The Beacon


"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!"

WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION -- I really do not like 5th Sunday Liturgies, but they can always can be saved by powerful Sermons. This was the case on May 29th as Fr. Gary crafted yet another one of his "I'm glad I didn't miss this one!!!" messages.

"As we think upon the gifts of the lives of others on this Memorial Day weekend, it is a good time to consider how each of us will find a way to a generosity that will allow us to sing to the Lord a new song. What does God want you to do with the rest of your days on earth? And when are you going to do it? 'Sing to the Lord a new song'."

Listening to Fr. Gary, two thoughts came to me. First of all, THE Church of Our Saviour already has answered the question; over the last 25 years this parish through its collective and individual generosties has 'Sung to the Lord a new song' over and over again, and in its 150th year continues to create additional ways to serve God.

Secondly, I could not help but think (yet again) of the two important messages Parker Palmer delivers in his book "Let Your Life Speak". On the one hand, each of us is born with gifts (God given), and our challenge is to determine what they are. On the other hand, we also are born with non-gifts, things which we just are not very good at. The biggest challenge to living the good Journey is to be able to emphasize the positives and to avoid the negatives, sort of another version of the Serenity Prayer. Or, as Fr. Gary preached, "Perhaps the greatest power you and I possess is the power to make such a choice -- to decide what God wants us to do which also gives us great joy. Success in such an endeavor cannot be guaranteed, but what is guaranteed is that your life will be forever different..."

I INTERRUPT THIS BEACON WITH A PERSONAL WITNESSING-- During the Sages Luncheon (See Below) I sat with Nancy and John Ballance, and we talked about plans for celebrating our 150th Anniversary. Naturally, General George and the Patton Family were a topic of discussion, and John asked if I had seen the plaque honoring Captain Richard Jenson which hangs on the wall behind the Audio Booth at the rear of the church. I had not so I checked it out Sunday after the Service. It is very prominent in size but tucked away in the corner so most people would not have noticed it. It turns out that Captain Jenson graduated from South Pasadena San Marino High School and was aide-de-camp to General George Patton when he was killed at El Guettar in Tunisia in 1943. As I remember, the inscription on the plaque noted that he was a "gallant soldier and a Christian gentleman". At the bottom were the words "From His General". 

It's 10:06 on Memorial Day morning, and I have just completed my morning exercise of pulling the lever back on my La-Z-Boy Chair. I remembered that AMC Cable Network is going to show films all day celebrating Americans in war, and the first one is "Patton" beginning at 9:00, so I quickly go to channel 75 on my dial.  Unbelievably, there was George C. Scott honoring his fallen aide-de-camp Captain Richard "Dick" Jenson with the words "He was a fine young man and officer. He had no vices. I can't see the reason that such fine young men get killed. I shall miss him a lot."

Timing is everything, but my conclusion is that a Higher Power clearly is at work impacting my Journey!!!

BETCHA DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THESE POSSIBLE CHANGES -- To learn about what's going on in your church, you can take your chances and wait for the Beacon, OR you can attend the Sunday Forums, the preferable and most timely source of news. This week was a periodic Rector's Forum, and Fr. Gary discussed in some detail the composition of the world's 2.2 billion Christian Believers and the differences between them. I tried hard to take notes so I could report to you these differences, but very quickly I was in deep water theologically and liturgically.

So, I'll report only on the 'news' I clearly understood. First of all, in order to make the Sanctuary much, much more user friendly for people in wheel chairs or using walkers, Fr. Gary is going to remove the pews in Row 10 so those folks can see the Altar and the Choir. This is a great move as far as we are concerned. We have been acutely aware of the disadvantage the present configuration causes because we have hosted Joan Biersch's sister Nancy to Music for the Season Concerts, and she has been able to see only a portion of the Choir. Now, she will be able to view the Choir straight on and from only 10 rows back.

But wait! There's more! As an experiment ONLY, Fr. Gary is going to move the ALTAR -- the Lord's Table -- closer to the people, down to the area where the Choir now sits, with Choir being relocated in the half circle area where the Altar is now. Fr. Gary emphasized several times that this is ONLY to see how an altar located closer to the worshippers might engender greater intimacy. Moreover, he assured those in attendance that this is HIS idea, and there is NO other agenda or constituency. If I have misspoken in any way, please refer all inquiries to the Rector.   

PROMOTE IT AND THEY WILL COME -- The last Sages Luncheon of the 2015 / 2016 Season was a huge success because of the 'draw' of guest speaker Fritz Coleman, long time Weather Man Anchor on KNBC. However, his topic was not ' the weather' which he acknowledged at the beginning as being a challenging job in Los Angeles since there isn't any. That said, he has been doing this same thing for 33 years, 23 with his friends Henry, Colleen and Fred. He made quite a point of emphasizing what a remarkable accomplishment this is, given the emphasis on 'youth' in his profession in particular and our culture in general.

