Community members gather for UCC House Church outside the home of Executive CP Gary Hanson and his wife, Tracey. Photo courtesy of Tracey Hanson
Every week, Gary Hanson and his wife Tracey have the Pepperdine community join them for a gathering of fellowship, instrumental worship and Biblical teaching — all from the comfort of their own home.
Gary Hanson serves as Pepperdine’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. He and Tracey live in faculty housing on Tiner Ct.
Vice President and Chief of Staff Danny DeWalt, who was involved with the founding of House Church, said in its beginnings there was a sense that students were craving faith community, support and encouragement.
“We just wanted to start humbly in a home and try to create that sense of community,” DeWalt said. “Which is why we serve dinner so students can come and sit around a table. There is something special about a meal together, and that builds community.”
The service features a time for guests to share a meal, followed by communion, a time of worship and a message from a church member. There is also a dedicated prayer team available for those who are seeking additional help or encouragement.
“I think the draw to House Church is that it is a place where all who attend feel welcome and accepted,” Tracey Hanson wrote in an email. “We are thrilled and excited to see students and those from the Pepperdine community responding so positively to House Church. We are in awe of God’s amazing presence each week. I like to say, ‘God is up to something good!’”
The service is designed to be a more intimate version of the University Church of Christ (UCC) Sunday evening service that began in summer 2018 and took place in the chapel. UCC continues to host a traditional Sunday morning service weekly in Elkins Auditorium.
What makes House Church so unique, DeWalt said, is that it is designed to be a space where people of all backgrounds, churches and denominations can be united together around Jesus.
“The primary formative truth that the Churches of Christ are founded on is unity,” DeWalt said. “In fact, that’s how they named the church ‘The Church of Christ,’ because they just wanted it to be the one church, and so this [service] is very much in the spirit of the Church of Christ — that we are all welcome to this table.”
DeWalt shared a message about God’s mercy Feb. 8 as part of a semester-long series explaining different qualities of God’s nature.
“We found that as we were starting this service, we wanted to set a foundation in the most solid thing we could, the most solid truths we could, and that’s God’s unchanging and divine nature,” DeWalt said. “There is so much out there about God that is just not true. To talk about the scriptures and the truth of the nature of God that is unchanging, that whatever is happening in the world, whatever is going on in someone’s life, is that those opinions about those things do not define who God is.”
Junior Cassidy Aberson, who began attending House Church at the beginning of the semester, said she enjoys the service’s kind and welcoming atmosphere.
“I’ve never been to a Church of Christ [service] before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Aberson said. “I’m used to a big church — very charismatic and almost Pentecostal — so it’s different, but also I still feel the presence of God at House Church.”
Sophomore Sammy Alvarado began attending House Church in August 2019 and said she loves the diverse walks of life represented at the church and that there are opportunities for meeting new people, building relationships and receiving mentorship.
“I also really appreciate that we all share a meal together,” Alvarado said. “It’s a great opportunity to talk with people, and it’s different from any other churches that I’ve gone to, and I really love the way they do communion while we’re sitting at the table — I think that’s how communion was meant to be taken.”
DeWalt said House Church is meant to be a place where people from any denomination or background can feel like a part of the family.
“We are just open arms here,” DeWalt said. “I think that’s our deepest heart — is that every student at Pepperdine would know that we are doing this and that we’re here and that we really want them to be a part of it.”
Tracey Hanson said as long as people want to attend House Church, she and Gary Hanson will continue to open up their home.
“We hope [House Church] is a place where people feel accepted, ministered to and spiritually refreshed,” Tracey Hanson said.
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