Changing and Remaining
A History of All Saints’ Church San Diego
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Arriving at the Future
The drama of 1999-2002 emphasized the changes that had taken place in the All
Saints’ community since the days of Father Satrang.
For one thing, the community wasn’t as large as people had thought. The parish’s
annual report to the diocese for 2001 revealed that it had only 195 members in good
standing, down from 644, as estimated in the year before. (Some vestry members
had speculated that there were 250; others realized that they had no idea.1) That was
a shock–but the change in numbers should not be misinterpreted. It hadn’t
happened because hundreds of people had suddenly left the parish; it happened
because the rolls had finally been purged of people who had drifted away over the
course of many years but whose absence had not been recorded or (perhaps) noticed.
The phenomenon was probably similar to the one that was finally noticed by the
rector and congregation in the early 1930s.
According to the parish records for 1991–to cite a typical year–there had been 19
baptisms and four confirmations in that year; seven people had transferred in from
other Episcopal churches, 18 had transferred out, one had been identified as inactive,
and five had died. These were extraordinarily small numbers for a parish that said it
had started the year with 783 communicants. Any community would count itself
fortunate if fewer than 1 % of its members died in a given year. Any urban church,
such as All Saints’, particularly a church with a good representation of very mobile
military families, would count itself equally fortunate if fewer than 3 % of its
members stopped attending in a given year. Clearly, no one was keeping track of the
many people who had silently left, as people very often do from churches.
Allegedly, just one person did that in 1991. From 1992 through 2000, nobody did,
so far as the official reports were concerned. Apparently little effort was made to
contact the disappearing members.2
A more realistic, though still an overstated, idea of membership is offered by an
estimate unearthed from the parish data base (mid-2001): “235 active members; 209
in good standing.” A second way of looking at the size of the congregation is to
consider attendance at scheduled services. It was 28,788 in 1986, Father
McClaskey’s first full year as rector; 23,532 in 1991; 17,878 in 1996; and 14,160 in
2001. A third way of picturing the congregation is by considering pledges of
financial support. For 1986, there were 305 pledges; for 1991, there were 247; for
1996, there were 143. In 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the controversy over
Father McClaskey, the number had fallen to 99 (for 2002). Yet the proportion of
communicants who pledged financial support had risen steeply. In 1986, soon after
Father Satrang’s retirement, it had been 37%; and by 1991 it had sunk to 31%. But
pledges for 2002 stood at 51%.3 Comparing the distribution of pledges for 1991 and
2002, one sees a reduction in the proportion of small pledges and an increase in the
proportion of large ones, although “large” for All Saints’ still means “large” in
middle class or working class terms.4 The community was smaller in population but
larger in individual commitment.
In early 2002, Bishop Hughes appointed Father Douglas Woodridge as interim rector
of All Saints’. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Woodridge had served as curate under
Father Satrang; it was he who had blessed the baby elephant. He had then become
the rector of St. Michael’s, Carlsbad. He had retired and moved to Oregon, but he
was willing to come back to help All Saints’. An apartment was rented for him in
the neighborhood. His mission was to help the congregation heal its wounds and
“look to the future.” Woodridge served until Thanksgiving, 2002, when he returned
to Oregon, after which several local priests provided ministry. The vestry told
Woodridge that its own most important concerns were “healing,” “reconciliation,”
“more communication” within the congregation, and “outreach to the surrounding
community.” He advised vestry members to lead by example, “communicate with
people” themselves, and “spend some time each day with God.”5
In 2002, Sunday attendance stayed up, and offerings were recovering nicely, but All
Saints’ remained in a state of financial “austerity.”6 And it still had to find a
permanent rector. During the past five decades, it had not been required to go
through this process. In 1951, it had accepted, by acclamation, the services of young
Father Satrang, who had shown up on its doorstep with little to recommend him, at
the time, except his Anglo-Catholicism. In 1985, it had accepted, by acclamation,
Father McClaskey, impressed by Satrang’s endorsement of his protege. Now it had
to deal with the complicated and interesting and ultimately educational process of a
modern church “calling.”
