THE BEACON: WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS GOING ON AROUND THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR? PLENTY!!!
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are welcome!"
"THOSE WHO REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS SHALL BE GOVERNED BY THEIR INFERIORS." PLATO
100 MILLION ELIGIBLE VOTERS DIDN'T BOTHER TO VOTE IN 2016.
"If you don't get involved in the COS Search Process, you will have no right to criticize who is ultimately called to serve as priest of this magnificent parish!" SMOCK
THAT WAS THEN -- In 1986 COS commissioned a 110 page Profile in anticipation of beginning a search for The Rev. Dr. Donald Miller's successor. Having read almost every Section of that Profile, we wonder how much times have changed. Would parishioners respond much differently to the many questions today from the way they did thirty two years ago?
FYI, here are the FIVE TOP responses from that Profile to the question "At Our Saviour, it is important that ........"
1. "The rector, vestry & congregation maintain open communication."
2. "The Sunday School emphasize Christian family values."
3. "The congregation continue to be warm, loving and caring."
4. "Parish members receive ministration in time of crisis."
5. "The facilities be maintained."
These responses were re-enforced by the following TOP FIVE CHARACTERISTICS the parish wanted from a NEW RECTOR ....
1. "Ability to proclaim the Gospel clearly in the context of daily life."
2. "Ability to deliver an inspiring & motivating sermon."
3. "Ability to teach and lead discussion groups with adults."
4. "Ability to care for people in the midst of crisis or transition."
5. "Ability to communicate a comprehensive understanding of Christianity."
In contrast and indicative of that time, we were struck by the fact that "The parish address the needs of the Asian community" was ranked 50TH AND LAST IN WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO COS. In addition, the LOWEST THREE responses to WHAT WAS WANTED FROM THE NEW RECTOR WERE:
19. "Ability to work on programs with other Episcopal Churches and other denominations."
20. "Ability to organize groups to address specific community needs."
21. "Ability to increase members' awareness and interest in social issues."
Interestingly, even after all the work seventeen parishioners dedicated to producing the Profile, no priest was called for four years. Instead, The Rev. Canon Nickolas Kouletsis, the Assistant Rector, apparently was called as the Interim Rector and served until 1990 when The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray finally was called from All Saints Pasadena as COS's new Rector.
WHATEVER -- This is 2018, NOT 1986. Although we parishioners may still rank the five most Important Considerations THEN as very RELEVANT and the characteristics desired in a priest THEN similarly, this is a very different parish. Most obviously, the needs of the Asian community would NOT rank 50th today; and given COS's incredible Outreach Ministries, any priest we will call will have to be able to "address specific community needs" and "increase parishioner awareness and interest in social issues".
That said, we believe this time our Search has special significance and is one of the most important decisions this parish will have ever made in its 150 years. Yes, we did hear Ed Andersen speak at a SAGES Meeting about the "near death" experiences COS faced and overcame during its first 75 years. This is not like any of those times, because we do possess a number of enormously strong ministries upon which to build and solid financials even though we are a smallish parish.
One thing we ABSOLUTELY do believe is that in 2018 the STATUS QUO IS UNACCEPTABLE! This is the time to develop a NEW VISION for THE Church of our Savour. Not only do we parishioners need to create a new, relevant vision, our greater community desperately needs us to make vital contributions to their lives going forward.
NOBODY ASKED US, BUT .... -- Here are a few "VISIONS" we believe need to be considered when the parish reviews each of its Outreach Ministries for the new Profile:
OUR SAVIOUR CENTER: This is the "flag ship" Outreach Ministry of COS. It was established in 1986 by parishioners who were drawn to beginning a food bank in El Monte because this was where many of the political refugees from the civil wars in Central America were settling. Now this ministry occupies two campuses which contain a Health Clinic and Food Bank on the site of Immanuel Church and the magnificent Dorris Dann Kids Campus dedicated in 2006.
Based on our limited and perhaps somewhat dated information as former vestry members, we have three observations:
1) The needs of the El Monte community across the board have outgrown COS's diminished size and financial capabilities. Unfortunately, this also coincides with the changing objectives of traditional funding sources, particularly foundations. We believe it is time to look into expanding the support of OSC beyond COS. The model we would recommend investigating is the one Canon John Hitchcock adopted twenty years ago when he was Executive Director of Hillside Homes.
