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Published August 1st, 2012
St. Giles' New Priest Explores Modern Issues and Looks to the Future
Cathy Dausman
Reverend Justin Cannon Photo Cathy Dausman

The Reverend Justin Cannon is easy to spot in a crowd. The 6'6" bearded redhead with glasses and the Roman collar is the newest leader of St. Giles Episcopal Church, a "church without walls" which meets in the chapel of Saint Mary's College in Moraga, as it has since 1982. Cannon says he would like to "encourage people to explore modern issues," while remaining a respectful guest of the college. Religious inclusivity is important to him.
"For me it has to do with being faithful to Christ," he says, quoting Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Cannon is the author of The Bible, Christianity & Homosexuality, and editor of Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church and Sanctified. He founded Holy Hikes, a Bay Area eco-ministry supported by St. Giles parish, and Inclusive Orthodoxy, an organization that "seeks a revitalization of faith grounded in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ - a message of love, a proclamation of hope for the oppressed, an invitation towards all regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation," according to its website.
Asked whether the homosexual community feels ostracized by mainline churches, Cannon replied: "I cannot speak for the LGBT community, so I'm not sure. One of the hurdles LGBT people face- is that so many feel they have to choose between their faith and who they know themselves to be. Since we cannot change who we are at our core, so many LGBT people give up on faith, which is quite sad. My call is before all to seek and serve Christ and my neighbor . . . gay or straight."
He says a local congregation like St. Giles can help by offering "a community where anyone can come - regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or disability."
Technically "Father Justin," as he prefers to be called, is a part-time "Priest-in-Charge," beginning his first post-ordination call to serve a community through the Contra Costa Deanery of the Episcopal Church. Cannon is a 2009 graduate of Berkeley's Church Divinity School of the Pacific. His assignment to St. Giles began June 16, and will last three years, at which time the parishioners have the option to extend his stay. "St. Giles has asked for my presence, and Saint Mary's has welcomed me," Cannon says. Although he has no official school role, St. Giles' rents an office space on campus and Cannon has been invited to make himself available to students when they return, in collaboration with campus ministry. He will be introduced at the school's fall Eucharist service.
Reverend Salvatore Ragusa, Chaplain for Saint Mary's calls Cannon "young, energetic, and passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ." He says the college has been "blessed with wonderful and pastoral priests from St. Giles and Father Justin will build on those relationships."
Ragusa and Cannon have already spoken about finding ways to bring their faith communities together for prayer and service. Ragusa even hopes to "have time to plan our homilies together." The largely Lamorinda-based St. Giles congregation numbers 30 to 40 members on any given Sunday. Cannon says it already "feels like a family."
"While our core tenants unite us as Christians," Cannon says "the saddest thing is that we isolate ourselves." Cannon is already practicing inclusivity, reaching out to potential congregants by updating the St. Giles website and adding Twitter and Facebook accounts to attract 20- and 30-something aged congregants, whom he calls "the church's future."
For information, you can visit the St. Giles' website at www.stgiles-moraga.org


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