A churchy looking building well set back from the road, with a classroom wing attached. The inside is pleasant, with a large back-lit wooden cross on the wall behind the stage. Strings of lights stretch across the stage. The walls are beige and the ceiling is of vaulted wood beams. A blue-grey carpet covers the floor.
They have community groups and are very much into children and youth. They also have a recovery group that seeks to instill (quoting from their website) "freedom from your addictive, compulsive, and dysfunctional behaviors through God's love and power." There are two campuses in Oceanside and plans are in the works to establish a third campus. They offer Sunday school, prayer time, and a worship service on each campus every Sunday.
I visited the south campus, which is on Whaley Street just off the Coast Highway, easily reachable by the No. 101 or 303 bus. The Coast Highway, about 700 miles long, is the major road that connects all of the California cities that lie up and down the Pacific coast. It is a popular scenic route for motorists and bicyclists alike, although frequent landslides often result in closures and detours while repairs are made. The church sits in a well-scrubbed middle class residential neighborhood, although the Coast Highway in the vicinity of Whaley Street is remarkable only for its used car dealerships and bargain shops.
The preacher was Jason Page. Other participants were not identified. Jared Osselaer, lead pastor, greeted people at the door and spoke a few parting words at the end of the service. Doug, the church mascot, wandered about freely (see below).
What was the name of the service?Church Service
How full was the building?
I counted about 125 chairs. There were about 35 people present at the start of the service, but people kept trickling in as the musical portion progressed. I'd say there were about 65 or 70 present by the start of the sermon. An all-age congregation; I was surprised to see more than a handful of elderly folk.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people said hello. Pastor Jared shook my hand, introduced himself, and said he was glad I had come.
Was your pew comfortable?
They were chairs, and they were comfortable enough.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I was a tad early and so took a seat out on the patio. I noticed a rather large dog who was wandering about the grounds getting to know people as they arrived. I learned later that this was Doug, the church mascot. I'll have more to say about him in a moment. I smelled coffee brewing and sought out where it was being prepared. The lady fixing it offered me a cup and then wheeled a cart with coffee urns on it up to the church door. Inside, I had a friendly conversation with the young man sitting next to me.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Well, hi there, folks."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version, was in the seat backs, but no reference was made to it. There was a handout but it consisted entirely of announcements. Words to the songs were projected.
What musical instruments were played?
Digital keyboard, acoustic guitar, electric bass guitar, drums. There was a female vocalist, and the acoustic guitarist sang as well.
Did anything distract you?
During the sermon, the preacher thought for a moment that his mike was malfunctioning (it wasn't, and we assured him of such). Nevertheless, someone came forward and tinkered with the wiring for a few minutes while he continued talking. This was somewhat distracting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Mildly happy clappy. The music was of the Christian rock variety. A few people waved their arms. One elderly gent wearing a t-shirt that read "Man up for life" clapped his hands. I didn't see anyone singing. The music portion lasted for about 35 minutes and was followed by a five-minute meet and greet (a countdown clock was displayed). The sermon followed immediately, after which there was a prayer, more music, and some announcements.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Jason Page spoke informally and conversationally. I did not see him refer to notes. However, I thought his points could have been better organized.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His text was John 4:13-14 (Jesus will give living water to all who are thirsty). He somehow segued from this into a discussion of divorce. Divorce is a touchy subject about which it is difficult to be transparent. The world is incredibly broken, and people are often caught in unfair circumstances. Some people are OK with divorce; others are totally opposed to it. But there were several Old Testament figures who went through several wives, and even concubines. Falling in love is one thing; staying in love is another. Divorce can be especially hard on children. How do we come back from the hurt? God hates divorce but understands it. Jesus will carry our burden. There is a life beyond anger and pain. God can create something new out of brokenness. Obstacles are opportunities. Being a person of faith does not mean you have a perfect life but you are on your way there! You know where the living water is. Let us pray for people who need love.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Im going to say that the friendliness Pastor Jared showed toward me, as well as the friendliness of the young man in the seat next to me, were the most heavenly things about the whole morning.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
But now I must talk about Doug the dog. As I was sitting out on the patio before the service, I observed him defecating on the church lawn. In a few moments a woman came over with a plastic bag and cleaned it up, but then she took an apple out of her pocket and began to munch on it. I cannot believe that I blacked out for a moment and missed the part where she washed her hands first. Yuck!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Pastor Jared again shook my hand and said how glad he was that I had come. People were milling about outside, but no one else spoke to me. I was hoping to talk more with the young man who sat next to me, but he was busy playing tag with a group of children (they seemed to be happily engaged with him, bless all their souls).
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The pre-service coffee was strong and hot, just the way I like it. Coffee was also available after the service, along with donuts, but I was looking forward to lunch and so didn't sample any.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – This is not my style of worship - regular readers of this column know especially that I am not fond of "rock concert as church" - but I'm giving it a 5 anyway because Pastor Jared and the young man were so friendly and welcoming. I just might give it another try if I lived in the area.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Doug the church mascot.