From the Rector
In a recent interview following the rallies, protests, violence, witness, and soul-searching in Charlottesville, Virginia, journalist Jelani Cobb was eloquent in re-framing a commonly heard response to those events.
Instead of saying, “this is not who we are,” a response offered by many, Cobb recommended that Americans, and especially Americans who are a part of the dominant culture, should be saying, “this is not who we want to be.” The reason for this shift in frame is that the words and actions of those who believe in white supremacy and anti-Semitism that were on display in Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago are not new. This worldview and its manifestation has been with us in this country even before its founding.
So, to say, that “this is not who we are” is misleading and untrue. It may not be who you are, or who you hope to be. But when we look across the expanse of this nation, it is clear to me that the idolatrous cancer of “whiteness” and its supremacy continues to afflict our collective body. Some of us have known this our whole lives. Some have had a sense of it, but not comprehended its breadth or depth. And some of us are just beginning to understand this. But if this vision of domination and division is not who we want to be as a nation, all of us have a responsibility to respond.
And as this weekend approaches, this desire to respond has been made particular and finite, as several groups of nativists, “Christian” white separatists, and white supremacists have indicated that they plan to rally, including on Sunday at Berkeley’s Civic Center and Martin Luther King, Jr, Park. In the past week many ideas as to how to respond have been promoted—to confront, to ignore, to draw attention away, to witness, to fight.
As I have been praying, conversing, listening, and studying these past several weeks, at least one truth has come clear: that our means must measure up to the end we seek. And that for us as Christians, the end (the purpose or intention as in the Greek telos) of our lives is the reconciliation of the world. This intention has been the desire of God since the beginning of Creation, and was the plumb-line for Jesus the Christ in word and deed, up and through his death and resurrection. Throughout the centuries, the reparation of the world has been a touchstone and direction for those who would follow the Christ.
In short, the way that we get there matters. As a student of Jesus and of his disciples, especially, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rene Girard, I have come to understand that meeting violence with violence does not fundamentally change hearts and minds and thereby win the day. In fact, when we use domination as a tool, whether as the aggressor or in reaction, we further and deepen the conflict. But in the face of something that you find to be contrary to what you know to be good and true and holy, what do you do?
This weekend there will be a variety of ways to faithfully respond. On Saturday at Grace Cathedral from 12:30 to 1:30 pm, Rita Semel, the Rev. Vicki Gray, and the Rev. Amos Brown will be speaking about their encounters with hatred, and what their response has been. Many will then walk down the hill to the San Francisco Civic Center for a rally.
This Sunday at All Souls there will be many ways to respond. And, this Sunday marks but one day in what is a primary struggle in our lifetimes as Christians in America. So as you consider what actions you will take this weekend, know that there are many ways to engage in this Christian vocation to restore the breach. And there will be more in the days ahead. Here are some of the ways that All Soulsians will be responding on the 27th:
After our 11:15 am service, some will head downstairs to our Chapel, to hold vigil for the afternoon. People will be praying, both formally and informally, and holding space for anyone who desires to join.
Also following our 11:15 am service, joined by Bishop Marc Andrus, some will process from All Souls to join in an interfaith witness. We will be joined by students, faculty and staff of CDSP and parishioners of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church along the way, ending at First Congregational Church.
At this point some will travel to a safe house that is being set up near the Civic Center so that they can support and aid those who are in need.
Those gathered for the interfaith witness will have choices to make as to how they feel compelled to witness. As of today they are:
- Joining to sing in a choir gathering that day, the Choral Majority.
- Taking part in a healing and anointing station, likely set up several blocks away from the rally site, offering presence and prayer for those there that day.
- Continuing on to the rally site, to offer non-violent witness to those gathered there—members of the alt-right, antifa, and others.
These, obviously, are not the only actions that will likely be taking place this Sunday afternoon. If comments made online and past actions are any guide to future actions, there will be groups and individuals willing to engage in hand-to-hand combat, and those willing to express their beliefs through violence. My hope is each of us will be bearing in mind our own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others as we consider our actions. In all, as you give witness, make sure that you are not alone, and that the words you speak, and the actions you take measure up to the end we seek.
