As the people of 138-year-old St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in San Pedro gathered on Sunday for their annual meeting and patronal feast (transferred from Jan. 18), we didn’t know if LVI would be the Super Bowl of the ram or the bengal. But thanks to Lunar New Year celebrations, we already knew that 2022 would the year of the tiger — brave, strong, and relentless, just like this resourceful parish’s patron.
At least Peter 2.0 was that way, shining in the light of Resurrection. Peter 1.0 folded at the first sign of trouble. Looking within, I encounter both. Some days, I roar; others, I whimper. With Peter, knowing Christ is risen, knowing all will be well, I can find my inner Bengal even amid difficulty and loss.
I was along to preach, celebrate, and sit in on the annual meeting, conducted with aplomb by the St. Peter’s rector these 11 years, the Very Rev. Jeanette Repp, who also serves as dean of the missions and parishes in her part of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Jeanette thought she’d be a biologist until she felt the call to ordained ministry (as well as an advanced degree in social work). This energetic, creative priest, a skilled fundraiser to boot, served churches in Chicago before the Holy Spirit delivered her to Los Angeles.
The Rev. Dr. Ruth Eller assists her. Though she is ostensibly retired, Jeanette reckons her as a Godsend. Before becoming a priest, Ruth was a teacher at the Bishop’s School in San Diego. Wendall Young was subdeacon. During the service, we all ventured to the narthex to bless a display cabinet dedicated in memory of a few beloveds this loving place had lost; Erica Carr and the Rev. Canon Art Bartlett and Fran Bartlett.
For the offertory anthem, with Don Briggs on piano, Matt Perry doubled on vocals and soprano sax for Gregory Porter’s “Take To The Alley,” which imagines Jesus Christ saying, “Take me to the alley/Take me to the afflicted ones/Take to the lonely ones” — not to the palace the well-meaning had prepared for his glorious return. Helping hold this diverse, friendly parish together in difficult times is its commitment to a broad range of community organizations and causes, from Laundry Love to Dean Repp’s work ensuring that, when the City of San Pedro redevelops affordable housing, the housing insecure actually get to move back in.
The rector and senior warden Jean Foster reported at the annual meeting that St. Peter’s is weathering pandemic well. Each went out of her way to lift up and celebrate everyone who had made life at St. Peter’s as good as it can be. Among them were three vestry candidates and the members of an inclusion committee St. Peter’s created after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 to study racism in the U.S. and the church.
Among the committee’s members is a retired City of Long Beach petroleum engineer, Emmanuel Durojaiye, who served graciously as my chaplain during worship. He gave me a copy of the committee report, “The More You Know: In Celebration of Black History Month.” His spouse, Michelle Durojaiye, an Emmy Award-winning former journalist, now an executive at City of Hope, wrote about half the chapters, including evocative biographies of Ida B. Wells and Cicely Tyson and a bracing account of a brutal racist attack during the sixties in New Jersey that left her twin sister, Collette, unconscious. The family took her attacker to court and won. To see how Christ helps win a victory every day at a parish where good people and servant leaders faithfully do the work of glorifying God and caring for God’s people, go see St. Peter’s. Read more here.