For Trinity Sunday at St. Hilary’s Episcopal Church in Hesperia, in the desert above the Cajon Pass, we didn’t have a smidge of June gloom — just shining sun and faces as seven were confirmed or received in The Episcopal Church.
Along to preach and preside, my first Sunday visit to this lovely campus in five long years, I was the guest of the Rev. Jonathan Sy, whose deep, Christ-centered spirituality has struck a chord with his diverse congregation. Shouts of joy attended his announcement this morning that he planned to stay as priest in charge through the end of next year rather than step down this December.
Especially delighted was my chaplain for the day, Frank O’Kelley, Fr. Jon’s right-hand man around church. Pastor Connie Cravens conducted the full-voiced choir while accompanying them on her Fender American. She programmed a tasty mixture of contemporary and traditional selections.
It also turned out to be a big day in Frank’s family. His mother, Margot, died at Eastertide last year. Word was slow reaching Frank’s brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Virginia, in the Philippines. Learning they’d arrived in town this week, Fr. Jon quickly drew up a liturgy for scattering Margot’s ashes in the memorial garden nestled along the pretty church’s brilliant white walls.
St. Hilary’s has a long tradition of Bienvenido to members of the queer community. In their spiritual biographies, all seven of our confirmation and reception candidates mentioned this mission church’s broad understanding of Christ’s heart of justice and the plurality of those made in God’s image. Our gospel reading this morning, from Matthew, included the Great Commission. Before church, the candidates and I talked about St. Hilary’s both as a place of sanctuary as well as a base camp for going back into the world to model Episcopal values in a society in which so much work still needs to be done, with some in politics determined to claw back the progress that’s been made.
And yet we have so many blessings to count, thanks to those who worked so long and so hard for change in our church. A couple introduced me to their mother and mother-in-law, who visits each year from Nicaragua for six months and told me she wishes there were an Anglican church at home that would be as welcoming as St. Hilary’s to her daughter and daughter-in-law.
For a joyful reception after church, Fr. Jon had arranged for a roasted pig as his contribution to a lavish potluck, not to mention Filipino dancing, giving everyone a chance to work off lunch. St. Hilarians also serve thousands of hearty meals to food insecure neighbors each year. Coordinator Caron Budkowski organizes a Laundry Love every Thursday.
St. Hilary’s is also rich in socioeconomic diversity. Filmmaker Mario J. Novoa, received this morning (alongside his spouse, Will, the people’s warden, who was confirmed), has produced two public television documentaries about the the southern California queer community, including “Unidad,” the story of Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos, our region’s first major queer Latin@ organization.
Over lunch, I had a rich conversation about high desert housing insecurity with two longtime members who’d had their own brushes with it many years ago, one as a social worker and non-profit leader who’d had a job setback, the other from living in her van for five months. They’re now focused on helping others through hard times.
For me, the Holy Trinity is all about family and community, about God wanting no one to be alone — and today, Trinitarian values were on full display in the June gleam in people’s eyes and the festival smiles on their faces. St. Hilarians have got one another’s backs, and their neighbors’ as well.