The Beacon


"We who are many are One Body, because we all share one bread and one cup."

30 / 170 = 17%: SHARING OUR STORY. SHARING YOUR STORY. SHARING MY STORY. -- In the second in a series of four meetings scheduled by the Parish Profile Committee, "Sharing" is what Fr. Bob Honeychurch guided 30 of us parishioners through for over three hours in a thoroughly engaging and informative discussion on Saturday morning, July 14.

During his introduction, he reminded us that ultimately the history of COS is written by those of us who are here today. Thus, while we all may know the facts, history is far more than truth. It is subjective and as much about now as then.

To prove this point, Fr. Honeychurch made sure 'Sharing' was not a bunch of us talking about our individual Journeys at COS, one by one. Rather, he had us separate ourselves in various ways; by age, by the time we have been parishioners, by decades. Then, those groups were divided into smaller ones and asked to discuss what we remembered about the history of the time period involved, about the greater Episcopal church and specifically about what was going on at COS at that time. What became apparent over the morning from these exercises was that each of us has his or her own view of the history of COS during any given time frame.

A GRAPHIC EXAMPLE: THE PERIOD FROM 2000 TO 2010 -- For many this was a decade of turmoil, but not necessarily for the same reasons. Some talked about Fr. Denis O'Pray's departure, others focused on Fr. Michael Battle's tenure and the angst during that period. Although mention was made of Rev. Ada Wong-Nagata and Rev. Thomas Ni, no one talked about the changing demographics of the West San Gabriel Valley OR the difference between the Cantonese and Mandarin Congregations. For the record, I pointed out that this also was the time when Jubilee Housing became a vital outreach ministry (2003), when the Sister Parish in the Holy land was established (2004), when Cleaver Hall, Grace Chapel and Allan Hall were constructed and/or remodeled (2004), when a lot was purchased and the Dorris Dann Kids Campus was constructed and dedicated (2006), when Yuhadhi Sundaramoorthy and Will Dumain came on board, when the Community of Divine Love was invited to occupy one of our houses on West Roses Road, when PRISM Restorative Justice Ministry came into our lives, and when Rev. Ada and Rev. Thomas joined us. Given all of these developments, I suspect that most parishes and clergy away from 535 West Roses Road believed that COS was on a roll. "History is far more than truth. It is subjective..."    

In addition to this insight, the day provided many participants with information which was new to them. I also believe the exercises brought all of us a little closer together. In fact, as the morning progressed, individuals became more and more willing to express both positives AND negatives and came to understand what Fr. Bob was saying about our history. For me, it became very clear that the Profile Committee is going to be really challenged to develop a Job Description which satisfies the many criteria which many of us consider to be critical going forward. 

So, what's the significance of 30 and 170 and 17%? Thirty is the number of parishioners who attended this important second meeting as COS develops a Parish Profile which ultimately will be presented to priests interested in becoming our next Rector. One hundred seventy is the approximate number of people who consider the church important enough in their Journeys that they have agreed to turn over a portion of their financial resources to fund the operation of the parish in 2018. Seventeen is the percentage of those 170 who thought it important to dedicate a portion of their Saturday to this process. 

On the face of it, this should be viewed as 'bad news'; but for us it is actually 'good news'. The low turnout enabled us to have an inordinate amount of time to express our opinions which may or may not coincide with those who were not there. For the record, here are the folks whom you are relying on:

The Rev. Bob Honeychurch, Pattie Beith, Tom Kibler, Manuel Cabrales,  Gabe Vazquez-Reyes, Juli Kennedy, Gloria & Paul Kilian, Meredith Brucker, Ben Harrington, Mark Goluskin, The Rev. Thomas Ni, David Coleman, Sr. Greta Ronningen, Will Dumain, Jerry & Bev Harris, Marjory & Bob Bartley, The Rev. Marilyn Omernick, The Rev. Dr. Ellen Wekall, Maurice Saldebar, Katherine Feng, Joanna Cory, Henrietta Ma, Sharon Crandall, Charlotte Van Fleet, Bonnie Defrance and Sue & Sandy Smock.

Again, my question to you all: Do you trust the above small group of parishioners to adequately represent your thoughts and desires when the Job Description for our new priest is drawn up? If not, you need to come to Cleaver Hall NEXT SATURDAY FROM 10:00 TO 1:00 TO DISCUSS WITH TOM SHENK "WHAT WE DO WELL AND BEYOND".

FYI, I suspect a great number of the 170 pledgers mentioned above have expressed concern about the low voter turnouts in recent years. This is COS's election, and you need to participate!!!     

$5.99 & THE BAPTISMAL COVENANT -- From our perspective, preceding two baptisms Sunday were two of the worst Lessons imaginable -- Amos 7:7-15 AND Mark 6:14-29. The first chronicles the threats made to the Prophet Amos when he challenges the religious establishment and the King of Israel, the second the beheading of John the baptizer by King Herod. Sue and I looked at each other after the Readings and simultaneously mouthed "Good Lord!"

