Something is brewing in the upstairs tea room at the Piecemakers' Country Store, and it ain't tea.
Seated around a table filled with muffins, bagels and jam, the women of Piecemakers speak intently of the upcoming battle.
"The kingdom of God is at hand. It will be a battle between two kingdoms, us against them. The unfair government is toppling," said Marie Kolasinski, the spiritual leader of the 40-member group.
Past incidences of rebellion against local government appeared to go unchecked and the group accepted them as small victories.
The scale was tipped Sept. 27, when members of the Piecemakers staged the musical "Big River" in the store's parking lot without applying for a $100 special events permit. Within days a special prosecutor was hired by the city and, for the first time, criminal charges were filed against the Piecemakers. City Councilwoman Heather Sommers said the Piecemakers should follow the same rules as every other business owner.
Anne Sorensen, a member of the group whose name appears on the court order, will have to defend the group today in Harbor Municipal Court. Judge Suzanne Shaw will preside over the arraignment.
"I've never even been before a judge," Sorensen, 68, said nervously.
She looks scared, but Kolasinski refuses to let fear overcome one of her friends.
"You're not nervous," Kolasinski said, trying to reassure her.
"Your spirit is before the Lord. "
At the Country Store, where crafts, home items, home-baked goodies and tea are sold, group members seem resolved.
"I would stand behind them with everything," said Stacy Dickenson, 34. She has known the Piecemakers since 1973, when her family moved next door to Kolasinski. "They are my family. "
She leaned back against a quilt hanging on the wall and tried to fight back tears. Dealing with the government, "has been really hard over the years. Something has to change," she said.
They define themselves as a 40-member group that follows Jesus Christ. His laws are higher than any laws of the land created by governments, they say. Their desire is to live with one another, follow the lord and be free from government intervention.
They are a family, though not by blood. And they own the Country Store in Costa Mesa, where they sell crafts, home items and baked goodies and tea.
Following is an excerpt from a journal kept by Marie Kolasinski, the leader of the Piecemakers.
He came like a thief in the night.
I had a bewildered husband and four children who felt their mom had died. I still cooked, baked, put band-aids on wounds, but there was always that intruder called Jesus who jealously made sure I loved no one more than Him.
Jesus Christ called us much like he called the disciples when He walked the earth in the flesh. Some were truck drivers, some were teachers, businessmen, secretaries, housewives, and some were drifters. What they were didn't matter. What they were to become was the important goal of His calling. Each one left all and followed him to the end of their world, and what the Bible calls our corruptible life. And out of the ashes of our old lives, Piecemakers was born. The month was July, the year 1978.
Piecemakers began much like His life began _ in a manger _ a small 800 square-foot building in a nondescript part of Orange County. It was a quilt shop with classes for those who wished to learn how to make quilts. Then it went from quilts to fabric wall decorations, to making dolls and teddy bears. As Piecemakers unfolded, not only did the talents within the people He called begin to sprout and take root, but also the trend seemed to be worldwide _ people again getting back to the works of their hands.
Then in 1979 a group of humble people came from Northern California and said they wanted to walk with the God we walked with. They wanted to embrace the cross and give their whole heart to our Savior. The group was large but God sifted out those whose hearts would betray Him.
As the '70s gave way to the '80s, the seed planted began to grow and grow, ever changing day by day. The doldrums of everyday life, with the flesh not getting the thrills offered by the world, many bailed out and then turned to persecute, sue and try to put to death the little vineyard God has given us.
These were trying days for all of us, but the ones whose heart was purposed to finish the race continued to follow our Savior as He increased and we decreased. The summer sun was hot. Many times I wondered if the vision we had would ever come to pass. Endurance, long suffering and patience began to become a part of our character.
What a difficult time from when the seed was planted in the spring through the long growing season to the harvest in the fall.
1992: Piecemakers were sued by two former members in a dispute over ownership of a Costa Mesa house. The plaintiffs said the group was an abusive religious cult that coerced them into donating their home. The lawsuit was settled in 1993 when Piecemakers relinquished its share of the home.
1993: A tea room in the Piecemakers' Country Store was shut down by the county Health Department for selling unwrapped food, and because the Piecemakers refused to revamp a broom closet and allegedly committed other code violations.
June 1995: Piecemakers irritated city officials by standing in front of some ficus trees in front of the store's warehouse while city crews were attempting to cut them down. The city said the roots were breaking the sidewalks.
Aug. 1995: After inspectors said they needed a permit to operate a candy counter at their store, group members wrote a letter to the county Health Department which made vague references to the Oklahoma City bombing, mass death of public officials and the overthrow of the government. The incident was investigated by the FBI.
Aug. 1997: The Costa Mesa Fire Department had to get a court order to inspect the Piecemaker's warehouse on Logan Avenue. A list of alleged misdemeanor violations _ from un-permitted construction work to hazardous electrical wiring _ was forwarded to the group, Fire Department officials said. The warehouse will be subject to another inspection in the coming months to make sure it complies with building regulations. The Piecemakers have not complied with a list of expensive repairs.
Oct. 1997: The city filed criminal charges against the Piecemakers for staging a performance of the musical `Big River' Sept. 27 in the store's parking lot without a special permit. Piecemakers contend their business license states they can hold events without paying an addition $100 for a special permit from the city.
Today: An arraignment is set in Harbor Municipal Court before Judge Suzanne Shaw, the same judge who sent city gadfly Sid Soffer to jail over a building code violation.