Co-Pastors

Danny Cortez

Danny is the founding pastor of New Heart Community Church. He is a graduate of Cal State University, Long Beach (B.A.) and Talbot Theological Seminary (M.Div). Danny is married to Abby, has four children and lives in La Mirada. His favorite show is Miss Saigon and his favorite team is the L.A. Lakers. He is a Board member of The Gay Christian Network (GCN) and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) Speaking Team.

 

Laura Elizabeth Walton

Laura Walton has been attending New Heart since 2006 and pastor at New Heart since 2015. She earned a B.A in Philosophy at Biola University and an M.A in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care at Talbot Theological Seminary. As a pastor and spiritual director, it is an honor to journey along side individuals to help bring awareness of God’s deep love for all people in every season of life –the profound joins, sorrows, and even in the mundane.

Laura lives in Whittier, CA with her husband, Brian, and son, Paxton and eagerly awaits the arrival of baby #2. She enjoys swimming, nature, movies and tv.

 

Elders

Dalila De Fiesta

My name is Dalila De Fiesta and I am a founding member of New Heart. I have been married to the love of my life, Arnold for 26 years and we have 4 amazing children and 1 fantastic son in law. As I reflect back on the days we use to dream about what New Heart would be, my dreams never included the following statement. I am an elder at New Heart. You see the idea that a woman could hold such a position of leadership was so far fetched it wasn't even a thought in my mind. Yet here I stand.

I love my church. My passion for music and serving people has been realized right here in this community. But what I value most about our community is that we are a people who are willing to have those hard conversations. We can agree to disagree and still come together and worship. No one is keeping score. Yet we challenge each other to go deeper and to consider every voice. Each person matters. Young, old, married, single, gay, straight and every ethnicity beautifully created by our maker is welcomed at the table.

My desire was to help build a community rooted and established in love where all are welcome so that we, together, can "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Ephesians 3:14, 18-20 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father... And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Susan Cameron

In February of 2014, Cara sent me a link to a blog post about Pastor Danny. As I watched Danny's video and Drew's, I realized something I had been praying for for 10 years was finally happening right in my neighborhood. I contacted Danny and the church we then attended. Danny responded to my email, and Pasadena Mennonite Church sent Rich and me to come alongside Danny and Abby as they navigated the church's next steps. We came to love and feel the call to New Heart, and a year and a half later, the church asked me to serve as an elder.

I've been in ministry of one kind or another since childhood, but didn't study formally until the early 2000's when I earned my MDiv at Fuller Theological seminary. My passion for justice and my gifting in the area of caring for people in crisis have led me to join other New Heart members in the Just Love Coalition and Matthew 25/Mateo 25, including training for rapid response to police and ICE actions. I am beginning the process of discernment whether to pursue ordination, and covet your prayers, support and counsel in this.

Last year I fell in love with Uptown Whittier and with how First Christian Church is using its building to benefit the community, so you will often find me in the church building. Rich and I downsized and moved to Uptown last year, and host #ThirdWayThursday in our back yard twice a month.

Rich and I have been married over 40 years and have two grown children who also live in Whittier. I love gardening and textile arts

 

Cara Nilsen

I am an Elder at New Heart. I attended NH for about 5 years in the early 2000’s, then left after starting a relationship with my now-wife, Leah, since NH was not gay-affirming at that time. We returned after NH became Third-Way, and have remained ever since.

I have been part of a church since birth, and grew up in Christian education. But I never seriously considered Christian ministry while growing up since I was always part of churches that believed women’s leadership should be very limited, prohibiting eldership and pastoral ministry. While my own beliefs on that changed over time, it took time to find myself part of a church that also affirmed women in ministry. When this happened, I was first elected to the Vestry board at a previous Episcopal church I attended (during the period that Leah & I left NH), then voted into Eldership at NH after returning there.

I have a passion for justice toward women and LGBT people, especially within the Christian church. Related to these, I feel passionately about helping people correct harmful beliefs based on misreadings of the Bible.

I love spending time with my wife, Leah. We’ve been together since 2008 but known each other since 2000 having initially met studying art at CSUF. I love looking at and creating art — I am an illustrator, holding my MFA in illustration. I also love reading & literature, travel, and British film & TV.