From the Rector
Who We Are
This past weekend the vestry and staff met at St. Dorothy’s Rest for our annual leadership retreat. We organized, we discerned leaders within the group, we gleaned as much from this past year as we could in order to best look to what is to come.
And like some years, we invited someone to lead us in retreat. This year it was the Rev. Brian Taylor, the recently retired Rector of St. Michael’s & All Angels in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In addition to skillfully leading that congregation for over two decades, Brian is also a member of the faculty for CREDO, a week-long program of discernment and reflection that Kristin, Christopher and I have been a part of in years past. I was particularly interested in Brian’s presence with us because, during his long pastorate, St. Michael’s & All Angels successfully negotiated the particular change in size and orientation that All Souls is currently in the midst of.
During our conversations over the course of the retreat, Brian offered us many reflections on the practice of adaptive change. Among them was the reminder that it is for us to plant or sow, but as Paul tells us, it is God who provides the growth. Brian also centered us on our role in helping to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, that it requires an “alchemy of effort and grace.” It is co-creation, requiring us to participate alongside, but not outside, of God.
We talked about communication practices, spiritual practices, structural practices and connective practices. But the element from our time together that has remained with me, both in concept and in practice, was not from our planning for this year. It was the approach that Brian recommended we continue – maintaining our awareness that the “what” of the direction we are headed in is important, but not as important as the “how.” There are many life-giving and faithful ways that we might head in the coming years, he reminded us. But as we engage any of them, what is most essential is the way we do so.
As has been the case for the past several years, it will be with deep consideration, through prayer, in silence, in conversation, through practice and through stillness, remembering our story and staying open to what comes afresh. Rather than attempting quick fixes it will be about deep and abiding change, looking to form holy habits rather than simply relieve symptoms. Again, in the words that Brian offered us, words as true for individuals and families and companies as for churches, he reminded us that, “Over time who we are is more important than what we do.”
So while it is essential that we planned together for the year or two ahead, one of the “hows” that emerged over the course of weekend was the way we were together. The space created within us and within the group as we prayed together, sang together, studied scripture together and played together. By walking in the rain, sitting in silence, working on a jigsaw puzzle, bearing each other’s burdens and playing the game of Life, I witnessed once again the “how” of All Souls Parish. And, that if we continue to pay attention to who (and whose) we are, the rest will be provided.
“A puzzled Vestry finds the solution”
From the Music Department
A Musical Miscellany
I often write about our seasonal changes in music and liturgy, the ways in which we mark the round of feasts and seasons. With Lent coming, of course, the Alleluias take a vacation, but it’s more than that: the whole tone of the liturgies changes. We change service music, sing introits, and generally turn to a more subdued experience of our praise.
But with these smaller changes, we can easily lose track of some of the larger themes of the year. Our readings follow a three-year cycle, with the Gospel readings at their heart. While the Gospel of John appears in all three years at Christmas, Lent, and Easter, it is the first three, the ‘synoptic’ gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that form the bulk of the year.
In year A, which began last Advent, the focus is on Matthew. As I’ve written before, the musical Godspell is a retelling of the Gospel of Matthew, using a contemporary narrative and musical idiom to bring the familiar alive in a new way. We’ve been incorporating music from the show (much of which uses texts which the creators found in the 1940 Hymnal) into our liturgies for some time, including this last Sunday, when the familiar “You are the salt of the earth…” gospel was retold in song.
Music has long been an important part of our Lenten series, as we sing grace before the soup supper, as a transition into the program, and to close the evening with Compline. This year, though, it will take an even more prominent role. We will be journeying through the Gospel of Matthew throughout the five weeks of the series, with Dong Hyeon Jeong leading us through that narrative in five steps. Part of the framing, though, will be the scenes and music from Godspell which illustrate and retell this most Jewish of the Gospels.
I am very excited about bringing the performing arts to bear as a lens for this series, and working with Dong Hyeon on this project. Many of our parishioners have been part of productions of the show in the past, including many of our musicians, all of whom will be getting to know it better as part of this project.
All of that brings me to thanking our musicians as a whole. In perusing the full Annual Report, I was struck by the many ministries that listed all their participants. With all the faithful musicians who are present for rehearsals and liturgies week in and out, especially heading toward Holy Week and Easter, I wanted to take a moment to thank them all.
