to ... Actually, this is another really weird thing that I just remembered.
Bethany: Jon is your husband?
Janna: Jon is my husband. A week or so after that, we ran into somebody at a funeral of one of our professors at Fuller who told us that we should call up Nick Warnes and that they were doing a church planting internship. That was all around the same time, and so Jon got in touch with Nick and started, applied for the church planting internship. So Jon was gonna do that. I was about to have a baby and I thought, "You know, I never had a baby before, so maybe I should not sign up for anything." I didn't know what that was gonna involve.
Janna: Then a week after Julia, our daughter, was born, Nick called. This is actually, when I reflect back, an extremely pivotal moment in our life and our ministry together, Jon and I's ministry together. Nick called in, invited me to participate in that summer cohort internship on church planting and invited me to come with our one week old daughter. That really set the trajectory, I think, for Jon and I to be able to work together in a way that we both had the same kind of training and resources to do and we had up until that point. We had both just graduated from Fuller.
Janna: Really at that point, too, Jon had thought of himself as somebody who would plant a church and I had thought of myself as a person who would pastor a church. That space in the summertime allowed us not only to build a team of people and gather some folks and write a plan and all this sort of strategic stuff but to sort of form an identity around that idea, to get used to the idea, to be able to say that about myself and to be able to sit in a room of people who could also say that about me. That was really, really important for me in that moment.
Janna: It was a very, I think, vulnerable time for me as a new mom and as a person doing ministry alongside her husband and as a person who had not grown up in a space where I knew a lot of female ministers, so that was always a piece, always something I was working through in the back of my mind, is, is this something that I am called to do and I haven't seen anybody do this that looks like me, and getting over that mental block inside my own head. Is this the thing that God is calling me to? So, that summer was really important for me, to hold that space and define that identity. Then-
Nick: Just for our listeners for a second, how would you put that summer into a bucket? It was your summer of this, and how might someone be able to go through something similar in their own place and time?
Janna: It was a summer of owning the reality that I am going to plant a church and that is something that God has called me to do. I think people can do that in a lot of different ways, but I think it does involve other people. It involves other people recognizing that space and it also involves a certain amount of ownership of that identity, that I am ... It's not somebody else that's doing that, that I'm doing it along with. It's, "I am doing this and there might be other people that are also doing this with me, but this is something that I'm doing."
Nick: It sounds like a post-discernment. Like, you discerned ...
Nick: ... And now it's almost like a ...
Janna: Exactly. It was like a leaning into the discernment, you might say. I was already moving in that direction. I was already taking steps, and this actually has been really the whole ... The last four years of my life have been, I'm taking these steps and then a few steps in, I'm able to own the identity of that. Then I'm taking a few more steps. I'm almost doing it before I'm even able to recognize that I'm doing it about myself, and that summer was the first space of that, that I am telling people, "I am planting a church," and I am planting a church. I'm gathering people in my living room. I'm doing the work of planting a church, so I'm not just saying it but I am also saying it.
Nick: It's like that moment when ... We joke when you get married, everyone thinks it's the wedding reception that's gonna be the big deal. Like the moments where we share our views, perhaps, but really, the big moment is when you have that big batch of invites and you go from not dropping them in the mailbox to dropping them in the mailbox and then something happens in that moment, similarly. I'm now starting a church?
Janna: I'm starting a church ...
Nick: You start to articulate ...
Janna: ... And people have a lot of questions about what that even means, and you don't have the answers to those questions. It's this sort of odd space of, "I'm doing this thing that I don't even know how to do and I didn't take a class in seminary on how to plant a church and at that point I don't know a lot of people who had planted a church. So, it's like I'm walking a little bit blind but also I'm doing that, and I'm saying that I'm doing that.
Bethany: I think an analogy came to me too. To add to the metaphors of this experience, I was thinking of I recently bought a pair of Birkenstocks, a new pair, and when you first put it on, it really kills your feat and you get these blisters. Well, I got these terrible blisters in the arches of my feet, but then, the whole thing that's awesome about them is the more you wear them, they actually form to your foot over time, and so I was thinking about that as you were talking about especially the identity piece and how the more you kind of went along in the path that you felt called to be in, it kind of was slowly becoming more and more comfortable until you did really, truly own it as your identity.
