From the Rector

The Next Turn

Close to twenty years ago, when All Souls Parish was in the process of calling the Rev. Andrew Walmisley to be its 11th rector, it was clear that one of the top priorities needed to be the re-imagining of our formation of children and their families.

With the use of the newly forming Godly Play curriculum, changes in the worship structure, and the creation of family-focused events, the life of All Souls Parish began to change. More and more young families saw a congregation that intentionally put children at the center of our common life. Fifteen years later, thanks to the faith-filled work of many, it is well known that, “families flourish at All Souls.”

When I arrived at All Souls in 2008 it was clear that even as our ministry with children was thriving, our ministry with youth was suffering from a lack of similar resources and intention. It was for this reason that as part of the Mutual Ministry Review and Planning process in 2009, the Vestry discerned that youth ministry would be one of the three areas of emphasis to give our collective attention.

After our Youth Ministry Task Force made clear and concise recommendations, we conducted a nation-wide search for a half-time Director of Youth Ministry in the summer of 2011, resulting in the call of Sara Gunter. During the past three years of her leadership, our ministry with youth at All Souls Parish has been strengthened in its foundations and has grown in both scope and participation.

Our middle school group has thrived and from those beginnings, a few years ago Sara launched a regional middle school immersion trip. Housed in the Parish House, this past summer had middle schoolers from across the East Bay sleeping in every nook and cranny of the first floor of the Parish House.

Sara’s work with our high schoolers has seen the same dedication and heart. This year, in addition to the Sunday evening work with the middle schoolers, Sara began leading Sunday morning classes for all youth as part of the 10:10 formation hour. And these past two years, Sara was one of the two co-leaders for the high school immersion trip, carrying the program and spiritual responsibilities for the trip in exemplary fashion.

As is often the case, much of Sara’s time and attention with the youth and their families has been largely unseen by most. Sara’s presence in the times of joy and of trial for many of our youth and their parents has been remarkable. She has been a steady, caring advocate and ally at concerts, games, and bedsides, not to mention her ever-presence on Facebook. In addition, Sara has represented All Souls in diocesan youth ministry, serving as a resource and leader in diocesan youth events and programming.

It is because of this exemplary work that she is headed to the diocese of West Virgnia to serve on the Bishop’s staff as the Officer for Youth Ministries for the diocese. Her gifts, experience and presence will be put to good use, even as we will miss her dearly. To that end, please join us this Sunday, after the 11:15 a.m. service, to send Sara off to West Virginia in style. We will sing, play games, eat, laugh and cry as we wish her Godspeed.

And, in news that might qualify for the miraculous, I am thrilled to announce that in the past week we have been able to call a gifted person to serve as our new Associate for Children and Youth. You may remember that a month ago, when we learned that Sara would be headed to the bishop’s staff in West Virginia, a group of leaders from across All Souls gathered to re-imagine our staffing possibilities.

With the addition of Tess McGinley and Julia Martin, the search team that called the Rev. Liz Tichenor forged ahead to once again conduct a nation-wide search for this newly configured position. And so it was that last week, with great relief and excitement, we called Carolyn Richardson to join our parish as Associate for Children and Youth.

Carolyn has worked for several years with children and youth in various settings, has excellent abilities in relating with youth, children and people of all ages, has remarkable depth and all of the gifts necessary to create and sustain strong, healthy and vital Christian community. She will begin making church with us at the start of September and her first Sunday will be September 7th, Rally Sunday.

This has been a watershed summer for All Souls Parish. The transitions of Kristin and Sara, the success of the Giving Tree Campaign, the broad and deep work of the Strategic Planning process have kept us on our toes as we have kept moving forward. And so, it is with great hope that we approach this next turn of our presence at the corner of Cedar and Spruce. Thanks be to God for what we have received, what these gifts have offered us and what, in turn, we will offer those who follow.


From the Associate for Liturgy and Music

What a Year it’s Been!

We have lots of ways to mark a new year: January 1 and the first Sunday of Advent are two, of course. The other in our societal calendar is the new school year, and I’ve been thinking about not just the year to come but the year just past. It seems like a good time to look at the music department in light of the past 12 (really 13) months.

Remember all that time and energy that went into planning our new worship schedule for last September? Some of you reading this actually don’t remember it – we have new parishioners since last fall who know only our current Sunday routine. “Really? There was a service at 10:00? What a strange time to come to church!”

It seems like such a long time ago that we introduced Angel Band on a weekly basis, side-by-side with the Parish Choir, a process which began last July. Talk about a year flying by! We’ve expanded the repertoire of both groups in that time, especially now that we have a baritone section leader to bolster the choir (first Paul Adams last Lent, and now the multitalented Tripp Hudgins). Having so many voices and instruments each week is an incredible blessing! And my colleagues are stunned to hear that we keep the music going all summer when so many groups take time off.

