From the Interim Sabbatical Rector
Early in the book of Revelation, John the Seer has an encounter with the glorified Jesus, who tells him to write letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. Actually, what Jesus tells him is to write letters to the churches’ “angels.” Each letter opens this way:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write ….”
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna, write ….”
And so on. Many commentators have disagreed about what this cryptic way of writing is supposed to mean. What’s a church’s “angel”? Some have suggested it’s meant to represent the church’s bishop or chief pastor. Others suggest it indicates a kind of guardian angel.
My favorite interpretation comes from theologian Walter Wink.* Wink argues that many of the references in the New Testament to spiritual beings—angels, demons, powers, principalities, and so forth—are not just relics of a premodern society but are very relevant today. Wink suggests that these cosmic beings are the “powers that be”—the systemic, collective forces that influence a family or group or nation. So, the “angel” of a group or organization is its “corporate personality . . . its ethos or spirit or essence.”
Wink’s way of understanding spiritual forces helps us reclaim the language of the angelic and the demonic. Systemic evils like racism or imperialism have a spiritual reality to them. They can genuinely “possess” individuals as well as entire institutions. Yet so do systemic forces for good. “Everything has a spiritual aspect,” writes Wink. “Everything is answerable to God.”
From this point of view, a church’s angel is its spirit—its particular, unique way of being church. It has to do with culture, with flavor. “You can sense the ‘angel’ when you worship at a church,” Wink writes. “But you also encounter the angel in a church’s committee meetings and even in its architecture. People self-select into a certain congregation because they feel that its angel is compatible with their values. Hence the spirit of a church can remain fairly constant over decades, even centuries, though all the original members have long since departed.”
Every congregation has its own personality. Thanks be to God for that, because our diversity enriches us. No one congregation can be all things to all people. Each has a specific and valuable identity. So of course, that brings up the question: what is All Souls’ angel like?
It’s been such a privilege for me to be your Interim Sabbatical Rector this summer. That’s a complex and slightly awkward mouthful of a job title, for a job that can be equally complex (and sometimes slightly awkward!). I’ve gotten to be a leader and a guest among you, both at the same time. I’m simultaneously something of an insider and an outsider—bringing a fresh perspective even while temporarily becoming part of the institution. So I’ve been reflecting on how I might describe All Souls’ angel. No one person can do that, of course. But here are some words that leap to mind for me:
making church together
fully invested people
trying new things
This is a special place. There’s a spirit of openness and warmth here that is tangible. All Souls has, I think, a generally extroverted energy—though it has its fair share of introverted individuals too. It takes tradition seriously while holding it lightly (and, when needed, critically). It values togetherness, the fabric of relationships that makes church feel like family. Children are important here. Music is important here—preferably music that draws from a wide diversity of genres and harnesses the gifts of many community members. And—frankly—All Souls is a pretty healthy place! No parish is perfect. All have their share of conflicts and anxieties. But there is a general sense here that, by and large, All Souls people mostly like being a church and like being together. That’s a precious gift, one I hope you’ll treasure and carefully tend.
This Sunday will be my last as Interim Sabbatical Rector—though it won’t be goodbye quite yet. I’ll be back two weeks later, on September 13, for Phil’s first Sunday back, to make a good transition and say farewell. I do look forward to coming back to visit from time to time, and I’ll always be proud to be part of the extended family of All Souls.
God bless you richly in your ministries and in your life together.
In Christ’s love,
Sow in Faith; Reap in Joy
The All Souls Stewardship Team is responsible for providing leadership for faithful stewardship of all that we have received in God’s abundant love, including our talents, our financial resources, our environment, our buildings, and our relationships with one another. In order to fulfill its role, the team supports and collaborates with other key ministries, supporting a culture of abundance and gratitude in the congregation. As we enter September, the team is giving significant time and attention to our annual pledge campaign.
Our pledge campaign theme is Sow in Faith; Reap in Joy this year. Members of the All Souls stewardship team spent the summer exploring models for pledge campaigns from within the Episcopal Church and from other Christian denominations. The two programs that resonated most with us are New Consecration Sunday and Fearless Church Fundraising. The approach that we are planning for this fall incorporates aspects of each of these while retaining some of the things that have made past campaigns authentic to who we are at All Souls.
