THE BEACON: CELEBRATING OUR PAST 150 YEARS...IGNITING THE FUTURE.
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!
THE GIFT OF COMMUNITY -- In case you hadn't noticed, we are living in polarizing times. Not only are we gathering together only with like minded people, we also are becoming more isolated as we rely increasingly on social media as opposed to joining or needing communities. We see the impact in every kind of institution you can name, but I was really surprised by a conversation I had with Reid Allen last week. He is a long time member of the Pasadena Kiwanis Club, and he bemoaned the fact that attendance has declined dramatically. Where they used to have 150 for a meeting, now they are fortunate if 15 show up. This community is disappearing, and Reid is not happy that an organization that he has given so much to apparently is irrelevant in 2016.
I know this has been occurring for some time within the mainstream Christian denominations, and this certainly is the case on Sundays at THE Church of Our Saviour. However, Ministry after Ministry at COS is alive and well, attracting substantial numbers whenever there is a gathering. Last week provided wonderful examples of what I'm talking about. On Thursday SAGES held another highly successful Monthly Meeting. On Friday, A Child's Garden School hosted its Annual Fund Raiser which Executive Director Evie Escatiola reports netted a substantial amount of money for school projects. And finally, on Saturday night Transitional Housing welcomed a full house to Cleaver Hall for its Monthly Dinner for residents, their families, House Managers and Board. Having attended two out of three of these, I can state unequivocally that there is strength in numbers; we all are better off when we gather in numbers to share the Journey. If you will pardon the expression, it takes a village!
VILLAGE EXAMPLE # 1: SAGES MADE SMARTER BY FR. GARY BRADLEY -- Your senior pew mates were treated at their Monthly Luncheon to an extensive rundown of the upcoming election of the Bishop Coadjutor to succeed Bishop Bruno as the Seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The delegates will assemble on Friday, December 2nd and 3rd, in the Ontario Convention Center to begin voting. This time six candidates will be voted on, one of whom was nominated "from the floor". Fr. Gary, with help from Gabe Vazquez-Reyes, prepared a 16 page booklet containing all anyone would need to know about the selection process from the initial search to the final vote.
Before he began his formal presentation, Fr. Gary asked if there were any questions. There were, and they were insightful and revealing; but I was struck by how little most Episcopalians know about the structure of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church (TEC) and how COS fits into all of this.
Perhaps the most relevant way to connect the dots is to describe the financial link that connects COS ultimately to the Archbishop of Canterbury. To begin with, we are one of 140 parishes and mission churches within the Diocese of Los Angeles. Not only that, recent court rulings have determined that the Bishop 'owns' all of our property under the structure of TEC, so he/she potentially has enormous influence over each parish (more later). However, most of the time the Bishop and his staff exist to serve the 65,000 parishioners in portions of five counties which make up the Diocese. In return for these services, each parish is required to 'tithe' at least 12%, but preferably 15%, of its Normal Operating Income (NOI) to the Mission Share Fund (MSF) to help fund the operations of the Cathedral Center.
NOI is an expense item which your Vestry has to consider each year. During my times as a Vestry member, it almost always was relegated to a residual item, and we seldom have exceeded the minimum number. Even so, based on the 2015 Diocese Annual Report COS's MSF ranked 7th out of the 140 parishes; and since Los Angeles probably is one of the top three or four within the 111 dioceses which make up TEC, this makes us one of the largest contributors via L.A.'s mandatory 'tithe' of 18.5% of its revenues to the operation on the national church. TEC then upstreams a specified amount to Canterbury along with the other 38 Provinces which make up the Anglican Communion. So, if you have been following the money, you can see that COS has been an important factor in the operations of the Diocese of Los Angeles, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church. In fact, in the early 1990's COS donated $500,000 to the construction of the Cathedral Center's Rev. Canon Nicholas Kouletsis Guest House. Canon Nick served as Rector from 1986 to 1990 when The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray was called.
So, you can see our relevance in the hierarchy of the church, but in our time at COS we also have been major beneficiaries of being members of this greater community. In no particular order, Bishop Bruno provided $300,000 to the building of the OSC Youth Center Gymnasium; $70,000 along with COS's $50,000 to assist our Sister Parish in the purchase of property which became the Episcopal Cultural Center of Shefa 'Amr; assistance to the Community of Divine Love; the designation of Rev. Canon Charles Sacquety as our Interim; compensation for Eva Cavaleri and Won-Jae Hur while they were on staff; and substantial assistance in providing an acceptable severance package for Rev. Canon Michael Battle.
This background information should convince you that what happens in Ontario is important to us here in San Gabriel. Whatever your impression of Bishop J. Jon Bruno is, for seventeen years he has served one of the most important and diverse dioceses in the entire Anglican Communion in spectacular fashion. His work in ecumenical and inter-faith relations is way ahead of the curve, his support of women in the priest-hood is unparalleled and his embracing of the LGBTQ community is well recognized. In addition, it was he and he alone who stood up to the break away parishes at great expense and won, without any assistance except words of encouragement from the national church. Finally, he acknowledges that he has placed many priests in the 140 parishes, and I'll bet that number exceeds 60. He knows every single one his parishes intimately.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Bishop of Los Angeles can continue to be one of the most influential people in Anglican Communion if she or he chooses to exercise the powers and influence that come with the position, This is why we should all care about who that person is.
