From the Rector

Six Days Left

At the posting of this article there are officially six shopping days left until Christmas. My guess is, that though this may inspire a fresh round of searching for parking spaces or on Amazon, that this doesn’t come as news.

Given our culture’s overwhelming participation in the gifting aspects of Christmas, most folks around us know this too. But this rush to purchase and the experience of finding the right object for every person, this isn’t the experience that I’m paying attention to. The experience that is holding my attention (perhaps not surprisingly) is one, to quote the Grinch that, “doesn’t come from a store.” It is the experience of worshipping, being present in a church on Christmas Eve.

Now, people can light candles in their homes that night, and they do. But, it just isn’t the same, lighting a candle by one’s self. And you can sing “Silent Night” or “Angels We Have Heard on High” on your own. It is possible, I’ve done it many times before. But it is nowhere near the experience of singing, full-throated, with hundreds of others, truly reveling in that moment. It is an experience of a different sort.

My guess is that if we were to do EEGs during Christmas Eve services, that the effect of entering into corporate worship in this way would create any number of remarkable brain states. I say this not as a scientist but as one who has studied human experience in other ways.

Because when people come close, when they allow themselves to pay attention, the effects of environment – the smell of pine branches and of beeswax candles, the look of banners and greens and candles, the sounds of voices in harmony and the swelling of strings – all work together in creating a space for awe and wonder.

And it is my belief that there are many around us that are in search of these moments of awe and wonder. There are many, many people yearning to experience something beyond the grind of everyday life or the surface, thin expressions of “the holiday season” that have been relentlessly promoted for months now.

What we offer at All Souls Parish on that holy night is a way to come close. Close to one another, close to ourselves, and if we create the space within us, close to God, the Source of All That Is. Over the centuries, through story, song and silence, we have come to know that worshipping – directing our attention, all of our selves in a particular way – can open up space in our beings, body and mind, that otherwise may not be accessed.

I am well aware of the number of shopping days left until Christmas. I suppose that I see them through a different lens, that there remain six days of invitation left until Christmas. Six days to talk with someone on the school playground, at the Y, at Monterey Market. Six days to send a text, respond to a Christmas card, post something on facebook. Six days to invite someone to experience the Holy with you, on that night of flickering candle light, deep silence and joyous song.


Sun Prints for Advent

Each year we are blessed to have artwork and decorations created right here at All Souls that align with the change of the church seasons, helping to making our worship spaces resonate with the liturgy we follow each Sunday.

This year for Advent, we wanted to create a new set of decor that involved members of the parish. Working with Arts at All Souls, parishioner Jocelyn Bergen conceived an idea based on a non-silver photographic process called “cyanotype,” otherwise known as “sun prints” because exposing treated material to the sun is the main action of the process. The color of the prints is a bright blue, because the chemicals used to treat the paper contain iron, and the sunlight transforms the iron into a blue dye, the perfect color for Advent.

The imagery is created by placing objects directly on the paper or cloth treated with the photosensitive chemicals, exposing to the sun, and “developing” in water, which stops the exposure. They are essentially contact prints, so interesting effects can be obtained by using flat objects, three-dimensional objects, moving the objects during exposure, and so on. We used a set of shapes for this project that evoked Advent themes: stars, crosses, leaves, birds, flowers, water, curling string, and even our own hands.

The process is easy and non-toxic, so we planned several sessions to make a large set of prints with kids, youth and adults, both at the parish retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch, and a few times after church in October. The result is now hanging in the church — strung together and festooning the side aisles and the back wall in the main church, you can see the many collage compositions that parishioners created.

Jocelyn took the same objects used for the paper prints and created a set of cloth prints with which to create a custom altar cloth to match the decor. A total of 63 prints were used to create two panels which cover the altar in a cross pattern.

Kids making sun prints at the Bishop’s Ranch

Fixing the prints in water after exposure

Prints drying on the line

Emily Hertz and Jocelyn Bergen helping make prints after church

Finished prints ready to string together

Cloth prints drying

Sewing the altar cloth from the cloth prints

Sun prints hanging along the side aisles

Sun prints hanging on the back wall

Altar cloth

Altar cloth

Advent in the Archives

All Souls celebrates Christmas by “greening” the church. At All Souls decorating with flowers stops during Advent (“Advent” is from the Latin ad [to] + venire [come], referring to the coming birthday of Christ), so during Advent the church looks a little different. Perhaps the tradition of no flowers started because flowers were not always available in the winter. However, during the last week of Advent before Christmas, things change again and the church is “greened” to be ready for Christmas.

All Souls – Christmas 1916

The use of greenery for celebrations goes back to the pre-Christian times [see Jeremiah 10:2-4], but for centuries it was disparaged as non Christian because of its association with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, during which trees or branches were used bearing replicas of Saturn or Bacchus. The use of greenery as part of the celebration of Christmas was frowned upon until the mid-1800s. There is a report that in 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, Ohio was the first to decorate with a Christmas tree in an American church, and his parishioners condemned the idea as a pagan practice and some even threatened the pastor with harm.

All Souls after 1926 (note the stained class window) fully “greened.”

Demanding Justice

These past two weeks have been about justice. Ideally, every week should be – but for me at least, these two stand out as an example and an inspiration.

