The Beacon

"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!" Fr. Gary 2017

WHAT A RELEVANT WEEK THIS WAS AT THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR!!! -- I can always tell when it's been an amazing week at COS by how excited I am Sunday night thinking about what to feature. Most weeks are wonderfully challenging, but this one may have been one of the all time most interesting ones ever! 

CHILDREN "R" COS!!! -- From Friday afternoon through Saturday evening Children were the focus of our parish activities. In El Monte parishioner Bill Peplow & Family were guiding children through the Pinewood Derby, while just inside the gates of 525 West Roses Road Evie Escatiola and A Child's Garden School staff were holding a very successful Open House for interested parents and their children. Then, on Saturday afternoon 30 young voices from the COS Youth Choirs performed music from around the world for an enthusiastic audience. 

BILL PEPLOW, THE PINEWOOD DERBY PIED PIPER OF OSC -- Bill Peplow is a retired pharmacist. Bill Peplow is a Wood Shop Master. Bill Peplow is a caring parishioner who last Friday celebrated the 12th Anniversary of the Our Saviour Center Pinewood Derby. Every year since 2005 Bill has driven from Glendale with a car full of wooden race car bodies, wheels, driver bodies & heads, tools and paints. These are his gifts to approximately 80 kids who spend several weeks after school shaping and painting their creations. Over the years he has been assisted by members of his Wood Shop Club, but this year Bill's wife Anne and son Matt and his wife Gina pitched in. Bill says this year's group of 'racer makers' was wonderful, and I have to report that watching him relate to the kids was pretty magical. The kids love Mr. Bill!!!

The Races themselves were joyful. Bill has built a long runway that every child was able to run her or his car on. In addition to the 70 or 80 kids in the Jon & Mary Bruno Gym, there were many sisters and brothers and their parents. Bill and Marguerite Ponce Vega ran the races; and then, after they were over, Jose Vega photographed each kid who received a gold medal provided by Mr. Bill. In addition to his family helpers, Fr. Gary and Rev. Peg also were in attendance along with Jane Fall, the new OSC Executive Director, and I have to tell you the mood of the place was electric. This was particularly the case after the racing was over, and everyone gathered in the Court Yard. The weather was warm, the children ran every which way. potluck food was being served and I felt like I was a part of a boisterous, self contained community. ALL of this was made possible because of the creative efforts of one person -- THANK YOU, MR. BILL PEPLOW.

A CHILD'S GARDEN SCHOOL -- Although many people may not view ACGS as an Outreach Ministry in the same sense that OSC is, the fact is that this high quality Pre-School is one of COS's gifts to the greater Community. Well over 100 children benefit from the presence in their lives of a dedicated staff of teachers led by Director Evie Escatiola and Assistant Director Rose Sevgiyan. The ACGS Campus always is welcoming and second to none in ambiance; but last Friday afternoon, with the weather cooperating so wonderfully, it show cased ACGS at its best. Who wouldn't want their children or grand children to attend this magnificent school?! By the way, Sue sat with Evie during the Youth Musical, and Evie was so pleased to see some of her former students performing. It is good, maybe even essential, that the Director be a parishioner, especially if her name is Ms. Evie Escatiola!     

MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD -- Ever since we have been parishioners, COS has had a fantastic Children's Music Program. Saturday afternoon we witnessed yet another example of this outstanding, on-going tradition. Under the Direction of Mrs. Taylor Vazquez-Reyes, Youth Music & Sunday School Director, 30 children and young people from the COS Youth Choirs -- GOSPEL CHERUBS, STAR CHORUS AND JOYFUL NOISE -- performed a rousing program before a SRO crowd of families, friends and parishioners in Cleaver Hall. This year Taylor changed the format of the Year End Program; and instead of a musical, she had the children perform a number of individual songs and percussion pieces from around the world. I don't know whether this entails greater work on her part; but clearly the children loved it, and the percussion performances were very special. It was also touching that she dedicated the Program to the memory of Steve Biondo, her West African Drumming Professor at The University of LaVerne.

