Luke is a high school freshman who enjoys math and English. Eugena is an art restorationist who has worked on Vermeers (of which 37 at most exist). Rita has been a civil rights attorney for over 30 years. All three stood before the altar at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Westchester – Los Angeles CA this morning and, in the rite of confirmation and reception, pledged all they are and all they have to the glory of God and the care of God’s people.
Holy Nativity is a friendly, diverse neighborhood church that brims with joy and welcome, stresses environmental sustainability, and supports Food Pantry LAX, Safe Place for Youth (S.P.Y), and, in a new collaboration with St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Mar Vista, Grassroots Neighbors, which gets hot meals to the housing insecure wherever they are on the streets.
The rector, the Rev. Michael Foley, was called in November 2020, in the teeth of the winter surge. Born in San Diego, formed at The Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, his gifts of being upbeat, friendly, and non-anxious enabled him to connect with and begin to nurture the pandemic-fragmented community. Speaking of gifts, senior warden John Michael Parrish is a political scientist and university executive. Junior warden Becky Schreiber’s vocations include child welfare advocate. Christian educator director Brad Elliott Stone (who doubled as crucifer this morning and tripled as my chaplain) is a philosophy professor.
I was along to preach and celebrate, meet with the vestry before church, and feast on tamales with the congregation outside afterward, in what John told me was the first event of its size since March 2020. Slap of Rapture, an Irish band that essayed “Wagon Wheel,” provided entertainment. Steve O’Loughlin, whose breathtaking artwork fills the church, was featured on flute and whistle.
They played during worship as well. Parish music leader Rose Chen blends disparate genres beautifully, from folk and hymns to her and choir member Christie Gaynor (confirmand Luke’s mom) offering of “I Will” (Lennon-McCartney) right before the peace — a fitting choice, as it turns out, for a confirmation service: “Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to, I will.”
Luke’s confirmation sponsor was the Rev. Peter H. Rood, Holy Nativity’s former rector, whose spouse, Christen, died earlier this year. He was bathed in love today — just what you’d expect from this parish. It’s hard to imagine coming once and not coming back.