FROM THE RECTOR
Some Amazing Ombre
I recently spent a couple of hours in conversation with about 20 members of our 20s and 30s group, The Phoenixes. Billed as a chance to “Stump the Rector”, it was an opportunity to ask questions that Google might not answer, or at least questions that you had been wanting ask for awhile but for some reason haven’t.
The questions covered a fair bit of ground: why God can feel absent in our times of need, the ethical import of Taylor Swift’s song “Bad Blood”, why we baptize infants in the Episcopal Church, the use of metaphor in understanding Scripture, my own call to the priesthood, and a good deal more. At times it was intense, at other times pretty funny. And the lunch was delicious.
Being near the start of Advent, one of the questions asked was, “What’s the deal with the blue candles? Why not purple? And where’s the pink candle?” It is a question that comes up every Advent, especially for those who have worshipped in churches in the liturgical tradition. For me, the answer is all about anticipation.
First, I should say that in the most profound way, the colors that we use for the seasons of the church year are made up. And often for good reasons. Over the centuries the Church has understood that color can convey meaning, create context, and offer a sort of visual theology. Our Godly Play story “The Circle of the Church Year” does an excellent job of allowing the meaning for these colors to be known.
At this time of the Advent of Christ the King we prepare ourselves for the Mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas. In some parts of the Christian Church we have used the color purple, a color associated with royalty and penitence to represent this time, as we do in Lent. In other parts of the Church we have used the color blue. What gives?
In the words of liturgical scholar J. Neil Alexander, we are all held captive by the berries. Both colors of fabric were very expensive and rare because of the intensive nature of the dyeing. Around the Mediterranean, because of the dyes available, your royalty often wore purple, and in Northern Europe, because of the kinds of berries used for dyeing, they often wore blue.
Over the years, we have ascribed meaning to those colors, that they might represent an approach to God. My sense is that in distinction to the penitential nature of our preparation for the cross and the empty tomb in Lent, in Advent we are preparing for the manger. Preparation is still needed, but it is more of an anticipation.
The way that I have heard this anticipation described is, “the color of the sky just before the breaking of the dawn.” It is a blue, a deep blue that reminds us that the Light will emerge.
At All Souls this Advent we have been blessed with a variety of artists to help us get ready. With Mary Lempres’ Advent calendar and Liz Tichenor’s weekly prints, our homes are becoming new spaces of practice, remembrance and beauty. And for the first time (of what I anticipate will be a long time), our sacred space in the church has been transformed by the breaking of the dawn.
Joining Jocelyn Bergen’s hand-crafted stars, week by week, the paintings of Diane Haavik have been showing us the way. Using a technique known as ombre, Diane has offered us a stunning visual testament to what we believe is taking place, the coming of the Light. In the pillar paintings as well as the paintings behind the altar, the dawn is just starting break over the eastern foothills, the darkness cannot hold it back.
Having been in conversation and prayer with a lot of you, I know that this is a difficult season for many. Medical diagnoses for family members, our own frailties, the looming uncertainty of what our country faces, all of this has made the sense of darkness all the more palpable. And still, each day around the Advent wreath, and each Sunday as we enter the sacred space has made me ever more grateful for the respite, sustenance, and hope that our tradition offers.
As we approach this profound Mystery, of the Infinite made finite, may these colors serve as reminder and inspiration for us as we draw close.
Stories of Advent
I wanted to turn around. I so wanted to turn around.
The road wound its way through the hills and hollers of the dark Appalachian valley. It followed the curve of the creek, past fields of sleeping cows, soggy rows of corn, and double-wide trailers. It was after midnight.
I was driving. Next me was a young 20something counselor. She was a white, middle-class, middle-American college student from some liberal arts school.
In the back seat were three black teenage boys. It was one of the longest drives in my entire life.
We were winding our way, in the middle of the night, through a darkness that was only three lumens brighter than how I felt. We were headed to city hall in Irvine, Kentucky, to the sheriff’s office.
The three boys had been accused of stealing. But they refused to confess. And so the Camp Director made the decision that these three boys had to go to the police.
And so here I was driving them in the middle of the night, in southern Kentucky, through the hills of Appalachia, to a good ol’ boy sheriff that was some amalgam of Boss Hogg and Barney Fife.
I have never, ever wanted to turn around more than on that drive. And I have never ever felt my naked Whiteness more than at that moment.
This all went down at Aldersgate Camp, a United Methodist Church camp nestled in a fertile valley of Needmore Hollow along the banks of the Finchburg branch of one of thousands of little creeks snaking through those rolling hills.
I grew up going there. It was the place where my heart was first strangely warmed by the flame of the Holy Spirit. It was, for me, one of the safest, most beautiful, thin places on earth. A place where the divine and God’s good creation meet in a sloppy wet kiss.
But here I was all these years later, leading a week of camp for high school students. The week had been going well, until things started go missing. First it was little things like ball caps and watches, but then wallets and laptops. There were a couple hundred kids at camp that week. But about 30 were from one of the church’s urban ministries. Most of these campers were black, while the entirety of the camp staff, counselors, leaders, and all the other campers were white.