Not to be overlooked in appreciating the success of the Program were the contributions made by many parishioners and friends -- Brian Dyer, Accompanist; Jacques Pradel, Drums; Paul Kilian, Brass; and Gabe Vazquez-Reyes, Guitar. In addition, Taylor thanked every child's Mother for all of their support, and the Mothers in turn presented a special 'thank you' gift to Carrie Voris for her special support. Carrie Voris doing something extra special? I'm shocked!

For the record, I want to be on the Record. I doubt there is a more talented team/couple committed to working with Youth in the Diocese of Los Angeles than Taylor & Gabe Vazquez-Reyes. THE Church of Our Saviour is blessed to have them on our staff, and it will be fascinating following their Journey. They are something very special.

THE PERFECT PICNIC -- The SRO crowd exited from an overly air conditioned Cleaver Hall onto the Telleen Family Court Yard and the most gorgeously enjoyable afternoon possible. Shade everywhere, a light breeze, children enjoying themselves and friends in abundance. All we needed for it to be a perfect day was a good dinner, and we were not disappointed. Dennis & Nancy Duling and Keith & Kathi Davis had been working for several days to deliver an abundance of delicious food which I'm sure satisfied every taste bud in the neighborhood. Yet again I will quote one of my favorite philosophers, the A-Team's Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith: "I love it when a plan comes together!" Thanks to the Dulings and the Davis' and everyone else who contributed to making this yet another example of just how wonderful a Community THE Church of Our Saviour is!!!            

HI, I'M SANDY AND I'M AN EPISCOPALIAN -- The euphoria of the weekend notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that we Episcopalians are pretty much an anonymous lot. This point was brought home in spades by Fr. Gary during his Sermon Sunday: 

"To what are you most attached? What do you talk about most?...Of what is your heart full? What interests you enough to bring it up in a conversation with someone you just met? Seriously, think about it: What do you bring up?...Would you ever mention that you attend the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour? Oh, for Christ's sake, they'll think I'm nuts! But, yes, for Christ's own sake, would you ever, ever mention his name?"

Actually, this was the impetus behind proposing to Fr. Gary three years ago that COS incorporate THE BEACON in our offerings. However, my sense is that the 'light' doesn't reach out very far into the surrounding neighborhood. So, in response to Fr. Gary's Sermon, I am thinking about sitting down with Deacon Bill Doulos, COS's Resident Authority on 12 Step Programs, and discussing how we might establish a new version of the 12 Step Program which I am thinking about calling EEC (EVANGELICAL EPISCOPALIANS CELEBRATING). If anyone has a better antonym to 'anonymous' than 'celebrate', please let me know. Obviously, the objective of EEC will to proclaim just how rewarding and blessed a Journey can be with the Episcopal Church in it. Otherwise, no change in life style is necessary; just be willing to identify that you are aChristian of the Episcopalian Variety. "Hi, I'm Sandy and I'm an Episcopalian."    

OLD DOGS LEARN NEW TRICKS AT MONTHLY SAGES LUNCH --  For the final meeting of the 2016-2017 schedule, Sue Smock took the liberty of inviting Molly Lihani to speak about the Power of the Circle as a Spiritual Community Building Practice. She did so not because she is our daughter but because we believe what she is accomplishing in the Arcadia Unified School District using Circles is both inspiring and potentially could benefit the parishioners of COS.

Some Background: Molly's 'day job' is as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, but over the years she also has volunteered at our grand daughters' elementary school guiding students through a program called Green Circles. As I understand it, this essentially is a secularized version of "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you", with the GOAL OF BUILDING COMMUNITY.There are a number of Practices available to solve problems within the class room, and she had gained a good reputation particularly in the area of dealing with bullying.

Several years ago the State Legislature passed a law which was called Restorative Practices, the gist of which was to eliminate the practice of suspending or expelling students from school. However, as with many mandated laws, it was not accompanied by any protocol or funding. Then, the Arcadia Unified School District realized it had no program in place and approached Molly. Today, this is what she doing around the School District at all class levels, and Circles is the cornerstone program of the District's response to the Restorative Practices Law. 

