Reverend Sandy Liddell has been a bundle of tireless energy at Malibu United Methodist Church (MUMC) for the past eight years. In addition to the usual duties of giving Sunday sermons and being a spiritual leader to the congregation, she co-founded the homeless aid nonprofit Malibu CART (Community Assistance Resource Team) with Carol Moss, helped organize free speaker series on humanitarian issues and kept more than a dozen other innovative church programs going.
A virtual retirement celebration was held in Liddell’s honor on Saturday, June 27, and her official first day of retirement was June 30. The new minister, Erin Stenberg, had been ordained as an elder just two weeks ago.
A general rule for Methodist ministers is that they retire after their 72nd birthday, and Liddell recently hit that benchmark. She’s still allowed to work at a church, but not as an official appointee.
What’s next? Liddell said she was very excited to be working with a cooperative parish in Ventura under the umbrella of Ventura First United Methodist.
“I’m helping the lay people set up a ministry right across the street from Ventura College, where we’ll offer a Wednesday lunch for students and other feeding programs,” she said.
MUMC is well known around town for offering a helping hand to the homeless. Workers at the church began serving dinner to as many as 100 homeless people up to twice a week beginning in 2014. That is, until the dinners were canceled in 2017 because of pressure on the city from nearby residents. The news was reported across the country and even the world—and not favorably. Of course, Liddell was in the midst of all that controversy, when MUMC made national news.
Liddell has also invited speakers to the church, free to the community, including some on uncomfortable topics. For example, she recently invited a Holocaust survivor to speak, because, “We need to be paying attention to the forces in our culture these days,” she said.
In 2017, Liddell invited a survivor of the WWII Japanese internment camps to speak.
In addition, she joined with her parishioners to hold a service and candlelight vigil for National Walkout Day a few years ago, to demand action on school gun violence. She was also on board when the MUMC started the Freedom Road Project and its Evening of Awareness Series with local Diane Namm to end human trafficking.
Liddell first became interested in being a minister after growing up in Chatsworth and attending Chatsworth Methodist Church.
“It was a fairly small church where my mother helped serve breakfast on Easter Sundays, and I went with her,” Liddell recalled. “I had many wonderful, nurturing experiences at my home church.”
After a particularly inspiring sermon one Sunday, she told her minister she had the calling and he encouraged her to attend seminary school.
Liddell took classes for many years on a part-time basis while also raising three children. She was accepted at San Francisco Theological Seminary but also studied at other seminaries. Following graduation, she spent her first eight years as a deacon and the last 30 years of her career as an elder.
Methodist clergy are assigned to various churches by a bishop and Liddell’s appointments in the local area were changed frequently. She served in Camarillo, Toluca Lake, Moorpark, Northridge, North Oxnard, Santa Paula and Cashmere, Wa., before spending the final eight years of her tenure in Malibu.
The MUMC congregation—led by Suzanne Guldimann, Patt Healy and others—is planning a butterfly garden on church grounds in Liddell’s honor.