Expertly assisted by Deacon Jenny Vervynck, a canon of the diocese, the parish
performed a self-study and self-description that could be read by candidates for the
job. According to the documents, the parish wanted to maintain its practice of
“classical Christian spirituality,” while committing itself to reaching out to its
neighborhood and becoming more of a “cross section of the community.”7
Even before Father McClaskey officially left the parish, the vestry had been trying to
bring All Saints’ closer to Hillcrest and the adjacent neighborhoods, sending out
special Easter invitations to all people with 92103 zipcodes.8 Now, outreach and
evangelism committees designed advertisements to be inserted in the local papers,
and a door-to-door canvass of the neighborhood to let people know about All
Saints’. The parish began an annual custom of participating in the neighborhood’s
City Fest event on Fifth Avenue. The committees’ target audiences included the gay
community, single parents, and singles in general (“feed them and they will come”).
The parish newsletter summarized the idea as “carrying out God’s command to
connect the Holy Truth of God found at All Saints’ with the diverse communities
under All Saints’ geographical and social influence.”9
The vestry had a new interpretation of “faith financing”: “We do believe in Faith
Financing but the Finance Committee would have a lot more faith if the budget was
at least a balanced one.” Yet the vestry wasn’t stingy: it interested itself very
actively in maintaining the church’s property for succeeding generations, expending,
for example, $42,000 on a major repainting of the church and parish hall.10 The
financial responsibilities of All Saints’ were eased when its mission of Christ the
King became at last an independent parish, having achieved financial selfsufficiency
in 2001. All Saints’ vestry gladly voted to transfer its property at 1460
Midway Drive, Alpine, to Christ the King.11 All Saints’ began 2003 with 160
members in good standing, pledges that were higher than anticipated, and Sunday
attendance still “holding steady.”12
After evaluating at least 16 candidates for the rectorship, the calling committee
decided on Father Anthony Noble, an Australian Anglo-Catholic. Father Noble
agreed to come, after experiencing three “signs” that he should accept the
unexpected challenge in America.13 (On one occasion, when a person making an
announcement to the congregation used the expression “good luck,” Father Noble
made a counter-announcement: “We’re Christians; we don’t believe in luck.”) He
began work at All Saints’ on October 1, 2003.
Tony Noble was born in Salisbury, South Australia, in 1947. He was trained as an
accountant and followed that profession both in Australia and, for a year during the
mid-1970s, in England. He then (1976-1978) attended seminary at St. Barnabas
Theological College in Adelaide, South Australia, and was ordained deacon (1979)
and priest (1980). He worked in several parishes in the diocese of Adelaide, then
became vicar of St. Mark’s, Fitzroy, in the diocese of Melbourne (1985-2003)–an
older, inner-city church. The ministry of St. Mark’s included a center for the
unemployed and street people, and under his leadership developed Australia’s first
parish ministry for people with AIDS (1986). He successfully completed a
comprehensive restoration of the historic church building.14 St. Mark’s was a
smaller parish than All Saints’, but under his leadership it did great things. Father
Noble promised the congregation of All Saints’, “As your priest I will be
accessible–and hopefully one that you can easily relate to. We Aussies are casual
and outgoing. You will already notice that I like to be called Father Tony–but I
won’t say G’day, even if you want me to!”15
“Father Tony” immediately became known as an outgoing, enthusiastic, and efficient
manager and priest. Efficient management doesn’t always correlate with
enthusiasm, but in this case it did. To visitors from the neighborhood, with which he
was immediately on congenial terms, he advertised the church not only as a defender
of tradition but also as the place “where we have more fun than the other churches
do.” His Australian brashness seldom concealed itself, but that was part of the fun.
