THE BEACON: "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works!" Matthew 5:16
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!" Fr. Gary 2017
A BLESSED DIOCESE!!! -- Sue and I have been fortunate over the last 13 years to get to know Bishop Bruno because of our work in the Holy Land. His support from the beginning of COS's Sister Parish Relationship with Fr. Fuad Dagher and St. Paul's and with Palestinian Christian Guide Iyad Qumri has been second to none. In addition, at the Diocese's Annual Meeting in 2004, he himself introduced a Resolution establishing a Companion Relationship with the Diocese of Jerusalem which still exists today. To say that we were blessed by his support and encouragement would be a huge understatement -- he assisted in changing the course of our Journey.
Then, last December at the Diocese of Los Angeles' 121st Annual Meeting, over 600 clergy and lay delegates made another great selection in the history of this diocese. They elected The Rev. Canon John H. Taylor, the Vicar of St. John Chrysostom Parish in Rancho Santa Margarita to be our BISHOP COADJUTOR ELECT, succeeding Bishop J. Jon Bruno when he steps down. As with Bishop Bruno, we met Canon Taylor through our work with the Diocese's relationship with Jerusalem and his commitment to the Palestinian Christians as he led five Pilgrimages to the Holy Land over the years.
However, more than this, we came to know him as a person of great spiritual insights more than willing to share them. particularly in the social media. Most recently, on Monday just before the hearing on St. James The Great's case against Bishop Bruno begins, he issued the most incredible statement imaginable in which he recognized the positions of both sides without taking a side and asked for respect and prayers to be said for all concerned. Given the tone of the rhetoric of the day, his pronouncement was lofty and inspiring. We urge you to find and read his statement on facebook; we think you will agree with us that this is the leader we Episcopalians need in 2017 and beyond!!!
5 MARKS OF LOVE + COMMUNITY MINISTRIES FESTIVAL + THE REV. ELLEN WEKALL'S SERMON = I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER -- Next to Pogo, my most favorite American philosopher is Col. John "Hannibal" Smith of the A-Team who is best known for his statement "I love it when a plan comes together!" I thought of him Sunday morning in the Forum as Paul Kilian was introducing the 3rd Mark of Love in the Lenten Series "Living Life Marked as Christ's Own". The focus last Sunday was TEND: Responding to human need by loving service; and Paul noted, as I'm sure Hannibal Smith would have, that God's Plan had come together because the topic of the Forum (TEND), the Community Ministries Festival organized by Joanna Cory and Gerry Fagoaga and Rev. Ellen's Sermon ALL URGED EVERYONE TO GET INVOLVED IN CARING FOR THE LEAST AMONG US!
I have thought a lot about the coming together Sunday of this collective call to get involved, and I have two things for clergy and parishioners alike to consider. First of all, as I participated in the Forum, looked around the Sanctuary during the Sermon and then sat in the Telleen Family Court Yard and watched people check out the six Outreach Ministries represented in this Ministries Festival, I observed that almost everyone I knew already is involved in volunteering in some capacity either within the gates of 535 West Roses Road or in the community. Few parishioners are not engaged in something!!!
So, the challenge, I have come to believe, is a shortage of people concerned about the least among us in our pews, caused by A SHORTAGE OF PROGRAMS CONCERNED WITH THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE RESIDING ABOVE THE LEAST AMONG US 'LINE'. I may be over simplifying this, but I do understand why so many people voted the way they did. They feel disenfranchised and ignored even though their Journeys also are very difficult. I have to tell you that we have little to offer our 50 year old daughter, her husband and our two grand daughters (20 and 17) as they deal with challenges of life. The Episcopal Church offers no solutions. Right now 500 year old liturgies and fabulous music are irrelevant to them!
THAT SAID, THERE'S ALWAYS TAYLOR VAZQUEZ-REYES FOR YOUNGER FAMILIES! -- One Ministry which clearly appeals to younger families in the greater Community is the Music Program guided by Children's & Youth Music Director Taylor Vazquez-Reyes. Sunday the presence of approximately 20 of these young people enlivened the Service, and we are blessed with her ability to elicit this level of enthusiasm from them.
