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Creative, Quirky…Loving, Holy: The Fairview Experience

by Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson, Fairview Community Church, Costa Mesa, CA

Somebody once told me that when they tried to explain to a friend about Costa Mesa, CA’s Fairview Community Church they said something like “It’s hard to explain what you’ll get, because every week is an entirely different experience!”   Well, in many ways that is still true!  While there is a certain caliber of worship we hope to consistently provide week after week, along with a commitment to thoughtful theological reflection,  a respect for diversity and an openness to the plurality of God’s experiences —the way it gets manifested week to week changes.   In the month of October we celebrated World Communion Sunday, using many languages of the world while sharing breads from around the globe, and St Francis Day and Blessing of the Animals, acknowledging the sanctity of God’s creation and the spirit that exists within all living creatures (as demonstrated to us by the great patron of animals, the peacemaker Francis of Assisi).  We then celebrated Abilities Awareness Day by lifting up the voice of our own Donna Wallace, as she shared her perspective as a blind woman preaching on “From Disability to Ability.”   Donna, a former pastor’s wife, spent much of her adult life as the preacher’s wife, but this time she had the opportunity to preach – and boy did she!  The service concluded with the Orange County chapter of the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI)’s director speaking on mental illness.  The next Sunday we followed up with a “normal” service in which we engaged in conversation on world issues by examining Levitical Law as applied in its original context as well as in our society as we addressed the Occupy Wall Street movement, and then capstoned it all with Spooky Sunday –where a werewolf led a hilarious ballad, puppets preached about God’s presence in the midst of fear, an angel and a devil sat on my shoulders giving me advice, and ultimately we found God in the dark places, the scary places, and the places where we feared God would never find us.  We stretched ourselves out of our comfort zones and we learned that being able to laugh at ourselves is truly a gift from God! 
     The following week we experienced an emotional and beautiful worship experience that had me laughing and crying as we celebrated All Saints Day.   I was overjoyed to begin the service with the saints marching in!  Oh, to see Jagger on his trombone and Brianna on her flute –my heart was bursting!    Add in Jeff on his trumpet (complete with New Orleans Mardi Gras shirt), Susan on the sax, John on guitar, Dave on bass, Arie on piano and Ericka joining Brianna on flute.  And of course I can’t forget Amber, Faith, Marge and Matt on vocals!   I couldn’t stop myself from joining in!

     While there was time for dancing and singing, there was also time for reflection and maybe even shedding a few tears as we remembered the saints of our lives.   We lit candles for all of those connected to our congregation who have died in the past year.  And, as we gathered in communion, we were reminded that we were joined with the saints of the past as we shared in the breaking of bread and drinking from the cup and saw photos of loved ones of our community.  It was a beautiful experience. 

     This is just a window into the diversity of who we are as followers of Jesus in the United Church of Christ and American Baptist Churches living out our lives as Fairview COMMUNITY Church.  We do a lot of laughing in community.  We cry a little too.  We worship.  We love.  We stretch the boundaries of convention; we certainly don’t fit in a box!

     Some might write us off as hokey….but a wiser person will see the character and personality of a thinking church, with great heart, one that isn’t too heady to have fun or too mushy to think critically – a creative, quirky, thoughtful, brave, innovative, silly, passionate, open, progressive, traditional, loving, inclusive, talented, fun and holy church!

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