FROM THE RECTOR
One or the Other? Yes.
I was recently in a conversation with a colleague, a local rabbi, about the contexts of our congregations, what animates our work, and the challenges that we face. Here’s what is not surprising—much of our work is built on common ground. Teaching, leading worship, and pastoral care make up a good deal of both of our lives.
As we continued our lunch, we talked about the particularities of our traditions, and how that affected our work as spiritual leaders. As part of this discussion, I told her how much I admire the depth of practice, and specifically practice in the home, that I have observed in the lives of Jewish friends over the years. I have observed and experienced the daily and weekly rituals to be profoundly connective and grounding. We talked about the origins of these practices and how they have been remained connected to their roots, even as they have changed and been re-formed over time.
It was then that our conversation shifted to the importance of corporate worship, and I shared that for a long time Christian communities paid attention to the number of members in a congregation, but that in recent decades, the emphasis has been on corporate participation, specifically on Sundays. And, that while I find great meaning in coming to church on Sunday to express one’s faith, I shared my sense that many in the Episcopal and Anglican tradition want to deepen their faith, and that this will come through the practice of faith on a daily basis, in addition to gathering to worship on Sundays. This is part of why I have come to admire Jewish friends who know daily spiritual practice to be an intimate part of the ways that they household.
Yes, she said, but in an American culture that often prizes the individual, and where an “up from the boot straps” narrative predominates, this emphasis on corporate worship can serve as a kind of antidote to a pervasive atomization that seems to be increasing in our nation. Gathering together with other people, and especially with people that you don’t necessarily agree with, is essential to the enterprise of being a neighbor.
What I came to realize (in addition to the truism that the grass often looks greener on the other side of the fence), is that in considering the practice of faith—individually day by day and with the gathered body—you actually can’t have one without the other. It’s not just about the collective worship, in our tradition gathering together on Sundays to celebrate and re-member the Resurrection of the Christ. And, it’s not just about individual practice, the acts of justice and mercy, the daily prayers, the study of scripture.
In order to have a whole life of faith, these two ways of being must be married, even if they at times live in a kind of tension with one another. For some, this will be mean renewed focus on a practice of prayer that serves to ritualize our connection with God day to day. For others, it will mean the prioritization of gathering on Sunday, showing up to remember our essential relatedness.
For me, I consider this conversation to be a gift, as it has served as a reminder that this life in faith is a shared enterprise, one that is fundamentally human, even as we continually seek the myriad ways of encounter with the Divine.
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.
Mary and the Disciple Jesus Loved
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19: 25-30
Last October, an MRI showed that I had a tiny but insidious tumor wrapped around the facial nerve in the right side of my face. It was the third occurrence of this kind of cancer, all of them in basically the same area, but this one was potentially most destructive because it could spread up the nerve into my brain. The only solution was to remove the tumor, which meant also removing the facial nerve and then doing a complete reconstruction that involved transplanting nerves and tissue to deal with the collapse of the right side of my face.
My cancer story is like so many others: the shock of the diagnosis, the seemingly unending tests and doctor visits, the scary descriptions of surgery or treatment and the cautions about what might go wrong or not work, the feeling of having left the “normal world” to descend into a dark tunnel that would define my reality for months, maybe years, to come. It has been overwhelming, but as alone as I have felt at times I knew I wasn’t.
There was the Sunday at All Souls a couple of weeks before surgery when I sat down and collapsed into sobs after taking the Eucharist, only to be fiercely embraced by my dear friends Sharon and Jennifer for as long as it took for that wave of fear to pass. I felt held in their love and care, as I have many times over the years we’ve known each other.
Then there was my spouse, my beloved Janet, who was with me when I got the news, who went to every doctor appointment, waited for me during each test and the 14-hour surgery, never told me not to be afraid, promised me that we would get through whatever we had to, as we always have in the many years of our life together.
When Janet shared the news with our friends and family, two of them, Jan and Lynn, volunteered to leave their busy life in New Mexico and come and stay with us for ten days before and after the surgery. They never hesitated, even though it was only a couple of weeks before Christmas and the trip would be neither easy nor cheap.
Other friends and family, including my Stephen Minister and people here at All Souls, let me know they were praying for me or, if not the praying types, were sending good vibes and positive thoughts. As I sat on the gurney waiting to go into surgery in December, I felt surrounded by all those prayers and good vibes, and I knew I was being held in love, both human and divine. Everyone who has encouraged and supported me—Sharon, Jennifer, Janet, Lynn and Jan, and so many others—has wrapped me in love, a tensile, hands-on love, a real and powerful energy, that joins with the energy of God’s love even in the darkest times. Because it is all the same energy.
