Phil Brochard headshot2Soup & Story

For many years now, on Wednesday nights in Lent, All Souls has taken part in learning together. From “Moments That Make Us Anglican”, an exploration of historical themes and events that have informed our tradition, to “We Cannot Walk Alone”, a series around race in which we invited All Soulsians to reflect on their experience of racial identity in America, each Lent we have been meeting in our Parish Hall to engage the basic and essential elements of practicing as a Christian.

Over the past couple of years, what members of our Adult Formation team and our staff have realized, though, is that while these series were often meeting the needs of some at All Souls, the time (6:30p-8:30p on Wednesdays) and the place (the Parish Hall at All Souls), made it a challenge for others to attend. In addition, we have a belief that the spaces at the corner of Cedar and Spruce are not the only places where we can make church. And so this Lent, we are trying something different. It’s called Soup & Story.

At the start of any initiative at All Souls, new or re-imagined, the question that we ask ourselves is, why? Why are we engaging in this event, process, or practice? Underneath that question are a host of others, like, how does this respond to the spiritual needs of people living in this place at this time? How does it draw on the deep well of our tradition, as well as speak the current pressures, demands, and issues of our time? And fundamentally, how will this bring people closer to God? How will this make church?

As I have come to know it, the purpose of any series, Lenten or otherwise, is to engage people in understanding the Christian way afresh. Whether it is through a close reading of a text, a group discussion, a first-person narrative, or a spiritual practice, we come together to listen, learn, teach, share, and pray. I’ve also learned that for humans, sharing food doesn’t seem to be just incidental to living in community, it seems to be essential as a way for people to grow in discovering relatedness. Finally, I’ve also noticed that being with others around a table in someone’s home, also can allow for more intimate, heart-felt conversation. And as a pastor of this community, I have had the sense that for many, the desire for real connection is needed now more than ever.

To engage in this common practice during Lent, ten households of All Soulsians have generously agreed to host for the five weeks, from the week after Ash Wednesday to the week before Palm Sunday. Alongside our hosts, ten folks trained to tell Godly Play stories will be a part of each group. They will be telling parables of Jesus, inviting us to enter into the stories, and together we will be wondering about how this parable meets our lives. Each week, we will listen together, wonder together, pray together, and eat together.

To facilitate the varied schedules of 5 year olds and 85 year olds, and anyone in between, people will be hosting Soup & Story on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The start times range from 5:30p to 7:30p, and our hosts are scattered around El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland. Find a home in your neighborhood, or time of the week that works best. You can sign up in one of two ways: either by using this Google form, or by stopping by the Welcome Area on Sunday mornings at the 7:30a, 9a, and 11:15a services. Our hope is that you will attend all five weeks of this series, as the conversation will build as we get to know each other, week by week.

This way of practicing this Lent has been the result of the past several months of conversation––within the Adult, Youth, and Children and Family Formation teams, and in our staff. In the process of creating Soup & Story, it has come clear to me that this way of being during the time of Lent––breaking bread, sharing story, and praying around a table (or tables) in someone’s home––will be able to bring us closer to one another and to God. No matter where it happens, that sounds like church to me.




Liz Tichenor 2016Why Camp?

Just the other day, I received an email listing all manner of East Bay summer camps. There are so many options! So why add one more, here at All Souls? It’s a good question – after all, creating a camp is no small feat.

You may have heard Phil mention in a sermon how summer camp was a seminal place for him – and not just because he was crowned king there. As it turns out, you’re surrounded: I, too, am a product of camp. I would go further, actually, and say that I am a Christian because of camp. It was on Hickory Hill, an outpost of Waycross Camp in the backwoods of Indiana, that I came to know God. Christ was made manifest in the freedom of camp games that are far too dangerous to play today, in the magnificent collaborative art we wove out of downed vines, in worship that spoke to our lives and spirits as young people. It was a place where we learned in very practical ways how important it was to be our siblings’ keepers – the consequences were clear, for example, when canoes capsized and poorly tied camping gear sank in the muddy river. Camp was also a space where I met the church – in swimming down rapids with an elderly bishop and then breaking bread on the beach, in learning sacred stories with our bodies and listening to counselors impress upon us just how cool agape is. Camp gave shape and meaning to my soul.

