Rev. John Molina-Moore comes to Washington, DC from Wilmington, Delaware. He is originally from San Jose, CA and he graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary. His wife, Amy, serves as the Associate Rector at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Tenleytown.
Breaking the Ice
We sat down in his office for this conversation. I asked him to tell me an ice breaker that he might use to introduce himself in a cocktail party setting. He smiled and immediately exclaimed, “There is no food or ingredient that I don’t like! There’s no flavor profile that I don’t like. My friends have gone on missions to find bizarre restaurants to find something that I won’t enjoy… They have failed every time. “
Rev. Molina-Moore taught English in Korea for a few months while he was in college. At first, the host mother prepared a separate, bland version of Korean dishes like kimchi for him, but he insisted that he was ready for the real thing. He devoured everything she cooked. Their game continued to escalate until the final night of his visit when the family took him to exotic Korean seafood restaurant where the food was so fresh you had to chase it down on the plate with your chopsticks. We’re talking octopus and sea worms. To his hosts’ surprise, he loved this experience as well!
His advice for being successful is to stay optimistic. Always be ready to encounter the positive. New avenues and doors tend to open when you go into new situations with a positive mindset.
Rev. Molina-Moore says that he loves the moments when he, as a pastor, gets to be with someone as they have an awakening moment. A person may have been sitting in pews for fifty years and then suddenly sees something in a whole new light. That light then sheds on everything and changes their lives; how they think about themselves, how they think about who their God is, who their neighbors are, and what their community is. It’s usually just one little switch that gets turned and then there’s a whole new way of thinking.
He says, “Those moments don’t happen all the time, but when they do, those are the things that keep me filled and going.”
Sometimes, he is not even aware of how something he said or did affected a parishioner until they come to him and say, “You know, I’ve never really thought about it that way before. You said something three weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about all these things ever since.” That is an “Awesome!” moment for him.
Correction as Direction: A Career Situation That Didn’t Work Out
Sometimes we learn the most from our failures. Rev. Molina-Moore mentioned an experience at his church in Wilmington. This was a blue-collar neighborhood that had been economically devastated by an auto plant closing. There were no quality food stores in the local area. A community member suggested that the church should partner with a local organization and open a fresh produce stand to serve the neighborhood.
The pastor jumped at the opportunity, scheduling a volunteer and securing a telephone line to facilitate electronic benefits payments.
The food stand was a complete failure. He says that for the entire summer, they had no more than fifteen customers. The data and the demographics indicated that there was a need and the venture should have been successful, but it just never hit.
Despite the disappointment, Rev. Molina-Moore and the church grew from that experience. He says, “It was helpful, for a church like that, who was fearful about trying new things, because of the unknown: what happens if we fail? Do the walls fall? Does the roof cave in? That fear was so overpowering.
“It was disappointing to have this thing fall apart, but it was great to say, ‘Hey, this costs us $13 and somebody volunteered time to open the door on Thursdays.’” The energy and excitement that the effort brought to the congregation carried over to other successful community projects that had a long-lasting impact.
Vision for Northminster
When asked about his vision for Northminster, Rev. Molina-Moore says, “We are not going to be the church of 1972. That model of church was great for what it was, but that’s not going to be what the future holds. ‘Church’ is no longer going to be just a Sunday morning event type of thing, but rather something that impacts your entire life and week. Church can be a place where you can come and not be told what to believe or how to believe, but be able to step into the Mystery of Faith. I’m not trying to explain; I’m trying to help you live into it. That’s different for each person.
“We want you to have a place where you feel you belong, where you feel like you are part of the family and you feel like you get to encounter the Living God. I think that’s what the Church needs to be. Then, it’s for everybody: the person who just lost their job, the person suffering from depression, the person who looks like they have it all, but there is still a moment where you need the power of Unknown, the Force that controls the universe.”
We want you to have a place where you feel you belong, where you feel like you are part of the family and you feel like you get to encounter the Living God.
Plans for the community
I asked him how he plans for the church to invite the community in. He responded, “That’s hard. We know that just putting up signs doesn’t work. I think it is rooted in relationships. Relationships with me within the community. Relationships with church members within the community. That’s where we would see growth because we’ll have that element of trust.”
He spoke of equipping the current church members to strengthen those relationships with family and friends and lean on that trust. By sharing the amazing and powerful things that are happening at Northminster, others will want to be a part of that. “We can’t expect the community and the neighbors to come here if we don’t know them and they don’t know us,” he said. It begins with simple things like, “Movie Night” or engaging with some of the community organizations that use the church facilities.
We can’t expect the community and the neighbors to come here if we don’t know them and they don’t know us.
Recommended Media (Book, Documentary, Podcast, or Film)
Rev. Molina-Moore recommends the RobCast podcast (https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/) by New York Times Best Selling author Rob Bell, whom he cites as one of the best modern theologians. Rev. Molina-Moore credits Mr. Bell’s first book for giving him the impetus to go to seminary. He says, “Bell writes on complex topics in a way that sixth graders can understand it. His podcast is really good. He brings different varieties of people on the show, and it’s not always Christian-based, but it is good, meaningful information.”
It was an absolute pleasure to sit down with Rev. Molina-Moore. He is engaging and full of ideas on how to strengthen the bonds between Northminster Presbyterian Church and the Shepherd Park community. I recommend that you stop by one of their church services or events to say ‘Hello” and welcome him to the neighborhood.
Northminster Presbyterian Church
7720 Alaska Avenue NW 20012
Adult Bible Study: Sunday @ 9:30am
Children Sunday School: Sunday @ 11am
Worship: Sunday @ 11am