In many ways, the Escondido First Church of the Nazarene (ECFN) can be considered very similar to other Evangelical churches in North County. Along with its long history of serving the Escondido area, EFCN is perhaps most defined by its commitment to its Nazarene heritage of prayerfully caring for others and service to Jesus Christ.
But in one very obvious aspect it differs with most other conservative churches in the valley in a very significant way – its lead pastor is female.
Pastor Becky Pape came to ECFN more than five years ago and has helped the 100- plus year old church connect to its roots and the Escondido community in new ways.
“I believe there is a special unity, connection and love that people have here that makes it very special,” Pape said. “When I was called here I was looking for a place that felt right, a place of passion and prayer, a place where we can all make a difference. This church gets it.”
The Nazarene Christian denomination grew from Wesleyan/Methodist holiness tradition in the early 1900s. As a church, it has strong beliefs in the power of the Holy Spirit and what the denomination calls Entire Sanctification. This is a belief summed up on its website as simply a state of perfect love, righteousness and true holiness which every believer may obtain by being delivered from the power of sin, loving God with all their heart, soul and mind and strength and by loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. This, Nazarenes believe, can be accomplished in this life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Loving one’s neighbor is an active belief that most Christian churches share, but to Nazarenes, it can be said it is written in their DNA as the denomination was founded on compassion and evangelization.
“When you grow deep in your relationship with Jesus, it is just an out-pouring of his love to want to serve others and share that love,” Pape said.
But serving and actually helping are two tough things that not every Christian knows exactly how to do well or even how to start.
“All we can do is our best with the resources we have been blessed with. God has a plan for us to serve those who are around us whether in our neighborhoods, workplaces or schools. We Christians are known by the way we pray, love and live,” Pape said. “We are a church that helps people find their niche, or place where God has gifted them to serve.”
For a smaller congregation, average Sunday attendance is around 100, many are surprised at the deep faith of many of its members, several of whom are retired pastors and missionaries.
“We are just a church that loves to grow deeper with him,” Pape said.
EFCN also has an active ministry to its neighboring Felicita Elementary School. Every Wednesday afternoon several church members serve more than 20 public elementary students who come to the church for homework help in a special ministry that serves a special need.
“We want to connect at all ages and make a difference,” Pape said.
As part of that continuing connection effort, EFCN will have several special events this week leading up to Easter. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, the church will be hosting a Seder Supper in both English and Spanish. The church will also be open an hour before and an hour after the event for prayer and quiet reflection. On Easter Sunday, April 21, the Worship Service and Kids Church will be at 9:30 a.m. A special Easter Brunch will also be served in the Fellowship Hall after the service at 11 a.m. Also at 11 a.m. a Kids Hunt will be held for preschool children through fifth grade.
“This is a special time of joy and celebration,” Pape said.
Pape and her husband Rob have been married for 38 years and have three grown children and three grandchildren. They reside in Valley Center.
Serving in ministry for more than 25 years, Pape received her bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University, her MA in Christian Education from Northwest Nazarene University and her MDiv from Northwest Nazarene University.
The Escondido First Church of the Nazarene is located at 1555 S. Redwood St., Escondido. Its phone number is 760-415-1638. More information on the church may also be found at www.efcn.com.