St. Anthony of the Desert
Episcopal Church
Desert Hot Springs, California

 

What Is St. Anthony's Mission?
Being a Community of Worship & Friendship

 

The mission of St. Anthony’s is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ through the ministry of all its members. To accomplish this goal, our people are a community of worship and fellowship. We want to be friends with all who come through our doors and enter our parish life.

Introduction to St. Anthony's

Our parish is a recognized congregation of the Protestant Episcopal Church, U.S., and part of the church's Diocese of San Diego under its bishop, the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes. St. Anthony's priest in charge is the Rev. Julie Christian (see Pastor and Leadership below).

The parish was founded in Desert Hot Springs, California, in 1987 as a mission outreach of St. Paulthe Hermit Episcopal Church in Palm Springs. At that time, the diocesan bishop was the Rt. Rev. Brinkley C. Morton in San Diego. The founding pastor of the church was the Rev. Herbert Lazenby. The church building was dedicated at its current location on Mountain View Road in 1993. Below is a photo (c. 1990) of one of St. Anthony's early Christmas celebrations:

Since those years, St. Anthony of the Desert Church as served as a beacon of light and hope for the surrounding community and beyond. The people of the parish continue to welcome and befriend all who come to us.

Church Leadership

The leadership of St. Anthony's includes the following members of the parish's Bishop's Committee (board):

  • Paul Thompson, treasurer
  • Russ Williams, clerk (secretary)
  • Roberta Suppi
  • Bob Westerberg
  • Mark Jurguensmeyer

The names above include the members' and participants' titles (if applicable). Also, St. Anthony's Minister of Music is Rew Hennessey. The photo below shows a typical meeting of the Bishop's Committee at the church. Participants are (from left): Margo, Jackie, Frank and Julie. Paul Updike is also present. The meetings are open, and all church members are encouraged to attend.

You may reach any member of the Bishop's Committee, using the following church email address:
Welcome@stanthonydhs.org

The Story of St. Anthony

Anthony of the Desert, also called Antony the Great (c.251–356 CE), also has many other names, such as Saint Anthony, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony the Abbot, Anthony the Anchorite (hermit), Anthony of Thebes, Abba (father) Antonius and Father of All Monks. He was a Christian saint from Egypt and a prominent figure among the fourth-century "Desert Fathers." His feast day in the Christian church calendar is January 17.

The biography of Anthony's life by the early church bishop, Athanasius of Alexandria, is titled Life of Saint Anthony the Great. This book helped to spread the concept of monasticism, particularly in Western Europe, through widespread Latin translations. Monastic beliefs include vows of poverty and celibacy and constitute the life of monks and nuns, also known to Roman Catholics as the "religious."

Anthony is often erroneously considered the first monk, but as his biography and other sources make clear, there were many ascetics before him. Anthony was, however, the first known ascetic going into the wilderness (about 270–271 CE), a geographical move that seems to have contributed to his renown. Accounts of Anthony's enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Eastern Desert of Egypt inspired the often-repeated subject of the temptation of St. Anthony in Western art and literature.

Anthony is notable for being one of the first ascetics to attempt living in the desert proper completely cut off from civilization. His hermit-like lifestyle was remarkably harsher than that of his predecessors. Yet the title of the father of monasticism is merited for him because he was the inspiration for the later going of hundreds of men and women into the depths of the desert. These people were then loosely organized into small monastic communities, especially by his disciple, Macarius.

According to Athanasius, the devil fought St. Anthony by afflicting him with boredom, laziness and the phantoms of women, which he overcame by the power of prayer, providing a theme for later Christian art. After these temptations, he moved to a tomb, where he resided and closed the door on himself, depending only on a few local villagers who brought him food.

Athanasius wrote that when the devil perceived his ascetic life and intense worship, he was envious and finally beat him mercilessly, leaving him unconscious. When his friends from the local village came to visit him and found him in this condition, they carried him to a church.

After he recovered, he made a second effort and went back into the desert to a farther mountain by the Nile called Pispir, now Der el Memun, opposite Crocodilopolis. There he lived strictly enclosed in an abandoned Roman fort for some twenty years. According to Athanasius, the devil again resumed his war against Saint Anthony, only this time the phantoms were in the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes and scorpions. They appeared as if they were about to attack him or cut him into pieces. However, the saint would laugh at them scornfully and say, "If any of you has any authority over me, only one would have been sufficient to fight me." At his saying this, the creatures disappeared as though in smoke. This triumph is attributed as a victory granted by God.

While in the fort Anthony only communicated with the outside world by a crevice through which food would be passed and he would say a few words. Saint Anthony would prepare a quantity of bread that would sustain him for six months. He did not allow anyone to enter his cell; whoever came to him stood outside and listened to his advice.

Anthony later returned to the old Roman fort upon the end of the persecutions of Christians (c. 312 CE). Here, many came to visit him and to hear his teachings. He saw that these visits kept him away from his worship. As a result, he went farther into the eastern desert of Egypt. He traveled to the inner wilderness for three days, until he found a spring of water and some palm trees, and then he chose to settle there. Disciples soon started to come to him to seek spiritual teaching. A trickle became a flood, and soon they numbered in the hundreds. On this place now stands the Monastery of Saint Anthony the Great.

When Saint Anthony felt that the day of his death was approaching, he commanded his disciples to give his staff to Saint Macarius and to give one sheepskin cloak to Saint Athanasius and the other sheepskin cloak to Saint Serapion, Athanasius' disciple. Anthony further instructed his disciples to bury his body in an unmarked, secret grave.

Anthony's sayings were spread far and wide in a Greek translation, although he himself left no writings. Many stories are also told about him in various collections of sayings of the Desert Fathers. Though Anthony himself did not organize or create a monastery, a thriving monastic community grew around him based on his example of living an ascetic and isolated life. Athanasius' biography helped propagate Anthony's ideals. Athanasius wrote, "For monks, the life of Anthony is a sufficient example of asceticism."

Message for Modern Christians: Very few people nowadays would seriously consider giving up everything and going to live as a hermit in the desert. However, St. Anthony's example today is valid a model for us to seek ways to turn away from modern American society's rampant materialism and total dependence on the secular world. Anthony was a profound mystic who looked to the supernatural and Christian spirituality as life's true reality. Money and material things will not give us happiness or total satisfaction in life. Anthony looked beyond "things" to find spiritual fulfillment that transcended the material world. We would all do well to emulate his model of sincere, frequent prayer and the seeking of God's will for our lives.

For more information, see the entry on St. Anthony in Wikipedia.

PHOTOS: Above is an ancient Eastern Orthodox portrait of St. Anthony. Below is a depiction of Anthony's being attacked by Satan and his demons.