Friday, March 16, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: Life Before Death

I speak to you in the name of the father, son and holy spirit. Amen. Please be seated.

I’m grateful to be with you this morning, and I thank Penny, our dean, for inviting me. I’m Hannah Wilder, your  seminarian and I bring you greetings from the School for Ministry, our local theological training program, from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in North Park where I am doing field education, and from the bishop’s office where I serve as communications director. The entire diocesan staff is here to help you in any way we can. Please reach out to us.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that our passage from John is related to In N Out Burger! Did you know that? Yes, you see, In N Out is owned by evangelical Christians and they have printed on the bottom inside rim of every cup a bible verse reference. So the next time you’re there, tip your cup and look for “John 3:16” stamped there and smile because you have just been evangelized. By In-n-Out.

And John 3:16 is powerful. In it Jesus summarizes God’s saving action in this world. But if we read on to verses 17 through 20, notice that Jesus does not specify which actions or opinions are in and which are out. He only speaks of God’s love for the world, a love that penetrates the whole world, a love that does not condemn, but rather saves.

John 3:16, which many of us memorized as children and could say it all in one breath: ForGodSoLovedTheWorldThatHeGaveHisOnlyBegottenSonThatWhosoeverBelievesInHimShouldNotPerishButHaveEternalLife That verse is about more than the human fear of death! That is what we have reduced it to, thanks to Anselm and other medieval church fathers. Religion for them was about what you get when you die, either glory or punishment, rather than teaching people how to enter into the new mode of being right now.

Because eternal life exists in the Here and Now! And you know what? Eternal Death does too. You can be physically wasting away and dying physically and yet be very, very alive. And you can be healthy and successful and yet be dying in all sorts of ways.*

The wisdom tradition of the ancient Israelites, and which WE are a part of now, that wisdom tradition has been teaching for thousands of years that life and death are PRESENT modes of being. If you read the Proverbs and Psalms you will find all kinds of references to the Way of life and the Way of death.

But those are always rooted in the choices you are making right now. Life and death are PRESENT REALITIES. They are not two static states of being: Now you are alive and one day you will be dead.

You see, the question is not: is there life after death? The question is: Is there life BEFORE death?
In any moment you can choose life or you can choose death. You choose death when you opt to hold a grudge, pass on gossip, or let that racist or sexist comment slip on by without saying anything. Or you can choose life by forgiving, opening yourself to others, releasing your grip on being right, choosing to be in relationship with others instead of closed off from them, and in choosing to stand up for the dignity of every human being.

Paul understands this and references it in today’s reading when he says You were dead through trespasses and sins IN WHICH YOU ONCE LIVED (a present, ongoing condition) but now you are made ALIVE THROUGH CHRIST! And Paul goes on to say, we were created for life, for ETERNAL LIFE in the here and now. Jesus said: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Do you know we have evidence of that LIFE in our diocese? In this Cathedral community? Your work with Showers of Blessings, the mobile shower unit for people without homes, has far reaching consequences. Through your contribution to the diocese over and above your common life share, you have pledged your support of the diocesan shower unit. Now the North County churches are partnering with those in other denominations to purchase a second trailer for exclusive use up north so we will have two in our diocese — that’s eternal life. Your saving love for the 30 children who live at Vida Joven, a foster home in Tijuana, that this congregation had the foresight to take on and to support when it was struggling and going to close almost fifteen years ago...that’s eternal life. And you showing up here, week after week, meeting people who are different from you, getting to know one another in an honest and vulnerable way...that’s eternal life!

In my own life you, the people of this Cathedral, have shown me what it means to choose life. I moved to San Diego on a Saturday in May sixteen years ago. On the very next day I got up and came here to church at this Cathedral. It was here that I first worshipped with openly gay people. It was here that I discerned in community a call to the priesthood. It was here that I felt the support to be able to come out to my parents. It was here that I had the spiritual family to surround me and accept me in ways that my own family of origin could not. It was here that I was confirmed in my faith and it was here that I was married to my wonderful wife.  So you see, you have formed and shaped me and taught me what eternal life is and what it means to choose the path of life.
Of course choosing the path of life comes with risk, have to deal with fear. You may face criticism. You will probably be in unknown territory. But are you more alive than you were?
Choosing that path has nothing to do with success. This is not the Instagram Good Life. This has nothing to do with your physical beauty or your material possessions or even your IQ or your health. You can have all those things and be dying.

In fact those things might cloud your ability to really choose and live life. You might be able to list all the things you have (career, spouse, car, home, friends, possessions) and still feel like, something is missing, this can’t be it, this is not all there is.

I believe that there is a divine love that undergirds all of reality and surges through all of life. When you give, serve, love and create, you participate in the eternal life of God. You are not here just for you. You are here to give, sacrifice, take part in a much larger economy of exchange where you realize just how much you’ve received and your only natural response is to pass it along. You see, because LIVING is about connection, freedom, possibility, flow, in other words, it’s about God. This is the place you actually live from. It’s about your True Self, your identity as a child of God, your heart, soul, spirit, the depth of your being. It’s independent from your possessions, accomplishments, where you live, who you’re friends with. It’s the deep place within you that speaks to you and tells you whether you’re living or whether you’re dying. Pay attention.

Living and dying are independent of your present circumstances. You may have financial burdens, accidents, disease, tragedy, but you know what? Struggle can actually make you more alive. Some of the people I know and want to be around the most are the refugee families at St Luke’s. Life for newly arrived Americans is not easy. Rents are high. Apartments are small. English is baffling. The job market is tight. Everything is expensive. But you know what? These people ...are...ALIVE! Every day they are learning new things, often times it’s hard, but the resilience and gratitude and good nature I encounter in these people is...well it’s life!

I’d like to tell you a story about this. My wife and I, being good lesbians, own a small truck. Pause. One Congolese man, Amuri, saw me drive away in it one day and later texted to ask if I could help him move a couch from a generous Episcopalian’s house in Kensington to his apartment in City Heights. I said sure, but what actually ended up happening was that we picked up a refrigerator and delivered it not to his house, but to one of his friends’, who also is Congolese and attends St Lukes. As it turned out, he had given up his time with our truck so that this other family could get a refrigerator. The mom in that family, Celestina, had wanted it so that she could start renting out space in the fridge to other families in her apartment complex that did not have refrigeration for a little extra income. To me that speaks volumes about how industrious Celestina is. Yes, she has very little by many of our standards, but you know what? She’s smart! And creative! She’s striving! And she is responding to the God-given impulse toward life that informs and connects all living beings.

Later, we went back to Amuri’s house with the couch and when we arrived, everyone in his household came out to help carry it in. Once it was placed in the living room, everyone clapped and cheered and the kids started bouncing on the couch. They invited us to come sit on it right away. In that I see appreciation for a used couch and the joy and generosity that springs from people whose spirits are alive in Christ!

So where is eternal life for you? What are the things in your life that are blocking you from eternal LIFE? Pay attention to the voice inside you that says, “This can’t be it. There has to be something more.” That’s the Christ wisdom inside you. Your true self is talking to you. It tells you if you’re just going through the motions, skimming the surface of your own existence, OR if you are feeling the DEPTH and REALLY LIVING the moments of your life!

I want to leave you with an example of this. A California farmer returned his land to a neighboring tribe that was forced out 150 years ago. With this addition, the reservation land will now reach the Pacific Coast, increasing the previously small and water-poor reservation 18-fold. The tribe will use the space to educate and engage the public about the history and practices of native people in that area.

Is giving your land back to Native peoples unorthodox? Definitely. Risky? Probably. Financially unwise? Certainly!  But this action, this impetus toward reconciliation, connection, and possibility, this is the Way of life.

How can you choose life today?

*I am grateful to Rob Bell and The Robcast for the ideas presented in this sermon.

