I Call You Friends

Some time ago, a friend who has heard me preach a number of times asked me about an unusual pattern in my preaching. “Why is it,” she asked, “that in your sermons you often refer to those in the congregation as friends?”

I laughed because I realized that this practice stands out for some people and it may not be apparent why I do this. So I thought that I’d share why I use this word, friends, in my preaching as it’s a practice that I follow with intention.

Some of it is practical. I consider preaching to be a dialogical exercise. It is intended to be a conversation, even as it can seem very one-sided, as the preacher is speaking most of the time. But the intent is that there is a conversation—with the text, with our lives, within ourselves, and ultimately, with God. So I’ve found a need to name the partner that I’m in conversation with. “Hey you” doesn’t quite seem to fit.

But why friends? In part because this conversation between God and the preacher and the congregation (which now because of mp3s includes more than just the people in the room), is a conversation that has shifted in our lifetime. Over a decade ago now, I remember talking with an Anglican priest, who at that time had been a priest for over 40 years. I asked him what had changed in those years in the realm of preaching. One of the changes that he noted was that at the start of his preaching, he and most preachers talked about “you need to do” and that now he and most others preached about “we need to do.” The preacher is (thankfully) now part of those being preached with.

That said, I have found that there often comes a turn in every sermon when I want to convey that what is being asked of us, you and me, hearing these words. It often then that I use the word, “friends.” Why then? I suppose because often that is the moment when I articulate the invitation or the implication to our taking part in this Jesus Movement. And, that we do this together, as friends.

Again, though, why friends? For me, this use of the word “friends” finds it’s grounding in the Gospel of John, 15:12-15, when Jesus teaches his disciples, any who would follow him, including us,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

As one who preaches, this teaching of Jesus has been foundational. Yes, there is much more that can and needs to be said about the nature of friendship. But Jesus gives us his understanding of what it means, and it is one what resonates with me whenever I rise to preach. That we are fellow pilgrims on this journey, laying our lives down for one another, loving our way through life. Friends indeed.




On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave members of All Souls shared how their own stories intertwined with Jesus’ last words. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, with gratitude.

“Mother, here is your son.” — John 19: 26

As Jesus is dying on the cross, he sees his mother and “the disciple he loved” standing together. He forges a relationship between them when he says to her, “Mother, here is your son”, and then to him, “Here is your Mother”. Even as he is dying a terrible physical death, he is thinking of the well being of his mother. Theirs was a deep and powerful relationship.

When I read this passage, I think of my mother. We have a deep and powerful relationship as well, though I have not seen her for almost 38 years. She died of ovarian cancer when I was 14.

Her passing was and is the most formative event in my life. I miss her greatly, and the passage of time does little to diminish the pain of not being able to see her. Yet, I can still feel her. Her spirit is with me, and always has been.

Our story begins back in 1955 in San Jose, California, when my parents met. She was my dad’s little sister’s best friend. The courtship didn’t really begin until two years later when she asked him to help her study for a math test. Over the next two years they dated, fell in love, and, by the fall of 1960, were engaged to be married. My father, as staunch a Catholic then as he is today, had to be married in the church. She began to have doubts as to whether she could become a Catholic, and, likewise, raise her children as such. So, she broke off the engagement. After much study, reflection, soul searching and prayer, she found peace and reunited with my father. The wedding was back on.

Well, besides being Catholic, my father is the son of Mexican immigrants. My mother comes from Midwest Northern European stock. As white and (nominally) Protestant as can be. Though his family was proud and supportive of their union, hers rejected it. Only one family member – her cousin Bill – came to the wedding. But, because she was following her heart, she knew it was the right thing to do.

It took the appearance of children – Paul, Martin, Peter, Maria – for her family to start coming around. Eventually, they were able to move beyond their prejudice and embrace my father as family.

But he had a restless heart. When I was 8 years old, he left my mom and us to be with another woman. We were shocked, hurt, and angered. My mother was heartbroken. Though she did drink some wine to ease the pain, mostly she turned to God. She became a “Jesus Freak” (which is a term of endearment). And she was all in. She took us to prayer meetings, where we would hear people, many people, speaking in tongues. Frankly, that was scary for us kids, and we were freaked out by it. But she remained the sweetest, kindest person in the world, and her Jesus Freak friends were really good people. Besides the Holy Spirit stuff – which we really didn’t understand – it was about Christ, who is all about Love, when you come right down to it.

