from the rector
A Fast for a Different Kind of Attention
It’s usually around two or three o’clock in the afternoon on Ash Wednesday when my body starts to get my attention. Sometimes it’s because focus is harder to come by, other times I notice that food, any kind of food, looks really amazing. And sometimes I start to notice a palpable absence, a sharpening of attention.
This often happens on the afternoon of Ash Wednesday because that holy day is one of the days of the year when I regularly fast. It’s been a practice of the Christian Church for centuries to set this day, as well as Good Friday, aside as days to fast. Now, there are many ways to practice this fast, but the form that I often choose is that after the feasting of Mardi Gras, I simply drink water (and sometimes tea) until Thursday.
To be clear, I’m not talking about fasting as a form of dieting, though that may indeed have some physiological benefits. I’m talking about the fasting that humans have long-practiced to change theirs hearts, to re-orient their lives. The practice of fasting, of intentionally denying oneself of food, transcends culture, religion, and time. And often it has served a way to cleanse one’s soul, or to prepare for an encounter with the Divine.
And, like all practices of prayer, the practice of fasting can serve to check a box. As a perfunctory act, divorced from intent. Why is why every year during the liturgies on Ash Wednesday I am grateful that we come up against the words of Isaiah and Matthew.
In the 58th chapter, the prophet Isaiah, in words that were part of our Sunday lectionary this past Sunday, condemns those who supposedly intend to get right with God, but continue to oppress their workers and quarrel and fight. So, what you do that day, how you behave, even with low blood sugar, actually matters more than if you have eaten.
Then there’s the potential hypocrisy I’m coming close to by even reflecting on this practice publicly. Jesus is pretty clear on the Sermon on the Mount that this form of prayer, of attention towards God, is meant to be done in secret, not to be seen by others. So that we can’t miss it, in the Gospel appointed for Ash Wednesday every year, we read that very text from Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus offers his expectations for those who fast to not look dismal, as if to show the depth of their piety through their misery.
Given these admonitions about fasting, why I do continue to practice it, and even recommend it to others? It’s because when I am paying attention, the reason why I fast, why I take any action of prayer, is that it helps me open up my heart. Which is to say that in the practice of limiting my body, I have the palpable feeling of being open to God, to my neighbor, and to myself.
We are just a couple of weeks from this year’s approach to the great Mystery of Easter, of Life Overcoming Death. Below in this Pathfinder you’ll find Pat Jones’ invitation to the feast of Mardi Gras on Tuesday the 25th. My invitation today is that you might consider fasting the following day, Ash Wednesday. Not as an act of punishment or misery, but as a way to experience a literal and metaphoric hunger, an absence just might open you up to God––within, among, and around us.
Shrove Tuesday did not cross my path until I was in middle school. I was raised Presbyterian where, it seemed to me, the only religious days celebrated were Easter and Christmas.
When I was in seventh grade my mother married my step-father, an Episcopal priest, and I attended my first Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. His parish ate pancakes for supper and had a competition flipping pancakes in pans as they race-walked across their Parish Hall. Crazy. I was still attending my Presbyterian Church, and continued there through the end of high school. Meanwhile, I knew that pancake suppers were going on in a parallel universe.
I began attending an Episcopal parish in Oakland when my older daughter, Kerala, was born. St. Cuthbert’s put on a lively Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. In addition to the pancake flipping race they also created an Alleluia banner each year and buried it in the churchyard! What!??!
Twenty years ago I was confirmed as an Episcopalian while attending All Souls. I find Lent and Easter a very important and rewarding part of the liturgical year. The rituals, practices, the Triduum, have pulled me in. I look forward to it each year anticipating the time to concentrate on spiritual practice and focused reflection.
That evening before Ash Wednesday? Well, I have attended many, many Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers at All Souls. I remember a time when there were only pancakes & sausage, nothing gluten-free and definitely no jambalaya. Now we offer all that. Plus Mardi Gras beads and decor. It feels much less “crazy” and more ”festive” to me now. A joyous, raucous celebration with my faith community before we all embark on the spare, inward-looking journey of Lent. A necessary part of the process.
Doing a quick online search of Shrove Tuesday for this piece, I was surprised to read that it is a day observed by Roman Catholics and Anglicans “with confession and absolution, in addition to modest feasting and rejoicing.” Confession and absolution? Based on my reading I plan to rethink Shrove Tuesday as only an evening for (not so modest) eating and socializing.
A reminder: the proceeds from the supper will go toward raising funds for the summer mission trips of the All Souls Youth. What could better prepare the way for Lent than pancakes, fun & games with families from All Souls and contributing to a great cause?
A Shrove Tuesday Hymn from the St. Helena Breviary
Alleluia, song of gladness,
hymn of endless joy and praise.
Alleluia is the worship
that celestial voices raise
and, delighting in God’s glory,
sing in heaven’s courts always.
Alleluia, blessed Salem,
home of all our hopes on high.
Alleluia, sing the angels;
Alleluia, saints reply;
but we, for a time on this earth,
chant a simpler melody.
