Meet our Pastor

Gary Pope-Sears

     I am a born and bred Methodist who loves our denomination’s twin emphases of personal devotion to God and meeting the needs of the wider world. I have been privileged to serve 7 churches across 4 decades. I was thrilled to return to the Central Valley in the summer of 2018, having spent many formative years in both Lodi and Stockton.

       I am excited that Holy Cross has a great blend of ages and cultures and perspectives: we are a vital body of believers. Our adaptability has been tested by the COVID-19 crisis and we have found ways to stay connected and supportive of each other while still in service to people beyond our congregation. 

       Beginning this fall, we will be engaging in a 9-month exploration of the most important stories in the Bible, inviting everyone to grow in their understanding of God’s word through weekly worship, small group studies, and devotional practices. It is going to be a great season of deepening understanding amid supportive fellowship.  

       In addition to my pastoral service, I enjoy my life with Sybella, my wife of 38+ years. We both enjoy music, especially singing, and then pursue divergent interests: she loves to garden, and I relish woodworking.  

       It is a high honor to be the pastor here at Holy Cross. Join us! 

            Pastor Gary

Tongan Language Pastor

Tevita Vaikona

     My full name is Tevita Fotofili Vaikona. I grew up on one of the small Islands in Tonga call Uiha. After high school on Tonga’s big island, I had an opportunity to study at the Fiji Bible College of Theology and Evangelism. I then decided to come to the United States for seminary and attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, before transferring to Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley for my Master of Divinity. I later earned my Doctor of Ministry from Drew University in New Jersey.    

     I met my lovely wife, Ofaloto at the church in Monterey. We both knew God’s call upon us to be ministers. We are blessed by our two children Afu Gloria, and Grace Hau’alofa’ia Vaikona. Through our ministry of more than 15yrs, God has been good to us all the time and God is great every day!

     Pastor Tevita came to the Stockton area in 2017 to serve the Linden UMC and begin a Tongan language ministry, which eventually found a home here at Holy Cross. His winning spirit and relational style has helped many Tongans coming to this region find their faith home with us. In his own words: God is good, all the time, God is great, everyday! From our perspective we wonder, and question a lot what is going on in our life and our community. But from God’s perspective, we see that God always keeps His promise, and is always present with us. 

  • Wayne Mock-Music Director

         Wayne has been leading the music program at Holy Cross since 2016. Along with providing worship music from a variety of keyboards, he also directs the sanctuary choir and prepares soloists to share their talents.

         He has been playing for churches since he was 14 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from the University of Montana. In his words, “Music is a primary source of joy and inspiration to me.” 

         He has been with his partner Rudy for 11 years and together they enjoy their time with grandchildren.

  • Temple Gallagher-Office Administrator

         Temple’s administrative responsibilities include giving oversight to the maintenance and development of the facilities and management of the office. Temple has worked at Holy Cross since June of 2002. She took a year and a half break and came back in October of 2020. Temple loves traveling, cooking, sewing, gardening, and spending time with her family and friends. Temple has chaired many committees at the Church and is currently the Treasurer of the ladies group, Joy Circle.

         Temple is married to John since 1996. They have one son who graduated from College in 2020.

  • Shaunda Cartwright-Custodian

         Shaunda Cartwright began working here at Holy Cross in the summer of 2018, beginning as keeper of the grounds and then adding custodial duties for the buildings when an opening occurred. Previously a resident of the San Diego area for some 25 years, Shaunda spending much of that time working in two popular restaurants. Her adult son Ian still lives there.

        Since returning to this area--to be closer to family--she has worked in quality control at a packing house and as a USDA cherry and grape inspector. She really enjoys working among the people here at Holy Cross, feeling like she is among family. She also puts her cleaning talents to good use with the congregation down at St. Mark's UMC. Make a point to talk to Shaunda when you have the chance: she is always full of great ideas!

  • Chanphaeng Pravong-Nursery Attendant

         My name is Chanphaeng Plavong, I am the Sunday Nursery Attendant. I have been a member of Holy Cross United Methodist Church since 1989. I transferred to Holy Cross UMC from a church in Iowa.

          In 1991-1994 I worked in Lincoln Unified School District and Stockton Unified School District as a teacher’s aide and translator. I attended Humphreys College and received a Bachelor in Arts degree in early childhood education. After that I was a preschool teacher at San Joaquin Head Start for twenty years. When Head Start closed and my father passed shortly after, I became a care giver for my mother and have been caring for her for the last five years.

          I am the fifth one out of nine siblings that immigrated from Laos in 1988. I have one daughter who is attending San Jose State University. I enjoy travel, jogging and working with children. I continue loving and caring for them.

          Thank you Holy Cross for having me here to be a part of little ones’ lives.