From the Interim Associate Rector
As I write this article, we are now eleven days into the Easter Season, the Great 50 days between Easter and Pentecost in which we are invited to integrate the fullness of the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection into our lives. The lectionary readings during this season challenge us to live more deeply into our faith, to contemplate the mystery and the meaning of the resurrection and to become Easter people who witnesses to the presence of the Risen Christ amongst us.
Yet, trying to make sense of the resurrection, to comprehend its mystery can leave us confused, doubting and disoriented not unlike the women and the disciples we encounter in the post-resurrection gospel stories. As we struggle with this mystery, we can follow the path that the disciples traveled on their Easter journey. We can begin with the assurance that The Risen Christ will meet us just where we are. Neither fear, doubt, locked doors, blind eyes nor closed hearts and minds can keep his presence at bay. Christ comes to us, embraces us in peace, ameliorates our fear, opens our minds, eyes and hearts to imagine and behold a life anew. The journey of Easter is a journey from blindness to sight, from doubt to belief, from death to life. It’s a journey of faith that allows affirm and proclaim the reality of the resurrection as both a historical and ongoing event in our lives that matters immensely.
In resurrection God breaks into our world and creates a new reality for all creation. The resurrection event reminds us that Christianity is not just about being nice or gathering to worship, rather it’s about a new world order, it’s about transformation and it’s about endless life, endless hope and endless possibility.
Although resurrection will always remain an incomprehensible mystery, it touches our lives in tangible ways. While we cannot see, taste, touch hear, smell or prove it, we can experience it in the same way we experience great love or great grief. It is a mystery that can be known by our hearts but never understood or explained by our minds. We all know resurrection. When we allow ourselves time to still, quiet, to listen to our heart – we too can hear the voice of Jesus greeting us with his Peace. We too can see through Easter eyes and, when we do, we recognize the many ways, large and small, that the essence of resurrection is all around us. It occurs whenever God transcends the limits of our understanding to give us hope, light and new life in the midst of despair darkness and death.
It is hope in dark moments,
the courage to walk through the abyss of addiction or loss,
the embrace life after unimaginable tragedy,
the grace that pours from a broken heart,
the healing of the brokenness.
I suspect most of us have experienced resurrection either in moments like these or in other disorienting encounters for which words cannot found, for which there is not a frame of reference. These are moments in our lives when the Divine crashes into our world, dissolves the boundaries of reality, as we know it, and draws us into the love and life that pulses throughout creation – moments that leave us gasping for breath – disoriented with joy and disbelief.
Whether large or small, lasting or fleeting, when we experience these resurrection moments – we are face to face with the Risen Christ. How will we respond? Will we dismiss the moments as flights of fancy or will trust the wisdom of our hearts? Will our minds and eyes be opened? Will we believe? Will we proclaim to the world: “I have seen the Lord – I have seen a new reality where hope emerges from despair, healing overcomes strife and division and life has dominion over death.”
As we journey through Easter, I pray that together we will find the courage and faith to live as Easter people – ones who proclaim Christ Risen, affirm the resurrection, expect transformation and imagine the impossible.
I Am Resurrection
I am Resurrection
I am Life – before, beyond, and despite death
I am blossoms bursting from seeds buried in the cold winter ground
I am Lazarus
I am a monarch emerging from the cocoon
I am courage to walk through the abyss
I am fresh favas in the spring, the first ripe tomato of summer
I am dominion over death
I am sunlight sparkling after a storm
I am new life born from tragedy
I am the calming of the waves
I am the grace that pours from a heart broken open
I am a new beginning
I am hope reborn in empty souls
I am the sunrise
I am the loved ones that live on in our heart
I am bird song in the dawn
I am balm for the grieving
I am the wellspring of life
I give hope, courage
I live by dying
I live in spite of dying
I am Resurrection
I am Life before, beyond, and despite death
From the Associate for Liturgy and Music
Well, it’s time for a little Eastertide word-nerdery from the liturgy & music corner. What’s the difference between tradition and custom? The two words are synonyms, but as I learned when first introduced to the thesaurus, there’s a difference between the two, although in everyday use the two really are interchangeable.
Etymology, the history of a word’s development, can give us clues. The word “tradition” comes from the Latin verb tradere, meaning “to deliver.” (Another sense is clear in the Passion Gospels, where the phrase “Judas, qui tradebat eum,” is best known to us as “Judas, who betrayed him” – quite another sense of “delivering.”) On the other hand, “custom” is better related to the sense of “habit” or “way.” In each line of Gregorian chant notation, for instance, there is a small note written, the same note that begins the next line. This custom points the way to what is coming.
OK, so that’s perhaps more confusing than illuminating. Let’s try it another way: “tradition” applies to activities of long standing, applicable to a wide group, and most often related to special occasions. Customs tend to be things done on an individual level, and are more everyday practices. There is, for instance, a tradition of bringing in a large cross for veneration on Good Friday; the route the acolytes take to get to the Narthex to retrieve the cross is a custom, only applying to our parish, and changeable depending on circumstances. The use of the Paschal Candle, the large candle lighted throughout the Easter season and again at all baptisms and funerals, is a tradition; the brief ceremony at the Easter Vigil when the Presider traces the figures of the cross, the numerals of the year, and the Greek characters of Alpha and Omega, is widely done, but it is subject to local practice. Again, we might refer to both as “traditions,” but there is a sense of imperative in following traditions, whereas customs can be changed. Changed thoughtfully, to be sure, but changes in custom don’t invoke the sense of breaking taboos that go with breaking traditions.
