From the Rector

Looking for the Dawn

The blue candles in the wreath on our table are very tall. Each night of prayers seems to yield little. Seen from this perspective (especially that of a small human), being not even one full week into the season of Advent, we have an impossibly long way to go, there is yet a lot of candle to burn.

But this long way to go is not about the number of shopping daze until Christmas. It is about the sense of anticipation, of active waiting, of longing that marks this season. Some of this may have to do with our placement on the globe. These short days and long, dark nights impose their own force on our lives, almost compelling us to retreat inward. It makes introspection and longing for light that much more visceral.

For many, though, these questions of waiting and deep longing have taken a particular form in the past few months and especially in the past week. As the decisions of the grand juries to not indict after the deaths at the hands of police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York have reverberated around the country, with them has come grief, disappointment, lament, anger, and confusion. And in all of this, a deep sense of longing for what is wrong to be righted has resurged. How long, Lord? How long will it take? For many it feels like we have been in this wilderness for so long that the coming of light can seem impossible.

In her book, Reading Jesus, Mary Gordon frames the Resurrection as, “the possibility of possibility.” Now, more so than many times in recent memory, as Christians in this nation, we need to be directing our attention, our sustained energies, our prayer and our action, to the possibilities for restoration in this country. As Bishop Baxter wrote last week, we cannot let despair or cynicism rule our hearts, for neither destruction nor indifference will bring us closer to living in righteousness.

To do this we must be willing to examine our assumptions: those that we each hold close to our hearts, and those that we hold corporately that undergird our justice system, and in both cases begin the work of reformation. In all, it will be critical for us to really listen, to truly engage and to direct our very beings to the possibilities that are present and are long-awaited. This was one of the great gifts of the Civil Rights Movement, a belief that through time, effort, prayer, patience and sustained action, that a new day is possible, that we can overcome the injustices and inequities that surround us.

Though it may seem as if this darkness will stretch out in front of us forever, our story, lived over decades and over centuries, tells us that even the longest night is broken by the light of dawn. It will take myriad forms of prayer and action, but the truth that Martin King spoke of, that the long arc of the universe bends towards justice, is true. And it is time yet again to act on our longing for the coming of the Light. In the weeks and months and years ahead, I ask for God’s presence and guidance in the prayers of our hearts and hands that it may be so.


Advent in Photos

Advent is in full swing at All Souls! Soak in some of the beauty and delight of our Advent Festival this past Sunday. The church was packed, the music was contagious, cookies, glitter, and wreath-makings were flying free and wild, and hearts were full.

Gathering in darkness and song to wait and watch.

A great many voices join the strain.

The Parish Hall bursting with energy as people meet to share merriment.

We made wreaths…

… and more wreaths…

And the glitter will stay with us all for years to come.

Arts at All Souls

Bring in the New Year with a Roar!

We have an 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. In addition to representing the first gathering of our multitudes to celebrate the New Year, we get to do it with a delightful twist… This is your opportunity to share in the impromptu and unrehearsed reading of a play. Those of you who have always dreamed of being a Star… but who NEVER, EVER would be caught DEAD on a stage “for real”, now have the opportunity to live your fantasy on Day #1 of 2015. There are big roles, there are small roles; there are even (literally speaking) spear carriers… since the play we have selected is none other than The Mouse That Roared.

Originally a 1955 Cold War satirical novel by Irish American writer Leonard Wibberly about an imaginary country in Europe called the “Duchy of Grand Fenwick,” it was so successful that it launched a 6-part serial in the Saturday Evening Post called “The Day New York was Invaded.” In 1959, it was turned into a film, created as a vehicle for Peter Sellers, who played 3 of the roles. In 1963, it was adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel, set in the 1960’s, restoring the cast to its characters as originally conceived.

The Plot: Facing bankruptcy when a winery in California’s San Rafael creates a knock-off of their Pinot Grand Fenwick, upon which their whole subsistence depends, Grand Fenwick decides to declare war upon the United States. Reminded of he U.S. policy of restoring their enemies to health once they have been defeated (as with the Germans in the Marshall Plan following WWII,) the ruling Council feels confident that they will lose, and that their economy will once again boom. And so, with bows and arrows, they attack New York… but to their horror, they win! How they win and what ensues is to be revealed this New Year’s Day.