In this regard, you younger folks should know that Fritz was available because of his 25 year relationship with Reid Allen, a member of this parish for at least seven decades. The fact is that your Sages know amazingly interesting people and amazingly interesting stuff and continue to make valuable contributions within this church and in the greater Community.

The above notwithstanding, this was not the message Fritz chose to   deliver to the record crowd of 65 parishioners and guests. Rather, the title of his presentation was "Aging Isn't Pretty But It Can Be Pretty Funny", and this funny, funny man had us in stitches. I doubt many of us had laughed that hard and for such a sustained period of time as we did that day. Afterwards, Basil Johnson suggested that this would be an easy article to write; and I responded "No, it wouldn't. No way could I capture how funny Fritz is!" And that's the truth. However, I can report some interesting facts I remember. Fritz is a 'cradle' Episcopalian, growing up in the church in Philadelphia. I know he has always been generous with his time when it comes to Diocesan events, serving as host of the Hillsides Homes' major fund raising dinner many times.; and last spring he served as the facilitator of Bishop Bruno's national conference on climate change. In addition to being insightfully funny, he is a humble, good guy whom Sue Smock said was a delight to work with.

Speaking of Sages who never stop ticking, do you know Diane Rivera or David Arnt or Eileen Delaney or Angelica Sandoval? Within one (1) hour the four of them made what seemed to be hundreds if not thousands of sandwiches. What a feast, and Diane and her Team have been doing this all year. In fact, we had dinner last Friday, and she was quizzing the server about their rolls and butter. She already is preparing for Sages 2016 / 2017! The Sages THANK YOU!!!

Oh, by the way, what's the above have to do with "Promote It And They Will Come"? As I noted, this was the best attended meeting Sages had ever hosted, and Fritz gets most of the credit for this. However, with all lack of modesty, I know Sue pulled out ALL the stops in promoting the event, preparing write-ups for the Sunday Bulletin, the Weekly E-News, making personal phone calls and sending out post card reminders. As The Rev. Jim Clark used to say, every announcement needs to be repeated over and over again; but if you promote the event aggressively, they will come!

TO PROVE THIS POINT -- One call Sue made was to Mitch Lehman, Editor of the San Marino Tribune. She extended him an invitation, and he accepted. When we opened the May 27 Tribune the next week, one of the head lines above the second section fold read "Coleman A Stand-Up Guy at Church of Our Saviour", and a great picture of Fritz was included right below the headline. Given Mitch's interest, Sue took the opportunity to tell him about the up-coming celebration of COS's 150th Anniversary. He expressed interest in knowing more about our plans and asked to be kept posted about upcoming events. FYI, the Tribune is under new ownership, and the quality of the newspaper has improved substantially. In fact, there is now an entire page dedicated to local churches, and THE Church of Our Saviour is encouraged to submit a 500 word article every three weeks. In response to this expanded coverage, one of our Sage regulars has decided to pay for an ad once a month to support the newspaper as it provides a way for us to promote COS. 

MINISTER OF MUSIC, ORGANIST, CANON, DEAN, ALL IN ONE --No one other than Sally Baldwin and Rev. Ada in this parish uses facebook more effectively than Canon Phil Smith. As your faithful Light Keeper, I wish many more of you were so inclined. You all have stories to tell, and many of you already have Sung to the Lord a NEW Song. Your fellow parishioners, your clergy, the Community, need to hear what you are "singing". The Light can shine, BUT it can not speak.

You want an example of what I'm writing about? I give you the above referenced Canon Phil. Although I was out of town recently and sort out of touch with the inter-net, I was able to find reception occasionally; and there was news about Phil. First of all, did you know that for the last three years he was the Dean of the American Guild of Organists, Los Angeles Chapter? Well, he was, and he was just honored at the Guild's Annual Meeting at All Saints Pasadena with a beautiful plaque. The Bottom Line: This would be an easy column to write if you ALL became Friends of COS on facebook. In the meantime, congratulations, Phil.

"THIS PLACE MATTERS!" -- Sue and I care enormously about making sure that the 150 years 535 West Roses Road has been a place of worship are recognized and celebrated broadly across the West San Gabriel Valley. So, we glom on to anything we find which might provide an opportunity to publicize COS and bring people onto Campus. Hence, we were really intrigued when we saw a posting on Sally Baldwin's facebook page. There was a picture of a lady standing in front of the San Gabriel Mission holding a large, inverted, tear shaped red poster which stated that This Place Matters. Further research revealed that this is a "national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities." ( It apparently also is being embraced by folks in the City of San Gabriel who have "launched an effort to review and update the city's 50-year-old Historic Preservation Ordinance." This looks like an opportunity to us for COS to join in and raise our visibility within San Gabriel.

FYI, Harry and Sally Baldwin are deeply involved in the San Gabriel Historical Society (, and next spring this group and all of the other Historical Societies from the Valley will hold their Annual Meeting in Cleaver Hall where they will celebrate the history of THE Church of Our Saviour. This is the kind of creative thinking we need from you other parishioners.