This article was originally published in the San Marino Tribune on April 20th, 2016.
As a boy, my Daddy taught me how to follow blaze marks on trees and to give attention to small piles of rock cairns when hiking along obscure trails. Coming across a cairn, some a foot high constructed of blue slate slab and smooth creek rock, was always a revelatory moment. No matter how obscure or overgrown the path, cairns conveyed reassurance that someone had walked that way before, breathed the same sweet air, batted black flies, watched the sun take its course over distant hills. Cairns let you know you were on a traveled path. You were not lost and alone.
The plinths and standing stones of the British Isles were, from late Neolithic times, a way of marking a sacred place. The most famous circles at Avebury and Stonehenge draw large crowds to this day, often folk with their own questing hearts, seeking out thin places between our present world and realms of impinging significance. Plinths and Standing Stones frequently served more mundane purpose, showing travelers the distance gone, and the length yet necessary to traverse before arriving to pub and inn at day’s end.
In 1941 a group of Episcopalians built a Chapel at the corner of Huntington Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard dedicated to St. Edmund. In 1951 they expanded the campus with a larger Church and parish house. This is the 75th anniversary year of St. Edmund’s Parish, a spiritual Standing Stone at a crossroads between San Marino, Arcadia, San Gabriel and Pasadena. God is here and present for us, proclaim these brick cairns. Not only here, but certainly and definitely also here. Pray in this place if you like.
In my 21st year as the 7th Rector of St. Edmund’s Parish, I ask your best thoughts and prayers as you travel by the campus, and especially in this anniversary year. Pray for us as we strive to mark our communities for good, and pronounce upon us your own blessing. Know and feel our prayers for you in your pilgrim journey.
Our new Sign at the corner of Gainsborough and San Gabriel Boulevard, (built in honor of Dann V. Angeloff, Jr.) is among our continuing efforts to enhance San Marino and convey spiritual warmth and welcome to passersby. We are present should you need a bit of quiet, a community of celebration, a sound Nursery School, a place for baptism, marriage, or rites at life’s end. You need not be a member.
On May 15th at 6:30 in the evening Martín Chalifour will again be with us for ‘The Making of a Concertmaster,’ and while this event has a fee attached, unlike our free concert offering with Martín Chalifour during the observation of San Marino’s Centennial, we know many will want to be again in Mr. Chalifour’s presence. Our Nave and Sanctuary have especially fine acoustics.
Whether or not you ever set foot on St. Edmund’s campus, think of us as a cairn and Standing Stone along your wayfarer path, announcing for you calm and deep peace, a mark of reassuring divine Presence, pointing a way through overgrown and complicated lives.