Sow in Faith
· We are going to focus our campaign on glad and generous giving in response to God’s generosity, rather than on specific dollar amounts or budget items; we believe this will allow our congregation to more fully engage in the spiritual practice of giving freely.
· We see the annual pledge campaign as an opportunity for spiritual growth in our congregation, seeing giving as a response to God’s love and as a core aspect of our worship and service.
· We believe that as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to give unselfishly as an act of discipleship.
· We will encourage each member of the congregation to adopt proportionate and systematic giving in response to the question, “What percentage of my income is God calling me to give?”
Reap in Joy
· We will gather as a community to launch the pledge campaign during formation hour on September 6th at 10:10 am. At this time we will pray together, explore scripture, reflect on our stewardship of resources over the past year, and enjoy delicious food from Ann’s Catering.
· Over several weeks in the fall we are going to take 3-5 minutes during each Sunday service to hear members of our congregation share stories of how their faith and their worship and ministry at All Souls have enriched their lives with gladness and generosity.
· On ingathering Sunday, October 25, we will ask each member of the congregation to freely and joyfully make a financial pledge as an act of worship for the glory of God and for the sake of All Souls’ continued ministry in Berkeley and beyond.
· Also on October 25th, we will gather at 5:30 in the evening to celebrate the generosity of our congregation with a community pot-luck dinner, which will include door prizes, music with the Gospel Choir, and a chance to be together at our best – a grateful and generous community of faith.
The Stewardship Team is chaired by Caroline McCall. Team members include Sherry Markwart, Jamie Nelson, Ethan Lowery, and Sarah Crawford. If you have any questions about stewardship, or you want to offer your talents as a leader in the ministry of grateful and generous living please contact Caroline.
A Time for Leaving
In the 1960’s, the pop group, The Byrds, offered their beautiful rendition of the famous Ecclesiastes passage about time in Turn, Turn, Turn. With a style comparable to the Beatles, the original five members of this rock ensemble popularized a truth about life: “To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn), there is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn). And a time to every purpose under Heaven.”
The past few weeks, this catchy tune would often swirl around in my head as it became clearer to me that my life was about to turn once again. When I came to Berkeley six years ago, I visited All Souls shortly after I arrived. Like so many have experienced, I felt drawn to the warmness and welcoming spirit of the All Souls family. During this time, I have had the good fortune and honor to laugh, cry, pray, preach, teach and commune with you, a time to experience with you so many good things about life, Christian witness and ministry in the Church and world.
And while I’ve had the privilege of experiencing joy with some members shortly after their birth and intimate grief with others shortly before their death, the Spirit has made it clear to me that my season at All Souls has come to an end. It is now a time for leaving. I have accepted a call to chaplaincy at Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City, TN.
And though this change comes with professional opportunity, affordable living, and a reunion with old friends and blood family, still in many ways this leaving feels strange, even surreal. For years I thought that All Souls would be my permanent, and probably my last church home. After all, I concluded why would I leave such a healthy parish, a great rector and associate rector, and a place where I could feel the presence of God, movement of the Spirit, inspirational and prophetic sermons, spirit-filled liturgies and moving music with a backdrop of picturesque nature and golden sun? And I found all this in an Episcopal church! After living in nine states and being in a whole lot of Episcopal churches, I knew that such a find did not come easily. I found All Souls to be a special place, a parish that I’d settled in to like a good book on a rainy day.
Yet, those of us who say yes to God’s call know quite well the truth in Ecclesiastes 3that there really is a “time to every purpose under Heaven.” So, after much prayer and discernment, through many tears and some farewells, I accept the fullness of the season with All Souls. As I leave, I am deeply grateful to you for inviting me here to be a teacher and learner; I will cherish all the blessings you offered me on my journey. We are all on many journeys, intersecting with each other, filled with comings and goings. Let us pray for strength on this journey, never giving up on each other and ourselves, always open to the Spirit and the ending of a season. And when it is our time for leaving All Souls, may we find solace in knowing that we are leaving it a better place than we found it.
Your Brother in Christ in the Struggle for Justice, Peace and Enlightenment,
From the Associate for Liturgy and Music
This past spring, I read an article at Patheos.com entitled “Retiring the ‘Worship Leader’.” In the world to which that article was addressed, the worship leader refers very specifically to the soloist who leads the singing from in front of the band. It’s a very narrow definition, and while I think of myself as a leader of worship, I would never think of taking it on as a title.
