by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar

I wish to turn our minds to statements and questions that come from members of the community to me, the Wardens, and to members of the Bishop’s Committee.

It seems for many Episcopalians the nature of how the Church is run — its lines of authority, the distinctions between a parish and a mission, and many more — are mysterious or unknown. Some, for example, think that we are only marginally connected to the Bishop of the Diocese, or that core issues of faith and practice are decided in this parish. To operate that way would change our model from an Episcopal model to a Congregational one. Some might believe these decisions are made by the priest(s) in the parish. This, too, changes the model, but this time from Episcopal to Presbyterian. You might not think it important to know how the church runs, but I believe it is essential you know, since YOU have a starring role to play.

So, let’s start with YOU, the People of God who are present, participate, and are connected to the Episcopal Church.

The people of the Episcopal Church are the primary stakeholders in the “community,” and are treated that way in our Catechism. The ‘laity’ are mentioned first among the ministers of the church and are the first to be given the role of representing Christ to the world. The critical work is “… to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world…”.  Interestingly, only you and the Bishop have this holy task! Additionally, the duty of Christians, as defined in the Catechism, “is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the Kingdom of God.”

These duties and roles flow from the Baptismal Covenant in which we all have a share. We promise — either vicariously if we were baptized as children or directly — to proclaim the Good News of God, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. These promises at once sound eminently achievable and yet like a call to a life-changing conversion. Believe me, they are tough to do and to live up to. This is why I stifle an inner chuckle when I hear someone say that ‘following Jesus is as easy as inviting him into your life.’ If following Jesus is that easy, then I suggest you may be doing it wrong.

As far as governance in the church, there are a few ‘other duties as assigned’ that come with the title, ‘laity’. First, it is from your ranks that leadership comes. Ordinary, generous members of the community volunteer to be on the Vestry (Bishop’s Committee) as temporary leaders in the work of the church. These leaders are selected to tend to some administrative duties, and to attend to the spiritual development of the community. These roles are temporary, because it is important that volunteers are protected from burn out, and to be sure they do not find a home in these positions. This also provides other members the opportunity to exercise leadership roles, adding an ‘always-fresh’ and unique voice to the community of leaders.

The people of the church are also the mainstay of the community. Priests come and go. Vestry members rotate regularly. It is the family of seekers/worshippers who are the continuity of a Christian community. In the Episcopal Church, this has consequences far and wide. Laity are given voice and vote over certain issues that help set courses for financial discipline, diocesan and parish life, and church leadership both locally and in the diocese. This “voice and vote” of the laity has EQUAL weight when scaled against the voice of the clergy and you are not left swimming upstream against a 51 percent clerical majority. I deeply admire and treasure this, as my previous church experience gave “51 percent” only to bishops! This power of the vote is for certain topics as defined by the church; it does not apply, for example, to which songs we sing in worship, or which Eucharistic Prayers we pray or other similar issues. That would be utter anarchy. The continuity, theology, ecclesiology, practice, and worship framework belongs ultimately to our BISHOP – thus making us Episcopalians — Episcopoi,  from the Greek meaning “Bishop”.

Neither is it the intent of the church that for those things on which a vote is taken that a majority is the objective. Instead, I find the church — and the Holy Spirit — asks that we work toward a consensus, an agreed upon solution on which all can accept at some level. In this model, a person who disagrees with a proposed solution, but who finds it an acceptable one, could vote in favor of such a solution, trusting in God and in the community. Consensus requires that all parties listen well to each other and be assured that everyone has heard the diversity of perspectives and opinions.

Next week I’ll share with you about the role of the Bishop’s Committee in a Mission Parish (and probably define what that is for us as well.) If this writing raises question for you, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Blessings and peace to you – the heart and soul of the Church.

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Here’s Sunday’s worship bulletin for August 1.

St. John’s is eco-friendly! In order to help St. John’s save on paper and toner, please print the bulletin at home or use your device to follow along during the service.

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Here’s What’s Happening at St. John’s — all the details are here; check out the at-a-glance info below.

+ Saturday evening In-person worship is at 5 p.m. today. Join us!
+ You can drop food donations for RSM Cares Food Pantry at church Monday through Friday during office hours. Next distribution is Wednesday, August 4.
+ Our Laundry Love ministry meets at Lake Forest’s Sparklean Laundry Wednesday, August 4, 6 p.m. If you’d like to volunteer, please email ministry leader Juan Chacon. Please pray for our Laundry Love leaders and our guests for the evening.
+ Godly Play, Sunday School, and the Nursery are open to receive your children!
+ The next Book It On Mondays! meets August 30. The book is Lynne Martin’s Home Sweet AnywhereMore info available from Christy Morinello.
+ Join the Altar Guild! Learn more, by contacting Christy Morinello.
+ Altar Flowers: remember loved ones with altar flowers! More than one donation can be submitted per week. Send your commemoration along with your name and mail it to the Church Office or drop off on Sundays while at church. Sixty dollars is the  suggested flower donation.
+ Youth Group is on a brief Summer break, but usually ZOOMS on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Watch this space for more info. 
+ Women’s Hybrid Bible Study is on hiatus for August. Look for it to resume in September on Wednesday mornings, 10:15 – 11:30 a.m. at DJ Gomer’s home. Hybrid = in-person and on ZOOM.
+ Join us for coffee after the Sunday service on the lower courtyard (Learning Commons Courtyard) which is the perfect spot to hold coffee hour where tables, comfortable seating, and shade abound. We even have an elevator you can use to get there!
+ Women’s Ministry: Meet Saturday, September 18 Kathy O’Connor’s home in Pasadena (aka The Bishop’s residence) for lunch and a presentation by author Lian Dolan discussing her book, The Sweeney Sisters. Watch this space for more info.
+ Dates to Save: August 21 and 23 Pacific Chorale event via the Segerstrom Center. September 11 “Lest We Forget” — a free concert at St. John’s with the St. John’s Choir and The Festival Singers. September 12 the St. John’s BBQ and Bishop’s visit. November 6 our annual fellowship event and fundraiser. Details for all the events in the News.

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We’re back on campus:
Clergy and staff are back in the Church Office. Schedule a time to come to the church office and meet face-to-face. Contact Rev. Christopher or 949.888.4568, or Rev. Karen or 949.888.4595, x239.

In-Person Worship Schedule:
• Evening Prayer or Compline ZOOM services continue to be held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.
• Sunday morning worship will be held in-person at church and on ZOOM at 9 a.m. 
• Saturday in-person worship in the church, July 31, at 5 p.m.

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We’ll see you at St. John’s!