Thursday, November 8, 2018

Politics

Dear St. Paul’s family,

Well, another election day has come and gone, and we are still here, continuing our ministry to one another and to the community around us. Whatever happens in the halls of government, we continue to Love Christ, Serve Others, and Welcome All. It’s been a brutal and even violent political season: let’s pray for and model more kindness and compassion in our public life.

Speaking of our public life, one of the most sensitive topics in church circles is that of politics. What does it mean to be “political” in church? What is the church’s role in public life? What does the Gospel have to do with politics? As is typical in the Episcopal church, you’ll get different answers to these questions depending on which Episcopalian you ask. My personal answers to these questions are as follows. Being political in church means connecting the urgent questions of human flourishing with the life of faith. The church’s role in public life is to speak out for the marginalized, voiceless, and oppressed. The Gospel is full of examples of Jesus challenging the leaders of his community and calling them back to basic values as taught throughout Scripture.

A cathedral has a particular role in the life of a city. As one of the most prominent structures (at least until the advent of skyscrapers), a cathedral has traditionally been a highly visible symbol of faith in the public square, often forming the architectural anchor and core of the city. The cathedral stands for values of peace and justice in the midst of the community, and this is the message that Jesus preached in the cities of the Holy Land, healing, forgiving, and restoring while he called on the authorities to do likewise. As Dean and the public voice of the Cathedral for the City, I will continue to witness to Gospel values in word and deed, and I hope you will join me to stand up and be counted on the side of love and compassion whenever such witness is needed.

Your sister in Christ,


Penny

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: Living Resurrection Lives

Right before our gospel lesson begins, Martha and Jesus have a talk. Martha is upset that Jesus didn’t come to town earlier, knowing her brother Lazarus was sick, and Jesus assures her that he will rise again.

Assuming she knows what he means, Martha gives the orthodox answer: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” I imagine her to be getting a little more perturbed. She’s grieving after all.

But Jesus has something different in mind than a far-away, distant resurrection, far removed from her present grief. He says: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Surprised, she says she believes him.

So then, our reading picks up, and Mary goes to him, and Jesus is overwhelmed with her grief. And he weeps. He is not unmoved by the loss of their brother and his friend, Lazarus.

And they go to the tomb, and he asks them to roll away the stone in front of the tomb, and Martha balks saying that the stench of death will be too powerful. Jesus reminds her of their earlier conversation. How quickly Martha has forgotten that Jesus himself is the resurrection and the life, not simply a marker for some far away and distant event! Jesus says a prayer, and Lazarus walks out of the tomb. Jesus brings new life, not later, but now.

I find in this text an affirmation of some things that are really important in my understanding of God, and things that help me as I strive to respond to that understanding.

First, there is an acknowledgement that death is real. Lazarus’ death affects Mary and Martha and their community in a profound way. Loss is one of the few certainties of life, but wanting to avoid it we try to create certainty where there can be none. This story affirms the reality of that loss, and that the hurt that it causes pierces to the very heart of Jesus as he weeps himself.

Next, I love that this resurrection is in the here and now. Martha is focused on the far-off and distant future; on how new life must be something to happen later. Maybe Martha is still too busy with her work to be present to the here and now. Oh Martha. That’s all well and good. But Jesus in this story is here right now, and he is the life that conquers death right now.

And finally Jesus affirms that he destroys death without invalidating the very real and lived experience of death and loss. He weeps at the death of Lazarus. Mary, Martha and the whole community experience that death. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus brings new life after experiencing that tremendous pain with them. It is both/and, not either/or— both death and new life.

I experience this world as a tension between death and life, between loss and joy, between self-protecting fear and sacrificial love.

I have experienced loss this past year around some important relationships. I have experienced loss that comes with aging as my children get older, especially as my son left for college this fall. I have experienced loss around our ability to have community and love each other nationally and globally. I have experienced sadness and loss at the Tree of Life shooting, at the mail bombings, and at the shootings in Florida at the yoga studio, and at the Capital Gazette, the Waffle House, the Kentucky Grocery store, and others.

But I have also found life. I have had joy in relationships. I have had laughter and fun and excitement with new and old friends. I have had pride at watching my son grow into a young man and find his own way, and as my daughter has started to see her value and begin to emerge from adolescence. I have had amazing family experiences. I have found solidarity by standing with others in the face of hatred. And of course, we at St. Paul’s have each other.

In the past year, what has been death for you? Where have you found new life?

Death is real. It is a part of being alive. But if we truly believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, it simply doesn’t have the final say. There is a healthy place for grief and loss in the Christian faith, and Jesus weeps with us when we hurt. It is completely appropriate to call out to God in anger when we experience loss, tragedy, or grief.

But there is also a certain kind of fatalism that is resigned not to allow new life to break in. That fatalism in the world is prepared for death to win. Sometimes it avoids healthy grief, coiling in on itself for protection from the assumption that death is inevitable, it does not weep like Jesus at the real hurt that comes from loss. It does not grieve and then open to new life, but grieves and then develops a hardened heart, closed to new life. It can develop a self-centeredness to protect and insulate from any perceived change or threat of further loss. It is human. I have been there. We all have. But it is not life-affirming.

I wonder if there is a place to find courage in the face of fear, with faith in the one who moves through death to provide new life, not later, but now. I’m not a big Dr. Phil fan, but he has this thing he says that I like: “This life you’ve been given is not a dress rehearsal.” Living a life of abundance now, looking for new life, may require a kind of vulnerability to grief. And a willingness to let it do its work so that we can move through it and be open to new life, so that we can live. We can only find Lazarus alive if we overcome our fear of the stench from opening the tomb.

Living that way, we may find that resurrection is not some kind of good to be purchased by loving our neighbors now. Instead, loving our neighbors is exactly what overcomes death here and now! God is love; God is new life!

Our current presiding bishop, Michael Curry, was on the Today Show this week. He said “We walk through the valley of the shadow of death by doing it together. When you are hurting, I will hold you up. When I am hurting, you will hold me up.” That is the road through the valley of the shadow of death. That is the road to green pastures. And that is the way of love that leads to resurrection, to new life. It is the basis of the community of faith. It is why community is the essential element of baptism: this journey of faith is about giving up self to be part of a larger whole. It is about finding new life in something bigger than we can imagine on our own.

