Our Team

Here are the people who help to guide and lead us in our ministry and mission.

 
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SENIOR MINISTER:

REV. MANDY SLOAN MCDOW

E-Mail: mandy@LAFirstUMC.org

Rev. Mandy Sloan McDow is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee. After hearing her call to ministry while working on staff at Camp Wesley Woods, Mandy attended Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, which, ironically, had no religion department. Regardless, Mandy was admitted to Princeton Theological Seminary, from which she received her Masters of Divinity and the sudden realization that she was an adult now.

After graduating from seminary, Mandy began a Masters in Sacred Music in Voice at Westminster Choir College, but was especially grateful to be appointed to serve West Farms UMC in Farmingdale, NJ, who taught her how to be a pastor. A year later, the church was yoked with Bethesda UMC in Adelphia, NJ, and the experience of preaching on a two-point charge while mothering an infant gave her the false assurance that she was invincible.

In June 2005, Mandy joined the staff at Grace United Methodist Church as the Children’s Minister in Atlanta. In 2007, she was appointed to serve as the Minister of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation at Saint Mark United Methodist Church. It was here that her heart was warmed to ministry for and with the LGBTQ community, and she became an advocate for marriage equality.

In June 2014, Mandy was appointed to serve as the Senior Minister at Laguna Beach United Methodist Church in Laguna Beach, CA. She spent three years suffering for the Lord with an ocean view from the sanctuary and a marvelous and inclusive congregation with whom to serve before feeling a strong call to do something strange: plant a new church in the heart of an urban area.

In July of 2017, Mandy confirmed to most onlookers that she had, in fact, “lost her damn mind” (author unknown) when she eagerly accepted an appointment to serve Los Angeles First United Methodist Church in the heart of Downtown LA. She exchanged a beautiful church, with beautiful people, and a beautiful ocean view for a church with a long history, but no building. What remains is a hopeful remnant congregation and a surface parking lot in the middle of the nation’s second largest city. It’s Mandy’s job to figure out what to do with all of this (details forthcoming in her first book most likely to be titled, Losing my Damn Mind: I Left Paradise and Took on a Parking Lot).

Mandy holds a black belt in Taekwondo, makes music whenever possible, enjoys cooking (but loathes making dinner), knits to sit still, and is the deeply proud mother of Jackson, Cooper and Sloan, and an impossibly small dog named Posey. Together, they watch a lot of baseball.

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CREATIVE DIRECTOR:

Stephen Folds

E-Mail: stephen@LAFirstUMC.org

Originally from Titusville, Florida (home to NASA); Stephen is a proud father of an incredible 12 year old girl. Throughout the last 10 years of ministry, he's had the opportunity to cultivate new worship ventures from Los Angeles to Texas, Costa Rica, and back to downtown LA. His intention is to invite people into an authentic encounter with the Holy Spirit through ALL types of music, providing an honest & open space for every person to experience the encompassing love of God.

“I have a deep gratitude in working with Mandy, this entire creative group, the congregation, and our band El Dorado. Please come and say hello soon.!”



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CHILDREN'S MINISTRY COORDINATor:

Naty Rico

E-Mail: naty@LAFirstUMC.org

Naty is a recent graduate from the University of California, Irvine who graduated with a double major in Sociology and Education Studies. She was born and raised here in Los Angeles, CA and has a passion for Education and Disability Studies. She has been a member of Kid City since Summer 2011, and currently serves on the Urban Foundation's Board of Directors as a Student Advocate. She enjoys working with youth and giving back to the community that has helped her grow. During her free times, Naty enjoys exploring new places and trying new foods.

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OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR:

Savannah Smith

E-Mail: office@LAFirstUMC.org

Savannah Smith was raise attending St. Mark UMC in Atlanta, Georgia. As a young child, watching her church open its doors to the gay community and fight for the rights and dignity of the Atlanta homeless community taught her the kind of person that she wanted to be. Within that church family, she learned the value and importance of social justice, unconditional love, and celebration of the Holy Spirit through the arts.

Through the United Methodist Church, Savannah also got the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant at a summer arts camp at Asbury UMC in Savannah, Georgia, participate in the youth ministries at Midway UMC in Cumming, GA, and spend two summers volunteering with the Appalachian Service Project.

Savannah graduated as the salutatorian of her high school class and later attended the University of Southern California.

Her professional experience includes working in the Admissions Office of the USC School of Dramatic Arts as an Admissions and Academic Services Assistant. Later, she worked as the literary, research, and administrative assistant for the future dean of the School of Dramatic Arts, helping to get a play published. She has 10 years experience working as a tutor for all grade levels wherein she frequently helped develop her students’ organizational, planning, and communication skills, known collectively as Executive Functioning. Additionally, she is a teaching assistant at the Village Studio in Burbank. Savannah also works as an actor, writer, director, and producer and brings the creative, administrative, and interpersonal skills she has garnered from that interdisciplinary work with her into her administrative, multi-hat position at LA First UMC.

Savannah’s main goal is to be of service to the revolutionary vision set out by Mandy and the members of Los Angeles First UMC, so that the church may flourish, the congregants may be spiritually fulfilled and comforted, and so that the church may make a lasting and meaningful impact on the surrounding community and Los Angeles as a whole.