Phil Brochard headshot2

What it Means to Wait

The mainstream of our American culture often feels like an unrelenting force, determined to erode any need for waiting. What previously seemed to be remarkable—almost any good, dry or perishable, large or small, to your doorstep within 48 hours—is now becoming quaint.

Next-day delivery? Please, we are now told we can expect same-day delivery. And the stage is being set for our purveyors to predict the goods we will need to stock our pantries and accessorize our lifestyles, sent to us even before we’ve ordered. Why in the world would we wait?

Which once again has us as followers of this branch of the Jesus movement swimming upstream, if not at least standing amidst a swift current. Because waiting, anticipating, longing, is one of the stances that we practice, especially at this time of the year.

Last night at All Souls, to begin our Advent Taizé series, we sang, we kept silence, we waited. And in the midst of the stillness, silence and song, we heard two thoughtful, grace-filled, searching reflections about what it means to wait.

With their permission, I’d like to share some of what Erin Horne and Jen Dary offered us last night. Because for me, they each offered a glimpse into what is hard and can be transformative about waiting for something to become.

Erin shared about the death of her father, Michael Horne, and about the exhausting, and lengthy process of his dying from complications of Alzheimers disease. She wondered about that kind of waiting and what it means, asking, “How does one remain patient and present while waiting? How can there be any good in waiting?”

It was in the waiting, though, especially through the presence of others waiting with her, that it came clear to Erin that, “God was there, waiting with us.” And, that in the end, “Waiting can be messy and gut-wrenching. But if you remain open to the present, you never know what transformation may come. New life can emerge from this time of waiting.”

Jen shared about her practice as a consultant and what it’s like to enter a business to help them see new ways of working with each other. What she has found is that no matter what preparations she has people make before she interviews them, there always seems to be a prescribed amount of time in the conversation in which she has to wait. Here’s what she has learned from her work, while waiting,

“And then one day, I realized something. The waiting is not inefficient. The waiting is not fluff to be sped through. The waiting is also the work.

In many cases, waiting is about hope. It’s about a pause before the action, the anticipation of something coming… and frankly, it seems kind of slow. I’m a New Yorker and I admit that waiting is frustrating for me. I’m generally not very good at it.

But sometimes the waiting is the work, the active buried in the passive, a tiny seed gearing up to sprout. And I can appreciate that, this silent work in the background. As a consultant, I know well what silent work looks like.”

And so, this week, and for the weeks that lead to the manger, we must wait. In the words of our Godly Play teaching, if we are trying to get close to a Mystery like Christmas, we have to find ways to get ready. For it is very, very easy to walk right past the beauty, the depth, and the awe of this Mystery if we are not ready.

And so each morning, at each candle-lit night we wait. On Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings we wait. And in this waiting we do our work, the work of getting ready.



In Thanksgiving for the life of Patricia Walker-Sprague


Please join together in giving thanks for the life of the Rev. Pat Walker-Sprague, former assisting priest at All Souls. Pat passed away on November 18th in Davis. There will be a memorial service for her in the church on Thursday, December 8th at 12 noon, with a reception following the service in the Parish Hall. Please bring sandwiches and finger food to contribute.





From Adult Formation

jane vandenburghWriter, memoirist, and All Souls member Jane Vandenburgh is teaching one of our adult formation classes during Advent, Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography. All are welcome to join in on Sunday morning at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall — no experience necessary! Here’s a glimpse into Jane’s thinking about the intersection between writing and spirituality, and a bit of what she’s bringing to the class.

Writing as Service

It may be a function of my age or the times in which we live but I see people — writers of all kinds and those who’ve never written before — grappling with the same spiritual questions.

Where Am I From? How Did I Get Here?

How is this service? When we show up and tell others truthfully who and what we are, we enact a communion that — for the moment at least — leaves all of us less alone.

I am so endlessly autobiographical in both my fiction and nonfiction that students know exactly who I am. My aim is to encourage each student to come up with a version of the narrative they feel in harmony with, to become the author of — if not a book — then the story of the significance of their own lives.

At All Souls I’ve encountered a congregation unlike those staid, upstanding, traditional, in many ways exemplary Episcopalians by whom I was raised. Rather I find people who seem to have found this church as refuge, a gathering of open-minded, big hearted, activist people busily engaged by the same quest.

My catechumenate class with Emily and Madeline was an entire revelation, a whole roomful of open, honest people from all kinds of faith backgrounds, who felt free to sit in the basement of a church and speak out about how deeply they questioned everything about what was being said and done upstairs. Revolutionary, in the best sense.

People at All Souls seem to put their bodies out there bravely into the practice of faith. Writing at it’s best is like that. As Allen Ginsberg tells us, it’s up to us each to man up here and put our queer shoulders to the wheel.

Playing with Language

Liturgy, which I am taking to mean, the eucharistic rite, is made of words as well as actions. Language is even infinitely important to us, Word made flesh? The sacred nature of us all as scribes? Even commas matter infinitely as these are breath pauses.

I became a writer, in part, because the Episcopal Church had given me the gorgeous language of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and this remains what I gauge beauty by. Knowing the old languages is a sort of bilingualism, I find.


The work of writing anything is, in my experience, one of waiting. What we’re all waiting for is to find out how the part of the story we’re currently telling offers significance to the whole.

In writing fiction you ask each scene or episode: “Why this day? This hour?” The answer is always: “Because something is about to happen.”