AN OUTREACH MINISTRY OF YESTERYEAR -- I asked last week for anyone to come forward who had been involved in or had knowledge of the AIDS Lunch Ministry which existed at COS from 1991 for approximately 15 years. The response has been gratifying AND moving. I have heard personally from Carol Hill and Bev and Jerry Harris and by e-mail from Linda Goluskin and Joanna Kinsley. In addition, there were The Rev. Patricia O'Reilly who was Chaplain at L.A. County + USC Hospital at the time, The Rev. Ellen Wekall who replaced her in 1995 and former COS Choir Director Jim Person, each of whom also provided valuable insights. However, the response which really captured the spirit and courage of this Ministry was provided by Barbara Lester. Grab a tissue and read what she had to say:
"Those were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and AIDS patients were thought of like the lepers in the Bible -- the outcasts of society. Many people thought AIDS patients brought the disease on by themselves by being gay or IV drug users, and so the ministry was not a 'popular' group. However, we were called by Christ to serve the sick and the least among us, and so we prepared simple lunches and brought them to County General Hospital where we set up a lovely table and gave the food to the AIDs patients and immediate families.
"The patients were from every ethnicity and socio-economic group, but most were living in poverty, often alone, and they were so grateful for food and a little something for the bus ride home. There were many children who had contracted the virus from their mothers. Our COS ministry received an award certificate from the L.A. City Council, and I remember the congregation gave us a standing ovation. However, it was not the award but the look in a patient's eyes when I served them food which was the true communion of grace."
Stand by for the complete story which is currently being written.
PRISM GOES ON THE ROAD -- The Diocese of Louisiana this week hosted a three day PRISON MINISTRY CONFERENCE entitled "Proclaiming Hope In The Age Of Mass Incarceration". An impressive line up of speakers was invited, including prison reform advocates, researchers, authors, clergy, government officials, and service providers to inmates and their families. Two of those speakers were Sr. Greta Ronningen, Benedictine author of "Free on the Inside: Finding God Behind Bars" AND The Rev. Dennis Gibbs, Prison Chaplain and Director of PRISM Restorative Justice, Diocese of Los Angeles. This is a big deal and further, growing recognition of the work the Monks are doing in raising the visibility of the largest incarcerated community in the world.
NATIVE SONS OF THE GOLDEN WEST COME TO COS -- On April 1 beginning at 2:00 the San Gabriel Historical Association whose membership includes Sally and Harry Baldwin will host its 10th Annual History Mixer at COS. Guests will include members of neighboring Historical Associations as well as anyone from the Community who is interested in the history of this area. Tours of the Church and the Cemetery will begin at 2:00, and at 4:00 the Native Sons of the Golden West will present COS with a beautiful plaque (I've seen it) recognizing the parish's 150th Anniversary. The challenge is going to be where to place this plaque so that it is displayed for all to see 24/7. The day will conclude with a presentation by Nat Read whose topic will be "Don Benito Wilson and the History of The Church Our Saviour".
SAME PRODUCT (PRAYER), SAME PLACE (535 WEST ROSES ROAD), SAME TIME (7,800 CONSECUTIVE SUNDAYS) FOR 150 YEARS!!!!!! -- Do you really, really realize what a MIRACLE it is that THE Church of Our Saviour is celebrating 150 years of praying in the same place on every Sunday since 1867?!
I have not taken this for granted as any reader of the BEACON would know, BUT the magnitude of the MIRACLE was brought home to me again recently. I was reading the Business Section of the LA Times and came across this headline: "Sears sees 'substantial doubt' it can survive". Sears, Roebuck?!!! It was 1960, and I went on a field trip with my business school class to Oakland to visit the state of the art warehouse in all of retailing. It was Sears' most modern facility, and it was held up as the future of retailing and contrasted extremely positively in comparison with the former retail giant Montgomery Ward. Now, 131 years after its founding in 1886 this once leading retail institution probably is about to leave us.
