3770 Altadena Avenue, College Area
The psychedelic stained-glass window over the altar (and even above the electric sanctuary lamp) caught the feel of Christ Church Unity pretty well: psychedelic, but still stained glass. Modern spirituality swirled with tradition. More examples: heavy velveteen curtains hanging behind a marble altar bearing brass candlesticks and cross but surrounded by folksy, brightly colored posters celebrating NEW LIFE (Now Energize Willingness Laugh Intensity Fasting Embrace) — posters that were in high contrast with the deep-toned oil paintings depicting the Holy Family that lined the side walls; a sizable choir in teal-and-white robes sang a complex arrangement of “Our Hope Alone Is You, O Lord,” then gave way at service’s end to a swinging ballad: “Everything I see/ Everything I do/ Everything I am/ is You”; the Lord’s Prayer was recited, but tweaked — the usual, “Lead us not into temptation” rendered “Leave us not in temptation” — God is not subjecting us to the trial; a prayer of thanks that opened with “Precious Father” concluded with “Thank you, Father-Mother God.”
The stuffed animals, however, were sui generis. Three — a goat and two bunnies — sat up on the pulpit. But dozens, perhaps hundreds, more occupied the pews in the left alcove of the church. “We collect them, starting in July,” one woman told me. “At Christmas, we’ll be giving them to, I think, children in San Diego and Tijuana. You’re welcome to hug one and give it some love.” Another woman told me that by Christmas the Sanctuary would be, well, stuffed with them.
“God’s good is yours” was the greeting we exchanged at the outset — a setup for the central idea of the sermon: “God is the source of my supply and provides amazing channels now.” (The congregation spoke that line as well — twice. Pastor Blair Tabor recited it several times on top of that. “Because we’re trained to look outside of ourselves, it takes a while to make the connection,” he explained. “We need to hear it over and over and over. The teaching is that God is our source, that we’re one with the living presence of God, and Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within you.”)
The sermon began a series on Prosperity and had two interesting setups. First, a single-verse scripture reading from Exodus: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (“Gracious spirit, open our minds to understand that You alone are all we will ever need,” prayed the reader.) Second, the announcement of the upcoming Keys to the Kingdom prosperity classes, led by Tabor. “The class will challenge you to live from a level of faith and commitment that truly is transformational,” said the reader. “Reverend Blair has seen lives completely changed. Requirements include purchasing the book and a CD or tape set, and tithing ten percent of your income for the duration of the seven-week class.”
Prior to the sermon, Tabor had led a prayer, underlaid with mournful tones from a choir-loft clarinet, which sought to “open us in a deeper way to that presence of God and that work of the Spirit within us” — work that would “animate our whole being with the vibrancy of that Christ-presence of God. We come alive with that sense of moving as a part of the Spirit,” with the Spirit “working through all circumstances to bring forth blessings.”
Opening that channel to God the Source, said Tabor, was the great key to prosperity. He quoted a riff on that line from Exodus: “Thou shalt not look to another source but God for thy supply.” He quoted Jesus: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.”
“God wants to bless us,” concluded Tabor. “God has all kinds of ways to bless us.... If we start with that connection, that holiness of the presence, and see ourselves as part of that, then we have a good beginning.” And quite possibly, a good ending: “God is the beginning point, but God is also the destination, and God is the process. In every movement, the presence of God is there.”
The choir backed him up. “God is the source of my supply/ Ready the good to multiply...”
In conclusion, Tabor prayed over a wooden box containing prayer requests. “Dear God, we know You are the source of blessing, and we seek that for each one for whom we pray...people affected by the storms of life — of all kinds. We know You are present as the source of good...thank you, God; thank you, God.” And then the whole congregation left their pews and joined hands along the aisle and sang: “Let there be peace on earth/ and let it begin with me/ Let there be peace on earth/ the peace that was meant to be...”
What happens when we die?
“We go on to the next dance,” said Tabor.
Christ Church Unity
Address: 3770 Altadena Avenue, East San Diego, 619-280-2501
Founded locally: 1961
Senior pastor: Blair Tabor
Congregation size: 150–250
Staff size: 16, mostly part-time prayer ministry
Sunday school enrollment: 15–25
Weekly giving: varies
Annual budget: $500,000
Singles program: no
Dress: semiformal to formal
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: 9 a.m., 11 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 10 minutes