January 29th, 2015
From the Rector
Looking Back to Look Forward
This Sunday, February 1st, at 10:10am we will be taking part in a practice that All Soulsians have been doing for over a century, coming together for our Annual Meeting. We will be telling stories from this year past, sharing plans for this year to come, and reading about how All Soulsians of generations past lived their lives of faith at the corner and Cedar and Spruce.
This last part, looking into the lives of All Souls Parish a couple of generations ago, has been a fascinating glimpse into the hopes and fears of our forebears. In these last few years we have followed All Souls fifty years in the past from the post-war boom––when children, youth and adults abounded in the parish––on into the free speech movement, with all of its fervor, possibility and conflict.
Just a generation ago, we followed All Souls Parish in a time of resurgence. Reports from the late 1980’s show a thriving parish, one challenged by how to restructure with all of the growth it was experiencing. Even as they were worshipping, learning and serving they were confronted by a challenging question: how should we change to integrate the growth that we have received.
In all this history, though, there remains a question. If this will be the Annual Meeting of 2015, why look back, at this year or any other? One reason might be the warning that those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it. But there are other reasons that involve possibilities other than doom.
Anyone who has studied their family history knows the revelations that can happen when you look into the lives of those who have preceded you. You can learn not just about medical histories, about the likelihood of having twins or a susceptibility to cancer, but other trends that can affect us to this day. Often we learn a humbling lesson, that the lives we lead are not just about us, that in fact, we stand on the shoulders of many who come before us, and that their blessings and woes follow.
With some time and attention, patterns can emerge, consistent behaviors or traits can be seen, as people and families respond to the events of their time. One of the gifts of this practice can be that when we see those patterns, we can hold them up and decide whether or not to continue them. For those family patterns that are destructive or avoidant, it is possible to re-train, to learn adaptive ways to engage them differently. Other practices that have given life can be tapped into, as a sort of communal muscle memory.
So this, then, is part of why we will gather this Sunday morning. We will be listening for the currents of the Spirit, a current that has flowed not only this past year, but over decades and centuries. For truly, none of us knows what is to come. But if we listen to the voices of All Soulsians past, we just might have a glimpse of how to respond to what is ahead.
From the Parish Administrator
No way I’m working at a church!
I sat in my San Francisco apartment for the first few months studying traffic patterns. I had just moved from southeastern Pennsylvania near Philadelphia and was job hunting. Knowing I would be moving within a year to more permanent housing in Marin, I was obsessed with factoring in bridge crossings, tolls, something called “sig alert” patterns, a “Maze,” BART, Caltrain, and ferries. After deciding to not continue in the world of publishing and book design, I started to look in the world of non-profits. I wanted to slow down my life, to not be a slave to stressful deadlines.
It was 1998 and people still did it the old way – by looking through the classifieds in the daily newspaper. I found you, All Souls, in the middle of the classifieds.
My first thought was, no way I’m working at a church. My PK instincts was why would I want to spend ALL WEEK in a church? You see, I grew up living in parsonages where “working” in a church was not an option. If something needed to be done, you just did it. When there was a leak in a water pipe and the church basement got flooded, I’d go with my dad the pastor and mop up the water because it would be late at night and we couldn’t wait for the janitors to come the next day. My mother, also a PK, had the same life. The first week after arriving in San Francisco my newly installed Senior Pastor husband and I went to Smart & Final to get a new floor mat for the first floor church restroom because the toilet overflowed and it was not worth cleaning it and there was no time to get someone else to do it before Sunday. NO WAY I was going to work at a church!
But something made me look. I circled it. I applied. You called me. I came. You thought we made a good fit. I know Church. The rest is history.
My first week at All Souls was the week you celebrated the end of the capital campaign “Inviting the Light” by having a big dinner on the Cal Campus. This was the night I was introduced to the congregation. By the end of the second week, I went to the rector and the wardens and asked, “You’re kidding me, right? The position is 30 hours a week. What part of the job do you want me to drop?” I guess the vestry thought about it and realized that the parish administrator job was really not a three quarter time position and increased it to full time.
After a few months I made more changes. When I started, there was a second computer in the parish office and Roger Glassey would come in and sit at that computer and work on financial matters. I kicked him and his computer out of my office and into the copy room next door! I thank him for leaving willingly. A “computer committee” met to determine what kind of computers and equipment the staff offices should have. I thanked the committee for their work, said goodbye, wished them well, and took back administrative rights and switched out the PC for a MAC. I instituted a “no junk for Jesus” policy and politely turned down all offers of used computers and office equipment for staff. Seriously, if it’s too old for you, it’s too old for us.
This year’s Annual Meeting falls on my 16th anniversary at All Souls – February 1, 1999. You can say I’m the longest surviving staff member. I’ve been here long enough to remember the blue tile, the long kneelers in the front of the nave, the old wooden play structure in the courtyard with a fence around it. Through the years some parishioners believed I didn’t exist because they don’t see me on Sundays.
There was a recent article in the Chronicle talking about the 10 worst commutes in the bay area. Mine is the 4th – 101N, Richmond bridge east to 580 to 80 Berkeley (did you know it’s 20 blocks from San Pablo to Oxford?) traveling 25 miles each way, 50 miles a day, four long days a week. So much for studying traffic patterns! So much for wanting to slow down my life! So much for not wanting deadlines! Thank you for letting me pray for you, care for you, work with you, and boss you around. So many stories…yes, I’m glad I found you in in the middle of the classifieds.