Janna: Yeah, yeah, and I don't think ... I couldn't have even said at that point that it was ... I'm like a church planter. I would say things like, "We're planting this church." It was even there, even in that space that I was learning to speak about myself in a way that was reflective of what I was doing, and so in the year following, we spent that whole year building a team and we moved to a new neighborhood.
Bethany: What neighborhood was that?
Janna: We started in Pasadena. We went to Fuller Seminary. We were living in Fuller housing, so we were gathering people there, and then we moved from Pasadena to a neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles called Highland Park. Our grand scheme at the beginning was that we were going to plant churches along a train line that ran from Pasadena through Northeast LA into Downtown and then into Arts District and East LA. So we actually named our church after that. It was called ... The Metro line is the Gold Line and we named our church Gold Line Church. We thought that if we planted a church, one in Pasadena, that we would ... Most of our connections were Fuller connections at that point, which was the seminary that we attended, that our church wouldn't ever be able to get out of that space, because that's the only people that we knew.
Janna: We also thought it might be hard to move into LA from Pasadena, but that if we started in LA, it would be easier to move out from LA than the other way around. We also thought that ... Highland Park was sort of center on the Gold Line. It was sort of in the middle of the Gold Line and so we thought if we plant a church in Highland Park and there's a few people coming from Pasadena or a few people coming from the Arts District, then over time we could just send those people out and they're not that far away. They don't even have to have a car or have to drive in traffic, and we could support them in that work.
Janna: That shifted over time, which is, I guess, another story. So, we moved to that neighborhood and Highland Park is an interesting place. It has been for a very long time historically a Latino neighborhood and has gentrified really significantly in the last five to seven years, which has created a lot of divisions for the community between old people that have been there a long time, so old comers and then newcomers and most of the ... there's a language gap. For certain groups there's socioeconomic gap. There are grocery stores that people from one demographic shop at and then other grocery stores that people from another demographic shop at and coffee shops and so on.
Janna: So, when we moved there, it felt really divided along ethnic lines, along language lines, along economic lines. I grew up in South Louisiana, and in South Louisiana, there's a lot of white folks and a lot of black folks and people live pretty separate lives. The university that I attended, even though it worked really hard to integrate people, it had these old structures of ... it had black fraternities and white fraternities and I was a part of a campus ministry there. The campus ministry was the largest group on campus and the most integrated. The university would come to our campus ministry and ask, "What are you guys doing? How are you getting people to be together?"
Janna: Not even to love each other but just to exist together in friendship in meaningful way. That experience in that campus ministry changed my understanding of the faith. My roommate, I lived in ... The campus ministry owned a little piece of housing and my roommate was African American girl from New Orleans and she changed my life, really. Essentially I had no friends that look like her and came from her experience. She actually had no friends that looked like me and came from my experience. That relationship rocked my understanding of the Gospel, that what the Gospel does is shakes up all of those identities and unites people at this even more fundamental place that we are in Christ.
Janna: Sylvia and I are sisters in Christ, and that was our initial starting place. Then there were all these other things that we had to figure out and work through to learn to love each other and live together and understand each other, but that was the bottom space. The most fundamental, and that changed me. So, when we moved to Highland Park, that experience that had shaped my life so drastically influenced what it meant to come to a place like Highland Park, and what a church is supposed to look like there, and that a church in Highland Park should look like a place where no matter what you look like or where you're from or what your immigration status is or what language you speak at home, that when we come to the table of our Lord, that we are all welcome and that we are all celebrated.
Janna: That shaped very drastically how we have attempted. In some ways I think we have done well. In some ways I think we have not done as well, what it meant to be a church in that place.
Bethany: When you guys first went into there, did you have some folks, some of the old comers, as you were saying, like there's old comers in the neighborhood and you were the newcomers, was there a way that you forged those relationships or how did that partnership look?
Janna: Yeah, so when we first moved there, we had no one that actually lived there. I mean, we moved there, but no one that had been living there prior to our church, like people that moved there to be a part of the church plant. So we just dropped there. We just got to know our neighbors, and one, I think, really pivotal thing that happened was we ... There was a priest that came to work with us. He was a Colombian priest. He was 70 years old. He actually wasn't a part of our diocese. He was sent by another diocese who paid for him. The whole story is that it was a really generous thing for him to be able to come and work with us. Somebody else footed the bill for him to be able to come and work with us. So, for the first part of our church plant, he was the priest. John and I weren't even ordained at the time and in our Anglican structure, he was the only one that could celebrate the Lord's table.
