FROM THE RECTOR
Worship is Where the Heart Is
Last week I wrote about how and why we made the decisions over the past several weeks to continue the corporate worship practices of the parish in this time of social distancing and pandemic. At the same time, especially as we have come closer and closer to Holy Week, the most ancient and essential holy days of the Christian calendar, we have been intentionally planning worship that can be practiced at home and at the corner of Cedar and Spruce.
One of the primary reasons for this is that Holy Week is marked by worship that is tangible, physical, even visceral. From the procession of Palms on Palm Sunday to the foot washing of Maundy Thursday to the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, our rituals are embodied in a profound way during this week.
So what is a Christian community to do when we can’t all gather together to practice these ancient rites? Our answer this year is that we will be practicing from our homes as well as streaming from the church for each of the days, all of us praying with and singing with each other.
Over the past several weeks I’ve been in conversation with colleagues around the country, and last week especially with folks particularly known to All Soulsians: Ruth Meyers, Liz Tichenor, and Stephen Shaver. What came clear in our discussion was that we already have everything we need for Holy Week this year––it will just look a little different than it normally does.
The plan is as follows. It all starts with Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. We will be inviting All Soulsians to set up a sacred space in your home for Holy Week that morning, as a focal point for your worship over the course of the week. Thanks to a conversation earlier this week with the beloved Liz Tichenor, I’ve included below a great article she wrote about creating sacred space in your home.
Our Holy Week will begin with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when we’ll invite one and all to cut some branches from foliage around your home or neighborhood (with the permission of those responsible for said foliage), so that at the start of our service on Sunday at 10:30a you’ll be ready to process around your living room or house or yard with greenery when we all start singing, “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”
As the week goes on you’ll be returning to your sacred space for prayer and meditation, especially on Thursday (7:30p), Friday (12n, 4p, 7:30p), Saturday (8:30p), and Sunday (10:30a) as we stream our services. We will be publishing the pdf of this year’s Triduum booklet in a special Holy Week Pathfinder next Wednesday and it will remain on our website. The hope is that we will be able to pray together, with tangible actions and prayers in our homes, and music, prayers, and preaching from the church, each of us re-creating our physical spaces so that we can create the space within to enter deeply into this profound Mystery once more.
Lastly, this Sunday, following the service of the Palms and the Passion, I’ll be hosting a Facebook Live chat to talk more about all of this. So cue up your Holy Week (and other) questions, and for about 45 minutes or so I’ll see if I can help us all prepare for the week to come.
I realize there is profound loss at not being able to gather together at this time. And, while I wish for us to be together in person, I also believe that this entry into the life, death, and Resurrection of the Christ could have come at a better time. Together we will pray our way through it all.
And now, from Liz, some tips on creating a sacred space in your home this Holy Week (and beyond!)
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For as long as humans have sought the divine, there have been practices of setting space aside in the home to aid in that seeking: places to center us, ground us, inspire us, challenge us. Places to remind us of who and whose we are. For some, this might look like a spare place to enter into contemplative prayer or meditation, for others it might be a more robust home altar, with meaningful things to touch, look upon, interact with, respond to. Whatever your most natural mode of prayer might be, think about how you might transform a bit of your home for the coming days and weeks to this end, especially during Holy Week.
Some elements to consider in creating a sacred space at home:
Think about where you’d like to set this space up. Do you want it near where you spend much of your time, or somewhere more out of the way? It could be one end of your dining room table, a shelf or end table, a mantle, a wide windowsill… even a corner of the floor could work well. If you have children at home, you may want to let them be in charge of choosing the place, and ask them why they are drawn to it!
Whatever place you choose, try to clear a dedicated spot, taking away other clutter or distractions that may accumulate there. Next, gather elements that may help you to center yourself, reflect, and pray, both on your own and, if you live with others, together. For some that will be a communal gathering space in your home, for others it will be a quiet nook off to the side. What’s most important is that it is the space you return to day after day this week.
