Phil Brochard headshot2Wonder in the Realm

This past week the Episcopal Church celebrated the feast day of Herman the Wonder Worker. Herman was a Russian Orthodox monastic who heard a call in 1793 to serve with the Aleut in Alaska, near Kodiak.

One of our guides to the feasts and fasts of the Episcopal Church, Holy Women, Holy Men, tells us that he “advocated and defended the Aleuts against the sometimes-oppressive authorities, particularly Russian and European colonists with commercial interests.” And, that in addition to providing wise counsel the many who sought it, he, “especially loved children, for whom he often baked biscuits and cookies.”

It seems to be for this reason that the Gospel appointed for this feast day is from Luke’s account, when the disciples are arguing about who among them is the greatest. In response, Jesus takes a little child that was part of the gathering and says, “whoever welcomes this child welcomes me.” I imagine that this was met with stunned silence by the disciples that had been trying to one up each other.

Now, to be sure, I’m not entirely comfortable with the use of a child as a prop in this object lesson. And at the same time, Jesus is once again doing something phenomenally counter-cultural — in a culture that had little space for children, he teaches that they show us a way into the Realm of God. And this is something Herman clearly saw.

Over the years, I have been deeply formed by the theology and practice of the Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman. Jerome, the creator of the Godly Play curriculum, teaches that there is a vast difference between what is child-like and what is child-ish. Berryman sees in this story of Jesus an instruction to take upon us a child-like, wonder-filled stance. It is my experience that no matter our age, when we are able to live from this stance of wonder, the Realm of God is easy to find close at hand.

This was my first-hand experience, as I had the honor and privilege to be invited in to our inaugural Camp All Souls. For the past four days, the corner of Cedar and Spruce has been one of the more Spirit-filled and outright fun places to be in any realm. There have been Plagues of Egypt obstacle courses, Golden Calf piñatas, and some outstanding polyester snowball fights. But my entry into this Realm was for a session of Stump the Rector.

For those who haven’t yet played this game, it can be played with participants from ages 3 to at least 103. Basically, people ask any question that they’ve been wondering about, especially questions that have to do with why rather than how. My time with the Peace Pineapples and the Gentle Giants of Justice was just plain incredible. The wonder that we encountered in that conversation was deep and true and real. There were questions about how God was created, how Jesus could change his mind and still be divine, why a good God could allow for suffering, whether God has a gender, what God thinks about science, and why God isn’t evil. And many, many more…for a whole hour. It was amazing.

stump the rector

Afterwards I was reverberating all afternoon long, as that hour I spent with our children was one of most profound, fruitful, awe-filled hours that I have spent recently. And I believe that the reason for this was what Herman knew, and what Jesus was pointing us towards. That children have an innate ability to wonder about the bounds of life in a way that we often lose as we grow older. It is why holy people like the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are so remarkable — as even through they have known trials and suffering they maintain a palpable sense of wonder.

So All Soulsians, my hope this week is that each of us is able to approach those around us, and the world within us with this same sense of wonder. If for some reason you find that you are struggling to do so, Herman, Jesus, and Camp All Souls have reminded me that a child can lead you there.



The Blessing of All Souls Help Ministry

peggy pattersonI can still remember when I heard that Erin Horne and Opie were taking over the All Souls Meals and Rides Ministry… “All Soul Cares” I would call it. Her witness to me in describing this ministry was so joyous and enthusiastic and passionate that I just wanted to be a part of it.

Have you ever been homebound after surgery, or had an unexpected fall or illness? It can be pretty lonely, and hungry and sad. Mostly, you keep thinking of things you need and meals you cannot make yourself, and you are hesitant to keep asking the same people to help. Well, All Souls’ Ministry of Meals and Rides fills in when parishioners, newcomers, and others need a few meals to tide them over, or a ride to and from a doctor’s appointment.

Erin made this ministry sound so welcoming when I called to inquire about what was involved:

“What if I don’t drive on the freeways?” “What if I can only help once or twice a month?” “What if I need to be on call as backup?” Erin assured me that a simple meal, delivered with love, would be most appreciated, anytime I could volunteer.

This summer I have brought food to the Middle School Immersion Trip Dinner and to a local parishioner who was temporarily homebound.

As it turns out, the blessing in both cases was all mine! And the “Meal Train” APP which Erin uses makes the whole experience so easy!

Here is how it worked for me: I received a group email to invite me to consider bringing dinner on one of five nights needed for an All Souls couple. The “Meal Train App”easily described the details: who is requesting the meal, how many people, any food preferences, address and map/directions to the home. I looked at the calendar, and put my name on an open dinner date; the APP keeps track of everything. I was even able to see what meals others were cooking (or buying), so I could try to bring something complementary. As the days went by, all five dinners were spoken for, and the Meal Train APP even sent me a reminder, with the foods I had promised to bring. I got my meal ready, in recycled containers, and I was on the way to my new All Souls friends.

