Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Renewal of Clergy Vows: Diocese of Los Angeles, 2010

We gathered together again today ... the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Los of Los Angeles ... for the Holy Week ritual of renewing our clergy vows and receiving the vials of oil-made-holy for unction and chrismation blessed in this service at St. John's Cathedral.

I was running late. I thought I'd left plenty of time but hadn't factored the impact of the "one last email" before I headed south on the 110 ... and then three block walk from St. Vincent's parking lot to St. John's Cathedral.

As I walked -- briskly -- down Figueroa St. with Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook (who was my "shepherd" during my ordination process as a member of the Commission on Ministry and a friend for whom I needlepointed the ring bearer's pillow for her wedding to Tom Rosebrook) we trucked past the dome of St. Vincent's Roman Catholic Church (on the OTHER corner of Adams and Fig) ...

... I thought "OMG ... can it REALLY be over ten years since we gathered there to elect Jon Bruno our bishop? How did I get to be someone who says "remember when ..." so fast!!!"

St. John's looks better every time I'm down there. I just love how the space is used as a kind of palette to create genuine liturgical expressions of the people gathered for work and worship.

And I love that the "mission statement" on the back of the service leaflet we were handed read:

St. John's Cathedral
Catholic Worship - Evangelical Preaching - Progressive Social Witness
Now THERE'S a "trinity" for you!
And so we gathered. 400-something clergy ... bishops, priests and deacons ... to remember who we are as those ordained to do the work we have been called to do -- and "whose" we are as those ordained to do the work we have been called to do.
It was, in some ways, a "swan song" for our Bishops Chet Talton and Sergio Carranza. Both are retiring this year ... once we get our new Bishops Suffragan "suited up" on May 15th ... and so +Chet preached and +Sergio presided and +Jon played "back up singer" ... making a few announcements during the "greetings time."
+Chet preached a wonderful sermon -- beginning by asking us to remember when we heard that "first call to ordained ministry" ... "And I am NOT (he said) talking about whatever it was you told the Commission on Ministry." (To a ripple of laughter.) He then went on to tell his own story of a 12-year old Chet hearing his own vocation voiced for the first time in the words of a mentor priest.
And wow ... I looked around the space there in the nave at St. John's and at all those faithful and trying-to-be-faithful clergy colleagues of mine here in this native diocese of mine and I thought how MUCH of my vocation -- my life, my ministry, my work and my priesthood -- I owed to so many of them ...
A random and scattered sampling:
  • Mort -- who trained me to be an L.E.M. when I was still a parish secretary at St. Paul's, Ventura.
  • Howard -- who taught me church history in Claremont.
  • Shirley -- who showed me what it means to love across differences.
  • Warren -- who stood by me when nobody else did.
  • Joanna -- who helped keep me sane during CPE, provided an oasis of calm in the chaos more than once and was one of my presenters for ordination to the priesthood
  • Art -- whose late wife Fran gave me the "A Woman's Place is in the House of Bishops" tea towel as a souvenier from their trip to Lambeth 1998 and who was a faithful colleague when I was at St. Peter's in San Pedro.
  • Lynn -- who has been a sister, a mother, a friend and a fierce protector ... that was, after we got over our first conversation EVER which was a knock-down-drag-out fight over putting a serape on the altar for a regional confirmation service when Fred Borsch was our new bishop.
  • Rachel -- who sat on the floor with me at a diocesan-convention-gone-by while we women told stories about putting away the red blazers until after our ordinations were approved ... based on the advice of "the mothers" that red was a power color and we were already scary enough without making it worse. And now she's a rector herself ... and a powerful woman who can and does wear red when she feels like it.
  • Larry -- my "litter mate" deacon (we were ordained as transitional deacons together at St. Francis, Simi Valley in June 1996)
  • Michael -- who "knew me when" my kids were babies and my brother-in-law was his Senior Warden and when women priests were ... well, not as usual as they are now ... and who was the first of dozens today to say, "How's Jamie? When's he coming home? We have him in our prayers at Ascension ..."
  • Lyn -- who was ahead of me in seminary and I remember watching her in liturgy class doing her "eucharist practicum" ... with her toes wiggling nervously in plain sight under the altar in her Birkenstocks
  • Keith -- who started Ministry Study Year when I did in 1992 and bought us all scratch off lottery tickets while we waited to find out if the Commission on Ministry was going to make us Postulants for Holy Orders.
  • Kelly -- who shares with me the challenge of being a peace-monger Army mom ... and who I remember with her kids in strollers in seminary ... and her anxious mother at her ordination, terrified that if she got ordained in the Diocese of Los Angeles she'd turn into a lesbian. (So far so good. :)
  • Oh my, oh my, oh my: I could go on and on ... because as we streamed up the aisle to receive the bread and wine made holy it seemed there was a story I could tell about almost every person who walked past me ...

... and so I experienced the "both/and" of feeling simultaneously REALLY old and TOTALLY renewed.

SO many new faces ... diversity I couldn't even have imagined even those not-really-all-that-many-years-ago I was ordained a priest in that very space -- January 17, 1998. And so many old, dear, familiar ones ... the connectivity of the stories that have united us ... even the differences that have challenged us ... all that makes us what we are: The Diocese of Los Angeles ...

.. Renewed. Refreshed. And Ready to Rock and Roll!


Melissa said...

Fantastic! Thank you. :)

nycjoe said...

Thank you so much, Susan, for sharing this. All of us can (and probably should) point to certain people critical in our formation as Christians. So nice to read some of yours.

Gerti Reagan Garner said...

Thank you, Susan. Reading your litany of companions spoke to me of what our church is about - companions on the journey. I have to share that my first two and a half years of elementary school were at St. Vincent's and that I made my First Holy Communion at St. Vincent's on May 18, 1958. So all in all that'a a pretty significant corner in my spiritual life.