By Michael J. ARVIZU
For the past seven years, the Rev. Paige Eaves has held the reigns as pastor of Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church in La Crescenta (CVUMC). On July 1, Eaves will officially take on a new pastoral assignment at University United Methodist Church in Irvine, replacing lead pastor Rev. Eric M. Smith.
The Rev. Steve Marshall of Walnut United Methodist Church in Walnut will take Eaves’ place as pastor of CVUMC.
University United is a larger church over her present assignment in terms of church population, Eaves said. She and her husband, Forrest Robinson, will eventually move to Orange County.
As her last days in La Crescenta wind down, Eaves can be found moving about her office, conducting “tedious administrative stuff,” she said, in order to leave everything in order for her successor.
Paige describes her transfer as a common occurrence among Methodist Church leadership.
“In the Methodist system, they reappoint us, they move us around,” said Eaves. “This part of the farewell is pretty difficult and tearful. A lot of what I’ve been doing is disengaging in a way that leaves things as stable as possible – not just the tedious administrative things, but keeping things stable for everybody else.”
As a wrap-up to her time at CVUMC, Eaves is planning a summer program event for the end of June as well as a “greatest hits” sermon series made up of her best sermons.
“Not only the best of me, but the best of us. Here are the good things we have done together,” said Eaves of the sermon series. “That’s part of who you are. Who you are transcends me with you – you did that work; it’s not dependent on me anymore.”
The church will present a “Musical in a Week” series at 6:30 p.m. from June 17 to June 23. The series will feature a sing-a-long of Broadway musicals and offer a chance for the congregation to say goodbye to Eaves.
Her new assignment, Eaves said, is a challenge, but she is comforted in the fact that her new church is very welcoming and houses a strong lay leadership.
“They’ve been just as fearful about the transitioning out of Pastor Eric [Smith],” Eaves said.
As pastor, Eaves’ role is to help people come together for a vision for ministry. A good example of that vision, Paige said, lies in her church recently becoming a reconciling congregation – that is, a congregation that continues to participate in dialogue about homosexuality.
“LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] people are created in God’s image. Jesus came to include all people. How can we live that?” Eaves asked. “Even though our church is still talking about it, we want to be clear in our identity. So we did a bunch of work around that: conversation and Bible study, and listening to testimonies.”
That identity, Eaves said, is written into the very fabric of her church and will not cease to exist upon her departure.
CVUMC is part of a network of over 500 Methodist reconciling congregations that have taken it upon themselves to continue this dialogue even though the worldwide Methodist denomination considers homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching.
“The conversation can’t end there,” Eaves said. “We can’t sit with that piece of policy because it’s not faithful, so we’re going to make the conversation continue. God speaks to us the most clearly when we dare to go to places that are uncomfortable.”
Under Eaves’ leadership, the church has grown and introduced peace and justice initiatives, including inaugurating the annual Empty Bowls event, where people can buy a handmade bowl and have it filled with soup from a local restaurant; collaborating with Bread for the World during the Empty Bowls event; and working with the Montrose Peace Vigil.
“We learned how to be peacemakers in our own lives and also how to advocate for different policy that we think is connected to our faith,” Eaves said. “We have been able to enrich the public conversation of our community. It feels like I have been able to contribute to a deeper and richer public conversation about faith and values in our little community.”