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St. Mary thrives after years of turmoil [Anglican]
Press Telegram ^ | 8/14/2005 | Greg Mellen

Posted on 08/15/2005 8:21:21 AM PDT by sionnsar

St. Mary of the Angels is a jewel of a building that sits on a quiet corner at the intersection of Hillhurst and Finley avenues in Hollywood's Los Feliz neighborhood. Founded in 1919, the original plan was to build a large church of the stars of Hollywood. However, the 1929 stock market crash hit hard on the West Coast, and although the 1930 structure remains, it is only a portion of what was envisioned.

It wouldn't be the only time vision and reality didn't match for the congregation.

The Rev. Gregory Wilcox, a large man with a heavy flowing beard, remembers the mid-1970s as a time of intense turmoil in the Episcopal Church. Amid this upheaval, St. Mary of the Angels decided it would have to secede.

The Rev. Beau Davis, a parishioner at the time and now a curate at St. Mary's, said rector John Barker and others, sensing the movement in the national church, changed parish bylaws to align with California property laws and help shield the parish from a future takeover.

The legal maneuver worked, but the price to the congregation was considerable.

"(The politics) took a toll on the parish, because that's not why people come to church," Wilcox said. "At one point they erected a chain-link fence because there were rumors the bishop would come and try to take the property. There were armed guards during Mass. It was not a situation geared to people who wanted to come and say their prayers."

Davis is a thin man whose passion about religion is so overt that he occasionally blurts out very unreligious expletives when he gets excited. His voice still cracks when he remembers those days.

"Probably the most painful thing, next to losing my son to cancer, was leaving the faith," Davis said.

For four years the diocese and parishes waged legal wars in the courts.

"People in this parish mortgaged their homes," Davis said. "We had a huge endowment at one time and almost all was expended on legal fees. But the people, the vestry and the people, insisted this must be done. There was a lot of genuine sacrificial giving."

By the time Wilcox became rector in 1985, the congregation had shrunk from about 170 to 18. The last member of that congregation still with the parish died in 2004, according to Davis. Although St. Mary's had won its freedom, the lingering psychological damage was evident.

"Even though we were completely separate, this place still had a siege mentality, and it took a long time for that to go away," Davis said.

Wilcox's solution was to refuse to talk about the parish's history and politics.

"(Wilcox) simply said, 'It's time to refocus. You come from an unpleasant past, but you've been delivered to a pleasant new future," Davis said.

Today, the parish is strong.

Wilcox said membership has grown to 220, most in the 20-40 age range. Davis said they are people who want a more orthodox doctrine and form of worship.

"We still get a fair number of Episcopalians who come here when they get upset with the way the church is going," Wilcox said. "But I'm not enthusiastic about getting a group of unhappy people who come here to gripe."

St. Mary's is affiliated with the Anglican Church in America, which is part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Church. The Anglican Church in America was one of several splinter Anglican organizations formed in 1977 after the Affirmation of St. Louis.

The St. Louis meeting was attended by 2,000 Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people in opposition to the outcomes of the Episcopal Church's General Convention in 1976, including the ordination of women and changes to the Book of Common Prayer.

The Anglican Church in America has five dioceses in 32 states. The worldwide organization claims a congregation of 400,000.

Wilcox said the loose affiliation is irregular but valid.

Although Davis said God has delivered him to a better place spiritually, the pain and bitterness remain just below the surface. Davis said he remains close to many people who have left the Episcopal Church.

"One thing we all agree on is that the bishops sold us and our faith down the drain," Davis said. "The very people we looked to and trusted to be centers of unity became centers of disunity, and it was done with incredible cruelty. They were like shepherds who would torture their sheep before shearing them."

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
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1 posted on 08/15/2005 8:21:21 AM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
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Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 08/15/2005 8:21:51 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate my diversity || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar

St Mary's is a real jewel in Los Angeles. It is a real contrast to the way things are done on my own Roman side in Mahoney-land. On my last trip to L.A.,I went to the early RC Mass at one of the northern L.A. County RC megachurches, where the priest gave a homily focussing on obsessive-compulsive disorder, the Blessed Sacrament was secreted away in a small side room (I do not dignify it with the name "chapel") in a tabernacle that looked like a wardrobe, and everyone (except me and a few others) stood during the consecration. Having dutifully and painfully fulfilled my Sunday obligation as an obedient Catholic, I then went to the High Mass at St Mary's, where all was wonderfully reverent. Fr Wilcox celebrated ad orientem, of course, and preached on sin, confession and St Thomas Aquinas! I had a chance to speak with him afterwards, and can confirm that he is the nicest person, as well.

All I can say is I hope the TAC gets a good deal, like a "uniate church" structure, from Rome and comes on over, so the quality of Roman observance is enhanced, and I can go back to St Mary's in a fully-in-communion sort of way.

3 posted on 08/15/2005 11:22:02 AM PDT by Theophane
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