From the Associate Rector
We have a next Associate for Youth Ministries! I am delighted that we will be welcoming Jessica Powell into this community on August 23rd. Jess comes to All Souls with an exciting range of experience and passion for working with young people. This past year she served in the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Corps as the Director of Youth, Family, and Children’s Education Ministries at Davis Lutheran Church. She has worked as a summer camp counselor, a day camp director, and has helped to lead youth mission trips. Jess was a religious studies major as an undergraduate and has a wonderful curiosity and readiness to grapple with big questions – a crucial trait for good youth ministry! She is very musical, loves adventuring outdoors, and her joyful enthusiasm is contagious.
As we prepare to welcome Jess to All Souls and support her in leading our youth, now is an ideal time to step back and explore again why youth ministry is so important to this church. What are our goals? What are we reaching for? How can we best support our young people?
One of the great blessings of being church together is that our young ones have the chance to grow up connecting with lots of adults besides their parents. Right now in my family, this looks like Sam being passed around a meeting, or Alice excitedly going to sit with friends in the choir or “helping” Julia run the sound booth. These relationships give the parents of young children a moment to catch their breath, and hopefully give the other adults (and teens) some fun and amusement.
But this connection with non-parental adults shouldn’t stop as our kids outgrow the phase of dancing (or wailing) in the center aisle. As much as we parents hope our kids can always come to us, the reality is that it is very good and healthy that our youth have other adults to turn to, to confide in, to sit with when we’re driving them crazy. But these relationships won’t just appear when they are most needed – rather, we have to support and cultivate them over time, by continuing to prioritize intergenerational connection in our community.
There are a couple of different ways to approach this goal. One way is by honoring the full contributions of our youth, inviting their voices and gifts into the center of the community. We can certainly do more of this, and at the same time I am moved by how much this is happening at All Souls: in addition to acolyting, a common service for youth, we have youth serving as head ushers, sound techs, sacristans, book group leaders, leading with Open Door Dinner, and more. They do not have adults hovering over them in these jobs, but rather have real responsibility to help make church together. The contributions youth are making are respected and honored, and this is good. We try to create space for people of all ages to connect in unstructured ways, as well: running amuck at Big Sur, taking part in the annual wrestling match of chaos and delight at the Bishop’s Ranch, kicking back at Loaves & Fishes potlucks, cheering on the A’s.
And, as much as these ways of serving together and connecting across generations is important, so too is time and space set aside, hallowed really, for our youth to be with one another. They need time to laugh together, to revel in the joy and awkwardness of being teenagers together, to ask hard questions without worrying what parents might think. They need space apart from the jadedness of adults who think they have already been there and done that and can save them a step or two. They need a community of peers with whom they can walk this road.
Holding this balance, supporting both the youth community and also the intergenerational relationships, is the exciting (and challenging!) work of our new Associate for Youth Ministries. And, while she will be leading and guiding the effort, this vision is something that all of us can live into, and indeed it is something for which we all share responsibility. It’s about how we engage, how we connect, and how we live this life together. It’s about how we live into our baptismal covenant, and how we live out our promise to support these young people in their life in Christ. Thankfully, in addition to being a vital part of our common life and an important shared responsibility, youth ministry is also just so much fun! I invite you to prayerfully discern how God might be calling you to support our youth in this new season of the ministry.
Please join me in thanking the search committee for their hard work and dedication this summer; they put in a great many hours of thought, prayer, and energetic intentionality into this process. The team included Caroline McCall, our chair, Toni Martinez Borgfeldt, Ivy Waegel, Joey Rees-Hill, Nancy Pryer, Frances Thomas, Jill Anderson, and the Rev. Reed Loy. Their vision, their commitment to youth ministry, and their love for this community are such a blessing. Stay tuned for more information about our big welcome for Jess on August 23rd. It’s time to celebrate!
From the Interim Sabbatical Rector
Stephen will be away this weekend visiting family. He’ll be back next week.
