You may remember the Lilac Fire that burned through Rancho Monserate off Highway 395, just west of Interstate 15 and South State Route 76 in December 2017. This property dates back to a Mexican land grant 1846, when Governor Pio Pico gave his brother-in-law 13,332 acres in what would become the Bonsall and Fallbrook townships. Part of this land was turned into a mobile-home park in the early 1970s and a decade later was one of the first in the state to convert from rental spaces to private ownership. In the 2017 Lilac Fire, 75 manufactured homes were burned to the ground in this mobile-home park, which was half of the total of all the structures destroyed in the 4,100-acre blaze. Before insurance could pay for a new home to be built and brought to this site, Rancho Monserate had to repair infrastructure damage by the fire. Most of that has been done but at this time to complete the “recovery” which began almost 10 months ago the landscaping has to be completed.

Cal Pac United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has taken the lead on this recovery effort. Today they are requesting our help in completing this project so the next five residents can move into their homes. All that is left to do is finishing the landscaping: Site 1 needs about 1,000 sqft of week screen and about 700 sqft of rock spread; Site 2 needs about 800 sqft of weed screen and rock spread; Site 3 needs about 200 sqft of weed screen, rock spread and about 60 interlocking blocks installed; Sites 4 & 5 need some clean-up of existing pavers and 600-700 sqft of weed screen and rock. Finally there is also some planting of Ivy on the hillsides that need to be done. 

These would be great projects for PSWR Mission Teams from local congregations. You could select a single site or partner with another congregation to complete a project. All materials will be provided. For more details contact Karl Ports, UMCOR, 619-823-8424,

Norman Williams, Coordinator
PRSW Disaster Recovery Ministry


AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Revs. Don Dewey and Susan Gonzales Dewey

Summer has officially ended and the Fall Season is upon us. Though we loved the warm summer months, this past one had a lot of particularly hot days and so a slightly cooler temperature is a nice welcome.

Summers are often filled with travels, vacations, days at the beach and backyard BBQ’s. We had all of those and more. It was a time to participate in our National Racial Ethnic ministries gatherings, from Phoenix Arizona to Birmingham, Alabama; as well as the College of Regional Ministers. We both were able to take a couple weeks of our Sabbatical time, Susan in July and Don later in August. 

Summer was also a time to catch up on some chores around the house and what we call “puttering” jobs. We planted a garden, laid some tile, and did some “winterizing” (whatever that means in Southern California!) of trees and roses. It was also a good time to catch up on reading that seems to get put on the back burner to often.

Some on our summer reading list were: Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward”; Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God”; Rachel Held Evan’s “Inspired”; Sandhya Jha’s “Pre-Post-Racial America”; Walter Brueggemann’s “A Gospel of Hope”; Rev. Dr. William Barber’s “The Third Reconstruction”; and Diana Butler Bass’s “Christianity for the Rest of Us.”

Though vastly different in many ways, we found these particular books to be both inspiring and challenging as I reflect on the church today. We are reminded of author Phyllis Tickle, who a few years ago described our time as a once every 500 year turnover of the world as we know it. Or perhaps as that 60’s theologian Bob Dylan said, “The Times, They Are a Changin”.

Diana Butler Bass describes in her book “Christianity for the Rest of Us”, a three-year journey she took traveling around the U.S. visiting mainline churches of various denominations that were demonstrating some significant turn-arounds in their ministry. These were congregations that were at one time suffering from decline and aging that we see in so many churches of all stripes and were now showing positive signs of growth, vitality and life anew.

Each chapter focuses on a specific area of these churches ministry that seemed to contribute to this new emergence of life and hopefulness. Areas like: hospitality, discernment, healing, diversity, justice and worship. She explores how some of these congregations have reimagined these areas that she called “signposts of renewal.”

It’s important to note that there is no magic formula for turning a church around or experiencing significant transformation. It is also important to say that none of the congregations she names in her book did this overnight and with no struggle! For most of them it was several years of careful and prayerful experimenting, testing, failing and persevering before they began to see some positive results. One last thing to note, none of these churches made these transformations because they had a “Super-star” pastor. Rather it was a deep commitment by both the pastor and the congregation to fully engage in the struggle and transformation of their ministry on behalf of the Gospel through spiritual disciplines.

We want to lift up two or three of these “signposts” as significant for any congregation today seeking to connect authentically with your community. 

The first is Hospitality. Christianity today, like our ancestors, is a faith of travelers and pilgrims on a way. Hospitality then is at the very heart of the Christian life. However, Bass reminds us, “true Christian hospitality is not a recruitment strategy designed to manipulate strangers into church membership. Rather, it is a central practice of the Christian faith.”

Authentic hospitality is when we begin to see every person, no matter what, as a sister or brother in Christ. Bass says, “Christians welcome strangers as we ourselves have been welcomed into God through the love of Jesus Christ.” Sound familiar? This is not just “friendliness” but rather radical hospitality! See Matthew 25.

