The Beacon


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

NOW, HEAR THIS: "CHRIST HAS NO BODY ON EARTH BUT YOURS!" -- Whatever your view of what happens on January 20 in Washington DC, there appears to be general agreement that there is a sense of unease. In addition, there appears to be general agreement that leaving the solutions to our problems to our elected officials, on either side of the aisle, is not necessarily the answer. So, what are we to do? Fr. Gary Bradley's Sermon provided the best suggestion I have heard since November 9th. 

"Sr. Teresa of Avila, among the last of the 16th century mystics of Christianity was well aware that our responsibility as followers of the Risen Christ is to reflect His light in the world. This is what she wrote:

"Christ has no body now on earth but yours; No hands but yours; No feet but yours; Yours are the eyes through which His compassion will look upon the world; Yours are the feet with which He will go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which He will bless others now."

As I listened to the Sermon, it was clear to me that I need to emerge from my La-Z-Boy and follow Sr. Teresa's Command. Hang wringing and discussing events with Sue probably are not going to do the job. Then, as I contemplated what course of action I might follow, just in case I had missed the message, Canon Phil Smith hit me with the following:

We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome some day; Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome some day.

We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand some day; Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall walk hand in hand some day.

We are not afraid today, we are not afraid today, we are not afraid today; Oh, deep in my heart I do believe we are not afraid today.

We shall live in peace someday, we shall live in peace some day, we shall live in peace some day; Oh, deep in my heart I do believe we shall live in peace some day.

WE DO BELIEVE, SO THIS IS THE FIRST THING SUE & I ARE GOING TO DO -- We are going to attend the presentation by PRISM Restorative Justice of the showing of "13TH". "Titled after the Thirteenth Amendment...which abolished slavery except as 'punishment for a crime', this powerful documentary argues that slavery is being effectively perpetuated (today) through mass incarceration." The showing will begin at 7:00pm on Friday, January 20th on campus. Afterwards Br. Dennis Gibbs, Sr. Greta Ronningen and Sr. MJ Johnston will facilitate a discussion of the film and of where we go from here with regard to the growing numbers of Americans being incarcerated.

MORE ON MONKS: MONKS BEHIND BARS -- Having no idea who The BEACON's audience is, I often may be exhibiting a firm grasp of the obvious when I focus on some topic. However, there just might be a few of you who really do not know how qualified the Monks are to be leading discussions on the incarcerated in this country. These folks walk the walk, so much so that the Los Angeles County Sheriff has recognized their pastoral care contributions of our prisoner population in two ways. First of all, The Episcopal Church is now one of three Christian 'denominations' authorized to provide Chaplaincy Ministries in the jails, This was not the case when Br. Dennis Gibbs first volunteered in 2003. His choices were either to join the Catholic Church or the Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christians. He chose the former. However, over time his obvious commitment to providing pastoral care WITHOUT any strings convinced the Sheriff to authorize The Episcopal Church as a Christian denomination in its own right. This was a really big deal at the time, and Bishop Bruno recognized it as such. 

More recently the Monks have been asked by the Sheriff to establish a Chaplaincy Program which will be present when newly convicted individuals first enter into the jail system. This process can last as long as three days, and Br. Dennis says many are obviously scared of what awaits them. The Chaplains, of all denominations, will be trained and overseen by the Monks. Again, a big deal!

Because of this front line experience, the Monks have been charged by the Diocese of Los Angeles to develop a Program of Education and Dialogue which addresses incarceration in the U.S. and report to our Annual Convention next December. The showing of the "13th" is the first step, and this will be followed by a reading of "The New Jim Crow" in February. 

FYI, there were 357,000 people in prison in 1970; that number is now over 3,300,000. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population but 25% of those in prison. One in three African American males is in prison compared with one in seventeen white men. There is much, much more to this distortion of justice to be learned. As Jesus said to his followers -- "COME AND SEE" -- on FRIDAY EVENING, JANUARY 20 @ 7:00.

WHY THE ALTAR GUILD & SAGES ARE INTEGRAL TO THE HEALTH OF MANY COS PARISHIONERS -- As I approach my 80th birthday, well past my Expiration Date, I am increasingly fascinated by the work being done in analyzing why I am living so long. Recently, the New York Times had an article entitled "How Social Isolation Is Killing Us" by Dhruv Khullar. One short paragraph states all you need to know-- "Social isolation is a growing epidemic -- one that's recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they're lonely has doubled from 20% to 40%." 

There it is! The last thing I feel is a sense of isolation because I have THE Church of Our Saviour in my life. Many years ago The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray said "COME AND SEE", and the Smocks have never been lonely since. Moreover, I suspect another group of COS parishioners who are NEVER lonely are the members of the Altar Guild. What a great Community of hard working people who give of themselves on a regular basis to guarantee that the rest of us can pursue our Spiritual Journeys on Sundays and every other day of the week. In fact, when you think about it, no one except them and the priest travels the entire Journey with us from Baptism to the End!!! Isolation definitely is not one of their problems -- COME AND SEE & JOIN THEIR COMMUNITY.

