Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwyth
Church: Breakwater Community Church
Location: Oceanside, California, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 29 May 2022, 9:00am
A very plain symmetrical structure, with two windows framing a small covered porch and front door. Above the door is a circular window depicting the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The interior is likewise plain, with grey walls and blue carpeting. The stage is backed by a large wooden cross and some banners, and the pulpit is decorated with a carving of an anchor.
The congregation was formed in 2017 as a church plant. They describe themselves on their website as 'a family of individuals that have found hope in Jesus, and simply want as many people as possible to experience that exact same freedom by creating a safe harbor for all.' They support a chapter of the Independent Learning Academy, which describes itself as 'a ministry to the homeschooling community.' They also offer a children's program called Lighthouse Kids, (from their website) 'a safe, fun and welcoming environment where children learn about God's love.' There are two services each Sunday: an early indoor service and a later outdoor service.
In the early 19th century, a town called Rancho Margarita grew up near the Mission San Luis Rey, the most successful of the 21 missions established in New Spain's province of California. New Spain declared its independence in 1821, and the portion that occupied the Central American isthmus and what is now the southwestern United States adopted the name Mexico. Long-standing disagreement over what constituted the border between the United States and Mexico eventually resulted in war, which ended in 1848 when Mexico ceded California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming to the United States for the sum of $18 million, thus cutting its territory in half. Through all of this, Rancho Margarita continued to prosper. One of the favorite pastimes of the town's residents was to 'go oceanside' to enjoy the fabulous Pacific Coast beaches that lie up and down the area. A post office was opened in 1883, and Rancho Margarita officially became Oceanside. With the coming of the railroad, the city grew at an astounding rate, and the early 20th century saw it become a popular leisure getaway. When the United States Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton was opened in 1942 on the city's northern edge, the population more than tripled over a ten year period. By the late 1980s, however, the city had pretty much gone to seed, as all boom towns eventually do. But an aggressive urban renewal effort gave Oceanside new life, and nowadays trendy restaurants, smart boutiques, and obscenely expensive ocean view housing share space with military supply stores, beer joints and barber shops. Breakwater Community Church is located on the corner of Nevada Street and Washington Avenue, in a clean-scrubbed working class residential neighborhood just a few blocks removed from Oceanside's glitzy touristy honky-tonk downtown.
Several people were involved in giving the welcome, reading announcements, and leading prayer. I believe it was the pastor who read from scripture and preached.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Service Inside.
How full was the building?
I counted about 60 chairs. It was about one-third full at the start of the service, but by the time the music portion had ended it was about two-thirds full. A mixed crowd of men and women, young and old.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
It was one of the warmest, most sincere, non-pushy welcomes I've received in any church I've visited! At the door, a gentleman said, 'Good morning. Welcome. I'm [name].' as he shook my hand. Inside, many people said hello, welcome, are you visiting, glad you're here, and introduced themselves. One gentleman directed me to coffee and pastries out on the patio. There, another gentleman welcomed me and said, 'We have a little gift for visitors.' It was a Starbucks gift card. Very nice! (But I don't yet know for how much.)
Was your pew comfortable?
The chairs were blue cushioned conference-room style chairs and yes, they were comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The musicians rehearsed a bit. There was lots of visiting among people as they came in.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. There was a handout with announcements, the order of service, and the words to the songs, plus a sermon outline and room for taking notes. Words were also projected.
What musical instruments were played?
Digital keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums, two vocalists. An acoustic upright piano sat off to the side untouched.
Did anything distract you?
Aside from one gentleman who forgot that his father taught him (didn't he?) that gentlemen remove their hats in church, there really weren't very many distractions. There was an obvious camaraderie among the congregation – they were clearly all glad to be there together and all glad to be worshipping God. I suppose that was a distraction from the sourpuss frozen-chosen demeanor of many congregations, but in a good way.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Informally happy-clappy. It followed the standard format of greeting, praise songs, scripture reading, sermon, the Lord's Prayer, blessing and dismissal. The music was of the lite Christian rock variety – not what I prefer to hear, regular readers of this feature will know. There was lots of whooping, hollering, hand waving, hand clapping, and applause during the music portion, and a little 'Yes, that's right!' during the sermon.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 — I was all set to give the pastor a 9, but he segued into something I'll mention in the hellish bits below. He spoke clearly and in an informal, conversational manner that I found quite engaging.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His text was John 21:1-14 (the risen Jesus and the disciples 'go fishing'). The disciples were in shock – they couldn't grasp what had happened on the Third Day. The risen Jesus had to appear to them three times before they 'got it.' There's something in the human psyche that likes the number three. While Peter was in charge of the fishing expedition, they caught nothing – there were no results. But when Jesus took charge, success ensued. Not only did they catch more fish than they could handle, but Jesus already had the fire going on shore, with fish already on the grill. 'Let's have breakfast,' he said. We can't do anything without Jesus. Psalm 127 is on point: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.' Keep your eyes on Jesus! The risen Lord invites us to come and eat.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It being Memorial Day weekend, we were invited to mention the names of those we knew who had died in military service. After each name, a bell was rung.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I was enjoying the pastor's sermon very much until he strayed into prosperity gospel territory. He said that he had given up a promising career as a naval officer in order to enter the seminary – in other words, from a good steady paycheck to being penniless. But when a friend learned of the pastor's plans, the friend told him that he had made a killing in the stock market and wanted to share his good fortune with him. The friend gave the pastor such a large sum that it covered his entire seminary tuition bill! Other unexpected gifts of money came his way too. In other words (although the pastor didn't say this), say your prayers and fill out your deposit slip.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I beat a hasty exit as the musicians started up with the final praise song. I am always ambivalent about leaving the Mystery Worship calling card. If I am reasonably certain that the collection will be brought up to the altar and set aside, then I don't mind leaving it in the basket. But if I think the collection will be whisked off to a counting room while the sermon is in progress, then it is almost certain that I will be 'discovered' and questioned. Today, I left the calling card on the seat as I exited.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Pre-service coffee on the patio featured good, strong coffee and pre-packaged store-bought sweet buns. Both were tasty. I don't know what may have happened after-service.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 — This isn't my style of worship, but I did appreciate the sincerity and friendliness of the people. I only visit Oceanside occasionally, but I may stop in again on a future visit if my ego is in need of bolstering.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
How genuinely friendly everyone seemed.