The Beacon

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

MRS. PAUL KASSABIAN IS NOW DEACON ROBIN KASSABIAN!!! -- Yet again, THE Church of Our Saviour has sent another of our parishioners into the priesthood. One of these days I'm going to develop a list of the people we have sponsored for ordination. Based on my somewhat limited memory, I believe the number is well in excess of 20, and this does not include those priests who "got their starts" with us. On a macro level this is impressive stuff, but from a micro perspective, this means we are loosing great people who have contributed much to the quality of our collective Spiritual Journey in San Gabriel. This is our bitter sweet reality as the Bishop, as required by canon law, has posted Robin to serve in another parish, in her case Ascension Sierra Madre. Inshallah, six months from now, in early January, she will be ordained as a priest in The Episcopal Church. Ascension is so blessed to have her in their midst, and so is COS as we are able to claim her as one of ours! Congratulations, ROBIN and Paul and Anna and David.   

A SERMON FOR THE DAY -- Talk about the right person delivering the right message at the right time. Who better to preach on The Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church and the third most holy day behind Christmas and Easter, than our own Rev. Thomas Ni? In fact, as I reread his Sermon, I realized that his message ought to be heard by EVERY PERSON WHO PROCLAIMS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN 2017! Read these selected points and then consider how far too many people in some Christian Communities are behaving:

"If God ONLY wanted to get his message across, Greek or Latin would be a simple choice, but God enabled his people to speak many different languages. This reflects God's nature and His purpose for the Church."

"Our proclamation that although we are many, we are One Body, because we share one bread and one cup, confirms that Christ's followers are of different races, genders, cultures and languages."

"Christianity is the only major world religion that doesn't make people learn the language of the founder."

"On that day, God sent the Holy Spirit down to speak to each person in his/her language."

"God's mission is not for the purpose of forming a single culture for His people, but to let people hear the message and take it back to their own countries, in their own language."

What does this mean, in 2017?:

"We must be open and vulnerable, willing to be challenged and changed so that we can seek and find Jesus in all the people we serve...The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to more clearly see Jesus in those we would rather keep at arm's length, the ones we are more comfortable serving from a distance, and from behind the security of our closed circle."

"It means that we will find ourselves standing with those who are different from us, with those on the margins, on the edge, on the outs. The greatest temptation facing Christians today isn't necessarily losing their passion, but rather, losing sight of the fact that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female; or one step further, our greatest temptation may be losing the courage to be open to, and to embrace, people who are different from us." 

TONGUES 'R US -- Most of the time when we have a Joint Service at 10:00, various portions of the Liturgy are said first in English and then in Mandarin. Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, was different and VERY, VERY, special. On this most appropriate day, we really felt like the Disciples on that Day in Jerusalem must have felt when "divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them". This was particularly true during The Baptismal Covenant as each of us confessed that we believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and the same our own languages. The only other time Sue and I have experienced this sense of universality has been when we have attended Services at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Galilee where Arabic was the other language. In these rapidly changing times it is fascinating to witness how these changes are impacting our Spiritual Journey together. I wonder if those folks gathered in Jerusalem on this Day over 2000 years ago felt the same way? 

THE BELLS WERE RINGING -- It never ceases to amaze me how many people contribute to the success of each 10:00 Service. This Sunday, we were treated to another dimension -- the COS Handbell Choir. Directed by Alice Rucker and consisting of Kim Sirean, Sara Dooley, Debbie Andersen, Patti Teele and Kathy Mccauley. Everything they performed was beautiful, but almost everyone missed the most moving moment of all. Only after The Post communion Hymn and the Postlude did the Hand bell Choir exit. Led by Alice, they processed single file down the center aisle playing a most beautiful piece, and they continued all the way out into the Tower Bell Courtyard. It was a magical experience, made all the more so by Deacon Robin and her fans serving cake and those who had been baptized posing for pictures in front of the Bell Tower.  

IS ASCENSION SIERRA MADRE GETTING 2 FOR 1? -- It's bad enough that COS is loosing Deacon Robin Kassabian to Ascension Sierra Madre; but depending on what the Kassabian Family decides, we may also be loosing one of our very best Readers. I can not conceive of David Kassabian being able to drive himself to COS on Sundays if Paul and Anna are joining Robin in Sierra Madre. He can barely see over the Lectern when he reads like a seasoned veteran, Of course, we COS parishioners should be used to this. We continue to contribute many, many wonderful people to the greater good of The Episcopal Church, but David would be the youngest yet!

THAT WASN'T GUNSHOTS! -- As uplifting as the Day of Pentecost Service was, for some reason one thing which happened during Communion really amused me. Just after "Sanctus, Benedictus, Hosana" when the people are asked to stand or kneel, it was obvious that the "people" decided to kneel en mass because the collective sound of the kneelers hitting the concrete floor sounded like rapid gun fire. Never heard anything like that before. It probably was a good thing that Parish Safety Officer Tom Lenzo was not present, or we all might have been ordered to evacuate.

AN OBSERVATION -- By all accounts, Americans are the most generous people in the world. Not only do we give enormous amounts of our resources to charities and non-profits all over the country, we also support NGOs around the world through organizations like World Vision and Episcopal Relief & Development. In fact, we are willing to travel to all points on the compass -- Mexico, El Salvador, Malawi, Jerusalem, Ethiopia -- to volunteer, because we care. That said, I am increasingly puzzled by the fact that if we feel called to help others less fortunate than we are, why don't we just focus on the many needy people right here in our own immediate community? 