Another significant signpost is Discernment, listening for truth. This perhaps is one of the most important things a congregation could do. Bass writes that a fundament truth for us as Christians is to truly know “that God loves us and calls us by name; that God asks us to participate in the unfolding of divine beauty.”In other words, God wants us to do something!

Spending time learning to discern God’s call upon our lives and what we are to do with what God has gifted us with is central to our life of faith. Next to hospitality, this spiritual practice was one found in almost every congregation Bass interviewed and that significantly added to their vitality and growth.

One last one we will lift up and that is Testimony. This practice of giving “witness” or to “testify” to the love and grace of Jesus Christ is found in almost every book in the New Testament. If you take a look at the book of Acts one might say that the church itself started by the apostle Peter’s testimony on the day of Pentecost! 

Every life tells a story and we each can offer a witness to what God through Christ has done in our lives. One of the many powerful experiences in my life from years of camp was sitting around a campfire or in a family group as young people shared their stories of how God brought healing, hope, love and grace into their lives. 

We have been in many churches where a lay person has shared a faith story at the communion table or as an offering meditation that brought me to tears and renewed my faith in our gracious God. These testimonies not only tell who we are but also who we are becoming because of the love and grace we have experienced in Jesus Christ! As one person said, “they tell of finding meaning, finding unique selves, and finding God in a confusing and chaotic world.”

Congregations that are thriving again are those who are re-engaging again the ancient spiritual practices of hospitality, discernment, testimony, prayer, healing, the study of scripture and more. As we move into this Fall Season and in preparation for our Regional Assembly, we want to encourage us all to live into our theme of “COURAGE”. Why? Because these are troubling times, these are transitioning times for the church and we will need real courage to hold fast to our faith and to one another. This will, we believe, mean deeply rooting ourselves in God and the way of Jesus.

We pray that you will find renewal in your own faith life and that of your church as you actively participate in the spiritual disciplines of our faith.

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan
Your Regional Ministers




AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

I am excited and sad to announce my time at Loch Leven is ending. What a great adventure we have had together!  I am grateful for so many things:

The opportunity you gave me to be the steward of this incredible place.  I have learned so much about sustainability and best practices for all God’s creation who inhabit this property. The staff at Loch Leven has a genuine passion for our mission.  I am proud of what our team has accomplished. Together we have maintained “an intentionally accessible and hospitable meeting place where all guests can enjoy fellowship and spiritual renewal.”  With help, we continue to “actively promote conservation, preservation and appreciation of Loch Leven's unique environmental and historical resources.”

 The love and dedication of my Disciples family. Our Co-Regional Ministers, the Reverends Don and Susan, have been incredibly supportive of Loch Leven as well as of me, both personally and professionally. Regional Staff, Boards, Committees, Churches, and many individuals have helped us thrive these past 8 years. I value all our relationships. 

The opportunities to serve other denominations and religions.  Loch Leven hosts faith communities from churches, temples, and mosques throughout southern California. It has been inspiring to see the many different ways people grow closer to God, and each other, while they are here. It has been an honor to help facilitate the camping programs of our units and ministries as well as those from outside our denomination. I know from experience and research the potential positive development camping programs can provide. Camp Joe Ide (All People’s Community Center) and our developing Project Impact Camp within the PSWR, as well as non-PSWR programs like Camp 99 and Western Young People’s Advance are excellent examples. I feel blessed to be a part of all these life-changing communities.

The opportunity to develop Loch Leven’s role in the local community. We have partnered, sponsored, hosted, and participated in a wide variety of events with diverse entities including: ACA, NCCC, Red Cross, Department of Corrections, CalFire, SB County Department of Health, NRCS and IERCD, Citrus High School, History of SB Mountains, Scouts, and more. We have been cultivating loving, mutually beneficial relationships remembering our goal of “witnessing, loving and serving from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.”   

The opportunity to learn about Anti-Racism and Pro-Reconciliation, especially in our culture today.  I continue to try to grow from the realization that my previous philosophies and actions are no longer helpful. I have been loud and proud and certain I was right. I am ready to be quiet and to listen.

Brothers and Sisters, I am going to miss you! Still, for my own health and well-being, I need to spend more time in the world, more time with my family, more time listening, more time learning, more time playing.  Joseph and I are relocating to the Eugene, Oregon area to be closer to family. We are buying property near their farm and look forward to tending to the garden, orchard, dogs, horses, and each other into our own retirement years.

I am excited for new leadership who will continue to build on the legacy at Loch Leven. I believe I was the right person to get us to this point.  I believe we are ready for someone with different strengths and gifts to help Loch Leven soar.  

Loch Leven, like all of you, will always hold a special place in my heart.


In peace,

Operations Manager at Loch Leven

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

by Reverend Heather Miner, Pastor of North Long Beach Christian Church

I became the minister of North Long Beach Christian Church (NLBCC), an elderly church located in an area of need, six years ago.  The church had no savings but had stalwart, ‘salt of the earth,’ faithful people.  We were 15 in worship.  We are now reaching towards 50. 