Hannah Wilder
March 11, 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Singing hymns: photoessay

The humorist Garrison Keillor is credited with the following:

 Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other. I do believe this, people: Episcopalians, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they’ll talk to you. And if you are hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad!

Here are some photos of hymn-singing at the Cathedral. Sing out! Sing strong!

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: Where Holy and Human Meet

This week in the gospel we hear about Jesus getting angry in the temple. The first part of the reading focuses on Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. The other gospels put that story at the end of Jesus’ ministry, and historically many scholars believe this act of sedition may have been the reason why the Roman Empire had Jesus executed.

But for whatever reason, the author of the fourth gospel doesn’t put the story at the end of Jesus’ ministry. The author puts it near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; a story that helps define who Jesus will be instead of how he will die. And lots of that definition is in the second half of the story.

The conversation turns in the second half of the reading to the nature of the temple. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Jesus brings into focus the destruction of the temple, and says he will raise it in three days— and directs us (the audience) towards the idea that the temple is not a building that took many years to build but Jesus’ body. Right here early in his ministry, the author of the fourth gospel introduces the idea of how important the incarnation is; of how important Jesus’ body is. This is not a distant God, accessed only in powerful buildings built by many generations. This is a living God who has become flesh and has a body accessible anywhere, maybe even around the next corner.

I love that this gospel starts with the question of where the holy and human meet, with redefining temple. For many of us the holy and human meet in the beauty of cathedral light and sound. For some they meet in the quiet of the labyrinth. Last week I was at a conference in San Antonio discussing with colleagues whether the holy and human could meet in the music of Lady Gaga. Where do the holy and human meet for you? I believe the answer is very personal— and that is partially because we are embodied creatures.

The beauty of this opening to Jesus’ ministry in the fourth gospel is that for this author the holy and the human meet in a body. In Jesus’ body, to be precise. It is sometimes easy for progressive Christianity to make light of claims of the divine. What does it mean to be God? And what does it mean if that God becomes human— not just putting on a human costume, but actually becoming human?

For me, it is the core of Christianity- this intersection of humanity and divinity. This divine human weaving his life into the lives of the disciples and community around him, eating with them, healing them, hurting with them— that is how we get a glimpse of what the divine life looks like. It seems to look a lot like love: real love of real embodied people.

It looks like a man feeding a hungry crowd with a few scraps of bread and a few fish. It looks like calling down an outcast from a tree. It looks like welcoming the children. It looks like healing a blind man who has never been able to see. All of these are very bodily experiences.

So this question of where the divine, the holy- the creator of all things seen and unseen- where that God shows up and intersects with our human selves— is a big one. And I get how the world around us can believe that we, the church, have fallen into the same pattern the author of the fourth gospel is trying to break: that it may look like we limit our search for God to a place to some, in exactly the way this gospel directs us not to.

Here at St. Paul’s, I love to have the opportunity to talk to different folks about where they meet God in embodied and incarnational ways. In an inquirer’s class last fall, a small group was transformed when we heard the story of seeing God in children on a playground. Time and again, I have heard of seeing the meeting of divine and human in hospital rooms, and even of death and the loss of another’s body. Showers of Blessings seems to be another holy place at St. Paul’s where the holy takes on bodily form. For others being across the street from Balboa park provides an opportunity to see God in creation. And of course our beautiful worship transports us all with music and sacrament. This intersection of holy and human is broad and profound.

But It feels at time like this world treats bodies as disposable, or bad, or worthless. I wonder what it has done to us, this doctrine that presupposes that the good is up there somewhere and that everything else left here is bad?

How often bodies are rejected for being the wrong size. How many times do bodies endure suffering because of their gender, or ethnicity? Some bodies work differently, are differently abled— and pay a price. Illness causes bodily suffering and harm.

Whether we like it or not, we are bodies. This God of ours came to be a body too.

I wonder where you can find God in the bodies around you as we journey towards Jerusalem with the one who become a body to show us how much we- and our bodies- are beloved?

The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk
Lent 3B, March 4, 2018
St. Paul’s San Diego
John 2:13-22

Sources Consulted:
Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 1. Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cathedral Library Online Catalog is here!

The St. Paul's Cathedral Library is up and running, and you are invited to make use of it at your convenience. There are over 2000 books available, and you can search the on-line "card catalog" on your computer at home or on your smart phone at There you can type in a book title, author, or subject, and it will show you what is available. Just copy down the call number, and the next time you're at the Cathedral, you can visit the library and check out the book.

The library is under the Great Hall just off the Sixth Avenue courtyard. All you need to do is see me on a Sunday morning and I can let you in. It would be a good idea to e-mail me ahead of time at so that I can be sure to be there at your convenience. If you would like to use the library during the week, stop by the Cathedral office, and someone will be glad to let you in.

We are always looking for appropriate book donations. If you have books you'd like to donate, please contact me.

John Pagenkopp

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: The Power of Love

I´ve been thinking about power this week. In our Gospel reading, Jesus horrifies his friends by saying that he´s going to be arrested, tortured, and killed. This sounds like loser talk to the disciples, and Peter takes him to task. What kind of Messiah is he, if he´s giving up so easily? Of course, Peter and the others have no idea what kind of Messiah Jesus is. They are stuck in the human power dynamic: the Messiah will conquer by force and drive the Romans out of Israel, they think. Jesus has a tough job on his hands convincing them that there is another way, and in fact, in Mark´s Gospel, he never does make them understand. The idea that power and force are the same thing is deeply engrained in human beings, then and now. But God´s power is different from human power.

Abram and Sarai were obedient to God´s call, they believed the promise that God would give them descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, but they were powerless against the curse of childlessness until God´s good time, which came well after they had given up hope of ever having a child, when, as St Paul puts it, they were as good as dead. God´s power is different from human power.

On Ash Wednesday we once again witnessed the power of violence to kill and destroy, in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The lost child who took up weapons of war and massacred his former classmates and teachers put his trust in the most destructive kind of power, breaking our hearts yet again. But almost immediately we started to hear stories of the students and teachers who put themselves between the gun and their friends, saving lives while giving up their own. The power of such sacrifice will carry their devastated families through this terrible time, and they will not be forgotten.

I read a story this week of an elementary school teacher who interrupts cruel classroom power dynamics by paying close attention to the children who don´t have friends, who are never picked for a team. She carefully draws those children into the circle, letting them know that they are precious, they are valued. She is saving lives with this gentle power of love and encouragement.

Closer to home, also on Ash Wednesday, scores of our own cathedral folks spread out across this city and offered Ashes to Go, a moment of prayer and connection for strangers on the street, from the most down and out homeless persons to senior officials in city government. There are no power politics in the liturgy of the ashes. We are all made of the same dust and all equally worthy of God´s love. We reached over 1000 people with this ministry and we witnessed the power of communion through the smiles, the tears, and the pain people shared with us.

What about the corridors of worldly power? On the whole, our elected officials have not behaved impressively since the shooting in Parkland. We have heard accusations from some that the outraged and bereaved students who spoke up in protest were paid actors spreading fake news. We have observed others playing golf while people buried their children a few miles away. We have seen the power of the gun lobby which holds many politicians in thrall, to the point that their own freedom of speech is compromised by their craving for the power that money in the bank will buy them. Think of the US senator who could not - could not - honestly answer the question posed to him by a Stoneman Douglas High School junior: will you refuse to take donations from the National Rifle Association? How sad is that, that a man with such power to make a difference has been literally silenced by the power of violence.

And all the time we are raging and grieving and arguing about the causes of gun violence and mass murder, the Cross of Jesus stands in the background, a silent witness to the power of sacrificial love.

Each time one of these tragedies happens there is a flurry of activity, of calls for change, of marches and protests and laments. But then all the fuss dies down, and nothing changes.

