The Beacon

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

THE MOST PERSONALLY RELEVANT SERMON I HAVE HEARD IN A LONG TIME: "LOSING YOUR LIFE TO FIND IT" -- We parishioners of COS have been privileged over the years to be preached to by some of the best in the profession. However, I do not remember a preacher whose own Journey qualified him to speak with such insight, credibility and authority about a Gospel Reading than Br. Dennis Gibbs addressing Matthew 16:21-28. To say that his Sermon overflowed with transparency is a huge understatement. Twenty years ago in 1997 this man was completing 25 years of alcoholism and drug addiction. "The life that I was so desperately clinging to was killing me and the odds of me making it out alive were not good." He was going to die, literally.

What happened is that he says he did "die" and "the life I was living two decades ago is gone.  I am a completely different person now. The life I live now isn't mine. It belongs to God." He now lives a "life-professed as a monk in an monastery committing my life to works of justice and spiritual companionship with the incarcerated." Talk about walking the talk!!!

After the Service on the patio, I thanked Br. Dennis profusely for his candor, his truthfulness. Having personally shared a somewhat similar Journey, I absolutely believe sharing stories like this are a gift to the Community. If you remain silent about your Journey, no one will know that you really can change the trajectory of the Journey and that there is the potential for a meaningful life in recovery. Of course, carrying it as far as Br. Dennis has is truly remarkable, but he has shown us all what can be accomplished if we will open our eyes and ears.

In fact, this is what my answer is to his question "What does it mean to you that Jesus said we must lose our life in order to find it?" Unbeknownst to me at the time in 1991, it meant opening my eyes and ears and listening. I finally recognized that I did not have all the answers, and this eventually led me to THE Church of Our Saviour and The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray, the voice of my Higher Power.  

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO....FOR 41 YEARS: YOLANDA GALEAZZI & THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR -- Forty parishioners witnessed in the FORUM what those of us in our 70's and 80's took for granted growing up. EMPLOYEE / EMPLOYER LOYALTY! Back in the day, after you either went to college OR joined a union out of high school, there was a distinct possibility that you would spend your entire working career with a single employer. LOYALTY was a two way street, and I believe THIS is one thing which contributed greatly to America's exceptionalism. This no longer exists, but Yolanda Galeazzi did remind us how beneficial such a relationship can be for ALL concerned Sunday as she announced her decision to retire. SHE has been great for COS, and COS has been great for her!!! For me one of the highlights of the morning was Evie Escatiola's contribution that Yolanda is referred to by the children of A Child's Garden School as the Keeper of the School. I think this pretty much sums up her service to COS over the last 41 years -- Yolanda Galeazzi, Keeper of the Campus!!! Thank You, Yolanda, Safe Journey and Keep in Touch.    

A SYNONYM FOR 'COMMUNITY' = 'A CHILD'S GARDEN SCHOOL' -- In this chaotic world, a place of serenity and love exists right here on our Campus. It is A Child's Garden School under the professional and caring supervision of Evie Escatiola. Director, and Rose Sevgiyan, Associate Director, and the 14 equally caring teachers, all of whom are completely dedicated to their profession. The focus of ACGS, as articulated by Evie, is to develop the whole child, not just preparing preschoolers for Harvard. This means imparting 21st century skills -- respect, listening, sense of community, problem solving, collaboration and empathy. Our daughter Molly Lihani conducted a training session for the staff last week, and she reports that she believes Evie and Rose have created a remarkable community of staff who clearly respect each other and love what they do. 

TOM LENZO: SOME THINK HE'S THE BOY WHO CRIED 'WOLF'; SOME THINK HE IS A 'DON QUIXOTE'; I THINK OF HIM AS COS'S 'MOSES' WHO'S TRYING TO LEAD US OUT OF THE WILDERNESS OF DENIAL -- In yet another example of the incredible number of talented people we have as fellow parishioners, I give you Tom Lenzo. His gifts and relevance were brought home to me yet again this week, first because of the catastrophe in Houston, then his presentation to SAGES on the scamming of seniors and finally the closure of the 210 Freeway by the La Tuna Fire for most the Memorial Day Weekend. 

Not in chronological order, the SAGES Meeting was a last minute gathering requested by Tom as a result of the increasing number of cases he is investigating as a consultant to the Pasadena Police Department. His subject drew 35 parishioners and friends, and his presentation was informative and fascinating. He really does know this stuff, and people desiring to become current on the latest scams would do well to invite Tom to address their groups.