The saints we honor on All Saints Day, understood that. They lived for new life right now. They loved freely. They sought new life freely, lived sacrificially for something besides themselves. That is the path to resurrection; the walk of love. Michael Curry again: “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It is self-centeredness. If we all live self-centered lives, then I’m in the middle and everyone else is on the periphery. We can’t even have a society that way.” Looking for new life in the midst of death requires that we see beyond ourselves.

In the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we bring 8! New bodies into this community of faith where we commit to hold each other up. We commit to try to live resurrection lives together, to practice loving each other selflessly, knowing we will fail, but knowing that the life of resurrection will change us. And we commit to doing that so that we can go out in the world, and spend the other six days living resurrection lives where it may be a little bit harder to see new life, to live lives of love, in a world that wants sometimes wants death to win.

How will we practice living lives of resurrection here? How will we live lives of resurrection out there? Whether it is as simple as small acts of kindness during the week, or some larger, bolder, more courageous act, I pray that you may be emboldened by the One who is the resurrection and the life to live an abundant life of love each and every day, each of you. You are saints, every one. Are you out there looking for new life? If not, what is stopping you?

The Rev Canon Jeff Martinhauk
All Saints (Transferred), November 4, 2018
John 11:32-44


Sources Consulted:
Curry video on Today: https://youtu.be/_C2kj-uvtN8
Working Preacher: http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5243

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Voting

Dear St. Paul’s family,


Next Tuesday the mid-term elections will take place across the nation. Traditionally voter turnout has been low for the mid-terms, and I want to encourage you to cast your vote. It’s one thing that all Americans do together, and goodness knows we need moments of national unity in these divided times. The voice of progressive Christians especially needs to be heard, and voting is an important way to accomplish that.


We all know that it’s both inappropriate and illegal for the leadership of a faith community to advocate for or against a particular candidate or party. Our call is to advocate for the dignity of every human being, and against injustice, prejudice, fear, and cruelty. Now we have an opportunity to practice that advocacy by voting. Just as Jesus participated in the public life of his time, challenging community leaders and calling for policies that fed the hungry and freed the oppressed, so we are to participate too. I became a US citizen only six years ago, and I still cherish the privilege of voting in person and having the opportunity to thank the volunteers at my quiet little neighborhood polling station.


There is something for everyone to do on election day, even if you are not registered to vote or have already voted by mail or in advance: you can still offer your assistance to give rides or serve as polling station volunteers. It’s important for every voice to be heard!


I saw a Facebook meme recently that said something like, “If you bought a lottery ticket with a minuscule chance of winning, you understand that it only takes one number to make a difference. So vote.” Every vote does make a difference, and by participating in the democratic process we can all help to create a society of love, compassion, and inclusion. Whoever and whatever you vote for, I hope you will exercise that privilege on Tuesday.


Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Families at the Border Need our Help


As you know, the federal government has detained families from Central and South America seeking asylum, and is now releasing some of them, in some cases dropping them at transportation hubs with few or no resources for travel to their homes. At the same time a large caravan is coming north through Mexico, with families that are hoping to seek refuge from violent conditions in their own countries. Several San Diego agencies are working to provide emergency shelter, transportation, and basic needs as the crisis builds. Alliance San Diego is coordinating relief efforts. Here’s how you can help:

  • Make a donation to Catholic Charities’ emergency travel fund or to the special fund set up by Alliance San Diego at alliancesd.org.
  • Pray for the families and all involved in this humanitarian crisis.

MORE INFORMATION from ALLIANCE SAN DIEGO

About the Caravan:
  • There are 2,600 in Tijuana waiting to process in as asylum seekers
  • The San Ysidro port processes in several hundred a week
  • They asylum seekers part of a steady flow over the last several years
  • They are from Central America, Mexico, and other parts of the world
  • The northbound caravan of more than 7,000 is in addition to steady flow
  • Caravan contingent is currently walking and the trajectory will take them to Tijuana
  • Some might settled in Mexico and others may go to other parts of the border
  • If they get rides or board buses, they will arrive faster (within days)
  • If they continue walking, they will arrive in about 40 days
Southern Cali Response:
  • Alliance SD and partners stood up response structure for Haitian influx (5,000 ppl in 2016)
  • We are again standing up our response infrastructure with our partners in CA
  • Our priority on this side of the border is to help people get to destination
  • Roughly 95% will be headed elsewhere; we are gathering $ for travel (it is estimated that 1 million was needed during the Haitian response)
  • An intake center at the Port of Entry has been established 
  • Border Patrol began releasing family units (with children) from ports; they are estimating the release of 50-100 a day (with and without travel plans)
  • Families released will have ankle bracelets and court dates (1/31/19) at destinations
  • Adults without children will continue to be detained
Our MX Partners in Baja California:
  • We are in steady contact with partners on Mexican side
  • They are also gathering resources, and making plans for additional shelter
  • There is no MX government support available (until new President takes office 12/1)


Monday, October 29, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: .... but now I see

It’s 7 am on a Sunday morning. I drive off the Route 263 ramp onto Sixth Avenue, on my way to the 8:00 service. There aren’t many people about yet. As I wait at the light, I notice a blanket in a doorway. It’s covering something lumpy, and two worn-out sneakers are sticking out of one end. You know what’s under that blanket: one of our homeless neighbors trying to get some sleep.

The blanket serves several purposes: it keeps him warm, it disguises his identity, it protects some of his belongings from theft, and it blocks out the light from the cars, the street, and the rising sun. That blanket is a treasured possession for anyone who lives outside. It might even give its owner a measure of invisibility, less likely to draw unwanted attention.

In the days before sweaters and jackets were invented, a cloak was part of everyone’s wardrobe. For a homeless beggar, the cloak fulfilled all of those functions I just listed for the blanket, and when it was spread out, it served as a landing place for his sole source of income, the coins people might throw in his direction, especially important for someone who was blind. So, in many ways, the cloak symbolized his whole life.

So now imagine blind Bartimaeus, sitting on the ground, wrapped in his cloak, listening to the traffic around him, disregarded by everyone and unseen by most. It’s generally safer to be invisible when you are that vulnerable. He hears sounds of festivity, a crowd approaching. He hears someone say “Here comes that wonder-working rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. He cured a blind man, you know.”

