From the Rector
For many years I’ve been in conversation with other leaders in the Episcopal Church about how a Christian community might know when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. How do we know when our time and our effort is directed well?
There are different ways to approach to this question. One approach is through large group conversation. This can be with groups within a congregation, as many as possible, and even through conversations with groups in the wider community. In these conversations, the intent is to learn what the church is doing well, where the energy is and seems to be growing.
You may recognize this approach, as we have engaged it several times over the past decade, including the Mutual Ministry Review and Planning process (MMRP) in 2009 and the Vision and Strategic Planning processes of the past couple of years. Every time we have gone through these processes we have become more aware both of our strengths as a community and the places in our parish in need of attention. And in every instance, it has been clear to me that the process in and of itself has been as valuable as the results that have come of it.
There is another approach to this question of whether or not we are doing what we are meant to do be doing, and that lies in the realm of metrics. It should not be surprising, especially in the age of Big Data, that there are many numbers to help evaluate what we are doing. Here are some of them: how many people are members of a church, how many people give and how much is given, how many are baptized, confirmed and received each year, how many attend on a Sunday. There are myriad ways to use numbers in an attempt to see what is happening in a congregation.
Each of these numbers can give a glimpse into the life of a community of faith. But they are just numbers. And as helpful as these numbers may be, it is essential to remember that our commission from Jesus never actually mentions numbers. Nowhere does Jesus say how many we should have in a congregation or what an average pledge should be. That does not seem to be Jesus’ concern. From the end of Matthew’s Gospel, his concern seems to be about making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them. That’s our mission: people. Seen in this light, it’s not about the numbers.
And. I have found in my life as a priest, that people are willing to give of themselves––their time, their attention, and their money––to those things that matter to them. And, that in the end, we show up on Sundays, we serve on Fridays, and we give on Wednesdays, if our lives are being changed by the experience.
So this, then, is the lens that I do my best to use. Are our lives being transformed by the life of All Souls Parish? And not just changed once. But changed by God, continually, over time, throughout our lives? Is our worship changing us to be more loving and joyful? Is our service changing us to be more kind and just? Is our learning changing us to become more compassionate and peaceful? Is our communal life changing us to be more patient and faithful? Is our prayer life changing us to be more generous and self-controlled?
God’s desire for change, in us and in the communities we form, is woven throughout our sacred texts––in our primal stories, in our prophets’ warnings, throughout the Gospels, and in the ways that the earliest Christian communities gathered. Time and time again, we look for other ways to be connected to God. And yet, in the end, our willingness and ability to change and be changed may be the only way to know that we truly are alive.
From the Associate for Children and Youth
When is the last time you had a conversation with a teen about his or her spiritual life? We are blessed at All Souls to have a number of teens that participate and contribute to our congregation. But what about you? Are you missing opportunities to participate in nurturing a child’s spiritual growth?
The goal of Youth Ministry is helping to form spiritual maturity and that is the foundation of our work. Youth Group, Sunday School attendance, and immersion trips are highly valuable to teens, but those experiences are not sufficient for creating a lasting effect later in life.
Research by sociologist Christian Smith found that the majority of teens not only describe themselves as religiously affiliated but that they are not hostile to the idea of attending church. A majority of these teens even suggest that religion is important to them. Most of these teens, however, are unable to articulate their own beliefs, and they are unable to state why religion is important to them. Another finding is that a majority of teens believe that all religions are “the same.”
This is not bad news. It is an important starting point. If we want to influence religious engagement later in life, we can use the wonderful opportunity available to us at All Souls to engage teens now. Youth Ministry takes a village, and that is also backed up by research findings. Two significant variables associated with the highest religious engagement later in life are strong parental participation and numerous supportive adults in a congregation. Practices such as praying, spiritual traditions and personal religious experiences all contribute to teens becoming religiously engaged adults.
As Christians and as Episcopalians we have inherited a wealth of practices to inspire faith and understanding. We can pass these on and nurture the spiritual lives of teens by modeling how to pray, naming ways in which faith and doubt interact with our daily life. We can teach teens how to ask good questions and explore the mysteries of our faith together.
