Phil Brochard headshot2

Keeping Silence

Of the many practices that run counter to our culture at this time of the year, the one that I have found to be most restorative is that of keeping silence. To be clear, keeping silence is not the same as refraining from speaking. Keeping, holding, cultivating silence is an active practice of creating space within one’s self to be still, to be quiet, and to listen.

In my sermon this past Sunday, I preached about finding a space in Creation to do this. But this kind of quiet listening can be practiced just about anywhere. And in a world of increasing noise­­—of pings, rings, and tones, to say nothing of air, car, and train traffic, it is more needed than we realize.

As you may know, for the past several years the College of Congregational Development has been a valuable resource in shaping our practices at All Souls. One of the primary lenses of this curriculum, a model called “Sources of Transformation,” has been particularly revealing for me as I consider the life of this parish.

A revelation of this lens on Christian life is that it points to silence as a source of transformation in a congregation. I find this revelatory in that it is unusual—I don’t know that I’ve come across silence as a source of change in other books, courses, or programs—and because it goes so much against the grain of our contemporary culture.

It is for this reason that for several years now we have kept an extended period of silence after the sermon as part of our Sunday services. Meant for reflection and prayer, this extended silence makes some uncomfortable. What I have found over the course of many Sundays, is that it is often like water on parched earth, sinking in more deeply as the silence grows.

In concert with this act in our worship, this Advent we will be returning to a practice of silence we kept in Lent. This past year, when I visited an Episcopal Church in Kent, Washington, I was stunned by their practice of keeping silence after the Eucharist. Part of what I appreciated was the liturgical symmetry, the chance to take in what has happened after both the Word and the Table. But it also allowed a rich and intentional space to contemplate, and to extend the act Communion.

So for these next few Sundays, after the Eucharist has been shared, and at the later services, after the Communion anthems, chants or hymns have been sung, find a way to be still—sitting, kneeling, or standing. Keep silence with the assembled, take the time to listen for what is waiting to be heard within.



A poem for the first week of Advent

advent star

For Dana: 4th November
—Madeleine L’Engle

The end of the year is here. We are at a new beginning.
A birth has come, and we reenact
At its remembrance the extraordinary fact
Of our unique, incomprehensible being.

The new year has started, for moving and growing.
The child’s laugh within and through the adult’s tears
In joy and incomprehension at the singing years
Pushes us into fresh life, new knowing.

Here at the end of the year comes the year’s springing.
The falling and melting snow meet in the stream
That flows with living waters and cleanses the dream.
The reed bends and endures and sees the dove’s winging.

Move into the year and the new time’s turning
Open and vulnerable and loving and steady.
The stars are aflame; creation is ready.
The day is at hand: the bright sun burns.

On the Ranch

BishopsRanchChapel_125_wideA Place of Sanctuary

After the Bishop’s Ranch retreat for the Board of Directors ended, and the last things were put away, Sean, Aaron, and I went out to meet the neighbors…which is to say, we went for an hour of winetasting at Porter Creek.

The man pouring behind the counter of this small family winery was wearing a CalFire shirt, and when the tasting room was quiet I asked him about the Westside Road arsonist. Yes, unbelievably, someone had been throwing lighted flares from his car up and down Westside Road after the fire crisis, creating more havoc. Jonathan, the man pouring wine for us, was working in the tasting room that day when he noticed a black smoke plume in the hills behind the winery and dashed out to investigate on his motorbike. (He rapidly told the visitors that he was needed and would be back to continue their tasting, and a woman rather cluelessly said to him, “We have come a long way to taste this wine…”) Jonathan found a fire the size of a soccer field burning in the forest and alerted local firefighters. He met them and led them on a winding road to the conflagration, which they then extinguished.  A tourist who witnessed the arsonist at work submitted a picture of his vehicle to police. The arsonist is currently in police custody, according to Jonathan.