And love, I believe, is what we see in John’s gospel when Jesus’s mother, his aunt, and his two closest friends stayed with him at his crucifixion when everyone else abandoned him. In the midst of Jesus’s extreme suffering and pain, his concern is for them and their love for one another. That concern and the love that grows from it is evident in so many stories in this gospel: from the Samaritan woman at the well to the woman taken in adultery to Jesus weeping with Mary and Martha as he calls his friend Lazarus to come out of his tomb. The “official” message of John’s gospel may be much more mystical, but as a recipient of such enormous love from so many I also see it as being about Jesus’s many acts of love, not mere sentiments but acts that change reality. Jesus is telling us, John says, to love one another as Jesus has loved us. Because nothing matters more. Love is what has gotten me through the last almost six months. It has enveloped me, sustained me, assured me that I am not alone in the dark cancer tunnel, helped me go out in the world with my lopsided face, and, above all, showed me that love is how we manifest God’s dynamic incarnate energy in the world.
– Sheryl Fullerton
From the Senior Warden
Our most recent Vestry meeting was held on Wednesday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the All Souls Common Room.
For me, the meeting had a distinct theme, and that theme was “solidarity.” We began with a reflection on John 10:11–18 led by Chaplain Laura Eberly. The image of Jesus as a good shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, together with a conference in Chicago that Laura had recently attended (the PolicyLink Equity Summit on racial equity), inspired a thoughtful reflection on what it means to be in solidarity with those among us who are vulnerable to police brutality, human rights violations, and other injustices. Vestry members engaged in a rich discussion on both our ideals as a Christian community to remain in solidarity with our sisters and brothers, and the ways in which we can be challenged, individually and collectively, when we begin to move from ideals to praxis.
As it turned out, our two main business-related agenda items for the evening bore a direct connection to the notion of solidarity. We devoted about half of our meeting to a proposal to revise our length-of-stay policy for the Parish House Accompaniment Project. When the project was originally approved in 2015, we chose to offer fairly limited stays of 20 days or less, in part to help minimize the risk of potential claims of tenancy from our guests. It was also understood, through our collaboration with the organizations supporting the immigrant detainees and asylum seekers who would be utilizing our guest room, that these short-term stays were useful. However, we have not received the level of requests anticipated for short-term stays; indeed, over the past 10 months, our guest room has remained empty. There is also a growing need for longer-term stays, partly due to challenges in finding long-term housing for immigrants or asylum seekers without other contacts here.
Stacey Alexeeff, Maggie Cooke, Lewis Maldonado, and Christine Trost collaborated for weeks prior to our meeting on a detailed proposal to extend offers of stays to 90 days, with the possibility of an extension provided that our guest is actively working on obtaining long-term housing. Stacey and Maggie consulted with a real estate attorney to determine what legal risks, if any, we should be aware of and what we might do to mitigate them. After a robust discussion that took all these considerations into account, the Vestry unanimously approved the proposal. Stacey and the Justice and Peace Ministry will now work on putting procedures in place, such as an agreement that future guests will be asked to sign, so that we may begin to offer these longer-term stays.
The other main agenda item, also reflecting a theme of solidarity, was a brief update from Ed Hahn on the Parish House Project. We continue to be in discussion with Berkeley city officials about various issues, ranging from funding for our project to obtaining a revision to an ordinance to allow us to remove some trees. Our Parish House Redevelopment Team was also planning to begin interviewing potential contractors the Friday following the Vestry meeting. With a project this large, it’s impossible to anticipate every challenge that may arise, but the overall feeling of the redevelopment team is one of optimism at the progress being made.
Other meeting business included Vestry approval of the list of All Souls events at which the consumption of alcohol is approved, in keeping with the requirements of our new All Souls alcohol policy; the Rector’s report, focusing largely on our successful Holy Week; and approval of the previous month’s minutes and financial reports.