To me at that time, my mother embodied Christ’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. And, as much as I tormented her (and I did), and as much as she punished me for it (and she did!), deep down I knew that it was done out of love. There was always a tenderness there.

My father contracted San Joaquin Valley Fever in September of 1975. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s caused by a fungus that lives in the arid soil of the southwest. When the soil is disturbed (in the case of the San Joaquin Valley, by the plowing of the fields), then that fungus can become airborne. If inhaled by humans, it can initially attack the respiratory system, then spread from there. Because he was an employee of the state (Cabrillo College), he had good medical care. But Valley Fever is a pernicious, insidious thing that, in my father’s case, was devastating. After several operations that removed many feet of his intestine, the doctors at Stanford Medical Center told him that they wanted to open him up one more time. He said no. Essentially, he chose to die.

My mother, who never stopped loving him, had made the waiting room at the Stanford Medical center her second home. She and her crazy Christian friends. When my father was on his deathbed, she and they laid hands on him. He accepted Jesus into his heart, becoming born again right then and there. And, thus began his miraculous recovery.

My parents fell back in love and remarried. In July of 1975, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She got sicker. He got better. In early August of 1978, my father gathered us together to tell us that she was very ill and close to death. We went to the hospital one last time together to say goodbye.

She was still alive the next day. From our home in Aptos, I rode my bicycle to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz. On that hot summer day, it was just she and me. She had the biggest smile on her face. She was joyous, radiant, beaming. It made me so happy. I thought, wow, she’s going to make it!

But there was a voice in the back of my mind that said something else. I didn’t want to listen to it. I tried to shut it up, but I couldn’t. The next evening, my father went to the hospital as he normally did, to be with her. We all went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night and went into my parent’s room. Laying down in my mother’s spot, I went back to sleep. My father came home a little while later, woke me up and told me that she was gone.

She was happy because she knew that she was going to meet God.

In the years since, I’ve had many ups and downs. I’ve lived; and that’s life. Throughout it all, I’ve felt her, some times stronger than other times. But she is always with me.

Now, my father’s faith has never wavered since that day in the hospital. Though the blinders that he wears are often too large and clumsy, he is a true believer. And, it does make him happy that I go to church, even if it’s not The Church.

But, it’s because of my mother that I call myself a Christian. Perhaps it’s her gift to me.

Sometimes I think, because she’s a spirit, she can see into my heart of hearts. If that’s true, then she knows how much I miss her and how much I’m looking forward to seeing her again. Until then . . .

Mother, here is your son.

– Martin Ortega

The Ministry of Healing

healing prayer

“Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:14

The healing ministry that we practice at All Souls is rooted in this biblical passage originating with one of Jesus’ disciples. Of course we are also mindful of all the healing that Jesus performed throughout His life.  He also directed the disciples to go out into the villages where they “anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” (Mark 6:13).

Those of us who are the ministers of healing in this Church are continuously aware that this is a holy practice. The ministry of Communion that is going on at the same time enhances this sense of holiness. When a person comes for healing, the healer asks for their name and the substance of the prayer they would like. If they are asking for prayers for themselves we lay our hands on their heads, ask if they would like to have their forehead anointed and then do so while speaking the words of healing. If they are asking for prayers for others we lay our hands on their shoulders, anoint them if they ask, and speak the words of healing. We consider that those who ask for prayers for others may also need care for themselves because of their concerns.

Tara M. who is one of our healers commented that “I found that offering healing prayers contributed to my own healing. Such prayers flow naturally when I cast aside my own fears and open my ears and my heart to the suffering person in front of me. I respond with words of compassion and reassurance that speak of Christ’s constant love and abiding presence that is with us always, even in our darkest hours. Participating in the healing ministry has been profoundly rewarding. I am grateful to the parishioners who come up on Sunday mornings to receive our hands and prayers.”

We are aware that some parishioners may have some hesitations about coming forward and thus being seen as needing healing, or they may wonder if their needs are “important enough.” We hope they can remember that all of us are human beings who need healing throughout our lives and nothing is “too small” for a healing prayer. There is only welcome in the presence of Christ’s love.

– Emily Lyon

Support St. Dorothy’s Rest

SDR-WoodsToWaves-2016Woods-to-Waves Fundraiser

Camp St. Dorothy’s are the two weeks of hospital camps, a tuition-free program for campers with cancer, sickle-cell anemia or organ transplants in partnership with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Woods-to-Waves raises funds to cover the cost of hospital camps and it’s great fun. Join a bunch of friends of St. Dorothy’s, and maybe even your dog to walk, run or mountain-bike 2, 12.5 or 14.6 miles from St. Dorothy’s in the redwood hills of western Sonoma County down to Shell Beach on the salty Pacific Ocean. The path is beautiful, moderately strenuous for the first 2 miles, and it’s a great way to show your support St. Dorothy’s and hospital campers.