When it became apparent that these missing items weren’t just misplaced but likely being taken I remember hoping against hope that it wasn’t one of the campers from the projects. But all evidence seemed to point to these three young black teenage boys.
I wanted the whole thing to turn around… but it was like this slow motion juggernaut that was propelled forward by 400 years of bias and prejudice and mistrust. It was painful.
So, campers were questioned. Accusations made. And then the bag was found.
A black duffle bag filled all the things that had gone missing. The bag belonged to one of these black young men. But they still would not confess. They had all been seen together wandering off from the group. And so the Camp Director made the call that all of them had to go to the police station. In the middle of the night. And I had to take them.
I don’t remember being required to go, but I had to go. I owed it to them.
So we drove and drove those 30 minutes to town that felt like 30 hours. We didn’t talk much. I had no idea what awaited us on the other side. Their youth director had been called, she was on the way. All I wanted to do was turn around.
How it all turned out matters less than the journey we took to get to this naked place. I don’t remember if charges were filed or mugshots taken… I just remember feeling like this should not be the way of things.
We didn’t turn around on that midnight journey as we etched our way through the steamy, verdant hills of southern Kentucky. We didn’t solve any problems or fix any injustice or heal any wounds. If any thing we probably carved a few of those deeper into the souls of these three young black men.
But something turned in me. Something is still turning. And my prayer, my deep, anxious longing is that something, somehow keeps turning.
– Aaron Klinefelter
Poetry to be our guide
All Soulsian and writer Jane Vandenburgh wrote this poem in the midst of the grief that shook so many in our community after the Ghost Ship fire, while still looking expectantly towards Christmas. It was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Advent, Awaiting Word From the Ghost Ship Fire
I’ve tasted smoke
as a bitterness on the
tongue, the fra-
grant tang of
rejected! for who
and what we
are. Since Saturday
news from the ware-
where Nick went
texting his friends
to meet him
five, a bowler,
last seen on the
case And who
shall tell of His
coming or how
our fate now finds
disaster, our kids
faint at first, now
cathedral lit by
voices soaring to
my people as we
pray for a
recount or a
hero, or a
for those we now
know will never
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The Beginnings of All Souls, Chapter 4
It did not take long for pews to replace the bentwood chairs and for an altar to be added. The rood screen did not appear until later It appears that at first it was only a partial on both sides, then a piece across the center was added. The final rood screen, with the inscription “All Souls are Mine Saith the Lord” was consecrated 1919. The picture below was taken between July 1908 and July 1912, as can be determined from the fact that the American flag had only 48 stars. All Souls was quite a patriotic congregation in those days, as we will see when World War I began.
Note that there is still no rood screen, but the parish was (and still is) using silver and brass from the earliest days. The oldest items being two 16″ brass vases inscribed, with uncanny foresight, “All Souls Church – Easter 1906″, although not often used these days. On the other hand, a large silver chalice, engraved “Memoriam – All Souls’ Chapel, St. Mark’s Parish, Easter 1909″ is used regularly. Also in regular use in our chapel is a missal stand, engraved “All Souls Chapel 1907″.
– Thomas Burcham
PHOENIXES 20s and 30s CHRISTMAS PARTY
Join the 20/30s group on Saturday December 17th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, in the parish house for our Christmas party! Guaranteed cookie consumption and perhaps some karaoke? Either way it’ll be a fun way to close out 2016. Bring some snacks and drinks to share. Contact Holly Quarles or Erica Clites for more information.
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 final Sunday, December 18th, we support the Berkeley Food Pantry. Please bring:
- peanut butter
- canned soups
- canned beans
- gluten-free grains and pasta
- low-sugar breakfast cereal
Calling all Christmas Treats!
One of the ways we welcome the many, many people who will visit All Souls at Christmas is by offering abundant hospitality in the receptions that follow each service. As you make cookies and other treats in the coming days, can you double your recipe and set some aside to bring to church? Can you pick up an extra bottle of cider or wine? Or, can you lend a hand pulling it all together on Christmas Eve and Day? Please sign up here so the Hospitality Team can breathe easy knowing that we’re all going to help make this happen together. Let sharing the story and warmth of Christmas bring you joy.
GREENING OF THE CHURCH December 22
Every year just before Christmas Eve, the Sacristan teams come together to get the church ready for all the services. This includes hanging up greens and making everything look festive for all our visitors! If you are willing and able, and perhaps can climb a ladder, the Sacristan team can use your help. Come to church on Thursday afternoon, December 22, at 4:30 pm and we’ll put you to work.
CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AT ALL SOULS!
Who will you invite to come close this year? Learn about what to expect from each service here.
4 pm: Festive Eucharist with Children’s Nativity Story
8 pm: Carols and Candlelight
10:30 pm: Midnight Mass
10 am: Festive Eucharist