From the Interim Sabbatical Rector
On Deserts and Water
The desert is a dangerous place. It is always moving around as the wind blows the sand, so it’s easy to get lost. It is very, very hot during the daytime, and the sun can burn your skin. But at night it is very, very cold. The sand blows everywhere, and it can sting people’s eyes and skin. People have to wear many clothes to protect them from the sand and the sun. It is very, very dry in the desert. If you don’t bring water with you, you could get very, very thirsty, or even die. The desert is a dangerous place. People do not go into the desert unless they have to.
That—or something close to that—is how many, many stories begin in Godly Play. These are the stories that take place in the desert box: a box of sand. Sometimes the teacher will tell the children, “We have to have a desert in our classroom because so many important stories happened in the desert. But we can’t fit the whole desert in our classroom! So we have just a little piece of it in this box.”
The call of Abraham. The wandering of the People of God in the wilderness. The giving of the Ten Best Ways to Live (or, as we usually call them, the Ten Commandments). So many desert stories are foundational to our faith tradition. It can be mesmerizing to watch a good Godly Play teacher tell them: hands sweeping lightly through the sand to suggest the blowing desert winds; figures moving across the miniature dunes; the simplicity of the materials drawing the imagination into the scene.
“If you don’t bring water with you, you could get very, very thirsty, or even die.” In these days of drought, that line resonates strongly. Many of us have been rediscovering the preciousness of water in a deeper and more visceral way over the past several years. We can’t afford to waste it or take it for granted. We need it to live.
Water, of course, is also at the center of our identity as Christians. It’s in the water of baptism that we are born anew, united with Jesus, grafted into the Church, and filled with the Holy Spirit. In about the year 430 a bishop named Sixtus had this inscription carved around the deep pool of the baptistery into which all the new Christians of the city of Rome were plunged:
Here is born in Spirit-soaked fertility
a brood destined for another City,
begotten by God’s blowing
and borne upon this torrent
by the Church their virgin mother.
Reborn in these depths they reach for heaven’s realm.
This spring is life that floods the world,
the wounds of Christ its awesome source.
Sinner, sink beneath this sacred surf
that swallows age and spits out youth.
Sinner, here scour away down to innocence,
for they know no enmity who are made one
by one font, one Spirit, one faith.
Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,
for those born here are holy.
It was Jesus’ baptism that drove him out into the desert. Still practically dripping from the waters of the Jordan, with God’s voice still ringing in his ears, he felt the Spirit tugging him out into the wilderness. He went out to be tested, but he went out carrying his baptismal waters with him, secure in the knowledge of Who he was and to Whom he belonged.
In our own wilderness journeys, whatever they may be, we carry our baptismal waters with us. “I will give you living water,” says Jesus. “Let the one who believes in me drink; out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” The desert is a dangerous place—but even in the desert, we can be nourished by the living waters of the Spirit. We can know who we are and to Whom we belong.
This Sunday, at worship, we’ll pray this line from Psalm 84: “Those who go through the desert valley will find it a place filled with springs.” Maybe this week you’re experiencing a journey through a desert valley of some sort. If so, know that you do not walk alone. Jesus is with you in the wilderness, and he brings you living water: God’s love for you, a never-ending spring.
Welcoming Our Next Associate for Youth Ministries
Be part of affirming our commitment to the youth of our congregation by welcoming Jessica Powell into the All Souls community! This coming Sunday, August 23rd, Jess will be joining us for her first Sunday at All Souls. We are hosting a youth-only brunch at 10:10 am in the youth room and will have a table in the Rotating Ministry Fair with several opportunities for adults of all ages to participate in welcome and transition activities. Read on to learn more about Jess and how you can participate in her transition.
Jess has experience as a summer camp counselor and a day camp director at Bear Creek Camp in Pennsylvania. Most recently, Jess served as a member of the LEVN Episcopal Service Corps and the Director of Youth, Family and Children’s Education Ministries at Davis Lutheran Church. Jess is drawn to youth ministry as her long-term profession, and told the search committee that she has “a deep desire to help youth experience the love and presence of God everywhere and to know that God will never leave them.” Other things Jess shared with the search committee include her love of music (choral and instrumental), a passion for social justice, and a commitment to loving inclusion of all people in the church.
Jess brings myriad gifts to All Souls and to her ministry with youth. We have created multiple opportunities for you to experience these gifts in action by being part of our welcome and transition efforts. In addition to making a point of saying hello and getting to know Jess, there are three other ways we invite you to help with her transition into our community.
1. Sign up to host a small dinner in your home. Invite as many people as you feel comfortable hosting and provide the opportunity for your guests to engage in informal conversation with Jess.
2. Sign up to work with Jess for one (or more) Sunday in September or October. You may have wondered what they do in youth group – sign up for a Sunday and find out first hand! Maybe you would like to take a break from adult formation classes for a week – sign up to help lead youth Sunday school instead. This will also give you a chance to get to know our youth and experience their joyful energy.
3. Sign-up to be part of the youth programming at the Parish Retreat. This one is a bigger commitment – and will return even more fun. The parish retreat is September 18-20 and we need adults to chaperone in youth housing (these individuals must meet diocesan Safe Church requirements) and those who just want to help with programming.
To participate in any or all of these activities, stop by the Youth Ministry table at the Rotating Ministry Fair this Sunday, August 23rd, or contact Caroline McCall.
The Parish House Accompaniment Project
…ready to launch, with your help!
We’re almost ready to go! After four months of hard work, the St. Thomas Aquinas room in the Parish House has been prepared and is now ready to receive guests who will be participating in our Parish House Accompaniment Project, which will offer short term emergency housing to recently released immigrant detainees and asylum seekers. Needed supplies have been gathered, protocols and other documents have been finalized, and the church staff and residents of the Parish House have been briefed.