So here is my call of action to you: find a moment to ask a teen about why he or she shows up and participates. Draw young people out by asking their opinions about why there is suffering in this world. Or how about the always popular: What is heaven and who goes there? Is Jesus God? Why is faith important? Why is God important?
The more we engage with theological questions the more likely our young people will be to formulate and articulate their beliefs. And the more likely they will be to participate in the life of our church, and claim ownership of their own spirituality.
Youth Group for middle school and high school students meets Sunday, 4-6 pm in the Parish House. Youth Sunday School meets during formation hour 10:10-11:10 am in the Parish House. I understand that so many have busy schedules, and that you do to. The Youth Formation Team is in need of volunteers on many levels of participation. By joining us you are signaling that you care about the future of All Souls, about the future of our church. If you can make the time, please email me.
– Carolyn Richardson
My Catechumenate Experience in 2014
I began my spiritual journey many years ago and followed a formal spiritual path with the Roman Catholic Church for the first twenty-one years of my life. At that time, I chose to not celebrate my spirituality on a formal, communal or every Sunday manner. I chose to informally practice the many virtues of the Christian faith in an informal way. I made my way through the world confident that I was a good person who got things right more often than not.
Fast forward thirty years later and I found myself occasionally at the door of All Souls and then twice a year became 4 times a year, then once a month and then twice a month. Suddenly, I was at All Souls frequently and I began to consider formally joining All Souls. One day, I asked about joining and was told about the Catechumenate.
The Catechumenate is a time and a place for one to consider if and how they would like to formalize their All Souls membership. I should clarify that formal for All Souls is a wonderful blend of formality and informality and sacredness, contemplation and laughter. The Catechumenate captures all of these elements of All Souls.
Formally, our group read passages from the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer to understand the essential rites and rituals of the Episcopal Church. We also had a prayer partner who we would meet with regularly to talk not only about the class but about the place that prayer and Sunday worship held in our lives. As we got to know each other on a personal and spiritual level, more moments of personal reflection, personal connection and humor would became a part of our sessions.
Informally, we explored a faith in several ways; my favorite was poetry. We read the poems of Mary Oliver, Rilke and Gerald Manly Hopkins silently, then out loud and then reflected on their meaning. I loved the beautiful lyricism of the poetry. After we reflected on the beauty and meaning of the words within the poems themselves, the spaces between the words and the stanzas gave each member of our group an opportunity to reflect on where we on our spiritual journey individually and collectively.
The final highlight of my Catechumenate was when I was formally received by the Bishop during a service in December. As the Bishop and I clasped hands as he received me into the Episcopal Church, I felt all of the souls of All Souls with me. I have enjoyed my return to formally celebrating my spirituality and I highly recommend the Catechumenate as a way to renew your faith.
Connecting With Our New All Souls App
Last Sunday at our Annual Meeting, I was excited to announce the launch of our very own All Souls smartphone app. We began conversations with the Stanford-based startup Evergive early last fall, and are delighted that through our partnership with them, the app is finally ready to go! As with any time we introduce new technology, there have been some questions about what it is and how we plan to use it, which I’d like to shed a little more light on here.
Our main goal in using Evergive is to expand our avenues of communication as a parish, and to make getting information more convenient. You can now receive updates from the parish on your phone, like information about upcoming events, links to the Pathfinder, and real-time news that can be otherwise difficult to disseminate quickly. We are also committed to being judicious in how we communicate through the app, and want to be careful not to overload you! We welcome your feedback as we learn as a community what is most helpful with this new tool. Another element Evergive offers us is an additional way for you to be in touch with other parishioners. You can click into the “Messages” section of the app and send a message to any other parishioner (or a group) who has downloaded the app – pretty useful if you don’t have your directory close at hand!
This app also includes a platform for mobile giving. Our vision for this component is as an easy way to make one-time donations to a particular cause or fundraiser. Please note that there is a substantial fee associated with the convenience of giving this way: 4.75% of your gift, plus 30¢ per transaction, though there is also a button to offset this amount if you choose. Because of this fee (our use of the app is otherwise free) we encourage you to fulfill your pledges and offer other recurring gifts through the other avenues for giving, like check or automatic online transfers, so that the full intended amount of your gift will reach All Souls.