An impossible hope is born in Bartimaeus; he starts to yell at the top of his voice, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Uh-oh, now people are noticing him, and it’s not good. “Shut up,” they say in threatening tones. But Bartimaeus won’t shut up. He yells all the louder, until Jesus himself hears the desperate voice and stops in his tracks. “Tell him to come here,” he says to his companions. The people change their tune: the celebrity has something in mind for this insignificant man. “Cheer up, on your feet, the rabbi wants to see you.”

Bartimaeus doesn’t just get to his feet: he springs up, discarding his treasured cloak like an old rag as he is guided to the center of the crowd. In the very moment of being called by Jesus he is ready to leave behind his old life, to risk everything, to put his whole trust in this person whom he, and only he thus far in Mark’s Gospel, has identified as the Messiah, the long-promised Son of David who will redeem God’s people from oppression.

This blind man sees what others, even the closest friends of Jesus, have failed to see. And for this leap of faith, this spiritual clarity of sight, Jesus gives him back his physical sight and with it opens a whole new life to him. And we are told that Bartimaeus immediately follows Jesus on the Way, the way of faith and freedom, the way to Jerusalem, the way of the Cross, the way of eternal life.

Now, some might say that Bartimaeus was blind for a reason: so that Jesus could demonstrate his divine power of healing. I don’t buy that. I don’t accept a theology of suffering that claims that God inflicts pain on us for God’s own purposes. That doesn’t fit with the God of love whom I know. And that’s why I have a major problem with the book of Job.

Maybe you didn’t notice, but today’s passage from Job is the fourth and final installment of a much abridged summary of that book. Four weeks ago, the lectionary gave us the beginning of Job’s story, how he was happy and prosperous until God and the Adversary started playing a sort of sadistic game, taking everything he loved from him, to test his faith.

The following week we heard a passage from Job’s lamentation, where he demands a hearing before God to learn why he deserves this suffering. Last week we heard God’s answer, summed up as, “Who do you think you are to question my actions?” And today we get the happy ending. Once Job humbles himself and acknowledges the unplumbable depth of God’s sovereignty, repenting his impertinence in dust and ashes, everything that he had lost is restored with interest, and he lives to a ripe old age.

That’s all we get of Job, like a pebble skipping across the surface of a deep lake, barely making a splash. We hear nothing about his awful friends giving him bad advice; we hear only a snippet of his rage and grief.

There are 42 chapters in Job, and 40 of them are all about unrelenting suffering, inadequate pastoral advice, and bad theology. For many of us, those 40 chapters hold far more meaning than the first or the last.

The theology of Job doesn’t work for me. In this story God rewards Job only once his loved ones have died, his property has been destroyed, and he has admitted defeat. I don’t much like this God; even the tidy ending is unsatisfactory. We know that suffering doesn’t always end with joy. Virtue is not its own reward. We won’t get rich by abasing ourselves before God. And having a new family doesn’t make up for the loss of the first one.

Job’s story does teach us that we are permitted to rage at God when awful things happen. We are allowed to voice our fury at injustice. It’s OK to reject all attempts to rationalize pain. Over these four weeks we have raced through Job and now breathe a sigh of relief at the end. But that’s not good enough. That gets us off far too lightly. So let’s sit on the ash heap for a minute and join Job in his lament.

Hurricanes. Auto accidents. Wildfires. War. Stillborn babies. Cancer. Mental illness. Addiction. A friend whose older siblings have one by one succumbed to dementia and he is wondering when it will be his turn. People of faith gunned down while they are at worship. A transgender teenager bullied and kicked out of the family home. There is no shortage of undeserved suffering in our world. How does the story of Job help us get through all this?

Job’s great virtue is his persistence. He remains in relationship with God and his regrettable friends no matter what, and he speaks up courageously for what he believes. And ultimately he is transformed by that persistence, maturing from a victim who demands to know why he’s being punished, to a man who accepts that sometimes there just isn’t an answer, but God remains God.

Suffering doesn’t happen for a reason, but sometimes unexpected grace emerges. Matthew Shepard’s murder 20 years ago started numerous efforts to end the persecution of young LGBT people, and on Friday, finally, he was laid to rest with honor in our national cathedral, in a service attended by several bishops and thousands of others, both in person and watching online. There is some grace in this final chapter of Matthew’s story. And grace can transform us, as the old song gives credit, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

The story of Bartimaeus receiving his sight is the last healing miracle in Mark’s Gospel. After several stories that illustrate how blind the disciples are to Jesus’s mission and how difficult it can be to open our eyes to God’s love, we are given a story where healing is as simple as telling Jesus what we really want - and being ready to step into a new way of life.

The next episode in this Gospel is the story of Palm Sunday, the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem where he will demonstrate, once for all, just how much God loves us. He will do it by undergoing undeserved and horrific suffering, not because God wants him to suffer, but because he is willing to give up everything, so that we will , the grace and gift of love, liberation, and abundant life.

October 28, 2018
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Congregation of Action

Dear St. Paul’s family,

St Paul's has a distinguished history of speaking up for causes important to our community. In the "summer of love" in 2008, same-sex couples from our congregation and all over California were able to join in legal marriage for the first time in our state's history. When opponents introduced a proposition to disallow same-sex marriage, our church family mobilized against Prop 8 to work for love to win.

In 2011, we had applied for development permits in order to build housing and Cathedral program space on our land, and the St. Paul's family turned out in force to show the San Diego Planning Commission and City Council the strength of our support. Our application earned unanimous approval and development has been partly completed (on the Nutmeg Parcel south of the Cathedral). Although development of the Olive Parcel was delayed due to economic forces beyond our control, we never gave up on our hope to create an additional source of security for the future through its redevelopment.

Today St. Paul's continues to nurture the community. Our campus hosts more than 4,000 events every year, including events for our neighbors in the park, twelve step programs, and neighborhood associations in Banker's Hill. We are at full capacity, and our current redevelopment project in partnership with Greystar will replace our 5,000 square feet of office and program space with 12,500 square feet of new, energy-efficient, purpose-built space where we can develop more meaningful ministries and programs for our community.

