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Meet Brent Ross of Normal Heights United Methodist Church

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brent Ross.

Brent, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
About five years ago, I and a group of committed people moved into a century-old church right in the middle of Normal Heights. There was a small collection of older folks attending there who, frankly, had run out of energy to be able to do much more than to meet on Sundays. And yet, here was this beautiful building right in the middle of a thriving neighborhood and it was the very definition of two words: underused and potential.

And so with me as the pastor, we came in and began to, well… basically give it all away. We opened the building for folks in the neighborhood to use, we gave away our time to begin partnering with local businesses for the betterment of the community, we gave away our energy in launching summer movies in the park, and we gave away our collected funds as we worked to address the issue of housing in the neighborhood-both gentrification and chronic homelessness.

Basically, we took everything we inherited and gave it back to the neighborhood and the people that it belonged to all along. And, as it turns out, that made the church grow like crazy.

Has it been a smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth road at any point or time, but that is also how we knew we are on the right path. It just takes so much work, passion and love to turn around a building and organization to remind it what it was meant to be. All of our work in those early years was really just trying to recover for this place and people what it already was… and yet had forgotten.

That was the hardest work… not lack of money or leaky roofs or termites (we had them all!), but instead the really challenge is to always work to remind yourself and other WHY you are here. When you have that and it becomes ingrained into you… well, then things fall into place.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Normal Heights United Methodist Church story. Tell us more about the business.
As a faith community, we are known for an idea called Sacred Ordinary. It’s a way that we have taken our faith and spirituality and we’ve worked to see it not just in a church or in places/things that people have labeled “sacred,” but more importantly in all of the ordinary and everyday moments and places as well. So when you come into the sanctuary, it feels homey and welcoming, rather than lofty and aloof.

We’ve decorated with Christmas lights and turned all the old oak pews to face the middle, rather than facing forward like a theater. It’s the type of environment that says to someone “you already belong here” and you’re not leaving your ordinary life behind to find God, but you’re moving more into your life, relationships and neighborhood… that is where you find God.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Church in America will look VERY different over the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. It used to be that the church was so supported by the culture that, to be honest, the church didn’t have to do anything to thrive. For a long time there was nothing to do on a Sunday but go to church (no movies, sports, etc..), and if you were in business-well it was also how you built your customer base through your church or synagogue.

Thankfully things have changed though… and now faith communities have to demonstrate their worth to their communities. (And rightfully so.) Studies show that people are more charitable than ever and they are hungry to participate in causes that make a difference, and so it is up to churches and faith communities to prove that they are a viable and valuable way to find meaning and purpose.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 4650 Mansfield Street San Diego, Ca 92116
  • Website:
  • Phone: 619 284-9243
  • Email:

Image Credit:

Stefen Keen

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