THE BEACON: CELEBRATING THE GREAT WORKS OF THIS 21ST CENTURY FAITH BASED COMMUNITY AT 533 WEST ROSES ROAD AND IN THE 'WILDERNESS'
COS Episcopalians PRAY WELL with others!!!
FOR 41 HOURS FROM FRIDAY NIGHT TO SUNDAY NOON, COS PARISHIONERS FOUND PEACE, COMPASSION AND JOY IN THE MIDST OF THESE TRYING TIMES -- This parish is blessed by the presence of the Community of Divine Love, and one of the manifestations of this blessing is the offering of a Taize Service on the first Friday of each month which attracts both parishioners and members of the greater Community. Yet again Br. Dennis Gibbs and Sr. Greta Ronningen officiated and Canon Phil Smith directed the music. The next morning the focus of Our Saviour Center was the children of El Monte as they were welcomed with gifts and music AND Santa. As always John Ballance was there to provide pop-corn, and there were a number of other parishioners at the Center to help Executive Director Jane Fall and her staff. Santa being Santa, he immediately re-deployed to 533 West Roses Road where he handed out gifts to the children of A Child's Garden School at its Annual Celebration of Christmas.
Once the children and families of ACGS had left, Stephen Faux began setting up for Jubilee Housing's Annual Christmas Party Saturday night. All of Cleaver Hall was utilized, and there were at least twelve tables of eight. (More about this function below.) Sunday morning the Forum was fascinating as Jonathan Burke, Kit Shenk and Debbie Andersen showed a large group of us how to make Chrismon ornaments. The '41 Hours' of 'peace, compassion and joy' concluded with the 10:00 Service which included wonderful music provided by the Choir AND a challenging and enlightening Sermon by Fr. Bob in which he addressed the meaning of Advent from a perspective which is different from anything we had heard before.
Thank you to each and everyone of you who organized and/or participated in the above events. For us, the Power of Community trumped for 41 hours the chaos which has become so prevalent in our daily lives. Our wish, our hope, for 2019 -- that more people will avail themselves of the 'gifts' THE Church of Our Saviour offers to anyone who takes the time to venture inside the gates of 533 West Roses Road.
DO YOU REALLY, TRULY REALIZE THAT YOUR JUBILEE HOMES OUTREACH MINISTRY IS POSITIVELY TRANSFORMING OUR RESIDENTS' JOURNEYS AND SAVING LIVES? -- We arrived at Cleaver Hall Saturday night at 6:05, expecting to be a little early for Jubilee Housing's Annual Christmas Party. Silly us! As noted, the entire Hall was fully utilized, and it already was jammed with people. It was actually a little difficult to find a place to sit. Thus began another one of the activities the Jubilee Board and Deacon Bill Doulos provide to the residents of our four houses and their families during the year.
Talk about a 'feel' good' experience! Deacon Bill kicked off the celebration by asking Fr. Bob Honeychurch, who stayed for the entire evening, to deliver the Invocation. Then, he introduced Canon Phil Smith who led us through the singing of six 'oldie but goodie' Christmas Carols, everyone enthusiastically joining in. After explaining how the rest of the evening would proceed, Bill took time to recognize in particular that the turkey dinner and all the 'fixin's' were being prepared for the fifth year in a row by Marcus Mendoza, a graduate of our Program, assisted by helpers Nora and Omar. A well deserved round of applause greeted them as they came out of the kitchen to take a bow.
One of the highlights of the evening for the adults always is the drawing of significant Raffle Gifts such as gift cards and other items of usefulness arranged by Board and Hand Belle Ensemble Member Sara Dooley. Year in and year out Sara has been front and center in support of Jubilee's activities, but I did not know that she has been involved with Bill's ministries for 43(!) years, beginning at Union Station. In addition to Sara, the Board also was well represented. Kier Mcclaren and Dale Stanhope, the two non-parishioner members, were there; as were Irv Moss, now four years into recovery from a liver transplant and his son Andrew. As usual, Will Dumain and Kim Sirean helped in many ways, from setting up to clean up. At our table were Von and Kathy Vine and Kevin. They had brought munchies for each table, Kathy had provided the center pieces and Von and Kevin also stepped up to serve potatoes and dressing to the hundred or more people who passed through the buffet line. A new parishioner who has expressed interest in supporting Jubilee also was at our table. Her name is Hanna Reily, and she has just moved into the area from Orange County. She already has joined our Choir, and she knows the Episcopal Church well; her father is a retired priest. Also not to be overlooked was the presence of Fr. Bob who not only provided the Invocation BUT ALSO served the turkey, generously I might add; and he did this while dressed in a sports coat and tie. (He confirmed proudly Sunday morning that nothing got on the tie!)
Last but not least, the 'hero' of the evening had to be David Coleman who accepted the challenge of replacing Mark Goluskin as Santa Claus. He was absolutely sensational as each of the twenty or so children climbed up on his lap to have their pictures taken. We could overhear bits of his conversation, and he was caring, witty and comforting. Talk about type casting!
