November 17, 2011

From the Interim Rector

In Our Turbulent World Advent Is One Sunday Away

The world around us seems to be in more turmoil than ever. People, young and old, employed and unemployed, the well off and the ticked off, have taken to the streets in the various Occupy movements locally, nationally and internationally. At the root of the protests and demands is realization that ever widening gap between the super rich and the dwindling middle class and poor must be reversed. 

One of the themes that you find recurring in the Bible is that God has a “preferential option” for the poor. This does not mean that God promotes class warfare or hates the rich or loves the poor more. Rather it means that God expects all of us to care for and about those who are less fortunate than we are. The Old Testament prophets often cried out against the ways in which the rich swindled and persecuted the poor. Jesus, too, spoke of fair treatment of the poor.

In the middle of the current political and economic turbulence the Church’s message about keeping Advent as a way to prepare spiritually for the birth of Jesus is hard for most folks to hear. Advent begins on November 27 and concludes with our celebration of the Birth of Jesus on December 24/25. 

The message of Advent is that in the midst of an unstable world we need to be on the look out for the coming of God, who in spite of all the chaos and fear in our midst, still meets us in surprising ways….a letter or an email from a long lost friend, the smile of a child, the joy of helping someone in need, a new insight from reading scripture, having a conversation that turns out to be life changing, or just doing something fun with people you enjoy. Advent invites us to be prepared, awake, and alert to the ways in which God’s presence breaks into our world on a daily basis.

One of our traditions at All Souls that invites us to grow in our understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus is our Wednesday Night Soup Supper and Program. Mark your calendars for November 30, December 7 and 14. We begin with a simple soup supper at 6:30 pm, program at 7:15 pm and Compline at 8:15 pm. This year our theme is Jesus, Soul, & Personal Identity. Our speaker is The Very Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson, Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. His academic specialty is on the relationship of religion and science.

The Advent Wednesday programs, as well as the Sunday services, provide you with an excellent opportunity to invite your friends and relatives who are not participants in a faith community, to come with you and discover the Spirit at work in and through All Souls. Your invitation could be the very thing that makes the celebration of Christmas come alive for someone who is just waiting for an invitation.



Have you ever wondered about your “soul”? What does the soul have to do with Jesus’ birth and the message of his life and resurrection? How do modern scientific thought and philosophy impact our notion of soul? 

These and other tough questions about the soul will be explored by our distinguished Advent Series speaker, The Very Rev. Dr. W. Mark Richardson, Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. Dr. Richardson is an Episcopal priest, scholar, lecturer, and theologian who has written extensively on faith and science, same-sex relationships, and evolution. 

Nov. 30: Biblical notions of the soul
Dec. 7: The philosophical and modern scientific thought about the concept of soul
Dec.14: The implications of the idea of soul for our Christian Community, the nature of spirituality and future hope

Our schedule will be as follows
• 6:30 pm Soup Supper
• 7:15 pm Presentation by Dr. Richardson with time for questions and comments
• 8:15 pm Compline
• 8:30 pm Adjournment

These topics may sound a bit “heady” but Dr. Richardson is a very accessible and engaging speaker. If you have friends who don’t belong to the Parish but have an interest in theological questions…by all means invite them and bring them with you!

From the Outreach Committee

Advent Ingathering 2011

During the Season of Advent, we have the privilege to bring gifts each Sunday for those who are “live on the margins” and have need of food, clothing, toiletries, the hug of a Teddy Bear, and yes, even food and toys for companion pets.

Week 1 (11/27) we will dedicate to the East Bay Humane Society’s PAWS Program. The program provides cat and dog food and supplies for low-income and disabled people with cats and dogs. We that you bring food for the program’s “pet food pantry,” specifically, dry cat food (the program has an abundance of wet and dry dog food and wet cat food. What is most needed is dry cat food!), dog treats and cat treats, dog and cat toys, and beds for cats and dogs.

Week 2 (12/11) we will dedicate to the Teddy Bears & Prayers for Family Paths, Inc. Once again John and Ann Cockle will provide us with prayer tags, Sunday, November 20 and Sunday November 27, to place on the bears.

Week 3 (12/4) we will dedicate to the Berkeley Food Pantry. Items needed are: Peanut butter, store-bought packaged cookies, boxes of cereal, and boxes of macaroni & cheese.

Week 4 (12/18) we will dedicate to YEAH! (Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing), a program that provides shelter and services to homeless youth in Berkeley. They need the following: Socks (their most needed item!), boxers and women’s underwear - various sizes, t-shirts (various sizes), toothbrushes and toothpaste, disposable razors, and deodorant.

Please bring these items to church on the designated weeks and they will be blessed before distribution.