Janna: So, when we would walk down the street with Juan, it was kind of like, "What are those people doing together? What's that old Latino man doing with that young white woman? What's happening there?" So, really, that relationship was like the fundamental space for us to be able to build relationships with folks that it seemed like it could be trustworthy. So he and his wife Maria worked with us for the beginning and helped us launch the church. Unfortunately we wish they could've stayed with us forever, but unfortunately they were sent or maybe unfortunate is not the best word. They were a part-time assignment, so they were then sent to work on another assignment.
Janna: That initial relationship allowed us to gather folks that maybe we wouldn't have gathered otherwise, and then we also ... We sent out this mailer to everybody that lived there and invited them to come to our church. Some people came from that. People that we never could have invited because we didn't know anybody that knew them, and those relationships stuck. So, that was an important thing. It's so bizarre, right? People got a mailer for a church and it was actually kind of a cheesy mailer. It wasn't even a good mailer. It was kind of cheesy. "Are you ready for a new start?" Or something like that.
Janna: It hit somebody's mailbox at the right time and they showed up and they stayed and they're leaders in our church. So, it was a mix of stuff. Some of it seemed like this never could work. Like, who would ever go to church from a mailer? Then some of it was like a family that lived next door to Juan or a family that lived next door to me, and so it was a little bit of everything and we just tried everything. Some stuff worked and some stuff didn't work, and we just went for it. I think that's actually something that we have done, I think, well. We have just tried everything and been open to trying stuff that seems kind of cheesy or ...
Bethany: Like what's something else?
Janna: ... Maybe won't work.
Nick: Give us a good fail.
Bethany: [crosstalk 00:25:49]
Janna: We did an alpha course and alpha's not cheesy. Let me just say that for the record, but we ... Maybe some people think alpha's cheesy. I don't think alpha's cheesy, but we did an alpha.
Bethany: What's alpha?
Janna: It's a course, you might say, that invites people to ask questions about the faith, like what's Christianity all about? So, it's supposed to be a space for people who aren't Christians that maybe are interested, to come and ask questions. So we tried that and it only works if people come, for one, obviously, and it only works if enough people who aren't Christian come, otherwise it's just weird, and so we did that and only really one person that was sort of wondering about the faith came, so then it was just weird.
Nick: Were they surrounded by a bunch of Christians?
Janna: Yeah, exactly.
Nick: Were all the Christians waiting to see if the person would raise their hand at the end?
Janna: Yeah, and actually it wasn't even a person that wasn't totally a Christian. It was a person who grew up Christian that had been out of church for a long time.
Nick: Sure, yeah.
Janna: Anyway, it didn't work, needless to say, but we tried it.
Nick: Hopefully you had some good food.
Janna: Yeah, we had some good food, I think. I can't even remember, honestly. I think we might have had some good food. We did like a movie night in our garden. We did this really big party in the park and our "strategy," in quotes, was that we would have a party in the park and then invite people from that party in the park to church. We had never done that, but we had fun jumps and hot dogs and all this stuff and like 300 people came to the party in the park, so that seemed to us like a very successful, you might say, [crosstalk 00:27:44] ...
Nick: They all wanted to become tithing members [crosstalk 00:27:47] ...
Bethany: [crosstalk 00:27:47]
Janna: Yeah, and not a single one of those people came to church. Not a single one of those people came to church. I think that's another thing about trying things out, is that it reshapes what you think things are supposed to do and what your motivations are for doing those things and what you call success and failure. We did it again the next year. Even though nobody came to church from it, we thought, "You know, this is a way that we can just provide some fun for our neighborhood." So the second year we went into it with different expectations. Then last year we didn't do it, because we just didn't have it in us. We didn't have the manpower to do it and so we realized that we can't actually do that this year.
Bethany: Can I follow up on something ...
Janna: Yeah [crosstalk 00:28:32] ...
Bethany: ... That you just said about checking, kind of thinking about what are your motivations and intentions behind doing things? I feel like part of that ... Well, maybe first before I ask my follow up question, you can kind of say what would be good motivations, because it seems like ... Maybe I misunderstood, but it seemed to me like maybe something that seemed to be a less good motivation was just trying to get people to come to church and that that isn't the best motivation.
