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

Alyssa Skobis, center, of Downey is baptized in the Pacific Ocean by Joe Ferguson and his wife Taylor Ferguson, right.
Alyssa Skobis, 22, of Downey is baptized in the Pacific Ocean by Salt Costa Mesa Church leaders Joe Ferguson, left, and his wife, Taylor Ferguson, during the weekly Saturate O.C. worship event north of the pier in Huntington Beach on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News )

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

At least 200 evangelical Christian faithfuls gathered Friday 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 Ocean 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 ocean again was for her “a reawakening of boldness.”

With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, traditional indoor church services have been interrupted or reimagined, either voluntarily or by government decree. On the beach, there were no pews or a steeple. Gulls and paragliders soared overhead instead.

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

Hundreds gathered for the weekly Saturate O.C. worship event
Hundreds gather north of the pier in Huntington Beach for the weekly Saturate O.C. worship event on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

They came to Huntington’s shore to feel the spirit, and as it is written in 2 Corinthians 3:17, which 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 a 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,” said Arnold, 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 there on vacation. Saturate O.C. draws together several ministries for its outreach. They were there on 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 being baptized.
Ashley Rakes, 28 of Orange is prayed over after she was baptized in the Pacific Ocean during the weekly Saturate O.C. worship event.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

Davis writes for Times Community News.