Church targets young skateboarders with skate park sermons
It was sundown in a mostly deserted parking lot tucked off Westminster Boulevard. The skateboarders had stopped, as they do every Thursday, to listen to the man with the Bible.
A single lamppost shone over the makeshift skate park, where ramps and wooden ledges sporting the words Gravity Youth covered the parking spaces. Two dozen or so skateboards lay on the ground as their owners sat on the curb. Aaron Morgan asked how many people had come for the first time. One hand shot up.
"All right, guys," Morgan said. "This is skate church, so whether you like it or not, I'm going to preach the word of God to you."
A stack of pizza boxes sat at the end of the curb, but Morgan, the youth leader at the Sanctuary in Westminster, made it clear they wouldn't be opened until he finished speaking. As the sky went from hazy to dark, he held forth about hypocrisy, free will, Jesus' sacrifice and the perils of apathy.
Morgan guessed that most of the teenagers were congregation members of the Sanctuary, a church with heavy ties to the skateboarding world. He would welcome more newcomers without ties to the church. He told the boys to each bring a friend next time.
As the pizza disappeared and a few riders returned to their boards, Senior Pastor Jay Haizlip stood on the curb and watched his endeavor expand — another Thursday evening, another convert.
Haizlip, a Huntington Beach resident and former professional skateboarder, founded the Sanctuary in Huntington in 2002. He is quick to note that his project is not a "skateboarding church." The staff boasts three current or former professional skateboarders among its pastors, and it uses events like the Thursday skate park to attract youth.
But Haizlip is mostly intent on spreading the Gospel, and if it takes a few ramps and boards to entice people inside the church, he'll do it.
I don't hang up my Christianity in the closet and go skateboard and ... [then] put my Christianity back on," he told the Huntington Beach Independent. "I'm just who I am."
— Michael Miller, Times Community News.
Photo: Skateboarders listen as Aaron Morgan gives a sermon at a makeshift skate park behind the Sanctuary, a church in Westminster run by a former pro skateboarder. Credit: Steven Georges / Times Community News