Harry, Sophia, and Sam Allen; Alisa, Ed, and Inara Hofmann; Jen, Greg, and Miram Joslyn-Siematkoski; Kristin, Zach, and Jasper Krantz; Donnel, Sylvia, Alexandra, Johanna, and Lucia Miller-Mutia; Ally Watts and John Champion
Harry Allen, Jocelyn Bergen, John Chakan, Emily Hertz, Alisa Hofmann, Ross Laverty, Judith Lothrop, Emily Lyon, Caroline Putnam, Sarah Reynolds, Carol Terry
Ed Hofmann, leader; Jocelyn Bergen, John Chakan, Olivia Cope, Luke Haqq, Emily Hertz, Erin Horne, Jen Joslyn-Siematkoski, Myra O’Leary, Caroline Putnam, Linden Rayton, Sarah Reynolds, Joe Rosenmayer, Matt Stimpson, Tess Taylor, Ariane Wolfe, Jennifer Ying
Staff and Other Musicians
Carol Ann Kessler, soprano; Sarita Cannon, soprano; Rafa Postel, trumpet, Tripp Hudgins, banjos, mandolins, and more.
Of course, there’s a lot of overlap among the groups, but there are 38 separate individuals who make music one way or another each week in the Quire (our archaic spelling for the area at the front, to differentiate it from the Choir). And as we head into one of the best parts of the year, we would love to have your voice joining in this great and joyful noise!
Associate for Liturgy and Music
New Adult Formation Classes starting February 16th
The Eucharist: Its Meaning and Practice
Holy Eucharist. The Mass. The Lord’s Supper. The Divine Liturgy. Holy Communion. Christians in many different times and places have gathered to celebrate this ritual with bread and wine. Our practices at All Souls and in the Episcopal Church today build upon centuries of tradition, linking us to Jesus and his disciples and to Christian communities through the ages. In this series of classes, we’ll explore the meaning of the eucharist for us today and discuss some of the ways it has been celebrated and interpreted over the centuries.
February 16: Sunday Eucharist, Then and Now. We’ll begin our study of the Eucharist by looking at one of the oldest descriptions of Sunday Eucharist, from the middle of the second century, and talking about what has changed and what hasn’t since then.
February 23: Biblical Foundations of the Eucharist. At each celebration of the Eucharist, we remember Christ’s words at his Last Supper with his disciples. But scholars today believe that the origins of the Eucharist extend beyond this one event. We’ll explore biblical stories and teaching that provide the foundations for Christian celebration of the Eucharist.
March 2: Meanings of the Eucharist. Over the centuries, Christians have explained the Eucharist in many different ways. How is Jesus present in our celebration? How does our celebration relate to Jesus’ offering of himself? We’ll explore these and many other aspects of the Eucharist.
March 9: Eucharist and Christian Life Today. We’ll conclude our study of the Eucharist with a discussion of the significance of this celebration for daily life.
Remembering Our Personal Story of Faith, and Learning to Share It
On the upcoming Sundays, Feb. 16 & 23, and Mar. 2 & 9, I will be leading a formation class where each of us can explore our own “spiritual autobiography”, and then try-on simple practices for sharing some of our story with others, and inviting them to join us at All Souls. Our model for looking back will be the “Steppingstones” reflection from the Education for Ministry curriculum. Our model for deciding what part of our story to share and how to share it will be the “Public Narrative” framework from Marshall Ganz at the Harvard Kennedy School for Government.
In my experience, there are two really wonderful outcomes to this process. The first is reflection on our relationship with God. We’ll explore how this relationship is known to us through particular people, events, and places in our lives. This intentional time to look back helps us to form meaning and gives us strength in the present. It also gives us a foundation for our hopes for the future.
In my journey towards ministry leadership, I’ve probably written my own spiritual autobiography ten times in the last five years. I’ve used a couple different models, but even when the model is the same, I’m amazed at how my reflections and insights change each time I look back. The framework I’ve chosen for our classes provides entry points for everyone, whether you just found your relationship with God, or are old friends. In the midst of our exciting and busy world, our first class will be a chance to step back for an hour and come close to God by remembering and discovering the Spirit’s surprising movement.
