Sunday, January 03, 2021

A Giant Goes Home to Jesus: George Regas, 1930-2021

We know that there are giants amongst us -- giants of justice who live larger, dream bigger, risk greater and change more than the rest of us who stand on their shoulders. And we lost one of those giants today when the Reverend Canon Dr. George F. Regas went home to Jesus. In words I heard George say in more funerals than I can count: "Oh, lucky heaven."

George was 90 years old and had been in failing health and so his death this morning with his beloved Mary Regas at his side was not a surprise to those who know and love him. We are grateful for a peaceful passing -- and we trust the great resurrection promise that in death life is changed, not ended -- and yet it is still a special kind of grief and shock when one of our giants leave us. 

And George Regas was a giant of justice. His life was an incarnation of the words of former Presiding Bishop John Hines who proclaimed that "justice is the corporate face of God's love." In his words and in his actions; in his teaching and in his preaching ... oh, especially in his preaching ... George Regas did what prophets are supposed to do: he comforted the afflicted and he afflicted the comfortable as he made that face of God's love accessible to absolutely everybody -- sometimes much to the consternation of the institutional church.

He was in the forefront of the struggle for the ordination of women in the 1970's. He was in the vortex of the AIDS crisis in the 1980's. He broke liturgical ground that helped pave the way for equal marriage by blessing same-sex unions in the 1990's. His interfaith relationships were as legendary as his credentials in the Civil Rights movement and his unwavering commitment to preach peace -- even in times of war, election cycles be damned -- made for a rocky patch with the IRS and All Saints Church in 2004. 

Nevertheless, he persisted. And we are in no small part the parish we are, the diocese we are and the Episcopal Church we are because of his willingness to live larger, dream bigger, risk greater and change more than the rest of us who stand on their shoulders. 

"Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith you are welcome here to receive the bread and wine made holy." George's words of invitation to the communion table are words that have become a mantra for All Saints Church in Pasadena -- words that have inarguably changed countless thousands of lives ... both here in Pasadena and beyond ... making the corporate face of God's love avaialable to absolutely everyone. 

In the days and weeks ahead there will be many tributes, remembrances and opportunities to honor George and his legacy and I look forward to those. But right now -- in this moment -- as we pause to mark the passing of a giant who lived among us, my prayer is that we can be given the grace to remember George in his full humanity as a brother, mentor, teacher, preacher and friend -- and to celebrate the difference he made in our lives by continuing to do our part in the work of being the change we want to see in our beautiful and broken world. 


Here's a photo tribute to George for his 90th Birthday: October 2020


Penelope Bianchi said...

If anyone goes straight up to stops, and is welcomed by the is George. Straight lightning. What a magnificent man. How lucky I have been to know him...and love him...We all were.
When he took a stand against the Vietnam war....he was vilified and attacked mercilessly by Pasadena "elites". He stood his ground. There was a contingent who left All Saints and went to Church of our Saviour in San Gabriel. They predicted the downfall of All Saint's! HA!!!
All Saint's became the most successful, the largest and most popular Episcopal Church west of the Mississipi!
I went to "Rock Masses"; and the enormous church was packed.....he was a wonder, a gift and a hero.

How lucky we all were to have had him in our midst!

Penelope Bianchi

Penelope Bianchi said...

A magnificent man! I grew up in All Saint's. I taught Sunday School when I was a student at USC; and I was there when George first started as Rector. What a gift he was! A life-changing gift, a life-enhancing man, and a life altering inspiration to me and to many!

How lucky we were...all who knew him!

MaryLee said...

I was so moved during the Zoom memorial gathering on January 3rd because Rev Regas married my husband and me and was also present during the last days of my parents, Louis and Jean Fleming. I would sincerely appreciate a way to view the videos that were shown during the gathering if All Saint's has a way to post them. Such a loss for Pasadena and for the world,
Mary Lee Fleming Kowalski