Steven Trapasso, director of Seeds of Hope (upper right), addresses the June 13 meeting of Diocesan Council. (Not all council members who were present are pictured.) Screenshot

[The Episcopal News] Bishop John Harvey Taylor opened the June 13 online meeting of Diocesan Council by offering healing prayers for Canon Melissa McCarthy, who is recovering from recent surgery, before the group heard a report on the diocese’s thriving Seeds of Hope ministry.

Council also heard reports of an improved financial snapshot; the Program Group on Black Ministry and H. Belfield Hannibal Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians-hosted Juneteenth celebration; a leadership change for GLEAM, the diocesan LGBTQ+ ministry; Seeds of Hope’s budding partnership with the USC Coliseum; and the upcoming 81st General Convention of The Episcopal Church, June 23 – 28 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Seeds of Hope: ‘Partner of the Year’

Steve Trapasso, who joined Seeds of Hope in 2014 to teach nutrition education and healthy cooking classes and who succeeded Tim Alderson as executive director in January, told council that the diocesan food justice ministry is on track to distribute 10 million servings of fresh produce in 2024 – about 2 million pounds of food – to more than 64 Los Angeles County-area sites.

Seeds of Hope also received a “Partner of the Year” award June 13 from Changeist, a youth empowerment program formerly known as Big Citizen Hub, its second such award in a decade.

In 2023, Seeds of Hope:

  • Distributed 8 million servings of healthy produce
  • shared 1.6 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • served 180,000 households
  • managed 64 distribution sites in communities of need;
  • partnered and collaborated for change with 25 organizations

Seeds of Hope has created compost hubs in Hollywood, Eagle Rock and Echo Park to help offset food waste; is partnering with seven hospitals in the San Gabriel Valley to do emergency room food insecurity screenings and to connect people with resources, he said. Trapasso cited a host of other budding partnership opportunities, including:

  • partnering with the Jubilee Consortium, funded through a Trinity Church Wall Street $150,000 grant over two years, to develop sustainable food justice lay and clergy leadership in ten diocesan congregations;
  • California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal, or Cal-AIM, which seeks to enhance information sharing among managed care insurance plans. “We are just about to be approved to start billing Medi-Cal, Medicaid and insurance companies for the work that we do to help people stay out of the emergency room,” Trapasso said. “This is going to be a game-changer for us.”
  • A partnership with UCLA and QueensCare, which provides mobile dental and vision programs, to conduct health screenings at Seeds of Hope sites. Seeds of Hope staff and volunteers will assist by getting “people connected to the programs and services they need,” he said.
  • Establishment of three new LGBT center sites, bringing to five the total such sites offering Seeds of Hope services.
  • A USC-Coliseum partnership, potentially netting a percentage of concession stand sales to Seeds of Hope as a fundraiser. “I’m cautiously optimistic as to what this partnership will look like,” Trapasso said. “If we pick and choose maybe six events throughout the year, we could raise a good amount of money for the diocese and for Seeds of Hope, just by slinging hot dogs.”

Taylor noted the “possibility of real synergies between this food justice and food insecurity ministry … and the housing initiative. Housing insecurity and food insecurity go together, hand in hand. You can see the energy that Steve now brings to the ministry. An amazing second decade is underway under Steve’s leadership.”

Treasurer’s report: an improved financial snapshot

Canon Andy Tomat, diocesan treasurer, and an L.A. deputy to General Convention, submitted a written report, indicating the diocese ended April with a $119,281 (3%) year-to-date surplus, excluding grant-funded ministries.

Although the $372,703 mission share fund assessments received in April were lower than the $412,083 budgeted, “much of it was caught up in May,” Tomat reported, adding appreciation for congregations who continue to catch up past-due amounts.

Past due assessments declined another 28% in April “as several larger parishes got current after diocesan follow ups regarding their account balances.”

