Member of the Church in Ocean Park
In 1-2020 I had a screening at the CIOP called "The
Guardians" by producer/director Billie Mintz a
documentary on elder abuse within the corruption of
Court-Guardianship, I truly felt deep in my heart that
the CIOP mission really aligned within all
Advocates/Activist worldwide , I especially love that
CIOP engagement in conversations with the healers,
the bridge builders,the community cultivators and people who are moving humanity forward, and their continued effort on social justice work was what kept me coming back, it's so important on a daily basis to serve others especially in these difficult times. I work full time in Health Care and I have probably taken care of every patient imaginabile and experienced every family dynamics known to man and that is why people in Health Care it's our nature to nurture, also, I created a company called Ethics Media where we empower senior citizens and dependent adults within their own communities through education on law enforcement policy regarding elder abuse, we work through public events, press releases and videos of personal stories. Let us all empower our communities and come together as ``We the People" it's especially important to believe in the power of stories to create meaningful Social Change!
Member of Church in Ocean Park
To begin, I want to pay homage to our
wonderful minister at CIOP, my friend
Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen and to
her husband currently experiencing a
health crisis. May his well being return
and may they both know the concern
and supportive love we all feel for them.
The first time I arrived at the Church
in Ocean Park, and I arrived very often from then on, was 1976. I saw an ad in a Beach Front paper for an improv acting class at the Church in Ocean Park. At the time I was staying just a few blocks away at my friend Mitch Greenhill’s place in Ocean Park. The teacher of the class, Marlene Rasnick, asked me to roll across the floor with her and, I like to say, we kept on rolling for the next twenty years and more.
Jim Conn was the minister and he had determined to have a theater company in this church, to enhance a connection to the arts and to culture. He invited Marlene Rasnick, Dale Eunson and Luke Johnson to begin the Public Works Improvisational Theater, of which I am currently the Artistic Director. Marlene and Dale have passed on to do improv in the stars. Bless their memory and the memory of Eleanor Graham, also a Public Works member and former long time Musical Director here at the church.
All three of these talented women were called away too soon but for me they are in the very air we breathe here at The Church in Ocean Park. They’re with us all the way and are but a sample of the powerful Creative Spirits of Love and Good Will that permeate the premises and the congregants.
As a people here we have a rich and ongoing history of encouraging, creating and participating in community. May it ever be so.
It has long been a pleasure to be a guest speaker and to have participated in many theatrical performances, workshops, concerts. Weddings I have officiated and services at this church which holds a very special place in our hearts.
Alisa D. Orduña
Member of Church in Ocean Park
We cannot reject where we are in hope of being
someplace different: we have to lay the groundwork
for common space, for sharing our common
humanity, and for bulwarks against the
dehumanizing tendencies of orthodoxy.
John A. Powell 
I did not grow up “religious.” Well that was until my
mom married my step-father when I was around the age of 9 and I entered a world of ritual - First Communion, Baptism, and May Day - in the process of being accepted into the Catholic faith. There were many things that I did not understand in the Catholic tradition. I often felt that there was a lack of faith in humankind so it’s God had to create many rules and instill fear of hell to make one ‘live right.’ Of course there was always Confession, but even that act felt disempowering as instead of going outside to talk to God, I had to talk to a man, often a white man who had no understanding of what it meant to walk on this earth as a Black girl. Of course I enjoyed learning the life-stories of the Saints and how they overcame hardships in life to speak their truth and express their unyielding belief in God, even as surrounding societies continued to restrict belief and dictate the practice of prayer.
Today, I practice an indigenous spiritual system of my ancestors – Ifá. This is a tradition from the Yoruba culture found in Nigeria, Togo, and Benin. It came to the Americas in the collective consciousness of enslaved Africans and has been retained as a tool of resistance and resiliency ever since. Although African Traditional Religions like Ifá are one of the fastest growing spiritual systems around the world, they are often not acknowledged by the Abrahamic traditions, even as these often integrate Eastern spiritual practices such as those found in Buddhism and Taoism.
