Leaders of Episcopal Asiamerican Ministries in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles planned last night’s Lunar New Year celebration at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Monterey Park long before the gun violence murders that occurred just two weeks ago, just a few blocks away.
Ecclesiastes, read out at the service, teaches that there’s a time to laugh and a time to weep — not necessarily because God planned it that way, but because human actions inspired by hatred, fear, and prejudice keep filling oceans with tears. And yet faith can turn weeping into laughter just because people come together, remember, and gather one another’s light. Each church service is a healing miracle of Jesus Christ’s for someone, or so we pray.
And so it was last night in Monterey Park. I was along to open with a prayer and preach. We heard scripture and plenty more prayer, including from the Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy and from each of our Chinese language churches — St. Gabriel’s (the Rev. Canon Ada Wong-Nagata, who organized the event along with senior warden Anne Cheng), The Church of Our Saviour (The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ni and the Rev. Jeffrey Stoller Thornberg), and St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Hacienda Heights (the Rev. Dr. Fennie Hsin-Fen Chang). Also aboard were the Rev. Wingfu Chow (a priest from Hong Kong who is assisting at St. Gabriel’s this month), the Rev. John Phalen (who continues to have wonderful ideas about seminary education while offering unstinting support to Chinese ministry in our diocese), and the Rev. Katherine Feng (who told me about her visit to Church of the Holy Communion in Gardena that morning).
At a festive supper afterwards, former senior warden Tony Chu presided. All three churches offered more music. Honored guests were lifted up, and the sound of spirited conversation filled the rafters. Fr. Wingfu found that he and three other dinner guests had all gone to the same Hong Kong university. I asked them if they all sent the school plenty of money, and, typical alums, they laughed so hard. Because the darkness can never overcome the light.