The Beacon

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

KEEP THESE PROMISES...KEEP THESE PROMISES...KEEP THESE PROMISES -- The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray Emeritus was in church last Sunday to preach, and many of you were not. So, you missed a very challenging Sermon which ended with the charges, the challenges, to "KEEP THESE PROMISES..." Which ones?, you should be asking. They are the ones found on Page 304 of The Book Of Common Prayer in The Baptismal Covenant. THE PROMISES WE ALL SAID 'YES' TO:

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? 

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

Having previously responded "YES", Fr. Denis stated that "you and I are God's promise to a hurting world that knows only the suffering and not the and I must never quaver...we must keep ourselves so close to Jesus, so aligned with his teachings, that we can see the glory that is all around NOW, not waiting for fulfillment, but incarnate in the life of church and all its members NOW."

With all due humility, I hear this message and believe from the bottom of my heart that THE Church of Our Saviour and we parishioners are being true to our Baptismal Covenant INDIVIDUALLY IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES AND COLLECTIVELY IN OUR OUTREACH MINISTRIES.

That said, another observation from Fr. Denis also resonated. "You have to go to church every Sunday until you are truly animated by hope, then you can take a few Sundays off...You have to say your prayers every day, to feel connected, the same reason you say I love you to your nearest and dearest. You have to vigorously, sacrificially, work to make life right, good, abundant, just for everyone." AMEN!  

ACCORDING TO THE REV. CANON DENIS O'PRAY, THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT DURING HIS 17 YEAR TENURE WAS... After the 10:00 Service, Gabe Vazquez-Reyes had made an appointment to interview Fr. Denis in the Sanctuary as part the Communication Committee's program to compile an updated history of the last 25 years of the parish. Fr. Gary and Sue and I were privileged to listen in, and I state unequivocally that this was one of the most interesting one and one half hours we have ever spent at COS. The chemistry between the two was magical: Gabe is an accomplished interviewer AND Fr. Denis is story teller second to none.

We learned so much but what impacted us the most was his answer to the above question. His response: Dorris Dann's commitment to the establishment of Our Saviour Center as the major Outreach Ministry of COS. Building on the Food Bank which was expanded dramatically, Dorris then focused on establishing Cleaver Clinic and finally the Youth Center. Fr. Denis believes her dedication to serving the least among us in El Monte changed THE Church of Our Saviour from an inward focused parish to one concerned about our neighbors in the greater Community which in turn led to becoming involved in Jubilee Housing, the Holy Land and the welcoming the Community of Divine Love, the first Episcopal Monastery established in the Diocese of Los Angeles.  

SISTER! BROTHER! WANT TO CREATE A MUCH NEEDED MINISTRY @ COS? -- In these budget stressed times, many issues go un-addressed because there is no funding available. That said, this does not mean the needs are any less. So, here are two opportunities some of you might want to consider as you consider additional ways to KEEP YOUR PROMISES:

1) The UBER/LYFT Outreach Ministry: We SAGES are more aware than most that there are parishioners among us who are house-bound and unable to attend Sunday Services. This has been a major topic of discussion between Linda Goluskin and Bev & Jerry Harris, the new Directors of SAGES, and Deacon Bill Doulos, Director of Pastoral Care. We have been debating how we might be able to provide transportation for at least 6 parishioners whom we know would dearly love to attend church but can not because they no longer drive.  

Here's an idea. What if we established a Pastoral Transportation Ministry and raised a fund to pay for UBER or LYFT service for anyone who wanted to attend church? COS could be the 'client' of either or both services, and a Sub-Committee of SAGES could be responsible for monitoring usage and replenishing funds periodically. Think about it. 

2) Fertile Ground Ministry: Br. Dennis Gibbs delivered an insightful Sermon on July 9 entitled "Fertile Ground", best summarized for me by the following paragraph:

"To prepare our soil for the next planting -- for the next one hundred fifty years, like all fields of opportunity, it will require some amending of the soil, loosening and aerating, removing the rocks, pulling out thorns, turning the soil and mixing in new fresh nutrients."

"Amending of the soil" in anticipation for planning what the next 150 years will look like at COS is beyond the pay grades of most of us, BUT I see one concrete way we can start to prepare for a different tomorrow. As you drive onto the Campus, right after you pass the gate to the cemetery, you see on your left a strip of land not unlike what Br. Dennis preached about -- dead and dying ivy, rocks, bare ground, Bleak! Bleak! Bleak! And right at the end of this strip is the statue of General George Patton which is the reason many people visit our us. I don't know about you, but this barren piece of land is NOT who we are (or is it?).

So, is there anyone out there willing to take on the task of amending this piece of soil? Were Joan Biersch still here, she would be volunteering in a minute. Actually, under her stewardship, this would never have been left unattended, but now it needs enormous help to match the rest of our Campus. I speak without authorization, but I'm sure Sr. Greta would be available for consultation. Lantana -- I'm thinking lantana which appears to grow EVERYWHERE.