The Church in Ocean Park is different. In this space God – or a higher power – is love. People of all, or no faiths, are welcomed. In this community, I am seen. I am invited to participate.
The Church in Ocean Park is an historic community gathering place for dreamers and visionaries who come together to champion a better world. Its parishioners believe in a fair and just society where all residents are valued for the contributions that they can make regardless of race, gender identity, physical or mental abilities, housing status, age, or other identity markers that are often discriminated against within a broader American culture of white supremacy patriarchy. CIOP’s doctrine is action. It is putting all forms of privilege (race, housed, employed, age, citizenship) on the line to speak up and out against injustice. It is also a wellspring of support, encouragement, and inspiration so that joy and smiles and song are part of a powerful strategy of resistance to oppression.
I am proud to be affiliated with the Church in Ocean Park. If you are looking for community, or are just curious, I hope that you too will join.
 Racing to Justice: Transforming our conceptions of self and other to build an inclusive society
Member of Church in Ocean Park
Crisis: I'm gonna be forty. My woman done left me; where will I go? What to do with my life? Yoga: The Integral Yoga Institute offered lessons at the Church in Ocean Park. A friend invited me. Discovery: A Sanctuary with beautiful stained glass windows and all the trappings of traditional Christianity, even a bell that could ring whether the neighbors liked it or not. There was a display of photographs, "Harlan County USA" from the motion picture of the same name. This brought back memories of my childhood and the mining operations in West Virginia where I grew up. My Dad was a "Wood Hick" logger. Across the mountain, his brother Cecil was an underground coal miner. Family tradition I reckon. What was this doing in a Church? It was hard to find a Bible or a Cross.
WTF? Curious, I joined the Sunday morning gathering and met Reverend Jim Conn, music minister Elinor Graham and Judy Abdo who was "Administrator" and more. Jim had been on the scene for about five years and I soon learned he was an unconventional, activist Lefty which was a fit for me, as I came from a Unitarian background and was an anti-war activist and a member of the Tom Hayden group Campaign for Economic Democracy.
The first Sermon I heard Jim do was a criticism of "Racism, Sexism, and Monopoly Capitalism.” I listened. This was Left enough for me. In all the years that I had been involved in churches, I had never heard "Capitalism" attacked like this. I came back and have listened for forty-four years. Sometimes I speak up now but I never did back then. I was a "Spectator." Jim left the church after twenty-some years. Sandie Richards arrived with enthusiasm and fresh new energy. I loved Sandie's Christian slant. We even did Communion sometimes. Now we've had Reverend Janet for more than ten years and what can I say? Bigger than life, a "Real" Christian and my hero. Church in Ocean Park has become my Home, my Family. I belong to the people, the people belong to me. I ain't going nowhere for the next forty years.
I support Church in Ocean Park because the church gives voice to the voiceless. The painstaking steps are taken to make sure that EVERYONE is INCLUDED. Church in Ocean Park does not shy away from the hard questions and conversations. The church fearlessly dives in and brings the relevant questions from our community and conversations to the table of our communities. I believe that inclusiveness is what I was taught as a child. Agape LOVE is what is displayed at Church in Ocean Park. LOVE without expectation, LOVE without judgment, LOVE without limitation and LOVE without condition. Just acceptance..............................As GOD loves us.
Herley Jim Bowling
Member and CRJ, YPCC
& Administrative Board Member
of Church in Ocean Park
In January,1974, Mollie and I moved to
44 Navy St. in Venice. I was out exploring
our new neighborhood when I passed by this church.
The sign said it was a United Methodist Church which felt
like a connection to home since my father was a United Methodist minister. Inside I encountered Rev. Jim Conn, Judy Abdo, and others in what would become my spiritual home and community.
Over the years I’ve been able to revel in my love of camping (Catalina, Big Bear, Joshua Tree National Park, and taking the young people of the church camping several times at Mono Lake). Also in my love of a cappella group singing as part of the choir and A Cappella Jam which was birthed here and sang together for 20 years.
