As the Holy Spirit would have it, my visit today to Saint John’s La Verne came a week after its vicar, the Rev. Elizabeth Kronenberg, announced that she’d been called to join the staff of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston.
Mo. Liz’s vicarship has been unlike any other at this mission church, having begun just two Sundays before the pandemic came down on our heads in March 2020. St. John’s will miss her energetic, friendly leadership. Her last day will be Ash Wednesday, coinciding with Valentine’s Day this year. Valentine hearts will be heavy as she imposes ashes for the last time on people whom, she told me, she had found easy to love.
Yet the Holy Spirit blows where she will — and for all we know, one day she’ll call Liz, her spouse, Danielle, who is about to start medical school, and their happy four-month-old daughter, Violet, back our way. For now, this growing family will be closer to Liz’s family in Irving, Texas, where her father is a consultant and retired megachurch pastor, and Danielle’s family in London.
I was along to preach and celebrate at a Holy Eucharist service and then spend nearly two hours taking members’ questions over lunch. The congregation, small but hearty, included the Rev. Canon Judith A. Heffron, one of our most respected retired priests, who lives nearby and helps regularly at St. John’s. Dana Ratcliff ran the sound and video. James Donaldson was our cantor and Cameron Lopez, a Bonita High School freshman, our crucifer.
Jim Longthorne, who runs the prayer ministry, helped set the stage for our strategic conversation. As at many of our missions and parishes, finances are a worry. Unsure how long they can afford a full-time priest, folks are naturally a little anxious about the way forward. I promised to walk with them each step of the way. Jesus Christ rose from the dead to save all creation. Surely that means our God in Christ has a plan for St. John’s and its faithful people. All in all, this Third Sunday after the Epiphany was a perfect day to hear Jesus’s 19-word sermon, the only sermon anyone ever really needs: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”