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  284: St Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, California

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3 June 2008

I recently reread the Mystery Worshiper review from 2001 of St Thomas Hollywood, Los Angeles. St Thomas is my parish and there have been a number of changes since last Ship of Fools visited.

We were in the interim period last time. We now have had our new rector for six years. Fr Ian Elliott Davies came to us from All Saints, Margaret St., London. He has brought many changes which reflect a deeper Anglo-Catholic devotion and worship. We also for the first time have an associate full-time rector, Fr Mark Stuart, trained at Nashota House.

We continue to be an anomaly in the Diocese of Los Angeles. We are Anglo-Catholic in theology and worship, but inclusive and welcoming to all people. I think given our approach to worship we would most likely be expected to be rather reactionary and stuffy. We are, or least try to be, welcoming and loving of all people.

This is Los Angeles and we are in a veritable supermarket of religions and churches. We see ourselves as "evangelizing Anglo-Catholics." We have only been an Anglo-Catholic parish since 1986. That means we must teach Anglo-Catholicism both to newcomers and old-timers in the parish. We have an active newcomer outreach. Newcomers are welcomed and encouraged to eventually, if they wish, enter our nine month catechumen course. Last Easter Vigil we confirmed and received 14 new catechumens. Since we have instigated our nine month programme, we have noted an 82 per cent retention rate of those who have completed it.

Our demographics are changing somewhat with a number of young couples attending, and finally a few families with children. St Thomas is in the heart of Hollywood and will probably always be more of "grownups" parish, but we are reaching out to the families in our area. Traditional Anglo-Catholic worship is a novelty in Los Angeles. We seem to appeal to many people, particularly younger people who have never been exposed to anything like it.

We are still a small parish, with approx. 400 members, but with an average Sunday attendance between all the masses of 210. We have very little endowment funding and so must find the bulk of our budget ourselves. Fr Stuart is the head of stewardship both for the parish and for the Diocese of Los Angeles. Even though we are a small parish, we are leaders in the field of stewardship.

I felt the review of seven years ago of our parish was a little unfair, due to the interim period we were in. I also was surprised at the comment that no one spoke to your reviewer. I remember speaking to the person I assumed was the reviewer as he seemed to be fleeing down the steps of the church. I welcomed him myself and said I hoped he had a positive experience with us.

It would be interesting to have another Mystery Worshiper again sometime. I would hope that person might have a different impression now. Thank you for your attention and forgive me for going on a bit.

Best wishes

Michael Ensign Evans
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