St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church – Malibu nestles unobtrusively on a hillside with a magnificent sea view it shares with its tenant, Wagon Wheel School. An outreach mission of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Santa Monica during the rectorship of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles’s future fourth bishop, Robert Rusack, St. Aidan’s was built in a cool, clean mid-fifties style, with flat roofs, square corners, and lots of light.

With 75 people, it’s pretty much full, and that was the case on Sunday as this lively congregation gathered for an exploration of the mysterious mind of our God in Christ, amply revealed in the day’s readings. Who had the heart to save Hagar and Ishmael when all Abraham and Sarah considered was Isaac’s prerogatives. Who claims we can live into our Christ selves so completely that we won’t be able to help doing our best. Who says that to find peace, we have give up all we have and love. I was along to unpack this and preside.

Speaking of all we have lost, the parish is still deep in mourning and celebration of its beloved deacon, the Rev. Paul Elder, whose work on behalf of the housing and food insecure continues in his memory, with his widow, Barbara, now stepping into co-leadership. My morning began with a meeting with vestry members in the parish hall, soon to be named for Paul.

In the front row during the service was 105-year-old May Weidmann, widow of the Rev. Charles Weidmann, the St. Aidan’s rector until his death in 1982, before that rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Fullerton (where I was formed under the mentorship of Chuck’s disciple, the Rev. Canon Mark Shier). Separated from May by 90 years but not even one of God’s heartbeats was Fennel Higley, who served as my chaplain, stood up to be confirmed, and is the first 15-year-old in recent memory I’ve heard use “nevertheless” in a sentence. May’s from Essex, England; Fen’s people are from Stratford-upon-Avon. At Fen’s side, Drew, Mark, and Rebecca all renewed their baptismal vows.

Overseeing it all was the St. Aidan’s rector since 2005, the Rev. Dr. Joyce Stickney. A Boston native, Joyce traveled the world in childhood thanks to her father, an MIT professor whose second vocation was using new technology to help people in the developing world. She attended Oberlin College and Fuller Theological Seminary. She and Paul have nine children all together. The four youngest, two in school and two on the brink of school, were with us at coffee hour on Sunday, enhancing the warm family feeling one gets visiting St. Aidan’s.

Her associate, the Rev. Ed Milkovich, who has an entertainment background, which he shares with of many of the parish’s members, was his usual ebullient self. Deborah A. Cornett, credited in the bulletin with “worship prep,” was exceedingly kind all morning. She smiled and teared up when we blessed the garden columbarium, where her parents, among the founders of St. Aidan’s, now rest. Thomas Craig Buckley is director of worship arts and Christian enhancement, Nathaniel Sherrill, at work on his latest gospel narrative reconciliation project, is the church administrator. Read more about their ministry here.