THE BEACON: PERIODIC OBSERVATIONS CHRONICLING THE NEXT 150 YEARS OF THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are welcome!"
2018: WHO IS THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR & WHERE ARE WE GOING? -- The following opinions reflect those of the editor of The BEACON and are not embraced in any way by the "management" of COS.
Timing is everything! We believe this parish is entering a period of transition at a perfect time in its history. Everything, everywhere is changing. Parishioner Tom Shenk characterizes the current environment as both evolutionary AND revolutionary.
From a macro perspective, Fr. Honeychurch summed up succinctly the current state of The Episcopal Church during his presentation to SAGES on the second day of his posting as our Interim. Raised as an Episcopalian from birth in Butte, MT, he acknowledged that the church that he grew up in 50 years ago no longer exists.
We would second this view as it applies to THE Church of Our Saviour. This is not the parish we joined 25 years ago. In some ways it is better, but we are no longer one of the Diocese of Los Angeles' "cardinal" parishes. Back in the day we were grouped with All Saints Pasadena, All Saints Beverly Hills, St. Matthews Pacific Palisades and All Saints Santa Barbara as the most influential parishes in the Diocese. That change has impacted COS dramatically is evidenced by the fact that when I was the Senior Warden in 2004, COS had 450 pledging units; today that number is 151. More personally, since 2004 38 parishioners have made Pilgrimage with us to the Holy Land. You know how many of those folks are still church members? 12!!!
And yet... we know of no other parish in the Diocese of Los Angeles which has more potential, across the board to be RELEVANT in the lives of people in the greater community and the Diocese. Below are two magnificent examples of what two of COS's Outreach Ministries are accomplishing in the midst of our transition. Taking seriously the charge from Matthew "to care for the least among us", our substantially reduced parish continues to do just that, in spades!!!
JUBILEE HOMES (TRANSITIONAL HOUSING) -- The first Saturday of each month Deacon Bill Doulos, the Jubilee House Managers and the Board host a dinner and meeting for the Residents and families of our four homes. The meals frequently are prepared by one of the residents and served by one of the houses. We have attended many of these, and we find the camaraderie which the dinners generate to be heart warming and so validating of this Outreach Ministry.
However, this last month's dinner provided an even greater testimony into the reason why Jubilee Homes is such an outstanding example of COS's response to Matthew 25. Although this is not a typical AA Meeting, Deacon Bill has always invited a few residents to talk about their Journeys in Recovery. We heard on the evening of March 3rd FOUR incredible statements from four people about how Jubilee Homes and THE Church of Our Saviour have changed their lives. Most telling in each and every statement was the acknowledgment that without the opportunity to become a resident in one of our four homes, they would be sleeping under a bridge somewhere.
It was at that moment that we realized that not only were we offering a safe place for people to pursue sobriety or transition from jail, we also were deeply involved in providing AFFORDABLE HOUSING. For all intents and purposes, were it not for COS, as many as 50 more people might be sleeping in a park or in bushes along the freeway or under a bridge. In case you doubt this conclusion, keep in mind that cost of a one bedroom apartment in the West San Gabriel Valley now runs around $1,600. A bed at the El Nido, Raymond, Fair Oaks or Washington home costs less than $400!
PRISM RESTORATIVE JUSTICE MINISTRY -- Just to remind you...
"PRISM Restorative Justice is an outreach of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and provides spiritual care and practical support for the nearly 17,000 inmates housed in the Los Angeles County Jail System, including Men's Central Jail, Twin Towers Correctional Facility, CRDF (adult women's jail facility) and Pitchess Detention Center."
"PRISM also advocates for positive change in the system of mass incarceration and we are committed to bringing a voice to the struggle of the marginalized in our society."
The Monday after the Jubilee dinner, PRISM under the direction of Br. Dennis Gibbs, Sr. Greta Ronningen and parishioner Sharon Crandall hosted a most amazing three day Conference at All Saints Pasadena entitled "REIMAGINE JUSTICE in the Age of Mass Incarceration". Amazing? Yes, not only because of the necessity to elevate the discussion of "the great need to move the larger conversation of this nation away from the mindset that building more jails and prisons is somehow better than rebuilding lives and communities" BUT also because of the incredible amount of work these three people put into this Conference.
For starters, they assembled a line up of presenters that was awesome. Headliners included Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries; Sr. Helen Prejean, author of the internationally acclaimed book "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States; Tim Robbins, an award winning actor, director, writer and producer of films who has served as Artistic Director for the Actors' Gang providing theatrical workshops to incarcerated men and women in the California prison system; Mike Farrell, a human rights and peace activist for over four decades; and Vijay Gupta, a violinist with the Philharmonic who advocates for the power of music to change lives though a non-profit organization named Street Symphony.
