The History of our Church
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
The following pages will tell you some things about St. Clement’s by-the-Sea parish and the Episcopal Church. As with most attempts to describe a dynamic organization, most of the information will be outdated before this information goes to press! Such it is always with a living and organic entity. This parish is more than organizations and activities. It is even more than simply a piece of an organization stretching world-wide. The parish is even more than people. The parish is essentially the embodiment of the Holy Spirit working in new and different ways and through new and ever different people. Consequently, anything we say about “the parish” is only conditional to the immediate moment.
Having said that, we are none-the-less rooted in a two thousand year old tradition that includes a liturgy derived from the very earliest practice of the first Christians. The wonderful combination of the old and the new makes for the excitement and dynamism of this place called St. Clement’s.
God is constantly leading us on pathways we didn’t know existed and into projects we thought were impossible. God is constantly opening our eyes to see and our ears to hear new ways to make the all-inclusive love of Christ tangible in a broken and all too contentious world. So……anything we say about this parish is conditional, temporary and transient. We are on a journey together. We are not always sure of the pathway but the destination is never in doubt. We welcome all to join the adventure. It’s really worth the trip!
The Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is a world-family of Churches. There are more than 70 million Anglican Christians in 29 autonomous Churches spread across 160 countries in every continent. Anglicans speak many languages and come from different races and cultures. Although autonomous, these Churches are unified through their history, theology and their relationship to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Anglicans trace their roots back to the early Church and their separate identity to the post-Reformation expansion of the Church of England and other Episcopal or Anglican Churches. Historically, there were two main stages of development of the communion. From the 17th century, Anglicanism was established alongside colonization in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
The second stage began in the 18th century when missionaries worked to establish Anglican Churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Central to worship for Anglicans is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In this offering of prayer and praise are recalled the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the proclamation of the Word and Celebration of the Sacraments. Worship is at the very heart of Anglicanism. Its styles vary from the simple to the elaborate, from Evangelical to Catholic, from charismatic to traditional or indeed from a combination of these various traditions. The Book of Common Prayer, in its many revisions throughout the Communion, gives expression to the comprehensiveness found within Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, a middle way whose principles reflect, since the time of Elizabeth I, a via media in relation to other Christian traditions.
St. Clement’s by-the-Sea is the southern-most parish in the Diocese of Los Angeles. A diocese is a geographical area designated by the National Church and is the responsibility of a particular bishop. The Diocese of Los Angeles is one of the largest in the United States, having over 800 clergy, and 144 parishes, missions and institutions.
St. Clement of Rome
According to early traditions, Clement was a disciple of the Apostles and the third bishop of Rome. He is generally regarded as the author of a letter written around the year 96 AD from the Church in Rome to the Church in Corinth, and known as “First Clement” in the collection of early documents called the “Apostolic Fathers.”
The occasion of this letter was the action of a younger group of Christians who had deposed the elder clergy because of dissatisfaction with their ministrations. The unity of the Church was being jeopardized by a dispute over its ministry. It insists that God requires due order in all things, that the deposed clergy must be reinstated, and that the legitimate superiors must be obeyed.
The letter used the terms “bishop” and “presbyter” interchangeably to describe the higher ranks of clergy, but refers to them as “rulers” of the Church. It is they who lead its worship and “offer the gifts” at the Eucharist, just as duly appointed priests of the New Testament performed the various sacrifices and liturgies in their times.
Many congregations of the Early Church read this letter in their worship, and several ancient manuscripts include it in the canonical books of the New Testament, along with a second letter, which is actually an early homily of unknown authorship, The text of First Clement was lost to the Western Church in the Middle Ages and not re-discovered until 1628.
The Emperor Trajan was greatly angered by St. Clement’s success as a missionary and ordered that he be weighed down by an anchor and thrown into the sea. The celebration of our patronal saint is on November 23rd.
St. Clement’s by-the-Sea had its beginnings Sept. 1, 1929. The Rt. Rev. R. H. Balcom, General Missionary of the Convention of Los Angeles, was sent to conduct the first service of the Episcopal Church of San Clemente. It took place at 7:00pm at the original Las Palmas Elementary School just across the street from the present church building and services continued thereafter on a regular basis.
On September 22, the first baptism was performed at the residence of the first Mayor of San Clemente, Thomas Murphine. Ole Hanson, founder of the town of San Clemente, was the godfather. Services continued in the schoolhouse until February 2, 1930; then they were held at the Community Center. Finally, on October 19, 1930, St. Clement’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was dedicated at the 11:00am service by the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. W. B. Stevens. A congregation of 200 was present. Services have continued uninterrupted at St. Clement’s to the present…..75+ years! In 1957, the then new parish hall was dedicated. Until that time, the current library served as the parish hall. In 1961, St. Clement’s was granted parish status, which indicated the ability to be financially self-sufficient. In the same year, the new rectory (rector’s home) was completed. In 1981, the church building was designated Historical Landmark #1 by the San Clemente Historical Society. A picture of the church circa 1930 can be seen on the Historical Society's website, here (or in the picture above). The original building has never undergone any structural changes.
