On a side street in Arcadia, in the San Gabriel Valley, the mission-style Episcopal Church of The Transfiguration stands in perfect proportion to its surroundings, set back modestly from the street, shadowed by what the Rev. Bob Burton told me is the only carob tree in the neighborhood. It was first consecrated as St. Mary’s Chapel at the former Deaconess House in Boyle Heights. The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles moved the building here in the late forties. People still remember seeing it make its stately way down Lemon Ave.
As often happens, as I was warmly welcomed on Sunday to preach and celebrate, long-time members told me about days of three Sunday services and folding chairs lining the aisles to accommodate the crowds. And yet there were still many blessings to count. Beautiful worship and music, live and live-streamed (Pasadenan Paul Stephenson is organist and choir director). Devoted wardens Melody James and Chuck Milliner and their vestry colleagues, remaining in office to provide continuity in a long season between rectors. The church’s well-respected preschool and its unstinting outreach support of Unity Center, Friends Outside, and Hillsides. As assisting priest, Bob’s devoted preaching and sacramental ministry is cheerfully supported by his spouse, Marlene Mayo Burton; they arrived in Bob’s blue ‘Vette. They follow the distinguished rectorship of the Rev. Dr. Julie Bryant and well-appreciated interim ministry of the Rev. Canon Ada Wong-Nagata.
It was a blessing to have Ginger Conway, daughter of the late Rev. Canon Sam D’Amico, legendary priest of our diocese, serve as my chaplain. After church and lunch al fresco, and before sitting down with the vestry, I got to meet members of New Life Church, who offer worship and praise to God every Sunday in the parish hall. Chuck told me another church has started worshiping here at four each Sunday. Such practical ecumenism is one of the keys to sustainability in this transitional era for our church as it grows in confidence as costeward of true Christian orthodoxy.
I told New Life about our diocesan Lunar New Year service on Feb. 12. And I promised the Transfiguration congregation and vestry that the diocese and I were committed to relieving the grinding anxiety borne by churches that are doing gospel work, glorifying God and caring for God’s people, and yet worrying about whether the church will even survive. I have high hopes — especially after senior warden Melody’s ten-month-old daughter, Peyton, was so excited to be in church that she took her first official crawl in the choir ten minutes before the 9 a.m. service.