Tomat also reported that following the approval of Diocesan Council last month, seven churches received waivers totaling $90,637 from the 12% assessments which went into effect in 2024. “We received many appreciative emails from those churches granted relief, affirming the process and relief granted,” he wrote.

In April, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service, or IRIS, received year-to-date reimbursements of $1,113,042 with expenses of $1,053,955, a $59,086 surplus. IRIS staff “recently held an offsite meeting with their new advisory board as they move towards becoming a separately incorporated 501c3 institution of the diocese later this year – opening up their ability to secure new sources of fundraising,” he added.

Other reports of ministry

At May meetings, the Corporation of the Diocese and the Standing Committee both approved cell tower licenses at Grace Church in Moreno Valley and St. Paul’s Church in Lancaster, and a license for a daycare center at St. Timothy’s Church in Apple Valley, according to the Rev. Rachel Nyback, reporting for the corporation, and the Rev. Kate Cress, for the Standing Committee. Additionally, the corporation approved the sale of a non-sacred property.

Cress reported the Standing Committee approved an agreement between Wagon Wheel and St. Aidan’s Church in Malibu, and also consented to the elections of Olympia Bishop-elect Phil LaBelle and Massachusetts Bishop-elect Julia E. Whitworth.

Diocesan Episcopal Church Women President Christine Budzowski reported that the women’s wisdom circles continue to meet at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, networking and sharing ideas for outreach and other ministries. “I would really love to have representatives from each of the deaneries … (who) could report back to their deaneries about the group,” Budzowski said.

L.A. participation at the ECW and Daughters of the King Triennial gatherings, which run concurrently with General Convention, will be strong, she said, with members of both ministries offering leadership programs.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall reported that the Program Group on Mission Congregations has approved an affordable housing survey for mission congregations, “asking about their willingness to be involved in the diocesan affordable housing initiative.” Taylor said a similar survey may be sent to parishes also.

Convention updates

81st General Convention, June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky: As bishops’ vice chair of the International Affairs and Social Justice Committee, Bishop Taylor has crafted language for a substitute resolution for Resolution D013, “On the Imperative of a Palestinian State.”

“My goal was to draft something … comprehensive on this deeply painful and fraught relationship,” he said. “I was hoping to come up with language that would pass both houses.” (An Episcopal News Service story about the committee’s work is here.)

Secretary of Convention Canon Steve Nishibayashi reported that on June 21, L.A. deputy Thomas Diaz will moderate a 4 p.m. (Eastern time) livestreamed Q&A session for the five candidates for presiding bishop, available for viewing at a later date. The election will happen on June 26 at Christ Church Cathedral. “It’s going to be an exciting time,” Nishibayashi commented.

Nov. 8 – 9 diocesan convention: Nishibayashi also reported that the portal to file parochial reports to The Episcopal Church was reopened and the deadline to file them extended to June 15. He also said that those seeking opportunities to serve in diocesan ministries should check the convention website for information about offices open for election at convention.

GLEAM: a Pride parade, garden party and baton passing

Taylor and more than 100 Episcopalians participated in the June 9 Los Angeles Pride Parade, he reported. (his Bishop’s Blog post is here) He and Canon Kathy O’Connor hosted the annual garden party June 5 at the episcopal residence, where Thomas Diaz accepted a symbolic rainbow-colored baton from the Very Rev. Christopher Montella as new convener of the diocesan commission, known as GLEAM.

The parade “was filled with so much story, joy, and I want to say resiliency as well,” said Diaz, a member of All Saints Church in Pasadena.

Taylor also noted the series of services hosted by the Program Group on Black Ministries, and the H. Belfield Hannibal Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, most recently a May 18 celebration of the ministry of retired Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Chet Talton. He invited the entire diocesan community to a celebration of Juneteenth at St. John’s Cathedral on June 15.

He encouraged everyone’s attendance. “We would love it, if the whole diocese understood that these services are for the whole diocese,” he said, adding, “and they are magnificently put together.”

Council meets next at 4 p.m., Thursday July 11, online.