For one thing, the obvious leader of our worship is the Presider, the priest who really does lead the liturgy from the Acclamation at the beginning (“Blessed be God…”) to the blessing at the end. But in our tradition, we actually have a great many people to whom some kind of leadership in worship is delegated. Some are ordained; in particular, we have a deacon or assisting priest who proclaims the gospel, leads us into prayers of intercession and confession, and dismisses us at the very end.
Some of our leaders in worship come from the congregation and are specifically not ordained. The acolytes and lay assistant have particular duties to help things run smoothly, as do the lay Eucharistic ministers. The choir not only leads in singing, but helps to model posture – especially when to stand – for the congregation. Most visibly, though, our lectors who read the scripture and our intercessors who bid the Prayers of the People share their gifts from the ambo (lectern), and we all know how their preparation makes a difference in how we enter into those parts of the liturgy.
Last Sunday, Fr. Stephen and I spent time with our lectors and intercessors, both experienced and new, practicing how to refine and make the most of their gifts. Preparation by reading the texts in advance, practicing out loud at home, researching those esoteric biblical names, and even studying the wider context of each week’s readings are all part of the ideal lector’s preparation.
As we began thinking about the intercessors, though, we realized that these folks are not called simply to read the text from the bulletin – any of us can do that, after all. Rather, leading the congregation in prayer from the microphone on Sundays is only one manifestation of their call to lead the prayers of the congregation throughout the liturgy.
What do I mean? Well, each week we have space in the prayers for people to speak their own prayers of concern for the world. To be sure, naming people in our lives who need prayer is an easy part of that role. But we are encouraging our intercessors to truly model public prayer from within the pews. More often than not, we ask something like “Please add your own prayers, aloud or silently,” only to be followed by silence. We truly do hope that people will express concerns which touch them, whether local or around the world. But no one wants to go first!
We are asking something new of our intercessors, an expansion of what they already bring to our worship. In the bigger picture, though, we are hopeful that their leadership in spoken prayer will catch on more widely. What a great gift it would be for the congregation to grow as a praying community!
But all that got me thinking that in fact we are all leaders of worship. Newcomers learn to do by watching our confident participation. They know when to stand and sit not just from the printed rubrics in the bulletin, but from the actions of all those around them. So too, newcomers to All Souls will learn to pray aloud as we all take responsibility for leading worship through our own “full, conscious, and active” participation in the liturgy. We all have a role to play in leading our common worship, and I look forward to great things as we transform the participation of every member of our community.
Associate for Liturgy and Music
2015 Love in Action Campaign Report
It is with great gratitude, that I report the outcome of the 2015 Love in Action Campaign. These additional gifts help support the common life of our Parish and are truly appreciated.
A few more gifts trickled in after the June 14, deadline. As of July 31 2015, a total of $30,130.50 was received. The total of 2015 pledging families and individuals is 171, out of those, 42 pledging members participated, including 1 who also increased their 2015 pledge. Five gifts were received from anonymous and other donors. A total of 47 participated.
Without participating, 2 members began pledging for the first time and/or increased their 2015 pledge.
25% of pledging individuals and families participated, which includes 100% of our Vestry. Thank you for your fearless generosity!
LOVE IN ACTION STATISTICS
INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY STATISTICS
47 = INDIVIDUAL & FAMILIES PARTICIPATED IN LOVE IN ACTION
As always, direct and questions or concerns to me at email@example.com
Pledge and Giving Secretary
Rally Sunday and Blessing of the Backpacks
Bring your backpack (or briefcase, or tablet, etc. to be blessed during any of our services on August 30. Then during the 10:10 hour, we’ll celebrate Rally Sunday. 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.
The Stewardship Team invites the whole parish to a catered brunch on Sunday, September 6th during the 10:10 am formation hour. This will be a festive launch to the annual pledge campaign, with a brief program and time for conversation and fellowship. All youth and adults are warmly encouraged to come, and there will be childcare available on the playground.
All youth are invited to a Labor Day BBQ, Sunday September 6th at 4:30 pm on the Parish House Patio. Good food, good friends, good fun! RSVP to Jess so we know how much food to buy and bring something to share if you can!
Parish Retreat, September 18-20
Sign ups began last Sunday for our annual parish retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch, and it’s filling up very quickly! You can sign up online or talk to Caroline DeCatur Putnam on Sunday to learn more and sign up.