THE CHURCH IN OCEAN PARK

(CIOP) has been there for us, for many decades. Contributed so much to our community, to our history, and continues to, to this day.

Now they need us to be there for them. How can we say no?

This Sunday at 1 p.m., at the church at 2nd and Hill. Crucial meeting, where Rev. Janet will explain what’s going on and how we can perhaps save this vital, living piece of our history.

I hope the place is packed. Even if you have never attended anything there — c’mon, really? not even a polka wedding reception or an LGBTQ meeting or a concert or a political speech? never were lucky enough to catch Ry Cooder or Tom and Jane or Jackson Browne?– go, this one time, to see if you can make a difference. (I think they’re serving cookies.)

THREATENED

The very existence of this neighborhood church, nearly a century old, is threatened because while pastor Janet Gollery McKeithen has been ably, passionately carrying out the mandate for which her predecessor, Jim Conn, was assigned there in 1973, with the mission of making it an experimental church with a politically and socially liberal perspective, times have changed and the mother church of the United Methodist Church (UMC) is now putting its very conservative foot down, especially about something we have taken for granted here for a long time: the right of all people to marry the one they love.

They’ve always looked askance at McKeithen’s “caring interfaith community celebrating diversity, treating ourselves and others with respect and dedicated to social justice, continuing the legacy by working against racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism.” Seems pretty Christian to me, but not to the right wing of UMC. What they really, really don’t like is gay marriage, and have recently threatened any minister who performs one with expulsion.

Imagine, you finally found the perfect place for your beliefs and skills and have successfully worked there for 14 years to the enthusiastic endorsement of the congregation, then suddenly you are threatened not only with the loss of that job (and the pension you built up and were counting on) but perhaps the loss of the entire church you were so devoted to.

YEAH, BUILDINGS AND ALL

UMC owns it, and you can imagine the value of that little chunk of Santa Monica two blocks from the beach. Back in the ‘70s when Conn was minster there, he transformed a sleepy, fading little neighborhood Methodist church into a focal point for social activism that got national attention. Rent control had a lot of fathers but the mama was the CIOP.

Many familiar with our history agree that Conn gets credit for changing the image of Santa Monica itself, from ordinary SoCal beach town to a world-renowned beacon of progressivism. I don’t know who first came up with the moniker People’s Republic of Santa Monica and painted it on the 10 Freeway entrance on Lincoln, but as a backhanded compliment, it was perfect.

Conn was elected to City Council in 1981, part of a Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) majority that has held tight control over local politics ever since, nearly 40 years, and served as Mayor from ‘86 to ’88. He left the CIOP in ‘95 and went on to found CLUE (he is still the co-chair), Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice — no connection to the CIOP. “CLUE brings together clergy and lay leaders of all faiths with workers, immigrants and low-income families in the cause of a just economy that works for all and protects those most vulnerable.”

SOUNDS GREAT

Like the mission statement for SMRR, and both groups have accomplished some notable worthwhile achievements. But you have to look at the controlling philosophy of a group, and CLUE’s led them to vigorously oppose Proposition LV, which would have limited overdevelopment in SM. Why? Because they always fight for a living wage for hotel workers, but the hotel Union 11 lobbies hard to build more and more and more hotels in Santa Monica, as big and as tall as possible. Living wage — good. At the cost of horribly densifying our hemmed-in 8.4 square miles into the mess we are now all living in? — not good.

Politics are always complicated and mostly behind the scenes, so go this Sunday at 1:00 p.m., 2nd & Hill, and let Rev. Janet fill you in. This is really important. Saving a historic, environmental mural is good. Saving a historic, living church is even more important.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Will my longtime Ocean Park neighbor Harry ever speak to me again after I forgot to list the rare, historic, star-filled concert (Billy Idol, Dweezil Zappa, Letterman’s Paul Schaffer, Steve Lukather of Toto. everybody’s favorite guitar man Waddy Wachtel plus a symphony orchestra! …from Hungary, and live on stage by satellite axe monster Steve Vai, Yes-man Rick Wakeman, half of Steely Dan, and comic genius Jane Lynch), the One-Night-Only Worldwide West Coast Tour TONIGHT at The Wiltern by his good friend, bassman DEREK SMALLS, formerly of the band formerly known as Spinal Tap?

Probably not for a long time. This job has its hazards.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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