THE BEACON: CELEBRATING KNEELING IN EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE FOR 150 YEARS!!!
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!" Fr. Gary 2017
FATHER'S DAY SUNDAY AT THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR -- I've never been a fan of Father's Day. I've always thought of it as a creation of Hallmark Cards. Sunday at COS changed my mind. From start to finish, it was a day of joy and celebration.
Thanks to the generosity of Fr. Gary and Rev. Peg Bradley, breakfast was served to those of us who were on Campus between 9:00 and 10:00. Deacon Bill Doulos assisted in the preparation, and it is rumored that Rev. Peg cracked 180 eggs! Along with a mountain of bacon and all of the fixin's, no father should have gone to church or home hungry.
For me, the breakfast experience was greatly enhanced by the companionship I found out on the Telleen Family Courtyard. There, I sat down with John Vandercook and Peggy O'Leary, Diane Rivera, Kathy Vine and Cynthia Berne. The conversation were stimulating and devoid of politics; what a relief! The ambiance of the Courtyard on that warm day was spectacular, and of course there was the companionship of Joanna Kinsley who is always there, weather permitting, selling books to raise money for Canon Phil Smith's Music for the Season Program.
This 'feel good' mood carried over into church, but it manifested itself in different ways. First of all, Fr. Gary's Sermon continued the celebration of Father's by focusing on Joseph, Man of Hope. He noted that Joseph faced a personal crisis when he discovered that his bride-to-be was pregnant. You know how most men would respond today: " I'm outta here!" Then, the most likely solution was stoning! However, Fr. Gary observed that Joseph's reaction provides an example of not only the kind of father he was but provides actions to live by for us men in 2017. Specifically, Fr. Gary discussed three qualities which Joseph possessed -- 1) amazing mercy and compassion, 2) openness to wonder and 3) gentle strength as well as strength-in-gentleness. As I listened to the Sermon, I not only found myself trying to determine how I have measured up to Joseph's Standards, but I also imagined how much different the world might look like if the leadership in Washington had held itself to the same Standards.
With all due respect to liturgists among you, the Sermon for me pretty much is the last highlight of the Service. The remainder is always inspiring but knowable. Not last Sunday. During the Prayers of Thanksgiving, Fr. Gary asked Betsy Hathaway to come forward to receive a special prayer as the result of an unexpected diagnosis. Sue and I have known the Hathaways for over 60 years, and we were so moved by the support of them by THE Church of our Saviour, our second family. We were there to embrace them at this time. THIS IS WHAT COMMUNITY IS ALL ABOUT, ISN'T IT?
Fr. Gary wasn't through. He next called up Juli Kennedy and Kari Stewart to assist in the Recognition of EFM Graduates. EFM stands for Education For Ministry and is described on its web site as "a four year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice...The program helps the faithful encounter the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition and bring it into conversation with their experiences of the world as they study, worship and engage in theological reflection together."
We have a number of parishioners who have completed the program, and Sunday three more graduated. Kathy Macauley and Ursula Hawkins were not in attendance, but Gayle McGregor was. As with Betsy Hathaway, this was a very moving moment. Remembering that EFM is a four year commitment, Fr. Gary observed that Gayle began her study program after she was told that she probably would not live past six months!!! She noted that one trial she was admitted to seemed to help, and now she is enrolled in another one. Perhaps each of these has been beneficial, but one thing everyone who knows her will attest to is that her deep faith certainly has bolstered her spirits throughout. In addition, she will say that the support of the COS Community and her hard core group of friends have been invaluable in helping her to sustain the Journey.
One Final Highlight: On Saturday Sr. MJ Johnston participated in her First Profession during Vespers at the Community of Divine Love. I'm not quite sure what this means, but I think she now a full member of that Community. Regardless, this is a very big event in her life AND the life of the Monastery, and both are to be CONGRATULATED. As I have said before, having the three monks in our presence is a blessing which we should never underestimate or take for granted.
THUS ENDTH ONE GREAT SERVICE!!!
SPEAKING OF FATHERS -- I am in the process of writing my Living Memorial & Obituary, a project which was inspired in part by how impressed I have been by the wonderful things said at Memorial Services. That said, I often have wondered what the deceased might have said about himself; and the more I have thought about this, the more I have come to the conclusion that I should put on paper now what I think my Journey has been about.
A cornerstone of this statement is an extensive effort to THANK THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE SHAPED MY JOURNEY. First and foremost, I thank Jack (on Father's Day) & Margaret Smock for being the best parents ever. There were many points in my Journey where their collective or individual wisdom saved me, and I plan to give them considerable space in my Obituary.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW -- On the patio after the Service, I was sitting with Deacon Bill Doulos and Carolee Twining, and Carolee asked if we were going back to the Holy Land again. I said that we were not but that the many times we have been there bring great meaning to Scriptures on an on-going basis. Bill asked "how?", and I said that the Gospel Reading today was a case in point.
As I heard the Reading, I heard Jesus cautioning his disciples to "act like Christians" but to be cautious. "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves..." What Sue and I have witnessed in the Holy Land is a Palestinian Christian Community which not only "acts like Christians" but most importantly identifies itself as Christians. Unlike most Americans who might acknowledge that they are Christians eventually in a conversation, Palestinians express their ethnicity first and then immediately their faith. They are known by their faith affiliation, and the Christians we know practice what they preach. They do unto others as exemplified by their commitment to Ecumenical and Inter-Faith dialogue, and they care for the least among them, as witnessed by the many outreach ministries every Christian denomination in the Holy Land sponsors.