The Ranch offered shelter to 18 fire evacuees; some stayed a few days and others stayed a few weeks. Four program retreats were cancelled during the crisis, and the staff fed and looked after the evacuees. On Wednesday, October 11, an evacuation advisory was issued for the outer parts of Healdsburg, and the Ranch staff became even more vigilant. A staff member walked the perimeter of the campus, watching for burning embers and fire danger – once an hour around the clock during the worst of the crisis. The mother of one of the Ranch kitchen staff lost her home in the Geyserville Pocket Fire; it completely burned to the ground. One member of St. George’s Chapel congregation lost a home and sought sanctuary at the Ranch for several weeks. The cousin of a Ranch Board member perished in the fire, and she is remembered at morning and evening prayer.

The Bishop’s Ranch serves the community as a place of healing and sanctuary. In the words of Martin Luther from 1521, “This life is not righteousness but growth in righteousness; not health but healing; not being but becoming; not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not finished but is going on; this is not the end but it is the road.” The Bishop’s Ranch will continue to stretch and offer complimentary sanctuary for the displaced, a place of respite for those suffering unimaginable upheaval in their lives.

Follow this link to see a breathtaking video from Berkeley Fire Engine 6 as our firefighters responded to the Tubbs Fire on the night of October 8th.

– Caroline Putnam

From the Associate for Youth Ministries


Tales from a Middle School Overnight

The College for Congregational Development teaches several models to encourage vitality in churches. The Sources of Transformation Model is one of them. It has four pieces: Life in Community, Prayer and Worship, Study and Learning, and Action. As a church, we celebrate and experience life in community on our Parish Retreat and Big Sur camping weekends. This past Saturday and Sunday, seven middle school students, a few adults, and I lived into this in the middle school overnight!

On Saturday afternoon, we met in the Parish House and enjoyed snacks and foosball. After everyone arrived, we went to Albany Bowl. The youth played arcade games and won some candy while we waited for lanes to open up. Albany Bowl was packed! We fit in a few fun bowling games before going back to the church.

Once we were at All Souls, we took some time to chill. A few folks played giant Jenga. Others played charades, which included Harry Potter characters and dogs. I ordered pizza. After some debate, we watched Home Alone 2. Everyone commented on Donald Trump’s cameo in the film!

Six youth spent the night in the Parish House. Fortunately, there were enough couches that no one had to sleep on the floor! We went to the 9am service on Sunday morning.

Overall, and from what others have said, everyone had fun on the overnight. We played some new games and some old and favorite games. We watched a movie while bundled up in sleeping bags. We ate pizza, fruit, and cereal together. The overnight gave us time to do more than we get to on a Sunday morning or evening.

As with everything in youth ministry, making this overnight happen took a team effort. Many thanks to Blake Harper for volunteering throughout the weekend, and many thanks to Ann Reidy and Jeannie Koops-Elson for driving us to and from the bowling alley!




We have the privilege of bringing gifts each Sunday to be blessed and shared with those who are in need. On the second Sunday of Advent, we will support the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, which was established to provide emergency relief for students striving to successfully earn their degrees from the University of California, many of whom struggle with food insecurity. This SundayDecember 10th, please bring:

·  Canned soups
·  Canned tuna or salmon
·  Shelf-stable milk, soy milk, or almond milk
·  Low-sugar breakfast cereals or hot cereal / oatmeal
·  Rice, grains, or beans


This Advent we are once again keeping our communal practice simple. For the first three Wednesdays in Advent we will be gathering for a soup supper in the Parish Hall at 6:00 pm. At 6:45 pm we will enter a candle-lit church for a Taizé service. Icons will be set up around the space, we will chant, keep silence, hear scripture, and pray. Similar to our 12 noon service on Good Friday, a parishioner will offer a short reflection each week. If you can bring soup or bread, please sign up here.


This Sunday is the last day!

We are looking for four new vestry members, to be elected at the annual meeting in January. The rules: 1. Nominees must be members in good standing, and 2. you may nominate yourself, or someone else, as long as you have their permission. Current vestry members are happy to discuss service on the vestry and answer questions. (Pictures of current members are in the narthex, and names are listed here.) The nomination box is on the counter in the narthex. Happy nominating!