Now all that is left to do before we launch this bold project is to train our amazing team of volunteers in the protocols that we have developed for welcoming and providing deep hospitality to our guests. You could be one of them! This training will be held in the Parish House on Sunday, August 30, from 12:30-2:00 pm. A light lunch will be provided. Are you interested and available? If so please let Christine Trost know.
Also, in an effort to better gauge the kinds of resources we will be able to offer our guests and the ways that you would like to be part of this project, please complete this brief survey.
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch
Just four short weeks away, September 18–20 is the weekend for All Souls’ Parish retreat at The Bishop’s Ranch. This will be a wonderful time to gather in a beautiful place and strengthen our friendships with one another. All Souls is an amazing community, and we are regularly reminded of the unique bonds we share as a parish family. While I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve been to the Ranch since my first visit in 1998, I never tire of this very special place, and I’d like to share with you some highlights from another Ranch experience earlier this summer, in anticipation of our time together in September.
Linden Rayton joined Christopher and me in representing All Souls for Family Camp this summer at the Ranch. Every day we enjoyed music-under-the-tree, swimming, chapel, crafts, social hour, as well as time to relax with new friends. Dances were held in the Swing Pavilion, so that we might live up to its name. We greeted the morning sunshine with yoga stretches and the night sky with stargazing. In chapel we were led to enact Biblical stories involving the whole group: a storm raged, and we raised our arms and swayed and made violent-weather sounds. For the Valley of the Dry Bones we lay on the chapel floor in an odd assortment of postures. Our entire group danced and sang around the altar for Communion.
Linden encouraged little Betty Miller, who was three, to stand in front of the all the families at the campfire and proudly sing at the top of her voice a wonderful, silly wee-ba-low song: “Hands up high and feet down low, this is how we wee-ba-low.” Linden drew the young people in with her magic, teaching Wagon Wheel among other songs: “It’s G, D, E minor, C, G…and then the chorus…” and immediately the teenagers were playing and singing along.
Family Camp filled us all with creativity. Each morning at breakfast we danced the Family Camp dance and sang the Family Camp song—“It’s going to be one great day…”—a tradition that has lasted 27 years. (In February each year my feet twitch in anticipation for Family Camp and this dance.) Children and adults constructed and then painted birdhouses and made solar lanterns from mason jars. At dusk the adults formed a line of Adirondack chairs to sit and watch for the lanterns to light.
Robin and the kitchen staff delighted us with breakfast burritos, Chinese noodles, vegetable lasagna, grilled chicken, homemade pizza, and famous Ranch dressing for salad. When the kitchen was short-staffed, I helped out by washing dishes, beginning a new give-back-to-the-Ranch ministry and earning the Scrubbie Award for my efforts.
When the ancient apple tree in the Ranch House courtyard gave in to its weighty fruit and toppled over, we sang Jesus Christ the Apple Tree with the shruti-box, in memoriam. On our last day, teenaged Trinity spoke in chapel: “It’s been a great week all together here at camp. Now we’re going away for a whole year, and we won’t see each other. But when we come back together next year, we’ll pick up our conversations where we left off.”
Now the summer is nearly over, and it’s time to begin thinking about the All Souls Parish retreat at the Ranch. We’ll begin the weekend on Friday evening with singing in our beautiful, candlelit chapel. On Saturday there will be morning games for children and an engaging program for the adults, facilitated by Canon Andrea McMillin. Saturday afternoon will offer swimming, solar-lantern making with Lisa Thorpe, and the patented Talent-Optional Talent Show of skits in the evening, followed by compline. We’ll pick up our conversations where we left off, and we’ll engage in our own beloved community.
Come one, come all to the magical, spiritual, wonderful place that is the Ranch and deepen friendships. Campers and day-trippers welcome! Come experience the spirit of hospitality only the Ranch can offer, and take time to listen to the conversations of the coyotes at night. And, Souls, consider joining Family Camp 2016!
-Caroline De Catur Putnam
Family Park Playdate
Join us Saturday August 22, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm at Codornices Park. This will just be some laid-back, unscheduled fun as we head back into the school year, a chance to meet some kids who are new to All Souls, and time connect with other parents.
Phoenixes end-of-summer game night
Join the Phoenixes, All Souls’ 20s and 30s group, on Saturday Aug 22 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm on the first floor of the Parish House for some fun and games. Feel free to bring snacks, drinks (alcoholic or not), and any favorite games. Please RSVP to Emily Hertz if you plan to come.
Welcoming our New Associate for Youth Ministries
We will be welcoming our Associate for Youth Ministries, Jess Powell, this Sunday, August 23rd. ALL middle school and high school youth are asked to welcome Jess by attending a gathering in the youth room during formation hour (10:10 – 11:00 am). Bagels, cream cheese, fruit and beverages will be provided. Come meet Jess in person and ask her to share some of her favorite jokes with you! Plus, adults: you too will have a chance to meet Jess. She’ll be in the courtyard after the 11:15 service, and you can sign up to help host welcome dinners for her at the youth table during this week’s Rotating Ministry Fair.
August 30, 10:10 am. This is our big kickoff for the new school year! There will be Sundaes for Sunday school, fun and games, face paint and water balloons and giant bubbles, and time to learn about our formation hour for kids, youth and adults for the coming year.
Parish Retreat, September 18-20
Sign ups begin this Sunday for our annual parish retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch! Listen for announcements during services and see Caroline DeCatur Putnam to learn more and sign up.