Celebrating Our Newly Ordained: Rev. Beth Ann Pinney
Los Ranchos welcomes Rev. Beth Ann Pinney! 2021 has been a special year for Los Ranchos, approving three distinguished women for ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. In our summer editions, the E-News celebrates each of them and their new calls through these spotlights. We welcome and give thanks to God for them!
Rev. Beth Ann Pinney is a firm believer that all the roads she has travelled have brought her here, to this one place.
For Beth, the road began in Toledo, Ohio where she was born into a strongly bonded Polish Catholic family in 1962. She was uprooted from her comfortable mid western childhood at age 10 when her father’s work transplanted the family into the Californian desert several thousand miles away. There she connected with a Catholic Church run by the Jesuits, who held services in the local school cafeteria. In Beth’s words, “the Jesuits in the ’70’s were the charismatic leaders of the new wine community.” She and her brothers became totally engaged in this novel approach to worship, playing guitar at mass and joining the youth group. Beth and her Catholic and Presbyterian friends went on mission trips and retreats together. This was encouraged by the Jesuits and took Beth on a much more ecumenical path of faith than her parents had travelled with their traditional Catholic upbringing. For this she is eternally grateful.
When Beth was 12, her father collapsed at work and was later diagnosed with a brain tumor. The family received the difficult news that he had only six months to live. Over the next 12+ years, he endured seizures, strokes, and extended stays in the hospital. Her mother struggled with alcoholism, and this experience really began to shape Beth’s worldview and her spirituality. As a high school senior, she applied to only one school and remembers praying, “Lord, if you get me into Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I will serve you for the rest of my life.” She got in, and began to envision serving the Lord as a landscape architect. In retrospect, she realizes this was not God’s call for her at all.
In her second year on campus, her roommate held Bible studies in the apartment, studying, laughing and singing with friends, and invited her to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Beth resisted any involvement. One night, after taking a very serious risk by walking home late from Cal Poly, she suddenly felt lost. Safely home, it was in bed that night when Beth re-committed her life to Christ in a very open “Here I am Lord” way. She started attending InterVarsity and played guitar with the worship leader over the next several months. She learned the hymns and when the worship leader decided to leave school, Beth stepped into that position, clearly a new path for this young woman who had only led worship for Mass. Beth learned to lead Bible studies and found reading Scripture life-giving; she loved it.
“As I reflect,” Beth shares, “I can see the thread of what God was doing in my young life; it was all about anticipating death. I was waiting for my dad to die. From the time after my dad passed, when I began to process all that had happened in my childhood, I began to see that God was calling me to live; I was to become a life-giver. The new road I was on at college was feeding into this, my very own self being resurrected.”
In 1985 Beth graduated, moved to Laguna Beach, began working as a promising young landscape architect, and joined Laguna Presbyterian Church. She played guitar for youth ministry and women’s retreats. Through friends, she became familiar with Wycliffe Bible Translators and the ministry of community development. It was here that she saw her spiritual gifts, talents and her passions for serving God and God’s creation begin to come together.
Beth’s new focus became missionary work and she pursued a Masters in Landscape Architecture, with a concentration on natural resource management in Sub-Saharan West Africa. Yet a monumental shift in her life occurred, and the challenges of debilitating family illness and death, personal illness and still, the reckoning of her father’s death and mother’s struggles left her emotionally exhausted. Missionary work would have to wait.
In 1996, the Worship Committee at Laguna Presbyterian invited her to become the director of congregational singing, and charged her with bringing traditional hymns into a new relationship with the contemporary music that was trending at the time. This brought Beth back full circle to music and worship … where her heart has always been. Two years later she became a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, working towards a Masters of Divinity. It was there that music, worship and Scripture came together as her happy place.
On July 1, Beth will begin her new position as Associate Pastor of Worship, Discipleship and Congregational Care at Laguna Presbyterian, the church she joined in 1986.
“It has been an interesting journey from director of congregational singing to director of worship,” Beth relates. “I was always listening to God and his direction for me through this community of faith. God has used me as a bridge builder, and a person who helped the church through transitions (as I have had a few in my life). I have always relied on God’s providence and goodness through the midst of painful, unsettling times.”
What has prepared her best for this role? “My whole life story, my family, every experience I’ve had, every road I’ve walked down, every valley I’ve gone into, every mountaintop I’ve been a part of. It’s not even like I’m pulling it behind me like a U-haul; it’s the tent I move around in, the world I interact in. I’m bringing all of that with me into this moment.”
Beth continues, “My prayer is that in this time, God is doing a new thing and he is asking me and us at Laguna to have eyes to see it. It may not look like what we think it should be or like it was before. As we come out of COVID, it will be a step-by-step process, requiring an openness to new things and reconstituting the community to see what it looks like as we re-gather. This is a real time of spiritual growth for Laguna Presbyterian and that is exciting to me.”
Her love of teaching and Bible study are the gifts she will lean on most. “I love preaching and designing worship services. I hope my training in community development will aid us in seeking to understand the needs of our community. Spiritual formation is important to me, and I have real heart for our millennials, the next generation. I strongly believe that they need to be involved in real ministry for a real church.”
When her batteries need to recharging, Beth enjoys golfing, mountain biking, photography, and walking the community with her dog, Sunday. Everyone knows Sunday.