It seems that we can only look at suffering for so long and then we have to turn our eyes away and retreat back into denial. Nothing we can do ... maybe it won´t happen again ... somebody else´s child, somebody else´s problem. Just like Peter, we don´t want to face the reality of suffering. We are unable to stay focused on the source of our pain.

The attendance numbers of Good Friday versus Easter Sunday say it all.

One of the biggest conflicts I experienced in my last parish was over the gift by parishioners of a new processional cross. It was a crucifix, with a rather lifelike depiction of the wounds of Christ. The church was extremely plain, and you had to look hard to see a cross in there at all most of the time. This crucifix was a startling departure, and people hated it. The givers had to take the gift back, because the people didn´t want to look at a suffering Jesus.

I´ve heard people say that maybe things will be different this time. Maybe the young people, who have witnessed the horrors of seeing their friends and teachers killed, will lead the rest of us to a new way. Maybe this time the young people will shame us all into not averting our eyes; maybe we will find the grace and courage to keep on holding up the names and faces of the dead, will be persistent and annoying and disruptive until something does change.

The collect for this second Sunday in Lent speaks of those who have gone astray from the ways of God. In this time and place where the voices of the gun lobby speak louder than those of our dying children, we have surely gone astray from the ways of God.

Lent is the time to turn our attention to the Cross, to dwell on the love that suffers for others, to stay focused on the suffering of the world. This is the season to open our ears and our hearts to the pain around us, to allow the injustice and the grief we see ignite an energy that will drive us to keep working for the transformation of the world, even if we won´t see it in our lifetime.

As Abram and Sarai discovered, God´s promises are not fulfilled on our timeline. Think of the LGBT activists who died without seeing marriage equality, or the abolitionists who didn´t see the end of slavery. Their efforts mattered, and the promise eventually came to be.

It may take a lifetime for the prevailing motivation in Congress to change from campaign funding to actual public service. It may take the current generation of teenagers growing up and coming into their own as community leaders. Our part in the transformation of the world may be simply to encourage, to befriend, to guide our young people into the ways of peace and to vote out the corrupt and power-hungry. That would be a job worth doing.

We are not good at looking at the Cross. We are more likely to be with Peter in denial than to stand up and proclaim our allegiance to one who taught us a different way, a way that is just as unacceptable in today´s world as it was 2000 years ago, a way based on self-giving love.

Lent is a good time to think about this unacceptable Messiah that the Gospel shows us, a time to reflect on who Jesus is for each of us and how the reality of the cross changes our lives. Maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time we will step forward, refusing to look away, our faces and our lives steadfastly turned towards the Cross, the place where Love claims victory and God´s power triumphs.

The Very Rev Penelope Bridges
February 25, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ashes To Go reflection

Now that a week has passed since Ashes to Go, and everything is put away, and totals have been tallied, I thought I should share my reflections with all of you.

First, my huge thanks to everyone who made the day possible. To Jeff Martinhuak and Susan Jester for all the planning meetings. To Konnie Dadmun and her team of ash makers, Dean Penny, Judy Charest and Vivienne Close, and for the hand wipes. That's quite a job! To Brooks for organizing the albs. To Bob Oslie for bringing up the signs, having coffee and donuts ready when I arrived at 6:30.

What a pleasant surprise! To Susan for getting such great media coverage. To our drivers, Craig Monsell, Donna Purdue and Tom Merritt, that made getting our teams out so easy. And finally to our wonderful "Ashers", including Judy who gave ashes in the church office. We administered ashes and received prayer requests from over 1,000 people. So many people really opened up their hearts when sharing their requests, which will be read at Morning Prayer.

I ended the day at Merrill Gardens with dear Andrew, Maya and Gary. My chance to administer ashes to the residents. When I got home I heard the sad news about the horrific shooting in Florida. It just seemed to take the wind out of my sails as I watched the news and wondered how many more prayer requests we would have received if the next day was Ash Wednesday.

As the week went by I began thinking about how many more times we could take the church out to our community, giving and receiving prayers; Prayers for the Safety of our Children, Prayers for Gun Control, Prayers for our Dreamers who only want the chance for a pathway to citizenship. And I'm sure there are many other opportunities that you all can think of.

Again thank you to everyone who made this our biggest Ashes to Go. Your dedication, courage, faith and love make this possible

Pat Kreder

More Photos by Big Mike:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stephen MInistry Workshop

Want to learn to be an active listener and reach out to others in a distinctively Christian way? On Saturday, March 3, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral will host a Stephen Ministry Introductory Workshop from 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m., and refreshments will be served.

Stephen Ministry helps members fulfill their Christian calling to love one. After all, loving and caring for people isn’t just the pastor’s job—all Christians are called to minister to one another. Participants will go home from this workshop with practical ministry skills and those who don’t have a Stephen Ministry already will get an excellent understanding of how they can organize members of their own congregation for caring ministry.

St. Paul's Cathedral began its Stephen Ministry in 2015 and has cared for 41 people over the past two years. The Stephen Ministry headquarters noticed St. Paul’s success and is hosting this introductory workshop and are inviting over 900 congregations within 75 miles.

The half-day workshop consists of three sessions designed both to enhance participants’ caregiving skills and to help congregations explore ways to expand their caring ministry.

In the first session of the workshop, “Ministering to Those Experiencing Grief,” participants learn about the grief process—the stages of grief and how to minister to people in each of those stages. They’ll gain the skills and confidence to better care for individuals who are grieving.

The second session introduces the Stephen Series, a system of lay caring ministry through which congregation leaders can equip members to provide one-to-one Christian care to people in need.

The final session of the workshop explains “How to Care in a Distinctively Christian Way.” Participants learn what makes Christian caregiving unique and how they can use resources like prayer, blessings, and Scripture in their caring for others.

The cost of the workshop is $15 per person or $50 for a group of four or more from the same congregation. For more information, or to register to attend the Stephen Ministry Introductory Workshop, please contact Stephen Ministries at: (314) 428-2600. You can also register online at

All are encouraged to attend! For more information about the March 3 workshop, go here:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ash Wednesday Sermon

I’m going to invite you to go on a journey with me this Lent. It’s not an outward journey but an inward one.

There are 40 days in Lent, not counting the Sundays. 40 is a special number both for the Jewish community and for the Church. Because 40 is the number for transformation. So, the ancient Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert before entering the Promised land. Jesus went to the desert to fast and pray for 40 days before beginning his ministry. And he lay in the tomb for 40 hours.

So I’m inviting all of us to take a journey this Lent. It’s the longest journey that a Westerner can take: It’s the journey from the head to the heart.

What I’m going to ask us all to do is to try to open up our hearts this Lent to the suffering in this world. Most of the time when we see something terrible we do feel pity. And maybe we feel a certain relief that it didn’t happen to us. We’re only being human in that moment.

But I’m going to ask us to stay with that grief and suffering and misery this Lent.

“Attention, attention must be paid,” as it says about poor Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. I’m going to ask us to pay attention to that suffering.

The world today overstimulates us. There’s too much media and too much information.

I’m a grad student at San Diego State in the History Dept. I enjoy being with these young people. The department is a good one. But around campus between classes I see all these young people staring into their phones. They’re engaging in what is called distracted walking.

Instead, I’m inviting us to try to experience life, all of life, in the here and now. To be fully alive in this moment.

So I’m inviting all of us to ask God to open up your hearts a little in this holy season. To move us out of ourselves and to try to imagine what life feels like to someone else.

The usual human reaction to suffering is to turn away. But I’m asking you, along with me, instead, to try to stay with it a moment longer. Try to attend to it. And then maybe offer it up to God for God’s own redeeming.

Marcus Borg was a New Testament scholar who died a few years ago. He used to talk about the closed and open heart.

A closed heart is the way you feel waiting in line at the grocery store. You’re bored and no one looks good to you.

But an open heart happens when you suddenly start to see God in other people. When you realize that they’re just like you. Sometimes happy. Sometime moody. Sometimes sad. Sometimes worried. They have health concerns and maybe money concerns just like you and me.

