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To celebrate Ascension Day the Rev. Canon David Caffrey-style, I ascended along Twentynine Palms Highway to his Desert Journeys Retreat Center just inside the Twentynine Palms city line, headquarters for this veteran desert denizen’s abundant ministry of worship and welcome.

For a service of Holy Eucharist in the chapel, we were about 16 strong, including friends from St. Joseph of Arimathea Episcopal Church in Yucca Valley (including my wonderful and devoted warden, Joanne Sayers) and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Palm Springs.

As he always does, Fr. Dave planned a beautiful liturgy, including time for congregants to share and for his own thoughtful Ascension Day reflections. It’s a vital if sometimes overlooked (church on Thursday?) part of the Easter package, he said, since the risen Christ had to loose corporeal bonds to heal and love the world. And for God’s work to be accomplished, the canon said, ours is crucial. On behalf of all of us, he asked the forgiveness of our God in Christ for not having taken the measures dictated by common sense, not to mention the spirit of God, to forestall horrors such as Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde.

Then it was out to the patio for a potluck cookout, with our host at the grill. Plenty of good church, political, and pastoral talk ensued.

Former rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Redlands, renowned vicar of the high desert, encourager of untold vocations, lifelong Christian educator and leader, Fr. Dave especially distinguishes himself as a gatherer of community, which he does by throwing open his arms and his doors. It’s his nature and priestly charism (meaning it’s priestly to gather and love God’s people, ordination or not; let’s chew on that!).

He has so much to teach the 21st century church. If you contact him at his Facebook page, or leave a message (jtaylor@ladiocese.org) for me to pass along to him, he’ll put you on his mailing list for a dozen or so Desert Journeys events each year. He can also accommodate small groups for spiritual retreats, including Morning and Evening prayer each day in the chapel.