The Beacon

"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!" Fr. Gary Bradley 2018

"IT WAS LIKE A SOUND BATH - HEALING AND TRANSCENDENT! EVENSONG ON THE EVE OF EPIPHANY ... CHOIR OF 26 SINGING PSALMS" -- These are the words Sr. Greta Ronningen posted on social media just after she had participated in Canon Phil Smith's Music for a Season's  SOLEMN CHORAL EVENSONG. Sue and I can testify that Sr. Greta's statement is not an exaggeration; it was an Epiphany experience which we needed desperately! All I can say is you are missing incredible offerings if you do not avail yourself of the opportunity to hear COS's magnificent Choir perform its remaining Music for a Season Programs. THANK YOU, CHOIR & THANK YOU, CANON PHIL SMITH.

FYI, January 1 marks the beginning of Phil's ELEVENTH YEAR as COS's Minister of Music & Organist. Time flies when you're having fun; and based on his various postings on facebook, he seems to be enjoying his relationship with COS now more than ever!!! We are so blessed to have a person in our midst who loves music as much as he does. TEN YEARS AND COUNTING -- HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.

41 YEARS!!! FORTY ONE YEARS!!! YOLANDA GALEAZZI & COS -- As I have noted from time to time, I am in the process of writing my Living Obituary; and one thing that has become apparent is the constant and continuing change I have witnessed over my 80 years. "Change" is inevitable, an integral reality of the Circle of Life. In fact, I realized that I changed jobs 7 (SEVEN) times during my checkered career. Then, there is Yolanda!!! Change? Change?! There are still many out there who put a premium on loyalty over almost everything else. Otherwise, how else can you account for her continuing commitment to COS for 41 years?! THANK YOU AND BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, YOLANDA!!!

THE REV. ROBIN KASSABIAN'S BIG DAY IS NEXT SATURDAY, JANUARY 13 -- Finally, Robin's Journey from Parishioner to Deacon to Priest is about to end as Bishop John Taylor celebrates her Ordination at St. John's Pro-Cathedral next Saturday morning at 10:00. She will be the next in a long, long line of individuals COS has sponsored to become a priest since we became members in 1991. I'm not sure I have a complete list, but I believe Robin will be at least our eighteenth ordinand. Not bad for a moderate sized parish in San Gabriel, California.          

"IT'S CONNECTION AND KINSHIP THAT ULTIMATELY HEALS PEOPLE." -- These are the words of Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries, an outreach ministry that "provides hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community."

Fr. Greg has spent most of his life developing a community environment for those living on the margins of our society. As 2018 begins, I believe it is appropriate that we recognize FIVE members of our own COS community who also are building "connections and kinships that ultimately heal people". They are DEACON BILL DOULOS, DEACON DENNIS GIBBS, SR. GRETA RONNINGEN, SR. MJ JOHNSTON AND SHARON CRANDALL. "With you all, God surely is well pleased!"    


Fr. Greg's Story of Louie:

"I don't believe in mistakes. Everything belongs, and, as the homies say, 'It's all good'. I do believe in lessons learned. I have learned that you work with gang members and not with gangs, otherwise you enforce the cohesion of gangs and supply them with oxygen. I know now that gang warfare is not the Middle East or Northern Ireland. There is violence in gang violence but there is no conflict. It is not 'about something'. It is the language of the independent and traumatized.

"In my 30 years of ministry to gang members in Los Angeles, the most significant reversal of course for me happened somewhere during my sixth year. I had mistakenly tried to 'save' young men and women trapped in gang life. But then, in an instant, I learned that saving lives is for the Coast Guard. Me wanting a gang member to have a different life would never be the same as that gang member wanting to have one. I discovered that YOU DO NOT GO TO THE MARGINS TO RESCUE ANYONE. BUT IF WE GO THERE, EVERYONE FINDS RESCUE.

"Louie was 19 years ago, a gang member making money hand over fist by running up to cars and selling crack cocaine. He quickly became his own best customer. After my attempts to get him into rehab, he finally agreed to check himself in. He was there one month when his younger brother Erick did something gang members never do. He put a gun to his temple and killed himself. Gang members are much more inclined to walk into enemy turf and hope to die than to pull the trigger themselves.

"I called Louie and told him what happened. He was crestfallen. 'I will pick you up for the funeral,' I said, 'but I'm driving you right back.' 'I want to come back,' he said through tears. 'I like how recovery feels.'

