From the Associate for Ministry Development
The art of faith, the faith of art
Back in the fall of 2012, I came across an article in the American Scholar called “Mortify Our Wolves” by the poet and essayist Christian Wiman. The writer spoke of God, life, pain, and what it means to be a Christian in ways I had not yet heard spoken, but had only felt. It was the beauty of his writing, mixed with the reality and truth of what he spoke that brought me back to a believing faith in God.
A year later, on some wild hunt for hope, I got the chance to travel across the country to be a student under Wiman, in an intimate 16-person class that met twice weekly. This experience was so formative for me that I have spoken of it often, I’m sure, to many of you. So, it’s with great joy that I get to announce that we at All Souls have combined forces with First Congregational Church to bring Christian Wiman to Berkeley to share his work and gifts with our community.
Wiman is a poet, Christian, and educator. He is the author, editor, or translator of ten books, including his essays My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, and his poetry collection Every Riven Thing. From 2003 until 2013 he was the editor of Poetry magazine, and has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, the Atlantic Monthly, and numerous other publications. His particular interests include modern poetry, the language of faith, “accidental” theology (that is, theology conducted by unexpected means), and what it means to be a Christian intellectual in a secular culture.
As you might gather, Mr. Wiman has much to offer us in conversation and teaching that I believe will open the door to deeper discipleship for us, but also perhaps for those in this greater Berkeley community—for those in pain, suffering, thinking, seeking, wondering. It has also occurred to me that in the introduction to his latest anthology of poems, Joy, he unknowingly interacts with the theme from our Parish Retreat in 2017, which was heaven. If you have wondered for more after the retreat, or missed the retreat entirely, I imagine that Mr. Wiman’s words will feed some of that wondering. The details:
March 9th: An evening talk at First Congregational Church.
March 10th: An afternoon workshop and conversation at All Souls Parish with some of the poets and writers that our two congregations have to offer.
Registration will be open soon (I’ll send that link out as soon as we get that settled), but before all that, what I’d love to do is host a few book group sessions with you all. Because of Lent and the calendar, these dates are going to come quickly, they’ll be January 21st and February 4th, both Sunday evenings. We’ll start at 7pm in the Common Room, and have some drinks available for you all. For the discussion, let’s read the introduction to his Joy anthology, and then perhaps talk about a couple of poems if we get there. This latest book both pertains to us as All Soulsians (for the reasons I mentioned above), but also I suspect it will be a focus of his when he comes. For those of you who can’t come to either time, Krista Tippett just aired a conversation with him on her On Being podcast (click here for the podcast). Come for one, or both; all are invited. My hope is that all of this, the discussions and his coming, calls us deeper into our lives and to greater depths of faith.
– Emily Hansen Curran
From the Justice and Peace Team
Join All Souls at the Women’s March in Oakland, January 20, Saturday morning
Our Justice & Peace Ministry Team invites you to join us. We will meet in the church parking lot at 9:25 a.m., leaving there together at 9:30 a.m. to walk to the Downtown Berkeley BART. We will disembark at the Lake Merritt BART station, which is next to the march starting point. The 0.9 mile march begins at 10:00 a.m. and will proceed up 14th Street, ending with a rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Lewis Maldonado will be our lead contact for the march: firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-326-7230.
The mission of the Women’s March is to support the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative, peaceful social change, and to publicly proclaim that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.
The March intends to create a safe space for everyone. It will be accessible. There will be a medical station, volunteers along the way, and portable restrooms. Everyone should bring water, snacks, sunscreen and a poncho instead of an umbrella. Also welcome are posters and flags, but not wooden, plastic or metal poles. Not allowed are backpacks (use clear bags), alcohol, weapons, pets (only service animals), or bikes. Precautions: Cell phones may not function. Have a meet-up plan for the end of the event, and write important information with a sharpie on one’s forearm. Participants may register on Eventbrite to help organizers estimate attendance and needed services; tickets are free. More information is available here.
We believe that, as Christians, we are called by our Baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. By participating in the Women’s March, where we join with many other faith and secular groups, we can in a small way live out these vows and affirm the values of human rights, civil rights, justice, and peace. We do this work together as the Body of Christ. As Dr. King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Please join us!
This year we are blessed to have seven wonderful and willing souls who are standing for election to our vestry. The vestry is the representative body of lay leadership responsible for guiding the direction of our congregation, making critical decisions, and responding to the needs and events that come to impact this community. The vestry term is three years. We will elect four new vestry members during our Annual Meeting on January 28th at 10:15 am in the Parish Hall. This year’s candidates are:
All Souls Parish has been my spiritual home for close to 30 years and I was confirmed an Episcopalian at Grace Cathedral in 1997. My husband, Dean, and I have been married for 36 years and raised our daughter with the help of this wonderful church community. I retired recently from teaching preschool at UC Berkeley, and before that had a long career in advertising and marketing sales.
