Finding Meaning

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The Gospel of Joy

By Skip Hellewell

Our town has been graced by an Episcopal Church since the Rev. Percy Clarkson planted one nearly a century ago, in 1922. Clarkson, remembered as a “colorful and popular” minister, actually founded two different denominations, but that’s a story for another day. Today’s story is about tomorrow’s 10 a.m. installation of the Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie as the 12th Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. It’s a big deal—there’ll be food, singing…and drums.

Rev. Mackenzie, born in Cape Town, South Africa, is a breath of fresh air—really more a blast. A third-generation minister with 11 years of service, he says he grew up in the church. His grandfather served as assistant bishop to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for peaceful resistance to apartheid. Mackenzie’s family were fierce opponents of apartheid and he grew up amidst the turmoil of that eventually successful protest. The conflict was tempered by his love for music, a gift from his grandmother. Mackenzie is a talented singer, guitarist, and drummer. Thanks to his grandmother’s gift, his life became a song of hope, and his sermons are sung as much as preached.

In our meeting, Mackenzie, refreshed by a morning ocean swim, told of his two passions: the book of nature, and the book of scripture. Life, he says, is about journey, the pursuit of what we were created to become. He speaks of going deeper, living better, and loving more. Of taking the journey of faith, step by step, with the vison of our life becoming a “moving sacrament.” Mackenzie is the unique combination of Anglican sensibility and African spontaneity. He lives a theology of joy and envisions encountering that joy in the chaos of our journey. Joy, he promises, will free us to discover what we can become.

In the 19th century, Christian missionaries took their gospel message to Africa. You’ll recall the “lost” Dr. David Livingstone, and his famous encounter with the journalist Henry Stanley. In the 21st century, that good work seems, like the proverbial bread cast upon the waters, to be returning to Laguna in the form of Rev. Mackenzie. He comes with his good wife, Angela, and children Noah, Oliver and Cora, and a message of joy.

Mackenzie, with a smile, likens himself to the captain of a cruise ship, noting that St. Mary’s chapel has the architecture of an inverted wooden ship. Perhaps under Capt. Mackenzie, it’s more a love boat. And as he says, “God is not done at St. Mary’s.” We wish the Rev. Mackenzie, his family, and St. Mary’s a joyous and fruitful voyage. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m. (Note the end of summer schedule.)

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

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