Some possibilities to consider:
– A red cloth or paper to spread out on your sacred space. (If you don’t have cloth, this could be a great thing for kids to create with whatever art supplies you may have lying around!) If you are using one part of a bigger table or surface, the cloth can be especially helpful in setting a portion of it aside to become this sacred space. Have a white cloth ready for the Vigil and Easter Sunday.
– A cross – is there one you have hanging up that you could add to your sacred space? Or can you find sticks or pieces of wood that you can use to make one?
– A Bible – use a Bible in your home for the entirety of Holy Week. On Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday we will be following Passion in the Gospel of Matthew, and on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil we will be following the Passion in the Gospel of John.
– A candle – Any candle will do, though it might be nice to choose a large one that you can keep using for an extended time. If you still have your baptismal candle, you might get it out in preparation for Easter!
– An icon – If you don’t already have an icon, you could do a Google image search for a favorite saint and print the image out, try your hand at drawing one yourself, or bring photos of loved ones — the saints of your own life — into the space.
– Elements of nature – During Lent, it’s common to have sacred spaces left bare of flowers, but you might consider adding stones or branches, with flowers to be added at Easter.
– A bowl – You could use it to collect prayers for now, and fill it with water during Holy Week in preparation for Maundy Thursday.
Reflections on Sacrifice
Do you ever ask yourself, “What’s the point?”
Do enough compelling reasons exist to continue living?
I face this question now, after a divorce that I never saw coming and never wanted to have, and a Pandemic that throws all our routines into question, and simply the existential questions that plague human life.
Somehow, a deep partnership of love can make life feel worth living and shield us from this question of meaning. Also, of course, raising children is so clearly meaningful, and all encompassing, and essential to children’s lives, that parents have no need to ask this question. The answer is obvious. Perhaps for some parents this may not be true if their calling is artistic or some other journey that may be stymied by domestic life, but often loving a partner or loving children who depend upon us is reason enough to continue living.
Now, however, at 70 years of age, in the absence of a loving partner and with a prospective empty nest, I sometimes wonder.
Certainly, we hear over and over that a life of service to others makes life worth living. And for me, I almost believe this. It is so close to being enough. In fact, much of my life is directed toward service to others. But frankly, something is not entirely right about this thought. If other people’s lives are so meaningful that I can give my life for theirs, what’s wrong with my life? Why is my life not inherently meaningful? Why is it not equally as meaningful as theirs? What I mean is, if no one’s life is worth living except to serve others, then logically, we are all giving our lives for people whose lives are not worth living. Do you see what I mean?
That’s why Ruth Meyer’s formation class about sacrifice last Sunday created such a paradigm shift for me. I may be very slow on the uptake and learning at this late date what everyone else has known for years. But what came clear to me, really for the first time, is that we as humans have two roles: one is to serve others; the other is to offer our “sacrifice” of praise and thanksgiving to God. The Psalmist affirms this, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”
You see, my job is to praise God and to be grateful. Not grateful, necessarily, for what God has given me, but grateful for who God is. This is what I am intended to do. I have a job, a purpose, even beyond my service to others. Regardless of my circumstances, my purpose in life is to praise God and to give thanks. And this is enough.
As a former Presbyterian, I recall the Westminster Confession: (altered to be inclusive)
“The chief end of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever.” Hmmm. Nothing about service here. Yep. Our main job as humans is to offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
And, of course, the more authoritative Deuteronomy 6:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Nothing new here. And yet, for me, it is entirely new. Today I understand it in a new light, in the light of the purpose of my life.
Or the more succinct Luke 10 which includes service:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
I awoke today with the realization that I have a job to do: to offer my thanks and praise to God. I am more content knowing that I have some purpose beyond service to others, as meaningful as this is. I am very glad to know that I have value beyond this, as one who will offer to God the sacrifice of my thanksgiving and praise.
We say so every Sunday, “It is right to give our thanks and praise.”
The task of offering our thanks and praise gives us a kind of dignity. This task is worth doing. I do, of course, find meaning in the endeavor of offering my life as a living sacrifice to other human beings—but I am very glad that my life is more than this. I have a job that also involves singing and dancing and nature and mystery and love.
Thank you, Holy One, for creating me as a being with a large enough purpose to provide the desire to continue living with a full heart.
