January 12, 2012
From the Rector
Note: the names of the somewhat innocent in this story have been omitted for their future plausible deniability
Recently in a local backyard, the following interaction was witnessed. A four year-old child was playing with their sibling, digging, mucking around and generally getting muddy. After some time of play had transpired, shouting and arguing was heard in the backyard, enough so that a parent arrived on the scene to investigate. Upon arrival, said parent found that the four year old was wielding a large, wet, half-dead Japanese Maple branch, and was waving it towards the now-fleeing sibling.
Apparently the child had been dipping said branch in standing water that had gathered following a recent rainstorm, then flinging said water at the sibling. When questioned by the intervening parent as to why they were flinging this cold, muddy water at the sibling, the child is reported to have said, “But that’s what Papa does at church!”
This past Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, we engaged in a ritual action ancient to the Church, that of asperges. Asperges, you may ask, isn’t there medication for that? To asperge, the verb, comes from the Latin word to sprinkle. In this case it means to sprinkle water that has been blessed, set aside for this use. Often this water is called “holy water.”
There traditionally are several uses for holy water. (Ask Kristin Krantz, our Associate Rector, about an experiment that her middle school students once did by growing plants with holy water and water that hadn’t been blessed.) After the persecutions of Christians ended in the 4th century with Constantine’s military victory, Christians began to build public spaces of worship. Later, more elaborate rites of blessing and dedication were practiced, and during these rites, the spaces were set aside, blessed. Among other actions, like the use of chrism, the altars and other elements of the church were sprinkled with holy water. Interestingly, the late Prayer Book scholar Marion Hatchett says this about how these practices differed according to different traditions as, “The Roman rite has been called analogous to burial, the Gallican and Eastern rites to baptism.” (Commentary on the American Prayer Book, p. 540) The practice of asperges also found it’s way into the late middle ages’ rites of visitation to the sick. In the midst of the chanting of psalms and antiphons, the peace and the adoration of the crucifix, the sick were sprinkled with holy water.
So why did we do this at All Souls on Sunday, if we weren’t dedicating the space and everyone, healthy or ill, was sprinkled with holy water? Along with other traditions, Easter and Western, holy water in the Anglican tradition has been used as a reminder of the waters of baptism. On the Sundays when we baptize, the altar party returns to the altar, sprinkling with holy water on the way. Even when no one is being baptized on one of the primary days that the Church has set aside for baptism (Baptism of our Lord, Easter, Pentecost, All Saints and the visitation of the Bishop), though, we find it important to ground ourselves in this foundational action.
For this reason, on these Sundays Kristin and I each draw some holy water from the font, and using rosemary or lavender branches (some churches use specially crafted silver pieces called aspergillium––we like to keep it more earthy in North Berkeley), and we make our way forward, immersing ourselves in these living waters. In this action, we are reminding all those present of this seminal moment, even if only with a few drops. Obviously, this practice has hit home with some more than others. So, kids, if you’re going to try this at home, make sure the water is clean…and always get your sibling’s permission first.
From the Director of Youth Ministries
Is God playful?
In the middle school youth group we have started talking about PLAY. When I asked the youth if they thought God was playful and how they knew I was surprised at how difficult it was for them to focus on the goodness of God instead of natural disasters and the dangers of the created world. Christina, Jim and I kept saying “Yes but what about…caterpillars or giraffes or hippopotamuses (or is it hippopotami?)?” I did not anticipate them struggling to find playfulness in the world. I have been wondering why that is. Why is it easier to see the difficult and scary parts of life? And of course the reality is we are faced with negative images and stories all the time, everywhere we turn. While it is important not to ignore the pain and suffering in the world or to pretend it isn’t there we do also need to marvel at the beauty of creation.
The curriculum we have been using, “Way to Live,” introduces the theme of play this way: “Play is part of God’s good creation and is important to a balanced, happy life. Play is the reset button God gives us to get a fresh take on a situation and to renew our lives. We can even approach work with a playful spirit.” It has occurred to me that perhaps joy and play are disciplines we need to practice, muscles we need to stretch and flex, and so I wanted to share the prayer in the chapter about play from the curriculum. I hope it can be used to enrich and enhance your sense of wonder:
“O God, you created the ostrich just for fun and taught the hyena to laugh. You sent a Child to lead us into your new creation where sorrow turns to dancing and power gives way to play. Free us from our fears, we pray, take away our pride as we follow the Joyful Jester in the way of abundant life. Amen.”
– Sara Gunter, Youth MInister
GRIP: All Souls’ Successful kickoff Outreach Project
Serving dinner to familes in need
All Souls parishioners, under the leadership of our Deacon, Mary Hintz and student Deacon-in-training, Jim Moloney, inaugurated the first of our church’s monthly outreach to the residents of GRIP (Greater Richmond Interfaith Project). This consisted of planning, shopping and serving dinner (from 5:30-7:00 pm) to approximately 60 residents – primarily women and their young children. GRIP’s chef actually prepared the delicious beef stew, but in the future, we have the option of cooking the meal ourselves if we want – or ordering take-out!
Our service was much appreciated by the residents and especially by the children. GRIP relies on this kind of assistance from the community and people of faith in order to provide a place of safety and refuge from dangerous domestic situations or from the streets.
– Leslie Watson & Jim Moloney
From the Diocesan Gift Planning Officer
How would you like your gift to be used?
If you considering including the church in your will or estate plan, there is an important question to answer: “How would you like your gift to be used?”
There are basically two different questions to be considered:
1) Do you wish your gift to be used for the general purposes of the parish, or for some specific purpose such as outreach ministry or youth or education or music? An unrestricted gift lets the funds be applied where most needed, but you may be motivated to support a specific ministry.
2) Do you wish your gift to available for direct expenditure, or do you wish it to be part of a permanent endowment? With an endowment, the principal will be preserved permanently and only the income may be spent. There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Direct expenditure permits the vestry and rector to spend the gift immediately on whatever seems most important at that moment. The endowment alternative, on the other hand, preserves the gift and provides an annual stream of income in perpetuity. (This income is generally 4% or 5% of the value of the gift, as a greater payout would eventually diminish the inflation-adjusted value of the gift.)
Some donors prefer their gift to their parish to fund an endowment fund at the diocese for the sole benefit of the parish, which entrusts fund management with the diocese while letting the parish spend the annual income.
Whether your planned gift takes the form of a bequest from your will or trust, the remainder from a retirement plan, an insurance policy or an annuity, you have these same two questions, described above, to answer.
If a specific use is named, it is prudent to provide some alternative use. For the originally intended purpose may no longer exist. For example, one parish received a large bequest to be used only for church bells – but the codes of that municipality now prohibit public bells. Thus, the gift languishes unused. Allow for some flexibility in the designated use of the gift! Your gift planning officer can suggest options.
Give generously and give wisely. Children yet unborn will be blessed by your faith and your generosity.
– The Rev. Richard L. Schaper
Gift Planning Officer
Episcopal Diocese of California
The Parish that plays together…
All Souls at the Cal vs Oregon State Basketball Game