Here's how Circles works. Immediately after lunch, Molly had all 30 of us SAGES adjourn to a circle of chairs which had been set up in Cleaver Hall. After explaining briefly the background above, she then talked extensively about how a Circles Program could be used to benefit COS collectively and by Ministries to build even greater Communities than already exist within the parish. Based on the feed back Sue and I have heard from a number of attendees, almost everyone believes this different approach to strengthening what we already have is well worth trying to implement as the parish finishes its 150th year and transitions into a new Chapter in 2018.

FYI, one of the 'games' she had us engage in to show the power of the Circles Approach as a Community Builder was entitled The Wind Blows Me If I.... What this entails is for the facilitator to pose a series of questions designed to elicit a response from every participant in the audience. Her first question: "The Wind Blows Me If I feel uncomfortable participating in the Circle". If this was true for any of us, we were to get up and cross over to another chair. For about 15 seconds no one moved and then one person did, followed by five or six others. However, after everyone became a little more at ease, the response to the second statement was much greater. The question: "The Wind Blows Me If I find substantial purpose in my life". This time there was almost a Sigalert as many SAGES crossed over, and the subsequent discussion was lively and candid. Importantly, I believe what a discussion in a Circles environment revealed to everyone is that we all share similar concerns or views about each topic, WE ARE NOT ALONE; WE ARE MUCH STRONGER AND EFFECTIVE WHEN WE ARE IN COMMUNITY.

Here's the last 'game' which Molly closed the Meeting with. She required everyone in the Circle sequentially to answer this question: "What brings you to SAGES?" 30 people, 30 answers, BUT the most shared reason was because of the sense of COMMUNITY, OF SHARED JOURNEY, which SAGES provides. My response was that next to my immediate family, SAGES and COS are my family. 


1) After three years under her direction, Sue Smock announced her 'retirement' from leading SAGES. However, what made this decision emotionally possible for her is the willingness of three other SAGES to step forward and assume leadership next year. The are Bev & Jerry Harris and Linda Goluskin. Her decision also was made easier by Diane Rivera's willingness to stay on Chief Food Provider.  

2) Robin Kassabian's Journey to Ordination concludes on Saturday, June 4 at St. John's Pro-Cathedral beginning @ 10:00. This is a big deal not only for Robin and Paul and Anna and David but also for COS. I don't have an exact number, but I know for sure that well over 20 parishioners from COS have preceded her into the priest hood since we have been members! If you have never witnessed an ordination of one of ours, you should because there is nothing more inspiring than seeing our Banner process down the aisle:

                            Church of Our Saviour

                                   San Gabriel


3) For those of you who will be around in 2035 or thereabouts, remember the names Nicolai Ross and David Kassabian. Both had speaking parts over the weekend which revealed levels of maturity and presence which are astounding!!! They don't make them like they use to; they make them better!!!

4) While most of us this week will be enjoying the weather and life in Southern California, Sr. MJ Johnston will be walking 15 miles a day with like minded souls between prisons and jails in Haiti. The purpose of this exercise as I understand it is to raise money to purchase food for people incarcerated in Haitian prisons. Apparently, if families and friends do not provide food, a person in prison in that country starves. If you are moved to support her Mission, I suspect the Community of Divine Love would be happy to receive contributions.             

WHERE ELSE BUT...? -- A week ago Saturday morning Cleaver Hall was filled to capacity by members of Narcotics Anonymous who gathered from 8:00 to noon to eat breakfast and celebrate Recovery. Meanwhile, across the Court Yard Deacon Bill Doulos and Ken Hinge were conducting the 10th Annual Big Book Comes Alive Program. Fast forward one week and rather than serving as Recovery Central, the Court Yard and other parts of the Campus were welcoming people from the greater community who had gathered to participate in the Monthly Silent Saturday Program offered by the Community of Divine Love. What a gift this place is to ANY AND ALL!!!   

I JUST DON'T GET IT -- In California, it costs more PER YEAR to send a person to Prison ($72,814) than it does to send a person to Stanford ($64,417)!!!