Nick: By "come to church," we mean go to a worship service on a Sunday.
Bethany: Come to your church. Yeah, I meant specifically ...
Nick: Come to a worship service on a Sunday morning.
Bethany: ... Join your specific church. Yes.
Janna: I actually think wanting people to come to my church is a good motivation, because I think that God meets people there. That's not the only place that God meets people, but that is a place that God meets people and I actually think my church is a meaningful community and space for people to belong and to connect with God, so for me I don't mean that in a ... I think that's actually a positive motivation.
Janna: That is a motivating force for me, but it's not the only motivation and it doesn't define what it means for something that's outside of church to be successful. I think that is the piece that has to change. I think part of it too is at the beginning when you are planting a church, you don't have a church, and so you're trying to create something that ... You need people, right? So if you don't have people, then it's like what exactly is it? It's like a pre-church, and so when you're in the, like, "Is this a church yet?" There is a kind of motivation for it to become something that it's not yet, which I think is okay, right? But I think you have to be careful about how you go about developing. Like, means don't justify ends. The means are the thing, right?
Janna: So, yeah, I think for me at that point part of the anxiety was it's like if no people come, we just have to do something else. It's not a church, right? So, there are these ways of thinking, that ... How do we invite people in? I think there are layers to what that might mean, and some of those are meaningful and maybe some of those aren't. So, yeah, I think actually that party in the park, the invitation to church was actually a positive motivation and the fact that nobody came was also okay.
Nick: This is something that we love about our Anglican brothers and sisters and your theology you hold to. The question of what makes the church church is always a good one, especially when you're starting a church, but I've really appreciated you and your husband's perspective on the importance of the Sunday worship gathering. There's people who think Sunday worship gathering is everything. There's people who think Sunday worship gathering is nothing and then there's the continuum in between. You all have been on the high church side of things and your tradition has a tight focus on how liturgy is done and people love it. People flock to it from all over Los Angeles now, and the center point on the Eucharist is [inaudible 00:31:58] ... As I've worshiped with you all, it's always been very powerful.
Janna: Yeah, I think that's an important piece to highlight, that when I'm inviting people into worship, what I am inviting them to do is to eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ, and that that will give them life. That's really a bizarre thing to invite people into, but it also is foundational for us, that really the only thing that we have to offer people is Christ, and that is what we are offering people. We stick to that, that there are other things that surround that. There's community, there's encouragement and there's all of these things that are associated with that, but really when we gather on Sunday, we have come to partake of Christ and we have come to be transformed by Christ so that we can be sent out into the world to live as Christ.
Janna: That's like a movement in our week, that we receive Christ and we are sent by Christ and we live the week sent and we come back and receive. So, yeah, so that's actually a very important theological piece to note, and that informs a lot of the decisions that we make.
Bethany: Great. I think in your story we're maybe one year in to the Gold Line Church. So, you're meeting, you're renting a space. I visited, so I know ... You're renting a space in kind of a gym area that's ...
Nick: It was so pretty.
Janna: Amazingly beautiful gym.
Nick: Yeah, it was aesthetically ...
Bethany: You guys really did, you pad some stuff to make it a lot less gym-y in some was.
Nick: Gym-y. That's funny, that's [crosstalk 00:33:54] ...
Janna: It's a nice word.
Bethany: So let's talk about ... So that's year one and ...
Janna: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, year one, we're meeting in a gym and we ... Beauty is really important in our worship. I think beauty is really important in everyone's worship. Maybe we define that differently, but part of our worship is experiential. We sit and we stand and we kneel and we smell and we touch and we eat and we drink and all of those ... and we see and we say and we sing. All of those pieces shape us in a particular way. So, in a gym space, we actually had a really hard time situating the space in such a way that made sense for our worship. If you walk into a cathedral, nobody has to say anything to you about what is happening in that space. It bears upon you. The space itself bears upon you.
Nick: That's good.
Janna: Space is a really important part of worship, because it nudges us. A nudge might be an easy word for that. It sort of postures us in a direction, and so before anybody shakes your hand or smiles at you or whatever, before you say anything or do anything or hear anything, the space comes to bear on you. That was a really important thing for us and we worked really hard in that gym, to shape it in such a way that it came to bear on people in a way that oriented them towards Christ.
