Just last November, during Thanksgiving week, 18 candidates stood to be confirmed and anointed by the Holy Spirit at All Saints’ Beverly Hills, and I was there. Yesterday, 16 more appeared, ten middle and high school-age, six fully grown, all well prepared and catechized by associate rector the Rev. Michael Sahdev, so I was there again.
All Saints’ spirit of discipleship indeed remains alive. This week a new small-groups ministry begins, inviting people to gather by geography, prophetic passion, vocation, hobby, or love of bible study, books, or movies. The lively LGBTQ+ affinity group meets this week as its program year gets underway. The Rev. Daniel Tamm, a member of the Bishop’s Commission on Climate Change, has organized a month-long study of Katharine Hayhoe’s book Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.
Besides my work as the Holy Spirit’s acolyte during Sunday’s confirmations, with Canon Kathy Hannigan O’Connor, I was along to preach and celebrate Holy Eucharist. So much to bring under the mighty wing of the gospel — the Sept. 11 anniversary, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the parish’s rocky experiences during the pandemic. Holy Scripture was our dependable guide. We heard from the Hebrew Testament about the people of God in the wilderness, worshiping the golden idol of their grievances instead of the one God who promised to save, love, and bear them through.
But we won’t be like that, will we? Gathered together for an informal conversation after church and a gracious reception by the able priest-in-charge, the Rev. Canon Andrea McMillin, the wardens and vestry evinced a spirit of thanksgiving, hope, and curiosity. During the beautiful service, where Canon Dr. Craig Phillips had the mighty All Saints Choir at full force, Jonathan Roberts was my kind, attentive chaplain. As always, Nate Hicks knew right when to turn the page in the service book.
I even got to bless a beautiful wooden cross fashioned by junior warden John Tan, which will be used to lead children from church to Sunday school. It reminded me all the jokes about how much Episcopalians like processions. And yet if, like All Saints, we just keep moving forward in unity amid diversity, our eyes ever fixed on the horizon and its invitation to beloved community, we can’t go wrong.