I have seen how camp can embody Christian fellowship at its best, and we would do well to weave these camp practices into our common life as a faith community in Berkeley. I believe in this potential strongly enough that I wrote my masters thesis specifically on how camp ministry can transform and rejuvenate the church. Through that research, I tracked the ways that camp can offer space for kids explore their identity and try on new practices as Christians. It’s a time for them to ask bigger questions than we often have time and space to engage in the regular rhythms of life and tackle adventures of greater magnitude. Camp stretches campers, while giving them the support they need to live into their whole selves, beloved of God.

And so this year, we’re making it happen. We’re bringing camp to All Souls, in the hopes that it shapes our community in a manner that is life-giving for our kids, and by extension, for all of us. We won’t be in the wilderness, per say, but I believe we can still create the core goodness of camp right here at Cedar and Spruce. Especially as All Souls continues to grow, camp can help folks connect and build relationships at a depth that may feel elusive throughout the school year. In fact, last Sunday, a newcomer who is in the fifth grade mentioned to Phil that the one way All Souls could really be cooler is if we had our own camp.

…ask an you shall receive!

Registration for Camp All Souls: Called to Justice is now open. You can register online here, or pick up forms in the narthex or outside the Sunday School classrooms. If you feel called to lend your energy to the effort, I would love to talk with you about what is needed. Much like raising kids, it really takes a village to bring a week of camp to fruition! And with that invitation, I also offer my gratitude — thank you for taking this step as a community, for your faith in setting out on this collective adventure with our younger members.



Will It Be Our Fault?

margaret-sparks125wideAccording to the United States Geological Survey Map All Souls Episcopal Parish is located just six blocks away (as the crow flies…and they surely will if the earth starts quaking..) from the Hayward Fault line.

Should we have a major earthquake, there would undoubtedly be damage to our church. However, no matter what the damage will be to All Souls, it will doubtless be far worse in our immediate neighborhood. What will we do about it?

If the quake occurs between 7:30 am and 12:30 am on a Sunday morning, we shall be ready, for all forces will be on hand to act and, while many of us will be anxious about damage to our own homes (mine is just three blocks away from the fault line…others are closer!), we should be prepared for the neighbors who will surely seek us out for help.

I would like to take you back to Tuesday, September 11, 2001. After many of us spent the day glued to our television sets watching from afar the horror of the event, schools were coping with children dazed and confused. Youth Arts Studio met regularly on Tuesday afternoons after school at All Souls. Would any of the middle schoolers from Martin Luther King show up? Or would they simply go home to the warmth of their families. When 3:30 rolled around, we were waiting… and in came a horde of students, mostly boys, prepared to handle their frustration through art. It was an amazing afternoon!

That evening, when a special service had immediately come together, the Sanctuary was crammed to the rafters with both parishioners and neighbors. Of course, this was a national event, full of ramifications so complicated and misunderstood, there were many more questions than any could answer, but they stayed, listened to each other and felt the solace that only our church could offer

Of course, we are constantly told of the imminence of an earthquake on our Hayward Fault, and we usually respond with:   “We should do something about this…”

Well, we at All Souls are doing something about it. But, we need your help.

The Emergency Preparedness Team is in the process of extensive preparations for such an occurrence, and we need everyone’s help. Not just for ourselves and our church, but for the neighborhood in which we have lived all these years. Regardless of the fact that very few of our parishioners live within walking distance of the church, there will be many who do not live so close to the Fault, who will not be so terribly affected by the quake, and who could make themselves available to assist in some way. We hope that those of you who are willing and able to help will come forward when asked to do so.

My memory of the 1989 Loma Pieta Earthquake comes to mind so vividly. John and I, after miraculously finding each other within an hour after the 6.9 quake, had spent the evening wandering around a totally darkened San Francisco downtown. With no sight nor sound except the eerie squeal of the fire engines, we finally found a small hotel near Union Square which took us in for the night. The next morning, after BART resumed operation, we returned to a glorious sunny Berkeley, birds chirping, and people going about their usual activities as though nothing had occurred. No one really knows how shattering a serious earthquake can be until he/she has been in the midst of one and its aftermath.

Please be prepared to offer your help, hospitality, warmth and good will, when our neighbors seek our help.

