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Mothers got more than just a mention at Faith Community’s Sunday service, but they weren’t the main attraction. The music leader paused in the midst of the opening 30 minutes of hymns to ask “a special blessing” on the mothers present. “There’s no one like a mother,” he prayed. “Thank you for my own mother — a fine Christian woman.” Pastor Mark Slomka showed a couple of Mom-ish YouTube videos — “The Mom Song” and a two-year-old belting out a sung “Our Father” — and talked about healing within strained mother-child relationships: “No one ever gave birth and thought, ‘I want to bring someone into the world that I can screw up.’ It’s important that we extend grace. Because something broke along the way.”

That was the real focus of the service — healing. I got a taste of it before things even got started. “It’s a sweet church,” said the kindly woman sitting next to me. “My husband is the church’s counselor. People can go to him, and the church pays him — though, he has a private practice. He’s a licensed marriage and family counselor. I think it’s wonderful that people can be healed in the embrace of their community.” She paused, then added a modest qualification: “Not deep pathology — just if somebody’s...stuck.”

We are a community of groups,” said Slomka at the outset. “We have activity groups, growth groups, and ministry groups.” He talked about upcoming group activities, including homebuilding in Ensenada. And he invited a congregant to talk about the upcoming Christian Principles of Freedom seminar, which would focus on “His Dwelling Place: A Teaching and Healing Ministry for God’s People.” The seminar would offer “insights about the spiritual roots of disease affecting the Christian spirit, soul, and body.” Last year’s attendees had included two neurologists, one of whom had just emailed to say that “for the past six months, I have been consistently praying with many of my patients regarding issues of pain, bitterness, fear, rejection, and other negative thoughts and emotions commonly used by the enemy to separate us from ourselves, each other, and from God. It has been my experience that these thoughts have a significant negative effect on our bodies and our health. I personally have seen healing of a chronic neck pain that I had for over 15 years after dealing with my own anger and bitterness.”

“I’ve put down that this is an unusual Mother’s Day message because it is, to me, rated PG-13,” explained Slomka as he began his preaching. “But I thought it was an appropriate time to visit on these themes.” The Scripture he chose — Genesis 38 — did involve a mother, but hardly one in the mold of the “fine Christian woman” mentioned earlier. Tamar, deprived of her rights as a widow by her father-in-law Judah, disguises herself as a prostitute and gets pregnant with Judah’s twin children. Judah, upon learning she is pregnant, is all set to have her burned for immorality. But then Tamar, defrauded and then sexually used, reveals that he is the father of the children in her womb, and Judah repents. “God’s prevailing grace in the story is that there are no unwanted pregnancies in God’s eyes,” concluded Slomka. The first-born twin, Perez, “is the great-to-the-seventh grandfather of David...and, of course, it is through David’s line that we trace the human lineage of Jesus.”

The theme Slomka took up was the community’s role in creating a culture that honored “the dignity and the nobility and the beauty with which God has crowned everyone” — in particular, women who were not yet mothers — indeed, not yet married. He quoted a writer who argued that “there is incredible pressure upon Christian women to be what she calls ‘virgin-whores.’ A Christian man who engages with a Christian woman is looking for her to have all the innocence, purity, and virtue of a virgin, and yet be as sexually active and adventurous as what you find in pornography. It’s a crushing expectation.... That Christian men would have this approach...is an indication that something is horrifically broken.” It was something that the church community needed to heal. “We need to learn to be a community that prizes modesty, purity, and restraint, and we must reject legalism and prudishness as false alternatives.”

Among other things, Slomka praised the intergenerational mixing in other cultures — “setting the example to each succeeding generation on how relationships are done. There is something healthy about that.”

What happens when we die?

“I believe every human being will appear before God,” said Slomka, “and God will judge the hearts of men and women as to faith and the extent to which we have responded by faith. And if we want to be on our own, then we will be.”

Faith Community Chruch
Denomination: Foursquare
Address: 2285 Murray Ridge Road, Serra Mesa, 858-565-4808
Founded locally: following Aimee Semple McPherson’s visit to San Diego in 1935
Senior pastor: Mark Slomka
Congregation size: about 450 on a given Sunday
Staff size: 15, including school
Sunday school enrollment: about 100
Weekly giving: n/a
Annual budget: n/a
Singles program: small groups
Dress: casual to semiformal
Diversity: mostly Caucasian, but mixed
Sunday worship: 10 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Website: faithsandiego.org

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