Folks come to the Church of The Holy Communion in Gardena from all over the world and enjoy the unifying comfort and power of state-of-the-art Episcopal-Anglican liturgy. The acolytes are brilliantly trained, and the singing — hymns from the hymnal and “Lift Every Voice And Sing” — is full-throated even in these still-muted COVID days.
I was along today to preside, preach, and celebrate Holy Eucharist. The longtime vicar, the Rev. Arthur Toro, who retires this fall, and I had hoped to be there together. But the complexities of planning his vacation trip to Kenya ruled it out, leaving the able bishop’s warden, Jennifer S. Ramclam, retired after 30 years with the LAPD, in charge of the proceedings, along with her sister and fellow PD veteran and my chaplain for the day, Judi Stuart-Lewis, and church administrator extraordinaire Esther Mungoma.
While we missed the vicar, the Holy Spirit came nevertheless to confirm Kirk, 15, and his sister, Erin, 17, a senior with her eye on Howard University. We also commissioned Jennifer as a Eucharistic minister and Kayla and Amir, yet another pair of siblings, as acolytes.
Back at the organ after a couple of years was Van Young, one of the most intuitive church musicians I’ve ever served with. He always knew when to repeat or subtract a verse. After my sermon, I turned to the wall to gulp half a bottle of water. Van spotted it and added some liturgical filler music.
The choir was off today, so Erin, with her strong alto voice, served as cantor, starting the “Gloria” so quickly that it took a moment for Van to catch up. I asked how he matched the key so quickly. He said that Erin, his former student, had started at the right pitch.
Right on the the note, full of spirit, faith, and love, Holy Communion is in the same leaky boat on the Sea of Galilee as any number of missions and parishes. Christ is alive, but the cash is sometimes shaky. We need to lift the burden of financial anxiety so our churches can devote all their energy to glorifying God and caring for God’s people. Mission leaders in Gardena are exploring whether they can finance and build housing on their site, which would relieve the anxiety as well as the housing shortage. Betsy Densmore of Episcopal Enterprises and Lynn Kious of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles’ real estate task force are on the case with sleeves rolled up.
In the meantime, Pastor Adrien Ngalima is bringing his Reconciliation Christian Ministries congregation to nest at Holy Communion, yet another example of the practical ecumenism taking place all over the diocese. I met with him and his elders and sons after this afternoon’s luncheon reception, which featured Janice Longobardi’s legendary coconut tarts. Plans are also afoot to recommence the annual Holy Communion international festival next summer. The spirit is fully alive in Gardena. Indeed it is uncontainable. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, come and see.