The “faces” of St. Paul’s City Church in Murrieta, CA, reflect the congregation’s strong commitment to reaching their multi-ethnic city, breaking down cultural barriers that too often separate a community. This value is reflected in the church’s mission statement, which describes St. Paul’s as a “diverse Christian community that seeks the good of the city by exalting the Triune God and joining Him in mission to a beautiful and broken world.”
This diversity begins with two young men who are partnering to lead St. Paul’s. Ordained to the priesthood on January 5, the Reverends Cameron Lemons and Jamal Scarlett represent respectively a White Irish background and African American heritage with Spanish Caribbean roots. The two also combine Pentecostal and Evangelical worship traditions and share a deep desire to serve for the sake of others.
Both Cameron and Jamal are from California. Cameron, who grew up in Temecula Valley, was unchurched but came to faith while in high school. He first experienced a call to ordained ministry while in school at Westmont College where he also met his future wife, Jenelle. Subsequently, he attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts where he was drawn to Anglicanism.
“I loved the spirituality of the Anglican church and the way in which the tradition holds in tension Pentecostal and evangelical threads – both were part of my background,” explains Cameron. “I came to the Lord in a Pentecostal tradition but also worshipped in Presbyterian and Congregationalist settings.”
After graduating and moving back to California, the Lemons affiliated with a large, predominantly African American Baptist Church and were drawn to both cross-cultural ministry as well as church planting. They moved to an under-resourced area and began a discipleship house. Later, he crossed paths with Jamal Scarlett.
Growing up in San Diego until he was 13, Jamal’s family attended church, but had no sense of having a personal faith. He heard the Gospel message in a powerful way at a youth convention, walked away for a time and re-embraced his faith in 2000 at a funeral service of a friend. He married his wife Janice three years later and was discipled at Mountain View Community Church where he attended for five years.
“I was nurtured, grew in the faith and devoured the Word,” says Jamal.
He too felt a call to ministry and entered Fuller Theological Seminary in the Fall of 2005. “I was really captured essentially by church history and the understanding that there was a church before the Reformation. This reality summoned me to see what the larger Church was all about. I saw the fullness of these ancient roots expressed in the beauty of the Liturgy and the centrality of the Word and Sacrament, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I really sensed a need to become part of a community with ancient roots.”
Jamal contacted Cameron and the two discovered their mutual love of the Anglican tradition as well as a commitment to cross multi-cultural and multi–ethnic lines. With the help of Bishop Bill Thompson and MDP Chairman Fr. Jose Poch, the two young leaders were connected with and mentored by Fr. Donald Kroeger, Fr. Brian Capanna, and other clergy from the San Diego Anglicans.
Ultimately, Cameron and Jamal joined forces. St. Paul’s was planted as a multi-ethnic evangelical church with an appreciation for church history. For the past two years it has grown as a grassroots effort, ministering to the community’s tangible and practical needs in the Southwest Riverside County Area.
Following Cameron and Jamal’s ordination, the church was re-launched on January 6 as an Anglican congregation. The ordination service itself represented the vision for St. Paul’s as well as the worship backgrounds of the pastors.
“I consider myself from the catholic evangelical side of things, while Cameron is more evangelical charismatic,” Jamal says. “It has been really good for us over the last year to work on a church plant. It has more of a ‘broad church’ feel with cassocks and stoles but also with a blend of music—hymns, contemporary and old gospel spirituals. We talk seriously about the Word of God, the impact of preaching and discipleship, and the significance of the Sacraments.”
“As we planned the ordination service, we desired to have worship that reflects the infinite diversity of church,” explains Cameron. In addition to traditional chanting of the Psalm, St. Paul’s invited an African American Gospel choir to open worship.
The Venerable Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog, Canon to the Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America, preached at the service.
“The service was more than just a celebration of new ministry—it was also what can best be described as an ‘Anglican revival meeting’ as the service was held at an Assembly of God church (the denomination I served as District Evangelist for the State of Iowa as well as a Pastor prior to my journey back to the historic Christian Church as a deacon and then later as a priest) and punctuated by music from the African American Pentecostal tradition,” Canon Jack describes.
“The sermon was met with moments of applause, loud shouts of ‘amens!’ and ‘hallelujahs!’ as we had so many guests from Cameron and Jamal’s former churches with us to celebrate their ordination. Even some of our Anglican brothers and sisters were moved by the Holy Spirit’s presence among us and remarked that this was unlike any ordination they had been to before – that they recognize that this was the future of the Anglican Church in North America, and they are so excited to see it unfolding before our very eyes!”
St. Paul’s faces some challenges. Those coming to faith do not necessarily have the ability to financially support the congregation, and some of the new members do not understand the concept of weekly, regular worship and showing up in the same place at the same time.
“As we transition to having a more distinct Anglican identity in the community, we are intentionally seeking to build bridges between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’” Cameron notes. “We want to establish a DNA of being socially conscious. The church name is significant – we really do want to be a church for the city.”
In order to make that dream a reality, St. Paul’s is hosting a Theology on Tap series in January and February at a local pub. The evenings will feature “good spirits” and a talk on “God and Work.”
“We are also offering a mid-week healing prayer service so we can expose people to a more charismatic form of Anglican spirituality,” Cameron says. “We are reaching out in numerous practical ways to the under-resourced in our community. In addition, we place a strong emphasis on the arts and are exploring things like utilizing poetry, special arts nights and music in our worship space. Locals are intrigued by what the Lord is doing in our midst.”
Jamal notes: “St. Paul’s will have a different feel. You will see African Americans, Asians, Whites, young and old. We have 35-40s as well as some more seasoned saints. It’s definitely a church that lives into the tradition it has been given, but speaks into the culture in which it stands.”
Real partnership marks Cameron and Jamal’s approach to ministry. They have big hearts for the Lord and for each other.
“We are committed to the picture and call God has given us,” Cameron said. We want to stay the course and are blessed to partner in mission.”
Jamal agrees. “I think time has really helped us,” he says. “We started this journey two years ago as youth ministers in two churches. Initially when you think about planting a church, you think about you and how you want to do it. But we made the transition from this being ‘Jamal’s show’ or ‘Cameron’s show.’ We are continually learning to take ‘self’ out of the equation—it’s God’s thing and He’s doing it, not us.”
PHOTO 1: The Lemons Family (left) with The Scarlett Family (right)
PHOTO 2: (left to right) The Rev. Cameron Lemons, The Ven. Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog, The Rev. Jamal Scarlett