This 6th & Olive project - which has been redesigned and enlarged since it was originally approved -- is now at a critical point. The Planning Commission will vote on the amended permit application on November 8 at 9:00 am. We need your support! You made a difference in 2008 and in 2011. You can make a difference again. I hope you will come and make your voice heard on the value of the new building to the Banker's Hill community and to San Diego.

  • In addition to enabling us to offer more community meeting space, the new building will:
  • Add much needed rental housing in Banker's Hill, including 18 designated affordable apartments for residents with restricted income.
  • Bring new customers to support our neighborhood's small businesses.
  • Maintain sightlines to and from Balboa Park and Banker's Hill with the building's slim east-west design.
  • Relieve parking challenges in the neighborhood as generous parking for Cathedral and residents is added underground.


The Cathedral is a cornerstone of Banker's Hill. Come and be the voice of the Cathedral at City Hall on November 8 at 9:00 am. If you'd like to carpool from the Cathedral, please call the Cathedral to add your name to the list.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: the path to freedom

When listening to today’s Gospel it is as important as ever to remember that we are all disciples. We are all students, we are all learning, we are all followers on the way. Today we hear Jesus say to his disciples, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

When Jesus says, “It is not so among you,” he is not just speaking to those 12 people gathered in front of him. He is speaking to all of us. Those that are recognized as rulers lord it over other and the great ones are tyrants over them, It Will Not Be So Among You. It will not be so among us. Jesus is putting his expectations for the community of the kingdom of God in stark contrast to the hierarchical society in which those 12 disciples found themselves, and from which their ideas about community and relationship were still being formed.

This is the second chapter of Mark in a row where we see the disciples jockeying for position in the kingdom of God. In Chapter 9, the gospel from four weeks ago, the author of Mark reports Jesus asking the 12, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” These are again the words we hear echoed in today’s gospel, as John and James still don’t

seem to have gotten the message, asking Jesus ““Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he says to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they say to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Another episode of the disciples seeming to jockey for position in the kingdom of heaven.

But here there is something more than just wanting to be great. Here, James and John are asking, “Jesus, please tell me where I will end up. Please assure me that I will be safe, that I will be secure, that I will have a place in the future.” And Jesus responds, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They reply, “We are able.” Then Jesus says to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Jesus, without shaming then, without berating them, lets them in on a secret. “What will happen to me, will happen to you, but I cannot tell you when or how, or even where you will end up after. This is not mine to grant. I cannot walk this journey for you.” Jesus cannot walk their journey for them, and neither can he walk ours for us.

Similar to his response from chapter nine, Jesus concludes his discussion of the hierarchy of the kingdom of God like this, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” We often take this as another commandment from Jesus as to how we are supposed to interact with those around us. But this is something more than just another commandment. What it can sound like is Jesus rearranging the hierarchy and flipping upside down what it means to be great. It sounds like a command to be the least. If you wish to become the greatest, you must be the servant of all, if you wish to be first, you must be the slave of all. But isn’t this still just about becoming great? Has Jesus just changed the way you become great while still making greatness the goal?

This is often how we think of these saying from Jesus, and it ends up just giving us a new set of tasks to become great instead of shifting the relational paradigm of our worldview. We get into a mindset of being the “most least.” We think, “All I have to do to be greatest is serve everyone.” But this can become just as much of an ego project as trying to be the greatest by ruling over other. “Look at me being such a good servant. I am the most servant-like of anybody. Look at how great I am at sacrificing everything.’ So, let us take a closer look at what Jesus may really be saying here.

This is an example of translation radically changing the emphasis of a phrase. In the Greek, this teaching from Jesus does not say, “In order to become the greatest you must be the least and servant of all.” Rather, a direct translation of the Greek phrase says, “Whoever desires to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever desires to become first among you will be slave of all.” Can you hear the difference? The goal is not to be great, ever. It is not that if we want to be great we must first be servants of all. Being the least and servant of all is not a prerequisite for greatness, but a consequence. Jesus’ teaching here is that when we try to be great, when our goal is greatness, we will be a servant of all. We will be a servant to our own need to be great, no matter if that greatness is by overpowering people or by being the least.

When our goal is greatness, we will be servants, and enslaved to the opinions and perceptions of others. Because as Jesus says, in hierarchical society those who people recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; instead, if your striving is to be first, then you will be enslaved to everyone. There is no such thing as personal power in the kingdom of heaven, because wherever there is power there is also oppression. But I still can’t help but want to be great, to be the best, to sit at the right hand of Jesus, to be the most powerful. Because there is safety, and certainty and security in that kind of power. Or at least I think there is. But really, whenever I have staked my personal feelings of security, of safety, of certainty, of identity on being the best, being the greatest, being right, it has felt like anything but safe and peaceful and secure. It has instead felt like servitude. A slave to all, because I am staking my ability to be ok on my ability to be better than everyone. So, what are we to do when the only way we know how to be safe is to dominate, and that that very pursuit will lead to our own bondage and servitude.

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus’ words ring out from our depths, calling us somewhere we have not yet dared to go, that we have not yet let ourselves believe could possibly be the answer. When we hear this phrase “Give his life, a ransom for many” we can’t help but ask, “A ransom to who?” To pay a ransom, someone must be held hostage. This word ransom is something more than just a blood sacrifice to an angry hostage taker. Instead of “ransom,” this word literally means a payment for the freedom of a slave, λύτρον in Greek. This seems appropriate, as Jesus has just reminded us of the way in which we enslave ourselves and is now reminding us of how the son of man, the human one, gives their life as a payment for freedom from that slavery. But how does this happen? We might turn to our other new testament reading to learn how. In our reading from the book of Hebrews, we hear Jesus referred to as the “source of our salvation.” This might seem like they are saying that the source of this freedom from enslavement is Jesus’ actions in life, death and resurrection. That these things were done on our behalf to set us free. While this may be true, there is a deeper implication for our journey than this. In another place, the writer of Hebrews adds still more perspective to how we are to understand this “ransom.” In chapter two the author refers to Jesus as the “pioneer of our salvation.” A pioneer, more than just the payer of a ransom for the one time freeing of all, implies something ongoing, something that we are still called to do now. A pioneer, a leader, a founder of a journey, journeys into the unknown, discovers newness in previously uncharted territory, and blazes a path, but for what purpose? Simply to have done it? So that no one else will ever have to walk it? No. A pioneer sets out into that unknown so that other may someday follow them. It is not an individual mission, an isolated journey, it is a journey, a path, that is meant to be followed, that is meant to be walked by all, not by just the first one to have walked it.

