Sunday, June 26, 2011

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

It was the start of a beautiful, warm Southern California day -- the sky so blue, the air warm.

I saw the sign and smiled -- "we LOVE Our Bishops-- Welcome!" How lovely it was to be welcomed in such a warm way, and to have ALL the bishops in the Diocese of Los Angeles remembered.

It is the radical hospitality offered at this parish that caused other parishes in the area to send people over to be confirmed, received or reaffirm their confirmation vows. It was a beautiful day.

The rector of the parish, the Rev. Mark Hallahan is an exceptionally kind, spiritual man who loves Jesus and loves this congregation. It is obvious just standing in the sanctuary.Among the amazing moments for me was the fact that this ex-Roman Catholic was in a church where the Society of Mary is present -- and given that fact that today was my mother's birthday (Mary Alice Deal Jardine), it made me so glad to be there.

If you're ever in Pomona, check out St. Paul's -- today we dedicated an upper room for prayer, meditation and day retreats. It's a reflection of the love of God in Christ in this place.

There were people who hugged me as I entered St. Paul's who I remembered from a visit 5 years ago with my husband Steve. There were new friends I met last year when St. Paul's hosted the budget input meeting last summer. There was also an old friend/fellow board member of Camp Stevens (Mary)! there today. What a treat to see her.

I wonder what I will find, or who I will find the next time I wander into St. Paul's. For sure, I will see the face of God in Christ, experience radical welcome and hospitality AND feel the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You

I love visiting congregations and seeing these signs! In this case, it was at today's visitation -- the Chapel of St. Francis in Atwater (Los Angeles).

I was greeted warmly by Bill, the Junior Warden. The Senior Warden had to go out of town, and the organist had a death in the family. Bill was the usher, song leader (great voice! -- we sang a Capella) and altar guild person. John was there too -- he is 87, lives across the street from the church (literally), and started out his career on Broadway. He is an accomplished painter and had lots of stories to share with my husband Steve before the service.

Bill rang the bell to call everyone to church -- twelve pulls on the rope. A few minutes later, the acolytes showed up -- Oscar and Isaac. Oscar will be going on the Youth trip to the Holy Land with Bishop Bruno in a few weeks. Before I left I discovered Isaac will be with me when I'm "bishop in residence" at Camp Stevens the week of the 17th of July. Oscar and Isaac served as acolytes, and Oscar also read a lesson and bid the prayers of the people. He's a straight A student, who wants to go to UC Berkeley (yes, my alma mater!).

With my husband, my chaplain and her husband, the supply priest (Christine Self-Verone), and the congregation -- we numbered 11 in all. Bill kept apologizing for the size of the congregation -- to me, it was wonderful. The sermon became a Q and A, with everyone asking questions and offering suggestions or comments. Oscar and Isaac's parents made me a beautiful card (their Dad is an artist) -- the card welcomed me to St. Francis. I felt as though I had just come home -- warm and welcoming people, and beautifully (recently redone) sanctuary. The beginning of the service was actually a re-dedication of the sanctuary. St. Francis lived up to the sign in the front yard -- the Episcopal church did indeed welcome me!

You may be asking yourself, "how can they stay open with so few people?" Well, IRIS -- Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service -- is housed there and takes care of expenses. Five days per week this site is open to meet the needs of refugees and immigrants. Bill volunteers there teaching English 2 days per week. He is a wonderful bridge between the congregation and IRIS.

With a declining population at the chapel, St. Francis opened it's doors and welcomed IRIS, and new life has sprung in this beautiful little church.

I wonder how many more partnerships I will find like this one -- where the needs of the community are met, not by the people of the parish trying to put a program together, but by the people of the parish opening their doors to welcome a group who CAN do that work. Hmmm. partnering together to make a difference in the lives of people in their community -- sounds like the Holy Spirit moving!