As wonderful as the evening was for Jubilee's residents and families, for us the highlights as always at these dinners were two. First was the testimony of four residents speaking about what Jubilee Housing has meant to each of them. I will NEVER be able to capture the emotion and the depth of gratitude each resident ALWAYS expresses, but it is clear that providing a safe and affordable place in Pasadena AND a disciplined, controlled environment to pursue the Twelve Step Program are saving lives. Two of the speakers were former residents who talked glowingly about sobriety which has resulted in good jobs for each and reuniting with their families; a young woman who chronicled her Journey from alienation and disaffection from her family to finding a 'new' family in the Washington House; and a young man who made quite a point of emphasizing how important affordability has been in helping him to be able to pay down his substantial debts while working on getting sober.
If you have been reading the BEACON over time, you know that these stories are the norm, not the exceptions. You also know that every single resident praises Deacon Bill Doulos and thanks THE Church of Our Saviour. This truly is an Outreach Ministry which is SAVING LIVES!!!
The second highlight? Every single person stands at the end of the evening and forms a huge circle around around the perimeter of Cleaver Hall, holding hands. Then, someone -- this time it was David Coleman -- leads everyone in reciting the Lord's Prayer. Given my own Journey, this is always an emotional conclusion to the evening for me. There, but for the Grace of God, The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray and THE Church of Our Saviour......
JUBILEE AND THE DIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES -- Bishop John Taylor made it abundantly clear during his Presentation to Annual Convention that one of the primary focuses for his episcopacy will be to commit substantial resources and attention to the challenges of HOMELESSNESS and AFFORDABLE HOUSING. In this regard and to the best of our knowledge, there is NO OTHER OUTREACH MINISTRY in this Diocese which is providing housing for people who, by their own admission, otherwise would be living under bridges or along freeways. This has been brought to Bishop Taylor's attention, and his office already has been in contact with Deacon Bill to include him in the diocesan Housing Justice Task Force addressing the above issues. This is a 65 member group which will be next meeting at the Cathedral Center on January 15.
MAKING ADVENT HAPPEN!!! -- This Advent Season is different from any other we have experienced at COS when it comes to the four Forums leading up to Christmas. Yes, we will be blessed yet again by Gloria and Paul Kilian presenting their fascinating histories about two or three hymns in Grace Chapel on Sunday, December 16. However, the last two Sundays already have introduced new 'traditions'. First, we assembled Christmas Wreaths which now decorate the window sills under the stained glass windows in the Sanctuary and Grace Chapel; and last Sunday, under Jonathan Burke's directions, we made ornaments which are called Chrismons. Amazingly, in spite of what seemed to be nothing but chaos, the ornaments which were produced were beautiful white and gold shapes which will be hung on trees in the Sanctuary. If you wish to learn more about Chrismons, Jonathan recommends googling a write-up on the internet. We did, and the explanations are very informative.
In another change from past Advent practices, Fr. Bob and Senior Warden/Altar Guild Member Juli Kennedy announced that next Saturday morning, December 15, the Altar Guild and as many volunteers as possible will be gathering at 8:30 for Morning Prayer followed at 9:00 when those in attendance will assemble HUNDREDS OF FEET OF GARLANDS. These will then be hung in the Sanctuary between every stained glass window. Juli asks that those interested in helping also bring branches in 12 to 18 inch lengths if possible. Aside from getting many parishioners involved in preparing the Sanctuary for Christmas, another major benefit will be to lightening the load of Altar Guild with the final decorating of the church.
ADVENT AND THE MISPLACED 'COMA' -- To establish his bona fides that he was fully qualified to pose his interpretation of Luke 3:1-6, Fr. Bob Honeychurch began his Sermon by telling us that before becoming a priest he was a sixth grade teacher; and one of his obsessions was, and still is, the proper use of punctuation.
With this background, he focused on the generally accepted wording of Luke's account of John The Baptist's proclamation of the prophet Isaiah in the Book of Words:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make his paths straight...
According to Fr. Bob, the original words as written by Luke were:
The voice of one, crying in the wilderness
Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make his paths straight...
Note where the 'coma' is in the original translation, after 'one' and before 'crying'. For Fr. Bob this placement is absolutely crucial to how one approaches Advent. If it is after 'wilderness', it implies that Advent is a period of time turned over to WAITING for things to come one's way. On the other hand, if the 'coma' is after 'one' and before 'crying' as he believes it should be, it means that one is a PREPARER dedicated to beginning, or continuing, to toil in the 'wilderness'.
And what is the 'wilderness'? If I understand Fr. Bob correctly, the 'wilderness' could be in El Monte or downtown in the Jails or among people seeking to recover from addiction or welcoming and counseling Mandarin speakers from mainline China or any activity involving caring for the least among us.
Interesting to me is the question as to whether a parish can be pretty much committed to being a PREPARING INSTITUTION but articulates a Vision which may be heavily weighted towards WAITING. Just askin'.
THERE MAY BE NO SMOCKING GUN; BUT WHERE THERE IS SMOCK, THERE IS FIRE!