The “ransom” that was Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, was not a one-time payment, but a journey that we are all called to follow him on. A journey of suffering, rejection, death, resurrection and new life. A journey that we will walk many times in our lives, but that leads us out of the bondage we put ourselves in. A journey that we can take with confidence, or as the writer of Hebrews implores us “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Like Jesus says to James and John, who desperately want the security of knowing where their journey will end, “That is not mine to grant,’ but “the cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” What will happen to me will happen to you. What has happened to Jesus, if we are willing to follow this path, will happen to us. And it will not happen without suffering, it will cost us those things we think we must have to be safe. It will cost us our need to be right, but we will find at the end a new kind of righteousness. It will cost us our need to be great, but we will find at the end a release from the bonds of striving for greatness.

It will cost us our life, but it is our life that we will find. We can run with perseverance this race, a race that follows the path cut through the wilderness of our deepest fears and yearning, through the deepest parts of ourselves, by Jesus, the pioneer of our salvation, and for the joy set before us endure the suffering along the way. For we can know, and have experienced, that our attempts at greatness have enslaved us, but a ransom has been paid. And that ransom is a path to freedom, a path that no one can walk for us, but one that we can be assured God walks with us.

David Tremaine
St. Paul’s Cathedral Proper 24 Year B

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Anatomy of the Eucharistic Prayer

Dear St. Paul’s family,

On Sunday October 21 I am leading a conversation about the anatomy of the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Eucharistic Prayer, also known as the Great Thanksgiving, is the long prayer which starts after the Peace with “The Lord be with you!” and ends with the Great Amen before the Lord’s Prayer. Regardless of the specific words that we use, each Eucharistic Prayer in our tradition contains certain elements that you can always find, sometimes in different sequences, sometimes expressed in different ways, but always present. Think of a Eucharistic Prayer like a house design. Houses vary enormously in their appearance, size and construction, but you will almost always find a roof, walls, windows, doors, a foundation, and a floor somewhere in the design.

Here are the names for the different parts of the prayer. See if you can spot each part when you open your service leaflet.

Sursum Corda (from the Latin for “lift up your hearts”): a dialogue between celebrant and people that announces what we are doing and gives the priest permission to give thanks on the people’s behalf; sometimes chanted.

Proper Preface: a preamble describing why we are celebrating on this particular occasion, often varied seasonally; sometimes chanted

Sanctus and Benedictus (from the first words of each phrase, Holy and Blessed): a congregational hymn of praise; often set to music.

Summary of the Salvation History – the great deeds God has done for us and our response to those deeds.

Institution Narrative: an account of the first Communion and Christ’s words instituting the Eucharist.

Anamnesis (the opposite of amnesia): the acknowledgment that we remember what Christ did for us.

Oblation (offering): our offering of our gifts and ourselves to God.

Epiclesis (invocation): the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine.

Intercession (a prayer request): asking that we may be included with the Communion of Saints in the promise of eternal life.

Doxology: the offering of praise and glory to the Holy Trinity.

Great AMEN: the seal of approval upon the prayer, pronounced by the celebrant and people together.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

October Showers Update

October’s second Saturday was another spectacular Showers Day. It did not rain, AND We set a new record of service to our neighbors:

  • 120 Signed in (29 new guests)
  • 140 Breakfast plates served
  • 99 guests received clothing
  • 32 showers taken
  • 20 haircuts given

Thank you too all who participated and all those who donated much needed clothing and supplies.

*Just one more thing to do: If you did not sign in your volunteer hours, please email mail them to me ASAP.

Blessings to you all,
Claudia (your very grateful volunteer coordinator)

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: The Desires of our Hearts

Now and then our lectionary provides a reading that lines up perfectly with what’s going on in the world or the church. We don’t pick the Scripture we hear on a Sunday: it is prescribed in a three-year cycle, and if we want to do something different we have to ask permission from the bishop. So it’s pure ... grace that the Gospel reading today, on the first day of our annual pledge campaign, has Jesus telling us that it’s easier for a camel to be threaded through a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Sorry. But it is what it is. So let’s look at that Gospel story.

Here comes a wealthy man, someone with many choices in his life, someone used to getting what he wants and works for, someone who undoubtedly feels that his wealth is a sign of God’s favor. The disciples certainly feel that way: the Prosperity Gospel is not a recent invention. Apparently, nearly a third of Americans believe that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. I wish I could preach that message with a straight face. But the fact is that the only person who gets blessed like that in churches with that message is the pastor: one prominent preacher of the prosperity Gospel is apparently worth some $50 million.

It’s a false Gospel. This false gospel teaches that if you want something enough you can manipulate God into giving it to you by imagining it being a reality. So, if you want that big house down the street, all you have to do is picture yourself in that house - and give a lot of money to the preacher who told you to do it. You can achieve the desire of your heart, whatever it is, by thinking and praying yourself into it. It’s simply not true.The life of faith has nothing to do with getting rich. So, if you come to church because you think it will make you rich, I am here to disappoint you. You can certainly find that teaching in some parts of the Bible, but not in the words of Jesus. In fact, he says elsewhere that the poor are blessed in their poverty.

When Jesus tells this rich man that his wealth actually stands in the way of his embrace of the kingdom of God, everyone is shocked. Jesus is asking him to do the impossible: to let go of the one thing that gives him status and security.

Jesus is pretty uncompromising here: he is looking to shake this person out of his complacency and entitlement. But, as the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, Jesus is one of us. He knows how hard it is to separate our self-worth from our bank account. And so, even as he delivers the hard news, he loves this man for asking, for doing his best, within his own limitations, to do as God commands. For those of us who think of ourselves as wealthy, that’s good news. Jesus loves rich people too!

The man goes away, grieving. Now, we don’t know the end of the story. Maybe he does give everything to the poor; maybe he finds a way to put God first in his life, and maybe he comes back later, less encumbered, to follow Jesus on the Way of the Cross. We don’t know. But one thing we do know: he isn’t going to earn his way into heaven. And neither are we.

This open-ended story leaves us with a question. What do we need to let go of before we can follow Jesus? What is your heart’s desire, your highest priority; is it something that gets in the way of your journey of faith?

