March 5, 2015
From the Rector
The Sacred Serpent
Last week I was grateful to be able to spend several days at the inaugural Preaching Symposium, a joint venture of the Dioceses of California, North Carolina, and Washington DC. Held this year in California at the Bishop’s Ranch, it brought together preachers from around the country to engage in deep reflection about the nature of preaching.
Led by the bishops of those three dioceses, Bishops Marc Andrus, Michael Curry, and Mariann Edgar-Budde, the symposium was centered on the theme of “The Sacred Imagination”. Each day began with Eucharist and a sermon by one of the bishops, followed by a teaching about their approach to preaching, and a conversation between the three bishops about the whole of the morning. Following this, we continued the conversation in small groups and in reflective activities. At the close of the evenings we gathered for imaginative experiences: team charades one night, a professional storyteller another night.
In all, it was a phenomenal opportunity to remember the responsibility, gift, and opportunity that is given preachers. Where else in our culture do we give someone our undivided attention for 10 to 15 (or more) minutes? We talked about the challenges of keeping our sermons interesting (to us and anyone else), grounded, and wondered about where the source of a sermon might be.
As part of that wondering, Bishop Marc taught about the life and work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. An innovative poet and scholar of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Coleridge, with his compatriot William Wordsworth, transformed English poetry with their joint volume, Lyrical Ballads. Rather than relying strictly on rhyme and meter, their poetry was freer in form and expression.
Later in life, Coleridge explored the source of imagination. The primary metaphor of Coleridge’s that we worked with in our discussion of the imagination was “following the sacred serpent”. Used to describe his sense of the genesis of poetry, the image of the serpent is that of contraction and expansion.
Contraction is found in the finite. It is known in the intimate: the image, the story that is particular. In poetry, in prose, in preaching, it is that particular that draws us in closer. It is made up of the details of life, the jarring pains, the hopeful moments, the unlikely joys. Often in preaching it is offered by witness: on Ash Wednesday we heard the story of Tripp Hudgins’ conversion in the balcony of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. He brought all of us there to that holy night, and in so doing, connected us together in the re-membering of that experience.
Once connected, we can engage in expansion. Because in every finite piece there are seeds of the infinite whole. In expansion, we begin to imagine what this seed might grow into in the future. If the contraction allows us to connect, the expansion allows us to wonder. We wonder what this way of living might change: in us, those around us, the world in which we live. In this process, the bounds of “what has always been” are loosened, the possibilities of “what might be” are unfurled.
This engagement of contraction and of expansion continues throughout a poem, essay, or sermon. Once we have connected, grounded ourselves in common experience, we can then imagine just what might be. And once we have imagined that possibility, we attempt to make that known in a new way in the particular.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King did this powerfully in one of the great orations of the 20th century, on August 23rd, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Beginning with the metaphoric “check” written by the founders of this country, a check marked “insufficient funds,” he expanded to the promises made by this nation. And, famously (and off script), near the end, imagined with all listening about the dream that he held. To connect those listening to that dream, he then concentrated this dream in the persons of his four little children, uniting his listeners with an intimate experience. From this place, he finally built to the expansive “ringing of freedom” across the land and beyond.
This is the work of any who seeks to follow the sacred serpent. It is undoubtedly the work of the preacher––paying attention to her or himself, listening to the lives of those around them, wondering about how God is moving ahead of us. My own experience is that to participate in it is to immerse oneself in a sacred, daunting and wonderful mystery.
For that (most Sunday mornings) I give thanks to God.
Next week: how the telling of our stories allows us to participate in God’s story.
Introducing The Rev. Terri Hobart
We are blessed to have the Rev. Terri Hobart serving at All Souls for twelve weeks while Liz is on maternity leave. Terri has a Masters of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She is passionate about building community and sharing meals with others. Before coming to All Souls, most recently Terri has served as the Associate Rector at St. Timothy’s in Danville, CA. Prior to that she served at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Novato, CA and as a chaplain at the UCSF Medical Center. Throughout her ministry she has been active in various homeless and hospice ministries. Terri enjoys creating and leading alternative and emergent worship services, discussing scripture (especially the “hard sayings”) and finding new and transformational ways to engage our neighbors and the surrounding community. Terri has two sons, Tate and Jack. She has a professional background in accounting and corporate finance. In her spare time she loves gardening, cooking, foraging for mushrooms, riding her orange bike and coaching basketball.
From Arts at All Souls
Stations of the Cross: Jesus’ original Freedom March
Each year, All Souls has had the privilege of presenting a unique set of Stations of the Cross, all built around a theme or artistic style. Sometimes we have had artists from within the parish (Jocelyn Bergen, Nat Lewis, and Keith Gidlund) create original sets, while other times we have used different elements as commentary, particularly remembering two years ago when we used poetry submitted by parishioners as a way to reflect upon this (literally) iconic final journey of Jesus’ earthly life.
