FROM THE RECTOR
Praying for the President
In all of the turmoil, the drama, the historicity, the passion, and the uncertainty surrounding the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump by the House of Representatives yesterday, there was a particular facet that caught my attention.
It came in the letter that President Trump wrote to the Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. One of the elements of Speaker Pelosi’s life that has been reported on is her Christian faith, practiced in the Roman Catholic tradition. As part of this reporting she has shared that she, “pray(s) for the president all the time.”
In response to Speaker Pelosi’s revealing that she prays for him, in his six page letter President Trump took issue with her reported prayers on his behalf, writing, “You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying, ‘I pray for the President,’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense.”
President Trump is not alone in finding difficulty with the practice of prayer for leaders in general, and him in particular. In the past three years there have been some Christian churches who, because of great difference with the policies, words, and behaviors of President Trump, have been unwilling to pray for him by name.
I believe that both President Trump and those Christians who refuse to pray for him are similarly misguided in their understanding of what it means to pray for President Trump or any other leader. While prayer can be understood as someone asking God to make a leader successful in their aims, this is far from the totality of prayer. But those who see that as the inevitable meaning of prayer come by this understanding with reason. For centuries there has been a powerful strain within the Anglican tradition that has interpreted prayer for a leader simply to be a version of “Long live the king.”
My prayers for President Trump, and before him President Obama, and the those who preceded them, come from this passage from Jeremiah, when the prophet compels us to, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:7) In its welfare you will find your welfare.
I do not have to agree with the actions of President Trump or of his administration in order to pray that he and they may follow the ways of the Christ that lead to mercy and justice and compassion. In fact, when I read words that lead away from the teachings and life of Jesus, and when I come across actions that I believe the prophets have been warning us about for centuries, this actually increases my desire to pray for our President, those who serve in the judiciary, the legislature and in our government.
The rancor and the rhetoric of the past weeks and months have laid bare the profound divisiveness and fear that fractures this country. At times it can feel as if what we are experiencing has no precedent, as if there were no hope for what lies ahead. It makes one wonder what it means to gather in a few days to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.
And, Christmas came in 1868, as it did 1974, and in 1998. And Christmas is coming again this year. On Tuesday, actually. And, as we have been for decades, on Tuesday at 4p, 8p, and 10:30p, and on Wednesday at 10a, All Souls Parish will be a place worship the newborn king, and to pray.
To pray for the President of the United States, the Congress of the United States, and for the welfare of this nation. To pray for our faithful participation in that welfare. And to pray for ourselves as we prepare for the Christ to be born again––around us, among us, and within us.
Join an Emmaus Group
A New Semester Opens Soon
Starting the last week of January, Emmaus Groups––spiritual journeying groups––will open for a new semester. For those who might have missed the announcement of Emmaus groups earlier this fall, here is a quick recap:
As a staff team we had noticed that many in this congregation have expressed a hunger to grow deeper relationships in this community, and into a deeper journey of faith and belief in Jesus. One way to answer to this, we think, is small groups––groups we’re calling Emmaus Groups. The name comes from the resurrection story in Luke 24:13-53 where Jesus meets two apostles talking and journeying to Emmaus. Discussing their dejection and then amazement at having just discovered that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, Jesus appeared to these two men. They, however, did not recognize him. Not until they were at dinner, seated around a table, when the bread was blessed did their eyes open and could they name that their hearts had been on fire while on the road with this stranger, and that this stranger before them was Jesus. The presence of Jesus was with them on their journey––in their questions, as they wrestled with their sadness and amazement––even when they could not see him.
With this as the base, our vision for Emmaus Groups is simple: to gather and journey together in small groups in order to deepen our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.
How do these groups work, you ask? Functionally, Emmaus Groups meet every-other-week, as groups of no more than 12, in 16-week covenant periods throughout the year. By “covenant” I mean simply that for 16 weeks (8 meetings) folks will be committed (covenanted) to meeting. At the end of the 16-week period the groups will open (what’s happening now) so that some folks can leave and other folks can join (if that is desired and/or if there is room), but the idea is that most of these groups will continue to meet in the next 16-week period, and will then continue to do so for as long as the group wants. There is some structure to the meetings themselves, though it’s not anything as tight and structured as, say, Soup + Story groups. Generally, the focus of these groups is much more on journeying together, than studying together.
Further background, Emmaus groups only started this past fall when we had one group of married couples and two groups of women meeting. This winter the married couples group is continuing but is full (we could start another if enough couples wanted to meet!), then there is a men’s group that will pick back up (they met for the first time last spring), and finally the women’s groups that have been meeting have some folks staying and some leaving, which leaves a lot of space for either new groups (single-gender or mixed-gender) to start or for folks to be added to the existing groups. Basically, if you are interested let me know and I will work to get you into a group that makes sense for you.
What I have heard from those in the groups currently is that these groups have functioned as community, providing small moments of transformation, renewal, a place to check-in and be seen, and a place to be present in listening to others. If all of this sounds interested, write me a note. In that note, mention why this sounds interesting to you, what kind of group you’d like to be in, as well as what weekday evenings work best for you to meet. That, obviously, is a big part of putting the groups together. The deadline for joining is January 19th. If you don’t let me know by then, the next chance to join is the fall of 2020.