What happened is a series of testimonies to what God can do when churches care for one another.

The first significant event was when the Saturday night church, Holy Spirit Fellowship (HSF), closed.  They were born twenty years before out of Christ Chapel, an independent gay church in Long Beach.  Twenty years ago, they came to the elders of NLBCC and asked if they could rent the space Saturday night for worship.  Apparently, there was a lot of discussion.  But the elders decided that everyone should be able to safely worship God.  A relationship was born.  Over the years, the churches worked side by side to keep the campus safe and beautiful.  People felt free to move between the churches.  We shared a musician.  When it became clear that HSF could no longer sustain itself, they decided to go and support churches already in existence.  Ten people came into the worship of NLBCC.  Worship was filled with singing and spirit led ‘amens.’ 

But, still the problem remained of how to be welcoming to those who had children.  I prefer the model where children begin worship in the sanctuary with their parents and then have a space and time of their own with loving, faithful adults to guide them.  While I can fix toilets, preach, visit people in the hospital, and make community connections, I cannot be in two places at 10:45 on Sundays.   

Our congregation was still elderly.   Those who were comfortable working with children were no longer physically able to do so (despite the woman in the wheelchair saying she’d wheel on over and be there for them if I needed her).  And, our newer, younger members did not have a passion for children and youth ministries. 

Then, Community Congregational Church of Corona del Mar, UCC (CCCC) got involved.  I had served them as an Associate Pastor for five years.  One day, their Mission group asked me what I needed.  I responded money to pay for someone who could be a children/youth person on Sundays, help with our midweek Christian program we call Family Café, and with outreach during the week.  I created a 12 hour/week job; $600/month.  They sponsored that person and more. 

It took time to find the right person.  I made a couple of mistakes.  But the grace of the Mission people at CCCC, allowed me to try again. Finally, the right person came.  Amber attended our Family Café, which, when she first came, was limping along with the wrong children/youth leader. 

Things happened and Amber moved into the children/youth leader position two months ago.  In the six months she’s been with us, Amber has brought into our church eight people who now are the leadership for our Family Café and children/youth programs. 

Amber is a connector with a passion for people on the margins, a perfect fit for a church where those on the margins minister to those on the margins.  The people of NLBCC have ministered well to her and her children.  They welcomed her with open arms long before she took on her role with us.   When she was about to fall, they caught her, and helped her through.  The ability to help her with a financial situation was also enabled by the gift of CCCC.   

The newer people were integrated with our long term members through a weekend leadership retreat.  Our church people are on very limited incomes.  Food at the end of the month is often hard to come by.  Again, a member of a church I served in the past, asked “what is your need?”  This time, I suggested a fund so we could go on a yearly retreat together.  The retreatants connected deeply in the Spirit; a connection which strengthens our ability to minister to our community each week.

HSF and CCCC gave us a way forward.   They show how churches can truly support one another in Christ. As churches consider their mission budgets, it would be such a blessing if larger churches used some of their funds to helping struggling churches stand again.  By making it a partnership, rather than a grant process, you allow grace that enables a church to experiment until they find the right path forward.  And, you just might find yourself standing side by side someone dear and holy who you otherwise would never have had the chance to know.

Reverend Heather Miner    

Pastor –

Coach –

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

The Board and Search Committee invite nominations and expressions of interest for the position of Regional Minister(s) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Pacific Southwest Region (PSWR). We seek the leader(s) who understand(s) the diverse and changing context of the church and society, and who can offer a clear vision for ministry that draws all to Christ’s Table. The position begins on or about September 1, 2019.

Regional Profile

The warm and vibrant church family within the PSWR celebrates diversity as its greatest strength and its greatest challenge. The area served by PSWR congregations includes 12 counties across portions of California, Nevada and Hawaii. Currently, we operate with a leadership model that has Co-Regional Ministers. In addition we have Associate Regional Ministers for youth/young adults and various ethnic ministries. In the past, the PSWR had one person serving as Regional Minister with some deployed staff.  We are open to God’s call for leadership of the PSWR, with no pre-conceived idea of the future ministry model. The full Regional Profile can be viewed here.

Nominations and Application Process

The Regional Minister Search Committee will receive nominations at .

To assure full consideration, those interested in applying for the position must submit a letter of interest by November 9, 2018. In the letter, applicants should provide their personal characteristics, qualifications and/or experiences that meet the Preferred Skills and Preferred Experiences sections of the Position Description, which can be viewed here. In addition, applicants must include contact information where they wish to receive communications from the Search Committee. Letters should be sent to PSWR Search Administrator, 5225 Canyon Crest Drive., Ste. 71-711, Riverside, CA 92507 and electronically to .

All applicants are required to provide updated profile information and letters of reference through the Search & Call process:  The application period closes and all materials must be received by December 7, 2018.

This position is a six-year term with the possibility of a second six-year term for a maximum of twelve (12) years of total service.

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt