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’.