The photo above shows the deacons, priests, and staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles on Wednesday morning as our annual clergy conference came to an end at the Mission Inn in Riverside. The photo was taken by Canon Janet Kawamoto, editor of The Episcopal News, and choreographed by Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy.

It’s wonderful to have this remembrance of a rich time of reflection, worship, and fellowship. As usual, since some colleagues had to leave early, our numbers were somewhat reduced from their high point Tuesday night, when we continued the tradition of sharing personal and vocational highlights since the year before.

Our presenter was Debie Thomas, self-described writer, seeker, and wonderer, author of Into the Mess & Other Bible Stories, a bracing volume on the life and teachings of Jesus that came out last year. She serves as minister for lifelong formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. Debie used the mysterious Emmaus story, where two of Jesus’s frightened followers encounter him late on the day of Resurrection, to build a three-session reflection on the cycle of lament, hope, and communion — the work of the church, and the work of humans.

Her scene setters, and our colleagues’ responses, were deeply moving. Before we celebrated Holy Eucharist and departed (Katherine Feng, KC Robertson, and Dominique Nicolette Piper were celebrant, preacher, and deacon of the mass), Debie left us with four gospel guidelines for navigating the church’s deconstruction and reconstruction: Notice when your heart begins to burn. Don’t underestimate the power of small gestures. Do the work necessary to allow strangers to host you. Share what you have.