When I visited South Sudan six years ago I stayed with people who had nothing except what they could grow or make from the land around them. They were under constant threat of violence from marauding gangs and others determined to stamp out Christianity. But their worship on Sunday mornings was the most joyful I have ever witnessed. They knew that God was their refuge and strength: nothing else in their world was reliable. They were ready to follow Jesus all the way, there was nothing standing in the way; they were already living in the Kingdom of God.

My Sudanese friends gave thanks to God for every little thing: for a safe journey, however short. For food. For waking up in the morning. They lived in gratitude, and somehow they found reasons for gratitude several times a day, even though they had so little. The center of our life as Christians is an act of gratitude: the Eucharist, a word that means giving thanks. When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” he was telling us to be thankful, to live grateful lives. So, another question for us today is, what are we grateful for? I am grateful for this cathedral: for the ways we care for each other, for the wonderful music, for this glorious space, for our hardworking staff, for the opportunities to come together as friends and serve our neighbors.

I am grateful for all the people who, over the last 149 years, have given so that this cathedral would still be here today.

I am grateful because I love this place and I love the people in this place.

A consequence of this love is that I am moved to give. I have some good role models for this: the consequence of God’s love for the world was the gift of Jesus, and Jesus loved us enough to give his life for us. I give because I love. And I see the same consequences in others here. I’m going to embarrass a couple of people by naming them, to make my point.

Konnie gives her time and energy to the altar guild because she loves to see this congregation offer beautiful worship.

Vicki gives her days to loving her brothers and sisters on the streets.

Chuck gives his devotion and skill to the plants that grow in our churchyard, out of love for God’s creation. Our floors are being refinished right now because someone loves our community enough to want our home to be in the best possible shape for the future.

Jack Lentz who died last August loved this community enough to leave a portion of his estate to the cathedral. So did Dorothy Green and Mary McBride and Rupert Keesler.

So, what about you? What do you love? What are the consequences of that love?

Think now of one thing you love about this community that prompts you to give - whether your gift is an hour of worship on Sunday morning or $1,000 a month or your expertise in Chapter and finance committee meetings. Now turn to your neighbor and share your reason for giving. A minute each.

I wonder how many of you talked about your financial giving. I know about the anxiety that surrounds money in our culture. Just consider for a moment if I had asked you to tell the person sitting behind or in front of you the amount of your annual income. I don’t think the conversation would be nearly as vibrant. It’s almost impossible for us to talk openly about money: that’s a measure of the power it holds over us. But our opening prayer today speaks of God’s grace preceding and following us. That grace can liberate us from all our anxieties, can make the impossible possible.

So, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, gathering at God’s table to make Eucharist, to give thanks, to experience God’s love, and to live out the consequences of that love.

October 14, 2018
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Gratitude and Giving

Dear St. Paul’s family,


A couple of weeks ago I took on a small project of writing thank-you notes to the 127 members of our Legacy Society, that is, those people who made it known to us that the Cathedral is included in their estate planning. It didn’t take long to write one note, but by the time I signed the last one I felt a real sense of accomplishment! (My apologies to those of you who had trouble reading my handwriting.) It was a spiritual exercise, to think with gratitude of each individual or couple as I wrote the note and addressed it.

We all know how important it is to thank people for their generosity, and how good it feels to be appreciated. I appreciate the sense of long-term commitment that a planned legacy represents, and the understanding that such a legacy is born of someone’s gratitude for what St. Paul’s means to them. But a habit of thankfulness is more than this: it is a spiritual gift that we are called to nurture. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is an important part of our life of faith. Giving back to God some portion of what we have been entrusted and blessed with is a privilege. I am grateful for the opportunity to tithe to the Church: it gives me a sense of ownership in the Church’s mission and it helps me feel closer to God. Letting go of anxiety about money is a huge challenge for most of us, and I share in that anxiety. I delight in my ability to support the growth of God’s kingdom, both now in this place and time and after I am gone through my own legacy.

This journey of giving has been a long one for me, from the first time some 35 years ago when I realized that being a member of a church meant having some small part in its financial structure, to today, when I strive to give more than the basic 10% tithe to support not only the Cathedral but also some of our related ministries. It really feels good to know that I am part of God’s mission in this local way, along with hundreds of others in the parish and the diocese.

As we move into the season of discerning our pledges for the coming year, I hope that you too will experience the joy of giving as together we grow in God’s grace, rooted in love and seeking to love Christ, serve others, and welcome all with grateful hearts.


Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Park Chateau

Dear St. Paul’s family,

As we move towards the current December 10, 2018 closing date on the sale of the Olive Street parcel to our developer, Greystar, the time has come to begin the sad process of saying thank you and goodbye to the tenants in the Park Chateau apartments.

Our Purchase and Sale Agreement with Greystar requires us to deliver an empty Park Chateau at the time of closing.  (We do not need to vacate the Administration Building on the same schedule.) While we anticipate that closing may be delayed beyond December 10th, it is possible that the transaction will be completed on that date.  The December 10th date remains Greystar’s current hope, and so, in line with that, they sent us legal notice two weeks ago that the property must be vacated in 90 days.  The LLC understands that meeting the legal conditions of closing is critical to the future of the project, even though it sincerely regrets the disruption this requirement will cause for our neighbors in the Park Chateau.

The Nutmeg and Olive LLC, legal owner of the Park Chateau, immediately began working with the Park Chateau property manager and our consultant, Tom Delaney, to fulfill this requirement.  Park Chateau tenants have been given notice of the termination of their rental agreements, effective at the end of November.  In addition to returning their security deposits in full, the LLC is offering the tenants financial assistance for moving in an expeditious manner.  R.A. Snyder, the property manager, will also work with current residents to help them find homes in other properties Snyder manages, if they wish.

The LLC has begun discussion about security measures to protect the vacant Park Chateau from vandalism and squatters during any interim period between the time the tenants depart and Greystar takes ownership, should the closing date be delayed.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is extending an invitation to all Park Chateau residents to join us on Thursday, November 22, at 12:30 p.m., following the Thanksgiving Day Eucharist, for a Thanksgiving meal.  I hope you, too, will attend, and take the opportunity to wish our neighbors Godspeed as they move from our immediate neighborhood.

