Archive for month: October, 2017

2017 Stewardship Stories, Part 4

October 29, 2017
29 Oct 2017

God’s work in Action

 Albert & DeDee Malafronte

In my 11 or 12 years as a St. James’ parishioner, I have been honored to work on and sometimes head a ministry or three, serve on the vestry, and occasionally make a lot of noise from the pulpit trying to help bring Christ’s story to life.

DeDee, who always worked Sundays at the pharmacy and was an Easter, Christmas Eve attendee, retired last year and has since been a regular parishioner and Prospect Manor volunteer.

I am a lifelong Episcopalian, who many years ago considered ministry as a career. Sadly, as life moved on, I was never able to find a church that moved me the way my childhood and young adult hood church in Connecticut did. But then I found, (or was found by) St. James’, South Pasadena.

DeDee, with little religious upbringing, was immediately drawn to Reverend Anne and her message and supported my desire to start pledging without hesitation, despite not yet being able to attend regularly.

We pledge because we have directly seen (through ministry involvement) the wonderful works that pledging enables St. James’ to do. Feeding the less fortunate citizens in our area, bringing the gospel to shut-ins, who without us would not have it, serving, as we can, the many homeless men and women in our city, this is God’s work in action and we are blessed and honored to be able to be a part of it. This is what we believe pledging and working on ministries does. And we truly believe there is nothing more important.


A Space for Light

Ashley Wilkins & Drew Carr

It’s hard to choose to be present in the world today. I, Drew, can easily be drawn into an electronic world of “You won’t believe who said this.” I am distracted by the ping of a notification. I’m frequently incensed by a tweet.  As I take a step back, I can see that I trade the physical world for bits of light flashing on a screen. I am distracted by the electronic world because in my own life I see a lot of darkness.

Ashley and I work as psychologists. We see the effect of darkness in the world. In the span of a couple of weeks, I’ve called Child Protective Services, the Ombudsman for the Elderly, and worked through someone attempting to take their own life. On a good day, I tell someone they don’t have a degenerative brain disease or that they are struggling with the same condition we all share – humanity.  Almost every day of the week Ashley hears about some of the worst things people do to other people through the horrors of war and other violence.  The world is dark and full of terrors.

There are too few places within our culture to rest. We’ve seen the dire effect on people when they do not have a supportive community who is able to hold their pain.  We know personally about the effect of hard living without a lot of hope that tomorrow will be brighter.  As such, we choose to support a community that offers light to the literal orphan, stranger, and widow, and the one that exists deep within all of us.

We each found St. James’ during a difficult time in our lives. Although Ashley was christened as an infant within the Episcopal Church, her family never attended services and the initial link to the Church was done in deference to the wishes of her grandparents.  Later friends would lead her to a personal faith, shaped and formed by a sister church community in Honduras, her geographical proximity to 9/11, and, a myriad of experiences that left her affected by the isolation and hurt of the world. She found in St. James’ a connection to her past and more importantly a community of people who deeply cared. In contrast, I was raised in a different faith community. That tradition used fear to elicit faith. The doctrine warned that unless I remained sinless I would be doomed. After a few attempts at being perfect, I gave up choosing to enjoy God’s damnation rather than live in quiet isolation.  I stayed outside any community for many years. A friend invited me to Sacramentum. People were quiet, open and welcoming. One little boy ran up to the altar, clearly during the wrong time, and the priest simply smiled at the boy, picked him up, and welcomed him in.  It became an invitation to him and to me. At different times and in different ways, both Ashley and I found a glimmer of hope and belonging under the rose window.

People need St. James’ to continue to be an invitation. St. James’ offers a place for many people – people like us in their exposure to dark and hard things – to come share in company, be known, and reach back out to the world. By giving what we have, we participate in the mission of the Church. We hope that it may remain a place for those surrounded in fear that they may find rest, hope and maybe even some faith.

2017 Stewardship Stories, Part 3

October 22, 2017
22 Oct 2017

Our Emmaus Journey

Eric Clinton Anderson and Kim Miller-Anderson

Kim and I were confirmed at St. James’ this month. We’ve only been attending since Easter of this year, and it was certainly a step neither of us expected to be taking when the year began.

