The Santa Monica Conservancy is hosting an event this weekend highlighting the rich history of the Church in Ocean Park and delving into its role in many of the city’s progressive movements.

The event is part of the Conservancy’s ongoing Santa Monica Mosaic virtual lecture series, which aims to tell the stories of the people and places that make up the community. The series was launched three years ago in response to the COVID 19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements.

“We shifted our emphasis to the make-up of Santa Monica,” said Libby Motika, a longtime volunteer with the conservancy who has helped organize the events. “We’ve covered every single community that has had something to do with the history of Santa Monica, beginning with the Tongva — the indigenous group — going through the rancho period, Jewish, Japanese, more contemporary Mexican. These pieces- these communities-  make up what we call the mosaic, which is Santa Monica.”

The Church in Ocean Park was founded in the Methodist tradition in 1875 but has evolved to be the pluralistic and inclusive organization it is today.

“The Church in Ocean Park is a hybrid creature,” said Janet Gollery McKeithen. “It is a multi-faith community which means that we are Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Hindu, Indigenous Religious Expressions and combinations of all of these. We believe that all people are of sacred worth.”

In addition to Sunday services, the Church in Ocean Park is also home to a diverse array of programs including an annual Queer Prom, female empowerment group, Girl Central and Rockstar Kids, a program for kids with disabilities and their parents to form connections.

The Conservancy chose the Church in Ocean Park as the focal point of this next event due to its long-standing presence in the community and focus on social justice. 

While not explicitly a fundraiser, the event will also raise awareness of the church’s efforts to raise money to repair its damaged ceiling, which has rendered the building unusable for the past 10 months.

“We’re interested in the architecture, we’re interested in the progressive philosophy and we hope, in a tiny way, this program will bring attention to the church and its campaign to restore the ceiling,” Motika said.

Motika will facilitate Sunday’s event, which will include a presentation on the history of the church from Conservancy board member Nina Fresco and a panel discussion between pastor McKeithen, Roger Gawne, a former leader of the church’s LGBTQIA+ programs, and Julie Ginsberg, a parent involved in the Rockstar Kids program, which has been among the most impacted by the lack of a physical place to meet.

Admission money from the event will go to the Conservancy, but McKeithen hopes attendees will become more inclined to donate to the church’s ceiling repair fund.

“I hope they will understand that the community is lacking an important asset as long as the building is closed,” McKeithen said. “I hope that they will do what they can to help the Church in Ocean Park open the doors to the community again.”

The event will take place Sunday, Aug. 28 at 5 p.m. over Zoom. Tickets for the general public cost $10 and can be purchased through the Santa Monica Conservancy website www.smconservancy.org/event/an-enduring-spirit-the-church-in-ocean-park. Admission for Conservancy members is free.

grace@smdp.com