2) Although the Kids Campus is a wonderful structure and the programs which are being offered are equally wonderful, we understand that the Center is utilized only about 20% of the time, presumably because of funding issues. We know from discussions with Jeff Seymour, the Superintendent Emeritus of the El Monte School District and a volunteer member of the OSC Advisory Board, that the demand for youth programs in this part of El Monte remains greatly unfulfilled. If there ever was a ministry facility which should be operating 24/7, it is the Dorris Dann Kids Campus!
3) For a number of years various Executive Directors of OSC have pursued qualifying the Cleaver Clinic as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). We have sat in on several of these conversations, both in specifically called sub-committee meetings and before the Vestry. We still think this is a viable course of action to consider.
TRANSITIONAL (JUBILEE) HOUSING: The future is bright for Jubilee Homes but not without challenges. On the plus side, as opposed to almost any Outreach Ministry in any church, this one is financially strong and getting stronger. Fifteen years ago John Quinn and Kelly Andrews mortgaged each of the four homes for 15 years, using the funds to put Deacon Bill Doulos's gift of the four houses in financial order. The last mortgage will be paid off in 2019, and the properties will be owned free and clear. In addition, there is a trust which will provide additional financial stability in several years.
On the other hand, Deacon Bill is 74 years old, and in this transition period of COS he also has assumed almost all of the responsibility for pastoral care. COS is indeed blessed, but Deacon Bill and we need to start planning for the future when he is retired, at least from being responsible for the administration of the operation of the houses. The cash flow will be there, allowing the parish think "big"; but what does that mean? First and foremost, we believe the Vestry should make every effort to guarantee that the mission of Jubilee Housing never deviates from the original intent of Deacon Bill's gift -- TO PROVIDE 12 STEP COUNSELING AND SECURE, AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR PEOPLE IN RECOVERY. Implicit in Deacon Bill's gift was and is his desire that COS never sell any of these homes to fund other ministries or needs. Other considerations -- Should we borrow against the four houses and purchase another one to expand the ministry? Should we consider combining all of the existing homes into one major facility? Perhaps the Cathedral Center would be interested in discussing the development of a diocesan wide ministry addressing alcoholism and addiction under the leadership of COS. Should we consider increasing what is an incredibly affordable rent to provide additional recovery services? You get the idea; the status quo is OK, but Deacon Bill's gift has provided the foundation to do so much more, and we all know alcoholism and addiction unfortunately will continue to be growth industries in 2018 and beyond!
LI TIM-OI CENTER: We all understand the rapidly changing demographics of the San Gabriel Valley AND Southern California. In fact, even the leadership of The Episcopal Church (TEC) recognized this seven or eight years ago when it encouraged COS to become the home of the Li Tim-Oi Center. The Center was to be "the nexus of Chinese ministry services: connecting people to needed social services; providing sacramental and pastoral care; supporting evangelism and seeker discovery; creating resources regarding Chinese ministry; and sustaining ministry through a mission driven business enterprise". At the time there was the promise of $500,000 in support from TEC. The bad news is that that support was unilaterally reduced to only $150,000 over three years. However, there also was great news; we benefited from having The Rev. Thomas Ni join us as the Executive Director of the Center and the pastor for the Mandarin speaking congregation.
Fr. Thomas's resume is remarkable, and the entire COS community is blessed to have him in our midst. Going forward, we believe more emphasis should be placed on this talented priest for all to appreciate, AND under his leadership we need to encourage the Mandarin and Cantonese congregations to be more communicative about what they are doing and accomplishing. Much of what we know they are doing is gleaned from comments from others, mostly on Facebook. We all know what the future is going to look like, and we need to work to make the Li Tim-Oi Center embody the objectives listed above in the original TEC announcement.
COMMUNITY OF DIVINE LOVE (CDL) & PRISM: The establishment of the first monastic order within the Diocese of Los Angeles in 2010 at COS has resulted in enormous benefits to this parish while also introducing our community to one of the most prophetic ministries in the Diocese. God works in interesting ways; little did we know that when one of our houses on Roses Road became available, the CDL monks would become the occupants and bring with them their fledgling Chaplaincy Ministry in the County Jails. Subsequently, at the urging of The Rev. Gary Bradley, the Vestry also approved the rental of the house next door to the monks, and now they and COS have a financial arrangement which is mutually beneficial to both parties. As a result the monks serve at no cost to the parish while overseeing numerous spiritual direction and centering prayer ministries which serve us parishioners and bring the greater community to the campus. In addition, as PRISM's jail chaplaincy continues to expand, members of COS are becoming more aware and involved.