On December 6th, I participated in a prayer vigil at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond along with nearly 80 other participants from All Souls and over 120 in all. The Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights has been hosting these vigils on the first Saturday of each month for three years; each month a different congregation or organization acts as host, and this was our turn. We were there to stand in solidarity with men and women being held under prison conditions while they await hearings and learn whether they will be granted asylum or deported. Some had run the border or sought out border patrols and declared themselves. Some have lived here and been members of our communities for many years, others were taken into custody by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in different states and sent here – often transported in heavy chains attached at the ankles, wrists and neck, like dangerous criminals. Many cannot speak English; and in many other detention centers around the country, children are held as well, some too young to speak at all or to understand what is happening to them. These are our brothers and sisters; these are our neighbors. We came together to pray and sing and demand respect for every human being.

On December 14th, following a week of protests by students and others, the faith community was called together to show how People of Faith Respond. The march started at 1:30 at First Congregational Church on College Avenue; parishioners and clergy poured onto the sidewalk and then into the street, turning down Channing and heading for Sacramento. A call and response of “this is what democracy looks like” shifted into, “this is what theology looks like;” and I thought yes, this is what theology looks like and how it feels to put it into action. The march ended between The Way Christian Center and Congregation Netivot Shalom on University. I was happy to see many All Soulsians, seminarians, clergy and others I knew from the Episcopal community, as well as Bishop Marc who had presided that morning for us and stayed to be a part of the protest. We observed a profound silence, mourned those who had been killed and stood as witness that black lives matter.

As Episcopalians – as Christians – we are called to act in the world not just be in it. We are called to act from love, with compassion, for justice. I didn’t really understand that before coming to All Souls and seeing it in practice. On the 6th and on the 14th, we were Christ’s feet as we walked, His body as we lay down to “die” in representation and His voice as we called for justice to be done.

No human being is an alien, no matter where s/he goes. Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. We are all one body, one family; and while we say it in so many different ways, we can speak with one voice when the need arises. Whenever and wherever we gather in love and compassion, demanding justice and seeking peace… God is in our midst.
– Ariane Wolfe

Bishop Marc leads the faithful demonstrators from around the Bay in prayer.

Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Fellowship, surrounded by clergy from many different congregations and traditions.

Hundreds gather to pray, advocate, and give witness to the truth that Black lives matter.

Welcome New Members!

We recently welcomed many new members into the family at All Souls. Today and in the coming weeks you will have the chance to get to know them better through photos and bios.

Andrew and Katherine Lisa

We moved to the Bay Area from Bakersfield almost 2 years ago, and after trying out numerous Episcopal congregations in Contra Costa County, we decided to try out All Souls this past August after hearing good things from other people. We were rather spoiled at our previous church home, and All Souls has filled the void we’ve had since our move. We are excited at the many groups and activities that All Souls supports – the Phoenixes, the rich musical tradition, commitment to social justice and the educational focuses of the congregation (to name a few). We have appreciated the warm welcoming that All Souls has provided. Katherine grew up in the Lutheran tradition in Bakersfield, CA while Andrew grew up as an Episcopalian in Orlando, FL. After we met at Florida State University in 2003, we moved to California and were married in 2007. We agreed to attend an Episcopal church, and became active members of what was at the time Grace Episcopal Church in Bakersfield (now Saint Paul’s). Andrew works as a Sales Representative for Mission Linen Supply, while Katherine is a teacher with the Pittsburg Unified School District. Katherine loves to read and enjoys middle distance running and plans to one day run in the Boston Marathon. Andrew dabbles in music and has a fondness for architecture, philosophy and politics. We both love to travel and spend time with our 3 rambunctious dogs.


Memorial Service for Barbara Donald: Saturday, December 20
Please join us for a Eucharistic liturgy of the resurrection as we celebrate the life of Barbara Donald on Saturday, December 20 at 10am.

Advent Ingathering
On December 21, please bring school supplies to support Responsibility, Integrity, Strength and Empowerment (RISE), a Berkeley High after-school program for at-risk and low-income immigrant youth. In particular, they are in need of: line, graph, construction, and printer paper; rulers, protractors, compasses, scissors, pencils, pens, markers, electronic pencil sharpener, paper clips, glue sticks, Elmer’s glue.

Invite friends to our Christmas Services!
Christmas Eve:
4:00pm: Holy Eucharist with Children’s Nativity Story with childcare
8:00pm: Carols & Candlelight

10:30pm: Midnight Mass
Christmas Day
10:00am: Holy Eucharist; carols with organ & trumpet

Eighth Day of Christmas
January 1, 2015
5:00pm: Parish potluck dinner
6:30pm: The Mouse That Roared cold dramatic reading
Mark your calendars to join in the annual tradition here at All Souls known as the New Year’s Day Potluck Feast and Community Play Reading, sponsored by Arts at All Souls. If you are interested reading in the play and/or contributing to the feast, please contact Hallie Frazer.

Following the Star Together
Calling all parents, teachers and Children’s Ministry volunteers. Come join a conversation about Children’s Ministry at All Souls. What is Children’s Chapel? What is Godly Play? How do we feed children’s spiritual formation? We need your voice as we explore these questions and more. Please join us during formation hour January 4th at 10:20am in the common room, right after the Epiphany cake! Childcare will be available.

Connect on Social Media
There are several to stay connected to All Souls online! On Facebook, visit and “like” our page named: “All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, CA.” This page is our public face to the wider world and is the place to find announcements about upcoming events, photos, and interesting opportunities in the church at large. This is also a great place to find announcements to share on your as an invitation to your friends. In addition, it is currently home to our growing Advent photo calendar, being built collaboratively day by day as we move closer to Christmas. We also have a closed group called “All Soulsians,” which is a great place for making plans with the community, asking questions about something misplaced, or sharing interesting tidbits with the community. All are welcome in the group, but you must request to be added. All Souls is also on Instagram: allsoulsparishberkeley.