Try to let your heart open this Lent.

I go to the Forums almost every Sunday. Your staff does a tremendous job providing us with real spiritual food Sunday in and Sunday out. One of the most memorable Forums was one on Queer theology. I have had quite a bit of theological training as a Presbyterian minister, but this was something new for me.

The most moving part of the presentation was Queer art, art by the LGBT community. Much of it showed Jesus as an outsider like them, because he also was “despised and rejected of men.” And in that moment I saw the LGBT community in a new way. And I also saw Jesus in a new way because of them.

I invite you, then, when you see some human misfortune or suffering in these coming 40 days to lay another picture over that image of suffering. Instead of looking away, lay a mental image of Jesus the Suffering One, the Crucified One, over them very gently. Just hold them there for as long as you can. And see where that takes your heart.

Unto the One who lived and suffered and died and was raised for us, be honor, glory, and dominion, now and forever. Amen. 

Peter Del Nagro

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: Beloved

Last Sunday afternoon, Ryan McKenna had a mountaintop experience. You might have seen it on TV. He was the teenager who got to take selfies with Justin Timberlake during the halftime show of the Superbowl. Imagine finding yourself standing next to your idol, lit up by dazzling beams, in a show witnessed by millions of people, and suddenly you have that intimate moment in the midst of all the excitement. I noticed that Ryan was frozen for a moment. It wasn´t until Timberlake gestured to his phone that he snapped out of his shock and started snapping selfies. Ryan will never forget that moment.

Watching the half-time show of the Superbowl is probably the closest any of us will ever get to the kind of theophany described in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospel reading today. That doesn´t mean that Justin Timberlake or Pink or Lady Gaga are on a par with Elijah and Jesus: it just means that our pop idols all understand the power of spectacle to embed an experience in the heart, to give the faithful an indelible impression of light and sound and drama.

The story in the second book of Kings of Elijah´s assumption reads almost like a worship service. There is call and response, there is repetition, there are principals and a chorus, there is a subtle recalling of the salvation history, and there is a buildup to the final climactic moment of divine revelation. Elijah and Elisha travel together from one holy place to another, until the moment when Elijah will relinquish the prophetic mantle to his disciple. The way they cross the Jordan, miraculously dryshod, mirrors the way Joshua led the people of Israel into the promised land. Like Moses, Elijah ends his life outside of the land, while Elisha, like Joshua, is clearly tapped as the prophet´s successor. A double portion of Elijah´s spirit, as requested by Elisha, will parallel the portion of an inheritance owed to an oldest son.

It´s a moment of leadership transition, and such moments are always fraught with anxiety. A clear display of power, a well-witnessed handing off of authority, a time of grieving, what we might call a good goodbye, helps to calm the anxiety and clarify the way forward. When the future is uncertain we want to know who is in charge, and the spectacle of chariots of fire is a dramatic reminder of the power and majesty of God, the mighty one, as our Psalm proclaims, the one who controls all things on heaven and earth.

Similarly, Mark´s story of the Transfiguration makes clear before witnesses that God has anointed Jesus to be the successor to the great prophets, that he wears the prophetic mantle, and that he has a word for the world to hear. ¨¨This is my Son, the beloved: listen to him.¨ The disciples undergo a multisensory, multimedia experience: isolated and disoriented on the mountaintop, they are dazzled by supernatural brilliance, then terrified by the apparitions, then immersed in the cloud, then terrified again by the divine voice from heaven. No wonder they, like Ryan McKenna, freeze at first and don´t know what to say or do. No wonder the only thing that occurs to Peter is a totally impractical suggestion: let´s build three shrines right here on top of the mountain. The divine voice corrects Peter's misunderstanding: Jesus is not on a par with the prophets, he fulfills their prophecies and surpasses them.

We all long for moments of theophany, moments when the world will recognize God´s power to surprise and transform. There is no more frightening thought than the thought that we might be on our own in the universe. In fearful, uncertain times we need to know that God is in charge, that God is with us, Emanuel, present in our world, here among our friends, to be sought and served in all people. True mountaintop experiences are few and far between: we have to be paying attention to catch glimpses of the glory of God breaking through the mess and anxiety of life.

Our cathedral mission statement is Love Christ, Serve Others, Welcome All. In our life of discipleship we learn to love Christ in the sacraments, in the Scripture, in the intimacy of our own hearts, and in those we serve and welcome. When we extend welcome to each other, in baptism or fellowship, when we reach out in humble service to each other, we are acting out the divine message of the transfiguration: you are my beloved.

Every one of us shares in that belovedness. But it can sometimes be hard to see in others and in ourselves. What do you need in order to trust that you too are God´s beloved? Perhaps a moment of God´s near presence, made manifest in the sacraments, in the beauty of liturgy. Perhaps a word of confession and forgiveness. Perhaps the loving touch of a friend, the gift of relief from pain, a moment of satisfaction and fulfillment in ministry. In this holy place, whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself in the journey of faith, you are beloved simply for who you are, because you are God´s beloved.

Jesus receives this affirmation of love and authority at the halfway point in Mark´s Gospel. He is starting the journey to Jerusalem, starting to prepare his disciples for the hard times that lie ahead. He needs to know the embrace of God´s love as he faces the danger and uncertainty of his Messianic mission. And we who follow him share in that divine love even as we trust in the power of God to save and guide us in troubling times.

And so, armed with the certainty that God is in charge, and trusting that we are indeed God´s beloved, we make ready for the journey that awaits us: the long walk through the wilderness of Lent that will take us with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the Cross, and to the dazzling, transfiguring, transforming brightness of Easter.

February 11, 2018
Last Sunday after Epiphany
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lent 2018 Faith Formation

This Lent we will undertake as a community a conversation about issues surrounding immigration and refugee resettlement, “Seeking Refuge, Finding Home: A Community Exploration of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement,” focusing specifically on our call as Christians to respond to the needs of the world, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to be open to new possibilities of how God is moving in our lives and communities. This year there will be many ways to take part in this important conversation, as well as other offerings to help us explore our faith and how God is calling us to respond to our own needs and the needs of others.

The first way to get involved is to attend the Lenten forum series, “The Community of the Seeker,” which will include a variety of speakers who will explore various aspects of immigration and refugee resettlement in our community and culture. Speakers will include Dean Penny Bridges, Consul General Marcela Celorio, SDSU Immigration Economics professor Dr. Enrico Marcelli, Imam Taha Hassane from the Islamic Center of San Diego, as well as Katherine Bom from Episcopal Refugee Net and St. Paul’s member Irving Hernandez who will share from their own experiences.

The second way to get involved is by signing up for one of three Wednesday night class offerings, starting on February 14th and ending on March 28th. Each Wednesday gathering will begin with dinner at 6:00 pm and then classes from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. The first class is “Finding Our Spiritual Home: Adult Preparation for Baptism and Confirmation,” which is open to all those interested in being either baptized, confirmed or reaffirmed at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, March 31st. This class will focus on the main teachings of the Episcopal Church, as well as on cultivating ways to continue to connect our faith with our everyday lives.

The second class offering is for those looking to delve deeper into an exploration of their own understandings of faith with, “Living the Questions,” which offers participants weekly opportunities to explore some of the most profound questions of our faith, and creates a safe space to openly discuss our faith with one another while also continuing to learn how to embody our faith in our daily lives.

