From the Rector
A Way in the Wilderness
Sometimes we enter the wilderness on purpose. Other times we are forced into it. For many of us, this past year has been the latter. We have found ourselves in an unfamiliar, harsh landscape and our time spent in isolation, uncertainty, loss, and lament has stretched before us to the horizon, with seemingly no end in sight.
In one of our staff planning meetings for Lent recently, our Associate for Music, Jamie Apgar, spoke movingly of this time that we are experiencing collectively, and connected it to the metaphor of wilderness, one that we explore every year on the first Sunday of Lent when Jesus enters the wilderness following his baptism in the Jordan.
The experience of being in the wilderness is one that pervades our sacred stories. Because as challenging as the wilderness is for us, it is also a place of transformation. It’s where Moses has his theophanic encounter with the bush that was on fire but not consumed, where Elijah heard the still, small voice of God (or a silent sound depending on the translation), and where Jesus contends with the Tester.
The transformation that can take place in the wilderness is not simply personal. The People of God, having escaped Pharaoh become themselves through the travails of those proverbial forty years. People don’t leave the wilderness the same as when they entered it.
One experience that I have had of the wilderness, both proverbial and literal, has been the absence of familiar markers, the tried and true ways that I usually orient myself. In the landscape of the wilderness it is hard to know where next to turn because the places of rest and safety are not readily visible.
With that in mind, in this most unusual of Lents, we thought that we’d offer a guide through this wilderness, a kit for practice in this time. This Sunday, February 14th, from 12:30p to 2p, come to the Spruce Street steps to pick up your Lent kit, or email me, Emily or Maggie if you need it to be delivered. In each kit you’ll find ashes for the Ash Wednesday services (7a said on Zoom, 12n with music on Zoom, and 7:30 Eucharist livestream), a prayer card for this season (of this year and of our lives), and a clay cross to keep with you as you walk these forty days.
And this year, since gathering in person for soup and stories isn’t possible, we are inviting different All Soulsians to be companions with us for this time in the wilderness. Each day of Lent (except Sundays, as they are feast days), we are inviting all who wish to reflect together on an aspect of metanoia, of changing our hearts and minds. To begin that reflection each day an All Soulsian will be offering their own experience of that particular question––through word, image, music or other creative medium.
So my counsel is this. Set aside a time each day for this reflection as we continue our time in the wilderness. It could be at the start of the day, at lunch, at the end of the school or workday, or at the close of the day. My own experience is that when I don’t create the space for prayer, it doesn’t usually happen.
Create the regular space for reflection and prayer, day by day let’s find the markers that All Soulsians are leaving for each other and together we will make our way through this wilderness.
Notes on Ash Wednesday
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Since the 1979 Book of Common Prayer introduced these words to accompany the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, they have become deeply meaningful for many Episcopalians. It’s common for the ashes to be marked on the forehead not just with a smudge, but with the sign of the cross.
This year, with the restrictions required during the pandemic, we cannot gather at the corner of Cedar and Spruce for the solemn penitential beginning of the forty-day Lenten fast. Nor can we take the ashes to street corners or BART stations, offering them to passers-by as “ashes to go.”
Digging into our liturgical history offers perspective that may allow us to imagine new possibilities, to find other ways that will enable us to draw close to God as we begin the Lenten journey to the cross and the empty tomb.
The origins of Lent are twofold: a season of preparation of candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil, and a period of penitence for those who had committed notorious sins. The ashes of Ash Wednesday are connected with the latter, ashes being an ancient sign of penitence and mourning (see, for example, Job 42:6 and Jeremiah 6:26). But the earliest ritual texts for the enrollment of penitents make no mention of ashes. Some scholars think it possible that penitents may have imposed ashes upon themselves.
In the first recorded use of ashes in the liturgy, in Germany in the tenth century, ashes were sprinkled on the penitents, who were then dismissed from the assembly for their Lenten penitence. The first record of imposing ashes on the entire congregation appears in England during the eleventh century. By the end of that century, the pope directed that ashes be sprinkled on everyone as part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.
The historical evidence for the development of Ash Wednesday is fragmentary and tangled. Nonetheless, several aspects of this history are worth noting for our practice today:
First, ashes are not essential to the liturgy that marks the beginning of Lent. They were not part of the liturgy until well into the Middle Ages, and they were not included in the prayer books of the Episcopal Church until 1979.