Alleluias we now forfeit
in this holy time of Lent.
Alleluias we relinquish
as we for our sins repent,
trusting always in God’s mercy
and in Love omnipotent.
Blessed Trinity of Glory,
hear your people as we pray.
Grant that we may know the Easter
of the Truth, the Life, the Way,
chanting endless alleluias
in the realms of endless day. Amen.
— Pat Jones
Vestry Retreat 2020
Your Vestry recently held its annual retreat at St. Dorothy’s Rest in the redwoods near Occidental to recharge, discern and refocus our direction for the coming year. I was humbled and honored to be invited by Phil+ and elected by the vestry to be Senior Warden, and ask for your prayers for guidance in the coming year.
We have a deeply talented group. Tony Martinez-Borgfeldt was called to be Junior Warden, Vimala Tharisayi will continue as Treasurer, Andy Willis as Clerk, and the trifecta of Priscilla Camp, Tim Ereneta and Howard Perdue will be our Chaplains. We were blessed by new Vestry members Melissa Devereaux, Irena Wolf Maxime Carriere, and Tim Ereneta, who collectively and individually bring to the Vestry gifts of longevity at All Souls, parish service and highly relevant professional experience to the waters we will chart this year.
A full year is ahead indeed – our Living Waters Capital Campaign, the new Parish House, and the Associate Rector search as well as our ongoing commitments to God, church and community.
During our work sessions, we reviewed our ongoing commitments and programs, considered what are we doing and not doing and looked at ways in which we can do better the work of God.
The Vestry renewed its commitment to welcoming newcomers and will be reaching out to the full congregation about how we can all participate in welcoming and integrating new people into the life of All Souls.
The Vestry as a body took on a commitment to be one that actively practices a shared understanding of daily devotions. This is a work in progress––stay tuned!
The Vestry approved an allocation of $550,000 from principal in the Jordan Trust to Living Waters – our capital campaign.
The Vestry requested from the finance team a statement of best practices for prudent reserves for operating and maintenance budgets.
Phil+ updated us on the Associate Rector search and we considered ways the position might be split if no single applicant is deemed by our search committee the right fit.
Our retreat was not all work~
We split into small groups to get to know one another better – again, what an amazing group! – broke bread, hiked together, played “Salad Bowl” (imagine charades on steroids), and shared communion in our Eucharistic service Sunday morning.
We agreed to continue to hold monthly meetings, generally on third Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 in the Library, and committed to February 2, March 18, April 29, May 20, June 17 (Phil+’s sabbatical begins), July 15, August 19, September 16 (Phil+ returns), October 21, November 18, December 15 (a Tuesday) and January 20.
Finally, we thanked Laura Eberly for her years of service on the Vestry and for her extraordinary service this past year as Senior Warden. Thank you for your grace and your great leadership!
Summer Book Club
The Adult Formation Committee requests your nominations for a book to read this summer for Summer Book Group. Summer Book Group takes place from June to August. The parish selects one book to read through nomination and voting and then comes together each week during the summer to discuss the book. Books may be fiction or non-fiction, but we’re hoping for books that brought you into some encounter with God.
Nomination forms and a box for submissions are available at the back of the chapel and in the narthex outside the main worship space. Or submit your nomination online here!
Nominations are due by Sunday, March 15.
2020 Capital Campaign News
This Sunday, Marc Rieke, consultant for the 2020 capital campaign, will be our guest preacher during worship services. Join him and the capital campaign team at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall to learn more about the purposes and practices of the campaign.
Adult Formation Classes
Anglican Prayer Beads or Rosary
Over three sessions we will be learning more about the history and symbolism, how to make our own Anglican prayer beads, how to use them, and how to write our own prayers. Join us in the Common Room downstairs, next meeting is Feb 23.
This class will explore the reality of death in our time, the culture of denial that surrounds it and engage in a variety of spiritual practices to raise our awareness of our own death and how it can clarify and vitalize our lives today. Join us in the Parish Hall, next meeting is Feb 23.
Coming Up in Youth Group
Next Youth Group is, February 23rd @ 6:30p.
Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, Save the Date!
Mardi Gras this year is February 25th. This year’s Mardi Gras will benefit our high school youth who will be traveling to Magalia, just north of Paradise, CA to do fire relief sort of work in August. Come support the youth! Then, come back, the next day for Ash Wednesday––services as 7a, 12p, and 7:30p.
Soup + Story
Soup + Story is our Lenten home group series. For the five weeks in Lent, we will gather in parishioner’s home all over the East Bay to share stories of our faith journeys and to eat dinner together. Look through the groups available and choose a group based on geography and accessibility, then sign-up for a group either in the back of the church on sign-up sheets, or online (click here).
Summer Camps at the Bishop’s Ranch
If you are looking for an adventure for your family this summer or for your kids, registration has opened at the Bishop’s Ranch for camps! Check out the link below to see what opportunities await. https://www.bishopsranch.org/events/camps/