THE BEACON: CELEBRATING WHO WE ARE
OUR CROSSES TO BEAR ... AND THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR DOES IT BETTER THAN MOST!!! -- For you hundreds of parishioners who were not in church Sunday, I URGE you, I PLEAD with you, to find and LISTEN to Deacon Bill Doulos' Sermon which he entitled "Holy Suffering". Provocatively, he concluded the Sermon with this summary of a statement from Fr. Honeychurch's Sermon of September 12. "To be 'people of the cross' means to proclaim without reservation that Christ meets us not only in our successes, but most especially in our suffering."
Given the personal story Deacon Bill had related just before this quote about his experience with Jubilee Alumnus Mark, I was moved to go back and re-read Fr. Honeychurch's Sermon. Here is what followed the above statement:
"To be 'people of the cross' means that we are called to stand alongside the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the most victimized members of our society today. To be 'people of the cross' compels us to stand up against the forces of oppression and power and greed who seek to exploit the earth for their own benefit. To be 'people of the cross' demands of us that we recognize our own brokenness, our own weakness, our own frailty, and that we call out that brokenness in the systems of which we are a part -- be that the church, or the government, or the business community, or our society in general. Is the cross 'offensive' to many people? Yes, it is. Because it calls into question many of the values which lots of us hold dear in our lives. THE CROSS SHOWS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE WHEN GOD GETS INVOLVED IN THE WORLD."
Fr. Honeychurch concluded his Sermon with this: "For 151 years, since its first service on this campus in 1867, and since its dedication in this space five years later ... the Church of Our Saviour has invited people to become 'people of the cross' ... with all of the joys and challenges and responsibilities which accompany this moniker."
Given the characteristics Fr. Honeychurch attributes to 'people of the cross' above, this is why I have stated over and over again in THE BEACON that I believe COS is second to none in the Diocese of Los Angeles in BEARING THE CROSS -- in El Monte, within the newly arrived Mandarin Community, in the jails and prisons of Los Angeles County, in providing affordable housing for people in recovery and in our support of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land.
Going forward, it is our hope that we will include in our Vision Statement our continued commitment to all of above constituencies, bearing their crosses, ONLY MORE SO!!!
WHAT DOES 'BEING AFRAID OF THE CROSS' LOOK LIKE? -- We first heard this term in 2013 on our last Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This one included Fr. Gary and Rev. Peg, Rev. Ada and Ronnie Wong-Nagata and seventeen other parishioners and friends. As with all Pilgrimages guided by our friend Canon Iyad Qumri, this one offered the opportunity to visit with Palestinian Christians and Muslims and a prominent member of the Jewish community. The Christian speaker this time was The Rev. Canon Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Israeli Episcopalian and Co-Founder of the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. During the Q & A Session, he was asked why, given the seriousness of conditions in Gaza and the continuing Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, The Episcopal Church US (TEC) has remained silent. His response -- "You are afraid of the cross". He went on to say that the leadership of TEC is so committed to interfaith dialogue that they are afraid that any criticism of Israel will lead to a termination of dialogue with the Jewish community. Naim himself continues to be a leading advocate for interfaith dialogue, but he is appalled by the unwillingness of TEC to speak out for the rights of Palestinian Christians and Muslims at the same time. So are we!
A QUESTION FOR YOU -- Given how challenging life in 2018 is for almost all of us and how comforting and reaffirming church Sunday morning was for those of us who were there, I wonder what so many of you who were not in church could possibly have been doing which was more meaningful to your Journey than what we experienced?
"OH, SAY CAN THEY SING!!!" -- What a combination!!! Deacon Bill's Sermon followed by Canon Phil Smith's incredible 10 women and 4 men singing Charles V. Stanford's "TE DEUM"!!! Sue and I thank you, not only for your this performance, but also for your commitment to the COS Music Program which consistently adds so much to the 10:00 Service for us.
With this in mind I again URGE, I PLEAD, that you take out your calendar and write in ink that on
NOVEMBER 1 @ 7:30, WHICH IS BOTH ALL SAINTS' DAY AND ALL SOULS' EVE,
you will be in church to listen to our magnificent Choir and Friends and accompanying instrumentalists perform the REQUIEM by Maurice Durufle. In addition to a magnificent performance, there will be Holy Eucharist AND the reading of the Necrology.