The building of the church was accomplished through the generosity of Ole Hanson, founder of San Clemente. Having established the town and achieving incorporation in 1929, Mr. Hanson offered the gift of two lots for the establishment of a church for his “little Spanish village by the sea.” The Episcopal Church accepted the offer. This land gift, a cash donation and various loans made possible the building of the first church in town: St. Clement’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.
St. Clement’s by-the-Sea has survived earthquakes and the Great Depression. It has served uninterrupted as a house of worship and has ministered to the needs of the community. It continues its dedication to the spirit of love and service to God’s people.
In 1994, St. Clement’s by-the-Sea began a building expansion program which included three phases.
Phase I expanded the current parish hall by one third and provided a much needed and more efficient kitchen.
Phase II Involved the construction of new classrooms and meeting space.
Phase III included the relocation of administrative offices. The new facilities were dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Robert Anderson, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles at a ceremony held on Oct. 28, 1995.
There are two shrines near the entrance of the sanctuary. One is the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, the other is the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Our Lady of Walsingham
The story of Walsingham begins in Saxon England when Edward the Confessor was on the throne. Richeldis de Faverches, Lady of the Manor at Walsingham Parva, had a vision (1061 A.C.E.) in which the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her, and carried her in spirit to Nazareth, and showed her the little house where the Annunciation took place. She was bidden to take special note of the measurements of this house, as she must make an exact reproduction of it. The vision was repeated three times, and Lady Richeldis joyfully set about to carry out the instructions she had received to create "England's Nazareth." For over 400 years, pilgrims came----young, old, rich and poor. In thanksgiving for answers to prayers, people often brought lavish gifts to offer at the shrine, making this place in its popularity and wealth second only to St. Thomas Beckett’s. It became a prime target for King Henry VIII, once a pilgrim himself, who in the 1500’s dissolved England’s monasteries and shrines in the name of reformation. Soldiers removed the statue and it was taken to London and burned. The Slipper Chapel (now a Roman Catholic Shrine) became a cattle shed—the Holy House and Priory destroyed. Yet this destruction would not be the final chapter for this sacred spot.
Hundreds of years later, a young man with a vision to restore the Walsingham devotion came to be a priest in the village. In 1922, Fr. Hope Patten erected a statue (of Mary and Child) in the church, recreating it from an image on the old priory seal found in the British Museum. After much work, the vision of the priest became a reality when in 1931, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was moved to a newly built shrine church and Holy House.
Each year at the Spring Bank Holiday, thousands of Anglicans flock to the village for the annual National Pilgrimage. The 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie led the National Pilgrimage in 1980 at which Princess Margaret was in attendance.
Candles burn in the Holy House as signs of intercession for people and causes of every kind – cancer, AIDS, divorce, homelessness, peace, thanks for a new baby, job and friends are but a few themes.
Although every practice might not appeal to every Episcopalian, one cannot help but be grateful for Walsingham’s gift to the Church of prayer and the sense of peace and joy that seems to be imparted.
(J.M. Rosenthal, Anglican Consultative Council) (Walsingham, England’s Nazareth)
The Our Lady of Walsingham statue was ordered from Walsingham, England.
The Virgin of Guadalupe
Juan Diego, an Aztec and recent convert to Christianity, saw a brown-skinned apparition on Dec. 9, 1531. The apparition took place at Tepeyac, a hill within Mexico City.
Guadalupe introduced herself to Juan Diego as “the Mother of the True God by whom all live.” She instructed him to go tell Bishop Zumararga, the first Bishop of Mexico, to “erect my temple” on a site that had already been dedicated to an Aztec goddess. The skeptical bishop requested a sign of proof of the miracle. Juan Diego returned to the same spot on December 12th and the vision reappeared. Guadalupe told him to take fresh roses to the bishop. Roses did not grow on the dry, stony ground and for them to bloom in December was truly miraculous. When Juan Diego found the roses, Guadalupe arranged them in his tilma (a handmade cloak) before the bishop’s palace. As he opened his tilma, the roses fell out and those present saw on the cloth an image of Guadalupe. In a fifth apparition, Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego’s ailing uncle, Juan Bernardino, and cured him.
The Lady of Guadalupe is also known as “The Beautiful Dark One”, The Mother of the Race”, and “The Uplifter of the Downtrodden.” She is clothed in a body halo, a full resplendor (radiance) and is supported by an angel from heaven. Her eyes are cast down in humility. Her hands are folded but extended outward, a traditional gesture of offering one’s self in service. The blue-green colors of her turquoise mantle were the strongest colors in the cosmos of the indigenous people. The stars on her mantle are symbolic of Guadalupe. Her rose-colored dress has pre-Columbian gold overlay patterns that symbolize royalty. Wearing a black sash, empire style, she announces her maternity. To the indigenous people, this was a symbol of hope and new life that would result from the advent of Christianity. The roses gathered are an extravagant symbol of the gratitude of life, especially in the middle of winter.