The method of imposing ashes has varied. Sprinkling the ashes over the faithful seems to have been the earliest practice. Later, in monastic communities, ashes were smeared on the crown of a tonsured monk (that is, the bald spot at the top of the head). Eventually, it became common to make the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead of all Christians.
Finally, the person giving the ashes has varied. The earliest practice seems to be a self-ashing, probably prior to the liturgy. When imposition of ashes was incorporated into the liturgy, it is likely that the priest administered the ashes. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer, however, says simply, “The ashes are imposed,” without specifying who is to administer them. All Soulsians both lay and clergy have provided ashes as part of Ashes to Go.
In short, Christian history offers a range of possibilities for the use of ashes on this Ash Wednesday. Liturgical scholar and bishop J. Neil Alexander has suggested that sprinkling ashes, whether on ourselves or on our household, may remind us of the dirt sprinkled on our mortal remains at the grave, and so invite us to ponder our mortality. Imposing ashes on the forehead with the sign of the cross, either for ourselves or for family members, may call to mind the sign of the cross made at our baptism.
Ashes will be available. What practice will best remind you of your mortality and enable you to turn to God with a humble and contrite heart?
-Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers
Radically different, but not less real.
In 2017 I wrote in my Ash Wednesday article for the Pathfinder:
Following Jesus can be excruciating. In John we hear that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Yeah. I get that.
I was writing about our adventures with Ashes on the Way, sharing ashes with folks in the community who couldn’t get to church. Ash Wednesday brings up a lot of emotions: it did then, and this year it does even more. In the middle of the pandemic all our traditions have had to morph and change. This year I will only be able to make a cross of ashes on my own forehead, and maybe on the foreheads of my family members. We will be taking kits with ashes to our friends at the 8th and Harrison encampment, but the experience will be radically different.
Radically different, but not less real. Whether you get a kit with ashes this year, or you substitute earth for ash, the visible sign on your forehead will be a sign of remembering and reminder of the season we are entering into. Whether you make the cross for yourself, or whether it is made for you by someone you wouldn’t normally expect to receive it from, it will be powerful.
I’m nervous about this new experience of Ash Wednesday, but then again, this day always makes me nervous. Venturing out to talk to strangers about death and engage in ritual on the street is daunting. I learn something every year and am certain I will this year.
I closed my Pathfinder article in 2017, after talking about the challenges we encountered, with this:
Ash Wednesday is now not just one of my favorite days, it is my very favorite day. We are asked to struggle, and reflect, and acknowledge our sins. The days when it’s hard and confusing to be a Christian do more for my faith than the days when it’s purely joyous. Welcome to Lent.
As we continue to find ways to practice our faith that are new and surprising, I am confident that the core remains. I look forward to the learning we will all do together as the start of Lent approaches. Fast.
Shrove Tuesday Fun
Hello All Soulsians!
This coming Tuesday, February 16th is Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday. I’ve heard from more than a few All Soulsians that the Shrove Tuesday Pancake and Jambalaya feast is one of the most anticipated events of the year at All Souls, so I couldn’t imagine letting the day come and go without a little bit of fun and excitement.
First, I’ve included the famous All Souls Open Door Dinner Jambalaya Recipe below (don’t worry it’s adapted to serve only 6 people) so that you can make it at home if you’d like.
Second, the pancake part of the Pancake supper. Get out your camera phone and put on your foodie influencer hat, because we are having not one, but two pancake related photo competitions! There will be two prizes awarded: Highest Pancake Stack and Best Pancake Art.
Here are the rules:
To win the Prize of Highest Pancake Stack you must: have the highest stack of pancakes! This will be measured in physical height, not in the number of pancakes (so all you crepe lovers out there will have to deal!) To enter the competition, send a photo of your pancake stack along with something next to it for scale to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12:00pm on Wednesday 2/17. Here’s the fine print: The entire pancake stack must be consumed by the person submitting the photo, as we don’t want food to be wasted in the name of victory.
To win the Prize of Best Pancake Art you must: have the most original pancake art design! Pretty simple really. This can be pancake sculpture, you can use food coloring and make designs, you can use toppings to decorate, however the spirit moves you. To enter the competition, send a photo of your original pancake art to email@example.com by 12:00pm on Wednesday 2/17. An expert panel of judges will crown a winner.
All competitors are also highly encouraged to share photos on All Soulsians Facebook group as they work on their pancake masterpieces.
Winners will be announced in the Soulcast next week, and in the Pathfinder.
I’m looking forward to being with you all in person next year and experiencing what makes this day so special at All Souls, but I’m always grateful to be stacking pancakes on this journey with you all even from a distance.
