Oasis Community Church, a multiethnic church in Moreno Valley, Calif., is committed to unity and diversity despite some challenges it has faced, said Rudy Gonzalez, a race relations advocate for the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Race Relations,
“The Race Relations vision for diversity is our denominational vision, and it belongs to all of us,” he said. “Oasis’ leadership is committed to that vision.”
Pastor Al Breems and his young family, together with a few families from Hope CRC in the neighboring city of Riverside, began the journey of Oasis in 1991, Gonzalez said.
They saw a need to start a church in Moreno Valley, a community pieced together from several communities surrounding a nearby Air Force base.
Moreno Valley was unique, offering homes costing up to $100,000 less than those in neighboring communities. The lower prices drew a wide range of residents from various ethnic groups.
“We sensed God’s heart for people yearning for a unique community,” said Robert Velasco, a founding member and worship leader at Oasis .“People from diverse ethnic and educational backgrounds living as neighbors needed a place where they would feel welcomed and celebrated.”
Ethnic leaders at Oasis made the commitment to unity and diversity a reality.
Tim Blackmon, a Dutch immigrant pastor of African American descent, served as co-pastor. When he took a call to another church, Gregg Wilson, another African American, assumed a leadership position.
“Sadly, Greg was diagnosed with cancer and went home to be with the Lord,” Velasco said. “However, by that time, the value of raising multiple ethnic ministry leaders—elders, deacons, and pastors—was a value in the Oasis ministry that continues.”
The priority of diversity over preaching, worship, or leadership style frustrated a few people, said Velasco. But many members supported the commitment. It also helped pastors preach a more relevant message, he said.
Despite some differences over the years, the church has grown in numbers and in spiritual maturity, said Velasco. The congregation remains committed to embracing the biblical vision for people of every nation, tribe, people, and language united as one in Christ.
“The work is challenging. But it also strengthens our resolve to embrace and celebrate people and their culture,” Velasco said. “Oasis may not be the largest church in the city, but it is well-known for being the most community-connected one.”
Race Relations and Oasis started developing a relationship in the 1990s.
Gonzalez was working with World Renew at the time. He had come to know Al Breems and had many conversations with him about the value of congregations embracing unity and diversity. Breems helped to cast a vision for unity and diversity by creating space for Race Relations workshops.
Gonzalez said the workshops gave Race Relations an opportunity to share a vision of helping to create sustainable ministries “that will outlive the sunset of monocultural congregations.”