2023 Annual Report

  • Posted on
  • February 10, 2024

The following report was prepared for the 2023 Annual Meeting of St. James' Church, held on Feb. 11, 2024. View or download the full 2023 Annual Report here.

Report from the Priest-in-Charge

Like 2022, the year of 2023 has been one of ongoing transition at St. James’. Throughout the year, our Parish Profile Committee, Search Committee, and Vestry faithfully and prayerfully did the work of discernment that resulted in calling The Rev. Dr. Gregory Kimura as St. James’ next Rector. This has been a tremendous undertaking of time and energy; please read the Senior Warden’s report to get a sense of all that has gone into this important decision for St. James’ future. We are grateful for their dedication, teamwork, and care, and look forward to welcoming Greg and his family!

St. James’ has been blessed with staff who have dedicated themselves to St. James’ for significant periods of time, which has gifted us with a great deal of stability and institutional memory. This year has been a bittersweet one where many roles have changed and where we have commissioned many into new chapters of their lives and ministries, be it due to retirement or to other wonderful opportunities that have arisen for them.

Farewell with love and gratitude….

In February, we bid farewell to John Kerr, as he moved to North Carolina. John retired from his long-time role as sexton a few years ago, but he continued to serve as an usher and as a faithful member of our Buildings and Grounds committee. We miss him!

Also in February, we gave thanks for the faithful service of Judy Felton, our Parish Administrator who served here for 18 years. Over a lunch after church, we celebrated all the ways that Judy kept us organized and together, and especially gave thanks for her work with SAGES.

Mary Chalon, our Director of Children’s Ministry, also retired from her role after 18 years, and is now dedicating more time to her spiritual direction practice. We are grateful for her dedication and creativity over the years, and are very glad that she and Lance continue to be part of life at St. James’!

In October at Mass on the Grass, we celebrated Sarah Gonzalez’s final Sunday as our Director of Music after 12 years of service, and rejoiced at the new opportunity she has as the Artistic Director of the Youth Chorus Initiative with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Happily, even as her role has changed, Sarah and her family continue to be part of life at St. James.

On Christ the King Sunday in November, we gave thanks for Rev. Gethin Wied’s six-year ministry as our Day School Chaplain and Priest Associate and sent him and Meredith off to West Virginia where he will serve as Rector of Trinity Church, Shepherdstown. At the farewell reception for Gethin and Meredith, the youth did a thoughtful and creative job of thanking him for his ministry as they presented him with a book of memories and photos commemorating festivals, outings pandemic gatherings both online and outdoors, and many well-deserved “thank you’s.”

….and Welcome!

I am always amazed at the ways in which God brings just the right people through our doors to step into new roles. As we searched for a new Parish Administrator, we were very grateful for the help of Chris Mackey-Mason, who filled the gap and weathered the Great Copier Breakdown of Holy Week 2023 with aplomb and creativity. In May, 2023 we were delighted to welcome Sara Jane Thies as our Parish Administrator, and she has instantly jumped in and become a key part of our community. We are grateful for her warmth, skill, and organization.

This year, Lucy Yates also came on board as our Director of Children’s Ministry, having previously served as one of our Sunday School teachers. One of the first projects that Lucy initiated among us was the Children’s Stations of the Cross service during last Holy Week, with original artwork and prayers created by our children and youth. This is becoming an annual tradition; join us again for this event on Wednesday, March 29th at 6 p.m.!

We are delighted that Jason Klein-Mendoza, who has been on our staff as our organist since 2020, took on the additional role of Director of Music after Sarah’s departure. Jason has nimbly adapted to this dual role, and I continue to appreciate the artistry and care with which he approaches his ministry.

Whether they are new to St. James’ or whether they’ve been serving for a while, all of St. James’ staff have shown such amazing adaptability and resilience amidst a host of changes this year. In addition to the staff above, there are others who deserve our thanks and recognition. Komal Tolani continues to diligently track the church and day school’s finances, work with staff in refining budgets, and works closely with John Cate, our Treasurer. This is always important work, but even more so in the midst of many staff transitions; so often she is behind the scenes working over time to make sure things are just right. Thank you, Komal!