And pray. Pray for our collective witness this Sunday, for our work that will continue on Monday, and for the strength, courage, and wisdom needed for the days, months, and years ahead.
A Big Deal
When I was standing behind Sam at his renaming week before last, I felt the profound joy of the moment, but I couldn’t see his face. When I stood behind Sam as he spoke at the thanksgivings, I could hear the gratitude in his voice, but again I couldn’t see his face. After the service people kept commenting on the look on his face, on how that was one of the most moving parts of the rite.
Thanks to Mark Anderson, who rushed his video and the photos to me, I saw Sam’s face. I’m not sure I will ever be able to describe the feeling to you. I also, through the video, was able to re-experience the moments after the renaming. As Liz and Phil continued blessing all of us with the water we sang to Jesus. And that was when I became most overwhelmed, both times.
Because this is what it means to follow Jesus, to be here in community supporting each other. To be here holding space, holding space for all people and all experiences. Did you know that, according to the Trevor Project, 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide, and 92% of those attempted as youth? Think about that for a second. Think about the loss of life and the potential loss of life we’re looking at with that statistic. How many of those people do you think might reconsider suicide and get help if their church held them the way you hold Sam and the other young people in our congregation?
Sam did not have a good year last year. Yes, our family is supportive, but we struggled. Yes, his school is supportive, but that doesn’t include everyone. Sam rolled down the hill in a landslide and ended up in crisis in the spring. Because of all of you, Sam landed in a safe space, his church. You all continued loving him without hesitation. Our family had lots of people checking in on us. Liz spent time talking, encouraging, and praying with Sam. Sam asked to be re baptized, which Liz attempted to explain was impossible, much to Sam’s dismay. But then she suggested that we would do something really awesome to mark Sam’s transition.
And so Liz worked so hard to create that amazing rite, and she and Phil got the Bishop’s approval. And last week you all saw the look on Sam’s face. And I watched at least 50 people come up to Sam and tell him congratulations. Congratulations. That’s what I want all young transgender and gender nonconforming people to hear. I want them to be celebrated for their courage and affirmed for who they are. That affirmation is not just nice, it is lifesaving. It is a really, really big deal to Sam and to our family. And I think it will be a big deal to other transgender kids in other congregations who may now get to experience something like this.
Samson Red Gabriel’s light shines in the darkness. Your light shines in the darkness. And no darkness, no matter how great, can overcome it.
All my love,
A look at this year’s classes
The best part of the week for me is Sunday Eucharist: joining with my parish family, hearing and participating in the words, the prayers, the silence, and the music, and eating and drinking the Body and Blood of our Savior, the spiritual food that supports us through the week. But how well do we understand the liturgy, the meaning behind these familiar words and actions? The Adult Formation Program for 2017-18 will focus specifically on our prayer together in the Sunday liturgy. For four weeks, beginning September 10, we will Walk through the Liturgy. We All Soulsians will take part in a step-by-step exploration of what we do and where it came from. In May, we’ll do the same thing all over again, but with fresh Easter eyes and hearts.
In between these two exciting journeys, beginning in October, we will have classes that reflect our life in the Liturgy. Topics will include Sacred Spaces, Evangelism, Prayer, Music, and more. We will offer two class options on these Sundays, so there should be something for everyone. Watch for the complete schedule, coming soon! Classes meet at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall and the Common Room. In addition to these classes, Reading Between the Lines, our lectionary-based Bible study, will continue to meet each week in the Chapel during Formation Hour (10:10 am) and in the Common Room right after the 7:30 service.
Get ready for another great year at All Souls Parish!
– The Adult Formation Committee
From the Senior Warden
In an effort to provide more transparency to the Parish on what goes on in All Souls Vestry’s monthly meetings, I respectfully submit the following summary of our August 16, 2017 meeting. Cathy Thompson, who served as our vestry clerk for many years prior to her retirement earlier this year, took minutes during the meeting. These notes will be archived in our church’s permanent files.