Visiting England, he located a nineteenth-century brass tabernacle (the object on the
altar in which the consecrated hosts are placed after mass), and arranged for it to be
shipped to All Saints’, which had been using a wooden one. The metal tabernacle
was extraordinarily heavy and required special arrangements for transportation and
installation. It arrived at the port of Long Beach, but the shipping company delayed
sending it to San Diego. After several fruitless phone calls, Father Tony told the
company, “I’m an Australian. We get things done!” The tabernacle immediately
appeared at All Saints’.16
The energetic new priest found it easy to restore the congregation’s sense that All
Saints’ was a permanent institution. His unpretentiousness and exuberant sense of
humor made him very popular. “New” people began coming to All Saints’, and
“old” people stayed. All Saints’ remained a bastion of theological tradition; indeed,
Father Noble significantly increased Anglo-Catholic and especially Marian
devotionalism, organizing pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in
England and adding the Angelus to the end of regular services. But there was no
longer a perceived barrier between All Saints’ and the surrounding community. At
the same time, he was a convincing and trusted raiser of material support. In 2006,
the church was forced to comply immediately with a municipal order to retrofit the
Parish Hall for earthquake safety. Seventy thousand dollars were required to
strengthen the structure with steel supports at roof level. Enthusiastic parishioners
contributed the funds within six weeks.
One of the new rector’s biggest tasks was finding a solution to the problem of the
school. At the beginning of 2006, the preschool was doing very well; it had 39
students, the great majority of them newly enrolled, and was more than breaking
even financially. The academic school was not. An effort was made to offer fewer
classes by combining grades, but the situation remained unsustainable. Serious
marketing efforts had attracted only four new students for the current school year;
only 5% of the students who toured the school eventually enrolled in it; and the
projected enrollment for 2006-2007 was only 49. Deficits were enormous; the most
favorable projection for 2005-2007 was a deficit of $200,000.17 These were heartbreaking
figures for many people in the parish, especially those who had worked
courageously to keep the school going. But there was only one choice available.
Advised by the rector, the vestry decided that the school should close in June 2006.
The preschool, which had become financially self-supporting, continued. It is now a
significant source of church income. It uses the facilities that Father Satrang had
constructed in faith many years before, though it gives them a somewhat different
It has been said that the parish, including members who had sent their own children
to All Saints’ School, finally realized that for many years the church had been
“educating other people’s children.” Most parents who sent their children to the
school were “unchurched,” or members of other churches, and stayed that way.18
But to most people in the parish, closing the school was a heavy blow. For over half
a century, the school had provided its students with a sound education–a caring,
Christian education. The priests and people of All Saints’ had worked selfsacrificially
to keep the school running and to keep its quality high. In recent years
the Parents’ Association had provided exceptionally energetic support. But a small
private school could not compete with large, tax-funded institutions, or with private
schools supported by rich people. All Saints’ had maintained its school for more
than half a century, but it could maintain it no more, without threatening its own
existence. The school was closed. In former years this might have produced a rift in
the congregation. In 2006, it did not. The church took new pride in its unity, and
new interest in the intensification of its spiritual life.
One of its challenges was the strengthening of its music program. The spiritual life
of a church almost always has something to do with the inspiration of music, and
this has been particularly true of All Saints’. Two of its rectors, Father Murphy and
Father Stevens, were directly involved with the church’s music. No rector has been
accused of slighting it. Like most leaders of All Saints’, Father Satrang thought there
was an urgency about good music in the church. In 1963 he put a notice in the
service bulletin begging for eight or ten more volunteer choir members. All you
needed, he said, was “a good average voice with some knowledge of music.” But:
“Please . . . There are so many lovely anthems that cannot be sung until the choir has
grown.” The bulletin from a Sunday service in late 1952 lists seven hymns and an
anthem, besides the prelude and postlude. 19 That’s a lot of music; but music, of
certain kinds, is a distinguishing characteristic of Episcopal worship, and the higher
church a parish becomes, the more distinctive its music tends to be. All Saints’ is
very high church.
The organist and choirmaster under Father Noble was Robert MacLeod. In his late
teens, MacLeod had visited an evensong at All Saints’ and had loved the church ever
since. He had served briefly as All Saints’ organist in the early 1970s, and he had
returned to the position, after work in other churches, in April 1997–a fine choice by
Father McClaskey.20 MacLeod wanted to give his beloved church the quality of
music appropriate to its architecture and ritual.
