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.