From the Junior Warden
On March 18th, like every 3rd Wednesday of the month, the Vestry of All Souls held their monthly meeting, except that, for probably the first time in its history, it happened online, as this was just a day after the shelter-in-place ordinance took effect.
Vestry Chaplain Tim Ereneta invited us to reflect on the meaning that Lent and sacrifice had suddenly taken for us all in this crisis, and the idea of sacrifices we offer willingly versus the ones, like during this time, where we have no choice. Vestry members shared their thoughts, and the worries, losses and anxieties on what is and what is to come, but we also shared our hope, and the joy that being part of this faith community has brought.
After moving the consent agenda, Father Phil gave the Rector’s report. He started by offering how the parish overall has stepped up to the challenges of our new temporary reality with faithfulness and purpose. The first Eucharist was livestreamed just a few days before, and Fr Phil expressed his admiration of the effort and work of those who made it possible, and on how it surpassed all expectations, not only in its execution, but in its effects on the people who participated, who joined from all corners of the country, and not only the Bay Area. Fr. Phil talked about the start of connection groups and the different ways in which parishioners and clergy will address pastoral needs. Fr. Phil also gave updates on the Parish House project, which continues moving to its final stages of funding an design. The Vestry unanimously moved to approve the name “Jordan Court” for the future new building, in honor of the generous and faithful parishioner Ann Jordan, whose bequest to All Souls has seeded many of our ministries and projects. The search for the Associate Rector continues, and the search team has started interviewing candidates, while also acknowledging the challenges that the uncertainty of the coming months bring, such as the impact that the COVID-19 crisis will have in the finances of the parish, as members face reduction or loss of income.
Marilyn Flood joined the meeting on behalf of the Capital Campaign team, to update the Vestry and get approval on the decision to put a pause on the campaign and evaluate in the Fall when the best time to relaunch would be. Amidst the difficulty of this decision, Marilyn also expressed hope in that, overall, the feedback about the Capital Campaign from members of the parish has been positive. The Vestry commended the work of the Capital Campaign team, and approved unanimously their decisions.
Vestry members reported on the different areas of ministry that they oversee, and focused on how ministries are doing during this time. Teams and committees continue their faithful work from home, meeting online and brainstorming creative ways to do their ministries. Some Vestry members also expressed their concern for the care of those who live alone, and with restricted or no access to online communication.
Finally, as was one of our goals in the February retreat, the Vestry had taken upon developing (or strengthening) daily prayer practices, in this meeting we had the opportunity to reflect on our different practices and to share resources and ideas to continue this work, from prayer and lectionary apps, to devotionals and new online shared practices that have resulted from this crisis.
The work of this parish and of this body continues and is strengthened by your prayers and support.
Tonantzin (Toni) Martínez-Borgfeldt
Children’s Chapel Brings it Home
“It is hard. It is just really hard right now.”
These are the words that kept coming back to me all Sunday afternoon. We had our second children’s chapel that morning at 9:30am via Zoom. It was wonderful to see those little faces again and hear their voices over the computer speaker. I read them a story about a little bunny named Wemberly who worried all the time – and especially when she got ready to start kindergarten. The kids shared items that they used when they got worried and “showed” us on the computer screen their special things. But this week was harder than last week. When we got ready to start chapel, one of our littlest friends was in tears. They thought that we were actually going to be at church and be in our little chapel together. They did not want to do it on the computer and just needed to cry. I told them (although I couldn’t see them) that I felt the same way. I really wished we could be together sitting in chapel reading our story. And I really did––in fact in almost a physical way I could feel that longing in my gut. And then when we were finishing chapel, several of the kids asked, “Why do we have to end so soon? Can’t we have chapel longer?” I finished our zoom call almost in tears.
As I am sure many of you understand, this is hard right now. I don’t want to do children’s ministry over a computer. I don’t want to hear kids crying because they can’t be at church. I don’t want to feel cheated because I am not physically with the kids. It is hard right now. Those are the feelings that I sat with for the rest of Sunday and Monday and even into Tuesday morning. I shared these feelings at our 10am staff meeting on Tuesday and felt understanding from the rest of the group. It is hard. It is just really hard right now.