– Margaret Sparks, Emergency Preparedness Team


daryIn early December, we welcomed many new members into the All Souls family. Today and in the coming weeks, we’ll hear from them.

Jen Dary and her sons Noah, 4, and Aaron, 1, joined All Souls recently for the playground. Well, truth be told it was for more than that (community, spiritual guidance, new west coast friends and the opportunity to sing in large groups!) but the boys really do love that playground. Jen is from New York and Chris (who you may see from time to time) is from Wisconsin. We are thrilled to participate as often as possible in All Souls events and will see you at the 9 o’clock service!

Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras Pancake & Jambalaya Dinner

Tuesday, February 28th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Come on out to have breakfast for dinner, or the best jambalaya in town. Celebrate the last night before Lent and get your Mardi Gras beads. Light the holy fire in the courtyard and step into Lent with your All Souls family. We will also take a moment around the fire to bless our Rules of Life as we head into Lent. If you still have palms from last year, bring them for the fire! Tickets are $10 adults / $5 kids / $25 max per family.


This year, instead of gathering at church on Wednesday nights during Lent, we are going to meet in each others’ homes. Several parishioners have offered to host Soup & Story groups, which will go for five weeks during Lent. Each home group will gather weekly for a soup dinner and then wonder together on a parable.

Groups will meet on TuesdayWednesdayThursday, and Friday evenings. Pick a night and a location that works for you and your family and then sign up for a Soup & Story group in the Welcome Area (in front of the sound booth) or online here. Soup & Story groups will start the week of March 5th. Sign up as soon as you can!


A few years ago we started a new tradition of shaping crosses out of clay with our hands, firing them in the Shrove Tuesday fire, and picking them out of the ashes on Ash Wednesday to carry with us as touchstones of our spiritual practice through Lent. Stop by the table in the courtyard or Parish Hall before or after service today to spend a few minutes crafting some crosses!


Lent is 40 days and ends with a big celebration. It takes 40 days to brew beer and it helps make a big celebration. Coincidence? We think not. Join us to to brew another batch of parish ale, something special for Easter. Sunday, March 5 @ 1pm in the Parish Hall. Bring a favorite beer to share; we’ll play some corn hole & take turns at the brew pot. RSVP with Emily Hansen Curran ( if you’re able to attend, as we’ll be grilling up some lunch while we brew.


We are gauging interest in revitalizing the Idle Hands group of needlework creators. If you knit, crochet, sew or do other needlework (or want to learn!) and would like to do it with other All Soulsians, talk to Ari Wolfe or Jeannie Koops-Elson.


Saturday, February 25th – Sunday, February 26th is the middle school lock-in! All middle school youth are welcome to this sleepover in the Parish House. There will be games, a movie, prayer, and brunch. Contact Jess Powell for more information and to RSVP.


Exploring Our Tradition

Do you come to All Souls from somewhere other than the Episcopal tradition? Do you have questions about the traditions of the Episcopal church, its history, theology, and the Book of Common Prayer and its uses? Would you like to be baptized or become an Episcopalian (or least learn more)?

If so, the Catechumenate might be just what you are after. Starting March 5th and going through April 9th on Sunday evenings in the Common Room, Stephan Quarles and Emily Hansen Curran will walk us through these great questions of our tradition. This six-week course can also be used as a refresher for those of you already confirmed Episcopalian!

Please contact Emily for more information.


Madeline Feeley wrote a couple of weeks ago about the Appreciative Inquiry process going on right now at All Souls. Appreciative Inquiry is simply a structured process for hearing from you about our life together at All Souls. As we gather for conversation in small groups, we discuss responses to four simple questions (that’s the inquiry part) that help us focus on what’s going well (that’s the appreciative part). It’s important for as many of us to participate as possible—so please don’t miss out. We want you to add your stories and your voice to the chorus because the threads and themes that emerge will guide our clergy and vestry in their leadership. And, as the people who’ve already participated in the groups can tell you, it’s wonderful to hear other All Soulsians share their experiences and their appreciation for our parish.

You can sign up for groups here. There are slots on February 19 and 26 following the 11:15 a.m. service. Childcare is available on the 19th and 26th – please email Liz to sign up your child. Don’t delay—sign up today!