From the Associate Rector
A meditation on your fabulousness
Plenty of you have heard Phil and me rave about the Rev. Alissa Newton, the director of the College for Congregational Development and vicar of St. Columba’s in Kent, Washington. She is quite the leader and teacher, and we look up to her a great deal. One of the things I’ve noticed about Alissa is how much she loves her little congregation. They are quirky and delightful and she loves them something fierce.
At the College this past June, my small group was sent on a congregational visit to none other than St. Columba’s. The senior warden and treasurer gave us a tour of the lively space, a church built permanently (!) in the round, and told us stories of life there. I was struck almost immediately by how clearly they know that their vicar loves them. Their experience and Alissa’s effusive expression are two sides of the same coin.
And it’s had me thinking. Wondering if you know how Phil and I sing your praises when we travel. Wondering if you would guess that at the College, when folks learned that I serve here, they would pause. “Oh wow, All Souls! Really?!” The story of your goodness has traveled far.
Of course, all churches are good. Big churches and little churches, deeply distressed churches, churches that are healing, churches that aren’t sure what’s next. All good, with different challenges and fruit ahead.
And it’s true of you. Do you know this? Do you know how awesome you are? I mean, really? Reminders of this truth have been coming at me from all sides this week. I was reminded by Bob, who shared his thanks in our All Soulsians Facebook group:
“I am feeling grateful today for our All Souls community. This has been a challenging summer for us as a community, a nation, and a world, for many reasons. Speaking for myself, it has been a great comfort to come to All Souls in the midst of these challenges and to worship, sing, and pray with you. It has helped to ground me; it has made me more able to go out into the world and try to be someone who responds to suffering rather than reacting to it. I give thanks for each and every one of you.”
You love each other well. You tell each other so. It is good.
I see this love in the creativity with which you take care of each other. Recently, I marveled at how much care your Stephen Ministry Leaders put into making a match between a care receiver and a potential Stephen Minister. Thinking outside of the box, they took into account the myriad elements that contribute to a person’s needs. With fancy footwork, they strove to make a match that would support all these aspects of the whole person well, and with grace.
Your goodness shines through in your brilliant and diverse minds. After a Monthly Ministry Meeting, a fellow priest wrote to share how impressed she was with “lay leadership that turns to scripture as a foundation for Christian practice, and with lay leadership that can respond so quickly from scripture. It says a lot about the All Souls community and the depth of formation that happens over time.” Indeed, you are making this formation happen, together. You tackle deep questions, issues that matter and shape our common lives. We are the richer for it.
I think of how well you speak of one another. If only you could hear how much you praise each other! I hope you do this with one another, as well. I respect how you are vaults for each other’s confidence, how you so carefully practice building relationships up, with honesty and thoughtful feedback, digging in when things get hard, coming back to the table, reconciling and working forward, again and again. You do this all, and you do it well.
Your generosity astounds me, All Soulsians, as you hold one another in mind and offer what you have, often more than what you have, to keep each other going. I saw it in the gaggle of Phoenixes who rallied to help Stephan and Holly shuffle from one apartment to another in the Parish House in a flash. I saw it in Surfer Steve bringing my daughter her first Golden State jersey. I see it in the flexible creativity when Children’s Chapel leaders turn on a dime to sub in for one another. I see this generosity in all the time and money and energy and risk and trust you give to making church together, again and again.
And my word, you are funny. Just today, you were kicking around ideas for a team name for the Albany kickball league we’re joining. Kick Baal? The Vergers? The Transubstantionistas? Wow. And then there was the time someone hid a large fake fly on the altar… perhaps you saw me cracking up, and wondered why. Thank God you know how to laugh, too.
There is so much more I could celebrate. I am in awe, daily, at the gift of serving here with you. Of course there is much to do, challenges to confront, growing edges to engage. Of course. But you people astonish me, with your big hearts and your passionate drive for justice and your arms flung wide open, welcoming strangers as neighbors and calling the Spirit into our midst.
Every night when I was a child, when my mother said goodnight, she would also ask me if I knew who loved me. My hunch is that as a teacher, she hoped that I would learn the answer on a more profound level if I articulated it myself. And so, All Soulsians, I ask: do you know who loves you? I hope so. God and a great many of us, near and far. We ought to say so more often. Keep being your fabulous selves.
Peace, and much love,
The Parish House Intentional Community
The All Souls Parish House is home to a intentional community of students and scholars of theology. This year, Scott McDougall, Trish Austin, Tripp Hudgins and Elias Austin-Hudgins are joined by four new members. This week, welcome Em Kianka and Logan Rimel!
Originally from Lee’s Summit, MO, Logan is an earnest Midwesterner still, at times, bewildered by the Bay. He graduated from Vassar College with a BA in religious studies, and then served in the Episcopal Service Corps at St. Hilda’s House in New Haven, CT and DioCal Interns, which brought him to Berkeley. For the past 2 years he has been living in the St. Chrysostom Community in northwest Berkeley. Logan likes baking bread, snarky cross-stitching, a nice Belgian beer, and learning new things. Topics of interest include growing food, basic DIY skills, layman’s economics, and anything to do with God or church nerdery. Confirmed at Grace Cathedral in November of 2013, Logan is really excited to find new ways of serving God and the All Souls community in the coming year.
Jesus is a wildfire
Scenes from our High School Immersion Trip
Last week, three of our high schoolers and our Associate for Youth Ministries returned from their immersion trip. If you were away on Sunday, make sure you listen to them preach!
Truth & Reconciliation: From Rwanda to the US
The groundwork for reconciliation is truth-telling. Whose story gets told? Whose is left out? These questions shape a community’s narrative and influence systems and relationships. Whether in post-genocide Rwanda, in Ferguson, MO, or in the Bay Area, acknowledging the truth of multiple perspectives is essential where divisions persist.
How can the faith-wisdom of the “truth and reconciliation” process that has been a part of the healing of nations in Africa be used to help heal the deep wounds of racism in the United States? Come together with other All Soulsians to join Fr. Didace Kamana, Catholic priest, justice worker, scholar and survivor of the Rwanda genocide for events at First Church Berkeley, UCC, on Saturday, August 27th. Just a child when left for dead among his family members who perished during the Rwanda genocide, Fr. Didace Kamana survived to become a priest who ministered not only to other survivors, but to the perpetrators of violence. He has made restoration and reconciliation in both secular and religious settings his life’s work. You can register here.
Saturday, August 27th
Workshop with Fr. Didace: 2:00 – 5:00 pm, Large Assembly
Dinner (provided/free will offering): 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Large Assembly
These events are organized by the First Church Diversity Team with the intention of bringing together many communities of faith (and others) in Berkeley and the Bay Area who are committed to racial justice. More information can be found here. To connect with other All Soulsians going, contact Christine Trost or Janet Chisholm.
Seeking Olympic Brawn
As folks flock back to town, it’s time to rearrange the church to make room for everyone! Please come help with the massive Pew Luge, 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!
YOUTH BOWLING NIGHT
Rally Sunday & Blessing of the Backpacks – August 28th
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
Family Gathering September 3rd
PARISH RETREAT REGISTRATION
Registration is nearly full 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.