Fortunately, The Rev. Bob Honeychurch addressed both readings head on. Drawing on Bloy House Dean Sylvia Sweeney's Sermon of last week in which she spoke of reading scripture within its cultural context, he  focused on the Lord telling Amos that He was "setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel". Why a plumb line? Because, as a tool which was in use then and still is to measure 'true' verticality, it serves as a metaphor for measuring what is 'TRUE behavior'. If the individual or larger society deviates from what is TRUE, the Lord's metaphorical plumb line will reveal itself eventually in actions such as John's beheading. This is the most severe risk prophets run when they challenge the power brokers in their societies, but there also are lesser dangers depending on the society or government where one lives.

The Plumb Line in 2018 in the United States for Episcopalians? Using a $5.99 plumb line which he had purchased from OSH, Fr. Bob recited THE BAPTISMAL COVENANT, each time holding it up as he read one COVENANT after another:

  • Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

  • Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

  • 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?


As you know, the response to each of these questions is "I will, with God's help". That said, Fr. Honeychurch cautioned that adhering to these five charges is not ever easy; and when, for instance, you stand up for the dignity of EVERY HUMAN BEING, you may hear push back from friends or society at large.

90026 PILGRIMAGE -- I often have wondered why 'mission trips', particularly for young people, need to go Mexico or Haiti or the Lakota Nation to serve those less fortunate when there is so much we could be doing right here in Southern California. Well, some Youth Directors in the Diocese of Los Angeles felt the same way and six years ago developed a week long service program which they call LOS ANGELES CITY PILGRIMAGE. It's goal: to give our high school  students the opportunity "to engage in the issues surrounding homelessness, poverty, hunger and all of the social issues facing people in Los Angeles County."

Sunday we heard in the Forum exactly how meaningful this Pilgrimage is as Emma Voris and Audrey Sei joined Gabe Vazquez-Reyes in discussing their most recent experience. Living at the Cathedral Center (90026) 15 young people from across the Diocese participated in serving at The Midnight Mission, serving breakfast in Macarthur Park, visiting a refugee center and much more. We found their presentation so moving, and we actually wished that we had had this kind of opportunity when we were growing up. As Gabe noted, the objective is to get our students to think differently about the faith they are subscribed to and how we are to live out that faith. Emma and Audrey certainly confirmed that this was how they were affected. Said Audrey: "We found that all people are the same, just like us."       

143: "WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?" -- Following up on my recommendation to you last week to go see "Won't You Be My Neighbor?", we did. My oh my, what an experience! We cried, and cried, and cried, with joy. We did not realize how much we needed this 'feel good' story. Throughout the 1 hour and 34 minute documentary Mr. Rogers preached LOVE!, LOVE! LOVE! to young children, regardless of race, creed or gender. The film clips are moments to behold as Mr. Rogers imparted his fundamental belief that "we should love our neighbors as ourselves".

143? 1 = the one letter word "I"; 4 = the four letter word "LOVE"; 3 = the three letter word "YOU". Mr. Rogers never forgot these three numbers and apparently on many segments he held up a piece of paper with "143" written on it and just looked into the camera in silence. The children at home knew what he was communicating!!!

"LOVE". What a powerful word! Driving home we discussed LOVE and how blessed we are. Neither of us, EVER, in our entire lives has felt unloved. In fact, from the first time we confessed that we loved each other in October, 1956, there never has been a day when we didn't tell each other how much we love one another. Even before 1956, we were loved by our parents, friends and even an occasional teacher. Today we continue to be surrounded by LOVE, from our daughters, our sons-in-law and our four grand children AND our friends in THE Church of Our Saviour Community. Mr. Rogers would LOVE this place!   

(D019) 619 TO 214 = JOY & OPTIMISM: (B016) 48 to 78 = DESPAIR & BEWILDERMENT -- Last week as the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC) neared its conclusion, there were a series of votes on Resolutions involving the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict. This in and of itself was progress as far we are concerned because in prior conventions almost all Resolutions addressing this Conflict either had not made it out of committee or the delegates, particularly the Bishops, had let the 'clock run out' with no vote.

