CORAL SPRINGS, FL - Growing up as a daughter of a minister, Senior Pastor Vidalis Lopez of First Church Coral Springs has always been involved in ministry in some capacity. Even as a young girl living in the Republic of Panama, she enjoyed helping her father prepare for sermons as he worked to start churches in the developing country.
“I do remember as an 8- or 9-year-old telling my dad, ‘I think I want to be a pastor,’” Lopez said. “I loved acting as his assistant.”
Now living in Coral Springs with her husband of 15 years, David, and her two daughters, 13-year-old Isabel and 5-year-old Elena, Lopez’s childhood desire of following her father into ministry is a reality. But it wasn’t a straight path to seminary.
While always involved in the various aspects of the church, from working in the children’s ministry to playing instruments in the church band, Lopez also earned a degree in sociology and went to work full-time as a social worker and as a teacher before pursuing seminary.
It’s a background she believes makes her the perfect fit for pastoring in Coral Springs, especially as the community continues to heal from the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in neighboring Parkland in 2018.
“I believe this is where I need to be and I’m passionate about the work. It was humbling to come here so close to the tragedy of MSD, especially because my soft spot is children and youth. So I love the work, it’s an honor and I do it with a lot of reverence,” she said.
The decision to go back to school and ultimately pursue a career in the church wasn’t easy. Lopez already had a career, was volunteering full-time at her church in various capacities, and she was newly married. It took near burnout and a message in the Bible to get Lopez on track.
She said: “I was reading the Gospel of Luke, chapter five where Jesus calls certain disciples and calls them into deeper waters... I had been about to resign from the things I was doing for the church because I was passionately doing the social work, and doing all of it was too chaotic. Especially as a newlywed, it wasn’t good. But the Lord told me, ‘it’s the other way around sister, it’s deeper waters.’”
As Lopez grew up, there weren’t many women in pastoring roles, especially minority women, for her to look to as examples. But as she explored the path to seminary, she found exactly the support she needed.
“I started meeting women in ministry. Professors with PhDs and with families too. They told me I could do it. So instead of resigning from church, I resigned from the secular setting,” Lopez said.
After graduating, Lopez spent a number of years as a youth pastor and an associate pastor in Ocala before being sent to a church in Coral Gables in 2015. Four years later, she got the call to move to First Church in Coral Springs and began her role as senior pastor on July 1, 2019.
Now eight months later, Lopez is settled into the community and knows this is where God has led her to use her talents in the best way possible.
For services times or more information, visit www.welovefirst.church.