I came from a fundamentalist background, and long ago retreated from the Church to nurse my spiritual wounds. Kim had little experience with the Church, viewing it largely as a cultural curiosity, a holdover from earlier stages in our social evolution.

I’d never been able to shake the sense that something was missing, however, and that the something likely hinged on this Jesus person. I desperately wanted to find somewhere where people were having deep, intelligent, and informed conversations about that person, so at the end of last year I enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary. It was through the ministry of one of the student pastors that Kim and I found ourselves at St. James’. It did seem fitting, if one was at seminary, to perhaps also attend a church, after all!

Here we were then, some months later, having just been confirmed by Bishop Taylor. We were seated back in our pew, observing the beautiful procession of the others being confirmed. As we watched, I experienced a great welling up of emotion. It came to me: this is what I’d always hoped and suspected that Church should be — not the bald and manipulative set of rituals that I’d experienced in the past, designed to get one worked up into some kind of penitential frenzy. This was something else altogether. A set of rituals, yes, but rituals steeped in deep tradition developed over centuries of worship, carried forward full of meaning into our contemporary lives. Rituals meant to draw us closer to the love, generosity, mercy, and beauty of God; and to bind us deeply in wonder to our fellow travelers on our Emmaus path.

Christ reveals himself to each of us as we walk alongside him, and one another. For some of us, it takes many miles of wandering in shadow and ignorance before we begin to sense that the presence that walks with us is that of someone far greater than we can imagine. Sometimes, the breaking of the sacramental bread together can be that moment when our eyes at last open and we see just who has been walking with us all along.

St. James’ is truly a special — dare I say holy? — place. It is a place where the theory and practice of the Christian life are manifest, from the sermons to the services offered to the community’s neediest. Kim and I have found ourselves genuinely welcomed from our very first day, and are now happy to be involved in the ministry to the elderly at Prospect Manor. We are blessed to be able to pledge our resources of time and what money we can, and hope that in this season, you will be so blessed as well.


Finding a Place Where It’s Safe to be Me

 Lisa and Denis Markus

I was reflecting on this last confirmation Sunday my own faith journey and why St. James’ is a cornerstone in my life.

My family didn’t regularly go to church and my husband — from the former Yugoslavia — was discouraged from Catholicism because of persecution.

Our first church as a couple was in New Jersey. It was a four year journey to get Denis comfortable with going to the church. And the first service, he picked the back pew and had one foot in the aisle the entire time. The Rev. Carol Seaman used to call him the gentle giant and eventually earned his trust and respect because of her thought provoking sermons. It felt like home.

When we moved to Aliso Viejo, CA in 2000, we eventually made our way to Saddleback Church and many good things happened — but it didn’t feel like home. Eventually we moved to South Pasadena when I finally landed a job after the Great Recession. St. James’ felt like home from the moment we walked in — the people, the peace, the incredible leadership of Anne and Michelle and the choir — ahh the choir.

I am not the type of the person who gravitates to things I am not good at. But I couldn’t resist the deep connection I felt to the music and voices. Even when I didn’t understand the language, I was transformed. And then when Sarah said, “and we serve wine at practice,” I was all in.

The choir has helped me through some of the most personally challenging moments of my life. I was raised and educated to be able to be financially self sufficient — and in some ways, it felt like a morale failing if I couldn’t do so. But what was worse than being unemployed for me was spending six soul-crushing years at companies in hostile environments. Almost every work day during that time, I received formal and informal messages that I was not valued, wanted or even liked. Choir practice and performance became the safe space where it was enough to just be me.

And for that I will eternally be grateful. And that’s why I pledge to St. James’.

2017 Stewardship Stories, Part 2

October 15, 2017
15 Oct 2017

The Extended Family We Need

Julie & Ken Beals

We met at an Episcopal Church where we were both passionately involved in social justice ministries.  When we married five years ago and planned to have children, we decided to move to St. James’ because it is such a large, active, highly functioning community, with an amazing choir, loving clergy, and deeply meaningful services.  The church reminds us both of the churches that we grew up in and this continuity of place of worship is a gift we wanted to offer our children.