Sarin Assadvazadorian assumed leadership of our Day School in January, 2022. Please see her report to learn more about the wonderful ways that she has led us in new programming that has already caused us to have a significant waiting list for the 24/25 school year. She and the dedicated teachers never cease to amaze me with their creativity and loving spirit that overflows into the atmosphere that the children at the day school absorb.

If you want to know how to get something done, how to fix something, or simply want to encounter a friendly, resourceful, competent sexton, James (Jimmy) Holguin is the one to find. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new from him; sometimes pertaining to on-site repairs, sometimes pertaining to the best way to grow basil plants, or sometimes secret tips about barbeque. He’s amazing, and is always a warm presence as he greets our day school children in the parking lot each morning. Thank you, Jimmy.

The Vestry, Clerk, and Treasurer

I am so grateful for the dedication and leadership provided by our Vestry. As you will read in the Senior Warden’s report, the Vestry did an enormous amount of work, along with the Parish Profile Committee and Search Committee, to discern whom to call as our next rector. I am also extremely grateful to Senior Warden Lucy Jones and Junior Warden Bill Bilderback for their insight and support during this transition year.

Allen Bergstrom, Margaret Drust, Rob Gonzalez, and Jack McConaghy will all conclude their time of service on the Vestry this year; we have benefitted greatly from their leadership, which has spanned this season of transition along with a global pandemic! Thank you one and all for your part in guiding us through this time and for the care that you have shown for our community.

Additionally, Monica Saeffer will be retiring from her role as Clerk after serving faithfully for many years. We are grateful to her for her precise minutes that have helped us remember the wide-ranging details of all the issues we needed to navigate and discuss this year. Many thanks to Bryan Garcia as he steps into the role of Clerk moving forward.

John Cate assumed the role of Treasurer this year, and we are grateful to him for his good work in navigating all things budget and finance. Working with Komal Tolani in our Finance Office, he has been instrumental in keeping a close eye on the church’s financial health and giving the Vestry monthly updates concerning financial issues. We are also grateful to our former Treasurer Kim Besen for continuing to share her institutional knowledge in this transition year.

Other Milestones and Important Developments

Under Rev. Anne’s leadership, many individuals discerned a call to ordained ministry at St. James’, and this legacy continues to bear good fruit. This year, both Mike Mischler and Caitlyn Ference-Saunders became Postulants for Holy Orders; please keep them in your prayers as they continue in their formation processes.

In January, 2023, we celebrated with Susanne as she was ordained to the Priesthood by The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It was a joyful day for our community; Rev. Susanne is now serving as Curate at St. Edmunds in San Marino. We are glad that she is our neighbor and that we can share in Deanery events with her from time to time!

One of the most difficult decisions I and the Vestry faced this past December was to close St. James’ Youth Center. This was not a decision that we made quickly or lightly; but rather it was discerned over the past year. In the wake of the pandemic, more parents have worked from home, which led to less of a need for after school supervision for youth in sixth-eighth grades. Along with this, there have been free, government-funded after school programs in the area that undercut our enrollment to the point where we could not sustain the program. Oscar Madrigaldid an incredible job and was enormously creative in serving our youth, along with Italia Moret, Sofia Nava, and Charlotte Larsen-Dierking. In the future, we will continue to discern new and innovative ways to serve our youth and our community as we attend to developing trends and patterns of family life and work.

There are so many faithful leaders at St. James’ who serve our community in a range of ways; please read their reports and consider getting involved in something that you’ve never tried before!

This was a year in which we celebrated baptisms, commended loved ones to God’s care, navigated transitions with tears and laughter, enjoyed each other’s company at Mass on the Grass and at our Patronal Feast Day Festival, and so much more that can’t be captured in these pages. It has been a privilege to serve as your Priest-in-Charge this year during all of these occasions. Amidst all the “changes and chances” of this year; the faithfulness of God working in and through this place is so very apparent, and St. James’ future is bright.

In Christ’s love,

— Rev. Dr. Michelle Baker-Wright

View or download the full 2023 Annual Report here

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