The mural was painted by artist Veronica Gutierrez and the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue was hand crafted in Mexico. The Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine was dedicated in December, 1994. The shrine is located on the left as you enter the front doors to the church.
The library is part of the original church building that was constructed in 1929. It was designed to be the living quarters for the vicar (rector). The property at the corner of Aragon and Calle Puente was purchased and in 1961, the rectory (rector’s residence) was built. The original living quarters are used as a library, for meetings, and serve the Altar Guild as a pre-sacristy.
In 1956, St. Clement’s by-the-Sea embarked on a building expansion plan that would provide a much needed parish hall, church office, kitchen, rest rooms, limited classroom space and bride’s room. The parish hall was completed in 1957.
Construction on the original parish hall began in 1956 and completed in 1957. This structure was equipped with a small kitchen, bride’s room and a space for three very small offices. Prior to the completion of the new facilities, St. Clement’s had purchased a duplex next to the church. The duplex was sectioned off to provide classroom space for Sunday school. It also served as meeting space for parish and non-parish groups (AA, NA, etc.).
As our parish family grew as well as the needs of our community, it became obvious that more space was needed. In 1991, George R. Miller joined a group of parishioners whose duty it was to plan for facility expansion and improvements. City requirements had to be met so Jack Godfrey, a local architect provided the necessary consultation for meetings and rewrites of the plans. Finally, permits were issued to remove what was known as “St. Clement’s House.” Mr. Miller, who is known nationwide for the number and quality of many large construction projects volunteered to direct the building project for a fee of $1.00.
George was “off and running”. Almost all of the materials were purchased directly from the manufacturer or distributor and installed by volunteers and a few paid workers.
Dick Gillette removed, free of charge, the roof of the duplex. Windows, doors and excess lumber were given to Dave Sealand to build free homes for the needy in central Mexico. Truckers assisted in hauling costs. Gary Sevems helped solve sanitary sewer system problems.
The costs of purchasing and laying the concrete block were prohibitive until Wayne Wilson came from Cottonwood, Arizona and constructed the block walls and concrete finishing with his professional expertise. Mr. Hoffman of Omaha, Nebraska provided free professional assistance in planning the heating and ventilation system. Gary Walker provided professional roofing design and materials. The electrical and mechanical projects were done under Mr. Miller’s supervision.
Although the new facilities were constructed for approximately $350,000 (an exceedingly low cost), the quality of materials and attention to detail were not sacrificed. Every effort was made to ensure that the new facilities reflect the Spanish style of the original church building. For example: the light fixtures in the parish hall were handmade in Mexico and are exact duplicates of the wrought iron fixtures in the church. The kitchen, which is the envy of churches everywhere is the integration of George Miller’s expertise with the ideas from our ECW (Episcopal Church Women) of St. Clement’s.
In addition to George Miller, there were four other dedicated volunteers who were on site on a daily basis working on the building:
Assistant-Charlie Walz, Frank Mansfield, Fred Stewart. These four men (aka the “Fab Four”) were responsible for the majority of all the construction. Dick Johnson also devoted many hours to this project.
The financial generosity of the members of the parish and community was overwhelming. Without the love and dedication of the “Friends of St. Clement’s", the dream would never have been realized.
On Saturday, October 28, 1995, the Rt. Rev. Robert Anderson, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, officiated at the dedication of our new facilities.
On January 21st at the 2001 Annual Meeting of St. Clement’s by-the-Sea, the loan was paid in full and the loan documents for the building debt were burned!
The Memorial Garden on the East Side of the church was in the planning stage for some time. Through the efforts of the Memorial Committee, Florence Scott and several parishioners, the Memorial Garden became a reality.
The Memorial Garden, with its water fountain, benches and lovely roses provides a serene place of beauty and contemplation.
The Rt. Rev. Robert P. Anderson, Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, dedicated the garden on December 15, 1995.
Close and Cloisters
The Spanish-style patio (close) and wall was donated by Kitty Jones and her husband Howard in memory of Kitty’s mother and father, Margaret & Ancil Swagerty. Both Margaret and Ancil were long-time residents of San Clemente and members of St. Clement’s. Margaret was able to see the early stages of the construction of the patio before she passed away on July 4, 1997. Alecs and Richard Kamishin laid all of the tile and donated a portion of their labor costs.
The tiled walkways (cloisters) were donated by Florence Scott, a member of St. Clement’s for many years.
The Rt. Rev. Frederick H. Borsch of the Diocese of Los Angeles dedicated the patio area on November 16, 1997.
This historical information would not be complete without acknowledging the faith and commitment of Florence Scott. Florence spent countless hours carefully assembling the pictures, news articles, and other information about our parish family for the St. Clement’s scrapbooks. This was a personal ministry of Florence’s and without her unselfish dedication to the history of our St. Clement’s family, this vital information would not exist. Florence passed away on September 30, 2000 and she will be greatly missed.
Sources of information for the preparation of this history book come from a variety of sources:
Scrapbooks, meeting minutes from the Altar Guild, ECW
(Episcopal Church Women) and Vestry, old records, memorial
Plaques, interviews with long-time members of St. Clement’s