However, as impressive as the above folks all were, perhaps even more compelling were presentations by many people who, as Br. Dennis characterized them, had "returned from exile" in our jail and prison systems. Their witnessing was moving and hopeful! Each supported the Vision articulated in Br. Dennis' cover letter to Conference attendees:
"Rather than building private prisons, returning to old mandatory sentencing laws, keeping the death penalty in place and incarcerating and deporting our brothers and sisters seeking a better life, we have a different Vision : A VISION THAT SAYS THAT REBUILDING LIVES, RESTORING PEOPLE TO WHOLENESS, AND PROTECTING THE DIGNITY OF EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING IS VITAL TO WHO WE ARE AS A PEOPLE AND A NATION."
Many of these presentations can be found on the facebook pages of PRISM and the Diocese of Los Angeles. I urge you to seek them out.
They gave us hope that advocacy for social justice issues is alive within The Episcopal Church and growing. In fact, if you want to be reminded about what the power of a prophetic voice sounds like in the pulpit, check out the opening Sermon of The Rev. Mike Kinman All Saints. Here are a few of the statements with which he opened his Sermon:
"It is not justice when the imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
"It is not justice when African Americans and Latino people make up approximately 35% of the U.S. population but comprise 56% of all incarcerated people.
"It is not justice when we strip communities of poverty of most economic opportunities and then criminalize the economic opportunities that are left.
"It is not justice when you have to declare your previous convictions on a job application and are never allowed to get a chance to put those convictions in context in a face-to-face conversation with an employer.
"It is not justice when the people making billions of dollars off the prison systems are the ones literally handing legislators the wording for the laws that create more prisoners so they can build more prisons so they can make more money."
This is just the beginning of Fr. Kinman's Sermon. You need to find it and read it in its entirety. It will knock your socks off!
ATTN: POTENTIAL 'PROFILE' & 'SEARCH' COMMITTEE MEMBERS -- Assuming that our PROFILE will contain a Vision of where we want to go and who we want to be AND our priority is to call a priest who will implement this Vision within the context of 2018 and beyond, here are two important developments to keep in mind:
- A new report entitled "A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the San Gabriel Valley" reveals to no one's surprise that a) the Asian American population grew by 22% between 2000 and 2010 while the white population declined by 17% and b) the Asian American / Latino population represents 74% of the people living in the San Gabriel Valley. Apparently, this is the first such study of the West San Gabriel Valley, and it reflects our reality.
- A demographic which The Episcopal Church continues to have difficulty attracting is Gen Z, loosely defined as the young people born between the mid 1990's and the early 2000's. They should be amenable to our message. We may be wrong, but we believe this group embraces almost every position held and advocated by our denomination; they care for the least among us and they yearn to make a difference. Our proof of this -- our four grandchildren who are very open minded; the make up of who supported Bernie Sanders; and the registration rate of teenagers in California which shows a breakdown of 44% 'choosing not to designate', 37% as democrats and 10.2% as republicans. Further evidence of the growing influence of this should be seen on March 24 AND the breakdown of voting demographics in June and November. Our "community" is out there; it is up to us to prove that a faith based community can provide them with a RELEVANT vehicle.
KIT SHENK: NO PARISHIONER MORE COMMITTED -- By my calculations, the four oldest Ministries at COS are the Altar Guild (1867), A Child's Garden School (1968), Our Saviour Center (1985) and Kit Shenk's Journey in Joy Bible Study Group (1987). Year in and year out she has led this weekly Group and is responsible for continuing to attract a number of non-parishioners to our campus. Obviously, this is wonderful example of what a RELEVANT Ministry looks like. Reminds me of what happened in Dyersville, IA where a baseball field was built out in the middle of a corn field in the belief that you "build it and they will come!" They will, if it addresses their needs.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF A 'RELEVANT' PROGRAM OFFERED BY A CHURCH -- We absolutely believe that one of the reasons for the decline in membership in mainstream Christian denominations is the absence of the offering of programs / ministries which are viewed as RELEVANT by young families and young people. Here's an example of a really creative offering. San Marino Community Church on March 13 invited current and college bound students to a workshop they called 'College Grit'. The topics, activities and tools for learning covered were how to *how to manage stress, *navigate friendships and relationships, *be your authentic self, *explore your passions, and *maintain your health and wellness. This is the kind of program which is important to the community at large, and we will bet attendance was substantial, both from the congregation and beyond.
WHATEVER YOUR POLITICAL PERSUASION -- As we are witnessing, one vote can make a huge a difference in an election. And yet, voter turnout continues to be terrible. The mayor of Los Angeles was elected with only 11% of electorate going to the polls. This Sunday we all have the opportunity to vote again, electing five people to our Vestry who will play important roles in determining who leads this parish going forward. Hopefully, more parishioners than have been attending recent Services will feel called to attend our Annual Meeting. Your vote counts, now more than ever!