Janna: So, we build some contraptions, you might say. We built an altar. I didn't build an altar. I say "we." A person in our church built an altar. Jon, my husband, built this backdrop that ... It's sort of got these three tiers and a cross. Anyway, to make it look more churchy. We're going for church, so some church plants are not going for church, but we're like a church plant that's going for church, and so it's really obvious that we're a church. I don't know if you guys have ever seen the Maria Bamford sketch on church.
Bethany: I love her, but I haven't.
Janna: So, she has this sketch on people trying to be a church but acting like it's not a church. Anyway, it's really funny and I can't remember any of the details, so it's dumb that I even mentioned it.
Bethany: I think we should definitely all look it up.
Janna: Yeah, you should all go watch it because she says something ...
Nick: Google is being infatuated right now with ...
Janna: Yeah, it's like a church named something like really ...
Nick: I think I remember what it is and I think it's kind of R rated.
Janna: Yeah, it's really like X rated.
Nick: Is she from Eagle Rock?
Janna: Yeah, this really X rated thing.
Nick: Can I say it? Producer Jennifer, can I say it?
Bethany: We can cut it out if we need.
Nick: She says, "You should call your church Sex Hole."
Janna: Sex Hole, exactly, and then she says ...
Nick: I'll go to that church.
Janna: It sounds like a church.
Nick: Yeah, then she gets suspicious of it.
Janna: That even if you call your church Sex Hole, that people can tell that it's a church, and so if it's a church, it's just a church. So, we're trying to be a church and we've always been trying to be a church, and so we're very churchy, and so the things that we name things are churchy things.
Bethany: Does that kind of make you feel out of step with other church planting conversations or in church planting spaces?
Bethany: Just because I feel like so much of church planting is like, "Let's all just ride bikes and have a picnic" or something.
Janna: Yeah, I think it does, but not in a ...
Bethany: I'm just making stuff up.
Janna: I think it's actually important in church planting ... I think church planting conversations get right, that in order to invite people into a space, it needs to make sense in a way. Like, there has to be some kind of translation, and I think that's a very important piece of what it means to include people into a church. So, the other side of that is owning the fact that you're a church, right? So, how you do that ... You can do that in a lot of different ways, right? For us, we lean heavy on, we're like definitely a church. You can't come and think that it's something other than a church, but we really work hard to make the worship that we do accessible, and so if you come for the first time, I'm gonna explain to you how you can receive the Eucharist because you might not know how to do that in our particular context.
Janna: So, I think that there's always something to learn in these conversations. I have never been a part of a church planting conversation that I didn't have something to learn, and so even if you're sort of in a way different spot about maybe even what you think the church is and what it's supposed to do, there is some value, I think, in perspective because there is ... Somebody's just coming at it from another angle, and I think the angle of like a non-churchy church is, well, what church has been doing actually isn't working, so how do we do something that works? On my end is, well, I'm not the one that reinvents the church. I want to be reinvented by the church.
Nick: Come on now. That one, that one, that one ...
Bethany: I told you, she's quotable.
Janna: That quote I got from Jon. I have to give Jon credit, but I do, and that informs our worship, that we want to be people that are being shaped by the worship of the living God.
Bethany: Along with that, totally with you and also how would you say that your experience ... So, you're in this neighborhood that's gentrified basically but still has a good Latino population and just a mixture of folks now. How has the place where you are shape what your church has become? I mean, in what ways is your church different because you're in Highland Park and not in Pasadena?
Janna: Yeah. Part of our worship is in Spanish and we wouldn't do that if we were in another place. Most of the people in our neighborhood are bilingual and so our worship is majority English speaking, but we have these spaces of what I think are hospitable spaces, to say that we value, as a church, we value Spanish and we value that that's a language that a lot of people speak at home, a lot of people speak with their grandmother ... Actually in Highland Park you can't even get a job at a bank if you're not bilingual. Nobody at the bank is monolingual, and so it almost would be weird actually if our church didn't have some element that everywhere in Highland Park is ... That actually is there for the whole community, has some element of both languages, and so we don't translate. We're not fully able to do that right now, but we have songs in Spanish. Part of our Eucharistic liturgy's in Spanish. We have readings in Spanish, and so it's not a ...