All Souls’ Famous Open Door Jambalaya
adapted for a smaller crowd: serves 6
4 slices bacon, sliced into 1” pieces
8 oz Andouille sausage, sliced into ½” rounds
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ lb tail-on shrimp (raw or cooked)
2-4 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, seeded & chopped fine
2 cups long-grain rice
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken, vegetable or shrimp stock
½ tsp ground thyme or a few springs fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (if you have it! the ODD chefs swear by it, but you can still make the recipe without)
salt & pepper to taste
- Brown Meats: Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until not quite crisp, remove from pot and set aside. Add sliced sausages to pot and cook until browned. Remove and set aside. Add chicken breasts to pot and brown on both sides. Remove chicken & set aside.
- Sauté Veggies: If your pot seems to need it, add 2 tsp olive oil and lower heat to medium. Sauté onions, celery, bell pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rice to pot and cook, stirring, until rice is translucent, about 2 minutes. Season with thyme, bay leaf, Worcestershire, Cajun seasoning (if using), and salt & pepper to taste. Add canned tomatoes and stock; bring to a boil. Stir in sausages & bacon, nestle in the chicken breasts. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through and liquid is mostly absorbed, about 15 minutes.
- Finish Jambalaya: Remove chicken from pot to a cutting board. Add shrimp to pot and stir through; cover and cook until shrimp are pink and cooked through. When chicken is cool enough to work with, cut into ½” pieces and return to the pot. Add a splash more stock if your jambalaya seems too dry, adjust seasonings.
Reflections from the Vestry Retreat
Unlike years past, the first evening of the Vestry retreat did not start with getting lost on a dark and stormy night on the way to St. Dorothy’s. Instead as we all tumbled into Friday night’s Zoom session, seasoned members mused over the convenience of Zoom and made rosy plans to prep dinner together at next year’s retreat. The warm, familial tone struck me immediately and remained throughout the weekend. I felt like a new family member getting a quick taste of what it meant to be in this family: kindness, humor, and generosity are paramount. Over the next 24 hours, we made our way though discussions about our conflict communication styles and stage of development in intercultural skills. Through it all, I noticed more values that this family holds dear: curiosity, lifelong learning, and the determination to authentically wrestle with sticky questions (some of which may point to our own failings). What a gift! I’m grateful all over again to serve with leaders willing to do the hard, yet joyous, work to make Church together within our little vestry band, for our parish, and for the wide — and ever wider — community.
This year’s Vestry retreat had a very different feel than my first one last year. Because we had to meet via Zoom instead of in person, I did miss the relationship building that comes from sharing of meals and walking in the woods. But even in a virtual setting, the opportunity to learn together and reflect together was engaging and surprising. Together with the clergy and vestry of both Christ Church in Alameda and St. Columba’s in Kent, Washington, we dove into an exploration of how we can recognize and talk about cultural differences. A key first step was recognizing that we all live within a culture, but the values and assumptions that underlie the way we speak, the foods we eat, the way we dress are so often unspoken that teasing them out can be as difficult as a fish trying to explain water.
In particular, I found learning about the Intercultural Development Continuum fascinating. Prior to the retreat, we each completed an assessment on how we engage with cultural differences. We then learned about a continuum that ranged from a monocultural mindset to an intercultural mindset. Do we miss or judge differences across cultures? Do we minimize cultural differences? Do we accept them? Can we build a bridge across those differences and adapt our own practices? A snapshot of our group’s aggregrated responses to the assessment gave us a clear nudge: we’re not as expansive and intercultural as we hoped we might be. Fortunately, there are tools we can use to build our skills. One more thought that has been lingering with me: how might our understanding of being “one body in Christ” over the years prevented us from recognizing and welcoming differences across culture? I appreciate that the retreat gave us a framework from which we can develop our skills in approaching and viewing difference, so critical as we work on dismantling racism and building a more just and equitable Church.
Sunday Mornings: Join us at 9am on Zoom for what was our outdoor, courtyard worship service. Or (and!) join us for the live stream of Sunday’s 11:15 service, which can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning.
Wednesday Mornings: 9:00am PDT
Join the Zoom call here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86087951049?pwd=THNxbjlqMm5zdjc5RGNLWkFrZk16QT09
Meeting ID: 860 8795 1049 Password: 520218
Thursday Night Compline: 8:30pm PDT
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78630294068?pwd=cmdoenJYRWUwR2J6QkhxSHNsakt0UT09
Meeting ID: 786 3029 4068
7:30am Bible Study
This group of 9-13 regulars is still meeting regularly. We are open for anyone else seeking an early morning Bible study with rotating facilitators. In order to receive the Zoom link sent out each Saturday, just email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the list.
