Diocesan Bishop John Harvey Taylor welcomed more than 2,000 Facebook and You Tube viewers to a Nov. 15 bilingual Spanish and English Eucharist from St. Paul’s Commons on the concluding day of the 125th annual – and first-ever virtual — meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The Eucharist began with Taylor’s reminder to put safety first “at this time when we’re all reading about the spike in infections and serious illness as a consequence of the global pandemic.”
Scripture lessons and musical offerings were pre-recorded, featuring musicians from St. Paul’s, Tustin, and St. John’s Cathedral, and a multi-voice diocesan choir. Youth and youth adults from the Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, and St. Mark’s Church in Upland served as lectors. A pre-recorded necrology — remembering bishops of the Episcopal Church, diocesan clergy and lay leaders who have died in the past year — was also included.
The pandemic, the “shroud” over the entire year, also featured prominently in remarks by guest preacher the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, who praised diocesan bravery and urged Southland Episcopalians to continue “to let your light shine.”
“When others are hunkering down and living in scarcity, you, the Diocese of Los Angeles, have launched a capital campaign,” said Spellers, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation Care.
The diocesan capital campaign seeks to raise up to $40 million in three years “to grow the financial basis for ministries of healing, justice, peace and repair.”
A video of Canon Spellers’ sermon is on YouTube here.
About the diocese’s One Body, One Spirit Emergency Appeal, providing Covid-19 relief, Spellers said: “You’re showing up in local communities that have been ravaged by Covid-19. You’re inspiring everybody by working to grow connections across our deep, deep divisions and differences. God knows we need that wisdom and witness right now.”
She also cited the L.A. Sacred Resistance task force’s support for the “undocumented immigrants who – and let me make this clear —immigrants make life in America possible. Please, Diocese of Los Angeles, don’t you dare stop what you have begun in the name of God. Stay the course and be ready to go even further.”
The pandemic and its resultant economic free-fall have created an atmosphere of “fear, decline and loss,” she said. While a racial reckoning is underway, there are also such challenges as “blatant white supremacy and post-election fallout — in this season marked by disruption and by decline, you will be tempted to ignore your calling to shrink from the wide circle of God’s love.
“You may be tempted to run from risk, to live in scarcity, to hide your talent, secure what you’ve got. You may wish to play it safe and much, much smaller, as individuals, as congregations, as a whole diocese. And that would be a shame. This is not the time or the place to play it small or safe.”
Spellers recalled that, as a seminarian in 2002, she attended an “incredible” two-week New Community immersion event in Los Angeles, a formational time that taught her much about inclusion.
“That time was so formational for me and the whole group. I was a fairly new Episcopalian. I didn’t know our church could be such a force for justice and healing,” she said. “I didn’t know you could, in one day, visit a Japanese American Episcopal ministry, a church plant in a storefront, and a tri-lingual congregation in Inglewood.”
That group wrestled with hard questions about racism and radical inclusive welcome of diverse gifts that, “raised the bar for me,” she recalled. “You made me expect radical welcome in the rest of The Episcopal Church and when I didn’t find it … the memory of what I witnessed in your midst made me restless and hungry. I wanted that multicultural, radically welcoming church to come alive everywhere.”
Spellers said she’s spent her entire vocation trying to share that experience among the rest of The Episcopal Church, “trying to help it become more like what I experienced in your midst. We need you to let your light shine and to be what God has called you and you alone to be.”
Although many are yearning to get back inside their church buildings, Spellers said she doesn’t want to return to life or church “the way it’s always been, the most segregated hour of the week.”
While the pandemic has revealed stark racial inequities and a much-needed reckoning, it has also ushered in new life, new possibilities and opportunities, through the use of technology, new modes of outreach to the hungry and the isolated and lonely, she said.
“We are going to have to take some risks and lose something in order to gain it. But trust this, beloved: that new life is waiting. I promise you. Maybe you’ve already felt it. A lot of churches are reporting members who’ve shown up online that haven’t been in years.”
Spellers referenced her latest book, The Church Cracked Open: Disruption, Decline and New Hope for Beloved Community, scheduled for March 2021 release.
“No one asks to be cracked open or disrupted. We did not choose to land here in this wilderness. But, again and again God grasps the thing that was designed for pain and disruption and turns it, so it becomes a force for God’s justice and God’s dream. God may be primed to do just that with just us. So, we have to meet God in this moment.”
Throughout convention, Taylor thanked the team effort that made possible the two-day virtual gathering, including the youth presence in the Nov. 14 morning and noonday prayers and reflections, and as lectors during Nov. 15 worship.
Offertory donations will be equally divided among the One in the Spirit Covid-19 relief fund and the Episcopal Relief and Development, the disaster response agency of The Episcopal Church, “enabling us to help institutions and individuals hardest hit in the pandemic, as well as those who are finding creative ways through this wilderness time to continue to gather in community, worship and serve because, if we are all in this together, it’s vital that not one of us be left behind,” Taylor said.
Donations may still be made here.
The emergency appeal has raised $210,000, funding a total of 18 grants. As the 125th annual meeting of the diocese got underway Nov. 14, Taylor invited the diocesan community to reach a goal of $250,000 by year-end.
Deadline for applications for the next round of grants was Nov. 16. The relief fund will continue to operate as long as the Covid emergency continues.
The 125th annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles concluded as Taylor dismissed worship. The 2021 convention is planned for Nov. 12 – 13 at the Riverside Convention Center.
A gallery of additional photos from convention is here.