There’s magic in his ministry

Parkside pastor a master of illusion
By: Paul Cambra, Journal Staff Writer
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There’s nothing deceptive about Donny Crandell’s mission, it’s the means by which he motivates that can be a bit, well, tricky. Crandell, senior pastor at Parkside Church of the Nazarene in Auburn, is also a magician. In addition to performing for churches, libraries and corporate events, he uses his special talent to help kids excel on the STAR tests. Crandell, 45, was born in Oakdale, Calif., and graduated from Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City in 1994. He taught fifth and sixth grade and coached basketball in private schools, but while he liked teaching, his dream was to be a preaching pastor. One year ago, he was given that opportunity here in Auburn and he has literally run with it, as in up and down the basketball court as part of the Upward Sports league. He recently took a breather to talk with the Auburn Journal. You are self-professed huge sports fan. Golf, tennis, mountain biking, basketball, softball. Which one are you best at? Softball, I’m a pretty stellar third baseman. I have been on teams that have won rec league championships. But I want Parkside Church to be known as the Upward Sports church for the community. You are also a chaplain in the Air National Guard. Where do you report? I spend one weekend a month with the 144th fighter wing in Fresno. My status is now worldwide deployable. I’ve done casualty notification, which is the hardest part of the job, pastoral counseling and suicidal counseling. We’re doing a big biological chemical exercise at the base, simulating being in Korea, wearing all of the heavy gear and gas masks. What inspired you to take up magic? I was just always a curious kid, fascinated by magicians. The idea of learning a trick and then showing it, I just like that. I started at 6 or 7 years old in the living room on a TV-dinner tray stand. My mom and dad were my guinea pigs. If the trick worked for them, I would show it to my friends. How does magic fit into your ministry? It’s a great way to make the Bible come alive, as a visual teaching tool. I’ll blow some bubbles so everyone can see them. Then I grab a hold of one and it becomes solid, something the kids can touch. I’ll tell them a lot of stuff in life breaks and pops, but one thing you can be sure will not is God’s word. It will stand the test of time, it’s solid, you can depend on it. Or the trick with three ropes of varying sizes. Which prayer is most important? The ropes change from small, medium and large to all the same size. No prayer, regardless of its length, is more important than the others. Doves have biblical symbolism. Do you use them in your act? I have four doves. I do the trick where you pop the balloon and a dove is there in its place. I draw a heart on the balloon and the dove is the fruit of the spirit. What was your most memorable moment in magic? The floating table has been my reputation maker. The table has a cloth over it, which I’ll lift up to show there is nothing secretive underneath. Then the table floats around the room by itself. Then a volunteer comes up and we each grab two corners of the tablecloth and it continues to float. I entertained in the cancer ward at Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno. Most of the children were terminal; they were hooked up to machines or in wheelchairs and couldn’t be my volunteers. But it didn’t stop them from smiling. Ever have a trick go completely awry? Yes and that would be my floating table, which broke and fell into pieces when it was supposed to be floating around the room. Everybody laughed and we moved on. What are your goals now that you are a preaching pastor? I want to help Parkside Church grow to 500 people, finish off the sanctuary and train five new volunteer lay pastors. Right now we’re known as the church with the biggest recovery program. I also want to be known as church where concerts happen. Where there’s a great facility for graduations, weddings and big events. What is your impression of Auburn so far? It’s a great place to live. It’s got a country club feel, but a lot of young families, too. I love being close to a Frisbee disc course. I can walk out my front door and sail it onto the first green. Any word you want to leave the readers of the Auburn Journal with? I firmly believe that this is our time as a church. The story for Parkside is now. I feel that God is doing some great things here. We’re here for the community, not the other way around. We exist as a church so we can be a help to the community.