‘Be nice and have fun:’ North San Juan Community Church gives back this holiday season in Nevada County
November 2, 2017
When Yvonne Rideau-Varner was growing up, it wasn't exactly her plan to establish and run a community church. However, Pastor Pinkie — as she is now so lovingly known — has done just that.
She is now the pastor of the North San Juan Community Church, a place of worship that sits atop the ridge and is a place where staff and parishioners alike go to study "the golden rule" in a fun and supportive environment.
Their guidelines are simple: be nice, have fun, and do unto others as you'd have done to you.
Having studied the scripture devoutly, all it took was a divinatory conversation with a pal to convince Pastor Pinkie that perhaps she was on the brink of discovering her true calling.
"[My friend] said, 'Well you know a lot about the bible. Why don't you start a church?' And I didn't have a reason to say no!" said Pastor Pinkie.
It's a good thing. Her desire to help her fellow man has now spawned not only the North San Juan Community Church — a lively congregation who refer to themselves as the Tie-Dye Flock — but also a number of community events and partnerships dedicated to aiding those in need.
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Serving those in need
The church oversees in excess of 20 community outreach programs, many of them serving youth in need.
"We collect money for school supplies and deliver in January because by then the supply closets are empty," said Pastor Pinkie. "Teachers are spending their own money on 20 to 30 composition books, pen sets, crayons, you name it. And that's not fair. [This project] is for the kids but it's really an outreach to the teachers."
Continuing their commitment to community service, they've "adopted" a U.S. soldier to whom they send weekly packages filled with everything from peanut butter packets to flip flops.
The church is also involved with Pound Puppy Rescue, and is responsible for chartering The Ridge Petbulance, a vehicle that transports animals to and from the North San Juan area so that they can be spayed or neutered.
These are but a few of the charitable projects with which the church has been affiliated in an effort to better the community.
On Nov. 11, North San Juan Community Church will be holding their Christmas For Kids fundraiser, with proceeds benefitting Shriners Hospital for Children, the Christmas Basket Project and the church itself.
The event will be held in what Pastor Pinkie admits is an unlikely place: Swabbies On The River in Sacramento.
"I think [Swabbies] is trying to get a gig from me!" she said with a laugh.
An accomplished blues singer, Pinkie has spent many of her days on stage and entertaining, even winning several awards including the 2014 Legendary Blues Vocalist Award from the Yuba Sutter Buttes Music Association.
"I retired in 2012 but [it] keeps pulling me back in!" she said.
The Christmas for Kids event will feature live music from cover bands Journey Revisited and Rockin' Down The Highway, a group who performs the best of the Doobie Brothers.
Santa himself will be there for photos, a raffle will be held, and attendees are encouraged to bring a new unwrapped toy or new (or gently used) kids clothing or shoes.
Thanksgiving will find the church hosting its annual feast to whoever would like to attend, and as per tradition their doors will be open on Christmas Day as well.
"They can come in at 11 in the morning and they don't have to leave until 10 or 11 at night," said Pastor Pinkie. "They can watch movies, have coffee, be warm and have a Merry Christmas."
Of her charitable work, Pastor Pinkie said, "It's very fulfilling — and contagious. It's the most wonderful feeling."
Pastor Pinkie estimates that approximately three-quarters of Nevada County's population doesn't attend church, but says that those people are welcome at the North San Juan Community Church should they decide to attend.
"They're nice people too! They don't come to church but they help me," she said. "Most are very caring, very loving but no interest in church. We don't ostracize anybody. And that's why we call ourselves 'pedestrians;' we want to walk the walk, not just talk the talk."
With only 25 chairs in their church, the number of occupied seats varies with seasons.
"My sermons are a riveting seven to eight minutes," said Pastor Pinkie with a laugh, "followed by 45 minutes of singing. I'm a God cheerleader! It's short and sweet. We love it."
"You know," she said, "I don't teach about hell because a lot of people who come through our church are in their own hell. I just say, in here, all that matters is love, joy, happiness and peace."
Tickets for the Christmas For Kids fundraiser are at Swabbies On The River and will be available at the door for $10.
For more information visit nsjcommchurch.org or call 530-415-9705.
Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.