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Changing of the guard

From The Back Pew

June 10, 2010

Change will be coming to La Cañada's St. Bede Parish in the next few days, as St. Bede Pastor Monsignor Jim Gehl says goodbye this week to his parishioners and moves on to another assignment at St. Euphrasia Parish in Granada Hills.

Gehl replaces St. Euphrasia administrator pro tempore the Rev. Rolly P. Jardiniano, who was named to the position in April 2009, according to the archdiocesan newspaper The Tidings.

The Rev. Antonio Cacciapuoti, pastor at Christ the King Church in Los Angles and a native of Italy, will take over Gehl's position on July 1.

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Change is never easy, especially at the close-knit parish level. Even at the archdiocesan level, with the appointment of Bishop Jose H. Gomez as the next archbishop of Los Angeles, change can be met with curiosity, joy and excitement. At times, it can be met with anger, disdain and even hatred. (How many new pastors have you heard of — in any denomination — who never got along well with a congregation and ended up leaving after a short time?)

I know this because my own parish will soon be seeking a new pastor, as our longtime pastor will be retiring next year. We have so many questions. Who will it be? What will it mean for the parish? Will we get along with him? What will his vision be for the parish? We've all existed in this comfort zone for at least a decade. It's like having to break in a new pair of leather boots.Will we chafe? Or will it a be a smooth transition?

I'm reminded of two extraordinary moments of change in our local religious community recently — one positive, and one that caused the community to chafe a little.

Recently, Skip Lindeman was appointed as permanent pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church, a change that met with 100% approval by the selection committee and congregation. Much loved, Skip became permanent after a seven-year temporary assignment at La Cañada Congregational Church. The notion of an almost 10-year temporary assignment became the basis for a running joke at the church. And if I bring it up to Skip now, he'll probably still laugh.

And the church itself underwent a change in 2008 when it changed its name from Church of the Lighted Window, although not many agreed with the name change at first, but did so after learning that La Cañada Congregational Church was named as such at its founding in 1897.

Change also came to what was then known as St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church in La Crescenta, one year ago this week, when the church under the leadership of Pastor Rob Holman lost its property to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in a lawsuit. Pastor Rob had just assumed the top position at his church, and one of the first things he had to deal with was the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles' lawsuit against the church for its property after St. Luke's disassociated itself with Episcopal Church USA and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and aligned itself with the African Provence of Uganda in the Diocese of Luwero.

The former congregation now worships in Glendale in a borrowed space, an incredible change from where the church once called home.

So change can come in many shapes and flavors. It's how we deal with that change that sets us apart.

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