Rev John Garland
John Garland is the pastor of the San Antonio Mennonite Church and Chaplain of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. John became pastor of SAMC in 2016 during an immigration crisis that has dramatically shaped the church and its ministry. Our church responded to this long-term humanitarian disaster with years of hospitality in our own homes and La Casa de Maria y Marta and the miracles witnessed, the suffering endured, and the revelations of God’s Community have powerfully shaped John’s theology, his reading of scripture, and his approach to leadership.
John pastors from the discipline of “no action without prayer, no prayer without action.” His applied theology interprets Christianity as a trauma-transforming faith movement, he reads Scripture as divinely inspired through and for traumatized communities, and he understands hospitality, story, and prayer-centered community as the most powerful tools of healing.
John is currently doing doctoral work on communal trauma, spiritual resilience, and the Psalms. He is a fellow at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. He is the National Association of Social Workers' Texas 2020 "Public Citizen of the Year."
Most recently he has traveled extensively in Central America, visiting rural churches on the border of Honduras and Guatemala that are living through violence, poverty, and governmental failures.
John's wife is a high school principal a few blocks from their downtown home and he has two daughters in the elementary school down the street. John’s older sister lives in Brooklyn.
Before San Antonio, John was a pastor of the Iglesia Menonita Buenas Nuevas in the border community of San Juan, Tx. While pastoring on the border, John also worked as a public school teacher (middle school science), a vegetable farmer, and a child nutritionist.
John grew up in Louisville, KY, the son of a Bible scholar and a Social Worker. His family moved to Baylor University in Waco, TX where his parents became instrumental leaders. John attended Baylor and worked on the World Hunger Relief Farm, which prepared him for his first service projects in the Rio Grande Valley and exposed him to Anabaptist theology and practice.
Pastor of Family Ministry
Dianne Garcia is the pastor of Family Ministry at the San Antonio Mennonite Church. She grew up on the East Coast and moved to Texas to teach math on the border over 15 years ago.
Although she didn't grow up attending church, in the valley she became involved in a Mennonite church and wanted to stay close to a Mennonite community when she moved north to San Antonio. She became a member of SAMC about five years ago, serving the church through teaching Sunday school, revitalizing the gardens, and helping to plan the annual retreat.
Dianne heard her call to ministry through working closely with immigrant families in a small gardening business that grew out of her volunteer work at the church. In becoming deeply connected to those families, she realized that she wanted to live a life of service and compassion and to be deeply connected to this one community and place. She also found that she could draw on her own experience of healing from trauma and struggle in her life to better understand and support others. She continues to engage in that healing process and is constantly trying to turn the challenges and victories of that journey into a gift to offer others who are struggling.
She feels blessed and honored every day to be a part of the SAMC community and to be given the opportunity to serve families in this way.
Dianne lives with her incredible, brilliant and super-supportive husband, Nick, and their two precious children (and three big dogs) in what sometimes feels like a very small space a few blocks from the church in this city, which is the only place she will now ever call home.
How Do Pastor Dianne and Pastor John Work Together?
Dianne and John meet early each morning to plan, reflect, and write sermons while running along the river. Their day is then centered in a group prayer that gathers members of the church around the Psalms, requests and concerns, and communal prayer.
They work to balance one another’s gifts in ministry while equipping the faith community towards loving, spirit-led leadership. They intend to always lead the church through committed practice, example, and invitation rather than top-down mandate.