I called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m., welcoming all participants and noting who was absent. Next, Bob Holum, one of our three Vestry Chaplains, led the group in a reflection on the first paragraph of the Renaming Rite that was used to celebrate the renaming of Samson Gabriel on August 13 at the 11:15 a.m. service. The vestry reflected on the meaning of names and explored how we might use the power of naming to do God’s work in the world.
Next, the vestry approved the items on the Consent Agenda, which includes the minutes from the July vestry meeting and the financial and treasurer’s reports for July.
Then, parishioner Kirk Miller, a member of the Parish House Project Group, provided an update on the Parish House, focusing on the design of the building. Kirk presented several of the architect’s renderings and shared that All Souls, SAHA, and the architect still have some work to do before we present a definitive design direction at our second community Open House. We anticipate that this second meeting will take place in late September.
Next, the vestry heard from two postulants seeking ordination: Tripp Hudgins (to the priesthood) and Ari Wolfe (to the diaconate). All Souls’ Vocations Committee has endorsed both Tripp and Ari in their respective applications to postulancy toward ordination. Marilyn Flood was present for both discussions, representing the Vocations Committee.
For both Tripp’s and Ari’s postulancy discussions, the Vestry asked thoughtful questions about the postulants’ respective calls to ordination. In general, the question and answer session is an opportunity for the vestry to ask probing and sometimes difficult questions of a candidate that will help them fully understand the postulant’s call to ordination. The vestry approved the postulancy of Tripp Hudgins for the holy order of the priesthood, and approved the postulancy of Ari Wolfe for the holy orders of the diaconate.
Next, Father Phil gave the Rector’s Report, a regular item on every vestry meeting agenda, and touched on various highlights of life at All Souls over the past month.
- Camp All Souls, a new children’s program that made its debut this summer, was a great success! Themed “Called to Justice,” the campers, CITs, counselors, and staff made music, art, and even got to meet the Mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, on a field trip to Berkeley’s City Hall.
- The in-the-round seating configuration of the sanctuary was received positively by many in the congregation. Associate for Music Jamie Apgar commented on how some of the sacred music sung in a round sounded glorious from where he was standing in the center of the pews.
- Summer attendance (June, July, August) is more robust now than it has been in years past. Going back ten years, Phil showed data to demonstrate that average Sunday attendance from 2008 to 2015, is undergoing momentum and growth.
- In the fall, adult formation will be all about liturgy. This will be particularly educational for those coming to the Episcopal tradition from other faiths, or from none at all.
- The Parish retreat will take place from September 15-17 and will be themed around the idea of “heaven.” We will explore this concept using poetry, music, and story.
- The Vestry will convene a special meeting on August 27 at 10:20 a.m. in the Common Room to hear from Nikky Wood, a seminarian seeking postulancy towards ordination to the priesthood.
The meeting closed with prayers of thanksgiving, petition, and guidance offered by vestry members.
– Tara McCulloch
IN THANKSGIVING FOR THE LIFE OF FLORENCE BARNSDALE
Please join together in giving thanks for the life of Florence Barnsdale, long time member of All Souls, who passed away on May 17. There will be a memorial service for her in the church on Saturday, August 26th at 11:00 am.
Friends of God, prayer is a form of activism. While many are marching, some of us will be here in the Chapel of the Nativity from 1:00 to 5:00 pm holding vigil with prayer and silence. We need volunteers to read or simply be present to those who enter our doors seeking sanctuary. Child care will also be available during this time. If you are interested in participating, please fill out this Doodle Poll letting us know when you will be present. Tripp Hudgins will be in contact with you. You can also reach him at email@example.com with any questions.
All are welcome. Visitors are expected.
RALLY SUNDAY & BLESSING OF THE BACKPACKS – This Sunday!
Join us this Sunday, August 27th as we kick off the new school year! Bring your backpack to church to be blessed at any of the services. At 10:10, enjoy sundaes for Sunday School! Come sign up your kids and youth for Sunday School, eat ice cream, make giant bubbles, learn about Adult Formation classes this year, and more.
This year, we will again 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 27th to help these kids have a great school year too. The class needs:
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.