The Rev. Canon Ginny Erwin, beloved 15-year rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Orange, an innovator in youth minsitry, who died in September, remembered sitting with her parents in their Lutheran church on Long Island when she was a little girl. Watching the pastor, she thought it would be good work for her.

Of course it was foreclosed in her denomination, and in those days in ours. Instead she excelled as a teacher, school administrator, and school district official. But as a girl, the spirit of God had come upon her. The Lord had anointed her. When The Episcopal Church finally caught up with Jesus and began ordaining women in the seventies, she became one of us and was ordained a priest in 1987.

When Trinity called her in 1991, she became the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles’ first female rector in Orange County. Then and now a hearty, friendly, and service-driven congregation, Trinity was determined to earn that feather. Both its finalists were women, and Nancy Houston Guthrie, pretty much my first friend in the diocese, too, catered the parish’s lunches for them during the final leg of the search process. Their friendship spanned the rest of Ginny’s life. Together with the Very Rev. Bill Dunn, who proclaimed the gospel at yesterday’s celebration of life at Trinity, Nancy visited Ginny regularly at her home in Beaumont as she battled dementia, taking me along with them once two years ago.

Invited by my fellow pilgrim the Rev. Steve Swartzell, Trinity’s interim priest in charge, to preach and celebrate, I called Nancy and asked if she had a story I could borrow for my homily that she wasn’t using in her own reflection during the service. (Ginny’s eloquent son Chip was our eulogist.) Nancy told me about the time Ginny was accidentally locked inside Canterbury Cathedral overnight and had to curl up in the 13th century throne of St. Augustine. If you’re a preacher, you know the warm, happy feeling you get when you’re offered a story like that. Typical of Nancy to give it away. It was like Bruce Springsteen giving Patti Smith “Because the Night” to record.

At a delicious lunch after the service, I sat with Trinity’s Roy Wojahn to talk about his late spouse and my friend and colleague, the Rev. Karen Ann Wojahn, and other matters of mutual interest. The joy that is Trinity swirled around us. So many friends and colleagues, including the Rev. Dr. Barbara Stewart, the Rev. Barrett Van Buren, Larry Haynes, and Joyce Wills, plus longtime Trinity member and former deanery president Mimi Grant tuning in from her and Bob’s new home in Nevada. Precious and unique are these moments we wish never came, when someone we love has died, and we gather to mourn, and the light perpetual can’t help shining through.