7. Leading Saint Matthias into the twenty-first century: 1996 to the present
After 23 years of service at Saint Matthias, the Reverend Chester Howe retired in 1996. The Reverend Howe was succeeded by the Reverend Bruce Gray, Saint Matthias's fourth rector. Over the next 15 years, the Reverend Gray brought Saint Matthias into the first decade of the twenty-first century in several key ways, focusing on improvements to communication infrastructures, seeking new ways to increase funding for the church's operations and outreach, and partnering with parishioners to create greater opportunities for service to the church, one another, and the larger community.
While serving not only as a member of the Diocesan Council and Diocesan Budget Committee, but also Board Chairman for Camp Stevens (the 256-acre wilderness retreat and summer camp that serves the Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego), the Reverend Gray initiated several new ministries and programs at Saint Matthias, including a college ministry, the Prayer Minister Program, and the Wellness Program. During his tenure and with the Reverend Gray's help, parishioners created Funds for the Future, an “rainy day" account for future projects, as well as a grants program designed to secure pledges and grants for the advancement of Saint Matthias's ministries.
In 2011, the Reverend Howe was succeeded by the Reverend Bill Garrison. Ordained in 2008, the Reverend Garrison (a.k.a. Father Bill) came to Saint Matthias from Saint Margaret's in San Juan Capistrano, where for three years he served as an associate priest as well as the chair of the Religion Department at the school there. At Saint Matthias, in addition to his spiritual guidance and theological expertise, Father Bill has brought his experience and fiscal acumen as a longtime business owner to bear upon a number of important projects and improvements:
Since 2011, Father Bill has overseen a substantial, 25 percent increase in church attendance, spurred in part by programs he's initiated and improved upon like Theology on Tap, Wednesday morning Bible Study and Eucharist, and a monthly Saturday evening service; as well as new-and-improved ministries and educational programs, including the Children’s Ministry, Senior Ministry, and five-week-long religious classes held twice a year between the two Sunday services. Father Bill has also spearheaded efforts that have improved the physical plant at Saint Matthias, including painting the exterior of the building; the installation of new flooring in Lewis Hall, the Chase Room, common corridors, business office, and classrooms; the renovation of six restrooms, including new ceramic tiles, fixtures, and toilets; the installation of air conditioning and heating in the sanctuary; the renovation of the narthax; and the acquisition of new televisions for education and instruction. He has taken an active role in creating service opportunities for parishioners, starting an Advancement Committee to promote Saint Matthias in the community and a Soup Hour Committee to formalize procedures and make this important program financially self-sustaining; has worked to streamline existing opportunities, including revamping the Finance Committee and modernizing all of the Church's accounting systems; and supported new lay leadership opportunities in the parish. Finally, Father Bill has guided Saint Matthias through significant challenges, including finding new tenants following the loss of the Oralingua School for the Hearing Impaired in 2013, and hiring a new music director after the departure of choirmaster Don Brown in 2016.