From the Associate Rector
Practices that Root Us
With some regularity, I am asked why it is that I came to All Souls, and why I have stayed. Sometimes the question comes from a visitor, curious if this place might be a good fit for them. Other times it comes from a colleague who is discerning a possible call to a new congregation, and wondering what others have considered. Still other times, the question may come from a friend who has nothing to do with a church, and is puzzled as to why someone might.
It’s a fair question. How do we choose to join in deep relationship with anything, or anyone? What sways an organization or relationship in the direction of toxicity or health, of being one that’s worth investment or better avoided if you have the choice? And then, of course, sometimes we don’t have a choice. Whether because we don’t have other options for work, or because we’ve been born into a particular family, or for any number of reasons, we are where we are. Church is a strange and wonderful combination of the two: we have the independence to choose to be here, or not. And, we don’t get to choose who else is in the body of Christ with us.
There’s something about that odd combination of elements that pulled me in here, first as a seminarian in field education, and then later to return on staff. It’s not just the combination of the choice to be here and the motley crew that we are that hooked me, though. That’s present in most any church. It’s how All Soulsians collectively work to live into that weave.
The longer I’m here, the more I believe that the intentionality of relationship is rooted in our church’s participation with the College for Congregational Development. It’s a mouthful of a name for an organization, and probably one that leaves many folks here guessing that it doesn’t have much to do with them, as long as they’re not elected to the vestry or leading some other ministry team. What I’m seeing, though, is that the lenses and practices the College offers are permeating deeper and deeper into how we live and work together, on broad systemic planes and intimate interpersonal levels alike.
And it’s making a difference. The College teaches ways to think about and engage change that are as applicable to a massive congregation as they are to an individual. These practices, these stances in the world, they are filtering deeper and deeper into our common life here, and whether you know about them explicitly or not, they are forming us. What’s particularly amazing is that many, maybe even most, of these theoretical models and practices is that they can be used by any human being. I taught some to my daughter when she was three and a half, and they improved our relationship. We use them on the vestry, aiding in particularly fraught decisions. We use them as a staff; Phil and I use them in pastoral care. The list goes on.
These tools help us live well together, as humans and as Christians, period. And this weekend, you have the opportunity to learn some of them. I’ll be joining our current team studying with the College for Congregational Development in offering the second of three Skills You Need training from 1:00 – 3:30 pm on Sunday. You can learn more and sign up here. Whether you are in leadership or not, if you are in relationship with other people, they will serve you in moving towards healthier ways of living as a person and as a Christian in this world. These practices were compelling enough to help me root here, and I commend them to you.
From the Parish House Accompaniment Project
Report Back from a Day at Immigration Court
Many of you know that we are hosting a new guest in our Parish House as part of All Souls’ accompaniment program for recently released detainees who are seeking asylum in the US. Because our guest is fleeing violence in his home country, I will not use his full name, but instead will refer to him as Erik. With the support of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and the Justice and Peace Committee here at All Souls we have formed an accompaniment team to support Erik and advocate for him over the next 6-12 months, even after he leaves All Souls.
Last week Erik received a notice to appear in court. Quite a few All Soulsians, and members of Bend the Arc, CIVIC, and other groups accompanied Erik. to court. As I stood on the BART platform next to Erik I looked over. His eyes were closed. I wondered what it must feel like to have fled your home, been incarcerated for nine months in an unfamiliar country, been released but not given clear instructions on next steps, and then been called back into court for reasons that were unclear. And there he was, maintaining calm, ever polite, attempting cheerfulness, exceedingly grateful. I do not have that much grace.
We arrived at immigration court in San Francisco on Montgomery Street. The judge was efficient and maybe even kind. She quickly granted Erik until October to find a lawyer and make his case. She gave him a court date. We were thrilled. Hugging each other and grinning we made our way out of the courtroom.
