I hate to sound as if I’m boasting, but at the Anglican church my family attends in Los Angeles, you have to go early if you want a seat.....St James Church, which sits at the intersection of an affluent middle-class neighbourhood, and many poorer communities in LA, is an Episcopal Church, that is the American equivalent of the Church of England. But, unlike its British cousins, it is packed because it goes out of its way to create a community in a big, sprawling city.....
When I moved to LA a dozen or so years ago, religion was incidental to my life. ....But the combination of having children and moving to the US changed everything. It led to finding a school for my boys that happened to be attached to an Episcopal church, which meant there were all-school chapel services, and care for the spiritual well being of a child, not just academic achievement — something with which we were familiar from our own childhoods. Subconsciously, my husband and I were probably seduced by the similarities the school had with memories of England.
We started attending the church. Our eldest joined the choir. The hymns were the same, even if they got the tunes wrong, and the words of the service were as I remembered them growing up in a village in Hertfordshire 40-odd years before.
While churches in England have, for the most part, modernised their services in an attempt to attract bigger crowds — some of them becoming painfully evangelical and happy clappy — the Episcopal church in the US still uses the older, traditional liturgies, the ones that I remember nostalgically. It was these superficial trappings that appealed to us originally. My husband, who writes music for a living, is a sucker for a choir — but it is the values that we found there that has really kept us coming back.
At our church, it is not unusual to see children with two mums or two dads, sitting next to Koreans, African-Americans, Hispanics, as well as many white middle-class families. There are monied people from Beverly Hills, rubbing shoulders with artists from downtown. Gay people next to straight. It’s jolly, social and somehow has a relevance to everyone’s life. It reflects an acceptance of all, the kind of value I’d like my children to have. And it is a community. Spirituality, I believe, comes from acknowledging that we are part of something greater than just ourselves.....
I am now largely embarrassed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who took it upon himself to advise the bishops of the diocese of LA against electing the Rev Canon Mary D. Glasspool to be a bishop, because she happens to be openly gay.
I asked our rector, the Rev Paul Kowalewski, why his church was always full. “We are part of a community,” he says. “In a big city like Los Angeles, people are looking for a community. We give them the welcome they are looking for.”
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
What the CofE can learn from TEC
Writing in the Times of London, a British expatriate talks about her Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, and what the Church of England could learn from TEC: