FROM THE RECTOR
An Icon of Service
As you may have noticed at the end of Sunday services, and as I’ve written about before, this past year at All Souls Parish has been noteworthy in at least one way: the number of All Soulsians to whom we have said goodbye.
We’ve bid Godspeed to somewhere around 20 households in this past calendar year, as people have moved away to parts south, north, west and east. This exodus has been trying in many, many ways, so I am grateful to share the news that amidst the scores of All Soulsians who have left, we have at least one who is returning, though in a new way.
Last week I wrote about the recent ordinations of Ari Wolfe, Nikky Wood, and Dani Gabriel. And this week I am thrilled to share that Dani Gabriel will be returning to All Souls as our Parish Deacon. And, in a new arrangement that our diocese is experimenting with, Dani will be serving two congregations: All Souls and St. Alban’s, Albany.
Now, some who are more recent to the Episcopal Church might be wondering––that sounds great, but what is a deacon? Bill Countryman, a retired professor of New Testament at CDSP and parishioner at Good Shepherd, Berkeley, wrote a compelling book several years about the priesthood of all believers called, Living on the Border of the Holy.
As part of his exploration of the fullness of a shared priesthood, Countryman offered the idea that the three-fold orders of Deacon, Priest, and Bishop each operate as icons for vocations that all Christians share. Bishops are icons of unity, priests are icons of blessing, and deacons are icons of service.
What I find so persuasive about this understanding of holy orders is that it reaffirms the essential vocation of all baptized Christians. Yes, some have been asked to take on certain roles and functions, but only so that the Body is reminded of its fundamental call to serve, to bless, and to be one.
With that in mind, I am so excited for Dani to lead and guide us as we serve with those who are vulnerable and joining in the repair of the world. As an icon of diakonia, or service, her work will not be to do it for us, but alongside us, guiding us, challenging us.
Through her words and witness my hope is that each of us will be able to see our own call to love and serve, not just as All Souls Parish, but also alongside the faithful of St. Alban’s and beyond. Get ready, All Soulsians, Dani Gabriel is back in the house, and I, for one, cannot wait.
As I drove to the first Taize service this Advent season, I started thinking about what I wanted for Christmas. I thought about what would be most practical, what would be most purposeful. I thought about what I needed most. After a few blocks, I came to the realization that what I really needed was nothing. Not “nothing”, as in, “Jennifer, what do you want for Christmas?” “Oh, nothing.” No. I want no thing. I pictured a box, wrapped and left under the tree. A box that is left deliberately empty, much like those pages in a document that say, “This page left intentionally blank”. I want a willfully empty box. I want space, an empty room where I can lay out all the grief and hurt from the shattering of a family upon the second parent’s death. I want silence. I want an opening up of a door to a space unoccupied.
When I was a teenager and into my college years, I used to give myself a present. When I was at Cal, I would go buy something like an obscure classical CD from Musical Offering that I knew no one would get me, bring it home to Oregon, wrap it up and put it under the tree. Then on Christmas morning I would open it with great excitement and exclaim, “This is just what I wanted! I wonder who gave it to me?” My parents would exchange quizzical looks and then somewhere between Christmas breakfast and the standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding it would be forgotten. No one ever pursued the issue of Jennifer’s mystery gift.
This year I have found the perfect gift to give myself. I found the contained emptiness I long for. It is difficult to box up and wrap. It will not fit under any one tree although it could be put in a manger. It is the Advent Taize service on Wednesday evenings. It comes just when the Sunday message is starting to fade and the stress of work and family threatens to drown out any hymn I sang. On Wednesdays, we enter the dimly lit nave in silence. Votive candles flicker on the window sills. We sit around the Advent wreath, the season’s liturgical hourglass. The silence and chants, the story and prayers are the hinges that support a door. A door that opens to a once chaotic, now emptied place, a space within me to lay out the past year and examine it in the presence of the holy, the mysterious while waiting for new life.
Ed. Join Jennifer and others this Wednesday, December 18th in the Parish Hall at 6pm for soup and in the back of the Nave at 6:45p for the Taize service.
Stewardship Last Call
The Pledge Campaign for 2020 is scheduled to end tomorrow. We expect it will allow the church to meet most of its financial obligations in 2020. To date we have received 181 pledges. We anticipate a surge in pledges today and tomorrow and think we will be within shouting distance of our financial goal. In mid-January the Stewardship Committee will share a more thorough overview of the campaign with numbers and reflections on the Campaign.
But today, I’d like to turn attention to NEXT year’s Stewardship Campaign. Our ability to operate as planned in 2020 is fortified by the ability to use earnings from the Jordan gift to make up the gap between current income and expenses. Without the ability to tap those earnings, today and tomorrow would be tense days spent waiting to see if we can operate as planned.
