In 2003, Good Shepherd celebrated the centennial of its designation as a mission; in 2011, it was the centennial of our church building. In between those centennials, I got very interested in the people and the happenings of both Good Shepherd and St Paul’s, San Jacinto. One of the things that set the Episcopal congregations apart from many of the other churches in the valley was that both missions grew from the congregation, not from a central church. They did not exist because an organized church sent missionaries to begin a congregation; they existed because worshippers informed a diocese that they wanted – that they needed – a church in this valley. At the time, I said if I ever put it all down in a book (as my co-researcher Grace Bacher said we must someday do), the title would be “Church on Demand.”
Then the interest took me further afield—to the beginnings of the Los Angeles Diocese, then back to the beginnings of the Diocese of California; then further back to the first Episcopal services in California. At some point, it occurred to me that the Episcopalians in our valley weren’t the only demanding ones. I noticed that the beginnings and early confusions in bringing Episcopal services to California came from this same circumstance: it was potential parishioners demanding the church, not the central church sending out missionaries in the hopes of beginning missions and churches. So the title still seems apt.
We share our pews and our faith with more than a century of parishioners who built and grew the space in which we worship, but first they demanded to be acknowledged as part of the Episcopal Church in the United States. It is to those thousands of parishioners — and especially to my coworker for many of these years, Grace Bacher—that this writing is dedicated.