Local churches emphasize hospitality

Posted By Horizon Staff April 15th, 2013 in Features : 0 COMMENTS

Annmarie Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Many Santa Barbara congregations are focusing special efforts towards hospitality, especially in regards to marginalized social groups.

At one local Santa Barbara church named Holy Chaos Church (a branch of Ocean Hills Church) “Some bring their bibles, some bring their beds,” stated fourth-year student and church attendee, Ariana Bilek. “More than 75 percent of [Holy Cross attendees] … live on the streets or are below the poverty line.” The church’s special efforts to integrate homeless people into their church community have consequentially led to a very diverse church body where both believers and non-believers commonly attend.

Inside the Loft where Holy Chaos meets on Sundays at 2p.m., chairs are centered around a burning candle and wooden cross that has “Jesus” engraved into it, explained Bilek. There is no pastor but instead six leaders who rotate. They read scripture from the Bible, share their interpretation, and then open up the discussion to the 10–20 people who attend the service each Sunday. “We are very open and vulnerable with each other … We laugh and cry and sing and just share life together,” stated Bilek.

Another church, not as close to Westmont, but still within decent proximity is Isla Vista Church (IVC). “The first time I went there I felt like I was going to a family reunion,” stated first-year student and church attendee, Joey Farbstein.  They meet each Sunday at 4p.m., worship for about an hour, and then share stories with each other of how God is working in or through their lives. Some testimonies are planned prior to the service, some are not. “It’s very open to the Spirit kind of leading people to speak,” said Farbstein. Service is followed by Spirit-led prayer and a community dinner.

Additionally, IVC strives to be a part of transforming Isla Vista “from an infamous party city into a city filled with the light and love of Jesus,” as stated in the church’s core family values. One avenue through which they strive to ignite this transformation is at a Friday night event called Jesus Burgers. During this weekly event, members in and outside the church come to engage in fellowship with the locals of Isla Vista by making them free burgers and praying for them.

Earlier on Fridays at 7:30 a.m., another Santa Barbara church, the Order of the Holy Cross (OHC) puts on a Eucharist service. Led by monks, the congregation follows a more precise liturgical structure that evokes unity within the church. They stand and sit together, “to chant, stand up to hear the gospel, sit down for a homily and a time of communal reflection, remain sitting for intercession, stand up and all circle around the altar, pass the peace, communion liturgy, communion, one last prayer and song” stated third-year David Baldi.

After the service, the monks make breakfast for the rest of the church and they continue to build fellowship with each other. “It has become a worshipping family,” said Baldi, “Hospitality is an important but often forgotten aspect of monastic culture — and OHC does it very, very well.”

Romans 12:5 describes the people who constitute the Church of Christ as “many parts of one body.” Likewise, the well-being of the Church depends on a similar type of unity that stems from an understanding of the various people and churches that constitute the overall body. “When we can cross boundaries that separate us from other members of the Kingdom of God, that is when true love and embrace happens,” stated Bilek.

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