THE BEACON: CELEBRATING WHO WE ARE IN OUR 150TH YEAR
By Sandy Smock
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!"
PENTECOST: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? -- I googled "Pentecost" in an attempt to gain a better idea of what this Celebration is all about. FYI, what I found on google was not very helpful. THEN, I heard Fr. Thomas Ni's incredibly RELEVANT Sermon!
"The miracle of Pentecost is a reversal of the dispersion and division that occurred at Babel. IT IS A MIRACLE OF BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS. On that Pentecost morning, the Holy Spirit touched the people and restored them to a community in which all linguistic, psychological, social, cultural and political barriers were removed."
"God wants to connect with us and wants us to connect with each other NO MATTER WHO WE HAVE BEEN, WHO WE ARE, AND WHO WE WILL BE. The significance of Pentecost is to take a diverse group of people and to bring them together into a common understanding of what God's love has meant to their lives."
Almost every week I urge you to get a copy of the Sermon OR view it on COS's web site. This time I DEMAND that you find a way toread or hear Fr. Thomas' words. They not only are informative in helping you to understand Pentecost BUT also RELEVANT to what THE Church of Our Saviour is experiencing as we move into our 150 year.
GIVEN MY UNDERSTANDING OF FR. THOMAS' MESSAGE, THE CELEBRATION OF PENTECOST ACTUALLY BEGAN AT COS ON FRIDAY EVENING WITH "THE BIG BOOK COMES ALIVE" -- Friday evening over 90 men and women came on Campus to attend the first of the "The Big Book Comes Alive" workshops sponsored by Jubilee Homes Transitional Housing. If there ever has been a gathering of people from as many diverse backgrounds as this one, I wouldn't know when that might have been. In fact, if one didn't know better, one might even conclude that God arranged this scheduling to prove a point.
I am ALWAYS proud to be a member of this parish but being a member of the parish which hosted this event made my heart beat more rapidly than normal.
While I have your attention, I need to tell you more about this RELEVANT event, the incredible people involved in its organization and COS's important connection. The Big Book Comes Alive web site characterizes its program as a traditional AA 12 Step Program based on workshops developed by two guys from Arkansas. In 1984 when all else had failed, Bill Morgan asked one of them to be his sponsor, he never drank again, and he began presenting the Program in Southern California. Bill Morgan, for those who do not recognize the name, developed a long time friendship and professional working relationship in the mid 1980's with Deacon Bill Doulos, first at Union Station and then with Jubilee until he passed away last year.
Sue and I met Bill M. in 2003 when COS took over the Jubilee Ministry. What we did not know then but have subsequently learned is what a powerful presence Bill M. had in the community. In fact, some would say that he is one of the great icons in the region's Recovery Community. Not only did he sponsor hundreds of people, but he also established at least one of the most influential AA meetings in the West San Gabriel Valley. Bill M. was and is deeply loved by many, many people, and this seminar was dedicated to him.
For the record, "The Big Book Comes Alive" continues to "live" because of the leadership of Bill M's close friend Ken Hinge and several others, including parishioner Tracy H, who are dedicated to carrying on the Program's tradition. Listening to Ken's presentation, I was enormously impressed by the evangelical tenor of his delivery. He and the other presenters made it very clear that sobriety not anchored in a higher power is difficult to sustain. In fact, I was so impressed with the emphasis they placed on spirituality that I told Deacon Bill I wished the leadership of The Episcopal Church would generate some of this same evangelical passion.
One other example of the gratitude in which Bill Morgan's life and witness are held must be noted -- the Irv Moss Family supplied the entire Saturday luncheon in his memory.
A Final Comment -- After hearing Fr. Thomas' Sermon, it occurred to me (too late) that sometime during the workshop would have been a terrific opportunity to make the point that "Our Altar is the Lord's Table and ALL are welcome there AND everywhere else on our Campus!" There are no barriers, no walls at 535 West Roses Road!!!
THE PROOF IS IN THE FORUM -- Beginning at 9:00 Sunday morning I experienced exactly the same feeling of pride as I had the day before. Here in our midst was another group of people "different" from us, and they too were warmly welcomed by those attending the Forum. First, Fr. Gary gave a brief power point presentation which he said he had delivered to a Clericus Meeting, the periodic gathering of parish priests from Deanery 5 in the West San Gabriel Valley. The point of the presentation was to provide an update of the changing demographics in the region. Some important points for your consideration:
Since 2000, 9 out of 10 Chinese immigrants are coming from mainland China (Peoples Republic of China PRC)
150,000 annually -- 17% to SoCal
10% are Christian from PRC, 90% are not religious or non-Christian
U.S. Chinese population
1980 - 812,178 (0.36%)
2010 - 3,794,673 (1.23%)
WITH THIS AS BACKGROUND, REV. ADA & FR. THOMAS TOOK OVER, SORT OF -- I say "sort of" because after brief comments from both of them, the rest of the presentation was a series of statements from six or seven members of the Mandarin Congregation. As far as I'm concerned, this was an Epiphany AND Pentecost all in one! For the first time I was introduced to each of them and got to hear their stories, their dreams, in person. This is a wonderful group of people who are traveling Spiritual Journeys which are so different from mine but so inspiring!
In particular, I was very impressed with Katherine Feng and Jacob Lee. They not only are making huge contributions to the general well being and growth of the Mandarin Congregation but also are pursuing personal goals which are truly amazing. In fact, both are so committed to their Spiritual Journeys that they are in discernment now to ascertain whether pursuing the ordination process is what either of them should be doing with their lives.
A SEA OF RED -- This joyful weekend concluded for me when I entered the Sanctuary and was met with a Sea of Red AND a Processional Line which would have warranted a sig-alert in any other context. In fact, I don't know if we keep such a records, but this surely must have been one of the longest processionals ever. This is what happens when you baptize eleven (11) people!!! This is great news. The bad news is that I couldn't get to my usual seat! I need to be careful about what I wish for. Just kidding. It was a wonderful Service and such a fitting way to celebrate Pentecost.
If you will read Fr. Thomas' Sermon, I think you will agree that THE Church of Our Saviour which addressed the needs of the Protestant Community in the 19th century is now addressing the needs of ALL residents in the 21st century. Hooray for COS!
GUESS WHO SAID "I PEDDLE HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT. THAT IS MY STOCK IN TRADE?" -- I was looking for a fitting way to do justice to what I had experienced this weekend, and then the mail arrived. Here is what Deacon Bill Doulos has to say about life:
"I was recently given a copy of the book by Richard Rohr entitled 'Falling Upward' as a gift that would prepare me for the second half of life. I am flattered to think that I may be just now entering the second half of life, at the age of 72! ... I feel that I need to 'get busy living'!
"That is a strange thing to say for someone my age, but that is the way I feel. My best years are ahead of me. Each day is a new revelation of God's love. I am eager to accomplish some future goals. I am energized by the challenges of my work with Jubilee Homes. Most mornings I jump out of bed anxious to tackle some fresh opportunities.
"Most of these opportunities are not organizational. They come my way in the form of people -- people who call, people I visit, old friends and new ones. I PEDDLE HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT. THAT IS MY STOCK AND TRADE."
BASED ON MY RELATIONSHIPS INSIDE THE GATES OF 535 WEST ROSES ROAD, WE HAVE A WHOLE BASE CAMP FULL OF PEOPLE LIKE DEACON BILL. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT THEY ACCOMPLISH OVER THE NEXT 150 YEARS!