By JEFF CLEMETSON
Rev. Christian DeMent took over as head of La Mesa First United Methodist Church (LMFUMC) back in July of last year in the midst of the COVID pandemic.
“So I haven’t hugged or shaken the hand of a single congregant yet, which is really, really crazy,” he said. “We have not worshipped in person. I have not preached form the pulpit to a group of people yet. We’re just now starting to plan to have outdoor in-person worship.”
He will finally get his chance to preach to the LMFUMC flock for the first time on Easter Sunday and said outdoor, in-person sermons will take place at the church on Sundays after that, then indoors if pandemic continues to subside.
“We really are committed to the safety of not only our congregation, but our community and wanting to be a good example to our neighborhood,” he added.
That DeMent is taking added precautions for the church and community is no surprise, considering his roots. He is a fourth-generation San Diegan whose great-grandfather worked building the Hotel Del and also raised his grandfather in the Kimball House in National City, now an historical landmark.
DeMent’s mother grew up in North Park, went to San Diego High and worked for La Mesa Furniture where she met his father who moved furniture. The couple married and moved to La Mesa in 1967 where they still live today.
“My mom has been a Methodist all her life and so when they moved here to La Mesa they connected with La Mesa First United Methodist Church and my sister and I attended the childcare center, the preschool here.”
DeMent’s “early roots” extend past just the La Mesa church he was baptized at. As a child he attended Lemon Avenue Elementary and also participated in what would become Peter Pan Junior Theater with a young Mayor Mark Arapostathis before going on to La Mesa Junior High then Helix High then SDSU.
DeMent said he attended church all his life, but around junior high got more involved with the LMFUMC youth group.
“One of the great experiences here was not just the youth group and the friends that I met but a real commitment to serving the community and being in mission beyond our community,” he said of the mission projects he traveled the West Coast region for.
After graduating high school, DeMent became a youth group leader.
“That’s when I felt my call to ministry and decided to go to seminary,” he said.
DeMent attended Claremont School of Theology and was ordained as an elder in 2006.
Although, Dement has served Methodist churches as pastor in Chula Vista and Santee, he said it is special to him to return to the church of his youth as pastor.
“To be appointed at La Mesa First United Church now is something that I’m very excited about because I get to now serve my community in a very specific way. I feel like I have deep roots here and so I think its a perfect fit,” he said.
As the new head of LMFUMC, DeMent said his main priority is to get the word out about all the community service programs the church offers that are open for all residents to volunteer for, not just people of the Christian faith. Those programs include Days for Girls that provides feminine hygiene for young women across the world and locally so they aren’t prevented form going to school or work; as well as programs for “neighbors in need” that provide food, showers and clothing.
“We do all of this but I don’t think our community know very much about it, so I’m really excited about taking what we do inside these church walls and taking them outside these church walls and into the community,” he said. “It’s not worship attendance that I’m so concerned about but how we are transforming our community and making our community better from this place.”
—Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.