8 months without any kind of vestments? A distant memory, since the new burgundy robes made their debut at the Easter Vigil.

And as you read about last week, we have made the biggest shift in the department since our current church building was constructed in 1956, nearly 60 years ago. We are now occupying a suite of rooms in the Parish House, now known as the Music Annex, as part of the preparation for our new staff arrivals next month. The best part so far? I now join the rest of the staff in having an office with windows!

We knew that as we made changes in 2013 that we couldn’t foresee all that would happen, and that’s been true. Our celebrations throughout the year, especially those of All Souls/All Saints, the Advent Festival, Easter, and Kristin’s farewell all stretched us into new, richer avenues of music than we had ever experienced before.

So here we come at the start of another new, not-quite-arbitrary marker on the calendar, and who knows what’s ahead? What we do know is that we will find new ways of expressing our sharing in God’s creative will through making music together. Whether in the pews or up front with us (where all are welcome – come on Wednesday nights and we will find a place for you!), each member of this community is essential to setting that creative spark aflame. What a year this will be!


Parish Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch

Strengthening Our Community and Deepening Our Faith

My daughter and I first attended the Parish Retreat at Bishop’s Ranch about four years ago. We had been regular Sunday attendees for a couple of years, and were intrigued by the idea of spending a quiet and bucolic weekend away in Healdsburg, the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country, with our parish community. I expected to have a pleasant enough time; what I did not expect was a truly transformative weekend that left me with new and deepened friendships, ideas to enhance my spiritual journey, and a heart open to new possibilities.

The retreat begins on Friday evening upon arrival at the Ranch House, where you are greeted warmly by fellow parishioners, check in, and find out your room assignment. We have always arrived a bit late, and have entered the house in the midst of a lively gathering of All Souls folks making merry around a bountiful table of food and wine. Friday evening is meant to be an unstructured time when one can quickly decompress after the drive up, shed off the stresses of the workaday week, and enter into a receptive frame of mind, ready to take in all the Ranch has to offer.

On Saturday morning, after enjoying a hearty breakfast at the Refectory, all retreat participants engage in planned thematic activities: this year’s is Wholehearted Living, based on the work of Brené Brown, an American scholar and best-selling author whose research touches on a range of topics, including vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. During this program, we will explore what it means to live with courage, connection and compassion, and will do this through biblical reflection, as well as small and large group activities. The Rev. Dr. Paul Fromberg, rector of St Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, will be the retreat leader. There will be separate programming specific to children, youth and adults related to this theme.

Saturday afternoon is free-time, where one may choose to nap, read, socialize, hike the grounds, swim in the beautiful pool, go wine-tasting, or sit quietly and reflect on the day’s lessons. We come together again for dinner, followed by an evening group activity, such as a lively hymn sing-along. The day closes with compline, and then it’s off to bed. On Sunday morning, we gather together for worship, enjoy a good lunch, pack up, and go home.

My favorite part of the retreat is Saturday morning, where I find myself moved and inspired by the thematic lesson and the break-out session work; I have had casual acquaintances blossom into closer friendships through the small group interactions. I also love to hang out by the pool on Saturday afternoon: I find it a refreshing, relaxing, and wonderful way for all generations to come together.

When I asked my daughter what she likes most about the Parish Retreat, she quickly replied that she most enjoys the beautiful and tranquil setting, and being amidst a beloved community of friends who know her well. Indeed, the sense of community that we gain during the retreat is tangible: we return to All Souls with our minds clear, our hearts open, and our spirits soaring. I look forward to seeing you at the Ranch in September.

This year, the retreat will be held from September 19th to 21st. You can register with Ed McDonough in the narthex between services on Sunday, or email him at

–Tara McCulloch

We All Have a Story to Tell

High School Immersion Trip

This past week 6 All Souls youth and 3 All Souls adults joined 31 other youth and adults from 4 other parishes in the Diocese of California on an immersion trip to Wakpala, SD on the Standing Rock Reservation. We stayed at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal church, where Bill Fay served for several years. We worked on roofs, offered Vacation Bible school to children in the town, painted the steeple and replaced the porch at St. Elizabeth’s and cleared and expanded several cemeteries. After work each day we got to learn more about the Lakota people and their traditions through different presentations. We also were able to attend a Pow-Wow in a neighboring town, Rock Creek.

The theme of our trip was “We All Have a Story to Tell” and we explored storytelling using the story about Joseph in Genesis. Below are a few pictures documenting our trip. Please come to one the services this Sunday at All Souls to hear us preach about our trip.