From The Rector


Just Stop

I was recently talking with a friend who spent many years living among the Lakota people in South Dakota. And one of the practices that he learned while he was with them was the practice of sitting on the ground every day.

This practice of sitting, outside, on whatever ground is nearby, has been transformative for him. It quite literally grounds him. He pays attention to all sorts of things in a different way—insects, birds, plants, trees, the wind, and, when he has been sitting for long enough, himself.

His description of this experience resonated deeply with me as we have come to this cultural time of BetweenThanksgivingandBeforeNewYears. Every year I am reminded of what a toll this time of year takes on many of us. Most easily seen is the relentless push to purchase. The drive for the perfect gift for each person (even if we may not be able to afford it) fills all the nooks and crannies of the screens, earbuds and sidewalks of our lives. It’s at times like these that I really do thank God for Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Now.

But even if you are doing your best to opt-out of these expectations, just trying to buy groceries, or get to doctor’s appointments, or get across town can feel like you are entering into a scrum of anxious humanity. The cumulative effects of this pull and push can overwhelm all of us, undermining even the most solid sense of stability in our lives.

And then, when the pervasive social norms are blanketed across the top—Christmas parties and requisite family gatherings, all with the relentless expectancy of the “magic of the season,” it’s not a surprise when feelings of inadequacy, overwhelm, and isolation rise up within us, as we feel unable to meet these unreal expectations.

And so, here we are one week away from Christmas. I write this not to remind anyone of how many shopping days remain. But to say that there still is time. To stop. Maybe you want to follow this Lakota practice and sit, ground yourself each day. But this practice points us to the wisdom of our Godly Play stories remind us that in order to be able to come close to a Mystery as big as Christmas, the Incarnation of God, we need to get ready.

And so I invite you, I urge you, in the tradition of John the Baptist, I exhort you—to stop. Each day. Every day. Several times a day. Yes, around an Advent Wreath, but other times as well. Find a quiet corner of your home, a space in the office, just some place to close your eyes. And stop. For even a few minutes. Be still. Listen to your breath. Listen to life around you. And listen to what is within you. For it is only by stopping that we can start to get ready.



’Tis the season to be…

You filled in the phrase, I’m sure, without giving it a moment’s thought. Heck, you may be shaking your (metaphorical) fist at me right now for giving you an earworm!

I think the odds are vanishingly small that you did it by recalling your spoken recitation lessons with Mrs. Crabapple (apologies to the Little Rascals there!). Nope, an old English carol, whose origins are lost to the ages, leapt straight to mind, and set you humming.

Well, it really is the season when all of that comes more to the fore than in any other. And while we can get our fix of Frosty and Rudolph anywhere, there are some Christmas carols that really do belong in church, and we will be singing a lot of them in the big Twelve Days to come. Between three Christmas Eve services, one Christmas morning, and our twin liturgies on the following two Sundays, that’s a lot of church time to fill with singing – and yet every one of those services will have different balances of carols old and new.

Christmas Eve’s Family Eucharist and Pageant at 4 pm will be the densest, with some 14 carols packing our celebration. Given the occasion, just one or two of the most famous verses is plenty, but it certainly is a whirlwind tour! Hearts On Fire Gospel Choir, Angel Band, and trumpet will fill the air and give the 300 singers in the congregation a real run for their money!

Later that night, 8:00 is our Carols and Candlelight service, meant to evoke a mountain village where everyone knows the same carols by heart. We evoke this magical feeling with dim lighting and words all projected at the front of the church so we can keep all the atmosphere and have people singing with their heads upraised. Our annual string quartet will be joining members of the Parish Choir and Angel Band, plus organ and trumpet, in leading eight familiar carols in this intimate setting, as well as a new version of “While shepherds watched their flocks by night.”

Midnight Mass begins at 10:30, with the Parish Choir joined once again by strings and trumpet. Everything from Gregorian chant to music of our own time finds its place in this joyful, lights-on, incense-filled celebration, and once we’ve stayed awake that long, we may as well continue with champagne afterwards!

Christmas morning is an intimate 10:00 service for some of our parishioners who prefer a quieter, gentler side of Christmas worship, as well as for our local neighbors and anyone else who finds great meaning in the welcoming of the Christ Child in the full light of day. I think of it rather like the afternoon gathering of the family to sing carols around the piano.