This play lists 13 men and 16 women. There are roles for people of all ages, including delightful opportunities for teens and young adults. As many as want to read can, but equally as important, is that we will all be gathering in community to bring in the New Year with festivity and laughter. We need people to laugh and cheer as well as to read… and definitely to eat!

Interested Readers: Please contact Hallie Frazer so I can assign roles in advance with attention to balance. This way, you won’t be carrying on a whole conversation with yourself as 2 different characters within the same scene.

I will be working with the Parish Life team to make this a ROARING success. More information will follow, so keep an eye out for announcements. Mark your calendars: January 1, 2015, 5:30 potluck dinner and 6:30 reading.

In Peace,
Hallie Frazer

Welcoming New Members

Rebecca Palmer
I was reintroduced to All Souls by Gloria Bayne early this summer. I grew up in a rural country town in Alabama and always wanted to grow up so I could leave. We lived on a farm and were too isolated for friends to visit regularly. My husband and I came to California in 1965 and really like living in the Bay Area. I recently retired after 49 years of working and am enjoying filling my days with interesting classes, good library books and films and delightful cooking with America’s Test Kitchen recipes. I have joined the Sacristans at All Souls and have recently begun the training.

Lisa Berndt
Growing up in an Air Force family with Texas roots, I got to move around every 1-4 years, spending formative years on Oahu, the DC area, Texas, Tidewater area of Virginia and North Carolina. This gave me a love for place and an enthusiasm for difference and heritage and how different cultural legacies intersect in painful and beautiful ways. It also left me with a persistent case of homesickness. I came to beautiful (and “Godless” according to my Texas loved ones) California for what I thought would be a summer back in 1981 and so far I haven’t gotten my orders to relocate, but visit my far-flung family as often as I can.

I was shaped as a child by the rich language and ritual (including stale coffee and tuna casseroles with potato chips on top) in the Episcopal Church, but wandered away in my adolescent discontent with institutions and myself I no longer trusted. I returned to churches along the way for the next 3 decades or so, but felt I had to cross my fingers at the creed and would often leave feeling angry at some outrageous claim or judgment of certainty I had heard there. Exposure to 12-step recovery gave me a way back to my knees, and I followed a series of spiritual breadcrumbs to Grace Cathedral 7 years ago. I also met several All Souls folks along the way, and was intrigued by and the genuineness, liveliness, conviction and joy they conveyed. So I finally got my nerve to venture into the early service for a chance to worship anonymously, but the warmth and enthusiasm of that congregation and the easy camaraderie of the Bible Workbench that followed thwarted my anonymity thing in short order. I love the quiet in the early morning, and then the camaraderie of Bible Workbench. At the Easter vigil I discovered the magnificent – and wonderfully SINGABLE – music and I am now hooked on that so often drop in on other services to soak up sustenance I can hum through the week. I also love formation opportunities at 10:10, so I seem to be developing an escalating habit. At every event and forum, I am touched by the quality of welcome, the respect for history and tradition, and the gifts that people share in co-creating NEW traditions. What excites me most about being part of All Souls is the way I keep being surprised and delighted with the rich, inclusive variety of ways of engaging the divine in community and trying to engage with modern problems and dilemmas in a frank honest, ever questioning way. I love how injustices are named and confronted and I am challenged to see my part in perpetuating and healing those problems. And I love that there is a lot of room for laughter here.

On weekdays, my work life has me doing play therapy and narrative work at the Center for the Vulnerable Child in Oakland, and I have a small private practice as well.

As for other interests, I love to hike, go to movies, see plays, listen to music, see dance, and learn. In my apartment you will find shelves full of the books that may represent more of who I wish I were than who I actually am: theology, humor, poetry, American history, especially histories of racism and accounts of justice work. Instead of reading these books, or keeping up with even the cartoons from the New Yorker to which I stubbornly subscribe, though, I’m usually trying to catch up on basic maintenance and every day chores and love TV far more than I like to admit. I do cherish the spiritual sustenance I get from Jon Stewart and Doctor Who.

As an introvert who believes in community, I am so grateful to all the people who make All Souls so accessible and irresistible, and I look forward to growing here in reverence and just the right amount of happy irreverence.


