Pastor Mentze retires from Lakeside Presbyterian after 34 years

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Longtime Pastor Bob Mentze of the Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church is stepping away from the pulpit after 34 years of service.

A native of San Diego, Mentze graduated from Crawford High School and then San Diego State University. He went to seminary at San Francisco Theological. His first call was in Escondido, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, serving as an associate pastor for more than six years. 

Longtime Pastor Bob Mentze of the Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church is stepping away from the pulpit after 34 years of service.

A native of San Diego, Mentze graduated from Crawford High School and then San Diego State University. He went to seminary at San Francisco Theological. His first call was in Escondido, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, serving as an associate pastor for more than six years. 

On March 1, 1984, Mentze arrived as a full-time pastor in Lakeside.

Mentze had not spent much time in Lakeside, though he had driven through the town many times. Growing up, he attended the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego and its retreat center was outside of Ramona, so Highway 67 was a regular route for him. 

Also, he had visited the Lakeside church several times for Presbytery meetings – the regional governing body – but that was his only real exposure to the community.

One of the things Mentze remembers about his arrival in town is the cork elm trees that once lined Woodside Avenue. 

“I was so impressed with the green tunnel,” he said. “I thought it was beautiful.”

Lakeside’s Presbyterian Church is the oldest congregation in town, established in 1893 and originally meeting on the porch of the Lakeside Inn. In 1895-96, parishioners built their first church, which still stands at Maine and Parkside as the home of the Lakeside Historical Society. For many years it was the only church in town and the center of the community. A new church was built in 1962, located at 9908 Channel Road, where it is still in use.

When Mentze arrived, he recalls the church needed some rebuilding. 

“At my first worship service here, attendance was pretty small,” Mentze said, “but it had gone through a difficult time.” 

Longtime pastor Ted Roberts had retired two years prior and the church was still searching for its next pastor. 

“Things were a little rocky at first, but we rapidly made a lot of progress,” said Mentze.

Among other things, the building itself has changed over Mentze’s tenure. 

“The sanctuary looks very different than when I came here,” he said. “We added a whole series of stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ. We added a pipe organ, and then the three-manual electronic organ, which I think is an incredible instrument.”

A musician himself, Mentze said he is very happy with the progression of the church’s music program over the years. 

“We’re one of the few churches in the area that still has a choir,” he said. “We do a wide variety of music – contemporary with guitars, electronic keyboards, and classical with full organ and choir and everything in between. The choir will do gospel type things and very contemporary type things. Several years ago, we did a combined concert with the choir and orchestra of Grossmont College – the entire work of Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria.’” 

There have been other enhancements, said Mentze.

“We have improved our educational programs – particularly adult education – really added a lot of good things in that area,” he said. “The Preschool has been in existence since 1953. We have really good quality teachers. Most of our teachers stay here for a long, long time. We have teachers who have taught a child, and then a child’s child.”

Mentze has a few generational stories of his own to tell, as well. He will soon marry a couple in which the young man, now in his 20’s and a police officer, was born and raised in the church. 

“I baptized him when he was a baby, so I held him in my arms years ago,” said Mentze. “He is now about 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds.

“I’m doing a baptism next month. I had baptized the mother of this child and took her through youth membership class, which is like confirmation. Being able to be involved, to be intertwined in people’s lives, to see the high points – the baptisms, the weddings – and the difficult times – the hospitalizations and the memorial services, that’s what this job is all about.” 

Mentze said his work has included bringing other churches together.

 “One of the other things I look back on and feel good about is when I came to Lakeside, there was no ministerial association, no cooperative association among churches. The pastor at Morning Star Lutheran called me and invited me out to lunch. I asked him if there was a ministerial association and he said no, there never has been. And I said, ‘then we’re going to start one.’ And we did.”

Many hands make light work, and Lakeside’s churches are no exception.

“Working together, we have done Vacation Bible Schools, Thanksgiving Eve and Easter sunrise services together,” said Mentze. “And the biggest thing we’ve done together is right across the street (9931 Channel Road): the Lakeside Christian Help Center.” 

Mentze said he felt they needed to find a better way to help people who were down and out in Lakeside. Rather than sending them from church to church for a can of soup here or a sandwich there, he pushed for a centralized community service that continues to this day. And the community has gotten involved: schools do food drives and various businesses make contributions. “We now serve about a thousand people a month,” he said.

“I don’t look at a person’s denomination as being important,” said Mentze. “I always tell people: Will there be Roman Catholics in Heaven? Will there be Presbyterians in Heaven? Will there be Baptists in Heaven? The answer is no – there will be Believers in Heaven; the labels will fall away. We won’t care.”

Mentze will be saying goodbye at a retirement dinner on July 20, 2018 at the Lakeside Community Center (the expected crowd will not fit in the church’s fellowship hall). Anyone interested in attending can call the church office at (619) 443-1021 for details and to RSVP. The ticket deadline is July 8.

His last day as pastor will be Sunday, July 29 – a day surely to be filled with much joy and tears as the congregation says goodbye to their pastor and he to them. 

So what does retirement hold for Mentze?

“I’m not really sure,” he said, after a short pause. He said he will take a few weeks to relax, which coincides with his usual summer vacation. He may do some teaching at Bethel Seminary and there are always opportunities for guest preaching or an interim assignment. He has already been contacted by a number of people about getting involved with various musical groups.

“Or, maybe the Lord will lead me into some form of ministry that I don’t imagine now,” he said. “When my dad retired from teaching, at the age of 65 (because the San Diego City Schools required it in those days), he went out and got his real estate license and did real estate until he was 85.”

When asked about a few parting words or thoughts, Mentze did not hesitate.

“What I would ask for both church and community is to really care for one another,” he said. “To be kind to one another. Dare I even say to love one another? We are living in a day and age that we see a lot that doesn’t represent that. There’s been a lot of talk – just in the last couple of weeks – about the lack of civility in conversation, be it politics or any other area.” 

Pastor Mentze Mentze will certainly be missed.

More in Lakeside

The Lakeside Historical Society is working on a new museum in Lindo Lake Park. Located next to the Butterfly Garden beyond the pavilions, it will highlight the region’s agricultural history. The opening has yet to be announced.

Lake Jennings Park will be open every day in July for your fishing, camping and hiking pleasure. Call them at (619) 390-1623 for their hours.

For your calendar: The 20th Annual Bulls Only Rodeo is scheduled for July 13 and 14 at the Lakeside Rodeo Arena. Sponsored by the Lakeside Optimist Club since 1999, the event benefits the youth of our community. Tickets are available online and onsite. Check their website at www.lakesideoptimist.com or call them at (619) 443-2447.

The Lakeside Chamber of Commerce is hosting their annual Awards Night on July 26 at Barona’s Golf Events Center. The evening honors the Citizen of the Year and other Lakeside businesses and volunteers who make our town a better place to live. The event kicks off at 6:00 p.m. RSVP is necessary – call the Chamber at (619) 561-1031 for details.

 

The Maine Avenue Revitalization Association, also known as MARA, is hosting its annual Yard Sale fundraiser in the first weekend of August, the 3rd-5th. MARA is a non-profit organization that works with businesses and citizens to preserve and beautify our historic downtown Lakeside district. Some upcoming projects include the Lakeside Hotel (the oldest building in downtown) and the old gas station at the north end of Maine Avenue. The Yard Sale will run from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on all three days. You can find it off of Los Coaches Road, at the corner of Lakeview Road and Idyl Drive. Call (619) 443-1133 for more information.

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