Eighteen pilgrims celebrated Christ the King Sunday at All Saints Riverside today by standing up in the great congregation to be confirmed or received or to renew their baptismal vows. They did it, they said, because they wanted God’s guidance. Because they wanted to participate in the joy of God’s love. Because they had found community, family, and belonging at All Saints. Because it makes a place for everyone.
And so it has, even when the germ kept everyone out of the place. When the rector, the Rev. Canon Kelli Grace Kurtz, hosted vestry members, wardens, lay leaders, and me at the rectory after church for a question and answer session, she showed me an orange Adirondack chair in the backyard. In early pandemic days, she said, she sat looking at the white cross atop Mt. Rubidoux and praying for guidance.
She decided to lean into the crisis. All Saints barely skipped a beat, using the wilderness time to renovate its office suite while launching a food outreach ministry, ministering to the housing insecure and its Laundry Love clients, and continuing to advocate and show up for at-risk neighbors.
While carefully observing health protocols and developing a sophisticated livestreaming ministry, they recommenced in-person worship as soon as the state and county permitted. I’d last visited on All Saints Sunday in early November 2020. It was my first in-person visitation since that March and a day for which I’ll always give thanks. It was the day I realized the church would be fine.
With paper doves soaring, and most of us drenched in red, it felt like an extra Pentecost today. I was along to preach, celebrate, and do the honors with the great eighteen. About 120 were in church, many coming to the altar to present 2022 pledge cards as we sang “Shall We Gather at the River.” The All Saints Choir, directed by minister of music Abraham Fabella, was in full voice, including on Jane Marshall’s “My Eternal King,” the offertory anthem. Their fifth-verse descant on “Crown Him With Many Crowns” was especially thrilling. With her spouse, Luke, program manager Lindy Colaluca-Polling engineered the live stream while taking time out to be confirmed. My gracious chaplain was senior minister of worship Mary Ellen Gruendyke.
After church, we blessed the new All Saints labyrinth and did some Christmas shopping with Bethlehem Handicrafts. Today was also my annual preacher’s waltz with the conundrum of Christ the King Sunday, first proclaimed in 1925 by Pius XI, appalled by the carnage of World War I and the rise in European nationalism that would lead to a worse bloodletting beginning in 1939. Begging the world to acknowledge Christ’s sovereignty in sacrifice was a cry in the wilderness. The world had put its trust not in the grace of Christ but in states and strongmen.
In our secularizing time, we’re invited to put our faith in politics. We’re so divided right now, red and blue, heartland and coastland, rich and poor. We still struggle to respect the dignity and equality of every human being. A sense of common purpose persists in eluding us. But not at All Saints. The church may yet have something to teach the world about the sovereignty of God’s love.