When we left the courtroom there was chaos. A plainclothes ICE officer started talking to us loudly and trying to herd us away from Erik. Several other officers arrested him. One member of our group advocated that he have immediate interpretation to understand what was happening (we had a volunteer interpreter with us) but the officers denied that request and took Erik into the elevator. We were panicked and unsure of what to do. Someone thought to ask where they were taking him. We were told he was being taken to 630 Sansome St. We followed.
An ICE officer came into the small, bare, neon lit room we were waiting in and asked “are you from the Church?” To which we all proclaimed “YES!” The detention officer let us know that a bond might be possible in the next few days, particularly because Erik was staying in a church and had so much support. He explained that Erik was arrested because the Supreme Court had nullified the Rodriguez decision, which held that detained immigrants had a right to a bond hearing after being incarcerated for six months. I still do not understand why this necessitates anyone’s arrest, or why it is legal to arrest someone right after they have been granted a hearing and time to prepare.
We were feeling a little more hopeful when a second officer came to tell us we could see Erik. We crammed into another small, bare room, this one with a smudged glass window and a phone. Erik was sitting behind the window, trying to smile. One by one we picked up the phone to attempt words of encouragement, through a language barrier, through glass, through tears. And then we had to leave, and Erik had to stay.
It was a quiet BART ride home. Later that afternoon we received word that Erik had been granted a $3000 bond. He had already paid bond when he was initially released from detention in February, but now he was being asked to pay this second bond, double the amount of the initial one. Whether he will get the initial bond back is unclear. That evening a flurry of emails were exchanged. In just a few hours generous All Soulsians were able to raise the money for the bond. The process for paying it and finding out where and how to pick up Erik (now back at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond) were convoluted, but we persisted. The next day around 5pm Erik was back at the Parish House.
The way forward for Erik will not be easy, but we can and do make a difference. Immigration reform is a huge issue, but while we’re advocating for large scale reform, we can also provide support to our brothers and sisters who are trying to survive this broken system. Please consider joining the monthly immigration vigil at the West County Detention Facility from 11-12 on the first Saturday of the month, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. If you would like to help us raise funds for housing and legal fees for Erik or offer donations of men’s clothing (size large) or other support please contact me at email@example.com.
– Dani Gabriel
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave souls shared how their own stories connected with the characters of the cross. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, in no particular order, but with much gratitude.
My brother John and I got to the summit of the mountain at 5 in the morning and started back down while the snow and ice were still hard.
We stopped in a saddle on the mountainside to eat something and met a young man, a professional climbing guide in his early 20’s. He had climbed all over the world and told us about his ascents and lucky escapes. The more he talked, the smaller I felt. After half an hour he said goodbye, picked up his pack, and started down the icefield.
He walked a ways, then suddenly just crumpled down into the snow and lay still.
John bolted over, yelled at him, shook him. No response. He started CPR. The young man’s expression was completely blank, his skin gone slightly purple.
I saw a small cluster of people on a ledge about a hundred feet away. I plunged through the snow toward them, yelling. They came running. They were firefighters on a weekend climb, and they labored to resuscitate the young man, but his heart had completely stopped. One had a radio and called the death in to a local ranger. Then they left.
John and I stood over the man’s body. He had never told us his name. It was so quiet.
“Should we give him his last rites?” I asked.
“I don’t think it works like that. You have to still be alive,” said my brother. (Engineers: ask them anything!)
We stood in the icefield for a long time. Occasionally more climbers came down off the summit. Some of them walked passed, stopped. Looked stunned. Asked who he was. Walked on.
There was nothing to say and we were so tired. We scanned far below. Was anyone climbing up to gather his body, or take over the watch? Nobody came. The wind rattled the hood of my jacket. The snow and ice softened in the afternoon sun. We heard a roar far up the mountain behind us and saw an avalanche, a huge cliff of snow give way and tumble down several hundred feet.
It was time to get off the mountain.
But to leave this young man alone, in this huge empty white space, staring up at the sky, without shelter, without witness? To walk away seemed like some willful violation.