The bottom line is that there is not a parish in the Diocese which would not want to have the ability to host both the Community of Divine of Love AND PRISM. We are able to be so blessed because of our ability to offer housing to the monastery and with this comes PRISM, a ministry of the Diocese which is in the vanguard of advocating for the incarcerated and advocating for massive reforms in the justice system. It is our humble opinion that going forward we embrace BOTH ministries to a much greater degree. In addition, we should address the monk's needs to assure that their Order is a permanent and integral ministry of THE Church of Our Saviour.
A CHILD'S GARDEN SCHOOL: Based on everything we know, ACGS is one of the best pre-schools in this area, thanks in no small part to the excellent leadership of Evie Escatiola and Rose Sevgiyan. That said, we are hard pressed to call this an "Outreach Ministry" because we understand the tuition is excess of $6,000 per student. It seems to us that at the very least a discussion needs to be focused on how we might establish some sort of scholarship program for families within the community which can't possibly afford the current tuition for one child, let alone two or more. In addition, although we have no idea how to approach this topic, we continue to believe considerable attention must be given to figuring out how we might make COS RELEVANT to what should be a captive audience, the ACGS parents.
SISTER PARISH IN THE HOLY LAND: As with all of our Outreach Ministries except ACGS, our relationship with St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Galilee is a unique one which no other parish in the Diocese can claim. Established in 2004 as part of our Lenten Program, our support of Fr. Fuad Dagher and his parish has enabled that parish to create the Cultural Center which has become the gathering place for the ecumenical and interfaith communities of Shefa 'Amr. Three points for COS parishioners to remember:
1) The establishment of the Sister Parish Relationship could not have come at better time for the Episcopalians AND the other Christian denominations in Shefa 'Amr. The Second Intifada was winding down, but Palestinian Christians continued to leave the Holy Land for safer places. Moreover, Fr. Fuad reported at the time of our introduction to him that Christians and Muslims alike were asking where was the support of the Western Christian Churches? The arrival of The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray was the beginning of a ground swell of Pilgrims from the Diocese of Los Angeles -- 40 from COS, over 80 clergy, a total of more than 800 Pilgrims overall AND Bishop Jon and Mary Bruno many times. COS has the right to claim that we served as an important catalyst in elevating the relationship between the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Jerusalem.
2) Bishop Taylor is considering resurrecting the Bishop's Commission on the Middle East, and one of the objectives will be to develop a program to lift up the visibility of and challenges facing the Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. There is another side of the Israeli / Palestinian Story which needs to be aired. COS's relationship with St. Paul's will play an important role, but we will need proudly to take a greater ownership of this relationship in the future.
3) The future leadership of COS can learn a lot about how to build ecumenical and interfaith relationships from observing what Canon Fuad has accomplished in working with the Greek Melkite, Latin (Catholic), Maronite and Orthodox priests in his city and with the Druze Sheik and Muslin Imams as well. Truly inspiring!
THUS 'ENDTH' OUR VISIONING -- Having never been involved in a Search before, we have no idea whether the above comments are constructive, let alone appropriate. Nevertheless, we care so much about our church, and we do believe NOW is the time to express our concerns and visions. Hopefully, this will be received in the spirit in which it is written, and we would love to hear your comments, one way or the other. firstname.lastname@example.org
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE SANCTUARY -- These words from Canon Phil Smith: "A thank you to the Choir and guest organist Thompson Howell for your ministry yesterday morning. The Britten 'Jubilee Deo' and the 'Te Deum in C Major' were sung with beauty and spirit. And the anthem 'God So Loved the World' of another English composer, Bob Chilcott, touched my spirit and many others in attendance. You, the members of Our Saviour Choir, are a blessing to our parish, THE Church of Our Saviour." FYI, we were able to thank Phil after the Service, and he was quick to point out that this did not happen without the total commitment of the Choir who rehearsed FOUR times for this Service.