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Progressive reverend joins Costa Mesa congregation

March 24, 2007|By Jessie Brunner

Fairview Community Church's new reverend may not resemble the majority of her congregation, but she does embody the spirit of their beliefs.

An enthusiastic advocate of gay rights, immigrant rights and workers' rights, 30-year-old Rev. Sarah Halverson returned to Costa Mesa, where she grew up, in August as the progressive church's senior pastor, and her post will be made official during today's installation ceremony.

"What we were looking for was somebody younger who could reach out to a younger crowd and somebody who was very open and welcoming," said Martha Blake, 66, who joined the congregation in 1999. "She's brought a cohesion back to the church, where everybody is welcome."

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Part of her commitment to bringing a renewed spirit to the dually affiliated American Baptist and United Church of Christ congregation is taking its faith outside the church walls and into the community, more specifically, to the patio of Karl Strauss Brewing Company for a taste of Theology of Tap.

Halverson said she comes with no agenda, and invites anyone with any religious background, or none at all, to join in for a good brew and some good conversation every other Thursday evening.

"I believe everyone is their own theologian," she said. "At Theology on Tap, people can say whatever they are feeling and ask any question they might have without feeling like they will be silenced or restricted."

Serena Josel, who grew up in a mixed-faith household, doesn't attend a place of worship, nor does she subscribe to any particular religious doctrine, but she came to Theology on Tap in December looking to explore her faith and spirituality.

"No one religious philosophy is being presented there," said Josel, 27, who works as the outreach and advocacy manager for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties. "Sarah [Halverson] helps guide you through the questions that come up as you go through life rather than telling you what to believe."

In addition to Theology on Tap, Halverson has initiated an educational film and lecture series — so far having screened "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Call Me Malcolm," which centers on a transgender person's struggle for identity — with a younger congregation in mind.

Halverson also plans to have solar panels installed at the church and to sell only free-trade coffee from now on to make congregants more aware of social issues.

"I think our generation has a difficult time trusting institutions and anyone who represents an institution," said Halverson, who sports a stud in her nose and maintains a MySpace page as Sarah the Revved Up Reverend. "I hope to change that."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: The installation of Rev. Sarah Halverson

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. today followed by a dinner reception

WHERE: Fairview Community Church, 2525 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa

COST: Free

INFO: (714) 545-4610 or www.ocfairviewchurch.org

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Theology on Tap

WHEN: 7 p.m. March 29 and every other Thursday after

WHERE: Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 901A South Coast Drive, Costa Mesa

COST: Free conversation and appetizers

INFO: (714) 545-4610 or www.ocfairviewchurch.org

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