And. During staff meeting this week, we spent several hours planning Holy Week in a different format. We reimagined what Maundy Thursday might look like from home. We wondered how music would carry over computer screens and speakers. And we joyfully saw the Vigil come to light. It is hard right now but there are spots of light to be seen. It is hard right now but we are in a community that is preparing its way to Jerusalem. It is hard right now but I know there will be a Resurrection. Amen and Amen.
Sunday Live News
The live stream of Sunday services can now be accessed through our website (rather than simply on Facebook)! Click here to watch on Sunday morning. Please note that it will read “Coming Soon” on the page until about 10:25a (PST) on Sunday morning, when the live stream will begin.
Adult Formation News
This Sunday after the service, stick around for a fireside chat with Phil+ where he’ll answer our questions about Holy Week this year. Things will be different this year, and he’ll be able to answer the whys and hows! This will be on Facebook Live, but in a separate stream than the service. You’ll be able to find it by clicking the All Souls Episocopal Church Facebook page (not All Soulsians).
Children & Family News
We will be doing a children’s chapel program this Sunday at 9:30am (and every Sunday afterwards, as needed) via Zoom. I expect it will last about 30 minutes. Please email me for a link so your family can participate. If you have not used Zoom before – it is pretty user friendly in that I send you an invitation that you can log-in to at the appointed time. You can log-in with video so we can see each other’s faces or on your phone so we can hear each other. I am hoping that this will give the kids a time together for their own “church” and a time to see their friends as well. Please email Whitney Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a Zoom invite or have any questions.
Morning and Evening Prayer via Zoom
Here is the link for Tuesday/Thursday Morning Prayer, to take place every Tuesday/Thursday at 8:30 am PST: https://zoom.us/j/283425127
Here is the link for Monday night BCP Compline, to take place each Monday at 8:30pm PST: https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649
Here is the link for Wednesday night NZP Night Prayer, to take place each Wednesday at 8pm PST: https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649
All Souls Geek Squad
If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! On the homepage of our website is a box with the words “Technical Help”. Click on that box and you will be taken to a form that you can fill out. Once you fill that out, we’ll have someone get in touch with you to help with your tech problems. You can also click here to access the form directly.
Easter Sunday Coffee Hour
Friends! We’re going to try something fun for Easter Sunday following the service. We’re going to attempt a pre-recorded coffee hour! So, what we want you to do is take a video of you/your family (no longer that 20 seconds!) and send it to Emily (email@example.com). The video can be something your kids have made during our SIP, or of your sacred home space [see Phil’s lead article in this Pathfinder], or of your home office, or of the stuff you’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks since we’ve seen each other last. The point is to say hello to your fellow parishioners and give us a glimpse of your life. If your video is longer than 20 seconds it will get edited down 🙂
Jane Vandenburgh and Jack Shoemaker have been holed up together in their place— this is a live/work space a couple of blocks from the water in Richmond—with their dog Georgia and nearly 10,000 books, a spot they’ve named The Paradise Library. Each is happy being there with their pup, working from home. They and all in their large, intense and somewhat complimented, very Berkeley-ish family are well, for which they each, throughout the day, thank God.
The Nicols have been playing lots of charades and hide and go seek, jumping rope and practicing soccer, and passing batons (Terry and Molly). We are so grateful to have Sunday worship, Children’s Chapel, Soup + Story and Emmaus. Please reach out if anyone is in need!
Bill Eldridge: This week CDSP has finished evacuating those of us who were in the dorms and I’m settled in to my new temporary apartment. And, in an attempt to keep my spirits up, I’ve taken up painting! Here’s a picture of my new paint set:
… and now it’s your turn! Instead of catching up during coffee hour, we’d like to include updates from you and your families each week as we navigate our new reality! Please email Jen Dary (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a short update about how you’re all faring and an optional photo by 5pm on Thursdays. We’ll include them all in that week’s Pathfinder, a good way to keep in touch outside of social media. Reminder: technically, the Pathfinder is open to the public via our website, so share your information with that in mind!