Scams, however, are not what's potentially going to cause us ALL the greatest harm. Earth Quakes and Fires are, and no one I know knows more about how to prepare for either one of these kinds of disasters than Tom Lenzo. And yet, for years, it seems, as he has spoken at Forums, SAGES and to whomever else on Campus would listen, the collective response has almost bordered on indifference. He even arranged with the San Gabriel Fire Department to conduct a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Course on Campus which some of us parishioners and clergy did attend and were certificated. Otherwise, 'preparedness' is something we all hope someone else is taking care of. To prove the point: Do you know where the fire extinguishers are located in Cleaver Hall and the Sanctuary? 

The Bottom Line: If you have not been scared by what can happen to your daily routine if disaster strikes, you obviously have not been paying attention. It is time to call upon our 'Moses" to educate us once again about preparedness. He is a huge asset, and we all will be well served if we take him very seriously going forward.    

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE MONASTERY -- The monks always seem to be in motion, and they are doing a terrific job of keeping us posted via Facebook. Last week they posted a wonderful picture of Br. Dennis and Sr. Greta with Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor along with some highly complimentary comments from the Bishop. Then, Saturday morning Br. Dennis posted more pictures, including one of him standing in front of two very modern buses at the Cathedral Center. Interesting story --these were rented at the last minute by PRISM RESTORATIVE JUSTICE MINISTRY after the City Council which traditionally had provided school buses could not. As a result PRISM had to ask its supporters for funding, and Br. Dennis reports that the response was really gratifying, so much so that the family members of those serving terms in jail traveled from the Cathedral Center to PRISM'S ANNUAL FAMILY PICNIC DAY hosted by St. Matthew's Pacific Palisades in air conditioned luxury. This was the 10th Annual Picnic, and Br. Dennis said 90 family members were able to attend.

In talking with Br. Dennis after the Service, I also learned some other interesting things. First of all the Community of Divine Love (CDL) is now an active member of the Conference of Anglican Religious Orders of the Americas (CAROA) which consists of 14 communities for women, 5 for men and 2 only for both men and women.  

Secondly, CDL is attracting interest from around the country from people interested in pursuing joining the Order. I believe he said there are three who are proceeding through the process and should be coming to West Roses Road sometime in the near future. I asked what he attributed this interest to; and he said that aside from a growing interest in pursuing a monastic way of life, CDL is drawing considerable attention because the monks have a "day job" of serving the incarcerated. Br. Dennis says most CAROA orders do not have a "justice" component available; and while new members of CDL do not have to become involved with PRISM, they do have to do something which involves the least among us. 

Finally, the Community of Divine Love has a new website, and it is extremely informative! I'm guessing this is the work of Sr. MJ.

WHAT MUTUAL RESPECT AND CIVILITY LOOK LIKE: WE SHOULD STRIVE TO EMULATE -- Sunday morning we woke to a series of pictures on Facebook posted by The Rev. Canon Canon Fuad Dagher. (He is actually an Honorary Canon of both the Diocese of Jerusalem AND the Diocese of Los Angeles.) Anyway, the pictures were of him, his fellow Christian priests from the other four denominations in Shefa 'Amr and the Muslim leadership gathering in the Druze Community Hall. They were all there to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. This is the holier of two Muslim Holidays in which they honor the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God's command. Granted that Christians, Muslims and Druze are brought together in Israel because they all are minorities in their country and live in a segregated city, BUT wouldn't it be wonderful if the faith based communities in the San Gabriel Valley could come together like they do in Shefa 'Amr? Just hopin'. 

I STILL CAN'T STAND IT!!! -- To date not one parishioner or staff person has responded to me regarding the waste land which continues to deteriorate between COS's western property line and the Cemetery. Perhaps it's because no one likes Lantana, so here are two other possibilities. How about a Community Garden? We have right here in the Diocese of Los Angeles one of the foremost practitioners of converting church property into a Community Garden. He is The Rev. Peter Rood, formerly an Associate Priest at COS, who has turned the entire street facing property of Holy Nativity Westchester into plots of land tilled by local neighbors, food activists, social justice activists and people who just like to garden. You can read about this Ministry by going to Holy Family's website. We know that Fr. Peter would race out to San Gabriel to speak to us if invited. Additional information about the community garden movement can be obtained from former parishioner Tim Alderson who heads up the Diocese's Seeds of Hope Ministry. This outreach "works with congregations, communities and schools to turn unused land into productive and beautiful gardens and orchards that provide fresh and nutritious foods to areas of need".