The front of Horizon Coast Chapel’s worship booklet doesn’t read “Horizon Coast Chapel”; it reads “Church in Mission Beach.” Yes, yes, this allows them to highlight the word “Mission” in red — fitting for a church with an evangelical charism — but there’s more to it than that. Because Horizon Coast Chapel is, as far as I can tell, the only church in Mission Beach.
The chapel’s mother church, Horizon Christian Fellowship, began in 1974 at the Ocean Beach Women’s Club. Similarly, Horizon Coast Chapel meets in the cool yellow confines of the Mission Beach Women’s Club — a low, tasteful building that fronts the Mission Beach boardwalk. But 1974 was another time. Then, it was only three months before the church outgrew its beach house. Now, said pastor David Izor, “it’s tough, because the church isn’t received very well.” The cultural phenomenon that was the Jesus Movement is long over, and most beach people, to gauge by the many passersby, would rather spend their Sunday morning rollerblading or biking.
The lure of paradise just outside the opened French doors echoed in the words of the praise singer’s opening prayer: “We ask, Lord, for the power of Your Spirit. We ask that You would please break down the spirit of distraction…. We ask that You would be such the focus and the center of our intention that every loud and quiet distraction would be ignored. Please consume our thoughts; we’re begging You, God. Please place reverence in our hearts.” She then led the congregation in a long set of hymns, one bleeding into another, pretty harmonies animating the repeated refrains. “You were/ You are/ You will always be…”
“I have a few announcements before we break into our time of prayer,” said associate pastor Chris after the singing had ended. Then he reconsidered. “We have a lot of things to pray for. Just read the announcements in the bulletin; I want to break into the time of prayer now, just one-on-one. Ask the other person what they’d like to pray for. Let’s be honest and real. Let’s let God work in our lives.” And while some folks remained alone, mostly, the people responded. A mother and child turned to one another, held hands, leaned forward until their heads touched, and then began exchanging intentions. Two young men talked, their shoulders turned slightly toward each other as they sat side-by-side. Young women chatted as if they were sharing the news of the day. An older couple huddled together, heads bowed.
The prayer session endured well past the point of routine. I stood to the side and examined old photos of Mission Beach. A congregant approached and talked about his memories of the neighborhood. He asked my name. He asked after my family. He asked if I was a believer. When I told him about this column, he asked what I thought God’s spirit was saying today and whether I thought that persecution was coming. Then he asked if he could pray over me. I said yes, and he put his arm around me, his hand trailing up and down my back with casual intimacy as he asked God’s blessing for me, my family, and my writing.
Izor’s sermon expounded on King Saul’s failure to obey God because he “feared the people and obeyed their voice.” “Oftentimes,” said Izor, “we get pushed into stepping over the line because ‘I feared the people’…. Maybe the root problem is that we’re trying to be man-pleasers. Maybe we haven’t found our identity in God.”
After the service, I asked Izor about evangelizing in a community that is less than receptive. First, he said, the church meets in public — Friday-night conversations in coffee shops, Saturday-morning surfing — hoping to attract people interested in the church community’s shared life. Second, “We’ll knock on doors and say, ‘We’re from the local church, and we’re trying to love on you guys. Is there anything you guys need?’ We adopted one gal; her husband had died, she was on a fixed income, and her neighbors were unhappy with her yard. We went in and took care of it for her. Another guy is a local surfboard shaper; he’d been addicted to alcohol and cocaine for 30 years. We said, ‘Hey, do you need prayer?’ and he was, like, ‘Yeah, I need prayer.’ We prayed for him, and he came to church and was healed. He’s still in recovery, but he’s down here. We don’t want to be obnoxious. God is a gentleman; He’s not going to force Himself on anybody. It’s more, ‘I’m here. I’m available. Here are the benefits that we have.’”
What happens when we die?
“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” said Izor, quoting Scripture.
840 Santa Clara Place, San Diego
Denomination: nondenominational, affiliated with Horizon Christian Fellowship
- Founded locally: 2001
- Senior pastor: David Izor
- Congregation size: 60
- Staff size: 4
- Sunday school enrollment: coming soon
- Annual budget: $18,000
- Weekly giving: n/a
- Singles program: no
- Dress: casual to semi-formal
- Diversity: majority Caucasian, skewing young
- Sunday worship: 9:30 a.m.
- Length of reviewed service: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Website: horizoncoastchapel.org