Janna: You couldn't come to our church if you are Spanish only speaking and fully absorb everything, but you could come to our church and know that if you grew up in a home where you speak Spanish at home and that you pray the Lord's prayer with your grandma, that that is something that is valued by our church and that we, every Sunday, pray the Lord's prayer together. I think there's always ways that we can do better, but for where we are, this is a way of us saying, "This matters. This is a thing that matters as best as we can respond to it."
Nick: So, Janna, you are no longer the leader, pastor, priest of Gold Line Church.
Janna: That's right.
Nick: You are the leader, pastor, priest of Church of the Resurrection. How did that happen? Tell us about it, we can't wait to hear.
Janna: That's a good question. I mentioned earlier that we had this grand plan. I think you always have grand plans until you start doing something and then you realize that your grand plans were ... They might have been a good idea and they were maybe really important for the start, but that there's sort of an openness as you move forward to ... That when something starts, it kind of takes a life of its own and the capacity to respond to that, I think, is really important. So, when we started, we were Gold Line Church. We were very close to the Gold Line Metro Station in Highland Park and the idea was to plant churches along the Gold Line Metro.
Janna: Then over time we ... When we named our church, we were hardly even Anglican. None of our people had worshiped in an Anglican church and we were ... We just had no idea. We didn't know what was gonna become of us, and so this past year in January ... So we're two years in. Our church has actually become more Anglican, so we started off with collars and now we wear robes and now we swing incense and we sort of have moved higher church, you might say, if that terminology makes sense. We have moved maybe more formal, you might say, in our Sunday morning worship.
Janna: What we have become, actually, and it's been quite natural ... What we have become is a church that it makes more sense to have the name Church of the Resurrection than Gold Line Church. That's one part of it. Another part of it is almost immediately after we named our church Gold Line Church, we got wind that the Gold Line was gonna change its name because eventually it's gonna connect to the Blue Line or something. So we had in our mind that actually we're not gonna keep this name forever because we're not gonna be Blue Line Church and then ... You know what I'm saying? Red Line Church. We're not gonna keep changing our name. That just gets weird, right?
Janna: That was a piece that we knew in our mind at some point we were gonna change our name. Then in January we moved locations in the same neighborhood but to a building that was a little bit far from the Gold Line Metro Station. Far enough that it would be weird to have that name, and so all of those pieces together, and actually another piece of it is Gold Line Church actually didn't make sense. It seemed like kind of a cool name, but it didn't make sense to a lot of people that we met in our neighborhood over the last two years.
Janna: So, we're hanging out with somebody on their porch and, "Oh, what's the name of your church?" "Gold Line Church." "What is that? What does that even mean?" Also, the Gold Line has a history and the Gold Line knocked down homes to exist where it does, and you don't know that history until you live in a space. So, all of those things collectively ... When we were set to move to a new location, that sort of pushed all of that to the forefront. That, if we're gonna move to a new location and it doesn't make sense for us to be called Gold Line Church and it makes actually more sense with the way that we worship to be called Church of the Resurrection and we're gonna have to print all new stuff to live in this space, signage and all that kind of stuff, like this is a meaningful time to change our name.
Janna: Our whole church, we had like a church meeting and it didn't even ... It was like, "Yeah, of course." It wasn't even a ... I think some people felt like ... Change is always kind of hard, right? It's always kind of weird, but it was ... Everybody was agreed that, "Oh yeah, this totally makes sense for us to change our name." I think, too, people don't think about names. Over time they just call it something.
Nick: How about tips for people? So, people right now who are thinking about, "Okay, I'm starting a church and I need to name this thing." I was fortunate to be a part of this church called Northland Village Church. We've been meeting for like four months and we didn't have a name. It didn't feel that important at the time, so as people are wrestling through a name, what might they consider as they're wrestling through naming their church?
Janna: Yeah, I think names are really hard. It's like you pass by a business and you look at it and think, "Oh my God, why did they name it that?"
Nick: We have a place called Okay Chinese Food right next to our house. I love it.
Janna: Yeah, exactly. Exactly, or, yeah, anyway.
Nick: How far do you want to go?
Janna: I was gonna name some stuff but I'm not gonna [crosstalk 00:47:55] ...
Nick: Are we PG-13? You don't even go R rated on [crosstalk 00:47:56] ...