WHY I LOVE THE INTERNET -- Were it not for the Internet, the BEACON most weeks would be little more than a page. However, thanks to e-mail, Instagram, Facebook and an occasional text message, I'm able to gather information about COS and some of you which I might otherwise miss. This week it is Instagram which I love because it is there that I saw a picture of Executive Director Jane Fall and Gabe Vazquez-Reyes posing with about a dozen young people at the Dorris Dann Youth Campus. Fortunately, the posting was accompanied by a short explanation which identified the kids as members of the San Gabriel Presbytery's Middle School Mission Weekend Project. Again, because of the Internet, I was able to discover more about this Project which is under the auspices of the Presbytery's Tapestry Group, described as a collective of youth groups from Pasadena to San Bernardino.
The Bottom Line: These young people who are not Episcopalians came on Saturday, June 17, to the Dorris Dann Kids Campus AND the Our Saviour Center Campus and spent the day cleaning up both places. For Sue and me, this serves as an example of where the future of Our Saviour Center lies. The Mission and Need are too great in 2017 for THE Church of Our Saviour to carry on alone. We need to follow the Hillsides model and reach out to the greater community for assistance, financially and otherwise. Maybe the Presbyterian kids have opened that door and shown us what that might look like.
MEANWHILE (PART I) LEST WE NOT FORGET: MUST VIEWING!!! -- In last week's Messenger there was a Section entitled "Dorris Dann Kids Campus: OUR MENTOR & INSPIRATION". It contained a 10 minute video of interviews of CANON Dorris Dann AND four of the people who were her staff people during the building of Our Saviour Center Ministry. It is a magnificent recorded history which also features the memories of Rex Botengan, Diane Williams, Jose Vega and Marguerite Ponce. The interviews were conducted by Carrie Voris and the editing by Gabe Vazquez-Reyes. There also are several other very short videos featuring the above commenting on various other aspects of OSC. Altogether, these videos represent a thorough summary of the history and people behind the creation of OSC and are well worth your viewing. Yet another piece of the last 25 years of COS history has been filled in.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING & THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR --Whether you appreciate it or not, COS is one of the leading advocates for and practitioners of Affordable Housing in the Diocese of Los Angeles. This we do through our Transitional Housing Ministry which offers 42 men and 8 women places to live at rentals substantially below market. Besides providing financial breathing room to people in recovery, the availability of these rooms allows them to remain in the West San Gabriel Valley, in many cases close to family and friends. Otherwise, most would have to go way out east to find affordable housing.
The reason COS can do this is because of the gift Deacon Bill Doulos presented to us 15 years ago. The mortgages on these four houses are now almost paid in full and are worth substantially more than they were in 2002. This is great news BUT in the eyes of some, including us, also presents a potential threat to this Ministry down the road. Right now, COS's Balance Sheet is very strong and getting stronger with the payoff of the mortgages; but what would be the response of future vestries if things really got tight while housing prices continued to increase?
With this in mind, David Arnt, a former Transitional Housing Resident and current member of the Vestry, introduced a Proposal at the June Vestry Meeting which appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate options for protecting the assets of the Transitional Housing Ministry. Specifically, this committee is asked "to research, develop and recommend options to the Vestry about how to create a legal mechanism to guarantee that the four homes...and/or their successor facilities will be used in perpetuity to provide housing for our sober living program." The Proposal was passed unanimously, and the committee was asked to issue a final report for the December Vestry Meeting.
MEANWHILE (PART II) -- The end of June is when Deacon Bill sends out his Semi-Annual Fundraising Request. As usual, it is a superbly written statement which highlights the great work being done by this Ministry but consider these lines in particular: "we are a healing outreach of AA, and...everyone who comes in contact with us has the opportunity to heal. The flow from that healing is sobriety, education, health, unification with family, forgiveness, trust, a relationship with God, and service to others." It doesn't get much better than that and hopefully Bill's words will elicit your financial support, no matter the amount.
WE DARE YOU!!! -- Since 1999 we have been working with a handful of other Episcopalians from around the Diocese of Los Angeles attempting to make folks aware that there are 2 (TWO) Sides to the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict. Eventually we gathered around the banner stating that we were committed to working for Peace WITH Justice in the Holy Land. As some of you know, this has become our "cause celeb" in addition to our love for our Sister Parish Relationship. Eventually, our group totaled about 25 people from 15 parishes, and with the active support of Bishop Bruno, we helped to see that well over 80 clergy and 700+ others from around the Diocese made Pilgrimage since 2004.
I think it is fair to say that no other Diocese in the country has had more people make Pilgrimage, meaning that we have more people with more knowledge of the "facts on the ground" than any other Diocese. Even so, I have to tell you that conditions in the Holy Land are worse today than when we first made Pilgrimage with the Anglican Compass Rose Society in 1999. The brutality of the Israeli Occupying Force (IOF) gets worse by the day, exceeded only by the silent response from almost every quarter of the country including The Episcopal Church.
For those of you who care to know more and for those of you who object to what I have written, I urge you to vist anyone of the following facebook pages: The Palestinian Information Center, If Americans Knew, +972 Magazine, I Do Support Palestine, Eye On Palestine, EPN Palestine Israel Network or Palestine Will Be Free. If you will take time to view any of these pages, you will see one act of violence after another of OCF soldiers brutally attacking men, women and children, day after day. An honest person would be reminded of similar behavior against a minority population 80 years ago.