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When it comes to vocational discernment, it often takes a priest to know one. The Rev. Jerry Sather was ordained in 2017, while serving as an Air Force chaplain. A former Nazarene and Methodist pastor, he was leading a service at MacDill AFB in Tampa one day when my House of Bishops classmate the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright came to worship. Carl’s ministry is to military and other federal personnel worldwide, and something about this chaplain’s style caught his ear and heart. He asked Jerry, “When are you going to enlist in the Episcopal Church?”

After retiring from chaplaincy in 2020, Jerry and his spouse, Annette, who works as a school nurse, moved to Irvine. Early this year he became interim priest at St Francis Palos Verdes, on the retirement of our former South Bay dean and my fellow 2007 Holy Land pilgrim, the Rev. Paula Vukmanic. Along with senior warden Holly Henebry (who also served as my expert chaplain) and St. Francis stalwart Dick Briggs, he was gracious host when I visited the breathtaking campus yesterday.

The Holy Spirit had a busy morning. Susana Graves was received and Suellen Eslinger confirmed in The Episcopal Church. We observed St. Francis’ patronal feast, Fr. Jerry having presided Saturday at the annual blessing of the animals. Remembering that 40% of those who died from COVID lived or worked in convalescent care facilities, where isolation and loneliness are rife, we celebrated the ministry of the Rev. Celeste S. Stump, the St. Francis deacon, as the chaplain at the nearby Canterbury and said three cheers for longtime member Joni McEntyre, who turned 100 Sunday. I preached and celebrated Holy Eucharist.

After church, Gloria Jones showed me a parish hall full of members’ donations that will be up for sale next Friday and Saturday, Oct. 15-16, at the famous St. Francis rummage sale. Some amazing items will be on offer, beautifully displayed. Just think about two years’ pent up supply and demand!

Meanwhile the Friars served up Italian sausage and grilled vegetable sandwiches. Fr. Jerry and Dick arranged for me to speak and take questions over lunch about their rector search and plans at the diocese.

And that was the really fun part. As we give thanks for the temples and parish families to which we’ve returned from the wilderness, what better time for all of us to think of new ways to glorify God and care for God’s people? Neighbors whom St. Francis hasn’t met yet nevertheless yearn for its spirit of family welcome. In these anxious times, it’s true at all our places, 133 churches in six counties. Our neighbors probably don’t know what “Episcopal” means. But they’ll know it as soon as they know our love. Read more about St. Francis here.