This time there were two very important Resolutions -- D019 before the House of Deputies and B016 before the House of Bishops. Both essentially urged TEC to develop an investment screen to determine which companies were involved in benefiting from Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank. The House of Deputies voted first, and an overwhelming 74% of the delegates were in favor of establishing this screen. It seemed to us that TEC, finally, was joining the Presbyterians, the United Methodists, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the UCC in taking economic action "to avoid being being complicit in human rights violations and injustice in the Holy Land". We thought the pendulum had swung, until we received the news the next day that the House of Bishops had voted 78 to 48 against B016! UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Some of you may be asking why we care so much about this. Here's why. After our family AND THE Church of Our Saviour, the most important constituency in our 62 year Journey together is the Indigenous Palestinian Christian Community in the Holy Land. Beginning in 1999 when we made Pilgrimage with the Anglican Communion, we came to realize that there were two sides to the Israeli / Palestinian Conflict; and we joined a handful of Episcopalians from around the Diocese in forming a group to work for Peace With JUSTICE In The Holy Land. Bishop Bruno took note and subsequently formed the Middle East Task Force, encouraged in part by a presentation made at Cathedral Center by The Rev. Canon Naim Ateek, co-founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem AND father of COS's intern Sari Ateek. Then, in 2004 The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray decided on "Journey To Jerusalem: Then & Now" as the focus for Lent, and the Sister Parish Relationship with St. Paul's in Galilee became a cornerstone. This lead to a gathering at our Rectory between Fr. Fuad Dagher, St. Paul's Rector, and Bishop Bruno, and this meeting eventually resulted in 1) the Diocese and COS funding of the Episcopal Cultural Center in Shefa 'Amr, 2) the adoption of a Companion Relationship between the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Jerusalem and 3) the establishment of the Bishop's Commission on the Middle East.

COS and we were integrally involved in all of the above. Then, in the fall of 2005 Sue and I were blessed to be asked by Fr. Fuad and Han'a Dagher to be the Godparents of their daughter Reggina! In any culture this is a huge honor but even more so in Palestine  where family is EVERYTHING! For all of these reasons, WE HAVE COME TO CARE DEEPLY ABOUT THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE -- CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM AND SECULAR!  

"78 APPEASING BISHOPS" -- As the result of the Bishops' vote, we emailed Bishop Taylor regarding D019. "78 APPEASING BISHOPS" was the title of that email and below is what we wrote:

Dear Bishop Taylor,

We are deeply disappointed in the House of Bishops' vote on Resolution D019. (Click the link to read full resolution)

Once we got over the shock, we were drawn to re-read Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail". The parallels between what is going on in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza and conditions in Birmingham in 1963 and responses of our 78 Bishops now and 8 white clergy then are strikingly similar, at least to us.

    Where do we go from here? "Prayers and Thoughts?!!!"

    Feeling Spiritually 'Homeless',

-The Smocks

B016 -- Having voted against D019, the Bishops subsequently embraced Resolution B016 which referred to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's recent action entitled "Justice for the Holy Land Through Responsible Investment". Parroting the Lutherans, the Bishops specifically directed "our Executive Council's Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to develop criteria for Israel and Palestine based on a human rights' investment screen and the actions of General Convention and Executive Council over the past seventy years..." For the life of me, I do not understand how our Bishops could vote for B016, given their vocal objections to the similar wording in D019, but... FYI, Bishop Taylor voted 'No' on this Resolution for the same reasons he voted 'No' on D019.

115 DEGREES: THE HEAT -- It is alarming how much damage has been done to our wonderful campus' plants by the heat. Our initial response was to be concerned that our watering system had failed us, but then we read an article in the San Marino Tribune written by parishioner Jim Folsom. Jim is The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens Marge and Sherm Telleen / Marion and Earle Jorgensen Director of Botanical Gardens. He has been at The Huntington since 1984, and he says he has never experienced anything like what happened on Friday, July 6. "It was something of a disaster. The gardens look like someone walked through with a blowtorch. Friday was certainly one of the hottest days, certainly one of the hottest days I have ever experienced here. We have had days that exceeded 110 degrees, but they came later in the summer, and temperatures moderated in the later afternoon.

    "So, it wasn't simply temperature. There were other circumstances that must be part of the story. Our rains were late this spring. Spring growth may have been delayed or extended. And the heat came in early July, whereas we think of August through September as the hotter months. We are wondering if a lot of plants still supported fairly young growth, which was simply not able to withstand the extended heat blast we experienced last Friday. Heat that lingered through the night.

    "Most people would suggest you treat this like frost damage. Don't cut the dead leaves away so soon; you'd just be exposing buds and stems that are even less prepared for direct sunlight. And, of course, check the soil to determine if the plants need deep watering..."

1 OF 3 -- One General Convention action of interest to COS was the vote to name The Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi as one of three new Permanent Saints. She will be acknowledged and prayed for within The Episcopal Church every January 24 going forward.

16 OF 23 / 80% / 60% = WORLD CUP -- Sunday morning the LA Times Sports page had a lengthy article about how 16 of the 23 players on France's World Cup team were from immigrant families. Later in the day, under their picture after they won the Cup, it was noted that 80% were from Africa and 60 % are Muslim. As the French celebrate, I wonder how many are bemoaning the fact that they are losing their culture because of immigrants.