At St. Michael’s University Church in Isla Vista this morning, we coped as best as we could with the paradox of proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ even as entombing shadows reached all the way from Buffalo, where a white supremacist yesterday shot 13, including 11 Black people, the ones he came to murder. Eleven are dead. The vicar and chaplain, the Rev. Scott Claassen, began the service by calling us to the work of solidarity with all at risk from racist violence.
We then proclaimed the love of the risen Christ and our opportunity and responsibility to love all those we encounter as God loves us, so that we might be stumbling blocks to people who would otherwise feel free to behave as though the power of God has gone out of the world. With its commitments to food and environmental justice, racial justice, critical thinking (so many from UC Santa Barbara, from freshmen to top professors), interfaith conversation, and radical inclusion, this is a community well acquainted with Christian love in action.
St. Mike’s was founded as a campus ministry in 1954, the same year the university opened. It’s near the heart of the campus. The worship is exuberant and accessible. Scott, a brilliant songwriter and recording artist, fronts the praise band. I was along to preach and celebrate. I mentioned seeing the Grateful Dead, one of Scott’s influences, in Isla Vista 5/20/73, when they opened with “Bertha.” The Rev. Kathleen Moore, a UCSB professor and specialist on women in the Arabic world, was deacon of the mass. Undergraduates offered an a cappella offertory anthem.
The Rev. Toni Freeman Stuart, a retired priest ordained by Bishop Fred Borsch, offered the reading from Acts, where we learned that the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that God didn’t want ancient food restrictions, once adopted to help people stay healthy, to keep them from relationships with one another nor from the love of Christ. If the rule keeps people from the knowledge and love of God, I proposed, then question the rule. And yet I offered a rule of my own, or perhaps just a guideline: As apostles, the source of our authority and power to teach and heal in Jesus’s name is the loving way we behave toward other people in everyday life.
As the service ended, Scott presented several gifts, including some guitar picks. Righteous! After church, master gardener Linda Nelson offered a tour of the working garden that rings the church, including beds the community is invited to tend, and a rose garden named for her mother, Priscilla. One plot is maintained by a local collective of Black women.
Read more about St. Mike’s and its ministries here.