 Finally, for those interested in focusing even more on the theme of global refugee resettlement, there is a book study of Michael Soerens, “Seeking Refuge: On The Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis,” which offers a Christian exploration of and reflection on the global refugee crisis. Whether you take part in one of these offerings, or in both, please know that you are being invited to go deeper, to take a journey with you fellow community members of silent and honest introspection and learning in safe and open spaces.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Healing and Holiness

I remember a time working in the hospital when a teenager was admitted to our intensive care unit for a significant head injury. I don’t recall the exact nature of the injury, only that the prognosis wasn’t good, and the doctors prepared the family for the worst possible thing any parent could face. I sat with the family as they watched their beloved child, unconscious on the ventilator. It seemed the only thing in the room with life was the ventilator, providing mechanical rhythm that kept one moment moving into the next. I had been here with too many other families, and I was not looking forward to what would come next.

Only it didn’t. By some miracle the doctors could not explain, this young person recovered. The healing didn’t happen in a single resurrection moment; there wasn’t any instant in time I can point to and say, “wow- it’s a miracle!,” but over time she recovered. And after months in the hospital and months more of outpatient therapy, this kid returned to her life.

What I remember most about that incident was the day she and her mom and sister came back to the hospital to tell us all hi. It was a transformative experience to see the lives that had been changed by the healing that had occurred. These lives, this family, they were somehow more precious, more aware of their connection to each other as a result of what had happened. And by coming back to visit us, each of us in the hospital were changed too. Somehow we were each pulled out of our daily caretaking routines and made mindful of how precious the job of the hospital is: lives are changed by the healing that happens in those walls. Some of it is explainable, some of it not. Healing creates a thin space.

It is in that kind of thin space that we find ourselves in the gospel this morning. Jesus has only known his followers a few days, and for the second time in one day Jesus heals someone. But this time it isn’t a stranger like the story we heard last week in the synagogue. Today it is Simon’s mother-in-law. This is one of their family. And today it isn’t in a public place, but in Simon’s own home. This healing is intimate. It is personal. Jesus raises her up, and the fever leaves her.

As soon as she is healed, she begins to give back, to serve. At the most literal level she may be preparing food or drink. But the word used in the Greek is diakoneo, and this is no menial housework. Her response to being healed is to become the first deacon, though the tradition officially recognizes Stephen with that title. She is raised up and then immediately enters deeper into relationship by serving in ministry. The dean of my seminary, who taught me everything I know about reading the Bible with a feminist lens says it this way: “Serving epitomizes Jesus’ own ministry: ‘For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:45). Simon’s mother-in-law is an icon of resurrection and a paradigm of Christian ministry.” Compare that with Simon himself, the first disciple, who in Mark is always confounded by Jesus’ message. In this passage for example, Simon does not serve but requests and compels Jesus to do what he asks. His mother-in-law, on the other hand, simply enters into a ministry of service.

I want to read you two paragraphs of my dean’s interpretation of this story:

“Mark’s gospel invites us to look for experiences of resurrection in everyday life in the lives of families and in the social and political order. A debilitating fever is equivalent to death if one cannot do what is human to do, to serve, to feed, to provide for. To be released from illness and restored to oneself means one can fulfill responsibilities to others. Repair of the bonds of family is a dimension of resurrection. In Mark’s gospel there is no “individual” healing, only those that repair relationship, son to father, daughter to mother, and here, mother to children. Even the unaccompanied woman in the crowd, when healed, becomes “daughter” Mark 5:34.”

“The resurrection life that Jesus proclaims here at the opening of Mark’s gospel and that Christians experience, is not unambiguous or uncomplicated in the world in which we live. The verses that follow this story of resurrection suggest the enormity of the suffering (“the whole city was gathered around the door”) and the toll the ministry takes on Jesus. Mark’s gospel is honest about the opposition to and the cost of proclaiming the good news.”

What I appreciate about this text is that Mark sets the stage for us, the readers, to see that the Christianity arose in homes where the messiness of community life happened, and that the birthplace of holiness is in the midst of lived human experience. Healing and the holiness that comes from it are not set apart in some special place.

And so these thin places, these holy places of healing arise in real relationships, where hurt happens. Where brokenness can’t be ignored. Where illness affects real lives. Because we long for the deeper relationship that healing offers. Because true healing isn’t merely a physical thing: It is about healing the relationships that we are afraid of losing that may stem from physical loss. Healing is about restoring ourselves to relationship with the world around us. Healing viewed this way may even be possible in the midst of the dying process.

Suffering is great in our world. The suffering is so great that when others in our gospel lesson find out there is someone who may be able to create thin places in the midst of heaviness, the whole town comes pounding down the door looking for relief.

There is so much suffering in this world today. There is great need. Voices cry out from all quarters for a way to relieve the burden of living alone; of living together; of fear of being alone or of being together. Where will we find that relief? What kind of healing can relieve such suffering, can restore relationship?

How do we as followers 2000 years later of this One who created thin spaces of restored relationship, of healing, of rebuilt community through miraculous events; how do we endeavor to continue to follow in the ways of service that were so obvious to Simon’s mother-in-law after she had such an experience— especially when the crowds pounding down the door seem so difficult? The protestors at Chicano park, the gun violence in Los Angeles schools, the political maneuvering— and that is just one week.

I don’t know. I have to acknowledge I feel more like Simon than like his mother-in-law. I’d rather demand Jesus return and finish working some more miracles; compelling him to perform some magic to turn the world into the place I think it should be.

But there again is Simon’s mother-in-law in contrast. Responding differently. Serving. Experiencing healing, and witnessing to the holy not by demanding, but by giving. And I wonder how many relationships were deepened because of it.

The Rev Canon Jeff Martinhauk
Epiphany 5B, February 4, 2018
St. Paul’s San Diego
Mark 1:29-39

Sources Consulted:
Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 1. Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.
Briggs Kittridge, Cynthia. “Commentary on Mark 1:29-36.” Preach This Week.  Taken on 1/31/2018.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Annual Meeting Slideshow

Did you want to take another look at the annual meeting slideshow?

Here's a link to the slideshow album.  You can turn the slideshow on with the icon on the topright

The Sunday Sermon: We Preach Christ Crucified

This Epiphany season we are hearing a lot about being called by God. Today, we have stepped out of the regular cycle of readings to celebrate Cathedral Day, which we do here by observing the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, our patron, transferred from last Thursday. The Gospel reading appointed for the day is pretty grim: it´s not a passage we would want to use as an evangelism tool. Who would want to be part of a community that promises floggings, interrogations, and betrayals?

But it does reflect the end of Paul´s ministry, and that´s the point of these readings: we are led through his story, starting with his own account of his conversion as he stood before kings and governors, continuing with some of the backstory of his missionary travels, and culminating in Jesus´ promise that those who are faithful, who endure to the end, as Paul did, will receive their reward. So our theme of call actually continues today with the story of Paul´s own call.

There is a lot of violence in Paul´s story and you can see some of it in our windows that illustrate the key episodes, starting with his witnessing of Christians being stoned over here on the south side and ending with his execution by the sword over there on the north. The best-known soundbites of Paul´s career also confront us with violent images: the motto Spiritus Gladius, or the Sword of the Spirit, and the bold proclamation that is posted in part over my stall: We Preach Christ Crucified.

Ours is an uncomfortable faith. We live with the reality that our God came to earth as a member of an oppressed and occupied nation, who spent part of his childhood as a refugee, who lived as a homeless person and without any material security, was arrested, tortured and judicially murdered in the most horrific manner imaginable. We acknowledge this reality every time we celebrate the Eucharist and every time we recite the ancient Creeds. We preach Christ crucified, not Christ healer or savior or teacher, but the one anointed by God to suffer for us.

We live with the painful truth that humankind failed to recognize God incarnate; that those in power dealt with the threat of change by destroying the bringer of change rather than being willing to change themselves; and that even those who claim the faith of Jesus have historically and still today fail to see Christ in their neighbors and actively discriminate against the very populations to which Jesus belonged: the poor, the oppressed minorities, immigrants and refugees, the homeless, and those who advocate for radical change.