Yesterday morning I was at the hospital to make a visit. On my way out, as I was passing through the lobby, I heard a woman sobbing loudly. She was clearly in deep distress. A few people glanced sidelong at her while walking by on their business. I was tempted to pass by and head for my car, but something made me pause and talk to her. Partly it was a genuine desire to help. Partly, too—I’ll admit it—it was the fact that I was in my clerical collar, so it didn’t seem right to simply walk on by. (Funny, isn’t it, how clothes can help hold us accountable to the ways we would want to behave even if we weren’t dressed for the part?)
I asked what was happening for her. She said her mother had just learned she had cancer. She’d just gotten a call about it from her sister—but they didn’t know which hospital her mother was in, and it wasn’t this one. The staff at the information desk were trying to help her by calling other nearby hospitals, but they hadn’t found her mother yet. She was confused and distraught. She told me her mother had just recovered from a heart attack. She said her name was—well, let’s call her Natalia. I stood and talked with her for a few minutes about her family. I told her I was a pastor and asked if I could pray for her. She said yes. We prayed. Soon after that, I clasped her hand, blessed her, and left. There didn’t seem to be any other practical ways I could be helpful right then; the staff were doing what they could to help with her immediate situation; yet I still felt sad about leaving. It wasn’t one of those heart-warming pastoral moments you might see in a movie. It was an ordinary, human encounter, a little awkward. But something about it’s stuck with me. I think it’s because, in Natalia, I caught a brief glimpse of Jesus. In her pain, her aloneness, and her openness of heart as she shared her sorrow with me, I encountered something of the suffering of Christ.
Today is the feast of the Transfiguration—a “red letter day,” or major feast, in the Prayer Book calendar. Today we commemorate the moment when Peter, James, and John caught a brief glimpse of Jesus’ glory. In the familiar face of their rabbi, they suddenly saw the glory of God revealed. It was a foretaste of the resurrection, when they would again see their Teacher in glory. It was also an echo of Jesus’ baptism, as God’s voice once again proclaimed from above, “This is my Son.”
Most of us won’t experience a supernatural vision today or see the people around us turn into dazzling beings of light. I wonder, though: what would happen if we kept our eyes open today for glimpses of Jesus in the faces of others? Even as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been turning my day over in my head and noticing countless other little transfigurations. Besides Natalia, there was the man working the hospital cafe cash register who greeted each customer with a warm smile. There was the little boy in the grocery store who almost bumped into me, intent as he was on his explorations of the lower shelves. Each of these people is Christ, if I have the eyes to see. In my college chaplaincy hallway, there hung an icon frame with nothing but a mirror inside. On the frame was an inscription: “You are an icon of the Holy One.” Each of us is indeed an icon of the One in whose image we are made. And so is each of our neighbors.
Take a moment and reflect on the encounters you’ve had today. What glimpses of Jesus have you had? Whose face might be transfigured for you into the glory of the Word Incarnate?
May God grant us all glimpses of Christ’s glory today.
See you next week.
Education for Ministry
Did you ever wish you knew the Bible better? Did you ever wonder where some of the traditions of the Church came from? Do you ever wonder who Athanasius was and why a creed he wrote is in the back of the Book of Common Prayer? If this is you, then you might be right for Education for Ministry.
EfM is a unique program designed to equip laypeople for ministry in the Church. In four years participants will read and study the Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament, church history, theology, and how to live into your calling. You’ll learn how to reflect theologically and how to write a collect. You’ll do this with a small group of people, searchers just like you.
From the Rector on Sabbatical
Phil will be offering reflections from his time studying and his adventures on the road this summer. He cautions that, like him, his posting will be irregular. You can follow along at Practices for Living.
In the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the General Theological Seminary, where a great deal of my formation as a priest took place, the walls are carved with the names of the multitude of professors who taught over the course of nearly two centuries. Their names are categorized by the disciplines on which they held forth. Indicative of an institution that began forming priests within a couple of decades of the Continental Congress, some of the descriptions of those disciplines sound strange to 21st century ears.