By the time you have read this, Fr. Gary will have spoken at the Sunday Forum and introduced a video containing each of the candidates speaking briefly. This was lifted by Gabe from a three hour presentation featuring the candidates at Campbell Hall. Although each only spoke for a short time, we were comforted by the fact that there is a lot talent to choose from. For what it is worth, our preference is for an older person with administrative abilities who has intimate knowledge of the challenges facing the Diocese of Los Angeles.
YOUR DELEGATES -- As befits a parish which contributes so substantially across the board with its financial resources, people (priest candidates) and outreach ministries, it is appropriate that we have a number of votes:
Clergy -- Gary Bradley, Peg Bradley, Ada Wong-Nagata, Nancy Shier, Thomas Ni, Dennis Gibbs, Bill Doulos, Chitra Rau, Ellen Wekall (Retired)
Lay -- Juli Kennedy, Patrick Crandall, Jonathan Burke, Robin Kassabian
Alternate Lay -- David Arnt, Cheryl Townsend, Will Dumain, Katherine Feng
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE VILLAGERS -- SAGES has no budget so we sustain ourselves through the contributions financially and in kind from our approximately 40 regular members. This last Meeting was a wonderful example of their collective commitment as we relied on a potluck offering because Diane Rivera was out of town. As usual there was far more food than we could consume, but special recognition needs to be given to Michael Watkins and Karen Streeter who arrived early and prepared from scratch enough spaghetti to feed a small Italian army, AND Bill Ferry who cornered the baguette market in San Gabriel. Last but not least, Sue thanks Michael, Karen, Linda Goluskin, David Coleman, Eileen Delaney and Kathy Mccauley who, meeting after meeting, stay along with several other regulars to clean up. Sue appreciates this assistance so, so much.
VILLAGE EXAMPLE # 2 -- Thursday when we arrived for the SAGES Lunch, we found the courtyard between Grace Chapel and Brown and Allan Halls filled with tables of auction items for A Child's Garden School's Annual Fund Raiser on Friday. It was an amazing array of offerings, and I had the opportunity Sunday to ask Evie Escatiola how the benefit went. Here is her enthusiastic report:
"Here is what it takes to have a successful event to raise big money at ACGS
* Three co-chairs who are willing to call in favors, name drop and scour the neighborhood for donations to be auctioned off
* Members who put in countless hours planning, decorating, cooking and getting donations
* Major sponsors who generously gave money to seed the event. These sponsors were ACGS families!
* 105 parents and grandparents who paid $50 to attend the event
* A roomful of happy people bidding on the silent and live auction items
* End result: ACGS earned $25,000 before expenses!!!
"The parents did this for the school out of love and dedication to ACGS and their children. This money will enable us to finish the meadow turf, get walkie talkies for the school's emergency communication, rewire the office for maximum effectiveness of our computer network and provide our wonderful teachers with end of year bonuses.
"As the Director I feel very blessed to be part of this 'village' who comes together to find solutions for the benefit of the ACGS community!"
VILLAGE EXAMPLE # 3: DO YOU REALLY KNOW HOW MANY JOURNEYS COS IS CHANGING FOR THE BETTER BECAUSE WE OWN 50 BEDS IN PASADENA? -- The first Saturday of every month (except this coming December which occurs on the 10th) Transitional Housing aka Jubilee Homes hosts a dinner for everyone involved in this Ministry, with the entree usually prepared by one of the residents and the rest contributed by Board members and guests. These gatherings are always fun, but the highlight every time comes when Deacon Bill Doulos invites several residents to speak about their Journeys.
This time was no exception. Two men and a woman spoke briefly from their hearts about how much they appreciate the opportunity to live affordably in Pasadena, and the love expressed for Deacon Bill and the House Managers was quite moving. Each also thanked COS for making this possible, and two said that we had saved their lives. It was very evident that this Ministry is providing 50 people with the chance to start new Journeys while remaining in the area. We are doing GREAT WORK!!!
THE BELLS ARE RINGING -- While some so-called Christians are supporting preventing Muslims from immigrating to the US, requiring them to register or even setting up Internment Camps for them, the Palestinian Christians of Israel and Palestine are acting like....well, like Christians. In case you are not aware of it, the "only democracy in the Middle East" has just banned the use of loud speakers to announce Athan, the Muslim's five times a day call to prayer. In response to this egregious violation of religious freedom, the Christian community in Nazareth is acting proactively: If Netanyahu's government silences Athan in the mosques, the churches will recreate it by ringing their bells at the appropriate times. FYI, this is what happens when the wall between church and state is removed.
CIRCLE OF RESPECTABILITY & DIALOGUE -- The worst thing for me over the last 18 months has been the polarization of positions which I have never witnessed before. No matter what the gathering, attempting to enter into a conversation has been like entering a mine field. It got to the point where I was able to determine whether a person watched Fox or MSNBC within no more than two minutes, and many times no conversation followed. And now that the election is over, things do not appear to be getting better.
So, how do we re-introduce civility and respect into the community? Br. Dennis and Sr. Greta and the Smocks propose that some of you who share our concerns come together on December 1st, a Thursday evening @ 6:30 in GRACE CHAPEL. We intend to gather in a circle and engage in respectful conversation, with the objective of trying to come to some conclusions about how we might be able to expand a Circle of Civility.