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Earthquake Experiences

“God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof rage and swell,
and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same.”
Psalm 46:1-3 (1928 BCP)

On Oct. 17, 1989, about 5:15 p.m., a 6.9 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area. The Very Rev. Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, was in his office when the earth began to move, the floor started to shake and the whole cathedral began to sway. He said, “I began to pray in earnest. I was praying for solid, steady ground.”

In those days, I was the Rector of St Mark’s, Beaumont. A couple of years before, I had suffered a personal earthquake experience: a divorce after 25 years of marriage. Everything in my life was moving, shaking and swaying. I prayed for solid, steady ground.

A week after the San Francisco earthquake, Dean Jones came to St. Mark’s, Beaumont, to honor his commitment to conduct a weekend retreat on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26.

“In Scripture,” he began, “there is a four-fold pattern of our own life experiences. There is struggle, there is wounding, there is naming, and there is blessing. Think about your own life," he said. “Where are you?” That was the theme of the weekend.

Can you believe, eight days after Alan Jones had been at St. Mark’s, I met Ellen Jane Leister on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. Then 10 months later, on Aug. 10, 1990, we were married in The Mary Chapel of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, by The Very Rev. Alan Jones. For almost 30 years, we shared a ministry. Many of you at St. Martin’s knew Jane. Many of you are aware of her many gifts. She was a great gift to me. A real blessing to me and to many.

Ellen Jane Leister Elwood died suddenly on Nov. 27, 2019, the evening before Thanksgiving. Once again, the pattern began to repeat itself in my life, moving quickly from blessing to struggle and wounding. The Rector’s kindness, in letting me rejoin the staff, gives me the opportunity to return to St. Martin’s—a place of blessing, of solid ground, for both Jane and myself. I served here from 2000 to 2005 and from 2012 to 2013.

I know each of you will be a blessing to me and I pray I can be a blessing to each of you.

Struggle, Wounding, Naming and Blessing.

Be still, then, and know that I am God.” Psalm 45:5

The Rev. Dick Elwood
Pastoral Associate
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