Many thanks to Mark Lester for drafting this letter in my absence.


Your sister in Christ,

Penny

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Floors: pardon our dust!


We are engaged in two floor restoration projects this fall: tiling the Sacristy floor and hallway, and restoring the floor in the Great Hall. Both projects are being funded by a generous anonymous donor.

The Sacristy floor and hallway will be tiled with the same type of tile installed in the Cathedral Chapel, updating the antiquated existing floors. The Great Hall floor has not been stripped down to its base in decades (or ever as far as we can tell). The existing labyrinth will be removed during the restoration process, but never fear, it will be repainted once the floors have been refinished!

 Both projects are on track for completion in October. Please contact Kathleen Burgess (burgessk@stpaulcathedral.org ) with any question or concerns.









Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sesquicentennial Plans

Dear St. Paul’s family,

                Next year we will celebrate a big birthday: on December 18, 2019, this congregation will complete 150 years of ministry in San Diego. A group of parishioners has come together under the leadership of Susan Jester to plan a year of celebration, starting this December.  The general approach is to focus on events that we regularly enjoy, building them up to be extra-festive with some bells and whistles.

Here’s a preview of some of the main events and activities for your calendar.

  • Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 5 pm: The Kickoff. Festive Evensong followed by a Victorian reception (sherry and cake, anyone?). Contact for this and other worship events is Brooks Mason.
  • Sunday January 27, 2019: Cathedral Day with annual meeting, parish lunch, and a group tour of San Diego locations with significance in our history.
  • February 2019: visiting Gospel Choir concert in observance of Black History month.
  • Tuesday, March 5 at 6 pm: Zydeco Mass and dinner.
  • Sunday, May 5 at 5 pm: St George’s Day Evensong with reception and special guests.
  • July 12-14 (tentative): Pride Parade with cathedral float, nationally known preacher, festive reception. Contact Susan Jester.
  • November 10 at 5 pm: Armed Forces Evensong with distinguished guest preacher and reception.
  • Saturday December 14, 2019:  The Culmination. Gala Anniversary Celebration with distinguished keynote speaker. Contact Martin Nace Hall or Susan Jester.


                In addition to these special events, Robert Heylmun has written a revised history of St Paul’s, and the book will be launched early in the year and available for purchase throughout the year. Archivist John Will is working on exhibits of historic materials. The Arts committee under Ric Todd’s leadership is looking at various performing and visual arts opportunities. Our Friends of Cathedral Music are planning to ramp up the fundraising to rebuild our good but well-worn Steinway piano. And there are plans afoot to celebrate the Latino portion of our congregation and our service to our homeless neighbors too.

                The Sesquicentennial Committee is working hard on all these possibilities, but they can’t pull this off without lots of help in the shape of time, talent, and treasure. If you’d like to help in any way, please contact Susan Jester or the relevant individual named above.

                The marking of our first 150 years of loving ministry will help to keep us solidly rooted in our history as we launch into the construction period and see our future taking shape. I hope you will join in the celebrations!

Your sister in Christ,

Penny


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Think Dignity Showers


We had our Think Dignity Showers event on Sept 24. In spite of a flat tire on the truck which caused a late start, they completed 18 showers. And 8 professionally beautiful haircuts were performed by our new volunteer Wendy Chemes who loves to cut hair and she did a terrific job. The folks from St. Spyridon handed out bag lunches, Sharon Semple brought her home made Barm Cakes and Carolyn Lief supplied muffins and coffee. More people showed up than actually took showers (about 25) and we had two dogs, Candy and Socks. Sorry I don’t have photos of them.



It was a great day!

Thanks all who showed up and helped.

Claudia

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Sunday Sermon: True Greatness


My Acorn TV obsession of the moment is a series called The Clinic. It’s an ensemble medical drama set in Ireland. Over and over again misunderstandings and conflict arise because people don’t spell out what they need or what they mean. They keep missing opportunities for important conversations about relationships, death, and family. Maybe you can think of missed opportunities in your own life. The apology that never happened. The explanation that could have cleared up a decades-long family split. The healing that couldn’t proceed because we had never shared our pain. The trust that was damaged because nobody thought to verify the truth of a rumor.

In our Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples for the second time that he’s going to be betrayed and killed, and that he will rise again. But they say nothing because they are afraid to have the conversation.

The #MeToo movement and the current accusation against the Supreme Court nominee reminds many of us of the times we didn’t speak up about harassment, abuse, or assault. We are afraid to have the conversation, afraid because we might not like what we learn, afraid of the bottled-up grief and pain that might boil over. I didn’t properly grieve my parents or process their deaths for nearly 20 years, and when I finally started therapy, as a prerequisite for starting the ordination process, I was terrified of what I might find when I opened up that Pandora’s box.

The disciples are afraid to talk about Jesus’s death. I get that. We avoid talking about the things we fear, and we tend to fear death, both our own and that of those we love. So that conversation about end-of-life teatment never happens, and when the inevitable occurs and the loved one is incapacitated or has died, we don’t know what they would have wanted, and our grief is compounded by regret and guilt.

What might we do if we were not afraid? What kind of relationships might we build if we told each other the truth, if we uttered the scary words, if we had the challenging conversations? What kind of world might we create if our society were committed to truthful and open communication, however hard it might be?

Our diocese is in the middle of a bishop selection process. I am on the nominating committee and it has been a profound experience and I am glad that we are nearly done. Now, you need to know that the Episcopal Church has taken to heart Jesus’s words “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant, or literally deacon, of all.” That’s why we ordain people deacon before they become priests - to remind us of our servant status. It is considered bad form for priests to openly aspire to becoming a bishop. There is no mechanism for priests to publicly discern if they might be called to be a bishop. The whole process of discernment is done in secret, at least until the slate is published, and whoever is ultimately elected must then learn how to be a bishop on the job with virtually no preparation. I’m not sure that this is the best way to develop leadership. But at last summer’s General Convention the bishops discussed a proposal to create a discernment and development path for potential bishops, and they shot it down. So we continue to be afraid of voicing a call to leadership. How might the governance of our church be different if we weren’t afraid?