I actually teared up when our parishioner opened the door. She and her husband were so kind and grateful. I felt blessed. All week I prayed for them and for her recovery. What a blessing it was to be allowed to enter another person’s life and know that my small gesture had reminded her that we at All Souls cared for her.

So if you want to feel blessed, if you want to meet a new friend, if you want to participate in a concrete way in making our community more loving, more generous, more compassionate, call Erin Horne and join the team. Erin makes the whole experience fun and easy with the Meal Train App and her gracious thank you emails. AND God warms your heart.

– Peggy Patterson

From the Adult Formation Committee

Stephan QuarlesReading Joy

2017 has made me tired. This is, I suspect, not how you expected a reflection on joy to start. 2017 has made me tired, but the opportunities to reflect on and practice joy with the community at All Souls has nourished me and replenished me for the long haul. We have reflected on obstacles to Joy (Days 2&3) and on Pillars of Joy (Days 3&4) while consistently engaging with members of the community on how to best practice this radical change of perspective. We will continue the work of reflecting on joy with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, specifically on compassion and generosity. The final week will explore the two central and interlocking themes of compassion and generosity. “Compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness,” the Dalai Lama says. What does that look like? Come, reflect, and seek out what this looks like as we enter our final week of our journey through The Book of Joy.

– Stephan Quarles

Education for Ministry

jennifer boehlerThis piece is supposed to motivate you to join us in our further exploration of the Bible, our faith traditions and the history of the Christian church through Education for Ministry (EfM). Quite a lot to bite off – don’t worry, there are no tests. Seriously, if you have ever wondered what the connection between the Old Testament readings and the Gospel readings are on a given Sunday or wanted to know more about who wrote those stories and lessons and don’t want to go to seminary — you should join our ongoing EfM class. We have explored our personal faith journeys, learned more about the writers and compilers of the Gospels and Old Testament stories and questioned one another about how to apply these stories to our lives – where do our lives intersect with the wisdom and experience of our forbearers. In order to enter the conversation more fully, EfM involves a large commitment to reading and study. Your reward is the depth of relationship that grows between you and your faith and between you and fellow classmates and leaders. Our exploration of faith is not limited to the Bible and history of the church. The EfM developers prepare a thoughtful curricula for each year and incorporate contemporary and compelling readings on areas of current interest. Join us, learn more about your faith tradition and make new friends!

– Jennifer Boehler


The whole parish is invited to join Camp All Souls for a potluck feast in celebration of these wonderful kids at the end of our week of camp: Friday, August 11th at 5:30 in the Sanctuary. The campers will have the chance to share their art and lead us all in some dancing and music. We will be making chili, and invite folks to bring salad, sides, bread and dessert to share. Camp is one way we build community and deepen our faith, and this evening will be a way for the kids to take the lead and give us a glimpse of their world. If you plan to come, please RSVP here.

Come to the Ranch — Sign up for our Parish Retreat

The 2017 Parish Retreat will take place at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg September 15-17, and the theme this year is Heaven. Our annual retreat is a special time for community building, spiritual growth and exploration. This inter-generational event includes activities for children, youth, families, and adults of all ages. In addition to the program of the retreat, the weekend includes free time for reflection, rest, adventuring and fun. More details and online registration are now available online here. You can also sign up with Emily Hansen Curran on Sunday mornings.


Saturday August 19th, 4:00 – 7:00 pm
Parents and kids! Come join for a fun playdate and potluck at Oceanview Park, 900 Buchanan St, Albany. The picnic area is the cement area immediately behind the playground with the large rock in it and the dirt area to the west of the cement area. The goal is fun, not fancy. Parents, bring your kids, some food or drink to share, and have a laid-back time of fun and connection with other All Soulsians who are in the midst of the adventure of parenting right now. You can RSVP here or email Glenn with questions.

All Souls T-shirts are Back!

Order your very own All Souls t-shirts! New this year are our Camp All Souls t-shirts, the proceeds for which will go to the the camp scholarship fund. You can  see all the designs and order them from Alliance, the wonderful local, union-run shop, here.

Reach for the Rafters

It’s the first step to the stars. The High Schoolers will lead a clean-up party on Tuesday, August 15th, at 6:30 pm, changing lightbulbs, brushing away cobwebs, and maybe engaging in detective work in the utility closet to help solve The Case of the Chapel Leak. The intrigue is heavy in the summer air.  Bring along any telescoping extendable dusters you have, and RSVP to Maggie Cooke. Thank you!