Over the years, I have been involved with many of our Parish ministries, including serving on The Vestry in 1998. Currently, I chair the Children & Family Committee and I am a Godly Play storyteller, Children’s Chapel leader, Sacristan, chalice bearer and Open Door Dinner team member.
As I have watched the growth of our Parish, its involvement in the community at large, the inclusiveness we offer and the love we share, I am humbled to be a participant in our thriving community mission. I consider All Souls my Christian family and I would love the opportunity to serve them now as a Vestry member.
Since Vimala and I moved to Berkeley about twelve years ago, we have been very much blessed to be a part of All Souls. Coming from the Eastern Orthodox Church of India, not only did we feel welcomed at All Souls, we also found a spiritual connection.
A key aspect that has drawn me to All Souls is the depth of spiritual life coexisting with the broad fellowship in the community and empathy for one another. I am filled with joy and inner peace through all the various ways we “make church” at All Souls.
We have participated in many of the community events like Open Door Dinner, Meals & Rides and Loaves and Fishes which we found to be very uplifting. We have received much fellowship and support from the parish through regular services as well as special events. Now that I am retired from an engineering life, I look forward to getting a deeper understanding of various parish activities.
In 2009, I was tasked with choosing the Episcopal church that Sarah (Crawford), my wife, and I would attend. I was raised Catholic; attending Catholic school for 12 years and Catholic church for 14 plus but, as happens, I had lapsed. Because Sarah attended regularly and worked for the Episcopal church, she was gracious and smart enough to let me have the final say.
The first time we entered All Souls, I felt at home. From the similarities to the Catholic service to the oodles of families with children, I knew I had found the place where we belonged. But because a good decision is not based on one experience, we dove deeper. We attended the newcomer’s dinner at Carol Ann and Don Brown’s beautiful home, helped at an Open Door with Pat Jones and Don Gates, and attended a few more Sunday services. When we found a fresh baked zucchini bread on our porch, which mind you is 10+ miles from All Souls, the deal was sealed.
Personally, during my nearly nine years at All Souls, I have experienced so much of what a Christian community has to offer – cooking on the youth immersion trips, mentoring for Confirm-not-Conform, singing in the Gospel choir, helping at Open Door dinners, brewing beer with Ale Souls, making friends, and more. All Souls has given me so much and now I would like to give back.
Professionally, I work as a graphic designer and creative director specializing in branding and digital marketing. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley. Recently, I had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors at St. Dorothy’s Rest and now that my term is up, I’m honored to be considered for a role on Vestry. If selected I would be thrilled to bring my personal and professional experience to its service.
When our Soup & Story group read the parable of the sower, we kept coming back to the problem of roots. We were hungry for them. Not surprising for a group of twenty- and thirty-something transplants to the Bay Area, we felt keenly that community here – in this housing market, in this stage of life, in this academic and career-climbing place – is especially hard.
But we also talked about those thin places in our lives when we have come close to community and to God. Moments when we have agreed to put down roots and to invest so wholly in a place that, even when we spent scant time there, we build relationships and practices that endure. And we agreed to do that with one another.
All Souls has been a taproot like that for me. Before Jane and I moved to Oakland in 2015, a friend told us All Souls is where we would find “our people.” Shortly after we arrived, the congregation blessed new members and Phil told us membership meant a commitment to making church – community and communion – together. Not long after, I starting hearing that familiar All Souls refrain, “Can I ask you something? Liz/Emily/Phil mentioned you might be a good person for…”
So I’ve worked with Stewardship and Peace & Justice to host resource fairs and pledge drives and to connect people in prayer out into the streets. And whether it’s leading a protest or teaching a class on activist saints or bringing the campers to city hall or offering service on the vestry, All Souls keeps asking me to show up as myself – a racial justice organizer and a wife and a part-time student and a struggling injured runner – to nourish and be nourished by that deep root. I am so grateful to serve and be served by the life of this community, however I am called by you next.
At nine months of age, I was baptized in Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green in New Haven, Conn. Thereafter, as far as I can remember, no mention was made of this, and I was surprised to discover a baptismal certificate among my father’s papers when he died 25 years later. It meant nothing to me at the time and, regrettably, I didn’t keep it; it was beautiful.
After another 25 years, it appeared that although I had stopped looking for God, God had not stopped looking for me. That realization was like coming home from a long journey.
I came to All Souls three years ago with my life partner, Bonnie Bishop; we each had been at other parishes off and on. We sang in the Gospel Choir from its beginnings, and hosted a Soup and Story group during Lent. I have served on two committees working with seminary students, helped with the Open Door Dinner, and was one of the people who tore that awful ivy off the fence at a garden work day. I try to pitch in when there’s work to be done, and am humbled by the invitation to serve in a deeper way as a vestry member.
I practiced Elder Law for 32 years. While winding down toward retirement, I took one class at a time at CDSP and graduated with a Certificate of Theological Studies. I’m still told that I think more like a lawyer than a theologian (not always the most helpful approach), and am continually struggling to blend the two in a constructive way.
