Her name is Sarah Halverson. Reverend Sarah Halverson. She's the pastor of the Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa, Orange County, CA. Her church is just under a half hour's drive from Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, also in Orange County, CA.
On a lark, I posted a story yesterday on my local Orange County political blog, as soon as I heard that Rev. Louis Giglio had pulled (or been pushed) out of the Inauguration ceremony due to some anti-GLBT views that he had expressed in a sermon in the mid-90s, when the status of GLBT civil rights hung precariously in the balance, and repressed (publicly) since then. "Hey, someone's got to replace him," I thought, "why not our Sarah? She certainly deserves it as much as anyone, and she'd do a good job. She's stepped in to tougher situations than this."
I didn't contact Sarah (whom I know through attending various political functions, but not that well) before posting the story, and when I lined to it on Facebook I told her (publicly) that I hoped that I wasn't embarrassing her. I wasn't -- it turned out that she liked it. And many other people liked it too -- 111 others, so far, as I write, since it went up yesterday evening.
Maybe you'll like it too, so I'm posting it (with a few additional ending comments) here. It's got to be someone! Why not her?
I have SO not asked for permission to write this one -- and I'm sorry (but not entirely sorry) if the praise embarrasses its subject.Notice that I say that Rev. Sarah Halverson would be a "bookend" to Rev. Rick Warren (who, I believe, gave the prayer rather than the benediction four years ago, the latter of which was given by Rev. Joseph Lowery.) She's not the "opposite" of Rick Warren because he is not nearly the worst that Orange County has to offer. Orange County is also the home to Wiley Drake of Buena Park, he of the "imprecatory prayers for President Obama's death" and as fiery an enemy of homosexuality as Warren is, he shows to the public, one "in sadness rather than in anger."
As you may know, Obama's choice to give the benediction at his Inauguration a week from Monday, Louie Giglio, has withdrawn from the event due to the discovery of an ringingly anti-gay sermon he gave in the mid-1990s. This leaves the President in a bit of a pickle. Who can he get to step into the fray at almost the last minute -- someone with the right symbolism, the right demeanor, and the right chops?Well, I think it would be a great gesture if he chose Rev. Sarah Halvorson, pastor of the Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa, as his clerical honoree for his second Inauguration. She's be a sort of a bookend to his choice four years ago of Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church, just a short drive south, for his first one. (We're Orange County -- honoring us just once is not enough!) And, as Obama supposedly prepares to give up on being an occasional doormat for Republican intransigence, what better way to make the point then with the beaming face you see here?
If you agree, one of you -- or all of you -- may choose to set up a Facebook page or a petition to get the ball rolling while the iron is hot, or however that metaphor should end.
Rev. Halvorson is pretty much of a Democrat's dream, as you can see from her extremely fashionable "No on 32" button in the photo at right. She's pro-GLBT, as you can see from this article where she celebrated "Same Sex Kiss Day" with a kiss on the cheek while symbolically giving the chicken-finger to Chik-fil-A. She's pro-union, even when it's as heart-breaking as having to stand against belover Trader Joe's for its labor practices or as daunting as getting arrested in support of a strike by LAX workers. She's pro-peace, pro-woman, and was one of the first clerics to come out and support Occupy Orange County in the first days of Occupy Irvine. She's friendly, smiling, and will look good on TV -- especially if she wears her rainbow vestments!
I'm not saying that there aren't other clerics in Orange County just as deserving of this national honor, but she's the one that comes to mind first. That she comes to mind first shows just how hard she works to do the Lord's work even when it's not always going to be popular. And if the presence of a sunny, unmarried female pastor who (I'm told) can hold her liquor and go beyond pure G-ratings on her Facebook posts shocks a few people across the nation, so much the better. Religion-wise, even speaking from a different denomination, I'd be happy to have her representing me.
Is she going to get chosen? Well, I'm posting this late enough so that if we start tonight we'll have a jump on all of those soon-to-be-asleep East Coasters, so that's in her favor! But even if she doesn't, I'd love for her to be on the list (even if it's only spoken on background rather than written) of people who were also considered to step into this position of honor. She's young; she'll surely go far -- so let's give her a nice big push! It's an honor just to be nominated, right?
For all I know, this post is as likely to embarrass her as delight her (though I'm hoping for the latter), but I'm happy to say that her hard work promoting social justice and standing against discrimination is noted and appreciated. And if she doesn't mind a trip to D.C., if things go as hoped, well I'm sure the trip would do her some good!
OK, who's with me on this? (Note: any negative comments should be mild and funny, if you want them to last.)
And -- not to minimize the above -- even Drake, who has made service to the homeless a hallmark of his otherwise mind-boggling offensive ministry, is not clearly the worst we have. (Drake came to the Fullerton City Council and excoriated them and the police over the death of Kelly Thomas in July 2011, about which you may have heard, leading to the article above. Religion and politics is a complicated mix around here.)
We also have a Catholic hierarchy that was deeply involved in the "pedophile priest" scandal; we have Robert Schuller's televised leadership of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange that bilked parishioners and then careened towards bankruptcy; I'm sure that we have some clerics here who both abhor homosexuals and seethe in contempt for the poor and cover up abuse and bilk people wherever they can. I don't think that there's one single "worst" here. We have a bubbling cauldron of the horrors stirred up when religion mixed with both extreme social conservatism and extreme economic conservatism and the degree of license that comes when no one seems to stand in the way of people becoming ever more radical in their stances towards those who despise.
And we have good clerics here too. I know of good rabbis, priests, and ministers who (to the varying extent that they can do so without getting disciplined or fired) do take a stand for social justice. We have reformers. They tend to be brave and stolid -- but not so much "in your face."
Sarah Halverson, beaming smile at all, is "in your face." Not in a nasty or confrontational way -- her speech early in the Occupy Orange County saga hit high and positive notes -- but in a "showing up and showing an example" way. And she shows up all over the place, where she's needed most. I think that it would be a treat -- and a little bit liberating for clerics in this county that is the population of Iowa, sitting next to one, LA, that is the population of Michigan -- for people to see her recognized like this. She's willing, able, and she'd do a great job.
How about it, Mr. President? It's got to be someone -- and it might as well be her, rainbow vestments and all!