Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hot time, summer in the City

I wandered over to St. Paul's in Pomona yesterday for the last of the Diocesan Budget discussions. People were placed into small groups and asked to talk about their dreams for the diocese -- and their priorities for the budget. It was a wonderful gathering -- more than 50 people were there, and this is July! LOTS of great ideas and thoughts were shared. Most gratifying was the fact that in this and the other 2 gatherings, so many of the priorities that we bishops heard were ones that had been identified -- and many of them we're working on already! It's nice to be " in sync!"

I couldn't help but fall in love with the sign outside St. Paul's front door -- which I am sharing with you in this blog.

We ARE a cool church -- not cool in the sense of the people are cold, or the temperature inside is cool due to air conditioning (although that's always nice!). We're cool because we have a wonderful story to tell -- it's the story of the love Christ has for us all, and in turn the love we spread in the communities around us and throughout the world. The Episcopal Church IS a cool place -- and I'm proud to be part of it in the Diocese of Los Angeles!

I'll be posting more in the next few days -- it's been a busy few weeks for me, and I'm playing catchup on my writing and my blogging. I have lots of stories to share, so get ready!
Blessings and love to all...and remember, we're cool!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Celebrating Diversity

When you drive up to St. Anselm's of Canterbury in Garden Grove, you notice that there is something different on the Church sign(s). One church, many languages -- indeed, celebrating diversity is the theme!

The parish created a visioning team to interview members of the parish (the English speaking part of the congregation) to discern where the Spirit is moving among them. Why the English speaking part of the congregation? This group has been the core of the congregation since the inception of this church. The Spanish speaking part of the congregation is overseen by the Rector as well, but the Vietnamese and Korean speaking congregations have different Pastors and indeed different names.

Questions were asked of the congregation: What do we love about St. Anselm's? What are our strengths? What are our challenges? What can be improved? The team interviewed every member of the English speaking service, and the results and recommendations were presented tonight. Frank, open discussion ensued. Members of this parish are not afraid to speak the truth in love. Love, love is the key. The Rector, Fr. Wilfredo Benitez listened with an open heart and an open mind -- and a heart full of love.

Diversity works when we can speak the truth to each other in love, and when we can listen to each other with open hearts and minds. If we don't love one another, diversity cannot exist.

I wish my schedule permitted me to be with the people of St. Anselm's this Sunday as the results of the visioning process are unveiled (I won't spoil the surprise here). Needless to say I was very impressed with the visioning team, Fr. Wilfredo, and their commitment to this Parish!

I wonder how hearts will be stirred on Sunday....and how diversity will continued to be celebrated in this place commited to celebrating diversity.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Perpetually early

It is my habit to arrive early -- no matter where I go. If it is to someones home for dinner, I'll sit outside until it's time. You see, I can't stand to be late. When I AM late (which happens on occasion due to traffic, etc.), I can feel the anxiety rise in my body. So this morning, knowing I had to drive to the parish of St. Andrew and St. Charles in Granada Hills (65 miles north of where I live) and not knowing what the freeways were going to be like, I left at 7:15 for a 10:00 meeting. Yes, it was overkill, I know.

I was happy to pull in right behind the Rector, Greg Frost. It gave me time to spend with Greg, to tour the church, and to hear about some of the ministries that go on there.

The photo I took is of the relatively new stained glass window in the sanctuary. You may be thinking to yourself, "with two saints in the name of the church (the two churches were combined years ago), why not put their pictures in the stained glass?" There was no other stained glass (at least that I could see) in the Sanctuary. Lots of clear glass -- but no other stained glass. You see, the congregation had this beautiful window created by a local artist -- it has the form of a rose window, with the trinity in the center -- and at the bottom it reminded me of Eucharist Prayer C -- the planets in their courses. The congregation is sensitive to the fact that they for years have rented out and share the sanctuary to a Reform Jewish Temple. The large crucifix in the Sanctuary is easily removable, and this wonderful, warm space becomes a Jewish Temple! The Temple has an office on the parish grounds, and shares the large refrigerator in the kitchen. Another group started at this church is a Charter School. Another wonderful way to use beautiful parish grounds to create something for the community around them.

