When I visited St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Corona, CA in March 2020, I proved to be the harbinger of doom. Two weeks later, we had to close every mission and parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles because of the pandemic. Returning on Sunday for a visitation, I said that I prayed it would portend nothing more dramatic than the regularly scheduled summer solstice on Wednesday.
Famous for its spirit of fellowship, St. John’s’ rector these five years has been the Rev. Dr. Patricia Stansfield, who twins her scientific background (she once worked at a nuclear power station in Canada) with a deep spirituality open to discerning the dynamic relationship between God and God’s people.
Under her leadership, look for St. John’s to continue to extend its pastoral gifts beyond its beautiful campus. One example is its hospitality to its nesting congregation. Mother Patricia gave me a tour of the parish hall, which has been reconfigured to accommodate a 500-member Coptic Orthodox congregation. The smell of incense took me right back to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
During the service, we commemorated Juneteenth and Pride Month and received two people into The Episcopal Church and three who renewed their baptismal vows, including Lynn Nickens, a clinical social worker serving an internship year at St. John’s as she discerns her call to church leadership. Lynn gave me a copy of a resource guide to local services she’d created for St. John’s that would be a good example for other missions and parishes to follow.
We also inducted three new members into the parish’s famously active chapter of the the Daughters of the King. The junior warden, Ed Corpuz, a mechanical engineer and college teacher, served graciously as my chaplain. David Young is the longtime organist.
The church laid on a delicious potluck after church, where Jim Gardner, spouse of vestry member Robin, questioned me closely about my prior vocation (after I had received the gift of an oatmeal box-sized depiction of my current one). Also during lunch, five-year-old Pippi and I had a delightful chat about her pending trip to the playground and her dancing, which she demonstrated and said is “somewhere between ballet and jazz.” Her dad reminded me that I’d offered the family a blessing on Pippi’s impending birth when I visited St. John’s during Mother Patricia’s final interview back in 2017. Two good harbingers that day!