I read with interest the article "A Test of Faith" (Feb. 11), about the Rev. Julius Del Pino, pastor of Shepherd of the Hills United Methodist Church in Mission Viejo.
Because I have known Julius since the years (1984-91) when he was pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Pacific Palisades, I want to add a footnote to your article.
In the years Julius was here, before he left to go to the Yale Divinity School, our church grew and flourished under his gifted leadership.
My friends and I knew Julius as a beloved pastor, a valued mentor, a good friend. The church and the community were better places because of his presence.
I wish Julius and Shepherd of the Hills all the best, and I am confident that he will make the best happen.
ROBERT D. SPECHT
* A friend and congregant here has explained to me that there are many constraints--time, space, design and more--placed upon writers and editors. So when I read a headline such as "Provocative Minister, Conservative Congregation Are Learning Tolerance," I understand that you may not have meant to editorialize or to spark controversy, but the article certainly did . . . at least among some members of our church community.
Some of our people were truly hurt, even angered. To some it seemed that the article represented a very small portion of the life of this church, leaving out the process of growth and development that has and continues to take place within our congregation.
Two concise examples include the following passages, which seem to editorialize, rather than simply tell the story: " . . . the mostly conservative parishioners"; " . . . the reverend intones, his every word a carefully aimed dart at the conscience of those faces so inscrutable."
Included in the article is a passage that refers to one congregant saying something to another congregant after a sermon--this is vague and appears, again, to contain a touch of editorializing.
To your credit, there was also what I consider to be brave reporting and editing. The mention of my school years and the inclusion of how I (and others) am sometimes negatively viewed by fellow African Americans was courageous. The information that was provided in the article stimulates our consciousness and heightens our awareness in terms of our attitudes and our actions.
Clearly, the time has come for expanding and deepening how news is covered, especially when the subjects, spirituality and adversity, are as important as these are. Therefore, as Shepherd of the Hills continues to grow through all of these types of challenges, I offer my ardent hope that you and your staff will also continue to increase your understanding of and knowledge of the many components that comprise any one story.
JULIUS E. DEL PINO
Shepherd of the Hills
United Methodist Church