We all know how broken our civil leadership process is. Election season is upon us. The signs are going up. The ads are starting: negative, nasty in tone, casting the opponent in the worst possible light, using out of context quotes or sheer falsehood to blacken the other guy’s reputation while puffing oneself up. Candidates have even withdrawn from consideration because of death threats or racist, sexist, or homophobic harassment.

I find it admirable when a candidate withdraws because media coverage or some complication create a distraction from the process and the overall vision. Putting the community above one’s own ambition is so rare today that when I hear of someone stepping back for personal reasons I find myself skeptically wondering what dirty laundry was about to be displayed. We seem to have a famine of honorable leaders in today’s America. What kind of nation might we be if truth and transparency were standard practice?

The way we select our leaders today is far from the way Jesus called his disciples. James, in his letter, warns against what our translation calls selfish ambition, but which could equally be translated factionalism or party spirit. A true call to leadership, to greatness, includes a commitment to care for the whole community, rather than a determination to carry out a personal agenda regardless of its effect on those governed. Jesus was called to teach the way of love and compassion according to God’s dream for creation, not to revolutionize the government or support a political faction; that was what Barabbas was about.

The Biblical model consistently portrays greatness as something that happens to unlikely people: David was the youngest brother, sent off to mind the sheep while his elders entertained an important visitor. Mary was a sheltered teenager from a humble family. Simeon was a frail elder who spent his days puttering around the Temple. But each of them was chosen to play a significant part in the story of salvation.

Jesus holds up a little child as an icon of greatness: how unlikely is that? Children are the most fragile, the most vulnerable among us. They don’t spend money or vote, so they are ignored by those who hold both commercial and political power - except when they can be used as leverage to influence the adults who care about them. So children who cross the border are taken from their adult caregivers and locked up as a deterrent to other would-be immigrants. The insurance industry uses children to sell life insurance to their parents. Politicians running for office pose for pictures with babies to show their humanity.

And children have been victims of too many abuses: the Irish children born in church-run orphanages and Magdalene laundries, neglected, abused, and, when they died, dumped in septic tanks. The children trafficked for sex and slave labor. The children we heard about last week on Vida Joven day. Children in foster care - a friend with first-hand experience of the foster care system told me that statistically, any child who has been in the system for four or more years is almost certain to have been abused. It goes on and on.

Jesus clearly states that the way we treat a child demonstrates our regard for the child’s Creator. Last Sunday I presided at the 10:30 service, and to my great delight two choir members had their tiny boys with them in the choir stalls, snuggled in slings and watching every move I made. It warmed my heart to see them there. And at the 1:00 service we routinely invite the children to come and surround the altar for the Eucharistic prayer. When we welcome children into our sacred spaces we are following Jesus. We are honoring our baptismal promises to respect the dignity of every human being and to seek and serve Christ in all persons.

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? While the disciples, clueless as usual, are fighting over who gets the corner office, Jesus is looking for the last and the least in the crowd. He isn’t interested in striving for first prize or dramatic gestures. He cares only that we love and serve each other, that we pay attention to the most vulnerable among us, that we do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa once said.

When I entered the discernment process for ordination I went through a period of great anxiety. Would I measure up? Would I be a successful priest? I was so used to striving for excellence, passing the exam, outdoing the competition, that I lost sight of the true nature of my call. But there came a moment in prayer when I realized that God wasn’t calling me to a glittering career. God wasn’t concerned with success. God was simply calling me to be obedient to the call, to be a faithful priest, to do my best. The relief was enormous.

The Gospels portray the disciples as knuckleheads: bumblers who constantly misunderstood Jesus, who squabbled and complained and didn’t get the message. But in spite of all that, through them, God brought about something amazing. Those same bumblers went on, after the resurrection, to start something that has never stopped: a movement of love, generosity, and liberation that continues today in us. Our Presiding Bishop calls it the Jesus Movement, and today we will welcome two new members into that movement through Holy Baptism. What kind of greatness will we model for them? What value shall we place on truth, compassion, service, and dignity? What kind of world will we build for these children?

September 23, 2018
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges

Ministry Impact: Showers

Uriah
It is early morning on the second Saturday of the month and still dark. Shadowy figures line up out side the 6th Ave gate, bags of belongings by their sides. On any other day, in any other place you might feel uncomfortable passing them in the dark, but the volunteers at Showers of Blessings are overjoyed to see them. We worked hard the day before staging our equipment, but now it all must be put into place.

Randy, Leon and Uriah are always first, and they know just what to do: 13 tables to be set up, racks of folding chairs brought out and placed, trash cans set and pop up tents and umbrellas raised. Randy takes charge of setting up the guild room for the breakfast that our Methodist partners serve at 8. By 7 we are all set up to start giving showers. Guests come through all morning getting their nametags, their number for showers, haircuts, clothes and hygiene supplies. They sit and chat with us and drink coffee and there is a feeling of comfort, safety and familiarity that all of us enjoy.

Candice
Many have become friends: Cheryl knits caps and socks, and also paints beautiful floral note cards that she sells. Candice brings bouquets of flowers for the tables, Manny cuts hair, and Aaron plays piano in the Guild room and the great Hall when he is here. A new guest last month played Rhapsody In Blue in the Guild Room so beautifully it took our breath away. Working in a ministry that serves the homeless you soon learn that we are all so much more than our current circumstances might seem to suggest. Showers has given our community, guests and volunteers a like, the great blessing of unfolding all our capacities for kindness, artistry, helpfulness generosity and joy.

Nesti
And last but not least is the amazing Chuck who came as a showers guest a couple of years ago and is now one of our Sextons, responsible for cleaning, fixing, setting up and breaking down much of what goes on here. Chuck is a great reader of books and loves to talk about them, and he is also an artist with paints and easel. He works at the Rose Garden on the other side of the park near the canyon where he also sleeps. Sometime ago he decided our gardens needed help. So with bags of mulch and new plants he set about redesigning our patio gardens, even extending them outside our gate for passersby to enjoy. Now he does all of our lawn and gardening maintenance.

Showers of Blessings began here 3 ½ years ago with a handful of dedicated volunteers. We served 10 guests. Today we are 20 core volunteers, and in the last 12 months we have served 1,190 guests.

I am overjoyed to be a part of this community that cares and works hard to make life just a little easier for those in need, and there is no place I would rather be on the second Saturday of the month than welcoming our friends at the gate.

--Claudia Dixon