In Huntington Beach, a revival with church at the ocean’s edge

There’s a revival taking place on the sand at Huntington Beach.

On Friday, at least 200 evangelical Christian faithful gathered near lifeguard tower 20 to hear the word and be motivated to spread it. They sang and raised their hands skyward in praise. Several walked into the cool waves of the Pacific to be baptized at sunset.

Three girls, best friends from a youth group at Influence Church in Anaheim Hills, waded into the water together to be baptized, again.

“Someone came up and prayed for me and I felt like God spoke to me and I thought, why not?” said Bridgette Mayse, 16.

Annika Miller, 17, said dipping into the sea again was for her “a reawakening of boldness.”

With the continuing coronavirus pandemic, traditional indoor church services have been interrupted or reimagined, either voluntarily or by government decree. On the beach, there were no pews or steeple. Gulls and paragliders soared overhead instead.

The seaside outreach movement is called Saturate OC and co-organizer Jessi Green calls it a “ripple-effect” revival, not one led by a single preacher.

Hundreds gathered for the weekly Saturate OC worship event
Hundreds gathered for the weekly Saturate OC worship event north of the pier in Huntington Beach on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

They came to Huntington’s shore to feel the spirit, and, as it is written in 2 Corinthians 3:17, and Green started to recite and the crowd enthusiastically filled in, “where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”

Radley Arnold, 25, was in town from Kansas to visit his girlfriend, who wanted to take him to service on the beach. Worship is all the more important during the pandemic, he said, with its restrictions on gatherings.

Arnold has been studying Christianity but wasn’t planning to get baptized that evening. A preacher called out for people who wanted to go to the water, and he then felt the urge to stand. “I feel completely different,” Arnold said, his wet hair glistening.

Green said she and her husband moved to Orange County from New York after having a vision of a mass baptism at the Huntington Beach Pier while here on vacation. Saturate OC draws together several local ministries for its outreach. They were there last Friday too, and will return on the remaining Fridays in July. They hope to draw 2,000 disciples who can fan out to bring in 50,000 believers.

“The church,” Green called into a microphone to cheers, “has left the building.”

Ashley Rakes, 28 of Orange, is prayed over after she was baptized
Ashley Rakes, 28 of Orange is prayed over after she was baptized in the Pacific Ocean during the weekly Saturate OC worship event.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)