From the Rector
About two years ago we were visiting a good friend in Charlotte, North Carolina. We saw the sights, and visited friends in the area, and, since my friend Ollie is the Rector of a vibrant downtown congregation, we took part in the life of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church while we were there.
So it was that on a weekday evening I joined well over a hundred people in watching the documentary, Traces of the Trade, and taking part in a facilitated conversation with Constance and Dain Perry. It was an incredible experience. Constance and Dain, through their presence and their words, created a space for people to share deeply, from their pain, from their frustration, and from their longing. That conversation was a cornerstone for St. Peter’s as they have become a leader in racial reconciliation in the broader Charlotte community. And it planted a seed in me for a conversation that could happen here at All Souls.
As it turns out, the world is often much more connected than we expect it to be. When I mentioned this experience to one of our parishioners, Tess Taylor, not only was she familiar with the film, she is also good friends with Dain and Constance from Trinity Episcopal Church, Copley Square, in Boston. That seed, planted in Charlotte, started to grow.
After conversations with Constance and Dain, coordination with our diocesan staff, and preparations here, I am excited and hopeful that this Saturday, December 5th, at All Souls Parish, we will be screening Traces of the Trade and engaging in heartfelt, real, honest conversation around race in the United States of America.
Given the charged space that race often occupies in our country, historically and at present, I know that there are some who are uncertain or reticent to come and engage in this time together. Some of us have had this conversation more times than they care to count. Others have avoided it for years. But I believe that racial reconciliation is an essential conversation for Christians to engage in this nation. And, that through this film and the remarkable process that the Perrys offer, there is the potential for the beginnings of real transformation for all who take part.
To this end, we have cast our invitation far and wide. We have invited Episcopal congregations from around the Bay Area. We have invited other Christian communities outside of the Episcopal Church from different parts of Berkeley. We’ve even advertised through Facebook to people who may never have been in an Episcopal church.
And so it is that I appeal to you, All Soulsian, to join in this sacred conversation. A conversation full of risk, grounded in love and growing towards hope. May the Spirit lead us and guide us this Saturday evening and for the days to come.
From the Associate Rector
There was major consternation in our household recently about a birthday party. Or, more specifically, about the invitation to a birthday party. One of my daughter Alice’s classmates was apparently aware of the power of inviting—and uninviting—friends to her party. One day Alice would come home, elated that she had the golden ticket to bouncy houses, (what could be better?) but the next day, the invitation had been rescinded, and so on, back and forth. At publishing, the invitation is back on and barring any major social upheavals, there will be ample bouncing and excessive sugar this Saturday afternoon.
At first hearing, I chuckled quietly at the innocence of the angst. Oh my word, uninvited to a birthday party – how awful! It hardly competes with the painful headlines we’ve grown accustomed to, that seem almost ubiquitous.
And yet, the simple struggle tugged at me, and has had me thinking. Pondering the desire to be invited, to belong, to come and celebrate. Sighing at the pain of being pushed outside, of receiving not warmth but another person’s exertion of power to keep us apart. I imagine Alice’s classmate was doing just this—trying to claim her power in one of the few places she had any power at all, especially as the youngest student in the class. And still, I couldn’t help but notice ways this tug-of-war over invitation continues long past preschool.
It gets more complicated, too. I believe that most people love to be invited. Whether or not we can accept the invitation, it brings a sense of being seen, of our presence being appreciated, of an opening for connection and joy. And at the same time, extending invitations can feel vulnerable for many of us. What if this person doesn’t want to go to dinner with me? What if my house seems shabby? What if they feel proselytized if I invite them to All Souls?
All of these responses to invitation are possible. But the thing is, when we have something really wonderful, it’s worth the risk of offering it, of sharing it, of inviting others in. Especially in the midst of fearful times, as terror and violence erupt day after shorter day, people need space to wonder. They need light, connection, room to ask questions, a place to catch a glimpse of hope. People need the simple warmth of a meal shared, of song joined, of peace passed. We all need the intimacy of being human together, of being family, even with those we have only just met.