Of course, local practices may be seen as traditions – for our parish, as an example – but others regard them as customs that they’ve never heard of. We’ve all heard the phrase “quaint custom,” while describing something as a “quaint tradition” seems disrespectful at best.
When it comes to the music at All Souls, we have a tradition of eclecticism that is certainly at one end of the spectrum within the Episcopal Church. Some parishes wouldn’t dream of using a piano in church, much less guitar, with banjo and washtub bass being beyond the pale. How we actually put it all together is a matter of custom, though. Just a couple of years ago, Angel Band sang every other week or so, standing up in street clothes, then returning to the congregation after singing.
What’s the point of all this? Well, a week from Sunday, April 26, we will have a day to be remembered in the life of All Souls. It’s the 4th Sunday of Easter, traditionally known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday. The gospel is the familiar story of Jesus describing himself as the good shepherd, and the psalm (in two out of three years) is Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”). There are more musical settings of that text than of almost any other piece of scripture. That Sunday, we will be unveiling the new icon designed for the cross suspended over the altar, depicting Jesus as the shepherd separating the sheep and the wolves. That’s a big deal on its own, and I can’t wait to see it!
But there’s more: you’ve heard in recent weeks about our new gospel choir, and they too will be unveiled that morning, singing for the first time. Under the leadership of Katie McGonigal, in a few short weeks we have learned two pieces – one is, naturally, a setting of Psalm 23, and the other is the upbeat spiritual “Oh, happy day.” Our tradition is one of a wide embrace of musical styles; our liturgical customary is how we define where we will put all these extra singers – plus drums and bass, the band integral to this style of music. This is truly a day you will not want to miss! And bring a friend or two while you’re at it – they will be eager to return, I promise! What better way to continue to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection than the springtime birth of new and exuberant expressions of our faith through the arts?
– Christopher Putnam
Faith in the World
“Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14
Five days a week, I hop into my car, pick up some carpoolers and head into the Bayview district of San Francisco, passing by impromptu shooting memorials (liquor bottles, balloons and candles) on my way in to work. In the parking lot, I may say a couple of prayers before entering the building if it looks like an especially difficult day lies ahead.
As a toddler through afterschool Director in the ‘hood, I have many chances to practice patience, kindness and charity. Sunday mornings are the times that nourish me and give me the strength to renew the good fight each Monday. Ironically, because my agency is publicly funded, I am charged with the duty of making sure that church and state do not mix—no baby Jesus around the holidays, Resurrection stories at springtime, etc. However, the chance to embody Christian values (see above) and share my faith in a more subtle way are all around me.
During Lent, this may mean showing up in the preschool rooms with ashes on my forehead and explaining to children who have no fireplaces or exposure to campfires a) what ashes are and b) why they are smudging my face. Sometimes this means sharing my clay cross with the receptionist as we call the police on a parent (again!) or trading stories of Lenten sacrifices with the security guard. Because my center is deep within the heart of an African-American community, there is an underlying shared sense of the importance of church and religion among children, staff and families. It’s not uncommon to swap stories with a child about where we each went to church on Sunday and what we did there.
Part of this journey is also sorting through what the Christian approach is to many difficult and complex situations. What’s the best approach when a homeless parent is verbally abusing the staff caring for his/her child? When young baby mamas and daddies are disrupting the school with their very public dramas? How do you keep your patience with staff members that present less than professional behaviors or even children lashing out in response to their own traumas? I have crumbled two clay crosses between my fingers in the last few years as I ponder these questions. While short on answers, I do know that each of these children is a special gift, that their (often difficult) parents are also each children of God and that it’s a privilege to be able to help them begin their journey through life.
– Kim Wong
Put on your walking shoes and join members of All Souls and other local faith communities for the annual CROP Hunger Walk this Sunday, April 19. This interfaith, intergenerational event raises funds for and awareness about hunger, locally and globally, and benefits the Church World Service, Berkeley Food Pantry, Dorothy Day House, Yeah! (Youth Engagement Advocacy and Housing) and Youth Spirit Artworks. We will walk 2.8 miles (shorter routes are available) starting and ending at St. John’s Presbyterian Church (2727 College Ave., corner of College & Garber). Dogs, strollers and people of all ages are welcome! Ice cream treats await us at the finish line! Sign up here. For more information contact Christine Trost by email or 510-364-2182.
Equipping the Beloved Community
May 2 at St. Matthew’s, San Mateo
On Saturday, May 2, St. Matthew’s, San Mateo and the Peninsula Deanery will host the next Equipping the Beloved Community event with the theme “What we need is HERE.” Author, pastor, and social entrepreneur Tim Soerens, and 22nd District Assembly Member Kevin Mullin will lead a dialogue about living faithfully and justly in the San Francisco Bay Area. View the full list of workshops available for this great lay formation opportunity here. Registration links are available there. Contact Julia McCray-Goldsmith with questions.