THE BEACON: CELEBRATING OUR FIRST 150 YEARS...AND IGNITING THE FUTURE
"This is the Lord's Table, it's closer now and ALL are Welcome!"
"PRAY ALWAYS, DO NOT LOSE HEART" -- Back in the day when Sue and I would be moved by some timely, positive happening, we would say that we were really "lucky". More recently, as our Spiritual Journey has evolved here at COS, we have replaced "lucky" with "blessed" as we opened our eyes and ears and ceased to doubt that something greater than ourselves might be at work around us.
The most recent example of this was the timely presence of The Rev. Citra Rao in the Pulpit Sunday. If ever there was the right person in the right place at the right time, for us it was Rev. Citra with her message. As she stated during her Sermon,
"We have plenty of reasons to lose heart. When we look at the state of affairs in our political world, our television news discussions reveal a vacuum in leadership. In the world around us there are many reasons to be discouraged. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty grip the heart. Will there be an end to suffering? Encountering the limits of science or failure of governments and leadership, the soul is battered. Who or what can we trust? When life has no answers to offer, people realize that praying is the only place to go for comfort. At the hospital these are the times when a chaplain is paged. Pray always, do not lose heart."
Two things impacted us deeply, First of all, Rev. Chitra's day job is really, really difficult and taxing; she serves as a Chaplain at UCLA Hospital. Day in and day out she deals with people who are facing challenges which most of us are blessed to not ever have to face. And yet, she is guided and re-enforced by six words: "Pray always, do not lose heart!" Secondly, this behavior, this response to the challenges of the day, is exactly what is called for if we are not going to be overwhelmed by the "fear, anxiety and uncertainty" which we are experiencing in our daily lives in 2016.
God Bless The Rev. Chitra Rao AND Roger Cairns-Berteau, her supportive husband.
For some additional thoughts on what we are called to do, STEADFASTLY, read the Section later on entitled "Go Read Amos".
COMMUNITY OF DIVINE OF LOVE + SPIRITUAL FORMATION + CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE + SPIRITUAL DIRECTION + LABYRINTH + PRISM = HOW BLESSED ARE WE? -- Several times in recent weeks, Fr. Gary has noted that the Vestry has voted to provide rent free housing to the Community of Divine Love (CDL). That this is more than warranted is supported by two facts. First of all, consider the above Ministry Offerings the Monks provide to the parish and the greater community. If you had attended the Sunday Forum, you would have been overwhelmed by the opportunities they offer to enhance our individual Spiritual Journeys! You really need to obtain a copy of the CDL Spiritual Formation 2016 - 2017 Program Year. By my count the Monks, assisted by several parishioners, have at least 12 different offerings on the calendar.
As impressive as this presence is, it is even more so if you are aware that in return for the rent free housing, none of the Monks is on COS's payroll even though they continue to assist in Sunday Services and have assumed responsibility for the Monthly Taize Service and all of the above Spiritual Life Programs. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best 'quid pro quo' deals imaginable!!!
WHO IS FR. GREG BOYLE, S.J.? -- It occurred to me Sunday at the Forum that much publicity was given to Fr. Boyle's appearance on campus on Nov. 5 @ 6:00pm to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of PRISM Restorative Justice Ministry. Just in case you do not know who he is, here is the paragraph promoting his appearance. "Fr. Boyle is the Founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, which was established in 1988 and is now the largest gang prevention and re-entry program in the U.S.. Fr, Boyle is the author of the New York Times Best Selling book 'Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion' which he will be signing." We have been privileged to hear him speak, and we guarantee you will walk away stunned by his spirituality, his humility, his dedication, his accomplishments. FYI, Br. Dennis announced that Fr. Boyle may be scaling back on his speaking engagements in the future so you really must make every effort to hear him now.
AN EXTRA ADDED REASON TO SPEND NOV. 5 AT COS: SISTER GRETA RONNINGEN HAS JUST RELEASED HER NEW BOOK "FREE ON THE INSIDE: FINDING GOD BEHIND BARS" WHICH SHE WILL BE SIGNING.
ONE DAY, THREE CONVERSATIONS -- For the last 4 or 5 years I have been perplexed by the continuing decline of the main line Christian denominations in general and The Episcopal Church in particular. Last Wednesday Sue and I had reason to talk to three friends at three different times during the same day, and in every single conversation we eventually talked about the challenges facing each of our churches and/or communities.
The CONCLUSION we came to is this: The world is changing quickly and dramatically, and none of our churches is quite sure how to respond to the challenges facing almost every single person and family rapidly enough, if at all. That said, each had an example of what a meaningful, dare I say RELEVANT?, ministry outreach offering can do to bring people to the church.
EXAMPLE # 1) La Canada Presbyterian Program: "Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age": This was an enormous draw, with attendance from the community for two showings of this documentary estimated at well over 500 people. Here is a quote from the Pasadena Star News which promoted the program and drew the crowds:
"More than any other time in history, technology is an ever-present part of our children's experience of the world. But what impact do social media, smart phones, video games and computers have on their development?
"Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston saw that with her own children and learned that the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. She wondered about the impact of all this time and about the friction occurring in homes and schools around negotiating screen time -- friction she knew all too well."
The church followed up with 4 Discussion Sessions, each of which was equally well attended. La Canada Pres is experiencing declining attendance, but our friends are convinced that more offerings addressing the needs and concerns of the community would reverse this. To date there has been no follow up!
Example # 2) United Church of Christ Hinsdale, Illinois: Mental Health Offering -- A coalition of mosques, synagogues and churches in that Illinois community decided to raise the visibility of Mental Illness among their various constituencies. Although the ultimate goal was to educate this affluent community to the challenges facing the homeless and prisoners, they realized that educating the greater community would be necessary if there was going to be a "buy in".
Much to their collective surprise, the response was huge as main stream, faith based institutions discovered yet again that if you program RELEVANT offerings, the people will come. Sort of like the "field of dreams"!
FYI, Karen Streeter and Michael Watkins would be more than happy to speak with you about building a greater awareness of what can be done to address Mental Health issues.
Example # 3) A "12 Step Program" For South Pasadena Parents -- A recently retired, long time friend has a new passion in his life. He has been involved in South Pasadena community activities forever, including serving for many years on the School Board and has become deeply concerned with what he is witnessing within his community. Parents are increasingly becoming stressed out with the challenges they are facing in raising their children. Drugs, alcohol, obsession with the inter-net including pornography, the pressures of admission to the "right" college, mental health issues and much more are weighing heavily on far too many families.
And yet, our friend says these folks have no place to go except perhaps retaining a therapist. Churches, which we agreed used to serve as gathering places back in the day where people could share these concerns, are not currently functioning in this way. So, he is going to develop a 12 Step Program for Parents where he hopes people will meet to share the fact that they are not alone; many, many of their peers are dealing with same issues. He believes that if he can break through the disinclination to discuss what is causing their Journeys to be so dysfunctional, he may be able to develop a secular program which thoroughly changes the unhappiness he believes permeates his community.
In our "perfect world", THE Church of Our Saviour would be responding in exactly this way, addressing each of these RELEVANT issues. If we did, maybe, just maybe, the pews would begin to be occupied again.
"GO READ 'AMOS'" -- Standing on the ledge together last week despairing by what we have been witnessing this election year, we decided to call The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray to see if he could talk us "off the edge". He listened to our concerns and then stated that the polarization being caused by the two candidates seems to have resulted in one major positive. The outrageous statements have forced a large number of Americans to really consider what they believe. They may finally be being forced to the point where they now have to actively speak out in support of what they do believe. "Enough is enough!"
That said, Fr. Denis did not dispute that things look bleak, and he urged us to "go read 'The Book of Amos'". Sue did as asked, but I went to www.biblestudytools.com and discovered the following. Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (792-740) and Jeroboam II over Israel ((793-753). "Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity and had reached new political and military heights. It also was a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgence in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures and oppression of the poor."
Faced with these realities, Amos' dominant theme was to call for social justice and righteousness as the indispensable expression of true piety. Like today his message was not heard; he was a voice in the wilderness. However, Fr. Denis urged us not to give up, to heed Amos's call to continue to work for "social justice and righteousness", to serve a plum line. Then, as if Fr. Denis had notified God about our concerns, up stepped an incredible Prophetic Voice -- Michelle Obama!. If you did hear her not speech but are interested in seeing what a contemporary prophetic voice sounds like, you can find it all over the inter-net. After that, read Amos. Finally, VOTE!!!
22 COS CHOIR VOICES "PROCLAIM THE WONDERFUL WORKS OF GOD IN HISTORY AND IN LIFE": MUSIC FOR A SEASON 2016 - 2017 -- Far too many people missed our magnificent Choir & Friends performing Choral Evensong Sunday afternoon. It was the perfect way to end the weekend, the tone of which had been established by
Rev. Chitra Rao's Sermon earlier. I'm not sure why there isn't greater support for the efforts of Canon Phil Smith and the Choir, but this is the Ninth Season for Music For A Season and they continue to be "all in", regardless and thank goodness! By the way, where are all of those people who yearn for The Episcopal Church of yesteryear? This service was modeled from the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) and other revisions in 1662. Talk about tradition!!!
MEN WILL BE MEN, FINALLY -- After a long absence, sixteen men of the parish enjoyed fellowship and inspiration and a grilled rib eye steak dinner last Saturday evening, sponsored by the Men's Guild. The environment just as pleasant as the company, as dusk settled over the San Gabriel Valley from the vantage point of Jack & Hanna McConaghy's hilltop home. Thanks to host Jack AND Mike Goodrich, Mike Watkins, Basil Johnson and David Coleman for their culinary (Mike and Mike) and bar-tending (Basil) and logistical (David) expertise. And the inspiration came in response to Deacon Bill Doulos' question which was sandwiched in between the steak and the Marie Callendar pies. "What does the Church mean in your life, in one sentence or less?" All sixteen men replied in turn, and at length, ignoring Bill's one-sentence request, but that was OK because each comment was poignant and heartfelt and nourished the spirits of all in attendance.