In the coming days, I invite you to reflect on invitation and hospitality. Take time to notice who in your lives may be feeling the complexity of this season acutely—perhaps someone newly alone, or a neighbor overwhelmed by the demands of work and family, or a coworker struggling with the point of doing it all, day after day. Who will it be? Who will you invite in? See if perhaps they want to step off the moving walkway towards Christmas for a bit and sink into Advent here on a Sunday morning. Or if they’d be up for a bowl of soup on Wednesday. Ask if maybe they wouldn’t like to come close to the mystery on Christmas Eve, to join in for the song and wonder and light. The thing is, we are here, holding this gift of community and of Emmanuel, God with us, because someone invited us. Whether we were invited to visit All Souls, or whether someone invited us to come in deeper after we arrived, the offering and accepting of that invitation is part of the journey. It is a mighty gift you have to offer. Do so freely. Invite with wild abandon. We’ll be here, ready, with bells on.
Laudato Si’, Mi’ Signore
On Wednesday evening, November 11, sixteen All Soulsians and friends participated in a Climate Action Group sponsored discussion of the Pope’s Encyclical Letter, “Laudato Si: On the Care of Our Common Home.” In 157 pages, the Pope has presented a complete prescription, in terms to which each of us can relate, on how we human beings can live our lives in harmony on this planet.
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place November 30th – December 11th in Paris. The Conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.
In advance of the scheduled international conference, Pope Francis issued his Encyclical, directed not specifically to his Catholic family, but to those of every faith, and in truth, to all nations. “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.”
In the Preface to his Letter, Pope Francis credits many of his forebears, and perhaps most importantly Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. He writes:
For human beings…to destroy the biodiversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air and its life—these are sins….to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.
Overarching the entire Letter and the discussion is the concept that “everything is interconnected and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others. …the same mindset that stands in the way of making decisions to eliminate the trend of global warming stands in the way of eliminating human poverty.”
We cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to the causes related to human degradation.” So begins the section on the poor, a section which lays out in detail the way the developed countries have been so successful in many respects by exploitation of the developing world. And the solution: “When we talk of ‘environment,’ what we really mean is the relationship between nature and the society which lives in it…Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of that society, its workings, its economy, its behavior patterns and the ways it grasps reality. (My emphasis.)
Pope Francis, while recognizing the importance of many technological advances, expresses skepticism about technology that becomes an end in itself, especially when it appears to be more for profit than for the common good. “Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic… Some circles maintain that current economic and technological changes will solve all environmental problems, and argue in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.”
The Pope doesn’t let any of us off the hook. The Encyclical Letter shows serious concern about “compulsive consumerism.” The current global situation engenders a feeling of instability and uncertainty, which in turn becomes a seedbed for collective selfishness.” In the face of all of these challenges, however, Francis offers hope and encouragement, founded firmly on Christian faith. Believers “need to be encouraged to be ever open to God’s grace and to draw constantly from their deepest convictions about love, justice, and peace.” He goes on to say that ”no system can completely oppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts.”
After hearing Pope Francis address the entire Congress of the United States during his recent visit, one might wonder if this amazingly inclusive document was especially written for us, living as we do “in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Following the violence in Paris and across our country, it is of the utmost importance that we take Fr. Phil’s recent sermon to heart, to “stay the path” and encourage one another, holding onto the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”
The next meeting of the Environmental Team will take place in January and will feature a report from Mark Richardson, the president and dean of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, who will be in attendance at the Paris Climate Change Conference.
– Margaret Sparks, Member, All Souls Climate Action Group
Cal Study Hall at St. Mark’s
Over the course of the week prior to exams, the libraries on Cal’s campus fill with students (along with their sleeping bags and toasters), and the cafés across Berkeley quickly turn into well-caffeinated study joints. And yet, despite having several libraries and a multitude of cafés, it remains nearly impossible to find – and keep – a spot.
It was this exact situation I found myself in last spring, where for the third time that week I had lost my seat in the library. Fed up, I decided to test out the study hall hosted by Saint Mark’s, and after one day of studying upstairs in their parish hall, I was hooked. I came back the following day and was welcomed by Donn and Alda Morgan. They each took such an interest in my studies, and made certain I had everything I required to power through the long hours. The quiet, uncrowded space with its warm and welcoming ambiance made it an ideal studying environment (the unlimited, FREE supply of coffee and tea didn’t hurt in creating that environment, either). The support and appreciation expressed by Saint Mark’s parishioners towards Cal students was refreshing and unbelievably heart warming.
