THE BEACON: CELEBRATING WHO WE ARE IN OUR 151ST YEAR
'GRATITUDE' WAS EXPRESSED OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN CLEAVER HALL SATURDAY NIGHT! -- If anyone ever, ever doubted that the Jubilee Homes Ministry saves lives, all you need to do is to attend one of Jubilee's monthly dinners. When you do, as part of the program, you will hear one resident after another testify to what this ministry means to each of them. This Saturday in particular was very special as four men -- Gary and James from El Nido House and David and Michael from Fair Oaks House -- spoke passionately about God, their Higher Power, the Twelve Steps, recovery and their goals. In addition, everyone of them thanked THE Church of Our Saviour for providing safe, welcoming and affordable housing AND Deacon Bill Doulos for his guidance, friendship, compassion and spiritual direction.
As it turned out, we were seated at the same table with Gary and James and were able to hear a lot more about their respective Journeys. What an amazing experience and so uplifting. Also at our table was Keir McLaren, a long time supporter of Jubilee dating back to Deacon Bill's time at All Saints'. Keir joined the Jubilee Board a while ago as an non-parishioner member as a result of Bill's effort to broaden the ministry beyond COS. According to Bill, he has made major contributions in helping the Board fine tune its Visions for Jubilee.
One major change which I included in last week's BEACON was the announcement of Dale Stanhope's addition to the staff. Although he also is not a parishioner, he has many years of involvement in the recovery community in Pasadena, and he will be filling the void which Bill Morgan's passing left several years ago. In particular, he will be interviewing all Jubilee residents and assisting them in securing a sponsor, monitoring their involvement in the Twelve Step Program and assuring that they attend attend meetings. Dale also was at the dinner, and I had an opportunity to talk with him. He is extremely excited to have this opportunity and characterized it as "a dream come true!".
One other piece of information I learned from Keir is that the number of facilities in the area focused on the needs of women in recovery has DECLINED DRAMATICALLY. He is not sure why this is happening, but he is concerned because alcoholism and drug addiction do not discriminate between genders. Therefore, he suggested that given Jubilee's growing financial strength, the Board may want at some future date to consider adding another home for women to its portfolio.
In conclusion, I must tell you how Deacon Bill ends each dinner meeting. First of all, he asks everyone to stand, form a circle around the perimeter of Cleaver Hall and hold hands. He then asks for blessings for everyone in attendance and prays for any residents or alumni who may have passed away recently. Finally, he leads the circle in saying the Lord's Prayer. Last week the circle stretched all the way around the two Cleaver Hall southern rooms, and we were deeply moved by the sight and sound of so many people in recovery. COS is changing the trajectory of Journeys and saving lives with this ministry.
THE COMMUNITY OF DIVINE LOVE IS BECOMING A WELL KNOWN SPIRITUAL ATTRACTION: IT IS NOT, I REPEAT 'NOT', A "TOURIST" ATTRACTION!!! -- Last week I wrote about the visit to the Community of Divine Love by Bishop Luis Morales from Puerto Rico. I had become aware of this from postings on facebook and had assumed he was there as part of an itinerary organized by Bishop Taylor. This in and of itself was reason to be proud because of the visibility the monks were gaining within the Diocese, but I somewhat cavalierly added that CDL was becoming a "tourist attraction".
Unfortunately, there always is a deadline for getting articles into Gabe Vazquez-Reyes for the week's Messenger, and I had fired off The BEACON to him just before noon on Tuesday. At 12:40, an hour later, I received this email from Br. Dennis Gibbs:
"Last week Bishop Morales of Puerto Rico was here for his official visit to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. He insisted upon visiting the Community of Divine Love to hear about our community and ministry. We showed him around the COS campus and talked about the importance of our relationship of mutual support.
"He now wants to send monastic interns to us from Puerto Rico to learn from us about how to establish a diocesan community. He will be sending the first in the near future." THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONAL RECOGNITION FOR THIS MINISTRY WHICH CONTINUES TO EXPAND RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD.
YOU SEE HIM HERE, YOU SEE THERE, YOU SEE HIM EVERYWHERE! -- We have a limited number of 'friends' on facebook, but one of them is Bishop John Taylor. Between him (and Sally Baldwin) there really isn't much time in the day to have many more 'friends'; they both are consistent contributors in interesting updates on facebook.
Bishop Taylor in particular is of interest to those of us who care about what is going on in the Diocese of Los Angeles. In fact, based on the number of his daily postings, I'm not sure when he sleeps. The man seems to be going 24/7, visiting parishes and institutions all over the Diocese. For instance, last week he was on Skid Row and volunteered the following comment:
"The Rev. Alice Callahan, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, is a living legend on Skid Row -- founder of Las Familias del Pueblo, which serves the children of those who live and work downtown, co-founder of the Skid Row Housing Trust, and one of the instigators, along with the REV. BILL DOULOS and others, of Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena."
I think this is high praise, recognizing Rev. Alice and our own Rev. Bill for their work together back in the '70's in Pasadena. Amazingly, both are still going strong, continuing to give of themselves to the least among us. In fact, I find it interesting that Rev. Bill started out his life in ministry helping the homeless; and now, almost FIFTY years later he is sort of back in the "same business". Although Jubilee Housing is committed to helping people in recovery to begin a new Journey in Sobriety, the fact of the matter is that Jubilee also is providing affordable housing to eleven women and thirty nine men who otherwise might be living under bridges or along freeways somewhere in the West San Gabriel Valley. FYI, the median rent for a one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $2,370; residents of Jubilee's four homes pay less than $400 a month!!!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT FOR THE PARISH PROFILE COMMITTEE & OTHER PARISHIONERS INTERESTED IN COS'S FUTURE: "EPISCOPAL CHURCH'S PAROCHIAL REPORT NUMBERS FUEL DISCUSSION OF DECLINE AND REBIRTH" -- This article appeared in this week's TEC Episcopal News and can be found on the internet by googling the title. I encourage you to read it even though you will find that it falls in the category of a "firm grasp of the obvious". Highlights (or low lights) are as follows:
+Over the last five years, the number of active baptized parishioners has dropped 10% to 1.7 million members.