High-church Episcopal music emphasizes complexity and sophistication. A
dedicated volunteer choir can do impressive things, but a choir that includes
professional voices can attempt much more. All Saints’ had no professional singers
until 2000, when a parishioner, the late Jack Merkel, provided money to employ one
singer, a soprano.21 During the next several years, MacLeod won support from the
congregation (and emphatically, Father Noble) to employ three more excellent
professional singers. They, together with the many fine volunteer voices in the
choir, began to exploit the tradition of serious church music in ways that All Saints’
had never heard before. The choir showed what even a small church can do when it
values its musical traditions and is determined to make the most of them.
According to MacLeod, the 1973 organ is a good instrument, with a good “sweet”
sound, although its power might be increased by the addition of pipes or
contemporary electronic aids. Since the organ chamber is full, the second alternative
is the one that recommends itself to the future. Nevertheless, the musical quality of
the church has been greatly enhanced during the past few years–not only by the
expert work of MacLeod and the choir, but by the simple expedient of removing the
carpeting from the aisles of the nave and chancel, a project championed by Father
No one knows when carpeting was first installed at All Saints’, though (as we have
seen) it was a feature of the chapel in 1908 and the new church in 1912.22
Carpeting was an amenity that became predictable in American churches in the
twentieth century. But it was a mixed blessing–carpets deadened the sound of the
choir. So, by the end of 2010, the church had been freed from its carpeting, the floor
and the pews had been refinished, and the choir had begun to project itself more
forcefully down All Saints’ long nave. The amazing reverberance of the original
building was then revealed. Nobody had realized how many “s” sounds there were
in the hymn book, or how splendidly the choir could project.
A comparison of All Saints’ condition at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2011
shows solid progress. The number of communicants had fallen slightly, from 188 to
167 (after bottoming out at 157 at the end of 2004), but the church had reached a
sustainable level, with new people coming in to replace the inevitable losses.
Attendance at scheduled services was up–to 15,500 in 2010, compared with 14,160
in 2001. Income from unrestricted pledges had risen from $92,000 to $197,000, and
receipts from the collection plate had risen from $1700 to $5800–great
achievements, especially for a congregation that was hit very hard by the economic
crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, and had not fully recovered.23
Careful management had been required to make the congregation’s money go as far
as possible, so it is good to note that in 2010, the parish recorded revenues of
$146,000 from its properties, mainly its preschool and the space in the former
rectory on Seventh Avenue, now rented for other educational purposes. During the
2001-2011 period its total revenues had almost doubled, from $284,000 to $524,000.
Since 2001, total expenditures had risen from $344,000 to $495,000, but the budget
deficit for 2001 was $60,000, while the budget surplus for 2010 was $29,000.24
It was easy to see what had happened. The parish had united to maintain itself–by
individual contributions (often sacrificially made), by wise husbandry of resources
bequeathed by earlier generations, and by the hard work of self-management. A
high-church Episcopal parish requires the dedicated work of a very large proportion
of its communicants–vestry members, acolytes, members of the altar guild, greeters,
lectors, choir members, Sunday school teachers, volunteers for almost every
conceivable project. The people of All Saints’ kept doing the work, willingly and
successfully. They showed that an Episcopal church is not a structure of authority
but a structure of spontaneous order and commitment.
The parish therefore found itself in good shape when the next change occurred.
Early in his tenure at All Saints’, Tony Noble had recovered quickly from a bout
with cancer, but in 2010 he took some time off to recuperate from stress; and,
mindful of his health, on December 7 of that year he told the vestry that he would be
retiring on March 6.25 In his Advent sermon on December 12, he emphasized the
theme of Christian joy and urged the congregation to join him in making the final
three months of his work at All Saints’ a period of celebration. At his retirement
party on March 5, 2011, his ministry was celebrated by a throng of friends.