Far less demanding than the Altar Guild but offering great camaraderie AND occasional words to live by is SAGES (aka GEEZERS ARE US). Once a month on the third Thursday we older people find our way to Cleaver Hall to break bread together and listen to a speaker. Usually there are about 40 of us, and Fr. Gary usually joins us and blesses the food. I look forward to this gathering because this is a great group of parishioners, many of whom still are active within the church and/or in the Community. Importantly, they are far from being isolated, AND THEY ALL KNOW STUFF!!! In fact, given the number of people who apparently are living in isolation, I think COS would provide a great service to the Community if we were inclined to develop more program offerings similar to SAGES for the geezers in our area. Just sayin'. 

INTER-FAITH + ECUMENICAL + INTRA-EPISCOPALIAN DIALOGUE = PEACE -- We were recipients of another one of Canon Fuad Dagher's incredible phone calls from the Galilee the other night. He revitalizes and energizes us every time he calls. His examples of what it means to live a Christian life, even in the face of so many obstacles, inspire us in these troubling times.

As usual, he was full of news, this time focusing on what had occurred during Christmas and Epiphany in Shefa 'Amr. The level of engagement the priests in general and Fr. Fuad in particular commit to is overwhelming in its breadth and depth. In fact, from the beginning of Advent to Epiphany, it is a non-stop celebration; and no one in the general vicinity can have any doubts that the Christian Community in all of its manifestations is alive and well in the Galilee.

After listening to him talk enthusiastically for about 20 minutes, we were compelled to ask how in the world he and his fellow priests (who are also his friends) from the four other denominations are able to come together in such a display of ecumenical respect and love. Before answering, he reminded us that this respect also is shared at the inter-faith level with the leaderships of the Druze and Muslim Communities. Most recently, he noted the house calls to each priest on Christmas Day from the patriarchs.

Then, he also said he wanted to apologize in advance if he was to come across as too self serving. After you have read the following, we don't think you will believe an apology was necessary.

Shefa 'Amr is an Israeli city of 40,000 Palestinian Israeli citizens in the northwest Galilee. There is no Jewish presence whatsoever in the city so for all intents it is as fully segregated as any city in the U.S. south in 1960s. Based on religious affiliations, the city is 60% Muslim, 25% Christian and 15% Druze. The largest Christian denomination is the Melkites, followed by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Latin (Catholic) Church, the Maronites and the Anglicans (about 120 parishioners). Although these 10,000 Christians make this one of the larger concentrations in Israel, Christians are still a "minority within a minority". As a result, there are compelling, ever present reasons to gather together whenever possible to re-enforce their visibility and identity.

This said, Fr. Fuad stated that the Christian denominations are not alike in one regard; all four of the other denominations are very much hierarchical. The Anglican Church is NOT, thus allowing priests much more individual freedom to initiate actions and ideas. This Fr. Fuad has responded to, and he humbly acknowledges that much of the ecumenical and inter-faith work which characterizes the Christian Community in Shefa 'Amr is because his freedom allows him to serve as the catalyst.

Listening to him, we were struck first by the what one visionary, deeply spiritual individual can accomplish AND secondly by what unique positions and opportunities some Protestant ministers and ALL Episcopal priests have at their command IF they choose to exercise them. As Fr, Fuad noted, he does not have to clear every action with Archbishop Dawani who basically blesses and embraces the actions of all of his priests. In fact, there is no clearer evidence of what Fr. Fuad is talking about than Dawani's recent designation of him as Canon for Reconciliation at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. The announcement charged Canon Dagher specifically with "finding ways of harmony between those of different denominations, faiths and cultures".

The Diocese of Los Angeles has its own Canon Fuad; he is Bishop Jon Bruno who has forged outstanding ecumenical and inter-faith relationships during his Episcopacy. He continues to be involved in the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders which he helped to create. Unfortunately, based on our observations as we have traveled around the diocese advocating on behalf of the Palestinian people, we have found most Episcopal priests have not followed Bishop Bruno's lead. With some exceptions, not only is there not much inter-faith dialogue but ecumenical relationships also are few and far between. In fact, even our Episcopal priests meet infrequently at sparsely attended Monthly Deanery Meetings.

In our humble opinion, this independence and accompanying silence by our religious leaders must change. Christ has no body on earth ours, but sometimes we must be led by our spiritual leaders. This was true in the '60s, '70s and '80s, but in the 21st century within The Episcopal Church our Presiding Bishop, our Bishops, our clergy and our deacons have been pretty much silent. However, as DELONTE GHOLSTON preached in his mesmerizing 40 minute Sermon (available @ at All Saints Pasadena last Sunday, this is no longer an option. There is a time to act, and THE TIME IS NOW!!!


"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.















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