Chief among them is the discipline of Apologetics. In the last century or so, the traditional use of this word “apologetics” has been nearly completely taken over by the word apology, as in to tell someone that you have done them wrong in the hopes of reconciliation. Unfortunately, this sense of apology is reflective of a majority of mainline Christians in the United States—that is, we act as if we have to apologize for being Christian. (here I believe that this feeling is related to, but still distinct from what has been done in the name of Christ)
In fact, the use of this term “apologetics” has more to do with an explanation of why one believes. This, now this, is something that every follower of Jesus should be prepared to do. In the words of of 1 Peter, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
It is with this intent that a couple of books were published this past year. One of them is My Church Is Not Dying, by Greg Garrett. The other is Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, by Marcus Borg. Both are written by men who are university professors, Garrett at Baylor University, Borg, who died a few months ago, retired from Oregon State University. Interestingly, both grew up in other Christian traditions more conservative in their approach to scripture. This informs a great deal about why they found the Episcopal Church and what it offers us as we tell others about what we have been gifted with in this tradition.
Greg Garrett took a decidedly 21st century approach to his book, My Church is Not Dying. Part personal narrative, part theological exposition, part nuts-and-bolts explanation, in addition to his own story, Garrett reached out to other Episcopalians on Facebook and through other means to ask for testimonials about why people have found themselves in an Episcopal church and what keeps them there. This is a book that people who have already found their way in can enjoy. It covers the basics about the Anglican approach in an informal, conversational style but is grounded in one basic premise: that there is a great future ahead for the Episcopal Church. Because of our understanding of scripture, our emphasis on common prayer and our core corporate practices Garrett sees hope for the decades to come. He is aware that change will need to take place in order for the Episcopal Church to respond to the current cultural climate but feels that the our heritage and direction have us poised to do so.
Though Marcus Borg has a somewhat different intent in his book, Convictions, there is a similar sense to his apologetic. This is his last book before his death this past year and it serves as a final word on his beliefs. Like Garrett, Borg found his way into the Episcopal Church as an adult. For his scholastic life, however, he was drawn to New Testament studies and he collaborated for decades with John Dominic Crossan, opening up a new way into the scriptures for scores of readers.
This book comes out of a set of classes and sermons that Borg wrote for the Episcopal congregations that he attended in Portland and Bend, Oregon. It is grounded in the notion that Divinity Is, that we humans are only mostly accurate in our recording of encounters with the Divine, and that to be a follower of Jesus the Christ is to connect our believing—or be-loving in his words—with the everyday world. These will be familiar themes for those who have read Marcus Borg’s work over the years, but what makes this book unique is that he connects his own narrative to why these themes became so important for him personally.
Unlike My Church is Not Dying, Convictions was not written explicitly so that others would draw close to the Episcopal Church though Borg’s approach is so thoroughly Anglican, it might just serve to do so. But this was one of those books that as I was reading, I kept thinking of people who would enjoy it, find it meaningful. In that way, it serves as an excellent apologetic: through reading Borg’s story and his thoughtful approach to spirituality, scripture and personal and communal ethics, one is drawn in to a way of encountering life that takes stock of what is and gives hope to what might be.
My own hope is that we are able to draw on stories like these at All Souls as we prepare to tell our stories to others. Because one of the clear and consistent themes for both Garrett and Borg is that we have all been given a tremendous gift in the heritage, foundations and practice of the Episcopal Church. There are many whose lives will be enriched by coming close to God in this way we have found. But they will only know about this “best kept secret” if someone (say, you and me) tells them.
Family Park Playdate
Join us Saturday August 22, 10a-12p 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.
August 30, 10:10a. This is our big kickoff for the new school year! There will be delicious sweet treats, fun and games, and time to learn about our formation hour for kids, youth and adults for the coming year.
Parish Retreat, September 18-20
More info coming soon, but save the date for our annual parish retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch!
Loaves and Fishes
The next Loaves and Fishes potluck is at the home of Grace & Carl Smith on August 8 at 4 pm. RSVP to Gloria Bayne. All are welcome!
Equipping the Beloved Community: Saturday, August 29
This daylong diocesan ministry development day has workshops for everyone, and it’s right here in Berkeley! Workshop leaders include our own Caroline McCall and Stephen Shaver, among many others. This is also the next opportunity for the required training for chalice bearers and eucharistic visitors. Saturday, August 29, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at St. Clement’s, 2837 Claremont Boulevard, Berkeley. Register here.
We’ve opened the search for a part-time bookkeeper. See the description here, and please spread the word!