In 2006 I started the Santa Monica Fancy Dress Swim with Rev. Sandie Richards, Elinor Graham, Rev. Janet and many of you. Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ) and Young People Creating Change (YPCC) have been and continue to be important parts of my life. Mollie’s quilts have been a hit at Communitas in recent years.
There are many stories from 46 years of involvement with the church. But the real story is you. You are the Church in Ocean Park, the community that makes it all happen, that loves and nurtures me and all of us, spreading the love of justice, kindness, compassion, and knowing we belong to each other. You matter. You are loved, valued, and you make a difference. I love you.
Friend of Church in Ocean Park
Diane Rose As an outside-the-box
spiritual leader, I am always thrilled to
eet someone cut from the same cloth
(so to speak). So, when I found myself
at the Church in Ocean Park and met
Pastor Janet through a series of unlikely
events, I knew this was someone to know. Fortunately, we did keep in touch, and
the next thing I knew, I found myself coming to CIOP to talk about Hanukkah, writing up something to share for Sukkot, leading a seder, and unrolling our Torah with the community for Simchat Torah. At each event, I was so moved by the kindness, and the intellectual and spiritual curiosity of this community. As a Jewish Universalist Rabbi, I felt at home with the idea of an interfaith church. As the mother of an LGBTQ teen, I felt honored by the rainbow flag draped on the wall. In many ways, Cool Shul and CIOP are perfect partners… both seeking justice, spirituality, and truth, but doing so in ways that feel authentic to each individual.
Peace Activist Rubin, member of the Church in
I’ve been a member of the Church in Ocean Park for
more than four decades.
After a number of friends had often urged me to come
on by some Sunday morning, I finally did.
And I’ve been happy I did ever since! I’m not at all
religious, but I appreciate the community, diversity
and supportiveness the Church offers. Starting in 1980
the Church was kind enough to host our Alliance for
Survival’s annual New Years Eve Peace Party for 30
The Church is certainly a pillar of peace in our great City of Santa Monica! I hope that someday soon we will all be able once again to close the Sunday service with a personal hand-holding Circle of Unity. Until then we all will certainly be able to show our love, support and unity in appreciating all the Church has given and continues to give us!
Rachael Rose Luckey
Member of the Church in Ocean Park
The Presence of the Devine at the Church In
Four walls, a roof, an empty floor, a barren stage
Yet there is not nothing here,
there is not absence
Echoes of friendly smiles, shared tears,
The Divine dwells here bestowing their great presence
This was my first time at the Church In Ocean Park
Accepting faces of strangers watched as I stood before them
A song of peace spilled from me, it was ok to bare my soul
From first note to last the Divine moved through me powerless to stem
My voice faded when I was done, I had been cleansed in whole
This was my first time meeting the people at the Church In Ocean Park
Each are welcomed, celebrated, encouraged, validated
Strong fellowship abounds in verse, in song, in prayer
Injustices fought as testament to a belief in Divine love against hate
A simple powerful message of faith in building a world more fair
This is how I feel every time I am with the people at the Church In Ocean Park
So Mote It Be
Facilitator, Connecting Circle Thursdays 1-2pm
Swept by a tailwind into Los Angeles, I alighted upon
Church in Ocean Park nine years ago. I arrived without
appointment after many years of healing and social justice
engagement in the roles of womanish advocate, social work
clinical activists, adjunct professor and ordained itinerant
diaconal minister in the Caribbean.
All I am and do, is imbued with my nature-based intuitive
spirituality seeped in Afro-Caribbean and Christian
heritage. It is reflected in one of my favorite movies, Chocolat, in which empowered priest Pere Henri sermonized, “Listen, here's what I think. I think we can't go 'round measuring our goodness by what we don't do, what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.’’
In Church in Ocean Park, I have found a community and leader of like heart, mind and spirit. One dedicated to embracing the Great Mystery’s diverse creative expression in all life forms. Our community includes persons regardless of religion, race, creed, sexual orientation or socio- economic position. At Church in Ocean Park we are committed to the challenges of co-creating a life-affirming and just world.
