By Dennis Moran

Our church is unique because most Episcopal churches are named after a saint. Ours isn’t. Fr. John Benz thought he was being pragmatic when he named us.  He didn’t know that he gave us a multi cultural and historical name. Our name, Almaden, comes from an Arabic word, correctly pronounced in Arabic, al-ma-had-in.   Around 700 A.D., the Moors carried the word across North Africa into southern Spain.  From there, the name was brought to the new world into Mexico then north to here.  We were multi ethnic and didn’t even know it.  A mine is a source of wealth.  I would suggest that you are the wealth in this mine because God’s Spirit is inside you.

What was mined here?  It was a vermillion colored rock the Ohlone Indians called “mohetka”.  The rich color was religious for them.  They would grind it into a powder, mix it with animal fat and put designs on their bodies for protection from evil and direction from the Great Spirit that is in everything.

When Andres Castillero saw the mercury sulfide ore in 1845, he saw something different: wealth.  The Mexican government was offering $100,000 to anyone who found mercury because mercury was used to separate gold from the quartz.  Castillero suspected it to be cinnabar.

Cinnabar is another Arabic word meaning ‘dragon’s blood’.   When it was heated to 675 degrees, it created the pungent smell of evaporating sulfur.  A mirror-like liquid called mercury was left.  After condensation, it was poured into a vat and the impurities would float to the surface. The refiner would scrape these off, and when he saw his own image in it, he knew it was pure.  Mercury’s value is that it was used to extract gold and silver from the native ore and  mercury made the Gold Rush and Silver Comstock Lode in Nevada possible.

When I designed the multi ethnic symbol for the front of the altar, I made it with a reflective acrylic to symbolize the Almaden mercury.  Impurities are removed from gold, silver and mercury using the same methods.

Malachi 3:1-4, describes God as being like a goldsmith that refines the gold with fire.  We are the gold and God, the refiner, allows us to have our own trial by fire so that we see our character defects come to the surface.  Then we can eliminate them to better reflect God’s image in our lives.

A Parable

One night, Mary and I entered a restaurant.  We found Ron Howie and Melinda Jennings there.  We talked, they left and we sat down to order.  When it was time to pay our bill, the waiter said, ” You don’t have to pay.  That guy with the mustache paid for you.”   Ron and Melinda were reflecting God’s love in their mirrors by paying it forward.  Thus we are all mirrors to one another and we teach those around us by our example.  By paying it forward, like Ron and Melinda, we have an opportunity to reflect God’s love to others.  Think about your own image.  What does your reflection look like?

When I designed the mirror image for the front of the altar with the multi cultural names of God, my intention was that when someone stood in front, they would see their own image in the dove shape. Because the image on the altar is low, this doesn’t happen.  That motivated me to create this picture, “An Unfinished Portrait of God”.

The background is Super Nova 2006X from the NASA website and is about 50 million light years away from Earth.  That means that what exists in space now is not what we are seeing in Hubble.  Instead we are looking at the past.

This picture is not complete.  What is needed to complete the image is YOU.

You can make ‘paying it forward’ a part of your reflection to others in the way you use your time, talent, and treasure.  What can happen when you incorporate this into your image?

The Reflection of Ralph Borge

From Ralph’s reflection I learned more about drawing from him than anyone else.

As he grew up, Ralph had a talent for drawing.   He was drafted during World War II.   He carried a sketchbook with him and drew at every opportunity.  He could ‘out Rockwell’ Norman Rockwell.  After being discharged, Ralph and his generation had determination to make their lives meaningful.  So he enrolled in California College of Arts and Crafts to perfect his talent.  When he and his peers took a class they would compete to see who produced the best work.  If you entered that classroom, you would sense a intense electricity of learning in the air and it was contagious.  Those veterans raised the quality of work produced to a higher standard.

He began painting and became a respected artist in the Bay Area.  He gained national recognition and was interviewed in Time Magazine.  He started teaching drawing classes at the college and continued that atmosphere of intense electricity of learning to his students.  He was paying it forward.

Many of Ralph’s students became successful fine artists, graphic artists, fashion designers and interior designers.  Ralph’s reflection was reflected in their work.  Some even became teachers, re-creating the intense learning atmosphere of Ralph’s classes.  They, in turn passed Ralph’s reflection forward to their students.

Ralph has passed on to the other side.  He is no longer here, but like Super Nova 2006X, his reflection continues to shine.  When we cross to the other side, none of us knows what awaits us. I would suggest to you each of us has in our own mirror those gifts of time, talent and treasure that we can perfect and reflect forward to others.  We can show others how to use the best that is in them by our example.  In our real world, this is one way we create eternal life.

How do you know what God’s plan is for you?  Paul offers a suggestion in Romans when he says, “Present yourself as a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to God.” As Samuel you say, “Here I am, Lord.”

Will the path be easy?  Not necessarily.  You will find bumps in the road.  How do you deal with them?  Paul offers an answer in 1 Thessalonians when he writes, “Finally in all things give thanks.”  That means I thank God, not only the positives in my life, but also the negative reflections. When we recognize God working in them, we allow God to use them for our growth. God gives us the gift of time to perfect our image.

I leave you with a final thought:

Yesterday is history.

Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is all the gift from God you have.

That’s why they call it the present.


By Mike Schmidt

George asked me a couple of weeks ago to talk for a few minutes about how I feel about stewardship as it relates to my Christian journey. Without going into a lot of detail, after a long straightaway, my Christian journey has taken some unexpected turns. I became a Christian when I was 18, and was very active in a pretty conservative Baptist church, for the next 30 years. It was a growing and exciting church, the place where we raised our family and invested our lives. And for most of that time I assumed that things would just continue in that same way for the rest of our lives. But we gradually changed and began to feel uncomfortable and out of place. And through a series of events and realizations, we unexpectedly found ourselves leaving that church. We thought we’d quickly find another place where we felt more comfortable, but we didn’t, and we spent the next 15 years of our lives as somewhat disillusioned “semi-believers,” skeptical about much of what we had formerly believed so easily. I still considered myself to be a Christian, but that was about as far as I was willing to go.

Nearly 2 years ago, we first visited ECA. Why? There was some spiritual hunger and some loneliness there. Why ECA? We had learned a little bit about the Episcopal Church. We understood it to be tolerant of a wide range of spiritual beliefs and personal choices. The three-legged stool concept (scripture, tradition, and reason) was appealing to us. Why did we continue attending? People here were very welcoming. You kept inviting us to various events, breakfast, and into your homes; and we were hungry enough spiritually and socially to accept. We were invited to the two meetings where the whole church met and tried to envision the kind of church they wanted to be, at the beginning of the pastoral search process, and we were attracted by the collective heart of ECA. You envisioned a spiritual community that loves God, looks after one another, and reaches out into the greater community.

So what about stewardship? To me, stewardship means that as followers of Christ, we wisely and faithfully invest the abilities, time, and money that God has given us. Look around you at ECA. ECA sits on a great piece of property, we worship in a beautiful sanctuary, the arrangement we have with our partner church through Joint Venture is very unique, ECA is involved in some great ministries, ECA had the wise foresight to invest in a rectory, there have been youth groups here that helped raise your children into caring, productive adults–these are all things we enjoy today because of the wise and faithful stewardship of others, including many of you.

So what does stewardship mean for me personally? For now, it’s the realization that if I’m going to be here, and benefit, I need to do my part. What should I do? I should be open to opportunities that arise, and say “yes” to a few of them, which I’ve tried to do. What should you do? The same thing–be open to opportunities and say “yes” when you can. How much should I give? That’s a little trickier, because there’s a history there for me. Last year I settled on giving a little more than I was comfortable with, and this year an increase. How much should you give? I wouldn’t presume to tell you. But I think perhaps more is expected of us when we’re giving out of a great abundance.  I don’t think of myself as rich, but when I consider how most of the world lives, it changes my perspective. There are a lot of good things happening here. It takes all of us, giving of our abilities, time, and money, for those things to continue and increase, which is what we all want.



By Mary McPherson

The opportunity to speak is a blessing and I feel privileged to do so.  I was told to tell you “how I view stewardship as it relates to my Christian journey”.  So here goes.