Reading Between the Lines Bible Study Contact Daniel Prechtel, email@example.com, to join that Zoom call at 10:10am.
Things We Trust and Ways We Know Exploring the Interface of Theology and the Natural Sciences taught by the Rev. Mark Richardson on Zoom at 10:10a February 7 & 14.
One of the classic issues of our culture has been navigating the relationship between knowledge and wisdom we trust, but which comes from vastly different sources. As people of faith, we trust, for example, in God as known to us in Jesus. And, on the other hand, we trust in the practical efficacy of technologies based in science, and by implication, its progressive pathways in theory and knowledge. On the face of it, these two domains seem so different. Are they in conflict? Are they both real but so vastly different as to be unrelatable domains? Should we look for coherence across these domains? We will explore these questions in survey on February 7, and look at a case study on February 14.
Mark Richardson is President and Dean of Church Divinity School of the Pacific. An Episcopal priest, scholar, lecturer and theologian, he has written extensively on faith, science, and evolution. He was founder and director of the Science and Spiritual Quest Project of the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Missed the previous week’s class?? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be recording all of the Adult Formation offerings and loading them to the Adult Formation page of our website. Click here to get there and access the class recordings.
Children, Family & Youth News
Children’s Chapel meets Sundays via Zoom at 10:10! The theme for Show & Tell this week is shiny things. Bring something bright and shiny! If you’d like to receive updates about this, but do not subscribe to the Family Bulletin, please email Maggie Foote (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Kid’s Book Club meets Wednesdays at 4:00pm on Zoom. We’re reading The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson. Hope to see you there!
Youth group resumes meeting every other Sunday at 7:00pm via Zoom. Our next meeting will be this Sunday, February 14th. Hope to see you all there, and if you have a young person in your household in grades 6-12, and do not receive updates about Youth Group events, please email Maggie at email@example.com to be added to the list!
Other News & Notes
Lenten art for the reredos
Arts at All Souls is working on a collaborative art project for the reredos for the season of Lent, and would love to have your input and ideas. If you’re interested in being involved in this project, join the Zoom call this Saturday at 10:00am. Password: K6TD15
Sunday Small Group Reflections
If you’re interested in joining a small group for reflection related to the Daily Lenten Prompts, please fill out this Google Form to let us know your time preference.
Check out the Special Lenten Episode of the Soulcast!
Stephen Ministry: We are here for you!
2020 was a challenging year, right?! Most of us have been struggling and overwhelmed. You are not alone. Stephen Ministers understand and are available to listen, support and pray for you. We can offer you a confidential caring relationship or an occasional phone call to help you through these ever-changing times. Contact Maggie Foote at (513) 309-1079 or Madeline Feeley at (510) 495-4512 so we can be there for you.
Sacred Ground We are launching another round of Sacred Ground groups! What is Sacred Ground? It is a film and article-based dialogue series on race and faith written by the Diocese of the Episcopal church for people looking to examine their notions of race and whiteness. You can read more about the program on the National Diocesan website here. This is the last week to sign-up for a group (it looks like this group will be meeting on Tuesday evenings) and you can sign-up by emailing Maggie, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ongoing Canned Food Drive
The ASP Food Drive continues to pick up and deliver food for the Berkeley Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Food contributors and drivers participate every other week. Please email Cathy: email@example.com for more information.
If you are able to help provide some meals for parishioners in need, please contact Cathy Goshorn to help out! We are in great need at this time to help care for each other––please consider helping other All Soulsians in need by providing meals or gift cards for meals. You can reach Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alameda County Vaccine Information
If you are over 75, you qualify for vaccination! Click here for more information if you need it.
Missed the Annual Meeting?
You can watch the entire meeting here (we’ll leave this up for a couple of weeks and then this link will expire). Or you can simply watch the staff story videos and/or the Jordan Court time lapse videos on our Youtube channel by clicking here.
International Women’s Day Project
We are seeking participants for an audio visual project honoring International Women’s Day, coming up on March 8th. If you are a woman and you have a photo of yourself that shows something you’re proud of or a picture of you showing something about what it means to you to be a woman, I’d like to talk to you about it! Email me at email@example.com for more details.