On a Sunday in August nearly 20 years ago, I climbed into my black Dodge Daytona in the parking lot of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Fullerton to head home. I was ending my curacy under the Rev. Canon Mark Shier, my friend and mentor, and preparing to serve as vicar of St John Chrysostom Church in Rancho Santa Margarita.
St. Andrew’s had welcomed my family and me in 1995 and helped form me for ordained ministry. Leaving was a wistful moment — all the more so after nine-year-old Grace Peterson knocked on the passenger window, reached in, and handed me a little stuffed dog from a McDonald’s Happy Meal as a goodbye present.
I kept it in the glove box of the Daytona and in the glove boxes of two succeeding Saturns and three Hondas. Little guy and I have logged a few hundred thousand miles together, including the trip back to St. Andrew’s this morning for a visitation with confirmations — brothers Draike, 16, and Zander, 18; 13-year-old Joseph, who acolytes almost every week; and Debby, wise stalwart of the amazing parish choir. They were ably prepared for the rite by Hart Roussel, one of two amazing postulants for Holy Orders at St. Andrew’s. Miriam Helene Edwards is the other. Hart also served graciously as my chaplain.
At high tea afterward in the parish hall, Grace was aboard with her parents, Jane and Dave. She and her husband, James, are expecting their first child in September. We stood in a circle and prayed a blessing on their growing family — mom, dad, Grace, and (forgive me) the little McDonald’s dog, which I’d brought in from the car. Grace didn’t quite remember giving it to me, but that’s okay. We often don’t remember when we manifest grace to others. But they always remember, and so does God.
So many friends and colleagues in church today, including former longtime secretary of convention Canon Janet Wylie and her daughter-in-law, Diocesan Council secretary and my St. Paul’s Commons, Echo Park colleague Samantha Wylie. Today was also the Rev. Canon John Kimball Saville III’s last day after six months of St. Andrew’s Sundays. Beloved retired rector of St. John’s in Corona, Fr. John and Kathleen are off tomorrow on an epic cross-country driving trip.
St. Andrew’s is on a long journey as well. Soon an interim priest in charge will be in place, followed by a search for a new rector to succeed the Rev. Dr. Beth Kelly, an innovative priest who has moved to North Carolina. Meanwhile this famously welcoming parish will continue its care of one another and its neighbors through its legendary soup kitchen, clothes closet, and community garden.
A clergy transition on top of a global pandemic tends to breed anxiety in a congregation. But Fr. John’s friendly, faithful ministry has been a great gift. During this morning’s service, he continued his long tradition of presenting Angli-Can Awards. Mine was chicken noodle soup, with a mitre fashioned by Kathleen, awarded for calming leadership during COVID. He should talk!
The coveted award came with reading materials, included a tract, “Evangelism for Everyone,” by my brother bishop the Rev. Frank Logue of Georgia. “When we find something we think others need or will enjoy,” he writes, “we let them know.” I’ve felt that way about St. Andrew’s for nearly 30 years. Learn more here.