"When I arrive at the rehab center, Louie greets me with un abrazo, and once in the car, he launches in. 'I had a dream last night - and you were in it'. In the dream, he tells me, the two of us are in a darkened room. No lights whatsoever. No illuminated exit signs. No light creeping under the door. Total darkness. We are not speaking, but he knows I am in the room with him. Then, silently, I pull a flashlight from my pocket and aim steadily on the light switch across the room. Louie tells me that he knows that only he can turn the switch on. Then with great trepidation, Louis moves slowly toward the light switch, following closely the guiding beam of light. He takes a deep breath, flips the switch on, and the room is flooded with light. As he tells me this, he begins sobbing. 'And the light', he says, ' is better than the darkness.'

As though he had not known this was the case.  


FYI, Fr. Greg's new book "BARKING TO THE CHOIR" is ranked No. 2 on Vroman's Non-Fiction Best Seller List.

"TAKE A SIDE!" THE REV. CANON DENIS O'PRAY: "THE DANGER OF NEUTRALITY" ANNA BALTZER -- Every issue of the BEACON during Advent contained some commentary about how the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict is impacting the celebration of Christmas in the Holy Land. I did this because I wanted to make you aware of how difficult the Israeli Occupation has made it for the indigenous Palestinian Christian community, particularly but not limited to those living in Bethlehem. Whether or not any of you looked at any of the facebook postings I recommended, the reality is that The Episcopal Church and most other Christian denominations around the country were silent. Misguided by a desire to not disrupt interfaith dialogue, most have chosen to remain neutral. 

Well, Sue and I believe that as we enter the troubling days of 2018, NEUTRALITY is no longer an option, no matter what the issue. To this end, we urge you search YouTube for Anna Baltzer's TED Talk entitled "THE DANGER OF NEUTRALITY" which she delivered on Nov. 4, 2017. Anna, an American Jew, is an outspoken supporter of Peace WITH Justice in the Holy Land, and this is the primary focus of her eleven minute talk; but she makes the point that her position applies to all of the issues of the day. We could not agree more; the 'good' news is that the issues we care about, including the Israeli / Palestine conflict, have now been elevated in the public forum, and we all who claim to be Christians are going to be forced to "take sides" whether we like it or not.

PARKER PALMER STRIKES AGAIN! -- Some time before the turn of the century Ed Andersen introduced me to Palmer Parker, author of "LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK", one the great books I have ever read. It was, and is, a life changing read, applicable both to an individual's Journey and the Journey of an institution. Get it, read it and then let's talk.

So, you can only imagine how excited I was when I read his posting on facebook over the weekend: 

"2018 is young, but I'm not! This year, I turn 79. So I wrote a book called "On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old."

This is my 19th book, and I finally found a topic I know something about! I wrote it for all who are getting old (older) -- which includes pretty much everyone who's alive, as far as I can tell.

"It's also a book for elders in a culture that often devalues them and their many years of contributing to the common good., with much more left to give. It's a book that says, 'Old is just another word for nothing left to lose!' Get feisty and take creative risks! We and the world need each other."

Here's hoping there will be a book study group formed at COS when the book is released in June.

TOM LENZO IS TOO OLD TO BE A BOY SCOUT, BUT BSA'S MOTTO ALSO IS HIS: "BE PREPARED", AND IT IS MORE RELEVANT TODAY THAN EVER! -- Monday morning you, like we, may have received an e-mail from Tom as he continues to urge us to "be prepared" while not appearing to be the "boy" who cried wolf. There were two attachments entitled "How to ride out the apocalypse in a big city" and the American Red Cross's "Fact Sheet On Shelter-In-Place". Both are "must reads", and we all ought to be paying attention to Tom, given what we have witnessed this year in Houston, Puerto Rico, Northern California, and Ventura. BE PREPARED!!!

A STEWARDSHIP IDEA: PLEDGE YOUR BIRTHDAY -- Our daughter Katie works for a non-profit in Billings MT, and they are constantly looking for new ways to raise funds, even at the margin throughout the year. One idea is to urge all of their supporters to commit to pledge a dollar amount equal to their age on their birthdays. The thinking behind this program is that many, many of us are truly blessed and really don't need much more stuff. Makes sense to us, so on May 5 and June 7, COS will be receiving checks for $80 and $81 this year from us. Please consider following our example. Most of you don;t need an extra gift, but THE Church of Our Saviour could certainly use any incremental support you can provide.