We are named for Paul, once called Saul, a proud member of a dominant class who reacted violently to the threat that the Jesus people posed to his rigid, rule-bound, narrow-minded tradition. We hear in his own words how he hunted down disciples without mercy. The language is extreme: he was furiously enraged, he was violently persecuting the church, he was extra-observant, extra-zealous for the law of Moses as the Pharisees had codified it.

We have to wonder why he was so dead set on destroying the new communities. What made him so angry? I am reminded of the evangelical preachers who rant about family values and Biblical morality, until they are almost invariably caught out and exposed as adulterers or pedophiles. I wonder if something deep within Paul was fighting the powerful call of the risen Christ to allow himself to love and be loved without measure, until that moment on the road to Damascus when he could no longer hold out, the dam burst, and he found himself helpless, temporarily blinded, and emotionally wrecked by the encounter with Jesus.

We are named for this man, and we can learn from his story. Paul had to make a radical change of direction in order to remain faithful to the God he served. He had to accept that there was a new way of faithfulness, even though it was very different to the way he had followed and defended his whole life.

Despite his self-proclaimed superiority - a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee of Pharisees, spotlessly kosher, highly educated - Paul´s encounter with the risen Christ led him to confess his shame in public and to declare that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female. He was able to make this remarkable 180-degree turn and to recommit his intellect and energy towards promoting the Gospel of unconditional love and compassion. That´s grace. That´s conversion. And that´s what each of us is called to do in our own lives.

If we are serious about following Jesus, we live lives of constant discernment, always listening for where God is calling us next. That applies on institutional levels as well as individual ones. On cathedral day each year we celebrate our life together and prepare for what lies ahead. As part of our discernment of the future of this cathedral, many of us participated in a congregational vitality survey last year. Many of us also participated in a similar survey at the diocesan level just a few weeks ago. In both cases, the survey results indicated health and vitality. Knowing we are healthy gives us confidence and courage to strike out into the future. But we also know that our institutional health is not sustainable as it stands. As a cathedral we are living beyond our means. Parishioners of earlier generations have blessed us with a modest endowment which yields income to subsidize our pledges, but it´s not enough to fully support the way we have been doing ministry.

We have a choice to make. We can keep going until we are stopped in our tracks by the draining of our endowment or a catastrophe from which we cannot recover. That would likely be as painful and disruptive as Paul´s Damascus Road experience was. Or we can start to change course now, while things seem good, to turn so that we are heading in a direction that will allow us to flourish in the 21st century, in a culture that is increasingly secular, increasingly anti-institutional, increasingly resistant to a membership model of belonging; and so that in due course we can start our second 150 years already on a sustainable path that will allow us to continue to bring the good news of God´s unconditional love to our neighbors, near and far.

On New Year´s Eve we held our traditional labyrinth service. We had a record attendance this year, which made the labyrinth kind of crowded, but it was still a spiritually nourishing experience for me to follow that winding path, twisting and turning in the most frustrating way, but understanding that as long as I placed one foot in front of the other, as long as I paid attention to the route laid out for me, I would eventually find my way to the center and back out again. That´s discernment. That´s what we are called to do as a cathedral named for the man who had the courage to turn his life around, to expand his concept of grace, to face the people he had wronged, and to pursue God´s vision, no matter how risky it felt. The violence of Paul´s story that surrounds us here can be a nudge to find another way, to turn from old, worn-out ways of being God´s people and seek new, life-giving paths.

With the resurrection, God blew open the whole salvation story to the entire world. Paul had to go outside of the walls his tradition had constructed and risk sharing the good news with strangers and people ignorant or hostile to his faith tradition. By God´s grace, Paul turned from a belief that God was the exclusive property of a small, clearly defined group, to a conviction that God is God of the whole world, of all people. That was a huge and difficult leap for him to make, so difficult that the church he founded ultimately adopted an institutional belief that only those within the defined church belonged in the kingdom.

In our own time we are called to turn around again, to push back the boundaries and expand our beliefs about who is acceptable to God, to defeat the notion that God is the God only of those of whom we approve. Following Paul´s example, we will need to let go of our assumptions about membership and insider status in the church and share God´s Spirit, reaching out to all people, especially those who are unchurched or dechurched because of the bad reputation Christianity now holds in public discourse.

We get to take the message of salvation even further than Paul, ever pushing farther out the boundaries of God´s love. And the words of our Psalm will send us forth: ¨May God give us his blessing and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.¨

Cathedral Day and the Conversion of St. Paul (tr.): January 28, 2018
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

A quote to think about:
¨ In Paul ... we find creative reshaping of a complex symbolic world by a single thinker responding to the multiform needs of a Diaspora community... Paul is paradigmatic for the way a religious experience can re-create a symbolic world.¨ LT Johnson ¨The Writings of the New Testament¨ p. 246 (1986, Fortress)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A memoir: coming to St Paul's

As we told you previously, the history committee is collecting stories of SPC.  Here is a sample memoir. Everyone's story is important, wherever you see yourself-- congregant, chorister, visitor, clergy, staff....  The community is the whole body of us.  Please help us tell the story of all of us!
Sample memoir, from Robert Heylmun

In 1982 while living in Orange County, I happened to be in San Diego over Sunday night, and either by chance or divine design, I parked near St. Paul’s. It was just about 5:00PM, the doors were open, and I decided to go in to see if there might be an organ concert. I sat down in the quiet and dimly lit nave.

No concert, but the boys choir solemnly processed in to soft music from the organ. The officiant took his place and read the opening sentence, and then intoned the introit, answered by the choir. Then came the evening hymn which I still remember and now know as Bromley by Haydn (Hymn 29 in the 1982 hymnal). I sang along although the tune and words were new to me.

Then the suffrages, the anthem during the offering, and the prayers. A simple service, just as we celebrate Evensong these days. But this one had got into me somehow. I didn’t feel a whammy from the organ; we usually don’t get the organ’s full power displayed at Evensong anyway. What I experienced was more of an invasion, and I was aware that something mystical had happened to me, something that I am still unable to describe fully. It was nevertheless a palpable movement toward rendering me into being a different person, from one who had come into the church building completely indifferent to anything but the possibility of hearing a free concert, to one who fell to his knees in awe and admiration for the power that I knew had transformed me so suddenly.

All of the elements of that service combined to do the work that God intended: the organ, the choir, the officiant, the prayers—all of those were vehicular in bringing to my deepest consciousness a sense that I had come home, that I had returned from over twenty years of prodigal living, that a loving father was welcoming me back into the warm embrace of love.

Only then was I ready to look at the parts of the three-legged stool and begin my journey toward being an Episcopalian. Thirty years later, I am still here, still in that embrace, and one of the great honors and joys I am given at St. Paul’s Cathedral is to be an officiant at Evensong. Everything that helped find me and bring me home, works with me as I intone the introit, chant the suffrages, and sing the collects.

Oh, it was a whammy, no doubt about it, and when doubts arise, or problems come up, that Evensong settles me down, brings me back into harmony with that that ineffable and ultimately unknowable force that invaded me then and sustains me now.

That night was to lead me in a number of directions, one of them toward establishing a welcoming place for gay and lesbian Christians. That need presented itself as fully and strongly as had that something mystical at Evensong that night, something that drew me into itself. By 1986 another man and I sought permission for the first Integrity chapter to form, and Dean Jim Carroll not only gave us that permission, but celebrated Eucharist at our first meeting in the Guild Room.

And you see where we have arrived now. The events along the way to full inclusion and marriage of same-sex couples are the events that inform memoir, that recreate a significant world from the memories and dusts of the past, that produce for readers a record of the spiritual autobiography of a movement that has revealed yet another of the faces of God.

How to tell your story

As we told you previously, the history committee is collecting stories of SPC.  Here are some prompts that may help you. Everyone's story is important, wherever you see yourself-- congregant, chorister, visitor, clergy, staff....  The community is the whole body of us.  Please help us tell the story of all of us!