Then, I started to think about the incredible changes I have witnessed in the landscape during my career working in Los Angeles. For starters, the two iconic investment firms I worked for -- Scudder, Stevens & Clark (investment managment) and Salomon Bros. (securities trading) -- did not even make it out of the 20th century. More strikingly, consider how many companies which were headquartered in L.A. no longer exist or have left: Union Oil, Superior Oil, Arco, Teledyne, Litton Industries, Dart Industries, Security Pacific Nat'l Bank, United California Bank, C.F, Braun, Beckman Instruments, Ahmanson (Home) S & L, Great Western S & L, First Charter Financial, Petrolane, Purex, Cyprus Mines, Western Air LInes, PSA, Bullock's Wilshire and Pasadena, Robinson's, Broadway Department Stores, Lockheed, TRW, Northrup, MCA, The Times Mirror Co...Add your own names.
Impressive to me is the vast number of institutions which most of us my age believed would be in existence forever no longer exist!!! CHANGE is inevitable, but then there is THE Church of Our Saviour!!!
WHO KNEW? IT WAS THE CUSHIONS! -- Given the magnificent music, given the quality of the preaching, given the beautiful Sanctuary so lovingly cared for by the Altar Guild, given the Outreach to the greater Community which no other parish can match, I have been puzzled and perplexed that the church is not SRO every Sunday. Now, after having read Minister of Music & Organist Canon Phil Smith's full page statement on Our Worship Environment, I understand. "The cushions are now over 30 years old, and to my knowledge, have NEVER been cleaned...do you know what this means?...dirt, dust, body functions, sweat, babies, so much and no cleaning..." Going forward, I may have to kneel throughout the entire service if the cushions are ever returned!
TOMORROW COME?: A PERSONAL REQUEST -- Our daughter Kate Smock Lacy works for a church sponsored non-profit foundation in Billings, MT. It is called Tomorrow Come, and it was founded to fund and support an Orphanage for Children & a Handicapped Clinic in Guber, Ethiopia. The name is derived from the limited English which some of the children speak; when missioners from Montana were about to leave, the question was asked "Tomorrow come?", meaning "When will you come back?" FYI, Kate's passion for this work is the direct result of having made Pilgrimage to the Holy Land with COS in 2013 and experiencing the challenges which our Palestinian friends face on a daily basis.
Prayers are requested because Ethiopia is in the midst of a continuing civil war in which the majority ethnic group, the Oromo (40%), is pushing back against the ruling minority group, the Amhara (30%). Right now, things are quiet enough for Kate's group to go, but...!!! Please include her in your prayers for the next two weeks.
A LENTEN PRAYER FOR THE PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS --
"You know that it is not easy to suffer the injustices of this world. As your followers, we are not promised to have an easy path through life. But, you did promise to walk beside us along the journey, and for that we give you thanks. Strengthen our Palestinian Christian siblings in their daily struggles. Comfort them with the peace of your presence. Help us all to continue to speak out and to pray without ceasing as our hearts cry out for justice. May we trust in you to bring justice to the world in your way and your time. May our hopes always be in you."
THE CHRISTIANS IN THE HOLY LAND -- Some Palestinian Christians can trace their family histories all the way back to the birth of Christian communities after Pentecost. There was a time not so long ago when Christians belonging primarily to the Latin (Catholic), Eastern Orthodox and Melkite Catholic Churches were present in substantial numbers in the Holy Land. Not any more, with the Christian population now estimated to be no more than 2%. That said, the challenges facing them vary enormously. Those living in the Galilee where St. Paul's, our Sister Parish is, are citizens of Israel but are treated as a segregated people; those in the West Bank live under Occupation and have considerably less freedoms; and those few remaining in Gaza live in a small geographic Ghetto along with 1.8 million other Palestinians.
MEANINGFUL THOUGHTS FROM AN INCREDIBLE WEEK --
When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, he simply replied, "Then what are we fighting for?"
"I will never understand how politicians who call themselves Christian can read the Gospels and then treat the poor and the sick like dirt." James Martin, Jesuit Priest
"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"You don't need to be Muslim to stand up for Gaza, you just need to be human!" Posted by Diane Rivera, COS Pilgrim 2013
"If you are more fortunate than others, build a longer table, not a taller fence." Canadian Memorial Center For Peace