As the Parish House becomes concrete, the Jordan gift will be used to make that space available for our work and play, and we will lose the ability to use its earnings as a financial backstop. We, the current makers of this church, will have the sole responsibility to pay the bills for running the church.
So today, approaching ever closer to one of the busiest stretches on our collective calendar, I invite you to start a year-long process of thinking about how this church and your giving are connected.
We have made huge strides toward financial sustainability, but we are not comfortably there yet. We are still not relying solely on the pledges of current members. As we move through the coming year, please take a moment to look at the church around you, both the physical church and the life we live in it, and know that we have this canvas because others have come before us and shared their financial resources to make it happen.
Whether it is the glow of Christmas Eve service, a quiet morning service in January, the splendor of the Easter Vigil, the warm conversation over a cup of coffee in the Narthex on a warm July (or October) morning, or any of a thousand other moments, just make a mental note of the experience and remember that we are responsible for the resources that set the stage for it. All those moments happened against the background created by pledging.
From time to time, Phil reminds us that “we make church together.” The spirit and love that draw us to this church, this community, is a special gift. It requires all of us to embrace the financial responsibility of making sure the infrastructure on which we depend in place. Part of making church together is contributing to its financial upkeep.
Next Fall the Stewardship Committee will again ask for your financial support and your help in moving this community firmly into financial sustainability. If you can make the effort to start marking the times the backdrop of the church has sustained, has comforted or has held you close, the conversation, and our community, will be the richer for it.
More from Stewardship soon,
Education for Ministry
A couple years ago my husband and I — still new to All Souls — began hearing about “EfM.” It was Emily, I’m sure, who first mentioned it. This was a weekly program that somehow involved reading the entire Bible. We needed — as Jack and I both knew — the cooperative devotion of a small group in order to read scripture. We also wanted the chance to read Biblical scholars, critics and commentators.
And yes, this is exactly what Education for Ministry seemed to offer.
Jack was at home in this reading, his having been raised in the Evangelical tradition, taught to believe the Bible to be literally true. He did believe this, he says, until one day, age nineteen or so, he simply did no more.
Everyone in EfM — as we’ve found out— has been engaged with their own personal struggle with doubt and faith. Jack’s reading in the sacred texts of the major world religions is something he’s now pursued over the course of a lifetime as a literary publisher.
The presiding text in the Episcopal home in which I grew up was The Book of Common Prayer in which there is an Order of the Service, prayers and teachings written out in the beautiful language of King James. We did not read the Bible. Instead we seemed to exist within in the BCP to breathe it as the scent of incense, to hear it as ambient sound.
As a teenager — cynical and aloof— and even as I foundered in the dim light of agnosticism, I did always love the rite. I’ve found spiritual comfort in the orderly progression of the liturgical year — Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, loving the homely lyricism of such mysterious terms as “Ordinary Time.” It was the beauty of the rite and the familiarity of language that has recently brought me back to Christianity, both as practice and as more or less coherent system of belief.
What Jack and I have each found in EfM is a room full of the articulate, the questing and unsure, the curious, the shy — a clutch of those willing to take scripture into personal embrace in order to wrestle with it.
Now halfway through the program we’ve read the Hebrew Bible in Year One and the Gospels, and the other books of the New Testament in Year Two. In Year Three we’ll devote ourselves to Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First 3000 Years.
Though from diverse backgrounds and at different stages in the course we meet together to hear echoes and resonances, which adds complexity to our often rich and interesting discussions. We use secondary texts that include feminist approaches and ecumenical views of theology as we delve into these readings, offering personal reactions and insights. And each year we write a new version of our own spiritual autobiographies.
It is this emotional and highly personal grappling with scripture and the other readings that I have found to be the most compelling aspect of the work of EfM, making it so much more than what’s often called “Bible study.” Indeed the group is essentially self-led, equipped with two able mentors instead of learned instructors who might be interested in our adherence to the one right way.
You’re welcome to join our group starting next January, meeting weekly in the Common Room, Sunday evening 5-7 pm, for 36 weeks. We break for Thanksgiving through the new year, also for the summer months.
This may be one of the richest commitments you make in this out Christian community as it has been for Jack and me.
With love and in faith,
Who knew that reading poetry in Advent could be profoundly creative, inspiring and fun? The first two Sunday mornings of Advent of the class led by Tess Taylor have been just that. We began our class the first Sunday of Advent by thinking about how poetry spaces and advent space can both ground us and disrupt the fabric of “ordinary time.” In our second class, we examined places where poetic form and liturgic forms overlap— looking at how both poetry and prayer can engage our senses and our bodies though formal patterns and through the experience of incantation. We then shared the tangible fruits of our collaborative adventure in writing a liturgical poem/prayer ourselves.
