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Here’s how Trinity Episcopal Church in Redlands spent the first Sunday in Advent.

The magnificent St. Dunstan’s Choir, under the direction of Canon Jeffrey Ricard, director of music since 1971, was back in full force for the first time since March 2020. The rector, the Rev. Paul Price, announced a season-long collection for Episcopal Relief & Development.

We baptized Jamison Stevens, a University of Redlands music composition major, on his 21st birthday. Four more brave souls stood before the altar and, in the rite of confirmation and reception, pledged all they are and all they have to the glory of God and the care of God’s people. We even blessed a new confirmation kneeler, lovingly hooked by Jean Hyman.

I was along to celebrate, preach, and help mediate God’s grace in all this good work. Fr. Paul and I were ministry interns together and then served side by side at St. John Chrysostom Church in Rancho Santa Margarita before the Holy Spirit swept him and his spouse, Cheryl, a registered nurse, away for their ministry in Riverside, Apple Valley, and now Redlands, where they’ve served devotedly for eight years. The church is famous for its preschool, Trinity Camp, and many outreach and service ministries to neighbors in need.

It was also a joy to see rector emeritus the Rev. Canon Lewis Hemmers, senior warden Nancy Doss (who sings in the choir, balances the diocesan budget on our new Joint Budget Committee, and represents our diocesan Out East realm on Diocesan Council), and newly elected Corporation of the Diocese director Marc Weniger and his scientist spouse, Wendy, the parish treasurer.

Redlands still has the feel of a frontier town, one of those places in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles that’s poised on a thin edge between coastal and heartland sensibilities. But Advent people are good at betwixt and between. Advent invites us to behold together the warm light of Christmas and the sharper light of Christ’s promised return – two chapters of the story at once, cut from the same cloth of God’s perfect and glorious unity.

How shall we live in between? That’s our perennial Advent and Lenten question. In Luke’s gospel, our Lord says don’t squander our energy and gifts, don’t worry, and be alert. Hence our spiritual practice. Hence our good Anglican devotion to good, moderate living, which is to say behavior that puts neither those we love nor ourselves or our neighbors at risk.

From the prophets and Christ’s teachings, the church has also wisely deduced that’s it’s not enough to anticipate God’s unity and justice. Advent people do all they can to bring them about — which is why it was a blessing to spend Advent I at a church where this beloved kingdom work is well and joyfully underway.