The first few days have certainly been eventful! Shortly after arriving at the church on Saturday afternoon I was moving into my new apartment accommodations on Lido Island, right across the river from St. James. The church was kind enough to provide me with food, a mini fridge, microwave, bed sheets, dishes, and much more to make me comfortable while I work here this summer. Just after moving in, I drove down Pacific Coast Highway to a church altar guild potluck dinner at the home of one of our parishioners, who insisted on my taking home leftovers. The house looked out over the harbor filled with yacht clubs toward the Balboa peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean right behind it- the sun was setting, and we sat out on the back porch enjoying the food and conversation. After this, a few people who were about my age from the church (the pastor's son one of them) took me to the beach (they corrected me when I, the Chicagoan, called it "the shore"), where we went to a donut shop and walked along the ocean for a few hours. Out on one of the piers we saw someone catch some kind of a ray (not a stingray, I'm guessing - he was holding it by the tail).
Then on Sunday I went to church for about five hours (!) so that I could be introduced at all three of the Sunday services. St. James has an interesting diversity in worship styles that I greatly appreciated: at 7:30, the Rite I Eucharist is celebrated, mostly with the older parishioners, and at 9:00 is Rite II. This seems to be the largest service, with a good range of ages. At 11:00 is the 'charismatic' service; by charismatic they do not mean simply 'contemporary' or 'praise & worship,' as some have come to use the term. At St. James there is a an interest in charismatic renewal, involving the expression of spiritual gifts (such as speaking in tongues with interpretation, prophecy, and healing). This doesn't take place every week (it didn't this past Sunday), but I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself (with discerning but hopefully not unduly skeptical eyes - I must be honest that it is a matter in which I don't have a decided opinion. I want to be open to what the Holy Spirit can do among his people, but I also want to be wise and careful with what I embrace as God's work, not jumping to any conclusions).
What fascinated me about the three services was the rich diversity so obvious in the differing worship styles, and yet the profound unity between the three services - the variations between them in prayer and music styles contained nevertheless a golden thread running through all of them and binding them all together, and that thread was the liturgy. I never thought I would see charismatic worship and the Book of Common Prayer put together so seamlessly! The effect on me, I think, was a vision of how the diversity of gifts and interests among the people of God need not compromise the unity which we are to enjoy in Christ. We can be like-minded, we can be orthodox and steadfast in the gospel, without requiring that every Christian in our midst be the carbon copy of his brothers and sisters. (The failure of many at this point, particularly many in the Episcopal Church USA, is to say that the prayer book itself provides that unity, whereas I think scripture provides it, a fact that everyone at St. James church is happy to embrace. The prayer book simply fosters our celebration of that unity through an orderly, scripture-based approach to worship.)
After church, Pastor Richard (the rector) and his family took me to the Cannery, a seafood restaurant right across from the church parking lot. I found myself, unexpectedly, in a very 'holy' place, for the table I saw over in a nearby corner turned out to be "John Wayne's Table," the place where the Duke himself always sat. (The Cannery one of his favorite restaurants.) Later that evening, I went over to the home of one of the families in the church and watched the Lakers lose to the Celtics (I guess I'm a Lakers fan now that I'm living in L.A....and since everyone mispronounces the Celtic civilization's name because of the basketball team. The civilization is pronounced 'Kelts' people, not the way the basketball team is...got it? Excellent.).
My arrival here, as I discovered during the Sunday announcements, has come immediately following some good news - the California Supreme Court decided on Wednesday that it would hear St. James' case with the Episcopal Church. The parish is struggling (along with several others sued by the Diocese of L.A.) to keep their church premises (that are titled to them and that they they have spent decades building and improving upon). For more information on the legal situation faced by St. James (currently being sued by the Episcopal church), see this website. This is good news because St. James has a very strong case and the CA Supreme Court made their decision unanimously. But it by no means resolves the matter, and continued prayer will be needed.
That's all for now- I'm just starting to learn my responsibilities at the church, and updates are soon to follow!