How do you compare your current pastorate with the inner-city church?
In some ways it's harder. You don't have some of the social institutions. In St. Paul, there was a settlement house. Broward Outreach is a good program, but it's not the same.
South Florida has never quite figured out what it is. It has no neighborhoods. Many people are never sure where they belong, South Florida or New York. It presents intriguing religious and political questions.
Their identity to a mainline church disappears. And rabbis tell me that Jews get lost somewhere along I-95. And politically, there's low turnout even for national elections. I once coached softball at South Broward High School. It was wonderful coaching the kids, but a fair number of parents didn't show up for the games.
What challenges does all that pose?
To reach out, connect with the community, any way you can. This church was founded in 1926. There's a continuing concern that it will be around another 80 years.
That sounds despairing. What keeps you going?
We have really fabulous people to volunteer. We also have a school, from babies to preschool. It's great to see them. I just told them about Noah. It's important to tell them those stories.
What do you do to relax?
I sit around the pool and have a glass of Shiraz. That's a nice Australian red wine.
Favorite vacation spot?
The islands. We've been to Jamaica and the Bahamas. My other favorite place is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, between Minnesota and Ontario. It's really wild, wonderful country. You can only paddle, no motorboats. And it has good fishing.
Mamma Mia is the first musical I saw that was actually interesting. I would love to go to the Greek islands. The Dark Knight was wild. I could preach on that one for weeks.
Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?
I love Wynton Marsalis. I love fusion jazz. Way back I was a Thelonius Monk fan.
Do you have a hero?
My father. He was a cop. And he was so straight, he didn't get many promotions. He arrested too many public figures for speeding. We had a rough relationship, but I admired him. He also liked cats, which is probably why I have a lot of them.
What person in history would you like most to meet?
Martin Luther. He was the father of the German language and the beginning of the Reformation. He was also the founder of a church that tries to read and study. That's why we Lutherans haven't been popular. We've tried to get people to think and not necessarily be obedient to bishops and popes.
Do you have a treasured possession?
Both of our grandmothers' chests, which came from Norway and Sweden. Also a lithograph of a great-great-grandfather, as a Prussian soldier on his horse.
Have you ever doubted your faith?
I have doubts about a wide variety of things, like politicians and governments. But for my faith, you choose to believe or not to believe. There is no proof.
That doesn't sound like something you could hang your life on.
Well, we believe God loves his people and has a long history of trying to tell them that. That's data and has substance. So do the people you see who are living their faith in the worst of times.
James D. Davis
Other job experience: Former pastor Lutheran churches in Minnesota, including an inner-city church in St. Paul.; former communications director for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Minnesota Synod.
Other community posts: Past president, Hollywood Rotary; member, advisory committee of University of Miami School of Medicine; member, city and county parks and recreation boards.
Education: Degree in history and speech, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn.; doctorate of ministry, Luther Seminary, St. Paul.
Personal: Age 61. Born in Rush City, Minn.
Family: Married to Jana, a society columnist for Miami Herald. Children: Tane, 23; Tawna, 20.
Do you know someone we should profile? Tell Religion Editor James D. Davis at 954-356-4730 or jdavis @SunSentinel.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now