Why and when did you originally come to St. Paul’s and what keeps you coming?

Is there a Bible story or parable that relates to your own history at St. Paul’s? If so, please tell us.

What kind of SPC social gatherings or special activities do you enjoy remembering?

Do you recall issues or events when our church community stood strongly to support human dignity or civil rights? What were your feelings about such an event?

Describe a time when you really needed support from the church and who/what helped you with that need?

Every year we go through a Stewardship process which focuses on pledging to keep our community thriving. What inspires you to pledge, or keeps you from pledging?

Do you remember when Queen Elizabeth II came to St. Paul’s? Recall what that event was like for you.

Do you have memorable times you recall with members of the clergy or staff? Here’s a list from our past and present: Rev. Harold Robinson, Rev. Lester Lyndon-Jones, Rev. Jack Sanford, Rev. George Ross, Dean Jim Carroll, Bishop John Chane, Dean Scott Richardson, Dean Penny Bridges, or perhaps assistant clergy Rev. Rines, Rev. Alden Franklin, Rev. Lee Teed, Rev. Allisyn Thomas, Rev. Richard Lief, Rev. MaryAnne Lacey, Rev. Jeff Martinhauk; Choir Masters Larry King, Don Small, John Kuzma, Edgar Billups, Martin Green. Others you can think of or want to talk about with regard your history here?

Were you here during the Civil Rights movement and its changes in the 60s? What was that like? Did you hear messages from the pulpit? Did the issues divide the community? What gay and lesbian issues affect you if any? How or how not?

What times or issues caused division and consternation within our community? How were they handled? Was there healing? Was there a special person who helped you or whom you helped? Talk about community.

What was it like to be a child in the choir? What choir directors made the biggest impacts on you? Were there special services that meant a lot to you? What did you wear as a choir member?

Describe an adult education class or forum or series that impacted your life and how you view others.

Do you have memories of Sunday school and favorite activities, or a special teacher?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Tell us your story! SPC history committee has a request

Got a story you’d like to tell about you and your years at St. Paul’s Cathedral?

We would love to hear it!

We are a committee that will be putting together a written portrait of our church ranging over the past fifty years or so and your story will help us with that portrait.

Some suggestions and ideas appear on the subsequent posts of this blog. Perhaps one of them will make you think of a personal story. We hope it will. Please feel free to find a topic entirely of your own and as long as it relates to St. Paul’s Cathedral history, it will be very welcome.

We also want to give you a sample reflection as a sort of idea about how you might write one of your own. You need not follow this example’s format, of course.

We will archive every story we receive in the Cathedral’s archives and will choose what we need from all submissions.

If possible, send your story to me, Robert Heylmun, at

If you write it out instead, that’s good too. Please hand it to me at church or to Joanna Airhart, Paula Peeling, John Will, Robert Wilkins, or The Rev. Canon Jeff Martinhauk.

Many thanks for your contribution to this project. The parish will celebrate its 150th birthday in 2019 and we want to be ready with a finished book of memories and stories.

God’s peace,
For the History Committee,
Robert Heylmun

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: How Can We Possibly Get Along? Thoughts on Christian Unity.

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

2 Kings 14:25 speaks of a prophet named Jonah. Contemporary Biblical scholars agree, however, that the Jonah of the book was not historical. The book is placed with the prophets; but instead of a collection of oracles calling Israelites or Judeans to repentance, Jonah is a satirical short story. Instead of a prophet who responds to God's call with little or no success, Jonah actively evades God's call. When he does submit, it's because he couldn't escape. Instead of being sent to the Israelites, like Isaiah, or the Judeans, like Jeremiah or Ezekiel, Jonah is sent to the Assyrians.

In Jonah's the post exilic era, most Judeans hated Assyrians. The Assyrian Empire had annihilated the northern kingdom of Israel with armies famous for brutality (a distinction difficult to earn in the ancient world!). For God to send Jonah to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, was outrageous! Trapped in this prophetic mission, Jonah trudges across Nineveh, announcing that in 40 days, Israel's God will destroy them. For Jonah, God's threat was appropriate. The world would be a better place without Assyrians!

Jonah's mission, however, results in unanticipated, total conversion. Assyria's king orders everyone to repent, in case God's wrath could be assuaged and Nineveh saved. Even the cattle don sack cloth and ashes! Having had more success than any of the great prophets, Jonah might rejoice. Instead, he's angry at God! God promised to destroy Nineveh! Of all people, Assyrians should not be spared.

One scholar wrote that the Book of Jonah "marks one of the greatest steps forward...(in) biblical religion." In Jonah, God's extends compassion to the worst enemies of God's people. God emerges as the God of all, not just the God of the Israel/Judah. God's compassion is available to all who repent. This is not a message Jonah wanted to hear, not a message the Judeans of post-exilic Judah wanted to hear. Through the story, the anonymous writer tries to expand the consciousness of traditional Judeans: they are God's people, but not to the exclusion of all others.

A few centuries later, another Judean, who spoke of Jonah, proclaimed: "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you." (Mt 5:44). This core teaching of Jesus remains the most difficult of Christian faith. Like Jonah, Jesus called people to repentance. He attracted some dedicated disciples. Crowds amassed to hear him teach. Those who were ill, and those suffering what we might describe as mental illness, sought healing from him. But Jesus' success as a prophet paled compared to the storybook fame of Jonah.

Paul's belief that the world was about to pass away in its then form, caused him to urge certain conduct upon the Corinthians. His belief, as he understood it, did not come to pass. The world may yet end; but if it does, Paul's timetable was sorely incorrect.

If we ask what these readings have to do with Christian unity, we might respond, "Not much". If anything, they illustrate the lack of unity among Christians - if, by unity, we mean uniformity of beliefs, worship, practice and ethics.

This lack of uniformity manifests itself very early in the church. There are four gospels because each evangelist responded to the cultural differences of their different audiences and told Jesus' story differently. Today's gospel is an example. Matthew's version of the call of the disciples is very similar to Mark's, but Luke's version is significantly different. In Luke's version, Andrew does not appear. Jesus never says, "Come follow me". After teaching from Simon's boat, Jesus tells Simon to row into deep water and lower his nets. Simon does and catches so many fish the nets begin to tear. James and John, come to help, filling two boats so full they almost sink. This wonderful catch leads Peter to recognize something special in Jesus. Jesus simply tells Peter, "From now on you will be catching people." In the gospel attributed to John, the central protagonists are Andrew and Philip. Philip is the only person Jesus calls, saying "Follow me". Andrew brings Peter to Jesus. Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus. James and John aren't mentioned. The story of how and who Jesus called as his first disciples illustrates the lack of uniformity from earliest times in the Christian understanding of Jesus' life and ministry.

We know from Paul's letters to churches at Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi and to a slave owner in Colossae, that Paul's churches didn't see everything the same way. Paul often saw things differently than the leaders of his churches. The apostles didn't agree about who qualified as an apostle, whether Gentiles could become Christians and, if so, whether male Gentiles had to be circumcised. In the second century, Christians disagreed about the role of bishops. Itinerant prophets like the apostles and Paul became suspect. The role of women was increasingly suppressed as the church adopted the Roman patriarchal model.

In later centuries, the church tried to resolve conflicts with councils. Between the first and 16th centuries, there were eighteen worldwide councils, all before the Reformation! So there were many issues to resolve. In the early Middle Ages, one crusade was fought by Christians against Christians, the Cathars of southern France. They were eradicated.

Despite Jesus' prayer that we all be one, the church has never experienced unity - if we mean uniformity in belief, worship and community structure.

Although theology, practice, and ethics play their roles, culture is a major source of division in Christianity (or any religion). Humans live in cultural frameworks. Religious experience emerges within a cultural context. Cultural contexts differ depending on geography, time in history, language, race and gender making unanimity likely impossible.