Interfaith Immigration Vigil
Join the faithful from around the East Bay as we hold vigil at the West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway in Richmond, on Saturday December 6 from 11am – Noon. All Souls is leading the monthly vigil in December, in which we sing, pray, and hear testimony from family members and friends of those held inside, or from recently released immigrants awaiting hearings. The Angel Band will be present and children are most welcome to join. For help arranging for carpools, contact Margaret Sparks.

Advent In-Gathering
On December 7, please bring new pajamas (for men, women and children of all ages), and unused toiletries to support Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), which assists homeless families seeking shelter, food, clothing and support.

Wednesday Advent Series
“Be Still, Come Close”
December 10 & 17
Led by Daniel Prechtel and Stephen Southern
6:30 soup supper, 7 – 8:30 p.m. program
Explore the fascinating, deeply personal, and also communal Christian practice of spiritual discernment. We all face major life decisions and questions of direction. What foundation and movements help us do this faithfully and prayerfully? Each week, we will focus on a particular setting for seeking God’s desire and direction: personal situations, family and community issues, and the larger social/global context.

Loaves and Fishes
Loaves and Fishes is a way to connect with All Souls community in a smaller, more intimate group by sharing meals together in parishioners’ homes. There are two meals in December:
Saturday, December 6th at 6p at Darlena David and Titus George’s home, please RSVP to Toni Borgfeldt.
Saturday, December 13th at 5:30p at Vimala & George Tharisayi’s home, please RSVP to Gloria Bayne.

The Bishop is Coming!
Bishop Marc Andrus will be visiting all three services at All Souls on December 14th, and will be confirming and receiving All Soulsians at the 7:30 and 11:15 services.

Phoenixes (20s and 30s Group) Caroling at Kyakameena Nursing Home
On Sunday, December 14, the Phoenixes will be meeting at Kyakameena Nursing Home from 2 – 3:15pm to enjoy some fellowship and spread some holiday cheer. Bring your voice and any instruments you may have. Please let Emily Hertz or Linden Rayton know if you plan on attending. Carpools are available.

Christmas Pageant
Christmas will be here before we know it! Our pageant will be during the 4pm service on Christmas Eve. Parents, please sign your kids and youth up to participate by designating their preferred roles on this form. Please sign up by this Sunday! Adults who are able to help with the pageant will meet for an hour this Sunday beginning at 12:30pm. Please RSVP by texting or calling Carolyn at 917.957.6978, or by email.

Rehearsals for this year’s Christmas Pageant will be held at the following times:
December 14th 12:30-2pm (speaking roles)
December 21st 12:30-2pm (speaking roles)
December 23rd 12:30-2pm (Dress Rehearsal – all roles)

Help with Hospitality
Hospitality Ministry is seeking new team members. Please consider joining one the friendly teams of people who provide a warm, welcoming place for members, guests, and strangers on Sundays and for special events. We work in teams and the time commitment is for one shift one Sunday a month.
The shifts are:
Shift 1- 8:15 – 8:55‎
Shift 2 – 9:30 – 10: 00‎
Shift 3 – 12:00 – 1:00
Contact Renae Breitenstein for details by email or phone: 925-381-1680 or talk with one of the members on Sunday.

Winter Book Group with the Urban Peace Collaboration
Please join the Urban Peace Collaboration, a grassroots justice‐focused initiative in the Diocese of California, for a reading and reflection group on mass incarceration and racism. The group is a six‐week discussion group that runs from 6:30 to 8:30pm on Thursdays, beginning on January 8th and concluding on February 12th. It will be held in the sanctuary of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, on the corner of 9th and Hearst in Berkeley. Participants will be reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, reflecting on racism and our system of mass incarceration in the United States, and our call to action as people of faith. The group will be co‐facilitated by Rev. Sylvia Miller‐Mutia (from St. Gregory’s in San Francisco) and Em Kianka, intern and organizer for the Urban Peace Collaboration. A more detailed description of the group and its schedule can be found here. On the bottom of that page, folks who are interested in joining or receiving more information can enter their contact information. The organizers ask that anyone who is interested in attending please fill out that form so they can anticipate the size of our group, and also contact you with information about their first meeting.”