Loren Gregory, 59, has been appointed pastor of Victory Assembly of God Church in Ceres.
"We really believe God is going to do something marvelous there," said the new pastor.
Gregory said he felt a calling to move on from the Merced Church of God, where he served as pastor for 10 years, and take over the Hatch Road church. It has been without a pastor since Mark Whitehead resigned in January 2014.
"We just felt like God was calling us back to the Assemblies of God," said Pastor Gregory. "It was hard but sometimes people want a fresh perspective. Ceres had an opening. When we drove by we felt God was calling us there and they called after I submitted my resume. We tried out. We loved them. They loved us. It's a wonderful opportunity and we are very excited."
Gregory and his wife, Lynne, of 35 years, officially started their ministry at Victory Assembly on May 3. Since then their two sons, Jacob, 19, and Jonathan, 17, are playing instruments with the worship leader. Lynne has started up a women's Bible Study and he has started a men's group.
One of his goals is to build up the Ceres church, which sees a regular attendance of about 40 persons per week while having seating for about 200.
"We want to see people touched by God. We don't want to see it built on transfers. We want to make a difference in people's lives."
The Gregorys see the arrangement as a long-term commitment and are selling their house in Merced with plans to buy in Ceres. Lynne will continue to keep her connections to Merced as she is employed full-time with Christian radio station KAMB as its data coordinator.
Loren was born and raised in Merced. He spent time in San Diego and Tennessee. Being a song writer and guitar player, Loren thought he would go into a musical ministry while he and Lynne worked as computer programmers in the Nashville area. However, in 1994 Loren went into the pastoral ministry and been in it for 20 years.
"It kind of happened fast," said Gregory, who chose to seek ordination through the Assemblies of God. He later earned a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies through Friends International Christian University in Merced.
His very first assignment as pastor was with an East Nashville Inner City Ministry, where he experienced cultural shock overseeing a white church in a predominantly black area. Four and a half years later the church was combined with a Madison, Tenn., church where he served for three and half years. Ten years ago the Gregorys moved to the Merced church.
Gregory has tried his hand at writing and is marketing a self-published novel, "Hidden in Plain Sight." Available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, the work of fiction teaches people how to defend their faith.
"Most people wouldn't sit down and read a book on apologetics but they might read a good story."
He's also editing a second book, "The Sword of Joshua," a fantasy based on biblical truth.
"It's like a spirtual battle brought into a mystical realm, kind of like Lord of the Rings."
Victory Assembly of God, 1960 E. Hatch Road, holds adult Sunday School at 9 a.m. with worship at 10:30 a.m. Sundays as well as a Wednesday night Bible study. Childcare is provided.
Church may be reached at 5378-4916.