Church in Ocean Park Member and Community Leader
My name is Kathleen Benjamin. I have enjoyed being an
activist, business owner, associate in several civic groups
and a member of the Santa Monica Community for over
5 decades. My spiritual path has allowed me the honor
of being a devotee of SRF, to become a Licensed
Practitioner with Agape International Spiritual Center for 10 years, and 5 years with Center for Spiritual Living. In my spiritual journey, I have continuously sought out like-minded people in places of peace, demonstrating God in action. The Church in Ocean Park is such a place. Rev. Janet is a dedicated leader and fierce warrior for love and justice. The Ocean Park community serves as spiritual activists putting into action a world that works for everyone. The Church in Ocean Park is the epitome of inclusiveness, welcoming everyone regardless of religion, race, creed, sexual orientation or socio- economic position. It is a place where all who enter are not only welcome but embraced with love. I support the Church in Ocean Park because it's the change the world has been seeking.
Rev. Joseph Hepburn
Co-chair, Administrative Board
I arrived in Venice, to work as a Hospital Chaplain at
UCLA Medical System in November 2011, following my
retirement from Ministry in the Methodist Church in
My first visit to this Church was uncomfortable for me
because I was accustomed, for 33 years, with a
traditional, orthodox, British-oriented type of worship
and Ministry. I had come to the USA during a time of
severe draught, followed by National financial crisis,
and now I felt my heart strangely confused, in a Methodist Church worship where no hymns were sung, no prayers were said, no Holy Communion was administered, and no clerical collar or dress for the Methodist Minister.
But I returned the following Sunday! What continues to move me is the genuine friendliness and compassion of the mostly elderly members, and Minister; the opportunity for all to genuinely contribute during the service; and the joyful fervor of different Christian and non-Christian Faiths sharing in worship together. I am in a congregation shaping the socio-political climate of their society, but there is no rancor or blaming and naming among them. In fact, the Church itself does not label itself with a name! It is The Church in Ocean Park. So my New Birth here, and confirmation that God has an inspiring sense of humor, motivates me to support this Church and community.
Peace Camp Team member and Member of the Board
In 2011 or so, my dear friends Claudia and Craig invited
me to The Church in Ocean Park because they knew I
was majoring in theology and that I had an interest in
interfaith dialogue. Little did I know I would become
a member many years later.
While it took me a long time to adjust to the church, I
as wondering upon my arrival where the “smells and
bells” were. After about two seconds, I became good
friends with the minister Rev. Janet, and that happened because we made each other laugh.
Along with much laughter, I also learned how to understand my faith in light of other faiths. Time went on and my study of theology blended well to the church’s “interfaith” work, deeply ingrained in social justice. I began to accept The Church in Ocean Park not just as “the church for hippies”, but my home; as our meditation each Sunday goes, “in the here and in the now” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I support the church because everyone is welcome. It’s a place where one’s faith is seen as something of value, where we celebrate our differences, and we cherish our similarities only to learn from each other more and more.
Member of the Church in Ocean Park
I first happened across the Church in Ocean
Park in June 2013. I wasn’t a huge fan of
churches or organized religion in general
but I had recently arrived from Nevada so
that my daughter could attend the local
elementary school and I was having difficulty
finding housing within the school zone. I reasoned that a church would be a solid group of people who lived locally and might be inclined to be of assistance.
When we arrived I was most surprised to discover that the guest speaker was from the local NAACP chapter and the service itself was heavily focused on social justice. No bible thumping lecture to be found. After the service we stood in a circle and held hands sharing joys and concerns, something else I’d never done before in a church! By this point I had decided against asking for help with my housing situation because by now, I really rather liked the church and its quirky congregation and I didn’t want people to think I had only come because I needed help. But after the circle I found myself in conversation with a lady I soon discovered was also a British immigrant like myself who lived just up the street from the church. Without provocation or hesitation she offered to assist me.
Moving to Santa Monica had been a dream of mine for many years and making it happen had been no small feat. We went through a lot and overcame significant obstacles to make it happen.