St. James’ has met our needs at various points in our spiritual journeys.  Mother Anne was there for us when we needed to talk about changing our parish.  When Julie was working Sundays, the Wednesday healing service provided her with an opportunity to worship with others mid-week and Sacramentum was a meditative, monthly alternative to the traditional Sunday morning service.  When Ken was in hospital, parishioners and clergy gathered around to offer their love and healing support.

When our daughters, Hazel and Jasmine, came into the world two years ago, we realized the true value of this community.  The clergy were enthusiastic about going along with our desire to baptize our twin daughters in the Pacific Ocean on the one Sunday of the year that their English grandmother was visiting.  Parishioners continue to surround us with love, while seemingly enjoying the rich musical tones that our daughters contribute to the communion service.  Having childcare for infants and toddlers has been a life-saver for us because it enables us to have one hour a week to truly worship uninterrupted.  The ladies who look after our children during the service exemplify Christian values in their caring, loving, and generous attitude.  We are excited about the fact that the church offers meaningful, religious experiences for children of all ages.

What we could not have predicted when we first joined St. James’, was the extended family that the Church has provided. Our biological families live in Canada and the UK and just visit occasionally.  Hazel and Jasmine are truly blessed to be growing up with children of other parishioners, who have enriched our lives beyond belief.

We give to this church because we receive so much from it and believe that the Church needs to continue for future generations.  While tithing is still a goal we strive for, we give the humble amount we are able to just now.  We hope that our giving will teach our children the joy of giving so that they develop the habit of giving for their lifetime.  Our main advice to those thinking about stewardship is to pray about the amount that God is calling you to give.  God doesn’t want you to go into debt or sacrifice a family vacation for your pledge, but She just may be asking you to give enough that it hurts.  Every family is different and equally blessed in God’s eyes. Try to take the time to pray and listen to what God is asking you to give.

There is something priceless about the way that Hazel and Jasmine point to the magnificent stained- glass windows, to the glorious vestments of the choir and clergy, to the shining cross, and the way that they try to blow out the flames of the acolytes’ candles as they pass by.  Past generations have given generously to make these precious moments possible for our children and we pray that we will be able to give enough to provide future generations the same joy.


Finding Our Place

Daniel Saunders and Caitlyn Ference-Saunders

As a born and bred Midwesterner, I never imagined I’d one day be living in the Land of Eternal Sunshine. But after getting married in 2015, my wife and I drove across the country and arrived in Pasadena, where she was enrolled at Fuller Seminary. It proved to be a difficult transition, and not only because of that unforgiving sun. Caitlyn had already been here for a year and had established a friend group and a rhythm of life. For many months I struggled to find my own footing in this unfamiliar world, to find a place that spoke to me individually as well as to us together.

It was in this context that Caitlyn and I first accompanied friends to St. James’. We immediately felt it to be a welcoming community of peace, humility, and faith which met us both as individuals and as a couple. Among other aspects of the service, we were struck by the depth of the sermons – sermons which were not afraid to articulate the doubts and uncertainties of faith, but whose message of hope was all the more potent because of that willingness.

I myself was particularly drawn to the music at St. James’, and I soon joined the choir. There I found a gifted group of musicians committed to creating a beautiful and reverent atmosphere of worship. It had been a few years since I sang in a choir, and the delight I felt upon joining was instantaneous. I look forward to every Sunday (and Wednesday), when I am able to contribute to the liturgy, the “work of the people,” with my voice.

We give to St. James’ because we are thankful for this community and the work that it does. I may be biased, but I think it is a unique place, one that resists easy categorization. It is a place that is conscious of many aspects of the walk of faith, and draws together many who are different and yet united as one under this roof.

2017 Stewardship Stories, Part 1

October 8, 2017
08 Oct 2017

Where does the time go?

Lori and Sean Hunter

As I began reflecting on St. James’, the reality of having been members of this incredible place for almost 30 years set in.  I was born & raised in the Episcopal Church, but like so many, had fallen away from regular attendance in my college years and 20’s.  When a neighbor invited Sean and me to come check St. James’ out one Sunday, we easily said yes.  Our first child Matthew was two and we knew we wanted him to have a Christian education and foundation.  But we had no idea that St James’ would become our life-long spiritual home.