The Regional Meeting was informative. Although fewer people than I would have hoped for turned out, what we lacked in numbers we made up for with enthusiasm and good ideas. People were put into groups and asked to suggest budget priorities and express their hopes and expectations for the ministry of the diocese in 2011...and beyond. I won't share what ideas were floated, but we 3 bishops all took notes, as did Ted Forbath. There are two more opportunities to share your ideas: July 17th at St. Cross in Hermosa Beach, and July 24th at St. Paul's in Pomona. The meetings start at 10:00 and will end by noon. It's an opportunity to talk about what YOU would like to see the diocese focus on in the year(s) to come!

The time came for me to start heading home. I was wisely advised by members of the congregation not to go back the way I came (down the 5). Instead, they directed me to take the 210 to the 57. I had forgotten how beautiful parts of those roadways are, and so enjoyed the ride home.

The hospitality of the Rector and the people of St. Andrew and St. Charles was wonderful. The Senior Warden purchased red and black plates for the snacks provided along with clear cups (the red and black being the colors that can exist on a treasurer's report, the clear cup representing transparency).

I went online a few days ago to look up St. Andrew and St. Charles' parish website. I loved the web address of this parish: As I was driving home that web address came to my mind as I was giving thanks in prayer for those who gathered today, and for the parish of St. Andrew and St. Charles. I started to wonder -- 2 saints -- 2 congregations came together years ago, 2 congregations exist now (Christian and Jewish), a Charter School, many ministries -- kind, generous people. Truly many saints past and present have made this parish what it is and who it is for the community.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Car

I've been on the job one month, and have managed to put over 2,000 miles on my car. How did this happen? Well, I've been on the road a LOT! It's been a great joy to travel around the diocese and visit congregations. I look forward to continuing this in the months and years ahead.

Today I got the bug to actually clean out my trunk. Carrying my vestments and crozier in the back seat isn't always feasible (especially if people want to sit back there!), and, well, looking at the contents of my trunk didn't instill confidence that anything I put back there wouldn't come out filthy. So, there I was, climbing into the trunk (it's big!), and getting all the junk out.

What did I find? Over 15 reusable grocery bags from: Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Vons, Pavillions, GOT MILK, and the General Convention. I didn't find the expensive cloth bag I bought at the farmer's market last year -- that one is still MIA. I also found various "carry" bags, including ones from the ECW, Royal Carribean Cruise Line (where did I get that???), and Old North Church in Boston. In addition, all my ceramics bins were back there, full of dry clay and dust. A bag with tupperware, cards, books and mugs from about 6 months ago was in the cargo pouch. My yoga mat and towel took up one corner. Jimmy Hoffa -- that was a relief.

When I tried to vacuum out the trunk with the hand held Oreck vacuum -- it was slow going. I didn't find the attachment I really needed to do the job, and then it happened -- I broke the hose (how did that happen??? I still don't know). So, being the resourceful person I am, I went into the house and got the big upright Oreck, plugged it in, stood up in the trunk, and vacuumed it out as though it were the living room rug. Yep, you guessed it -- clean as a whistle!

So, I offer the before and after pictures above. I also offer this word of caution -- when you start a project such as this, be prepared that you'll move on to other projects that have been bugging you for quite a while. Be prepared -- it's going to take most of your morning (if you start it then). My office closet hasn't looked this good in a while either. Steve promised he'd take my car to the car wash this afternoon -- after he gets done washing the upstairs windows.

Now -- off to cook some ragu alla bolognese with my daughter -- it's a cool, overcast day here. Just right for cooking large batches of pasta sauce that will take most of the afternoon to simmer!

Tonight? Dining in the back yard al fresco -- enjoying our sauce and each other.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Giving myself away this Summer-- emergent church experience

It started out as an idea: Why not give myself away this summer!

After all, as a Parish Priest, I was used to working, taking off only for vacation. As there are no formal visitations scheduled for we Bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles during the summer, I decided to schedule myself -- by giving myself away.

As many of you know, I have an interest in the emergent church and alternative liturgies. As this is a part of the Doctor of Ministry thesis, I wanted to give the clergy and leadership of congregations in my geographical area of responsibility the ability to go and experience the emergent church -- and I'd take their Sunday Services. I'd bring my own chaplain (so no one had to worry about the miter and crozier), and would preach the SAME sermon in each location (imagine that!) -- on what the emergent church is and isn't, and about my research for my thesis.