I didn’t arrive at CIOP looking for a home church and had never intended to return, but that day I went home and cried when I called my mother to describe the encounter. I knew for certain I had been meant to be there and to meet this peculiar, intriguing group of individuals.
Since then I have been a proud member of CIOP, have served on multiple committees, attended trips, events, political and social justice actions. My daughter was also welcomed warmly into the church (having had negative experiences of churches in the past) and when I met my now husband and remarried in 2017, it was Pastor Janet who performed our ceremony under the same arch she had married Bob and Trudy several years earlier, and whose good energy I felt sure would be a mighty blessing on our union. I love CIOP and our perfectly imperfect, doing our best and carrying on. Always.
Member of the Church in Ocean Park
Facilitator, Circle of Connection on Mondays
Michael and I support the Church in Ocean
Park because our family values call us to seek
out and nourish our tribe. We believe our tribe
extends beyond immediate family and close
friends, but to neighbors who bring color to our day to day lives. Church in Ocean Park is just that - a neighbor, two blocks from our home. We were those people, who stumbled into the strange church down the block, completely over-dressed, and completely awe-struck by the people and conversation we experienced. As Pastor Janet reminds us - we do not seek consensus at the Church in Ocean Park. In fact, we intentionally create and use our diversity to dismantle unjust systems. There are certainly passionate perspectives expressed in service that Michael and I do not share. However, we are without a doubt, made better by the diversity. By the challenge to not just tolerate, but to embrace a different perspective, or approach to life. We went looking to extend our community, our tribe. We found so much more than that. The Church in Ocean Park and all its members can count on us to continue the legacy, to continue the pursuit of social justice, to continue our support.
Member of the Church in Ocean Park, Facilitator, Circle of Connection on Thursdays
I am a nonreligious member of the Church in Ocean Park. Clara, Dash, and I attend the Sunday service on a semi-regular basis, and I'm currently hosting one of the Circles of Connection (Thursday's at 6, join us!). I met Janet, and the CIOP, when she graciously volunteered her time to take part on the Special Education District Advisory Committee a decade ago.
I was raised as an atheist, but as an adult, I consider myself a radical agnostic. I’m not much interested in theology — I think we human primates are gifted storytellers, it’s how we make sense of the world — and I must confess that I often replace the word God with Dog when singing! However, I do remember being profoundly moved reading the sermon on the mount shortly after 9/11. Loving people who love you is no great trick, even terrorists do that!
My grandfather was a Congregationalist minister who worked for the UN’s High Commission on Refugees after WWII. Later, he moved to Chicago, where he was a leading member of the Ecumenical Council and was part of the group that invited Dr. Martin Luther King to Chicago. Of the many things I learned from him was that together, a dedicated group of people can make profound change in the world.
I came to CIOP in search of fellowship and community, not just for myself, but also, in particular for my son Dash. You may have seen him walking around the Sunday service and twirling his hair. CIOP is one place I feel his differences will be not just tolerated, but accepted with compassion, joy, and love. I cannot tell you how much that means to me. Thank you all, and let’s CARRY ON!
Chair, Staff Parish Relations Committee, Steering
Committee, Committee for Racial Justice
I support the Church in Ocean Park because I absolutely
love the church in pretty much every way. I love the
minister, I love the people, I love our services, I love our
programs. The church’s primary values-- love, kindness,
fairness and reciprocity, egalitarianism, social justice
are also the values I espouse. The church gives me moral
support as I pursue these values, as well as affording
opportunities for doing so. For example, I am very
involved in the Committee for Racial Justice an organization that would not even exist if not for our church. It is also crucial to me that the unity of the church rests on these shared values and not on shared religious doctrines. Though I am not irreligious, there are few official religious creeds that I can entirely subscribe to. It is important for me not to be expected to do so and for it not to be assumed that I do so. At the same time, there is much that inspires me in a variety of religious traditions. A multi-faith church is therefore perfect for me. There is plenty of inspiration I can draw from; yet I am free to follow my own thoughts wherever they may lead.