Canvas was conceived in early 2011 by a band of entrepreneurial misfits, a courageous church and some denominational leaders willing to hand out permission. The church was Irvine Presbyterian, the misfits are now the Canvas leadership team, and the denominational permission-givers live mainly in Anaheim. What we share is was a deep desire to value people more than the institution of church – seems so obvious, yet so hard to pull off.
Inspiration came from the Church of England of all places. Their Fresh Expressions movement is a work of utter genius. And following the dictum that “good artists borrow and great artist’s steal,” we nabbed every idea.
Step one: listening. We did months of focus groups, interviews, surveys, demographic studies… – all to understand why most of our friends didn’t think so highly of church. They told us, and we agreed. Moreover, we thought Jesus agreed. So we set out to create a community in which we, they, and – we think – Jesus would love to be a part. The church gave us support. The denomination let us break some rules and in September 2012, Canvas was launched with about 50 very devoted people and a lot of prayer.
At the center of it all is the conviction that “love is the name of the game,” and that the “salvation” is what God desires to bring to all creation – not escape to the afterlife, but the transformation of all things to conform with love (you know, stuff like: justice, sufficiency, peace, rest, joy…).
We still do some “churchy” stuff, things like worship, prayer, study… But we think true maturity in love also requires deep relational bonds, an appreciation of beauty, finding and following our calling, serving others, and lots of great food. And we very much understand that Christians believe some stuff that is not so obvious or easy to embrace (Jesus as the embodied offspring of the Deity…really?). It turns out we have come to actually believe that stuff, but don’t imagine or expect that everyone will, and that’s just fine with us. Anyone who wants to share the journey of life as we work to better the world together is entirely welcome to join in whichever dimensions of Canvas they wish.
By September of 2013 Canvas had more than tripled in size and move to our new location on the corner of Von Karman and McGaw in Irvine. We gather weekly for worship and a few other times for various activities. But the real work is “out there” in the world. If any of this sounds like something you want to be a part of, even just once in a while, we’d love to hear from you and extend a welcome!