$1,000 fully funds the costs associated to send a child to hospital camp. Over $47,000 was raised by over 70 participants at Woods-To-Waves in 2015. Help make 2016 the most successful Woods-to-Waves yet!

Saturday, May 7. Check-in: 8:30 a.m. – 9:15 am, hike begins: 9:30 am.

This year they’ve decided to add a little FUN to this FUNdraiser by challenging parishes to see who can raise the most funds to support hikers from communities around the diocese. The prize for the winning congregation (besides bragging rights…) is getting a shout-out on the St. Dorothy’s Rest Facebook page & Diobytes as well as the satisfaction of knowing that you helped send campers attend hospital camps this summer at St. Dorothy’s Rest. Join in the fun, help All Souls win this honor, and most importantly, support the amazing work of hospital camps at St. Dot’s.

Registration Fee: $25 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and post-hike snacks, register here.

You can also donate to Woods-To-Waves directly here.


April 23rd, 4:30 pm, at the Koops-Elsons’ house

Parents, kids and youth, come enjoy each other’s company! We’ll have the grill fired up if you want to to throw something on, or bring other food or bevs to share. The goal is fun, not fancy. Bring your kids and youth (they’ll be excited about the massive rope swing and tree house!) and have a relaxed evening connecting with All Soulsian parents. If you have parent friends who are interested in All Souls but wary of going to church, invite them! Please email Liz or Jeannie to RSVP and to get directions, and/or add what you plan to bring to this google doc.


michael horneIt is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Michael Horne died on April 11th. Please keep Diane Haavik, his wife, Erin Horne, his daughter, and the rest of his family and friends in your prayers. A memorial service in thanksgiving for his life will be held on April 30th at 11:00 am at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary Chapel, 2770 Marin Avenue, with a reception to follow. All are welcome.




Monday May 23rd 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, West Steps (10th Street) State Capitol

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Immigrant Day! Since 1996, the California immigrant rights movement has convened annually at the state capitol for a day of advocacy, education and unity, demanding better rights and treatment for immigrant communities. Join us this year for Immigrant Day 2016, as hundreds of immigrants and advocates from across California raise a unified voice in Sacramento in support of state proposals that advance immigrant integration and prosperity for all Californians.

Join our faith delegation! We will sign up and go to Sacramento State Capitol as a group to lobby for at least 3 important bills being highlighted this year: Extension of the Domestic Worker’s Bill, Health 4 All, and a bill to end the the use of private prisons for immigrants in California. There will be training opportunities of the bills before we go. More information to come!

Click here to be part of our faith delegation to the State’s Capitol! Registration deadline is April 20th.


Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. Paul’s, 415 El Camino Real, Burlingame

St. Paul’s, Burlingame will be your host for the learning-rich Equipping the Beloved Community training event. Our own Caroline McCall of The Center for Church Vitalitywill be teaching leadership capacity-building and meeting skills for clergy and laity alike. Bishop Marc Andrus will be introducing his new book (written with Matthew Fox) entitled Stations of the Cosmic Christ. Other workshops include Eucharistic Ministry and Visiting, stewardship with TENS Executive Director Laurel Johnston, small group ministry, faith development at home (for parents and family ministers), mandated reporter training, and much more. The cost is $25.00 and members of the congregation will need to register. All the information about this event, including workshop descriptions, can be accessed here.


Dying, Belief and Practice 
Parish Hall

Coming next in this series:

April 24: Legal Issues around Aging. Have you created an Advance Health Care Directive to appoint a health care agent to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able?  It’s easy and its important.  What is a POLST and who should have one?  Are you curious about California’s new Right to Die Act?  Join Bonnie K. Bishop, a local attorney and parishioner at All Souls, to hear about this and more.  Please bring questions!

Stories of All Souls
Common Room
A class especially designed for folks new to All Souls to learn more about the community and how we make church together, led by the Revs. Phil Brochard and Liz Tichenor.

Lectionary Bible Study: Bible Workbench
A lectionary-based Bible study practice designed for small groups, the material invites us to explore scripture in a broader context; learning to see how the texts relate to what is going on in the world, and to our own lives.