Janna: Yeah. I actually think for us, Gold Line Church was a really important name because the sort of vision that was behind that name actually helped connect a lot of people. People thought that was a good idea, and we were able to sort of resource to that, that, "Oh, that seems like a really cool idea and people want to give money to that and people want to connect to that," so I actually think that it served a meaningful purpose in sort of the lifespan of our church. So, I think that's important to pay attention to, that paying attention to where your church is and also recognizing that it's going to change and it's good that it changes and to pay attention to what it becomes.
Janna: We could not have ... In January when we changed our name and changed all of our emblems that are associated with that name, we could not have done that the two years before. We just didn't know that's who we were. We hadn't become that, and so I think in some way, a name is actually really important because it's sort of ... It defines, in a way, who you are, but it also is ... I think we should hold it a little bit lightly because we become something else and we don't know when we name a church exactly what it's going to become.
Nick: There's this book that Fuller Seminary's putting together right now that spends a lot of time for new churches talking about not so much heavy lifting, heavy framing up on the first three seasons of the new church but actually on the fourth season, which is identified as adapting its initial public witness ... I haven't met too many church planters who have done as well as you and John and your church as a whole in doing that hard work of not just adapting once but continuing to adapt. It's really well done.
Janna: Yeah, thank you. I think it helps that we are ... Jon and I, if you're familiar with the Meyers-Briggs, we're both extreme Ps, and that has a lot of downsides, but one of the upsides to it is a sort of openness to change, and it actually was amazing to me in January when we changed our name, a woman in our church created some graphics, associated some new design, associated with the name. When she sent me her designs, I was floored because I couldn't believe that she could take who we were and put that into an image that so perfectly described who we were. We didn't have her two years ago. We actually could not have done that, and so I think there is like a ... There has to be a kind of openness to ...
Janna: Not that at the core, we're different, but the sort of movement or the natural development of who we've become is beautiful and it invites a whole group of people that sort of influence that, that just weren't there. They weren't there two years ago. They couldn't have been there. Nobody had invited them. We didn't know them. All of those things, and so this sort of space for ... It's just developmental, right? Like, a baby is not a different person as the adult that it becomes, but it is a different person in the adult that it becomes, and so there is a continuum and I think attending well to who are we now and where are we and then what's the next step and being open to that next step is a very important space [crosstalk 00:51:57] ...
Bethany: How do you stay alerted to that? Because I think it's really ... Obviously if you and John are both extreme Ps, maybe you don't want to reach a settled place, but I feel like in some ways, we talk about churches getting to places of homeostasis or stability or there's a lot of words people use to talk about that, and I don't know how you both get to a place where you feel like a little more settled, maybe just for your own emotional health or just feeling calmer, and keeping this openness to when do we need to change something? When do we know that we're becoming something else? Are there practices that you guys have to keep awareness of that or how do you feel like that happens for you in your community?
Janna: I spend a lot of time listening and I think that that is the most important practice, listening to people in my church, people outside of my church. I listen to my neighbors. I listen to everybody and listening is a ... I think gives a kind of awareness of where people are and what's important to people and what matters to them and what connects with them, so I think listening is a very important thing. When we moved to the location that we're in now, we were ...
Bethany: Which is a church.
Janna: Which is a church building.
Nick: A church building.
Bethany: A building.
Janna: We are renting this space but I think that it's a churchy, churchy church. When we moved to that space, I almost sensed like a collective sigh. Like, "Oh, we can settle here. This is not a transient space. This could be a permanent space." That, I think, did something for our folks. I think I recognized it like a month or so later. Just like, "Oh, people feel like this is gonna work." People are asking long term questions, like, all of a sudden people feel like this church is gonna last and the space almost determined that. So, I think there are these other factors that create a kind of stability.
Janna: Some of those are structural and some of those are place that help people feel ... I think actually the new name made people feel like, "This is like permanent. We're gonna be called Church of the Resurrection."
Nick: I think it's a status quo question. This is something that we've been doing some work on. Whether or not status quo is okay in different parts. Status quo can bring some rest and some peace. Then obviously we're trying to disrupt the status quo at the same time, so it feels like you moved into a balance of status quo and it feels like you're still open to the spirit's guidance in that as well.
Janna: Yeah, I think it is a sort of, "What's the space that needs to be disrupted and what's the space that actually is important for people to stabilize?" Right now for me, our children's ministry really isn't that great. That's like a space that actually needs to be disrupted, but our adult Sunday morning worship is develop and that's not a space that needs to be disrupted. Our finance team, they're doing great. They don't need to be disrupted, and so there are these pieces I think that ... We have a community care team that cares for the needs of our community. They don't need to be disrupted. They need to just keep doing the thing that they're doing, so yeah, I think it's a bit of both.