CHRIS CASE NEEDS ONE MORE -- Sunday the Acolytes appeared a tad older than usual, and they were. That was because Chris Case, many years leader of the Acolyte Corps, included three of the four Volunteers she has recruited to take over from her. They are JAMIE SEI, JUSTIN INDA and the ubiquitous GABE VAZQUEZ-REYES. We parishioners owe an enormous "Thank You" to Chris Case and also to these stalwarts who will be shepherding our young people going forward. All we need now is ONE MORE SHEPHERD. 

HI, I'M SANDY AND I'M AN ALCOHOLIC: A PERSONAL TESTIMONY WHICH MAY BE HELPFUL TO OTHERS -- On July 22, 26 years ago, I came home to a living room of ten people consisting of immediate family members, some friends, our doctor, an associate from work and a guy named Ed Storti whom I didn't know. What I walked into was an Intervention which Sue Smock had courageously organized. Thus began a dramatic and totally unexpected change in the course of my Journey as each of those people told me that they loved and/or respected me but that my drinking was doing great damage to my ability to live out my Journey.

Thanks be to God (whom I had no relationship with at that time), I NEVER HAD ANOTHER DRINK! However, as I look back over those 26 years, I am aware of how many things I have learned; and I want to share some of them with you. 1) Almost immediately I learned from Dr. BillCory, our general practitioner, that Alcoholism is a disease, but one that the sick person has the complete ability to control and cure. My Bottom Line: Getting sober would be my responsibility and my responsibility ONLY. 2) With many people there is a genetic predisposition to drink excessively. If you ask people with drinking problems about their family history, you inevitably will find alcoholics in the family tree. In my case, my mother died from the disease at 59, my father's brother did too, and my mother's father died from a sled accident in Iowa; cause of death was a DUI. 3) At the end of my first week of sobriety, Sue and our daughters Molly and Katie and I sat down one on one with Alex Lopez, a counselor in my Program at St. Joseph's Glendale. After introductions, Alex asked me if I loved my daughters. I said "Yes. Of course I do, very much!" To which he responded "How would you feel if either one of them was doing to her self what you are doing to yourself?" That was my first EPIPHANY!

4) From the very beginning and although I had a Sponsor named Clay Sheedy (May He Rest In Peace) encouraging me all the way, I never was anonymous about my alcoholism. In fact, the first day I was back to work I told my boss and the 20 people who reported to me that I had a drinking problem. From that day forward, each and every one of them was in my Program and supportive of me. 5) From day one Sue stopped drinking, too, even though she is not an alcoholic. AND, she attended AA Meetings with me. As it turned out, this was very fortuitous because her previous asthmatic history meant that she began to be impacted by the severe smoke conditions at the Meetings. (The South Pasadena Women's Club Meeting reserved four Smoke Free seats in the northeast corner of the room; the other 126 seats were for smokers, and you could not see across the room to the coffee machine!)

6) This ended up in being GOOD NEWS because Sue and I decided to look for our Higher Power away from AA Meetings. This led us in late 1992 to COS, and we heard The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray preach. Almost from that moment Fr. Denis became my Co-Sponsor, and eventually his Sermons guided us to our Higher Power (who turned out to be God) and a dramatic change in our Journey, spiritual and secular.

Two Lessons Learned --

1) Any Journey but particularly the The Journey to Sobriety is most rewarding AND successful if it can be accomplished in COMMUNITY. In my case, I had family, neighborhood friends, my business associates and eventually Fr. Denis and the COS "family". Everyone was involved in my Program because I was open about my illness; I chose not to be anonymous because I honestly was not embarrassed; I had an illness, not a flaw in my character.

2) My experience proves, at least to me, that in fact you can change the trajectory of your Journey. Nothing is cast in concrete!!!

CONFIRMED: THE REV. CANON FUAD DAGHER WILL BE AT COS ON OCTOBER 8 -- Plans have been finalized for Fr. Fuad, Rector of our Sister Parish in the Holy Land, to visit the Diocese of Los Angeles for a week in early October. The specific purpose for his trip is to celebrate COS's 150th Anniversary and the Sister Parish Relationship between St. Paul's in the Galilee and COS. He will preach at both Services on Oct. 8th, and he and The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray will conduct the Forum. We will be hosting a Middle Eastern luncheon afterwards. Fr. Fuad's visit is particularly timely, given his recent elevation to Honorary Canon for Reconciliation at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. What better person to be heard from with regard to the challenges of inter-faith and ecumenical dialogue in the Holy Land?

THREE MONTHS IS A LONG TIME -- Inshallah, Fr. Fuad will be with us in a little less than three months. However, given the rising level of violence which is occurring daily in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he and we will have to monitor events on a daily basis. The Israeli government is becoming increasingly less tolerant of dissent, and on Monday for the first time prevented five Americans -- two rabbis, a Presbyterian, an Arab Jew and a Muslim -- from entering Israel because of their support of the Palestinians and Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions. BDS was a primary non-violent tool employed against South Africa in the fight against Apartheid. The ONLY DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS NOT ACTING LIKE ONE!

FYI, the Muslim who was refused entry is Shakeel Syed, among other things a member of American Muslims for Palestine. He is a friend of ours, a leader of the Muslim Community in Southern California and once spoke at COS's Forum on Islam.