You may have heard of “the Collect”, the collected prayers and invocations of the people read at the opening of the service. Well, we as a class wrote our own Advent Collect, inspired by one or two opening prompts, and some meditations on how parallel construction can build rhythm up. When we put our various phrases and petitions together, the energy, the spirit, the faith in this Collect were not unlike the energy, spirit, and faith we heard in the fifteen poems we had been reading in class. Tess invited each of us to write a phrase for the Collect, and then the class strung those phrases together like the many colored lights on the Christmas Tree. Come join us this Sunday, December 15, for the final of the three week series on Poetry in Advent. It is an adventure in creative meditation and hope! Sunday, 10:10 a.m., in the Parish Hall.
Last week’s collect:
God, who God, God who
created the world from her womb & creates us from her mother
who knows our comings and goings
who gives hope to the seekers
who is both whisper and a blast of trumpets
who inspires children to splash in puddles
who trips over fallen logs & crashes into bracken
& comes up splashed & bloody & finds a stream
who is strong as swimmer’s lungs
grant us grace that love pervades
that we realize God’s dream of peace
that God opens our homes to justice
that our effort at surviving doesn’t quench our thirst for life
that I know what to do when the baby cries
that the tarps hold & the boots fit
that I not leave anything behind today
that I offer what I can
that I carry what I need—
God, who God, God who. Come Jesus, Jesus come.
Please join me in extending generosity and warmth of the Advent season with the Roosevelt Middle School Newcomer community as part of this year’s All Soul’s Angel Tree. Visit the tree downstairs near the Godly Play classrooms and select one (or more!) ornament that represents the wishes and needs of Roosevelt Newcomer students and their families, who have arrived in the U.S. within the past year. Please return unwrapped items with the ornament attached to the tree by 12/15. There will be a wrapping party on 12/15 at 4pm. Contact Molly Nicol with any questions or to arrange drop off/pick up of items (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Christmas Pageant Time!
It’s that lovely time of year again – Pageant time! If you are interested in participating in the Christmas pageant this year during the 4pm Christmas Eve service – please email Whitney at email@example.com. The pageant this year needs about 9 speaking parts and another 10-12 character parts that don’t have any lines to memorize.
The rehearsal schedule is: (pizza served)
- Sunday 12/8 1-3(ish) for reading our lines and walking through the pageant. (speaking parts only)
- Sunday 12/15 1-3(ish) for all speaking parts (with lines memorized) and other participants to try on costumes.
- Sunday 12/22: 1-3 for all participants in costumes
- Tuesday 12/24: arrive at 3pm for the pageant and one last review
Questions? Check in with Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come to church this Sunday 12/15 for our next family night from 4-6pm at All Souls. The adults will wrap the angel tree gifts from 4-5pm while the kids are having supervised play. From 5-6pm, we will all share dinner together. Please sign-up at Sign-up Genius https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040F49A5AE23AAF94-allsouls to bring something for the meal.
Questions? Ask Whitney Wilson at email@example.com.
Advent Ingathering for this Sunday
For December 15 –– BRAID Mission, providing community and holistic mentoring to youth in foster care. Please bring holiday card(s) with a message to foster youth + gift cards (for example, Target or Amazon).
Festive greening December 22 at 12:45
Come be a part of transforming the worship space from Advent to Christmas. Time commitment flexible; varied activities. Candles, tree and lights, ribbons, creche and wreaths will all come out to prepare for the Christmas season.
We’re getting close! Please think about who you will invite to join you here for the wonder and beauty and song – it’s meant to be shared! Here is the schedule of services for Christmas:
4 pm: Festive Eucharist with Children’s Nativity Story/Pageant
8 pm: Carols and Candlelight with Eucharist
10:30 pm: Midnight Mass
10 am: Festive Eucharist
New Year’s Day Celebration
On New Year’s Day there will be a Parish Potluck at 5:00 PM followed by Parish Open Reading of MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL by T.S. Eliot. 6:30-ish to 8:30-ish. All are welcome! RSVP REQUESTED as readers will be assigned individual roles in advance. “Women of Canterbury” chorus will be gender neutral and open to all pounders at the gate. No readers turned away! For more information contact Hallie Frazer.
The period for vestry nomination has begun! Rules: 1. A nomination should not be made without the nominee’s knowledge and approval. 2. A nominee must be a current pledging member, and 3. S/he must have two years at ASP as an active member. The nomination box is on the back counter in the Narthex.