From the Junior Warden
Wrapping Up, Looking Ahead
A couple of nights ago, at the festively decorated home of Kaki Logan, the 2019 Vestry gathered alongside representatives from the Parish House Project, the Capital Campaign, a treasurer, a clerk, a priest and a deacon. Sounds like the start to a great joke? Nope, it’s just the recipe to a wonderful Vestry meeting and holiday dinner. We gathered at 6 p.m. to talk about what is to come as we enter a new decade at All Souls Parish.
An overall theme for the meeting came up early on in the Rector’s Report when Phil was updating us on the work of the Associate Rector Search Team so far. The committee is off to a great start with the position already posted on our website, with plans to begin interviewing candidates in February, March, and April, with the hope to call a new Associate Rector by May. The question that we wondered about was how will be the change we wish to see in the world?
As we went into discussions about the Capital Campaign, approving the 2020 budget and approving further architectural plans for the new parish house, the question kept popping up: how do we be the change we wish to see? How do we spend our money towards architectural changes to the church building and next door which are accessible for all, carbon neutral, provide more space for ministry and are cost effective? What ministry programs do we put our money towards which help us live out the love of Christ in the world?
The good news is, we are continuing to live into that Good News. Thank you to Vimala Tharisayi and the Finance committee for bringing us the 2020 budget which was passed unanimously. As of Monday, we reached 193 pledging families and individuals, thanks to the work of the Stewardship Committee and our Giving Secretary Maggie Cooke. Kirk Miller and Caitlin Lempres-Brostrom have donated hundreds of hours of architectural expertise to bring us the final designs for the new building next door which were passed unanimously.
Thanks to a vote by the Vestry, the Capital Campaign was able to arrange for a feasibility study to see if our long-held hopes around greater accessibility will be possible. All in all, the Vestry has a clear sense of the mission and ministry we share as the people of All Souls Parish and we are grateful for everyone who is putting these changes into action!
While we were gathered around the dinner table, I heard laughter from so many voices I love and would not have had the gift of knowing so well if not for the last three years on Vestry. As we wrap up 2019, this decade, and I end my term on Vestry, I have both been reflecting on how meaningful it has been to be a vestry member and who, within our parish family, seems called to be on the Vestry at the start of a new decade. Vestry is not one boring meeting and task after another. Vestry is gathering with some of your church family once a month to reflect on how we make church together and look ahead at where we are going. It is a gift from God to leave a meeting more invigorated for ministry then when you arrived. Thank you, parish family, for the honor of serving on the Vestry and as your Junior Warden for the last year. I am thrilled for whoever feels called to be on Vestry in 2020!
Take & give care,
The search for our new Associate Rector is ON! While there has been plenty of transitional activity going on behind the scenes—sending off Liz tearfully and prayerfully; deep conversation about the needs of this parish and staff at this present moment; how to best describe this job accurately and compellingly; what skills and attributes are needed to do it well—we have entered a new active phase of the search.
Our job posting and a full description of the role went live on our All Souls website this week, and they were published in diocesan and wider Episcopal church newsletters and websites. As we know that personal referral is the most powerful tool for identifying good candidates for any job, we are asking everyone to share the job posting widely and wisely on their networks. We will be accepting applications until January 21st, at which point we will begin blind, anonymized readings of application materials and choose a few candidates to interview over video call. We expect to host in-person interviews with finalists in March, and Phil+ will make his final selection before Easter. We hope that our new Associate Rector will join us in work and worship beginning around May 1st.
Though we are cautioned that response to open positions in the diocese is significantly low right now, I am hopeful and confident that this search is going to buck the trend. I am encouraged by the crack team we have on the case—my co-chair Caroline McCall, members (Jen Dary, Diane Haavik, Michael Lemaire, Calvin Payne-Taylor, Howard Purdue, Raymond Yee, Jennifer Ying)– a strong process for searching and vetting, and the support of Phil+. Most of all, I am confident because I know that this is an exceptional opportunity for a priest to grow and lead at the most vibrant (Spirit-filled, open-hearted, energetic!) parish I can imagine. Please pray for this process—that some outstandingly talented and grounded individuals will hear our call, and that we have the discernment to identify them.
If you have any questions about this search process, please don’t hesitate to bring them to me, Caroline, or any of the team members.
Advent Ingathering for this Sunday
For December 22 –– Berkeley Food Pantry, providing healthy food to those in need in Berkeley and Albany. They need: peanut butter, gluten-free grains and pastas, canned soups, canned beans, and low-sugar breakfast cereal
The last rehearsal for the annual Christmas Pageant will be this Sunday December 22nd right after the 11:15am service. If you child is interested in participating as an angel, sheep, or shepherd please plan to be at church from about 12:30 – 2pm for rehearsal and some pizza for lunch. Questions? Email Whitney at email@example.com.
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.
Christmas Eve Set-up & Clean-up
Make it a family tradition to help set-up and/or clean-up from one of the Christmas Eve services! Sign up here. Many hands make light work.
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 (with incense)
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.
Angel Tree Wrap-up
Thanks for all the helpers last Sunday who wrapped many gifts for the “newcomers class” at Roosevelt middle school. Thank you also to all who donated an angel gift for these families. And a big thank you to Molly Nicol for all your leadership with this special project. (see pictures below)