– Bob Holum, Senior Warden
Baptized for Life
Baptized for Life was the title of a diocesan training day for the Beloved Community held on March 21, 2018 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, led by Rev. Dr. Patricia Lyons, (aka on Facebook as the Hogwarts’ Chaplain) and Lisa Kimball, Ph.D., Virginia Theological Seminary. And what did Hogwarts have to do with it? And being a Superhero (and what are your super powers)? And how does all that further the Great Commission, to go out and bring the Gospel of Jesus to all the world? We saw a wonderful video which cobbled together the myths of power of today’s world – Harry Potter, Star Wars, Wonder Woman, Black Panther. Once our narrative, the most vital one in the world, the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, and all the other wonder tales of the Bible, were known and formative. Now we reach out, still hungry, to all sorts of other heroes, women and men who through super powers fight evil. And the war against evil is real and marches side by side with the love of God. Using, rather than denying the myths of today, is a good place to start to evangelize the world. We examined a chart which looked like a funnel. At the wide end were the seekers, those not yet exploring the faith. And it all starts with being curious, feeling that little tickle which is the first call from God. As the funnel got narrower and narrower we ticked off learning in a catechumenate , asking questions, finally making the commitment in Baptism, Christ’s own forever. But then another period of more questions, deeper ones. Practice in prayer, group and individual, hearing God, obeying God as the funnel got tighter, as the sacramental life is revealed. This is the normal way that people come to Christ, but on any given day even the most devout of us can find ourselves all over this map. And that is OK, if each morning we get up and ask, “What does God have in store for me today,” and be ready to answer, “Here I am.”
The afternoon session began with another video of Dumbledore’s Army planning and practicing what they needed to defeat evil, knowing it took training, but also courage, while subtexts reminded us that we, too, need training, courage, and each other. And we talked about how the Episcopal Church is an “and” church. God and Nature, the Church and the World, all people and not just some, and so on. And how we can reach out to the unchurched, or the never going to be churched. Broadcasting won’t do it. Blessing will. We can be people of blessing living God’s love.
We closed with a renewal of our baptismal vows, which I was honored to lead. We are the Body of the Great Commission, Christ’s own forever, and we are sent out just like the apostles and disciples, sealed in baptism, to convert the world, in love, in Christ Jesus.
– Dana Kramer-Rolls
NEWCOMER COFFEE WITH CLERGY
All newcomers or relative newcomers are invited to join Phil and Liz on April 29th in the Common Room after the 11:15 service for coffee and some snacks. This is meant to serve as a chance to get some time with both Phil and Liz in a smaller group setting. Please RSVP with Emily Hansen Curran (email@example.com). There is also a New Member Ceremony coming up in early May! If you are interested in becoming a member here, please also see Emily for more information.
SEEKING NURSERY CHILD CARE WORKER
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.
VOTE FOR OUR SUMMER READING GROUP BOOK!
Earlier this spring, All Soulsians nominated books for our summer reading groups. Now we need to choose one of the finalists that everyone will read over 8 sessions between June and August. In the Narthex, you will find a set of four glass jars, one for each of the books.
The finalists are:
- Read through descriptions of books in person and online.
- On or before May 6, cast your vote in the Narthex for ONE book that you hope to read over the summer by placing a marble in the jar for the book of your choice.
The Adult Formation Committee will tally the votes on May 14th and announce them in the Pathfinder and at the services that Sunday.
Interfaith Immigration Vigil
People’s Tribunal at West County Detention Facility
On the first Saturday of every month, we gather with people of different faiths to pray, sing, listen and bear witness. This month, instead of the regular vigil, immigrant rights activists, community leaders and people who have been directly affected by the immigrant detention system will gather in front of the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) for a people’s tribunal to hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office accountable for their culture of secrecy and systemic abuse. The tribunal is one of a series of coordinated people’s tribunals across the country as a part of the #ICEonTrial campaign. The campaign comes with a rise of retaliation by ICE against activists, as the agency is emboldened to be less transparent, unaccountable and act with increased impunity under the Trump administration.
Where: West County Detention Facility
Address: 5555 Giant Hwy, Richmond, CA 94806
WALK THROUGH LITURGY
This class starts up again this Sunday! For the next four weeks Adult Formation classes will meet in the Nave where the clergy will walk us through a slowed down version of our Sunday liturgy. For those of you paying attention, yes, this class is repeated from the fall. This time, though, we will be exploring more of the why and so-what of what we do in the liturgy. Our hope is that the class serves as a capstone for the year’s Adult Formation classes in which we explored different elements of the liturgy in depth. Check out the “wheel” poster in the Narthex to see the year’s classes. This first will meet outside the Narthex door on Cedar St. just after the 9am service.