– Joy Shih Ng
From our Seminarian
During my recent seminary course on “Liturgy and Architecture” I reflected and presented on the life of the All Souls Parish worship space. Ever since its construction as “All Souls Chapel” of St. Mark’s Church (across town) in 1906, the building in which we worship has attested to the congregation within it, as well it should. Our space has changed with the generations in response to physical needs and based upon theological reflection on our time as a gathered people. In both of these things we stand in a long line of Christian innovators. “Innovation” derives from the Latin word novatus, for “renewing the past,” something Christians have been doing for a long time.
The earliest known building set aside for Christian worship and still existing today is a converted house in the ruins of Dura Europos, in contemporary Syria. Built around 233 CE, the house has many rooms around a central courtyard. Sometime after its construction, perhaps as the Christian gatherings there grew, they adapted their space. They widened doorways, knocked down a wall to create a larger room (the stonemason left his name and date on the wall!), and created a “baptistery” room with a full-immersion font and frescoes depicting many biblical stories related to baptism.
Like the community at Dura Europos, Christianity continued to grow and change, and has adapted many buildings and architectural forms to its use, as well as creating a few new forms along the way. We have gathered for worship in rectangular rooms modeled on the Roman civic basilicas, and in small round mausoleum-influenced chambers where we could dine with the worldly remains of martyrs. We have adapted the Arabian pointed arch to build soaring gothic cathedrals that remind us of God’s transcendence. And we have been reminded of God’s immanence as we followed the cry of the 14th century reformers; mounting pulpits amidst the assembly and lavishly depicting the history of our relationship with God in paintings, sculptures, glass, and the architecture on which they are mounted. These buildings, built by our hands from the wood, stone, and other materials which God has given, are an intimate part of our relationship to God, and have changed along with that relationship. Innovating, renewing the past, is a virtue that has allowed us to remember and to grow simultaneously.
We pray often in the Daily Office prayers, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” Architecture in particular beautifully preserves our efforts to articulate the nature of God’s enduring reality to which this ancient prayer points us. While the pointed arches and stained glass of “neo-gothic” churches (think Grace Cathedral) seem tightly bound to contemporary visions of “church,” our architectural efforts continue just as strongly today.
Thanks to Thomas Burcham’s guidance through the archives, I learned about some of our efforts as the people of All Souls. We initially gathered in a shingled wooden A-frame with chairs (1906), then added pews (c. 1915), then added a “rood screen” (a frame-only wall between the people and the altar with a cross or “rood” atop it) with the words “All Souls Are Mine Saith the Lord,” and finally a painted glass window of the Holy Nativity (c. 1926). After termites compromised this structure, we built the building we use today in 1955, moving the Nativity window to the downstairs chapel, and the words of the old rood screen to the back of the nave where you can see them as you head out into the world. As time has passed, this too has changed. Our “sanctuary” was expanded, bringing the altar closer to the gathered assembly, brining the choir back behind the altar, and unifying the words of scripture and of the sermon at the “ambo” (church lectern) by eliminating the pulpit. Our pews have been angled, and our lights have changed. And we transform our space seasonally as well with art, with natural and crafted light, and with our own movement through the space. From my conversations, it seems that our spirits have been moved as well.
Like our Christian and also our Jewish ancestors in faith, our particular place, deeply loved and prayed within, has been a part of our relation to God and to all God’s created space. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself. I am most captured by the chapel rug beneath my stocking feet while candles burn on the side table and wisps of soot rise to join the risen prayers already coating the ceiling above. What part of our current building has captured your imagination? In what ways do you pray through this space itself? What does it draw forth from you, or perhaps close you away from? I expect there are even a couple of people among us who remember the old building and its part in their formation. I am sure there is more beauty and growth to come as well.
Jesus’ baptism in the waters of creation is a great sign that to God, “matter matters.” Through God’s grace and the work of our hands, our past is made new, in our hearts and in our spaces alike. Especially through my recent class, it’s been a gift to add my own prayers more deeply to our current architectural expression of praise, and I look forward tomorrow and years from now to hearing what more has sprung forth in this this place.
- Reed Loy
All Souls, now in HD!
Well, maybe not high definition, but in PDF form at least. In our ongoing attempt to live as more responsible stewards of the earth, the 2014 Annual Report is now available digitally. If you are able, please download it to your laptop or tablet and bring it with you this Sunday morning to follow along at the annual meeting. Limited paper copies will be available as well. You can download the report from our website here.
Phoenixes Game Night
Join us for our Annual Meeting this Sunday, February 1st at 10:10a. The Annual Meeting is an important gathering for our community, during which we elect our leadership, tell stories of All Souls from the past year (and past century!) and look ahead to 2015. There will not be formation classes, but childcare will be available on the playground and in the nursery. If you can contribute muffins, bread, coffee cake, and/or fruit to sustain us while we celebrate and highlight the work of All Souls during the Annual Meeting, please sign up here. Many thanks.
Calling all high schoolers
Catechumenate Beginning Soon!
Are you a newcomer seeking a deeper relationship with All Souls Parish? Are you considering Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, or Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows in the Episcopal Church? If so, you are invited to join the Catechumenate class facilitated by Betsy Dixon and Ariane Wolfe beginning March 1. The class will emphasize spiritual growth and use scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, and other readings and activities.
Staff at Work
Ever wonder how the staff members at All Souls work behind the scenes? Get a glimpse of our recent staff development day.