THE MONKS HAVE BECOME A "TOURIST" ATTRACTION -- If you are on Facebook and a friend of either Sr. Greta Ronningen or Br. Dennis Gibbs, you will know that the Community of Divine Love was blessed by a special visitor last week -- Obispo Rafael Luis Morales, the seventh Bishop of Puerto Rico. This was quite a compliment to the monks, given that Bishop Morales was in Los Angeles for a week as a guest of Bishop Taylor primarily to raise the visibility of the challenges which the people Puerto Rico continue to face in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. And yet, Bishop Taylor felt it was important to introduce him to the founders of the only Monastery ever planted in the Diocese. Congratulations, Sr. Greta and Br. Dennis. Your presence among us adds so many dimensions to our parish life which no other parish has access to.
MATTHEW WOULD APPROVE -- As soon as Fr. Gary received last week's BEACON, he emailed me to reaffirm that visits are welcome (although he believes I have misrepresented Matthew 25), but there are alternatives to driving all the way up to Crestline. He suggested using either the Skype App or Whatsapp. Both of these work well for Peg because she loves to be able to connect faces with voices. Either way, and whether or not Matthew charged us "to visit retired priests", Fr. Gary and Rev. Peg enjoy seeing any of us whenever. Please just remember to call before you go and keep the number to two or three.
A CROSS PROUDLY BORNE -- No other parish in the Diocese, not even the Diocese, has a Ministry like COS's Jubilee Homes which offers affordable housing to 50 people in RECOVERY in the West San Gabriel Valley. Four houses gifted to us by Deacon Bill Doulos in 2003 provide safe places for eight women and forty two men; and as Bill notes in his current letter to the residents, we continue "to look for ways that we can be helpful to our recovering community. The fullness of life awaits you". The most recent addition is as follows:
"We have a new Staff Director of Recovery Services whose name is Dale Stanhope. This position has been vacant since the passing of our beloved Bill Morgan a few years ago. Dale will be working with individual Residents and also will be in touch with some of our Alumni. He will be encouraging us to become engaged with all the wonderful opportunities that life offers us in our clean and sober state -- opportunities that were beyond our reach when we were in addiction."
DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: I WASN'T PARANOID SUNDAY MORNING. I AM NOW! -- The Forum Sunday was sort of a "good news, bad news" experience. The "good news" was that the turnout was pretty good. The "bad news" was that most of us were older parishioners who did not have a clue what to do with what Gabe Vazquez-Reyes, our 33 year old Information Technology expert, was telling us other than to know that we should be really concerned. In fact, the more I thought about what he had to say and who had come to listen to him, the more I thought the title of his presentation should have been "Hey, Geezers, You Are Covered BUT NOT In A Good Way".
What I did understand is that when we bought our Dell PC, our iPhone and our iPad years ago we automatically became Digital Citizens. This didn't and doesn't bother me much, given how much access this technology has given us to the greater world. At 81 I believe I am better informed than ever before and, dare I say (?), addicted to this source of information.
That said, Gabe went into great detail to explain that using this technology is NOT WITHOUT RISKS; IT IS NOT A ONE WAY STREET. Every time I search the internet, whether it is Hortencias Cliffhanger Restaurant, or Stanford football scores, or The Episcopal Church, or email Dr. Michael Gurevitch, or call The Rev. Canon Fuad Dagher in Israel Palestine, a bunch of twenty something yahoos on the San Francisco Peninsula have developed a method of capturing and storing this information. Not only that but there is a GPS in both Apple products so those same folks know wherever I am at all times; and if I used Siri, 'she' reports even more information. In fact, Gabe stated that I can access the profile Facebook has on me, based on the people and institutions I have 'friended'.
Now, I have nothing to hide, particularly at my age and stage, so the only thing that initially bothered me about what Gabe had to say is the reality that my information is made available to other people for purposes unknown to me. However, later in the day I started to connect some dots.
What if??? Given our Pro-Palestinian Christian stance vis a vis the current position of the U.S. government in the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict, what if Pro-Israeli supporters urged the government to censure people like us. After all, our Congress by nearly a 100% 'yes' vote supported Israel with $38 billion in military aid over the next ten years. In addition, the Trump administration unilaterally moved our embassy to Jerusalem in direct contradiction to the position of every other party with a stake in bringing peace to the Middle East. In each of these cases, a man named Sheldon Adelson and a huge financial supporter of Israel, contributed enormous amounts of money to make these things happen. With a net worth of $35 billion, what if he contributed $1 billion to pass a law making it illegal to criticize Israel in any way? According to Gabe, the yahoos could easily identify of us violating this law. You say it can't happen; we are a democracy. I didn't believe anything like the USA Patriot Act would ever pass either. Just sayin'.
FYI, in the middle of the night, my paranoia reappeared, and I was reminded of the poem of German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemuller:
"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out --
because I was not a socialist ..."