Most of you know I have a passion for bible study.  It began in my mid 20’s but really ignited when I was diagnosed with an “incurable” cancer 26 years ago.   Since then, I have relied heavily on my relationship with the Lord to guide me in every trial and every decision I make.   By the way, regarding the cancer, the support ECA was to me during those dark days, especially in terms of prayers is something I will forever be grateful for.

Having a passion for Bible Study means that, when it comes to stewardship, I am a “by the book” type person.  I know you all know what the good book says on this subject.  Give of the first fruits.  Tithe.  I’ll share some of my implementations/interpretations of these.

The way I have put this into practice is still evolving.  God is still speaking.  I realize I am speaking to a faith community which could teach me a lot, but I was asked to speak which I guess gives me license.

When I think, “give of the first fruits”, I think not only of crops or money, but time.  My best time of day is in the morning.  I am fresh, alert, and energetic.  My kids are now out of the house, so my mornings are my own.  After breakfast and walking the dog, I sit down with a cup of coffee and read my bible, study, and pray.  By doing this, I am giving to the Lord the best part of my day, and his abundance has been profound.  He shows me his miracles daily.  My gratitude overflows.

God makes known to me where he wants my energies focused any given day.  It was during our morning time together, he called me to lead a bible study here at ECA seven years ago.

Kate talked a couple of weeks ago about finding the place where our deep gladness meets a need  – well for me that’s a story in its own.  But let me just say, I have never done anything so effortless and rewarding as the bible study is.  In giving Him my best time, He richly rewards me with his close presence, and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.  Where He wants me to be.

When God brought up the subject of giving several years ago, step one was to assess where we were, and it helped to not look only at church giving.

If you are like us, there are many causes God puts on your heart to give to in addition to ECA.  My goal became to give away 10% of what we bring in.  It didn’t happen overnight.  And I do have a husband to add to the equation.

I have found that whenever I consult with God He makes things easy.  (Including giving me an agreeable husband.)  There are a number of causes John and I feel especially drawn to outside of ECA.  Feeding the poor, preservation of the earth, social justice, cancer research, etc.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the requests, but making a plan of intentional giving makes it much easier for me to throw away an envelope or two that comes in the mail.

Another implementation is that I may not have tithed my whole life, and may not be able to ever “catch up” but a very easy thing to do was to put in our will that we want 10% of our estate to go to the church and our favorite charities.  That seemed like a no-brainer.  Obviously we won’t be needing it.

Lastly, I know most of you are probably familiar with this, but I’ll mention it just in case some one out there doesn’t know about it.  It’s the practice of stock donation.

Being early high tech people, HP and IBM, John and I have some stock that has a very low cost basis.  That is, we got it for much less than it’s worth now.  If we were to sell the stock, our gain on it would be taxed heavily.   By making a donation in stock, ECA receives the stock at its full value, we get to write off the full value, and no one has to pay the capital gains!

In closing, let me say that I am proud to be an Episcopalian, and a member of ECA.  There is no other church body I would rather be identified with.

I think we are on a great path with the leadership under Kate, and even beyond ECA, I admire the work of both Mary Gray-Reeves, and Katharine Jefferts-Schori.  I can’t wait to see what we can do when we put our resources together and the programs and outreach we want to have are adequately funded.


Stewardship Thoughts

By George Romer


The meaning of Christian stewardship has focused many times on tithing, but this is not the priority definition when discussing the subject. The priorities involved are how time is spent, how relationships are retained, and then how money is spent. There are a lot of things that have to do with this responsibility that many people have never been aware of. Most agree that a good idea is to spend time studying ways to become a responsible Christian. The meaning involves how the precious gifts that God has given to all are used and cared for. The good steward is someone who is doing the best he can with the things that God has given them.

The reality shows up in how a person reacts in situations and how much they are willing to sacrifice to exercise their responsibility. These perspectives all have a common thread – unselfish behavior for the common good of our relatives, friends, neighbors, nation, and the world.  We have a common relational community which is strengthening as we go through this cycle of good stewardship, over and over.  We encourage one another and celebrate our successes.  We praise God for the opportunities He gives us to serve others as good stewards of the skills and talents He has bestowed on us.

On a humorous note, someone quipped that, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”  You’ve got to get involved on the mission!  It is a journey.  Cars don’t go anywhere in the garage!