We received a Christmas greeting with the following poem by Howard Thurman. I’m taking this opportunity to share it, as a sort of path forward:
“When the song of the angels is stilled,/When the star in the sky is gone,/When the kings and princes are home,/When the shepherds are back with their flocks,/The work of Christmas begins:/To find the lost,/To heal the broken,/To feed the hungry,/ To release the prisoner,/To rebuild the nations,/To bring peace among the people,/To make music in the heart.”
When my family first came to All Souls were in the midst of one of the most significant changes in our lives. My career in Information Technology had moved us from Chicago to the East Bay. We knew almost no one in the area and my 3 year old daughter, Melody, was leaving the only home she’d ever known.
All Souls was the first stop and last on what I envisioned to be a large period of “church shopping.” I love how the Church is committed to providing a welcoming environment to people of all ages and backgrounds. For my family All Souls has been a place where we could build friendships, where we could grow spiritually and intellectually and where we could feel connected at a time when we could have easily felt isolated and alone.
In the past I’ve been something of a spiritual nomad. My journey prior to All Souls has involved growing up in Fundamentalism, moving into a more progressive form of Evangelicalism as an adult, getting an M.Div from a Baptist Seminary, Converting to Catholicism and then finally settling into the Episcopal church where I have found a larger community that is committed to the justice issues that I am while feeding my soul through worship and spirituality.
As a member of the vestry I would help to support and extend how we as a community live out our vision that everyone, everyone, everyone is welcome at All Souls.
When I first joined All Souls three years ago, I started attending the 7:30am service. I had just moved to El Cerrito with my husband and our two cats. I was going through a transitional period in my life, full of ups and downs, turmoil and emotions, and I liked the intimate setting and the quiet meditative feel of that spoken word service. It gave me the space I needed to peacefully reflect and connect with my faith and with God. Since it is pretty much impossible to sneak in and out of that small service unnoticed, I was immediately welcomed as a newcomer. Eventually I started exploring the other services, and I now regularly attend the 11:15am service. Each service has a different feel and a different kind of energy, but all of it is part of All Souls, one church community.
As a member of All Souls, I have served on the Justice and Peace Leadership team for the past two years. I have helped lead the Standing Up for Foster Youth program, including organizing the All Souls participation in Cards of Hope for foster youth with Braid mission. I have found deep meaning though all our Justice and Peace activities – immigration vigils, working on environmental issues, planning our monetary donations and advent ingatherings to benefit local organizations, supporting local substance abuse recovery programs, and marching for important causes. I have also served on an Open Door Dinner team, a central part of our outreach to the homeless community. I have also served counting money once a month to assist the giving secretary.
Serving on the vestry would be an opportunity further my service to All Souls, working to represent the entire faith community to support and grow our many ongoing programs and ministries. On the horizon for the next few years, the Parish House project and development of affordable housing along with new parish offices will be a particularly big undertaking, and I welcome the opportunity to be involved in that project while serving on the vestry. In my professional life, I work as a statistician on medical and public health research. I am typically working on at least 15 projects simultaneously, each with a different team – so I am very accustomed to working in a team where we collaborate to develop an analytic and strategic plan that utilizes each person’s unique area of expertise to achieve our shared goal for the research project. If selected to serve on the vestry, I will work in partnership with the other vestry members and endeavor to represent the entire faith community.
Next Sunday, January 21, our Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir will sing at the 9am and 11:15 am services! If you are at all interested in joining us, please contact me at email@example.com, or just come to the church on Wednesday January 17 at 8pm for a brief rehearsal, where we’ll have a score and a smile ready to go for you! On the 21st we’ll rehearse at 8:15am. If you can’t come at this time but are interested in singing gospel music at All Souls in the future, please also email me.
New class begins this Sunday
Environmental Justice: Case Studies in Spirit of Resistance taught by Lewis Maldonado and Harry Allen
This three-session class will first look generally at the concept of environmental justice and the relationship between environmental justice and our Christian faith. We will then examine several instances where faith communities have engaged in struggles for environmental justice. Efforts to work towards environmental justice are worthy of our reflection and discussion, as examples of our Baptismal vows to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. Class meets January 14th, 21st, and February 4th in the Common Room.
Have you or someone you know been wondering about the Episcopal church? Wonder no more! For the five weeks in Lent, starting February 18th on Sunday evenings, we’ll host this introductory course. In it we’ll explore the whys, hows, and whats of the Episcopal church. If you are looking to get Baptized, Confirmed, Received, or Reaffirmed in the church, this is the course for you. Conversely, if you’re just looking to learn more about this Episcopal tradition, this is also the course for you. Written by our own Stephen Quarles and Emily Hansen Curran with help from a fellow Episcopalian, Andrew Lee, this course is meant to deepen our faith, our practice, and our relationships. All are welcome. See Emily, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
This year’s Annual Meeting will be held on January 28th between the 9 and 11:15 services in the Parish Hall. This is an exciting meeting of budgets, stories from the year and years past, snacks, and new vestry announcements. Come, bring food to share, and celebrate our year together!