During the past 30 years, we have witnessed so much here… the good, the bad, joys and heartaches.  Our children have been baptized, educated and confirmed here and this year, our daughter was married here in this beautiful Sanctuary.  We’ve attended funerals of parishioners who became dear friends and we have laughed, cried and prayed with so many from St. James’ over the years. Through all of it, what we have seen is Christ’s love in the faces and actions of all of you who walk through these doors.  At every turn in life, St. James’ has woven its way into the very fabric of who we are.

As many people here know, it was just five years ago when we lost almost everything we had in a fire.  I have thought about those days many times.  We were living in hotels and out of suitcases during the holidays.  The glaring part of the memories from those days is that it was the people of this parish who lifted us up. It wasn’t our lifelong friends or even our relatives for the most part.  Rather, it was the people sitting in these pews every week.   We were prayed for, loved and fed.  We were invited into people’s homes for home cooked meals and fellowship.  As we managed through that difficult year after the fire, we ended up feeling so blessed.  Not sad, not questioning “why did this happen to us?” but instead truly blessed.  To get to know how deep the love of Christ is through the actions of people of this parish has been one of life’s biggest blessings.  Our eyes were opened and we realized that the clergy and people of St. James’ give like this on a regular basis… for people in the parish, people in the South Pasadena Community and for complete strangers.  Stewardship… that is what it is called.

When we began attending St. James’ in the late 1980’s, we did not understand about pledging as part of stewardship.  Of course, pledging was talked about during Stewardship season, but we didn’t know how much to give.  We were a struggling family with one child and another on the way.  It was tight to make our house payment every month, so we could not imagine giving 10% of our income to the Church.  At that time, we looked at our pledge as if we were “paying dues”.  We valued the worship and the education our children were receiving, and we valued the friendships we were developing in the community, but we didn’t really “get it”.  Then one Sunday, we had a Stewardship speaker from another parish who some- how got through to us.  He told a story of how he was once wealthy, but had lost everything…every- thing except the love of God.  Sean and I started reflecting on our priorities…..when we realized that our monthly car payment was more than what we were giving to the Church; we realized we really had things upside down.  We finally understood that all that we have and all that we are comes from God and that it is our pleasure and privilege to give back in thanksgiving.  Stewardship is about responding to God’s generosity with a glad, grateful, and generous heart.  Stewardship is about being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  And stewardship is something that blesses the giver more than it does the receiver.

This year, the St. James’ Church is calling stewardship season “Fearless Generosity”.   It is a constant journey and one that we learn about from our family, friends and other church members.  We are all givers and we are all receivers.  Doesn’t it feel so much better to be a giver?


Because St. James Pledges Itself to Us

Clay and Elizabeth Wilkinson

Stewardship season.  It can hit you with the grace and subtlety of the PBS pledge-drive.  It can leave you one subject short of the church-money-politics trifecta.  It can remind you that baseball season is over.  And it can be a time to reflect about the meaning of a place and a community in our lives.

One stewardship season, not too long ago, a St. James’ parishioner spoke from the pulpit about St. James’ through the years.  He said that for over one hundred years, people sat in St. James’ pews and knelt at St. James’ altar.  Our pews and our altar.  Generations of mothers and fathers knelt in prayer when their children were called to serve their country.  They wept rapturous tears when their children returned home and searing tears when they did not.  All in the space St. James’ created.  A poignant and holy space.

St. James’ is a place where you can hear a reflective sermon about the publican and the zealot having a meal together, and where everyone has a place at the table.  St. James’ is a community living into conciliation, though times may be turbulent and divisions deep.

St. James’ nourishes the soul.  At St. James’ you can find contemplation, faith, tradition, innovation, music, community, solace, sanctuary, integrity.

St. James’ is family.  We pledge because St. James’ is poignant and holy and conciliatory and nourishing.  We pledge because St. James’ is family.  But most of all, we pledge because St. James’ pledges itself to us.

Elizabeth and Clay Wilkinson have attended St. James since 2012.