California Ballot Initiative to Abolish the Death Penalty

In 1958, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution opposing capital punishment on the theological basis that “the life of an individual is of infinite worth in the sight of Almighty God, and the taking of such a human life falls within the providence of Almighty God and not within the right of Man.” At the 2000 General Convention, the Episcopal Church reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to the death penalty, and the following June the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church issued a resolution (NAT-7) stating the Church’s recommitment to abolish the death penalty:  “In our baptismal covenant, we respect the dignity of every human being, and commit ourselves to strive for justice and peace among all people. The Church will continue to decry the revenge of state-sanctioned homicide. We abhor the racism and economic injustices evident in our criminal justice system.”

Next fall, California voters will likely have a chance to vote for a ballot initiative that would end the death penalty in California and replace it with life without parole. Currently 714 people sit on death row in California at a cost of $184 million (beyond the cost of keeping prisoners locked up) to the state budget. A recent study by Loyola Law School Professor Paula Mitchell estimates converting death penalty sentences to life without parole will save the state nearly $1 billion every five or six years. 

How does the Gospel speak to us on this issue? Members of the All Souls’ Outreach Committee have joined with members of other faith communities to encourage dialogue, discernment, education and prayer on the death penalty. On Sunday, November 27, during coffee hour in the Parish Hall, members of the Outreach Committee will have a table with more information about the death penalty and the ballot initiative to replace the death penalty with life without parole in California. Signature petitions required to qualify the initiative for the November 2012 ballot will also be available for signing. An educational forum on faith and the death penalty is scheduled for early 2012. For more information, please stop by the Outreach table or contact Outreach member, Christine Trost, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Ten Days in Cuba

A personal reflection on religion and culture

Under the auspices of the Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture the focus of our tour group was to be religion.

After the Revolution in 1959 almost all organized religious activity was squelched. It wasn’t until January, 1998, when Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, that churches opened again.

We were scheduled to visit 28 churches, cathedrals and synagogues, several museums and cemeteries. As it turned out, we didn’t get to all the places of worship, but I talked our guide into pausing at the splendid Holy Trinity Cathedral in Havana, where Griselda presides as Bishop.

Our group of 22, including 13 Californians, seemed to be less interested in religion than in the Castros, the socialist society and the lives of the Cuban citizens. (These socialist people refer to their president as simply Raul, and the former president, as Fidel). When we asked some quite piercing economic and political questions. our most delightful and knowledgeable guide, Alicia, would say “I will talk more about that when we get back on the bus,” or “It’s all very, very complicated,” or with a bit of a sigh, “That’s just the way it is.”

“It’s like stepping back in time with a complete sense of innocence” noted Richard, former judge and fellow traveler, as we stepped out of our bus that first morning in Cienfuegos on the southern coast.  The horse drawn carriages picking up passengers along the street, the few 1950s cars made in the United States, the ‘70s cars from Russia, the simplicity of street life that included no cell phones or iPads, just people talking, strolling and standing about. (One of our less acclimated companions, wondered why the people weren’t working or doing something! It took her a day or two to get used to a world where life isn’t always based on getting things done.) 

A few of the photos in my mind include the unabashed classic architecture, the whitest sheets I have ever seen billowing from makeshift lines high above the busiest streets in Havana, the coffee beans and corn spread out to dry carefully avoided by our bus along the country roads, the unadorned but classy uniforms worn by every school child from first grade through high school, the majestic Black Madonna at Regla, a ferry boat ride from Havana; and the docks in Cojimar lined with fisherman whose reverence toward “Papa” Hemingway was so great that they built an impressive statue in his honor. The rare low point occurred during the visit to the Bay of Pigs Museum, surely one of our nation’s “Whoops” moments. My heart sank as I paused before a photo of Adlai Stevenson presenting his ill advised report to the United Nations. The caption underneath read: “Before the UN, the imperialist presented a blatant tall story to conceal guilt in the attack on Cuban airports.” Mr. Stevenson received my very first vote for President and I was not prepared for his being referred to as an imperialist!

While these are memories of an enchanted observer, it is clear that the people are not satisfied with their lives. “Changements are coming,” Alicia noted frequently, and on the very day we left Cuba, the government announced that its citizens would now be able to buy and sell property. One could only hope and pray that “changements” will come to the U.S. policy with regard to the embargo of Cuba. 

But more talk of this later, maybe at Coffee Hour??

– Margaret Sparks
(photo taken at Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar in Cojimar near his farm where he lived for 20 years)

View from the Pew

Meet our newest members!

We welcome the following new members, received into the fellowship of All Souls Parish, on Sunday, November 13, 2011. In the individual photos, from the 8 am service, are Martin Ortega and Natacha Morbeck. In the group photo from the 10 am service, left to right, are David and Leigh Rolf, Matthew and Adam, Ralph Weeks and Gale Harris, Sara Gunter (Youth minister, our newest staff member), Erin and Steven Moore, and Jill Churchman. Get to know them!


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