Bob Cornner

Bob Cornner
Visting St. Andrew's Torrance

Monday, January 28, 2013


“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Francis of Assisi

"A miracle is when the whole Is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand."
Fredrick Beuchner

“Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the bod though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made
to drink of one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

This year on January 22, I celebrated my 30th year of ordination and my 12th year of service as your priest at Christ Church (May 15th ).

On the feast day of Christ the King which will fall on November 24th of this year, we will celebrate 120 years of ministry as a faith community in this very church. This year all of these anniversaries are important to me because they are all interrelated.

They are also the fruit of a decision I made as an 11 year old. I chose to be baptized and then a few years later I chose to be confirmed with a huge assembly of adults and kids my age.

There were so many of us that we filled the rather large steps and front porch that led up to the entrance of Saint Cross Church in Hermosa Beach. Nan Wilson was among those on the steps with me that day.

Even at my young age I understood that baptism was not about washing away my sins, but about becoming a person I would never have become had I chosen otherwise.

You can certainly say that I would not have been any different sort of person had I never darkened the doors of that church, but from my insides to my outsides I know that this one decision changed me and my life forever.

I can also say that without this community of faith being called into existence 120 years ago, my life and the lives of so many other people might be very different.

Christ Church was part of my early story because Father DeGarmo was the missionary priest who establish the mission in Hermosa Beach called Saint Cross in 1919 and it was through the grace of God working in that faith community that I came to God and was adopted into the body of Christ, as St. Paul calls the church in our epistle today.

In my 36th year of life after spending 10 years off and on driving out to the Claremont School of Theology every other weekend; consuming a good deal of coffee; sleeping on the floor of the parish hall at St. Ambrose Church on Friday evenings; learning to love my classmates, teachers, and staff; and taking a multitude of courses with men and women who also went on to ordination and some who found vocations in other fields and careers, I was ordained to the ministry in the Episcopal Church.

On my 55th birthday, after serving as a public school teacher for 24 years and then the principal of that same school for 7 years, I came to this community of faith as your priest.

Those of you who are sitting here today at Christ Church could tell similar stories of how God has worked through this community and through other communities of faith and the people in our lives to bring us here today.

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.”

My vocation as a priest is limited. I have proven over my time here with you what St. Paul says so clearly that without each and every one of us living out the promises and vows we make in baptism, our work as a community will fail.

Paul lists all of the sorts of gifts at work in the church in Corinth and they were many and powerful to be sure, but his final comment in this passage is more powerful than all of the gifts that might cause envy, conflict, and resentment and tear apart the church.

“But strive for the greater gifts.”

This last line precedes Paul’s soaring ode to love in I Corinthians 13 in which Paul speaks of faith, hope, and love as the greatest gifts of God.

These are the gifts that make our other gifts come together in a powerful synergy called the body of Christ. Paul concludes the beautiful poem by saying,

“Now faith, hope, and love abide these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

During this 12th year of my call to serve at Christ Church; my 30th year as a minister of the Gospel of God’s love; and the 120th year of this community’s bearing witness to the love of God in the South Bay I offer the following observations:

1. Christ Church has seen difficult times over her long history, but God’s Holy Spirit working through the members of this faith community has pressed upon us and filled us with those greater gifts of faith, hope, and love.

I believe the church is in the midst of a massive cultural shift which some have characterized as secularization. A movement away from the traditional ways of being Christian
and an embracing of choosing to be a Christian and finding new and exciting ways to bear witness to that faith.

2. Christ Church has been a church that starts things. Christ Church started Saint Cross and Holy Faith Inglewood. Christ Church started low income housing in the South Bay by sponsoring, owning, and managing Casa De Los Amigos on

3. Christ Church has been a church that endures through over 120 years, four rectors, multiple bishops, and a good piece of United States and world history.

4. Christ Church has been a church that changes while continuing to offer the Good News of God in Christ. And in the decades ahead, those of you who chose to be baptized or who later in life decided to seek God and to be found by God will be called upon to be church in ways that are new and vital.

While the church of the 1940s through the 1990s offered a message of God’s love within the changing culture of the day and with the tools available to them, the church at the beginning of the 21st century will grow and thrive in new and wonderful ways because God’s Holy Spirit is at work in each and every one of you.

5. Christ Church has been given many gifts for the journey ahead. During the 12 years I have been your priest, we have been given gifts of wealth by a few members whose financial circumstances, love for God and sense of responsibility for the future of this faith community led them to give us almost $400,000.

Over the past 120 years the parish has acquired property that provides us with a source of income that supports our pledge and plate giving and our ministry in the South Bay.

6. Christ Church continues to have leaders who have led us wisely and well over the past century. They have been moved and guided to place God’s love for others ahead of their own personal agendas.

They have struggled to keep the doors open, pay the bills, fairly compensate those who labor here, and to guide and direct
in the power of the Holy Spirit the nurturing, reconciling, one on one love of God in their lives and community.

7. Christ Church has been and always will be the body of Christ working together for the extravagant purposes of God’s love and way on earth.

I have a few more years of ministry among you. I love you all and count my time with you as an absolute and joyous gift from God. We are called to take the gifts we have been given as a community of faith and to be good and faithful
stewards in using them to continue the work set before us.

We are called to do an extraordinary thing and we will need the gifts of faith, hope, and love.

Consider your decision to follow God and to be a part of his family and consider how God has used you, is using you, and might continue to use you to bless the world in Christ’s name and power.

"A miracle is when the whole Is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand." Fredrick Beuchner

May this coming year reveal new ways to serve in and through this wonderful community of faith.

God’s Peace in the Greatest Gift,