Pilgrims since the very early years of the Church have retraced Jesus’ steps in Jerusalem, but as the church spread and grew, very few were able to make the long, dangerous, expensive journey to Jerusalem in person. The Stations of the Cross, like the original Christmas crèche, was a devotion popularized by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. Most Roman Catholic churches have permanently installed Stations around the church, as do many Anglican and Lutheran congregations. Others, like ours, use them only as a seasonal devotional tool in Lent, leading to Good Friday. We believe that the variety of Stations we have used allows for many different paths through which to enter prayerfully into the Way of the Cross.
The way in which racial justice has emerged as a pressing issue in our society and in our parish in recent years had led to some early conversations about using the Civil Rights movement as a lens through which to view the Stations this year. Coincidentally, parishioner Hallie Frazer had the inspired vision to focus on the Freedom Marches to Selma, Alabama, and we found a way to bring these complementary ideas together to shine a spotlight and bring new meaning to each of these journeys.
The Arts at All Souls committee, chaired by Michelle Barger, brought our members together (Lynne Turner, Hallie, and Jocelyn, and myself) with parishioners Gloria Fleming, Gloria Bayne, and Marsha Thomas-Thomson as well as consulting with Fr. Horace Griffin, to be sure that we were making appropriate choices in presenting these two pilgrimages in tandem. One thing we have learned is the importance of being in conversation with our African-American sisters and brothers as we ourselves seek deeper understanding of our history as Americans as well as our formation in the Christian faith. Indeed, our many different perspectives led to rich conversation as we sought to bring this vision forward.
The Stations are now hanging in the church, and I encourage you to join in this multifaceted journey of faith. May this walk lead you to find new meaning as you follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims across the ages.
- Christopher Putnam
Ministry in the Community
Supporting and Celebrating with Options Recovery Services
Options Recovery Services will have a “Graduation” Friday March 6, from 4 - 6:30pm. All Souls will be hosting the reception in support of these men and women on the journey through addiction recovery. About 12 of us will be serving, and I hope you will consider joining us at 1931 Center Street now and in the future.
A little over 4 years ago, I was minding my own business after a 10 o’clock service, when I was approached by Roger Glassey, Sharon Roberts, and Marilyn Flood asking if I would be interested in a pilot program to take Stephen Ministry outside the walls of All Souls and into the Community. That was the beginning of a wonderful personal journey.
Initially, 3 Stephen Ministers were paired with 3 recent Graduates of the Options Recovery Services (ORS) Program and we walked with them as they journeyed through addiction and recovery. My “formal care relationship” lasted over 2 years, and we are still close friends. I could write a book on what I learned from that man! As I got to know Options, their staff and clients, I came to realize what an exceptional place this was and I wanted to give more of myself to help their mission to break the cycle of addiction that causes crime, homelessness and broken families.
After a year of seeing how successful their program was, (90% remain clear of crime and courts) I had a dream to get All Souls and ORS to work closer together in support of their clients. Turns out, All Souls has had long history of supporting ORS and their clients and we didn’t really know it. From Mental Health Services, Police Officers, Medical and Legal support, many of us have helped an Options client in their recovery. However, the clients know it, and not a month goes by without someone mentioning to me an All Souls member who helped or fed or quietly supported them financially. Open Door Dinner, Christmas In-gathering, Stephen Ministers, individual donations of money and “stuff” are just some of the things we have done. Apparently, our Services are “really nice”. I am currently on their Board of Directors.
St. Clements in Berkeley and St. Timothy’s of Danville have been strong financial supporters of Options. Help me grow the support and relationship of this very special outreach program.
- Rick Sweeney
Loaves and Fishes
Loaves and Fishes is a way to connect with All Souls community in a smaller, more intimate group by sharing meals together in parishioners’ homes. Here’s one coming up in March:
Lenten Series - The Heart of the Matter: Forgiveness
Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30pm, February 25 - March 25
Gather for a warming soup supper and explore the beautiful, challenging, perplexing topic of forgiveness with the Rev. Michael Lemaire.
Interfaith Immigration Vigil
Join members of All Souls holding vigil at West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond, CA on March 7th, (and the first Saturday of every month) from 11 am – noon. The Detention Facility is one of 250 facilities across the country that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to house undocumented immigrants awaiting hearings or deportation. At each vigil, we sing, pray, and hear testimony from family members and friends of those held inside, or from recently released immigrants awaiting hearings.