From the Outreach Committee
Four years ago All Souls parishioner Elena Ramirez began attending a monthly prayer vigil outside the West County Detention Center in Richmond. At the vigil (held on the first Saturday of every month), people of faith gather to pray, sing, and bear witness to the suffering of immigrants who are being detained indefinitely, without a guarantee of legal representation, within the facility’s walls. Elena encouraged others to join her, and slowly I and other members of All Souls began to be drawn into a faith-based effort to stand by and advocate for and with immigrants who are being targeted by our government for deportation.
Hearing the stories of immigrants held at the Richmond facility (and more than 250 other facilities like it across the U.S.) got us asking the question: What else are we as people of faith called to do to respond to the needs of immigrant detainees? UCC minister and immigration program director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Rev. Deborah Lee, who has been leading the effort to stand alongside immigrant detainees, indicated that there is a great need for short-term housing. She asked us to consider partnering with the Post-Release Accompaniment Program (PRAP), based in the East Bay, and provide short-term housing to immigrants who are released from detention without notice and sufficient time to make the travel arrangements needed to reunite them with their families.
We looked around at our church’s resources and developed a proposal to dedicate several underutilized rooms in our Parish House to providing deep hospitality and short-term housing to recently released immigrant detainees. In the spring of 2015 we presented the proposal to our vestry members, who voted unanimously to support it. Then, over the summer, we refurbished a room in the Parish House to use as a bedroom, outfitted the kitchen, and spiffed up a bathroom. Along with their labor, members of All Souls donated furniture, BART cards, Safeway gift cards, and other needed supplies, including toiletries, linens and a closet full of men’s and women’s clothes, so that when guests arrive, often with only the clothes on their back, they would have something (gently used) to wear.
Last fall, after developing a protocol for receiving guests and recruiting and training a team of more than a dozen accompaniment volunteers, we welcomed our first guest. Yvonne was released on bond after spending more than 6 months in detention. After only a few days she was able to return to her home, but the days she spent with us brought her comfort as she made the transition from incarceration (and all it brings – loss of privacy, 4am wake up calls, limited access to the outdoors, poor quality of food, etc.) to living on her own again in a safe, warm, welcoming environment. Yvonne was required to return to the Bay Area several more times throughout the spring to meet with officials about her pending asylum case. Because she has very few resources, we invited her to stay at the Parish House during these visits – an invitation she gratefully accepted.
In March we discovered an unanticipated benefit of our program. We were asked by our PRAP partner to provide a letter of support for a young woman, Francis, who had fled violence in Guatemala and was seeking asylum in the U.S. Francis was being detained at the Richmond facility and her bond had been placed at $10,000, a sum completely out of reach for her and her family. Because of the existence of our program and our willingness to provide Francis with short-term housing and other forms of support, the judge agreed to reduce Francis’s bail to $1,500, which her family was able to raise, resulting in her release. The PRAP coordinator was able to arrange transportation for Francis as soon as she was released, so we did not end up hosting her, which has been the case with several other detainees, but knowing that All Souls is ready to receive guests, until plans can be made to reunite them with their families, is a great relief to our PRAP partner.
In June we welcomed another guest who, because her life is still in danger, I will call Mary. Mary fled extreme violence in her home country. When she arrived in the U.S. she requested asylum and was immediately sent to the West County Detention Center where she spent the next 5 months. Aided by a pro-bono lawyer, Mary was granted asylum status and released. Unable to return home and not knowing a soul in the U.S., other than her lawyer and the inmates she had befriended while in the detention center, Mary arrived at All Souls in mid May. For a little over two weeks Mary stayed in the Parish House. A dedicated team of All Souls volunteers brought her meals, provided fellowship, and helped her think through her next steps. When Parish House guests arrive they are given a cell phone to use to call family members and communicate with accompaniment volunteers. Mary asked if she could call family members of the women she had met in detention to relay messages and reassure them that the women were OK. She spent the next few days making these calls and then wrote and mailed letters to the women in detention with greetings and messages from their loved ones. Witnessing Mary’s act of compassion and love, even after having experienced so much trauma herself, filled me with gratitude and wonder. It also made me realize that the deep hospitality we seek to extend to our guests helps to create a context that can result in other acts of love that reach well beyond the walls of All Souls.
A few weeks ago, several members of Mary’s accompaniment team met to share reflections on her visit and on what providing “deep hospitality” to recently released immigrant detainees has meant to us. We described how grateful we are for the experience of being part of this ministry, and for having the opportunity to share our resources and be in fellowship with those who have endured so much. Participating in this ministry has allowed us to explore more deeply the Biblical commandments to “welcome the stranger” and to “love thy neighbor” and what doing so requires of us as individuals and as a faith community. It has also pushed those of us who are introverts out of our comfort zones and given us an opportunity to overcome the initial fear that comes with meeting and befriending someone new.
I shared that as a result of working in this ministry my belief that God is with us – always, now and in the future – and is working through us has been deepened. The initial panic that I would feel when receiving a phone call asking if All Souls can accept a guest for 1-2 weeks has dissipated. Rather than my first thought being, “Will we be able to assemble a large enough team to provide the needed support, and what if we can’t?” I am now confident that the pieces will fall into place and we will be able to extend deep hospitality to whomever God sends our way. My ability to take this leap of faith more easily is due to the fact that I have witnessed so many “loaves and fishes” moments over the course of past year in the context of this ministry: volunteers always step forward, generous donations are made, parish leaders provide unwavering support, and together our faith community shares its abundant resources in numerous, unanticipated and deeply meaningful ways.