Of course, the Twelve Days of Christmas don’t begin on December 13. (You did know that, didn’t you? I knew you did!) Christmas Eve is only the beginning, and we have two more Sundays before the Magi arrive on January 6.

On Sunday, December 27, our wonderful soprano, Sarita Cannon, will join trumpeter Rafa Postel and me to share some of the less well-known carols and hymns of the season, as well as to sing some favorite solos – music we don’t have much chance to hear in church otherwise.

And our major celebrations of the season will conclude on Sunday, January 3 in the New Year, when the choirs join in our annual presentation of Benjamin Britten’s iconic Ceremony of Carols. Over three quarters of a century after its composition, Britten’s are the definitive settings of many poems to the Christ-Child from medieval England. We have enjoyed exploring this music more deeply year by year, and it is always a treat for us to sing it to round out the season!

Yep, it’s a crazy time, and (as a colleague of mine used to say) “the train is about to leave the station.” I can remember many specific experiences of Christmas services throughout my life, and yet the one yet to come is always the most exciting. I can’t wait to open all these gifts, can you?

– Christopher Putnam

Advent Ingathering: Berkeley Food Pantry

This Sunday, December 20th, we will be gathering food for the Berkeley Food Pantry. We gather food for the pantry every week, but make a special push to meet the heightened need in Advent. In particular, please try to bring the following this Sunday:
– peanut butter
– canned soups
– canned beans
– gluten-free grains and pasta
– low-sugar breakfast cereal

The Berkeley Food Pantry started with our Quaker neighbors in 1969, when a member simply began buying food and sharing it with folks in need out of her own home. Need was great then, as it is now, and the pantry opened in the basement of the Berkeley Friends Church that fall. Today, they serve over 21,000 residents each year. In their own words, the organization shares that they provide “monthly bags of nutritious and delicious emergency groceries to Berkeley and Albany residents in need. Through the combined efforts of two paid part-time staff, a core of 50 dedicated volunteers, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, community members, local businesses, and the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program, we are able to provide enough emergency groceries for 3 days or 9 meals to over 2,000 Berkeley and Albany residents monthly.” You can learn more about how to get involved beyond donating food on the Berkeley Food Pantry website.

Advent Verse

We are awash with jingles, promos, headlines, and more. Something about poetry can cut through the jumble of all those words, settle down the swirling, and help us listen. Here are a few poems your All Souls staff has welcomed to help us all slow down a bit as the countdown continues. May they feed you as they have fed us.

By Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.


By Nate Klug

In the middle of December
to start over

to assume again
an order

at the end
of wonder

to conjure
and then to keep

slow dirty sleet
within its streetlight


Advent Calendar
By Rowan Williams

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.


Contributions Needed for Christmas Eve Receptions!
Please bring treats to share on Christmas Eve! In particular, it would be wonderful for folks to join in brining cider, sparkling cider, holiday cookies, sweet & savory snacks, finger foods, and festive breads. We also need volunteers before and after the services to help bring the festivities to life. Sign-up sheets will be at the coffee stations this Sunday.
Thank you! – Reception Ministry Team

Calling all sheep and angels!
Preparations for our nativity story are well underway, but there is always room for more sheep and angels. If you have a young child, know interested neighbors, or if you’ll have young children visiting for the holidays, they are most welcome to join in the pageant. Sheep are generally toddlers – kindergarteners, and angels are generally preschoolers – first graders. Please email Liz if you have a child who would like to join so we can be sure to have enough costumes. They would need to be at a dress rehearsal on December 23rd, 10a-12p, and arrive at church at 2:30p on December 24th.

New Year’s Day Reading and Potluck
Our 2016 New Year’s Day reading will be C.S. Lewis’ The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, dramatized by Joseph Robinette. We will meet at 4:00 pm for Holiday cheer and potluck, and begin this exciting ‘storytelling’ at 5:30 pm (approximate running time: 80 minutes). RSVP is especially helpful for early role distribution… of which there are many! Contact Hallie Frazer to learn more.

Interfaith Immigration Vigil
Join members of All Souls holding vigil at West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond, CA on January 2nd, (and the first Saturday of every month) from 11 am – noon.

Epiphany – Cake for Breakfast!
In place of our all-ages formation hour on January 3rd, we’ll be gathering at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall to celebrate Epiphany with cake, crowns, and general merriment. New classes begin on January 10th.