It’s a year of milestones at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Irvine, CA. In September, the 50th anniversary of its first worship service in a nearby school. Paying off the mortgage for the church and its renowned Children’s Center preschool. And coming before the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles at our annual convention in November with its beautifully crafted proposal for parish status (it’s been a mission church all these years).

All this in the 20th year of the vicarship of the Very Rev. Peter Browning, who has also overseen a “revive and restore” project that has made the interior and exterior of the church more welcoming, practical, and beautiful, especially the Fellowship Court, an indoor-outdoor space perfect for, say, a Mother’s Day breakfast served by the men of St. Andrew’s. With all that, Peter is dean of the clergy in central and south Orange County as well, providing pastoral support to his colleagues while helping guide the diocese through and out of COVID.

Appreciation for Peter was the theme of my visit to St. Andrew’s on Sunday, where I presided, preached, and played my assigned liturgical role as the Holy Spirit came down and confirmed Michael Caprini. Both his sons having already been confirmed at St. Andrew’s, Michael felt he was due. Nestled in a suburban neighborhood not far from UC Irvine, the diverse congregation has both a family and a think tank feel. Professors and physicians abound. The acolytes’ parents were state Sen. Dave Min, a congressional candidate in November, and his spouse, UCI law professor Jane K. Stoever, acclaimed expert in domestic violence law. Notwithstanding all the accumulated wisdom, something everyone agreed on is that Peter’s leadership and unfailing graciousness have been the essential ingredients in enabling St. Andrew’s to grow, thrive, and keep moving forward in an era of considerable pessimism about the denominational church. His educator spouse Melissa Calvin Browning has also played vital role, as has the congregation’s unity in support of their many justice and outreach ministries, including housing refugee families in cooperation with IRIS Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service, Los Angeles.

Under the direction of minister of music Paul Sammon, the St. Andrew’s Choir sounded wonderful.

My volunteer chaplain, Micah Lakes-Kay, a junior at Orange County School of the Arts, specializing in stagecraft, put Bishop Bloy’s crozier together in 57 seconds, which as far as Micah knows is a record. The children showed me the stepping stone mosaics they’d made, just installed on the lawn this week, yet another project of St. Andrew’s member and UCI astrophysicist Tammy Smecker-Hane, who also serves as the diocesan United Thank Offering coordinator.

The tiles depict creation, wisdom, family, and love and other evidences of the ongoing work of our God in Christ. You experience it now when you walk on the lawn at St. Andrew’s and always when you walk through the doors. It’s been a great half-century, St. Andrew’s, and an astonishing 20 years, Dean Peter.