In Advent we’re waiting for something to happen, as Christians, it’s the most important thing. Here’s the (genius) poet Ann Carson:

God’s Christ Theory

God had no emotions but wished temporarily
to move in man’s mind
as if he did: Christ

Wendell Berry says most revolutionary notion in Christianity is its radical neighborliness, which stands in complete defiance of the both ancient and recent threat of the violence born of tribalism.

Christ proposes a living loving God embodied by us in our full humanity who is accepting of other’s humanity, all our individual frailties.


I see teaching writing as an act of community in which we all show up and deeply listen. Some of the works below are written with God itself as audience, some seem to be directed to those who came before or those still to be born.  Writers often write to be heard by those writers and poets they themselves have loved.

Writing’s a private act, as is prayer. I find it meditative, ennobling, lifesaving and am thrilled to be able to share it with the All Souls community.

– Jane Vandenburgh

Come Join Us…

margaret-sparks125wideOn the first Saturday of every month a stalwart contingent of All Soulers stand in legion with more than fifteen other churches and organizations in the Bay Area at the West County Detention Center in Richmond to support fair treatment of the undocumented.

Saturday, December 3, will be especially important because it is the first Saturday following the election, an election that could change lives of countless people in the Bay Area who are in this country without credentials.

In the wake of the promises made by the President-Elect, various actions have taken place to alleviate the concerns of those who could be affected, including more cities and churches offering sanctuary and cities providing free legal services to any undocumented resident. Immigration lawyers, themselves, are at a loss as to what will actually happen, but the future does not look promising for justice.

While All Souls alone may not be prepared to provide major action, it is very important that we show our solid support for the East Bay Immigration Coalition and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, who are the major faith organizations active in this area concerned with immigration injustice.

Please join us on Saturday at 11:00 am for an hour of hearing from victims, being informed of the most current available information, and, of course, the central part of the program, music and prayer from other faiths.

If you need directions, a ride, or may offer a ride, please contact me.

– Margaret Sparks

From the Associate for Youth Ministry

jess_powellThe Lord’s Prayer is likely the first example of prayer that comes to mind for many. After all, Jesus started that when his disciples asked him how to pray! During the Confirmation retreat on November 19th, we looked at several translations of the Lord’s Prayer. We read all of them aloud except for one. I had expected us to read the one we use in worship every Sunday. One of the youth asked, “Can we sing it?” I agreed! There we were, seven All Soulsians in the Parish House on a rainy Saturday morning, singing the Lord’s Prayer in harmony. The entire retreat was a wonderful experience (more on that later), but that moment was definitely a highlight for me. It was more natural for the youth to sing the Lord’s Prayer than to speak it.

Those who have been to even one church service have seen prayer as recited words with clasped hands, eyes closed or looking up, and standing or kneeling. This connects with people in different ways. For some, prayers like that are natural. For others, another form of prayer might have more meaning. Keeping this in mind as the primary or at least initial understanding of prayer, I have asked the youth several questions about prayer. How else can we pray? Is playing an instrument a form of prayer? Singing? Running? Participating in other sports? Sure! It depends on how you do those things.

We are now in Advent, a time of anticipation, excitement, and (often) shopping. How can we pray now, as a community and as individuals? The Wednesday evening Taizé services invite us into a different communal prayer space. How can we pray on our own?

The youth have reminded me that singing is a natural form of prayer. Silence is another form that we explored on the Confirmation retreat. How do you pray? What forms of prayer do you want to explore with Advent? We are waiting for the Lord, as one Taizé chant celebrates, and will continue to do so for the next several weeks. We sing, “Be strong, take heart.” Let us pray.



During the Season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child, we have the privilege of bringing gifts each Sunday to be blessed and shared with those who are in need. This Sunday, December 4, we support First Place for Youth, which provides current and former foster youth with access to housing, education and employment support. Please bring:

  • Gift cards for household items and necessities (Target, grocery stores, Walgreens)
  • New, unused household items: pots, pans, bake ware dishes, cups, utensils, etc.


This Advent we are keeping our communal practice simple. For the first three Wednesdays in our time together in Advent we will be gathering for a soup supper in the Parish Hall at 6:30 pm. At 7:15 pm we will enter a candle-lit church for a Taize service. We will chant, keep silence, hear scripture, and pray. Similar to our 12 noon service on Good Friday, two parishioners will offer a short reflection each week. As we get ready for the Emmanuel, God With Us, join to watch and pray. If you can bring soup or bread, please sign up here.


Looking way ahead, mark your calendars for August 7 – 11, 2017! Next summer we will be embarking on a new adventure: we are going to offer our own tailor-made, home-grown day camp right here at All Souls! More information will be forthcoming, but you can count on it being loads of fun, with lots of hands-on excitement, deepening fellowship in community, and an excellent grounding in progressive theology and formation. The camp will be for kids ages 5-11, with opportunity for teens to serve as counselors-in-training.


Four new Vestry members will be elected at the parish annual meeting on January 29th. The Nominating Committee welcomes your recommendations of persons for this form of service and leadership in the community. Information about vestry qualifications and expectations, together with the form for submitting suggestions, is on the counters in the narthex. Please give this thought and prayer and make your suggestions by December 4. (Committee members:  Madeline Feeley, Thomas Burcham, Kim Wong, Marilyn Flood)