If you are interested in being part of this ministry, which can involve preparing and delivering a meal, offering a ride, providing fellowship, and/or extending other forms of hospitality to our guests, please let me know.
– Christine Trost
Kicking off the New School Year
Sundaes for Sunday School & Blessing of the Backpacks, August 28th
Get excited for Sunday, August 28th, when we’ll launch into our new school year together! Finally, we will all be back from summer adventures and ready to dive into vibrant community life. We’ll be celebrating our annual Blessing of the Backpacks (and briefcases, tablets, messenger bags, and so forth…) at all services, for students and teachers of all ages and kinds. Then at 10:10 am, we’ll increase the stickiness factor with Sundaes for Sunday School in the courtyard! Parents, this will be the time for you to register your kids for Sunday School, (even if they participated last year) connect with your kids’ Sunday School teachers, and catch up with one another. In addition to ice cream sundaes, there will be giant bubbles, a chance to explore some of our Godly Play materials and a new Lego-based approach we’re bringing into Children’s Chapel, and more. This is a great time to invite friends and neighbors who might be curious about getting involved in a family-friendly church and introducing their children to the stories of our faith!
This year, we will also be collecting school supplies for Emily Hertz’s class of kindergartners at Caliber Beta Academy in Richmond, which serves a highly disadvantaged population of children. Please pick up some things from this list and bring them to the baskets in the narthex on August 28th to help these kids have a great school year too. The class needs:
Notes from Our Basement
Something has been happening in the basement at the parish this summer. People have been gathering in the library to write, read, and discuss their academic work. It’s a phenomenon I like to call The Berkeley Study Hall.
We light a candle. John Cusak’s Lloyd Dobler (from “Say Anything”) is our muse. He bravely holds his boom box over his head as Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” blares across the lawn into his love’s window.
In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes
Members of the parish who have been attending this summer are Sarah Bakker Kellogg, Stephan Quarles, Megan Hansen Curran, Laura Tink Eberly, and Adam Wood. Maren Haynes Marchesini, an ethnomusicologist who has spent the last couple of years working at Pacific School of Religion has also been in the mix.
The projects include technical writing, a masters thesis, a dissertation or two, homework for a German class, and a book on anthropology and music. We’ve had a great time. Personally, I’ve found the comeradery and the white board to be a boon to my work.
My guess is that we’ll continue to meet even as the summer comes to a close. Maren has moved away to Montana and Adam has a new job at Facebook. The school year will also keep Sarah and Stephan busy teaching and taking classes. You should see Laura and Megan from time to time. My position at American Baptist Seminary of the West comes to an end this month. I’ll be spending a lot of time with the people of Church Divinity School of the Pacific as the new Bogard Fellow, but I’ll also be in the parish basement.
Writing. And writing.
We’d like to thank Joy and Emily for their kind hospitality and use of their inspiring coffee. We’d like to thank Phil+ and Liz+ for their gentle teasing (“brain trust” is just too funny), and you, the people of All Souls, for having a space where we can create an academic community of accountability. We have all found it enriching.
– Tripp Hudgins
Church in the Round
Seeking reflections and muscle power
As the summer draws to a close, we have just a few more weeks of worshiping in the round before returning to our more traditional arrangement for the fall. Born out of both necessity and curiosity, it’s been quite the experience, learning new patterns, new flows, discovering unexpected hiccups and gifts along the way. In preparing to transform our space again, we have two hopes: that you would reflect, and also help move pews. As you worship these next two Sundays, we invite you to consider these points for reflection:
- The aspect of this arrangement that challenged me was…
- The part of this arrangement that surprised me was…
- The way I most easily came close to God in this arrangement was…
We will have paper hung to write your responses on August 21st, or you can share them online here.
Second, please mark you calendar for our moving parties: August 22nd from 3:00 – 5:00 pm, and August 23rd from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Please email Liz if you plan to help. Many thanks!
Parish Retreat Registration
Registration is open for our annual Parish Retreat, happening September 16th – 18th at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg. This year our theme will focus our attention on Sabbath: A Time Apart. We will have time for fellowship, feasting, learning and resting, fun and adventure. Our middle and high school youth will be embarking on a parallel youth retreat, largely enjoying their own adventures and sometimes joining the rest of the community. There will be separate programming for kids and adults on Saturday morning, and also plenty of free time to explore and take advantage of all the Ranch has to offer.
You can learn more of the details and sign up here, or by talking with Emily Hansen Curran on Sunday. Please note that you will need to receive confirmation from Emily Hansen Curran and pay in order to be officially registered.
WHEN GREENERY INVADES…
All Souls takes action. The blessing of rainfall brings with it an abundance of greenery that requires some guidance from us. There’s no poetic way to say this, we’ve GOT to cut it down. So we’re having a party. A Pruning Party! We’re Calling All Souls to take on the trimming, weeding, clearing, hacking, shoveling, lopping, and chopping the overgrowth and undergrowth encroaching on our Parish House, Parish Hall, parking lot, preschool, and church. I have snippers, hedge trimmers and a pole pruner ready to participate; what tools do you have yearning to be put to use? Save Saturday, August 27th and prepare to channel your inner arborist.
– Maggie Cooke, Jr. Warden