I feel strongly that clergy should not "study" during their vacation time, nor should they necessarily stick around the greater LA area for their continuing education. Therefore, I set up this program to give them the ability to try something new without costing them or the congregation anything. What do I want in return? At the end of the summer, I want to have the clergy and key lay leaders who went out and explored emergent church come to my home for brunch on a Saturday and talk about their impressions, thoughts, ideas, etc.

Today was my first visitation "on me" -- St. Mary's Laguna Beach. It was wonderful to be with this community of faith this morning! I was warmly received, and was handed a cup of Peet's coffee from the Holy Groundz hospitality cart right outside the front door of the church! Cafe tables were set up outside to invite people walking down the street over to try the coffee!

The congregation gave me the prayer shawl I'm wearing in the photo above -- Marian blue! Last Sunday members of the congregation each took turns tying on the fringe and praying -- it made me start to cry, I was so touched!
So, today at St. Mary's was my first -- the other congregations who took me up on my offer are:
7/11-- St. Michael's, El Segundo
7/25 -- St. John's, Costa Mesa
August 15 -- St. John's, Corona
August 22 -- Trinity, Orange
August 29 -- Christ Church, Redondo Beach
September 5 -- St. Andrew's, Irvine.
(I'm at St. John's ProCathedral on 7/18, and am out of town 8/1 and 8/8.)

It is my intention to do something similar every summer, and will change the focus of the study or opportunity for the clergy and their congregations.

My mind wondered as I wandered to Laguna Beach this morning -- what will I learn from this experience at the end of the summer? How will the Spirit move in me and through me in each of these congregations? How will the Spirit move through the clergy and leaders who took me up on my offer? Hmmm...

Happy Fourth of July all!
PS The picture above on the right was taken from St. Mary's website to show you a bit of the cart!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Websites and Gatherings

On two different days this week I encountered mission and ministry in very different ways.

I had the good fortune of spending time with the Rev. Canon Elizabeth Habecker at St. Mark's in Downey. When I drove up to the Church and School, I saw Liz and Glenda Roberts, the principal of the school, attaching a temporary sign over the church sign announcing the summer schedule for Sunday worship. The two women were working together to put the sign in place with zip ties.

Liz and I spent some time together in her office, talking about multicultural ministry, St. Mark's, life in general. We then went to lunch with Glenda. What I found most interesting and heart warming is that the relationship between these two leaders is reflected in the way in which the website is setup. If you go to St. Mark's website, the church and the school share the home page of the website equally -- with scroll bars down the middle and edge of the page. As we talked over lunch, it became apparent that the success of both the Church and the School lies in the relationship the two leaders have, and the way they so effectively communicate with each other. There is a clear vision, and it is shared by the Church and the School. I look forward to returning in the fall and seeing the children in their classes!

My other great joy this week was to be the celebrant at the national Girls Friendly Society (GFS) gathering at Chapman University in Orange. The young ladies gathered and their leaders from the diocese of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and Pennsylvania along with our own Diocese of Los Angeles were present. It's interesting, there are no GFS chapters between the coasts!

I didn't have to worry that people wouldn't understand my accent, as most of those gathered were from around the area I was born. It was a beautiful celebration, with the installation of new officers and the celebration of the Eucharist together. The Rev. Dr. Barbara Stewart is a whiz at liturgy, and once again turned out a spirit filled, joyful celebration! It was fun for me to talk to the young ladies and leaders about leadership and the power of how they are being formed through GFS. The GFS motto is "Bear ye one another's burdens, and fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2).

During the week, they were able to have some fun (yes, Disneyland!) and do some profound work -- volunteering in an Alzheimer's unit, making bags for military children (with cameras, paper and pens, etc. to communicate to their parents overseas), quilts/blankets, t-shirts for Kenya, scarves for the Seaman's Institute, working in a thrift shop and also participating in an ecological cleanup in Carbon Canyon and the wetlands.

St. Mark's Downey Church and School and GFS both have a clear understanding of their mission and ministry in this world. It was a pleasure and honor for me to be at both and witness this good work this week.