‘If she succeeds, the church succeeds’: New pastor to hold 1st in-person service at Nevada City United Methodist Church since pandemic began | TheUnion.com

‘If she succeeds, the church succeeds’: New pastor to hold 1st in-person service at Nevada City United Methodist Church since pandemic began

Nevada City United Methodist Church Rev. Gail Chiew has previously served at Florin United Methodist in Sacramento. She will conduct her first service this Sunday at the 433 Broad St. church in Nevada City.
Photo: Elias Funez

A further sign of the passing pandemic is the reopening of the Nevada City United Methodist Church to the general public after a year of livestreaming services, as members are eager to return to the sanctuary.

Even more thrilling for this Gold Rush era church, a freshly arrived minister will inaugurate a new spiritual journey. Rev. Gail Chiew takes to the pulpit at the 433 Broad St. church on Independence Day.

The new pastor takes the helm at a church featured in the Hallmark move “The Christmas Card,” which has continued to draw visitors to Nevada City over the years.

Chiew is described as personable by church members who have spoken with her through Zoom. She is a graduate of the Berkeley School of Theology and comes to Nevada City from the Florin United Methodist Church in Sacramento, where she ministered for eight years. Prior to that she was pastor at the Good Samaritan Church in Cupertino, and before that served a congregation in Malaysia.

“I’m excited to meet the community as a whole. There’s only 4,000 citizens,” she said. “And I guess everybody knows everybody, and try to be good all the time.”

The two previous churches Chiew served were highly diversified culturally with members from different countries. She’s looking forward to getting acquainted with the local culture, and is already well acclimated to preaching in person as her former church in Sacramento reopened its sanctuary on Mother’s Day.

“I hope to know the congregation and know their needs, not just confined to the church,” said Chiew. “But we are bringing the kingdom of God into the community at large, and that is the intention of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”


Outgoing Pastor David Niu, who served at the Broad Street church a few years, was cherished, said Eleanor Kenitzer, choir director.

“We loved David, and we’re sure we’ll love Gail,” she said. “Our church is very warm and open and we’re up for the new adventure.”

The change caught the congregation off guard, said Kenitzer, and they only had a month’s notice once Niu was promoted to lead the California-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church. Niu will be stationed in Modesto.

Rev. Gail Chiew, the new Nevada City United Methodist Church pastor, is excited to begin her service here.
Photo: Elias Funez

The conference transfers the pastors as ministry needs require.

“David was popular and we’ll miss him very much,” Kenitzer said. “He was from Tonga, so we learned about that culture. Gail is Chinese, and now we’ll learn about this culture and that’s a lot of fun.

“Gail studied in Singapore and then got her degree at the Berkeley School of Theology. But there’s not a lot of diversity in Nevada County. So, we’re proud to have diversity.”

Nevada City United Methodist was founded in 1850. It burned down in 1852 and again in 1863, and was rebuilt again in 1864. That church building still serves its congregants from all over Nevada County.

The church last weekend showed a livestream of a consecration of pastors receiving new assignments. That was a big reason they postponed returning worship service in the sanctuary until this Sunday, said Mary Dewitt, chair of the church council.

“We’re hoping to help Pastor Chiew to settle in to whatever she needs, and expect she will have a lot to teach us,” she said.

Added Bob Zuelsdorf, who leads the church service video team, “We’ll work closely with Pastor Chiew because if she succeeds, the church succeeds, and the community as a whole.”

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at wroller@theunion.com

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