If you find yourself in search of a quiet place to study for exams, stop by Saint Mark’s, and see for yourself what a blessing the Study Hall can be.
The Details for Supporters:
For the past few years St. Mark’s has provided a study space for UC students in the week prior to examinations and half of exam week itself. We have done this because there is not enough space on campus for students to study. We provide a quiet room, internet connections, coffee, tea, and snack type food. This ministry, begun by a UC student and member of St. Mark’s, has provided our parish with a chance to serve an important part of our community, bringing pleasure and satisfaction to those who give and who receive.
This year we thought it would be good to share opportunities for this ministry with All Souls. The times of the Study Hall are December 7th – 16th from noon to 10:00 pm, except on the weekend (December 12th – 13th) when the hours are 2:00 – 8:00 pm. It takes place in the Parish Hall of St. Mark’s. If you would be interested in serving as a monitor at the door or a monitor of the Study Hall, please be in touch with Donn Morgan and he can let you know what’s involved and needed. Most folks volunteer for a couple of hours or more.
If you want to participate in this service by bringing snacks for Cal students, it is simple to do: bring food—homemade or “boughten”—to the parish hall kitchen on a day when the study hall is scheduled, i.e., December 7th – 16th. Savory snacks or sweets or fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers are all very welcomed. In the past, we’ve had leftovers to share with others beside the students. And, please, identify yourself when you contribute so we know whom to thank. Please be in touch with Alda Morgan if you have questions about food.
Thank you for considering this ministry to Cal students at this important time in their school year. It will be good to have St. Mark’s and All Souls work together in this.
– Donn Morgan, President Emeritus of Church Divinity School of the Pacific and St. Mark’s parishioner
Traces of the Trade
December 5, 5:00 – 9:00 pm.
What does it mean to grapple with the racism that surrounds us? How does the past inflect the present? In Traces of the Trade, Episcopal divinity student and film producer Katrina Browne tells the story of her forefathers, the deWolf family, the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. The film follows Browne and nine fellow family members as they retrace the triangle trade together- and begin to think about how to address legacies of racial violence in the present. This December, Dain Perry, who made the journey with Browne, arrives at All Souls to offer a screening and discussion. This will be a rich, unforgettable night. Join us for dinner and a movie as we discuss both the problem of racism- past and present- and our hopes for reconciliation and repair. Food, film, and discussion to follow.
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. On December 6th, we’ll be gathering much needed supplies for YEAH! (Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing), which supports young adults who are homeless in Berkeley. Please bring:
– new socks
– new women’s underwear
– new men’s boxers and boxer briefs
– new packs of T-shirts
Advent Adult Formation Classes
Classes meet on Sundays at 10:10 am. This session includes “A Prayer Clinic – Learn to Use Your Imagination,” led by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel and “Faith and Politics,” led by Dr. Scott MacDougall, a visiting professor at CDSP, beginning December 6th. Read the full course descriptions here. Bible Workbench also continues.
As we continue to explore the meaning of this season through the lens of the Advent wreath, on Wednesday December 9th we will reflect on the symbolism of the wreath’s greenery. The vibrant boughs woven together bring into our homes a glimpse of the wildness, complexity, aliveness, fragility, and resilience of the natural world of which we are part, and into which God is born. While leaders from 190+ countries convene in Paris to plan next steps for a planet in peril, and ads flood our mail and screens and billboards equating Christmas with Consumption, Jesse Tichenor will guide us in reconnecting with the wisdom of ecology evident in Creation. Drawing on our own and each others stories, Jesse will invite us to re-imagine our place in the unfolding of life on earth, and what it can mean to prepare the way for God’s coming. We’ll begin with a soup supper at 6:30 pm and end with Compline at 8:00 pm.
Soup for Our Advent Suppers
We will need five people each week to make soup, bring bread, and help set up for our soup suppers 9th and 16th. It’s always a treat to taste the variety of soups made by our wonderful parish cooks. So if you’re willing to participate by bringing a pot of soup for 12 or picking up a loaf of bread or helping to get ready for the supper, please sign up at the Google spreadsheet or contact Sheryl Fullerton.
Phoenixes Game Night
20s and 30s are invited to a holiday themed game night, December 12th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm on the first floor of the Parish House. Bring your favorite games, snacks and drinks. RSVP to Emily Hertz if you plan to come.