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New pastor practices what she preaches

At 29, Rev. Sarah Halverson is making a difference in her church as well as in her community.

October 23, 2006|By Ana Facio Contreras

Rev. Sarah Halverson thinks if Jesus Christ were alive today, he would be getting arrested in protests like the one held last month in Los Angeles for hotel workers' rights.

Halverson, the new senior pastor at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa, attended the Sept. 28 protest in support of the unionization of employees at 13 Los Angeles International Airport area hotels.

The Costa Mesa High School graduate believes in not only preaching about justice from the pulpit, but also acting on what she believes is unjust. Her beliefs led her to protest with more than 2,000 people in Los Angeles.

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"I have a really hard time with churches that don't stand up for justice," Halverson said.

Those who hired her in July as the new senior pastor hope she will bring a fresh new voice to the church.

Halverson is not only the first woman to lead the Fairview Community Church; at 29, she is also the youngest.

She began her work at the progressive Baptist church in August. Among her goals are to increase the church's congregation. Currently, the church's membership is at 60.

She also wants the church to be a "safe place" for the gay community, as well as for the immigrant community. She believes in social justice and inclusiveness in religion.

Halverson doesn't look like what one might imagine a Baptist reverend to look like behind the pulpit. She wears a diamond stud on her nose and a rainbow bracelet on her left wrist. The word "equality" is written on the plastic bracelet.

The bracelet lets people from the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community know she is a "safe" person to talk to, said Halverson, who considers herself a progressive Christian.

Halverson, who is working on a doctorate degree on the New Testament at Claremont Graduate University, said the church took a chance when they hired her as the new senior pastor.

"They stepped out of their comfort zone," Halverson, an ordained minister, said. "Being the first woman pastor and the youngest are both big steps. I think the bigger step is the fact that I'm young."

Bea Lacey-Buchan, who was part of the church's search committee for a new pastor, said her first impression of Halverson was that she was young.

"After meeting her and speaking to her, we realized that she's mature beyond her years," Lacey-Buchan said. "We were impressed with her openness and acceptance of people, no matter where they come from."

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