To get started with the app, simply go to the app store on your phone, download Evergive, input the community code “souls,” and then choose a password. You can also go to this website and enter your cell phone number to receive a text message to download the app. Please take a minute to download the app and look around – we think it will be a great tool, and the more people who use it, the more useful it will be!
Liberty Enlightening the World
The statue that inspires us
On Sunday morning, February 22, the first Sunday of Lent, the Statue of Liberty will pay a visit to the Formation Hour in the Common Room. As far as we can discern, this will be her first visit to All Souls and we look forward to her reaction to our continuing inquiry into the problems of and the solutions for the immigration dilemma in this country.
That Sunday will be the first session of a five week series of classes: “Building Our Vision of the Beloved Community,” a follow up of Christine Trost’s “Welcoming the Stranger” last year. Our abiding continuum will be “Liberty Enlightening the World,” which is the name first given to the Statue of Liberty.
In our research we discovered some facts that perhaps some of the rest of you may not know. For example, did you ever notice
What is the significance of the broken chains?
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people commemorating the alliance of France and the United States during the American Revolution. Yet, it represented much more to the individual who proposed the gift.
In 1865, Edouard de Laboulaye, the French political thinker, U.S. Constitution expert, and abolitionist, first proposed the idea of a great monument as a gift from France to the United States. Monsieur Laboulaye was a firm supporter of President Abraham Lincoln and his fight for abolition of the slaves. The monument was to symbolize freedom from oppression and servitude.
The excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” engraved on a tablet within the pedestal on which the statue stands, is a reinterpretation of a poem honoring one of the seven wonders of the world, the Colossus of Rhodes. The poem in its entirety reads:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Thus, the Statue of Liberty was both a welcome to the stranger, and a celebration of the success of freedom and justice in the United States.
Where are we today in our path to those lofty goals for the treatment of those who seek freedom in this country, both the alien and the African American? Neither is the stranger always welcome nor is freedom yet to be a reality for many African Americans.
During this season of Lent, the Stations of the Cross in the All Souls Sanctuary will be devoted to the story of Selma, Alabama and Dr. King’s stirring involvement. At the same time we present a class, where we shall hear from the voices of those most intensely involved with the struggle for justice and freedom for the immigrant as well as the history of immigration in this country, the turmoil surrounding the issue, the background of the root causes, and the hope that springs for us tomorrow.
Please join us and the Statue on Sunday morning, February 22 from 10:00-11:00 and each subsequent morning until Palm Sunday, as we build our hopeful vision.
– Janet Chisholm and Margaret Sparks
Touchstone Crosses for Lent
Last year 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 before or after service today to spend a few minutes crafting some crosses!
Date change: family playdate NEXT Saturday
Come together next Saturday, February 14th, 3 – 5pm, for a low-key playdate at Codornices Park. It’s at 1201 Euclid Ave., right across from the Rose Garden. If you haven’t been there before, it’s a great park for everyone from babies to toddlers to more adventurous big kids (or adults!) who want to take on the thrill of the giant slide! Bring some snacks to share, and enjoy connecting other families at All Souls. You can get in touch with Jeannie Koops-Elson with any questions.
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 brew another batch of parish ale, something special for Easter. Sunday, February 15 at 6pm in the All Souls kitchen. Bring a favorite beer to share; we’ll bring in pizza. Puns will surely abound.
Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras Pancake & Jambalaya Dinner
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. Tuesday, February 17, 6pm. Tickets are $10 adults / $5 kids / $25 max per family.
Begin your pilgrimage through a Holy Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 18. Services are at 7am in the chapel and 12pm and 7:30pm in the sanctuary.
Loaves and Fishes
Loaves and Fishes is a way to connect with All Souls community in a smaller, more intimate group by sharing meals together in parishioners’ homes. There are three coming up in February:
2/14, RSVP to Gloria Bayne
2/21, RSVP to Toni Borgfeldt
2/28, RSVP to Caroline McCall
We’ll be gathering during Lent for a warming soup supper and to explore the journey and process of forgiveness, led by the Rev. Michael Lemaire on Wednesday evenings, February 25 – March 25. If you are able to help provide soup or bread for one of the suppers, please contact Jeannie Koops-Elson.