For instance, next Sunday exit the church through the eastern door, turn left immediately and walk twenty steps to a table where you will find an abundance of literature discussing the Ministries of Our Saviour Center. If you are fortunate, you may even have the opportunity to speak with Jane Fall, the new Executive Director. One thing I know for sure; she will hand you a sheet entitled "Dorris Dann Kids Campus Wish List" which will allow you to make a meaningful contribution of something that is needed in El Monte. Moreover, not only can you make this contribution without ever leaving the country, you also can drive five miles from COS ANYTIME to visit the Cleaver Clinic, the Food Bank and the Youth Center to see how your gifts and donations are being used. No need to go to LAX.

SPEAKING OF MINISTRIES CLOSE TO HOME: GOD BLESS DEACON BILL DOULOS AND THE REV. CANON DENIS & LYN O'PRAY -- On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2003 Bill knocked on the backdoor of the COS Rectory and set in motion the establishment of an Outreach Ministry second to none in the Diocese of Los Angeles. The end result was the gift from him 4 houses in Pasadena and Altadena containing AFFORDABLE housing for 42 men and 8 women in RECOVERY.

Just how important the creation of this has come to be was brought home to me Sunday while reading Steve Lopez's column entitled "High rent, low pay and life on the brink". Lopez was writing about affordability in South Pasadena, Highland Park and Eagle Rock, but the number which blew me away was the MEDIAN RENTAL PRICE FOR A ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT IN L.A. COUNTY -- $1,995!!! 


JUNE 11, 2011: DO YOU KNOW THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DATE IN THE HISTORY OF COS? -- I doubt it, because Institutional Memory disappears quickly. We have discovered this yet again in working with Carrie Voris and Gabe Vazquez-Reyes to update the history of COS over the last 25 of our 150 years. The parish which existed in 1992 when we became members looked unlike what we experience every Sunday at 535 West Roses Road today, and much of our history is not even a memory with most.

One of those memories which is so important to us is the history of the establishment of the Sister Parish Relationship with St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Galilee. By way of background, thirteen years ago The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray announced that the Lenten Program for 2004 would be entitled "Journey To Jerusalem: Then & Now". Cornerstones to this Program were the Sister Parish Relationship and a COS Pilgrimage to the Holy Land after Easter. No one knew how to go about establishing the former so Lani Weirick took it upon herself to e-mail the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Almost immediately Nancy Dinsmore, an American serving as the Diocese's Development Officer, responded and put Lani in touch with Fr. Fuad Dagher, Rector of St. Paul's. The reason for the quick response, we found out later, was the fact that because of the Second Intifada which began in 2000 and was just winding down in late 2003, almost no American was visiting the Holy Land. COS's inquiry was a totally unexpected gift.

To verify that this Relationship had possibilities and was sustainable, Fr. Denis O'Pray booked a flight to Israel to visit St. Paul's. His stay was a huge success, the Relationship was finalized, and right after that six more parishioners made Pilgrimage after Easter. I was privileged to be one these Pilgrims, and it was a life changing experience for me, both because of the introduction to Fr. Fuad, his family and congregation and because of the itinerary prepared by our new friend and Guide Iyad Qumri.

In addition to the above, another highlight and defining moment was a meeting fellow parishioner and Pilgrim Jed Kaiser and I had with then  

Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem, While sitting in the court yard of St. George's Guest House one evening, Bishop Riah approached us and said he wanted to discuss a proposal. During our Pilgrimage he noted that two sisters living on the property next to St. Paul's Parish Hall in Shefa 'Amr had passed away, and he would like Bishop Bruno and Rev. Denis O'Pray to consider helping him purchase the property. His vision was to build a pre-school, which he said he would do if Bruno and O'Pray bought the property.

Jed and I delivered this Proposal to Fr. Denis, and he passed it along to Bishop Bruno. In the meantime, Fr. Denis had invited Fr. Fuad & family to COS in August 2004 where he was able to meet Bishop Bruno at the Rectory. Bishop Bruno was so moved by this meeting and our evolving Sister Parish Relationship that he not only agreed to Bishop Riah's Project but also unilaterally proposed a Resolution establishing a Companion Relationship between Los Angeles and Diocese of Jerusalem. This is in an unprecedented fourth term and has served as the foundation for many other friendships and Pilgrimages. The purchase of the property was consummated in 2007 at a cost of $140,000, with COS contributing $50,000, Bishop Bruno $70,000 and the balance from the Diocese of Jerusalem.

When the property was turned over to St. Paul's, the three room, 140 year old structure was in ruins; and the large lot was filled with trash -- refrigerators, 55 gallon barrels, tires, you name it and a dilapidated outhouse. The walled lot had become the dump for the neighborhood. Undaunted, and following mentoring from the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, Fr. Fuad set about to raise funds from within the community to renovate the property. As might be expected in a culture where this sort of fund raising was not typical, it took him some time; but eventually all of the funds were raised locally and much of the labor was contributed by local artisans. Also during this time Fr. Fuad decided that rather than converting the property into a pre-school, a greater gift to the community would a cultural center.

On June 11, 2011 the EPISCOPAL CULTURAL CENTER OF SHEFA 'AMR was dedicated with great fan fare. Bishop J. Jon & Mary Bruno, The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray and Sue and I were privileged to be in attendance. Bishop Suheil Dawani traveled from Jerusalem, every priest from the other four Christian denominations in the city was there, so were the Sisters of Nazareth, the mayor, the leadership of the Muslim community and Sheik Joseph, patriarch of the Druze. The day began with a Service in St. Paul's in which Bishop Bruno and Fr. Denis played prominent roles. Then, as we exited the church, there was the obligatory Boy & Girl Drum Corp waiting to lead a procession through the streets of Shefa 'Amr. By the time we arrived at the Cultural Center, almost every one of the 450 seats was occupied.