Halverson-Cano named new pastor at IUCC

Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano
The Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano

Irvine United Congregational Church is delighted to announce that the Rev. Dr. Pastor Sarah Halverson-Cano has answered the call to be our next pastor.  Her first official day at IUCC will be in September.

The Search Committee conducted a nationwide search – reviewing many candidate profiles from all across the country – but couldn’t find a candidate who “checked all the boxes” better than Pastor Sarah.   Her commitment to Progressive Christianity is clear.  She is a gifted preacher who is devoted to the social justice causes we hold dear, and she has wonderful leadership talents.  She is dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion.

The Rev. Sarah Halverson-Cano’s sermon for IUCC on the Sunday her call was formally approved by the congregation.

Pastor Sarah first came to IUCC at the age of nine (about 34 years ago).  She arrived with her family, and they quickly became involved in the life of the church.  Sarah participated in the youth group and emerged as a leader.  She served as our Sunday School Coordinator/Youth Group Director from 1999-2005.

Pastor Sarah went on to earn a B.A. in Religion and English Literature from Chapman University in Orange, a Master’s degree in Divinity from Claremont University, and a Doctorate in Ministry from Chicago Theological Seminary. 

Even though she’s been away from IUCC for some time (serving first as Associate Pastor at United Church of the Valley in Murrieta, and then as Pastor at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa for 14 years), Pastor Sarah has been back for special occasions.   She was ordained at IUCC 15 years ago and says, “It was so special that IUCC choir sang a beautiful Lakota song and I had two bell choirs!”

She spoke at the 25th anniversary of our Open & Affirming Celebration on Feb. 28, 2016.  Here’s what she said at the time: “Decades ago, my mother made a decision to bring her children to IUCC, and it changed the course of my life.  In 1991, I became a member.  I was in the second group of kids to be confirmed at IUCC.  The first vote I took as a voting member was for us to become an Open & Affirming church.  I am rooted in the soil of the people of this church.  I was raised by this village.”

Pastor Sarah is a well-known and well respected leader in the local religious community.  For six years, she served on the board of the Southern California ACLU.  For several years, she served on the board of Progressive Christians Uniting and The Center for Progressive Christianity.  She chaired the Orange County Chapter of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) for nearly a decade, sat on the CLUE California Board, and continues to serve on the board of CLUE.  She has served on the board of the Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council from 2006-present and is currently the president of the organization.  She has long been an LGBTQ activist and advocate for social justice.  

Pastor Sarah comes to IUCC with glowing references from community leaders:   

Rabbi Stephen Einstein: “She walks with workers managing unfair labor practices, with immigrants who face deportation, and with every religious, racial, and ethnic group that suffers discrimination.  She has been a leader in fighting for the rights of LGVTQ folks … She preaches with eloquence, she teaches with passion, and she counsels with a caring heart.”

Farrah Khan, Irvine City Councilmember: “Rev. Sarah has been a strong voice for the community through her civic engagement.  She cares about issues important to residents and is willing to work to ensure that a faith perspective is heard while being mindful of the separation of church and state.  I have witnessed her ability to eloquently share her passion for affordable housing, homelessness, sanctuary cities, and economic justice at city council meetings in Costa Mesa and Anaheim.  She would be a welcome voice at the Irvine City Council.”

Ada Briceno, Unite Here Local 11: “She provides hope, comfort and inspiration to empower us with the word of God.  She is a friend to hotel workers and stands with working families throughout all of the county…. We need more pastors like her and more opportunities to see women in leadership.  She is an excellent leader, a kind and loving pastor, a fearless warrior for social justice, and an inspiration to our community.”

Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director, Greater Los Angeles Area Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): “Time and time again, Rev. Halverson-Cano has been there for the Muslim Community and all other marginalized communities.  Whenever there is a threat to our community she is there…. She is well spoken, an excellent writer, and has a way of connecting to people.  She is intelligent, courageous, and genuine.  Her dynamic personality and inclusive teaching style draw us in and keep us connected.” 

Pastor Sarah is excited to return to IUCC.  “One of the draws for IUCC is your strong leadership,” she says.  “I love to uplift people – to empower them to share the vision.  To me, you’re a blessing.  You’ve demonstrated that you want to make a difference and follow Jesus into our communities.”

Pastor Sarah and her husband Markyce have a daughter and a son.  IUCC is thrilled to welcome them into our church family and looks forward to seeing her in action. 

About the author: Tricia Aynes became the moderator of IUCC on July 1. More information is available in the church’s July newsletter.

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