Is unity also impossible? Or can we meet our cultural needs in our differences while honoring unity? If we abandon unanimity as the measure, we can see the divisions among us with new eyes. We can welcome and celebrate our differences as diversity - not division, focus on mutual respect for different understandings of Christian faith. We can do this as individuals and as individual church communities when the leaders of our international bodies cannot. Within our own denominations we can be self-aware about our practices, applying gospel justice in our time, adapting our structures to be ever more inclusive, creating institutions which foster loving interaction. What the world needs to see is not that Christians are alike, but that Christians love and respect one another, even when we disagree; that Christians respect all faith communities that promote the common good; that Christians never subordinate difficult gospel values to intransigent subservience to cultural preferences.

Christian unity-in-diversity frees us to acknowledge, and rejoice in, the Christian unity which already exists. You practice it this morning, inviting a Vatican excommunicated Roman Catholic woman bishop to preach and participate in your liturgy. I practice it by accepting your invitation, sharing communion with you. Each Christian, and each Christian community, can be agents encouraging Christian unity-in-diversity. We can't know what Jesus imagined when he prayed we would all be one, but we can be confident that Jesus would decry excommunication, mutual condemnation, teaching children in denominational schools to fear and hate other Christians, and violence among us. The gospels are packed with evidence that Jesus would celebrate unity-in-diversity. After all, the Cosmic Creator Jesus loved is the Source of diversity.

The Rev. Dr Jane Via

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 21st, 2018
Christian Unity Sunday
St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, San Diego, CA

1. See Norman K. Gottwald, The Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009, pp. 316-319. 
 2. Matthew 4:18-22. 
 3. Luke 5:1-11. 
 4. John 1:43-51. 
 5. See Christian E. Hauer & William A. Young, An Introduction to the Bible. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 4th Edition, 1998, Chapter 15, "The Growing Church, pp. 332-358. 
 6. Arguably, the First Council of the Church was the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).  But see " In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils, from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the Second Council of Nicaea (787), represented an attempt by Church leaders to reach an orthodox consensus, restore peace and develop a unified Christendom." See also, "The Fifth Council of the Lateran (1512–1517) is the Eighteenth Ecumenical Council to be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church and the last one before the Protestant Reformation." 
 7. The Albigensian Crusade or the Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) was a 20-year military campaign initiated by Pope Innocent III to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc, in southern France. See

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Chapter Nominees

The Chapter Nominating Committee is pleased to announce this year's slate of candidates for election to the Cathedral Chapter. The election will be held at the Annual Meeting on January 28. The four candidates, each of whom is standing for a three-year term of office, are: Jim Greer, Clemente Guarneros, Elizabeth Fitzsimons, and Gerald Motto. Read on to get to know our candidates.

Elizabeth Fitzsimons has been a member of St. Paul’s since 2011, when she and her husband Tony Manolatos attended the Rev. Allisyn Thomas’s “What is an Episcopalian?” course. That year, Elizabeth was confirmed by Bishop James Mathes during the Easter Vigil. In service to the Cathedral, Elizabeth has volunteered as a greeter and with Women Together. Elizabeth and Tony’s children – twin sons Alexander and Nicholas and daughter Natalie – attend Godly Play and Cathedral Youth. Natalie frequently serves as an Acolyte. The children were baptized by the Rev. Laurel Mathewson in 2013.

Elizabeth is Vice President at the San Diego Regional Chamber, where she leads the Chamber’s marketing communications and events, and the leadership development programs offered by the Chamber’s affiliate, LEAD San Diego. Previously, Elizabeth was Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at Rady Children’s Hospital. Prior to Rady Children’s, Elizabeth worked at the County of San Diego in media and public relations and internal communications. She began her career as a journalist at The San Diego Union-Tribune. Elizabeth serves on the Board of Directors for the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, where she chairs the Development Committee. She also serves on the Board of Library Commissioners for the City of San Diego, and volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Elizabeth is a 2013 graduate of LEAD San Diego’s IMPACT program. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs from American University in Washington, D.C.

She and her family live in Del Cerro with their dog, Lucy, who has also been blessed at St. Paul’s.

My name is Clemente Leopoldo Guarneros Flores.

I am originally from Mexico City. I have been living in San Diego for the past 25 years. I am married and a father to 4 children. I am a professional embroidery graphic designer for several embroidery local companies and my own. My skills as a savvy embroidery designer have earned me a great reputation as a consultant, innovator, and go-to guy to get the job done. When I am not glued to the computer screen, I love spending time and taking care of my family, learning new graphic design skills, and assisting our church with care and devotion. I am currently working on starting a company and creating my own signature clothing line. A biblical passage that I keep closest to my heart is “Si Dios esta conmigo quien contra mi? - Romanos 8:13. I enjoy meeting and talking to people. If you see me around please stop and say hi. I would like to get to know you. I live on Delta street in San Diego, my email address is

Jim Greer

I was born an Episcopalian, grew up in Orange County and was educated in public schools in Southern California. On graduation from college, I moved to NYC to begin my career and lived and worked there for 32 years, less a 2.5 year break for military service. My late partner and I moved to San Diego 22 years ago and I’ve been an active member of St Paul’s since then.

I’m a former St Paul’s Chapter member and former Dean’s Warden. For many years I have served on various committees, been a Cathedral visitor, and participated in the small group Bible study. I’m an annual pledger and frequent contributor to various special fund raising efforts. I’ve served on the Executive Council of the San Diego Diocese and have been a deputy to a General Convention. I was previously active in parish and diocesan affairs in New York City where I served on vestries, chaired various parish and diocesan committees, attended, as deputy/delegate several diocesan conventions. I have been involved in organizational work and leadership roles for most of my life and therefore have a good working knowledge of organizational dynamics including leadership, motivation, fund raising, goal setting/problem solving, and I have a non-professional’s understanding of the significant legal, accounting and tax procedures and issues of 501c (3) entities.

I’m a Realtor by trade and in that capacity I have represented SPC and the diocese in both the purchase and sale of various properties. Additionally, have been engaged to represent several SPC and diocesan individuals in their personal property transactions.

Gerald (Jerry) Motto

Jerry was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to an Italian father and a French mother. He attended Catholic School for grades 1 through 9 and then attended public high school. He holds a BA degree from Southeaster Louisiana University. Jerry also holds a Masters in Education in School Administration from Azusa Pacific University. He taught middle school for 24 years and served one year as a Vice Principal.  He was an ordained minister for 10 years in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. He served as a pastor in Cincinnati, OH; New Orleans, LA; and Riverside, CA. During these years, he was a passionate advocate for gay rights and had a ministry serving those with AIDS.

In 1987, Jerry joined St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Colton, CA. He served on the Vestry and was an Acolyte. When he moved to Moreno Valley, CA in 1991, he transferred to St. George’s Episcopal Church in Riverside, CA. There he served on the Vestry for two terms. He was elected junior Warden for two years and appointed Senior Warden for one year. He also served as Assistant Treasurer and Building and Grounds Coordinator. He was an acolyte, Eucharist Minister, lector and served on several committees.

In February 2011, Jerry moved to San Diego and transferred his membership to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Since he has been here, he has served on the Greeter, Stewardship, Cathedral for the City committees. He also has been an acolyte, a lector, and a counter. For several years, he was the liaison for Refugee Net and coordinated the St. Paul’s shoe drive. He also coordinated the Cathedral’s booth at the Gay Pride Festival in 2016.

The sermons and music at St. Paul’s feed Jerry emotionally and spiritually. Most important of all are the loving and caring people here. Since many of his friends and family have died, the members of St. Paul’s have become his extended family. He and his husband, Jim, have been together for 40 years. St. Paul’s is one of the most important things in Jerry’s life. He considers it an honor and a privilege to be asked to serve on the Chapter. With God’s help, he will do his best to serve the members of St. Paul’s with grace and dignity.