Nick: Janna has an IQ that is literally five times higher than mine. She previously was doing PhD work?
Janna: I quit a PhD [crosstalk 00:56:15] ...
Nick: You quit a PhD at which school? At USC?
Janna: At USC, yeah.
Nick: What were you PhD-ing?
Janna: I like to tinker with little [crosstalk 00:56:25] ... That's one way to talk about it.
Nick: We should invite you deep into a neurobiology conversation, but we actually don't have time for that today, but what we do have time for is a bit of the side hustle that you're doing. I don't know if people know this, but starting churches doesn't necessarily result in a lot of money.
Janna: Yeah. Don't go into it for the money.
Nick: So, a lot of us do other things. Can you talk a little bit about what you do to supplement income?
Janna: Yeah, so I spend a lot of lot of years in the biological sciences and so I have tutored and I have taught high school and summer school and most recently as of Friday, a couple of days ago, I got hired to teach at a local charter school in my neighborhood that's three blocks from where I live and I actually I know the principal because their school meets on the same location that we used to rent from, where we used to meet for church. So I just started that. That biology stuff has come in handy, I guess. Teachers don't actually make a lot of money, so it's not been lucrative, but it has been ... I am really sensing, actually, that what I'm starting now is actually a really meaningful ministry of our church to ... There's a couple high school students that are a part of my church that go to this high school and yeah, the ...
Nick: This is the shift from bi-vocation or multi-vocation to co-vocation. You're connecting them, which I think is really important for our listeners to understand.
Janna: Yeah, and you know, I have swung so many ways on this because it is so much work to plant a church. I have birthed three children in that timeframe as well, so I have a lot of spinning plates and I sometimes have felt that I don't have capacity actually to do anything else. Like between the church and the kids, that's all I've got. I think sometimes we sort of hit these spaces of, "You know, we actually don't have any money," and so you sort of reach out in other ways just to see, "Okay, God, are you gonna take care of us? Is that something that you're gonna do?" This just happened a week ago. I emailed the principal because I knew him, because we met for church there and said, "Hey, you guys have any biology openings? I can only teach part-time. You know I pastor this church. I've got all these kinds, and he said, "Yeah, our biology teacher just left."
Janna: "We really need somebody." I said, "I can only teach til 1:00 o'clock." He said, "Perfect. We have two biology sections you can teach in the morning." It was like this thing that ... I am still processing. I think in some ways I feel like I don't even have time to do this, and then there is this other side of it as, "This is the thing that I am called to do, to actually care for the kids in this neighborhood." This is my vocation, and I think actually my Anglican framework helps me in this, because Anglicans think about ... Anglican priests, which is what I am, I think about church geographically, that this segment of the world is my parish and I am available to serve anybody that lives in this space, whether they come to my church or not.
Janna: People down the street, if they're in a hospital, they call us up to go visit them. So, this school is in my parish and my vocation is to serve these problems. That is an extension of what we do. This is like part of my work at the church. So, I think that's actually helped me, but there is this ... You really can only do so much and I struggle very, very much so with knowing how much money do we need to survive and how much do I need to be present for my kids and how much do I need to be present for the people in my church and the struggle is real. The church planter struggle is real.
Nick: Special thanks to Janna for being with us. Where can people connect with you? Instagram, your church website ... Where can they get ahold of you?
Janna: We have this really spiffy website. Rez,Rez.LA. Super easy. Only five letters. Is that five letters?
Nick: Do you have to pay big bucks for [crosstalk 01:01:20] ...
Janna: We pay so much money for that. No, we don't have big bucks, so we don't pay big bucks for it. We have some really creative people in our church and they told us we should to dot LA, so we did.
Nick: Oh, that's great.
Janna: Rez.LA. Check us out.
Nick: Wonderful, and special thanks to Jennifer Kent, our producer, Stratton Glaze, our executive producer, the Artime Group where we are recording this in Pasadena, to Fuller Seminary and their partnership with Cyclical LA, to San Fernando Presbytery and of course to our hosts, Bethany, and my name is Nick. Thanks for listening. We hope that you will be back.