In spring 2011, Father Wayne Sanders, then in retirement, accepted All Saints’
invitation to return to the parish as interim rector. As this book is written, the parish
is preparing to search for its next spiritual leader, and it is looking forward to
celebrating the centennial of its church in 2012. The mood is confident. The past
century has demonstrated All Saints’ ability to remain, and prevail.
Only stories that have an ending can have a climax. All Saints’ has survived and
prospered, often against great odds. That makes an interesting story, but it does not
make a conclusion. This book now ends; the story of All Saints’ continues. If the
past has any predictive power, All Saints’ will continue to enact a story of faith,
hope, and love–and also of risk and daring, foolish mistakes and providential
victories, fervent devotion and productive eccentricity, and the confidence that
comes from staying true to oneself.
All Saints’ has never been rich or powerful. Many times, it has appeared to be
dying; several times, it has appeared to be dead. From its own point of view,
however, that simply proves its vitality. St. Paul wrote about this seeming paradox.26
He was describing himself and his friends in the early Christian church, but the
description will do well enough for all such communities as All Saints’–
communities that continue “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things . . . as
unknown, and yet well known; as dying–and, behold, we live.”
Parochial Report for 2001; V 1 4/10/2001; minutes, parish meeting, 6/11/2000.
2 See the Annual Reports, presented at the Annual Meetings for the relevant years;
and minutes, parish meeting, 6/11/2000.
3 The proportion for 1996 is impossible to calculate, because the stated number of
communicants, 695, is exaggerated.
4 V 8/14/2001; Annual Reports for relevant years; “Analysis of All Saints’ Episcopal
Church Stewardship Status” (pledges for 2002).
5 “From the Interim Rector,” WF 3/02; Interim Rector Letter of Agreement,
3/14/2002; V 3/12/2002, V 3/17/2002, V 11/12/2002.
6 V 9/10/2002; Budget Summary, All Saints’ Parish Semi-Annual Meeting,
6/23/2002. In August 2002, over 600 people attended mass, and August is ordinarily
a bad month for church attendance.
7 Position Profile, 10/17/2002.
8 V 4/10/2001.
9 V 7/9/2002, V 9/10/2002; Outreach Committee outline; Bill Moreno, “Evangelism
Mission of All Saints’ Church,” WF 3/2002.
10 “Stewardship Report,” WF 3/2002; V 12/10/2002.
11 V 3/11/2003, AM 1/ 27/2002; grant deed, recorded 12/30/2003.
12 V 10/8/2002, V 12/10/2002.
13 “Are You Any Closer to Calling a Priest Yet???”, WF 4/03; Tony Noble, interview.
14 Tony Noble, interview and personal correspondence.
15 Tony Noble, column, WF 9-10/2003.
16 Tony Noble, interview.
17 Business Administrator’s Reports, 5/10/2005, 1/10/2006; V 2/8/2005.
AM 1/ 24/96. According to a friendly e 18 stimate in 1980, “of the 148 [students]
presently enrolled–8 are from the Parish, 20 are Episcopalians and balance from all
over. Most come because of the Day Care from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.”–the provision for
students to stay and play or study after school (V 3/18/80).
19 Service bulletins, 9/1/63 and 11/30/52.
20 V 4/8/97.
21 AM 1/ 21/2001, 1/ 27/2002.
22 In addition, it is recorded that in 1940 the parish received the gift of a carpet for
the sanctuary, and in 1948 the gift of a “beautiful new carpet” for the aisles (rector’s
Annual Report, AM 1/16/41; V 4/14/48).
23 Annual Reports, AM 1/ 27 /2002, AM 1 / 30/ 2011; Parochial Report for 2004,
5/10/2005, vestry records. The number of communicants stated in the report for
2001 is probably somewhat too high, because this was the first report after the
difficult attempt to remove from the statistics several hundred parishioners whose
absence should have been noted before. And probably the report’s statement of the
deficit for 2001 is somewhat too low, because of confusing accounting practices
related to the parish school.
24 See Annual Reports for the relevant years.
25 Tony Noble to parishioners, 12/7/2010; “From the Rector,” service bulletin, 12 /
26 2 Corinthians 6:9-10.