+Sunday attendance is down 13%.
+There are 175 fewer parishes and missions.
+"The one bright spot churchwide is that the average pledge has been increasing each year."
Hoping that I might some find some answers to the above negative news, I read the entire article. Unfortunately, at least for me, the best anyone could come up with is a report from a group called RenewalWorks "suggesting four catalysts for supporting Episcopalians on their spiritual journeys."
+Engagement with scripture
+The transforming power of the Eucharist
+A deeper prayer life, and
+The heart of the congregation leader
TWO COMMENTS -- First of all, I was struck by the fact that no where in the article was there any reference to the possibility that declining attendance might have to do with the reality that 'church' as it is now structured in 2018 is IRRELEVANT. Yes, a church like COS addresses the needs of "the least among us", BUT the vast majority of those who see no need to be part of a faith based community live above the poverty line and also struggle daily to survive. Their issues relate to under employment, medical care, affordable housing, parenting, marriage counseling, addiction, quality education for their children, day care, etc. etc. etc..
This was pointedly brought home to those of us in church Sunday by Mora Hooper, a member of the Annual Giving Committee. In her insightful statement about giving, she noted that she is one of four Hooper children raised at COS but the only one to attend church. The fact of the matter is that she and her fellow millennials face so many challenges in their daily lives that church is not even an afterthought, especially as she noted when you are "over educated and underemployed". That we have her in our midst at all is a credit to all of those COS clergy and staff who had the opportunity to impact her when she was growing up.
Secondly, although I have huge respect for parishioners and members of the community who are drawn to COS by magnificent programs such as Centering Prayer, Bible Study, Silent Saturdays, Taize Services, etc., exactly what RenewalWorks recommends only WORKS if you have people in the pews. Until folks show up, the number and quality of spiritually oriented offerings is invaluable to the few BUT irrelevant to the many.
ARLINGTON GARDENS IN PASADENA & THE CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR CAMPUS -- As we move into the next 150 years at 535 West Roses Road AND the realities of living in a region where water is a precious commodity become more obvious, we have a recommendation
for all of you responsible for developing Visions for COS which must surely include plans for our campus. However, before discussing those recommendations, we have a request. Go to the front gate and walk the length of the campus to the end of the parking lot. Honestly note the "frayed" and "tired" nature of many areas, especially under the lemon trees, along the western parking lot divider and the entire length of the border along the cemetery. Note the number of areas which require substantial water and the dead plants. Then, drive up to the corner of Arlington Drive and Pasadena Ave. just south of the Huntington Hospital. There you will discover three acres of gardens which were started just 14 years ago.
This originally was the dream of Charlie "Kicker" McKenney whom I have known since 1950 and his wife Betty who looked out on the vacant Caltrans property from their condominium. Both were long time environmentalists who were particularly concerned about water usage in the state. Over time they developed a goal to create a public, water-wise garden that celebrated Southern California's Mediterranean climate. Today, in 2018, the garden demonstrates how beautiful and practical a well-planned, water-conserving and climate-appropriate garden can be.
When you visit the Gardens, you will be astounded at how well they have succeeded in reaching their goals. Most importantly, their goal to conserve water is something to behold. Both Kicker and Betty have recently passed away; but while they were still alive, they proudly proclaimed that their three acres used 80% LESS water than the three acre Singer Park four blocks north of them at the corner of California and Pasadena.
WHAT TO DO? -- As I see it, there are at least four possible courses of action which migth be incorporated in a future Vision Statement:
1) There is a Master Plan floating somewhere around the church office prepared by parishioner Jim Folsom, Marge & Sherm Telleen Director of Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library. As I remember, it was a comprehensive three page analysis which covered the entire campus and proposed a "game plan" for reducing water usage AND converting much of the landscape to sustainable gardens. As far as I know, the report was received but no follow up was ever pursued by the Vestry. Perhaps the creation of a Gardeners Guild could resurrect Folsom's Master Plan and begin implementing it in stages.
2) Another possibility would be to call upon The Rev. Peter Rood, a former COS Associate Rector, to advise us on the how to establish Community Gardens on portions of our campus. He has accomplished this at Holy Nativity in Westchester near the airport and has gained national recognition for what he has accomplished. He believes strongly that every parish has an obligation to be a good steward of the land, and under his leadership Holy Nativity has converted every bit of lawn on its corner lot into Community Garden plots open to everyone in the Westchester neighborhood. Aside from conserving water, Fr. Peter has realized two other positive results. First of all, by opening up his parish grounds, he has attracted many diverse groups of 'gardeners' to the campus. And secondly, his one requirement of every participant is that a portion of each plot's production be contributed to the LAX Food Bank. Even if we were unwilling to convert our entire campus to community garden plots as Fr. Peter would advocate, it might make sense to call him in to educate us.
3) Another person with COS connections doing great things in water conservation and 'food security' is Tim Alderson. He founded Seeds of Hope which is an outreach ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles several years ago, and he and his Team have made great progress in turning unused land into productive and beautiful gardens AND orchards that provide fresh and nutritious foods to areas of need across the country. No doubt he could provide invaluable guidance in helping us how to upgrade our landscape while "doing good".