The second wonderful outcome of this process is learning to share our stories of faith. Whether you are a virtuoso conversationalist or master of keeping mum, sharing our stories with intention takes practice. We’ll take time each week to tell some of our story one-to-one with each other. My favorite part of this is that after the spiritual autobiography reflection, it becomes much easier to pick how and when we want to share our story. Whether I share the story of important decisions in my confirmation class, a childhood prayer under the full moon, or my favorite worship experience at All Souls, I get to choose based on what I’m hoping to communicate and what I already know about my story. Our practice with story sharing will be full of grace!
In the second, third, and fourth classes we’ll share stories with personal significance and stories that celebrate All Souls Parish, and then we’ll practice putting these together in such a way that our story can end with an invitation. The invitation comes from your hopes, and we’ll practice choosing what to share based on the invitation we hope to give. Maybe you want to invite a friend to an Open Door Dinner. Maybe to worship and Continuing the Feast. Maybe a fellow parishioner to try out a new ministry. The funny thing about sharing the story of what we most love is that when we get to the end, it just seems natural to invite others to join us! Whatever you practice in formation time, you’ll learn a simple way to share any of your stories.
I hope you’ll join us for this time with God, with each other, and for learning how our stories can become beautiful invitations for others to join us in the Family of families!
From the Parish Life Team
Affinity Groups are Thriving!
As All Souls Parish has grown and as we added another service last fall, one of the concerns frequently expressed has been that people have a harder time keeping up their relationships with church friends. Living into our shape of a network church means we need new ways to facilitate and strengthen the connections (networks) that already exist within the parish. Those strong bonds are part of the “special sauce” that make All Souls the enriching place that it is and allows God to move among us.
To continue and strengthen those bonds, we are excited to invite you to participate in Affinity Groups. Affinity Groups are spaces where people are coming together around common interests or activities; ideally they meet regularly and over time become smaller groups of love, support and prayer within the larger congregation.
A few things to keep in mind:
• Affinity groups are lay led. The nature of the group – activities, frequency of meetings, gathering space, etc. will be established by the leaders and groups themselves.
• Sara Gunter and the Communications team will happily help publicize, encourage, trouble-shoot organizational difficulties, and generally support the affinity groups.
• Groups are open to all. We hope this is a way for old friends to stay connected, for new friendships to be formed and for newcomers to find a niche in the parish.
• Remembering that we are called to bring the kingdom here and now, as groups establish themselves we hope that they will find ways to extend their shared interest to the service of the community—the larger parish or the wider community in need.
Current Affinity Groups:
Idle Hands: If you knit, crochet, draw, collage, felt, embroider, or do any other kind of crafty hand work, join us for an evening of creating and conversation on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at The Pub (1492 Solano, aka Schmidt’s Pub) at 7:30 pm. Bring a project and/or a friend! Questions? Talk to Ari Wolfe or Jeannie Koops-Elson.
INKLINGS II: A new writing affinity group is gearing up! We invite writers working on projects of all flavors—fiction, poetry, memoir, you name it—to gather for our first meeting on Monday, February 24 at 7:30 pm at Au Coquelet to write and discuss our work. Contact Liz Powers with any questions or if you have writing prompts to suggest.
Ale Souls: Beer enthusiasts and homebrewers unite for fun, conversation, drinking and brewing a special parish homebrew. First meeting March 16, 1:30ish, after Continuing the Feast. If you have questions or equipment to share, contact John Chakan or Mal Mead.
Trailheads: Interested in hiking various trails in the Bay Area? Join Madeline Feeley, Nancy Pryor and others on Sunday March 2nd at 3:00 PM in Tilden [Location TBD] for the fist of many hikes.
Run, All Souls, Run!: Nicki Whear and Tess Taylor are lacing up their running shoes and ready to hit the road! If you’re interested in training for a particular race, hoping to improve your running distance or time or are just hoping for company as you continue your existing running practice join this group to get your heart racing!
Cross-cultural Parenting: If you are interested in joining a group supporting cross-cultural parenting, contact Kim Wong or Frances Thomas.
We believe that one of the essential functions of church is that we reach out to each other with the hand of God. Our new service schedule and growing parish are forcing us to find new ways to reach and find each other, not just on Sunday mornings at service, but throughout the weeks and months. I’m hoping these affinity groups can help us do that. If none of the current Affinity Groups suit your fancy please imagine with us new groups and let Sara Gunter or me know your idea so we can get started calendaring and spreading the word. If you are interested in starting or joining an affinity group, or if you are interested in helping with other parish community-building activities, please contact me (email@example.com) or Sara Gunter.