We took our nylon tent out of my pack and, with much clumsy struggle, dragged it under his heavy boots, his climbing harness and his thick jacket to wrap him; gathering in his arms, covering his face from the sun. And that gesture somehow made it okay for us part from him.
In some cultures, wrapping the dead in a winding sheet is the universal practice of burial, showing that in death each of us becomes the same, a loved one or a stranger. Each of us will be alone in that moment one day. When Joseph and Nicodemus wrap the body of Jesus in fine linen, do they follow custom? Do they try to calm their own disbelief, horror and guilt? Does shrouding his body help them convince one other that they have done all they can, and they are allowed to part from him?
When we care for the dead, after the spirit is gone, are we saying,
“See me, Lord?
See how I’ve shown reverence to someone who won’t ever know what I’ve done?
Wrap me in your mercy in my last hour like a shroud,
Shield me from my loneliness in this — the loneliest hour of my life.”
– Deirdre Nurre
Seeking Nursery Child Care Worker
Maria Gallo, our lead child care worker in the nursery, has decided to move on from All Souls. She has been a wonderful addition to our community and has cared for our littlest ones in with great love. Her last Sunday here will be April 15 – whether she has cared for you children or not, please stop by to wish her well and thank her for her service.
We have opened the search for our next lead child care worker, and would love for you to help spread the word. If you know of non-parishioners who might be interested in the job, please direct them to this posting. In the meantime, we are grateful to Phoebe Dixon, who will be serving as an extended substitute in the nursery while we conduct the search.
Continuing in Adult Formation
This Sunday at 10:10 am:
A Passage, A Preacher, and a People, in the Parish Hall
(aka Perichor-WHATNOW? Theological Mumbo-Jumbo for Everyday Use)
Did you know that the Episcopal Church has no official theology of preaching? It’s not in the canons. It’s not in the Book of Common Prayer. What gives? Does anyone know what they are doing up there? Join The Rev. Phil Brochard and Tripp Hudgins (who teaches homiletics, that is, preaching, at CDSP) to begin to answer some of these questions. In this class we will explore together what it means to preach from both the preachers’ and hearers’ points of view. Bring your experiences, a sense of humor, and a warm beverage. This coming Sunday, the Rev. Michael Lemaire, Nikky Wood, the Very Rev. Dr. Peggy Patterson, and the Rev. Liz Tichenor will join for a panel discussion on how the sausage is made.
Trinity: Why the Three-ness of God Matters, in the Common Room
(aka Had to Get Up to Get Down: Preaching As Liturgical Funk)
Over the course of three sessions, we will dive more deeply into the mystery of the Trinity. Not only is Trinity a mystery in the theological sense but in an all-too-human one: it leaves many of us completely baffled! How can one be three and three be one? Does worshipping the Trinity mean we’re not monotheists? How is this not all just made up nonsense? And what difference does it make, anyway? Excellent questions! Join us to learn about and discuss how worshipping the triune God is important in our liturgical and prayer lives (April 15), and how our relationship with the Holy Trinity can reshape how we understand and experience our daily lives (April 22).
MEALS AND RIDES
Need a lift or a meal? Want to offer help to your fellow All Soulsians? If you need a ride or a meal on a regular basis or just one time, there are people who would love to help! All Souls meals and rides team volunteers provide simple but critical pastoral care to fellow parishioners on a very flexible schedule. For those serving, there is a quarterly commitment when and how your schedule allows, providing a meal (homemade or purchased) or transportation for a parishioner during times of trial, hardship, or the first weeks of parenthood. For more information about serving, or to request meals or rides, please contact Erin Horne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ONLINE PHOTO DIRECTORY
Did you know that we have an online directory? If you or your family are not yet in our directory, please see Emily Hansen Curran to add your name and your picture! Or, if you do not currently have a picture associated with your name, also please see Emily to have your picture taken.