By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"Just to know who Jesus is and who he hung out with—it was the people who go to our church; they're my closest friends," she says, flicking away tears. "They're just real, and I like that."
* * *
For as long as he can remember, Furey says, he would always start every new year at His Place with a theme. The idea sounds corny until you see how many of them include battle metaphors. Last year, the theme was "Take New Territory." The result? On Feb. 16, they're opening a second His Place at its former Huntington Beach location. Its primary objective is to be a church that focuses on broken and blended families. Sure, it could've spent more money on a better sound system or flashier amenities, but that was never what brought people to His Place to begin with.
"I think some churches, if I were to complain about them, like to build up instead of out," Furey says.
The motto for this year is "Destroy the Works of the Enemy." For that job, Furey has embarked on a new project, Gabe's Homes. To be run by longtime ministry leaders Ross and Jamie Martinez, they'll be focused, short-term sober-living condos near the church that will not only give people a place to stay, but also provide classes on finance, job hunting and tithing, as well as help them to get clean of their addictions.
A couple of weeks ago, led by Sons of Thunder, a rough-and-tumble ministry working adjacent with His Place, dozens of men gathered for an AA meeting that was also a celebration. A few members were presented with sobriety chips; they'd been dry anywhere from 1 to 15 years. Slices of store-bought chocolate cake were passed around. Furey sat in the back with Jones.
The crowd was just as mixed as it is on Sunday—suit-wearing professionals, grizzly blue-collar men and teenage youngsters looking as bored as ever. One guy who was asked to share his testimony wasn't really in the mood to speak. He said he'd just pissed away 27 months of sobriety by going on a binge three weeks ago. He sat cross-legged in his chair, his right foot jittering as he stared at the ground.
"Right now, I'm so angry at myself that it's almost tough to say I wanna do the right thing, or that I want it all to be okay," he says. "Why would you wanna be nice to a guy that you hate? That's how I feel about myself."
When he finished, Jones piped up from the other side of the room. He also knew the pain and self-loathing of backsliding into addiction. But he shared what Furey had taught him about why none of that matters when you're still in a fight for your life and looking for help. "Just because you relapse, dude, doesn't mean that all that you picked up for 27 months is out the window. All we have is today—that's it. There's a few guys in here that have put a few todays together. . . . It's been a hard year, but I haven't had a drink over it, and I'm grateful for that. God's a good guy, but he's not a magic wand."
As Jones said that, Furey smiled, cracking a side glance at someone he'd help to save who was now trying to talk sense into another lost soul. It's a cycle he prays for continuously, one he talked about a few days later on Sunday while facing his congregation of the damaged, the recovering and the faithful. The message of the sermon was on the power of mind control, the battle between new ways of thinking versus old beliefs. It's a theme you could find in any number of songs from the Dead Kennedys or Fugazi, only its power is being drawn from the pulpit instead of the mosh pit. Thanks to Furey and a spiritual place to call home, Christ's wounded warriors are coming one step closer to winning the battle for their souls. Of course, no sermon is complete without a few wisecracks to lighten the mood—and a request for five more minutes to finish his final thought.
"I can look around this room, and I know many, many of you . . . the first time I met you, you were high or drunk. . . . Well, you came to the right place," he says as he scans the room to a roar of laughter. Furey tilts his head down, smiling, and joins in, laughing with them, not at them. It's not as though he has ever been in a position to do otherwise.
"Usually, the clergy are really close to God, and they don't sin like everybody else, and the laity is different," Furey says. "No, we're all in the same boat. I sit in a different position, but I'm in the boat."