One month after being crowned Miss America in 1992, Leanza Cornett stopped at Hope Lutheran Church in Hollywood to speak at the congregation's first AIDS Memorial Service. In the beauty contest finals, she had said she would seek to advance public knowledge and care for the fatal disease if she won the title.
Cornett, who appeared at that church service with the late Linda Luschei, the HIV-positive co-founder of Women at Risk, will be back in the church at 10:30 a.m. Sunday for the Fourth Annual Memorial AIDS Service.
The theme of Hope Lutheran's service will be the small victories that occur amid pain, sickness, loss and isolation, said Rick Rose of the church's AIDS Care Team.
"These [victories] include incredible support groups, an unwavering sense of unity and compassion, medical advancements and sustained health for many long-term survivors," Rose said.
The service will also feature former rock musician Robert Fleischman performing songs including "Don't Let Anyone Tell You That You Don't Have a Prayer." The speaker will be the Rev. Joseph Gilbert, who heads the AIDS Project Los Angeles' spiritual advisory committee.
Pastor Mark Rasbach said that the congregation at 6720 Melrose Ave. is a church of community action. "We are as diverse as the city itself, and we embrace everyone who is tackling any challenge in their lives," he said.
On sensitivity to the issue of AIDS, however, the Lutheran congregation is not alone in the religious community.
* Episcopal Bishop Frederick Borsch has asked Episcopalians in Southern California to attend one of five AIDS Masses to be held in Southern California at 4 p.m. Sunday. Borsch will preside over the liturgy at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, 840 Echo Park Ave. Other Masses are scheduled at St. Clement's By-the-Sea Church, San Clemente; St. Michael's Church, Riverside; St. Luke's Church, Long Beach, and Trinity Church, Santa Barbara.
* A special forum, "Living With AIDS," was held Thursday at Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles under the sponsorship of the Mothers Activists Group of Los Angeles Jewish AIDS Services.
* Paulist Father Jerry Sullivan will celebrate a Mass and anointing for persons living with AIDS/HIV on Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, 10750 Ohio Ave., West Los Angeles.
* Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be presented with a lifetime commitment award Friday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel by the Los Angeles-based Noel Foundation. Awardees also include Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland, and Helen Suzman and Adelaide Tambo, South African women who were active in the fight to end apartheid. The $350-a-plate fund-raising dinner will benefit the United Nations Development Fund for Women and other projects. Information: (310) 226-3016.
* Comparative religions expert Huston Smith will lecture on the Native American Church at 11 a.m. on Oct. 22 at the Philosophical Research Society, 3910 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles. His classic text, "The Religions of Man," was updated in a recent edition, titled "The World's Religions." The suggested donation is $5. Information: (213) 663-2167.
* The Rev. Frank M. Alton will be installed Oct. 22 as pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd. Formerly an associate pastor at Bel-Air Presbyterian Church and most recently engaged in a ministry in Mexico City, Alton will be installed in rites at 4 p.m., conducted in English, Spanish and Korean in recognition of the multicultural community around the historic church. Organized in 1888 in Downtown Los Angeles, the church built its imposing structure on Wilshire Boulevard in 1929.
* The Rev. Dusty Pruitt of Long Beach, who fought court battles for the rights of lesbians to serve in U.S. military forces, will preach at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Metropolitan Community Church for All the Saints, 3621 Brunswick Ave., in the Atwater Village section of Los Angeles. Information: (213) 665-8818.
* Focusing on problems affecting African American children, the Greater Bethany Community Church in South-Central Los Angeles will host a daylong conference next Saturday to "strengthen families and preserve our children." Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, president of Drew University Medical Center, will give the keynote speech at the conference, which starts at 9 a.m. The Rev. Noel Jones, pastor of the growing host congregation at 8422 S. Hoover St., will speak on "the black male as an endangered species." Free immunization for children and parents will be provided by Centinela Hospital. Information: (213) 753-8980.
* Six panelists will address the issue of domestic violence, especially as it affects children, at an open forum 3 p.m. Sunday at First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, 2936 W. 8th St. The panel includes two physicians and Donna Wills, head deputy for the Los Angeles district attorney's Family Violence Division. A $10 donation will be requested. Information: (213) 382-7022.
* Betsy Caprio, founder of the Center for Sacred Psychology in Culver City, will present the case for "Opera as a Path to Spiritual Growth" next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Mt. St. Mary's College Doheny Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Caprio will sample selections from Giacomo Puccini's "Girl of the Golden West" to show "the redemptive power of love, human and divine," said a spokesman. The fee is $20. Information: (213) 746-0450.
The Revs. Mark Trotter of San Diego First United Methodist Church and Beverly Shamana, who directs ethnic, justice and outreach ministries for United Methodists in Southern California, will be the featured speakers at the Oct. 24-25 Fall Ministry Convocation on Preaching at the School of Theology at Claremont. Registration deadline is Monday. Information: (909) 626-3521, Ext. 262.
* British organist Peter Hurford, making his last U.S. tour, will begin the 27th season of concerts at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 540 S. Commonwealth Ave., at 4 p.m. Sunday with works by J.S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn and Antonio Vivaldi. Regular admission $11. Information: (213) 385-1345.
* Medical ethics and religious values will be the topic of speaker Dr. Cynthia Gordon at the Los Angeles Clergy Network luncheon on Thursday at the Sharon Care Center, 817 W. 3rd St. Gordon is a lecturer in biomedical ethics at UC Riverside and an ethics committee member at three hospitals. The luncheon is free. Reservations: (800) 707-2224.
* Kay Steinberg, a delegate to the United Nations-sponsored women's conference recently held in Beijing, will report on her impressions at the monthly meeting of the Society for Humanistic Judaism at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Northern Building at Beverly Hills' Roxbury Park. The meetings are open to the public.
* Renowned Welsh harpist Elinor Bennett will perform and British Parliament member Dafydd Wigley, president of the Nationalist Party of Wales, will give a talk on "The Future of Wales" at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Welsh Presbyterian Church, 1153 Valencia St., Los Angeles. Information: (310) 398-3924.
* Looking for converts through a low-key program for non-Jews and secular Jews, Reform Judaism will begin its introductory, three-session class at Sha'Arei Am, Santa Monica, on Wednesday. Classes will meet the next three Wednesdays at 7 p.m. The program, called "A Taste of Judaism: Are You Curious?"uses only rabbis under 50 years old as the teachers. On Thursday, Oct. 26, the series will begin at two more temples, Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles and Temple Beth Hillel in the San Fernando Valley's Valley Village.
* Marking a milestone in its rapid growth, the West Angeles Church of God in Christ on Sunday will begin preparations to build a $42.5-million worship center on a Crenshaw-area lot near its present home.
An old building on the site at 3628 Crenshaw Blvd. will be demolished to make way for a gleaming glass-and-steel edifice reminiscent of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
"It's part vision, but it's also part necessity," said the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Blake, pastor of the congregation and Southern California bishop of the predominantly African American denomination.
He said the local congregation has outgrown its present church at 3045 Crenshaw Blvd. Its 12,000 members make it the largest congregation in the fast-growing denomination, Blake said. When he became pastor in 1969, there were just 51 active members. Now, the church must hold four services each Sunday to accommodate the thousands of worshipers who attend each week.
Blake said work on the project was made possible in part by a $5-million pledge from basketball great Earvin (Magic) Johnson, and a pledge of $2.5 million from actor Denzel Washington.
Blake said other leaders of the church have pledged enough to bring the total commitment to $11 million, and a campaign to raise pledges from the church membership has not yet begun.
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