New Highland Park church invites whole neighborhood to one table

Goldline Church services | Mustafa Zeno

From Left: Pastor Jon Ziegler, Father Juan Marentes, Pastor Janna Ziegler | Mustafa Zeno


HIGHLAND PARK — It’s Sunday morning and the Zieglers are going to church. Jon and Janna Ziegler throw on their Sunday best; a traditional priest collar over pairs of skinny jeans. They pack their two young daughters into the backseat and fill the trunk with candles, sacred artwork and wine for Holy Communion. Phones buzz with texts from co-pastors Juan and Maria Marentes. When they pull into the parking lot at Ramona Hall, the community center’s transformation into a make-shift sanctuary is already underway. Energy is high as the Gold Line Church family makes final preparations for their first public service.

Pastors Jon and Janna Zeigler and Juan and Maria Marentes hope to build a church tailored for Highland Park.

“We want to learn from the community,” says Jon, who has come to love the neighborhood he and his family now call home. “We’re trying to serve our neighbors on their terms.”

After graduating last year from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, the Zieglers began meeting with a small group of people, laying the groundwork for what would become Gold Line Church, which promotes itself as a new church for Highland Park “and the neighborhoods along the Metro Gold Line.”  They quickly learned how important it would be for their church leadership to reflect the cultural background of the neighborhood. “And that meant praying for Latino pastors to join our team,” says Janna.

Only a few months before the Gold Line team planned to begin public services, the Zieglers met Juan and Maria Marentes through the local Anglican diocese. After spending a few days getting to know one another and experiencing the neighborhood, the two couples committed to a partnership.

“We come from different cultures, White and Latino, and different generations,” says Father Juan. “We don’t necessarily see eye to eye on everything, but we learn from each other.” Says Janna,  “We’re just really glad we like them so much. It doesn’t feel like a forced marriage.”

The Gold Line Church leaders didn’t stumble into Highland Park by accident. They recognize the cultural and demographic fault lines that run underneath the neighborhood. The tensions in Highland Park have been well documented but there seem to be few attempts to bring everyone to the same table.

“I’ve heard people here say ‘white and Latino don’t mix.’ I see people here carrying resentment and pain with no way to talk to one another,” says Maria.

In a sense, the couples see themselves as redeeming the opportunistic attitudes that Highland Park’s homes and boulevards have been subjected to. They see the opportunity to help the community look more like a family and less like a forced marriage.

“We’re committed to being a place where a hipster who just moved into the neighborhood can become friends with an older Latino woman who grew up here,” says Jon. “We believe that there is enough room at the table for everyone.”

Perhaps in that spirit, the service concludes with Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Table as it is called within the Anglican tradition. The Pastors wait to receive their eclectic new family—about 50 people have showed up this morning, including a few families from the community. One by one, each person cups their hands to receive the body and blood—or el cuerpo y el sangre, depending on which Pastor performs the rite.

“Tamales on the patio,” shouts Janna, and the family moves from one feast to the next.

Brendan Dry loves telling the stories of the people and places that compose life in East LA. He is currently a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and lives in Highland Park

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  1. While I agree with the church’s mission, I don’t agree with using City of LA owned property for religious purposes. Is this even legal?

    • I’m going to assume yours is a serious question. Yes, as long as they pay rent just like any other group, it’s perfectly legal.

  2. It is always sad when people flock to fantasy instead of seeing reality. Do not take myth seriously!

  3. And of course you need religion for a hipster who just moved in to become friends with an older latina woman who grew up here.

  4. I have to admit that reading about the expansion of religious organization in Los Angeles doesn’t thrill me. We need business that contribute to the tax base and less religion across the world if peace on earth is ever going to be achieved.

  5. Blessings to the Juan, Maria, Jon, and Janna. You are a blessing to the community. I pray that Lord will raise up more leaders like them to bring people together in the name of Christ no matter what our background.

  6. I don’t think Highland park needs more churches. We need more Buddhist Temple’s. There are enough churches in Highland park already.

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