A record number of baptisms took place at a beach in Orange County over the weekend, as believers professed their faith in Jesus Christ at Southern California’s latest “spiritual revival.”
Nearly 1,000 people turned out at the Chino Hills-based Calvary Chapel’s outdoor baptism, which was held at Newport Beach’s Corona Del Mar State Beach on Saturday. While Calvary Chapel hosts a baptism at Corona Del Mar Beach every year, Pastor Jack Hibbs described the baptism as “our biggest to date.”
“California may be experiencing a spiritual revival,” Calvary Chapel Church Director Gina Gleason told CBN News in an interview. She said that the turnout at this year’s outdoor baptism was “remarkable and a significant number,” far exceeding the typical turnout of around 300 attendees.
“Spiritual revivals” at the beach have become a common sight in southern California as believers grapple with restrictions imposed on religious services amid the coronavirus pandemic. In July, the group Saturate OC held “powerful worship sessions on the beach” every Friday night, where attendees had the opportunity to “hear the gospel,” “be baptized in the ocean,” and “be filled with the Holy Spirit and be set free.”
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, worship artist Sean Feucht described the worship sessions as “a return back to a gritty, raw Gospel, Jesus people movement foundation.” According to Feucht, “A lot of that is in part because we can’t be in our churches. We are kind of forced to be outside of our buildings and forced to be innovative and creative and come up with alternate solutions.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Corona del Mar was a popular destination for mass baptisms. In 2018, evangelist Greg Laurie held a “Jesus revolution style” baptism at the beach, where over 550 people were baptized. These events have become even more popular now that coronavirus restrictions have prevented worshipers from gathering indoors at their churches for much of the year.
Pastor Hibbs is one of many California religious leaders who have strongly criticized those restrictions. On Facebook, Hibbs asked, “If pastors are still debating among themselves whether or not to open up their churches, to get back to ministering to the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of their flock and to the preaching of the gospel—then I ask you when?”
Calvary Chapel is still offering worshipers the opportunity to gather in person and online as part of the “Come Back California” campaign. Following a week of fasting and prayer, which will include “special evening services” at Calvary Chapel, Hibbs will partake in an all-day social media event called “Come Back California” on Saturday.