by Father Jim Warnock
When I think of what has happened at All Saints’ in the past year, I’m tempted to consider first the break-ins we’ve had—four since last September, each of them substantially damaging to the property. In my former Indiana parish, located in a poor neighborhood, we also had four break-ins, though these occurred over 17 years. It’s a different order of magnitude here apparently.
This is the kind of thing that could engender a sense of fear in a congregation, perhaps an unwillingness to come to church out of concern for what might await, what latest indignity might be seen. I’ve never observed that from anyone at All Saints’. I think it’s because you largely understand the Gospel, the vision of John in particular that the Gospel is light in the darkness, a light that won’t be extinguished. We will stay at All Saints’, remain open, do what we can to bring that Gospel to those around us, without fear and with love.
The burglar at the last break-in was caught. He was riding away on a bicycle with a trailer containing a large speaker from the Kenyan congregation when the police drove up. On the following Sunday we prayed for him. The Prayer Book has a prayer for “enemies,” which he really isn’t. He’s a man with an addiction who supports it through theft. Our building was nothing but a target of opportunity. Still, the BCP prayer is relevant:
“Lead [our enemies] and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I see this prayer working out in the ministries we do. We’re continuing to investigate a safe parking initiative. This is intended to help people currently living in their cars. We would let five or six cars park on our lot, specifically the one on the west side.
We’d be working with the Safe Parking Network, which means those parking would have had a background check from the State Patrol. They would sign an agreement which, among other things, would ensure they can stay after a certain time in the evening and leave in the morning. The Safe Parking Network will provide a portable toilet and hand-washing station. There would be no impact on any services at All Saints’. The idea is that people living in cars aren’t that far from being housed. By helping them with a safe place to stay, we’re easing the tension they’re feeling and allowing them to focus on schooling for their children and the job search. As in John’s Gospel, the light penetrates the darkness. More information is here: https://pchomeless.org/Home/SafeParking3.
In order for this to succeed, we need to have community buy-in and support. This will involve lots of two-way communication as we listen to the concerns of our neighbors and share our vision with them. We have had two community meetings, one in the church and one on Zoom. We saw people’s fear in the first, and we were able to say that we’re helping people who would otherwise be sleeping on public streets. The second meeting was more positive, people interested in what we’re planning. We’ll continue to pursue this in 2023.
We’re also continuing to bring food to the Veterans Village. Several of you have been involved in preparing soup and sandwiches for the veterans who live there, and the Village has been successful in getting them into permanent housing. I was there a few days ago, and I met a lot of new people. Originally most of the veterans were Vietnam-era. Now we’re seeing more from our recent wars. It’s good ministry, and we have a part in it.
Our Sunday service is well attended. We have music once a month thanks to Michael Gardner. Our Wednesday Bible study continues and is always a source of intense discussion. We’re continuing efforts to sell the north portion of our property. We’ve made a counteroffer to the Episcopal Retirement Community, and negotiations continue with them. We have a realtor, Sonia Grunberg, who is representing us. As I write this, our Parish Hall has been repaired in time for the Annual Meeting. Most of the repairs have been paid for by the Church Insurance Company. We’ve only had to cover the $1,000 deductible.
Our pledges increased for 2023. That’s a very promising sign which I think comes in part from the ministry this parish is doing in our community. For a small church, we’re quite active.
In terms of community involvement, I continue on the boards of the Pierce County League of Women Voters and the North American Chapter of the Community of the Cross of Nails. I’m also serving as a volunteer chaplain with the Tacoma Fire Department. The latter involves being available on-call one weekend a month (excluding our Sunday service). It’s been a very good way for me to get our church known a bit and to see parts of the community that I otherwise wouldn’t.
This has been a great year for Kresha and me. We’ve enjoyed becoming part of your community, getting to know and serve all of you. Personally. our trip to Ireland was a high point, and we rejoice that our children are doing well.
I want to close by remembering Glenn Campbell, Dorothy Kolb and Doris Peterson who died in 2022. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.
Yours with all blessings,