All Saints Church rector emeritus George Regas died on Sunday morning. He was 90.
“Regas died peacefully at his home with his beloved wife, Mary, at his side,” according to a statement on the church’s website.
During his tenure as rector at All Saints Church in Pasadena from 1967 to 1995, Regas encouraged and helped cultivate the formation of a number of fledgling organizations which over the years grew into influential local nonprofits.
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles praised Regas for his “bold leadership [that] advanced civil rights, women’s ordination, LGBTQ marriage equality, and reversing the arms race.”
Regas was born on October 1, 1930, in Knoxville, Tennessee. His mother died when he was five years old and he was raised by a Greek immigrant father who owned and operated a restaurant in Knoxville.
He worked in the restaurant from the earliest years until he graduated from college.
Regas was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1956 and to the Priesthood in 1957. He succeeded John Burt as rector when he was just 36.
He married Mary Lowry McCaslin in 1977.
Regas is also survived by his daughter Susan Regas, his sons Tim and Tyler, by Mary’s son Burke Smith, and their families. Regas’s daughter Michelle Regas Worrel died in 2002, according to the Diocese.
During his 28 years at All Saints Regas focused on peace and justice, while also forging a strong community of faith from a diverse population.
Regas worked with friend and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to establish a South Africa ministry at All Saints Church. The focus was in two areas: exchange program with South African clergy coming to Pasadena for rest, renewal and mutual enrichment; and also organizing delegations from All Saints to travel to South Africa. The Center was also an organizing place for boycotting and disinvestment of South African products.
When his successor Ed Bacon was told about Regas’ passing he called it not only an end of an era for All Saints Church but for American Christianity, according to the church’s website.
During Regas tenure the church started Union Station in 1970 as a total service center for homeless citizens of the San Gabriel Valley. With an annual budget of over $2 million, the facility sleeps 80 people and remains committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness. Union Station works closely with clients with substance abuse to steer them to the appropriate healing instruments.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC, Regas established the interfaith group Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP).
The group has played a significant role in Southern California advocating for peace and seeking to be an alternative voice to the war on terrorism.
In 1986, Regis established the All Saints AIDS Service Center in 1986. It eventually became a major AIDS program in the San Gabriel Valley. The Center has now expanded from its church roots by dropping the “All Saints” preface to be more inclusive and has an annual budget of over $4 million.
He also supervised the creation of Young & Healthy in 1984 a pioneering program to serve uninsured and underinsured children in Pasadena. This effort has been extremely successful and has been copied in several other cities.
After the brutal Halloween murders in 1993 that left four teenagers dead and forced the city to acknowledge its gang problems, Regas founded the Coalition for a Non-Violent City with former PCC President and state Senator Jack Scott.
The diverse and activist coalition has over 2,000 members and is focused on developing educational, community and public policy solutions to the violence that is putting our community’s children at enormous risk. The Coalition attempts to mobilize the community to address both gun violence and the systemic causes of violence.
“He was a pastor, priest, teacher, father, brother and friend. For many in the All Saints community, George is why they are part of a faith community at all … he made it possible for them to stay, to envision a way of being church that had power and integrity … where you didn’t have to check your brain at the door and where compassion and justice found voice not just in his pulpit but in all our hearts,” the church’s statement read.
Current plans are to offer a celebration of life in Regas’s memory after pandemic restrictions are lifted.
The family has requested privacy at this time.