Inviting friends for a Lenten Bible study at his Los Angeles home 20 years ago, Canon Randolph Kimmler, a gifted Christian educator and deeply intuitive lay leader, probably thought it was a chrysalis for a church. Or so say his friends.
Before long, they called it Holy Spirit, an emergent community built around the fellowship of the table. On Sunday mornings most of us wait until after church for coffee and donuts. Yet the New Testament makes pretty clear that Holy Eucharist began as a meal for the body as well as the soul. So at Holy Spirit, fellowship and dinner are first, God’s word, the prayers, and the sacraments second, and dessert is third, all served from the same table.
Once the community outgrew Randy’s living room, it gathered in several locations in Silver Lake and Atwater Village. Beginning this summer, it’s called Holy Spirit on the Lake, since the community now meets at St. Paul’s Commons, Echo Park, on the shores of Echo Park Lake. Or, if you will, the Sea of Galilee. Visit our lake on the weekend and behold the plural face of Los Angeles, making it a perfect place for a church to fish for people, as Jesus did in Galilee, if it is really serious, as The Episcopal Church needs to be, about its plural, multicultural, polylingual destiny.
Getting our neighbors across Echo Park Ave. on a Thursday evening will be the trick. It will be easier once the word gets out about the enchiladas in two kinds, chocolate cake, Mary Kingman’s chocolate chip cookies, and especially the spirit of gracious welcome. The community feels like family. People come from all over town, some who are affiliated with other churches, others who say Holy Spirit is their main event. Organizers share presiding and teaching duties and invite a guest priest or bishop to celebrate at Holy Eucharist.
I was up last night and was also offered the chance to say a few words of official welcome to Holy Spirit now that it’s gathered down at the lakeside. The community has always had exquisite liturgy, another of Randy’s legacies. We used one of the Very Rev. Kay Sylvester’s sublime eucharistic prayers: “By your grace we were bold to move beyond culture and self and welcome a new life centered in you.”
The work of Christ’s church in our time includes helping people move beyond our culture of institutionalized prejudice, no matter what the odds. Last night’s was Holy Spirit’s annual Pride service. Organizers displayed photos and clippings about heroes and milestones in the struggle for equity for queer people. Recent political setbacks were on everyone’s minds. Longtime member Steve Price led a reflection on readings from the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, among the great prophets of Episcopal justice, and from Matthew’s gospel, which promises the rewards of heaven to those who do their best to live lives of justice, righteousness, and hospitality — like the people of Holy Spirit by the Lake. Read more here.