From the Rector

phil_brochardThe Family of Families

A few weeks ago I drove past my old elementary school. The sign out in front read, “Welcome back families.” This caught my attention because, when returning from vacations, those signs outside schools often read, “Welcome back students.”

The more that I thought about the implications of that welcome, the more I liked it. Not just for some of the practical reasons—parents were also coming back to volunteer, to help in classrooms, on the playgrounds, on field trips, etc. But also because it recognizes that children don’t come to school on their own, and that there is a large network of relationships that support and guide each child as they engage with school, no matter the age.

This has been on my mind and heart recently as we have engaged in conversations about children and youth and families at All Souls. On Sunday, January 4th, we engaged in the first of what I hope will be several conversations about why we do formation the way we do at All Souls, how this village raises Christians.

We talked about Godly Play, both strengths and limitations. We talked about music and children, worship on Sunday, and what might be possible to add or change in the time to come. That conversation has been followed by others in our regular staff meeting and will continue. Throughout, I have experienced sparks of energy and possibility and I am very curious to see which direction the conversation goes.

One metaphor that we use at All Souls comes from the language of Godly Play, that this community can serve as a “family of families.” This sentiment is found in our parish vision as, “We foster spiritual kinship with one another, especially across generations and diverse backgrounds.” I find it to be tremendously powerful in an age when grandparents and grandchildren are often separated by thousands of miles and in a culture where there are precious few intentionally intergenerational gathering points.

I’ve recently been playing with a tagline for All Souls, something that could go on t-shirts or flyers, “All Souls: asking the questions that Google can’t answer.” I’ve been kicking this around for a couple of reasons. First, because as much as the adherents to the Flying Spaghetti Monster might wish disagree, there seem to be some question that endure with us as humans, even as our technical and scientific prowess increases. And second, because it is my experience that these kinds of questions are best addressed together, as a community.

You see, this was one of the recurring themes of the conversation we had recently with parents, what might be called a theological version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” I have to say that, as a priest, these are some of my favorite conversations with parents, when their child––3 or 8 or 14 years old––asks the parent a question that they aren’t sure how to answer. Parents and grandparents often aren’t quite sure how to respond and, truth be told, I’ve sputtered a few times as a parent when fielding those questions myself––even though I’ve been trained as a priest and have spent over a decade as a parish priest.

It is clear to me that life is hard enough and can seem soul crushing when we are asked to navigate it on our own. It gives me great hope then, that this—the family of families—abides, asking the hard questions, supporting one another when challenged, each offering hope for what can be.


Meet your 2015 Vestry Candidates

It’s that time of year again – we’re about to gather for our Annual Meeting and elect a new class of vestry members! Here are the four generous souls who have agreed to offer their time and talent in leading our community.
Mark Koops-Elson

Jeannie and I walk into All Souls one Sunday morning for the first time, we take a place with our three boys in a pew on the left, near the back. This is high church for us, with our Presbyterian and Dutch Calvinist backgrounds, and we’re not sure what to expect, but it feels natural, warm, and surprisingly informal. And in spite of the holy chaos ensuing around us – we’re not the only family with kids – everyone’s dialed in. You could hear a pin drop during the sermon, bodies leaning forward, attentive, reflective. A sense of intense presence, an awareness of each other, of the message, and of the Spirit grows as we flow into the Eucharist with the musicians thrumming out a blissful rhythm. We feel the depth of tradition in these Episcopalian rites reaching back through the centuries, but it’s also new, and alive, and we’re definitely coming back…

…I’m a member of All Souls for a patchwork of reasons, but the irreducible and often inexplicably rich experiences that we have with one another, beginning with our Sunday worship, stand out. I’m honored to be considered for a role on Vestry, and I’d be happy to serve on this body to participate in the necessary administrative and decision-making work of our Parish. I work in health IT, and much of my professional life is spent supporting coalitions of provider organizations as they adopt new technologies, policies, and business practices to improve the care they deliver. So I’m used to working with groups of people to define goals, assess options, and implement change. I also have a PhD in anthropology and we lived in India for a couple of years.

I served on the committee that wrote our parish Vision Statement, and I remain incredibly proud of that document and the collective sweat and tears that went into developing it. These days, I’m thinking a lot about climate change, finite resources, and the need for resilient local communities to gracefully address the many challenges ahead. I’m confident that All Souls will be one such community, even as we strengthen our ties to a broader network of committed partners in our corner of the East Bay and beyond. And I trust that All Souls will continue to enable serendipitous group experiences that emerge through the mysterious alchemy of inter-generational community life. On that note…

…It’s the Parish Retreat, Bishops’ Ranch, September 2013. Saturday after dinner, conversations are wrapping up, and the adults begin to trickle out of the dining hall into the dimming evening light, only to discover an amazing blur of activity on the wide expanse of the lawn a few paces below. Thirty or so kids, from three to eighteen, whiz around in circles, high-school girls chasing squealing little boys, little boys diving at the legs of middle-schoolers, an absolutely unpredictable, beautiful, hilarious moment of collective euphoria and grass-stained jeans. More adults spill out onto the porch and, after we’ve observed and delighted in this unflagging wrestle-mania for five or ten minutes, the brave Matt McGinley strides out into the middle of the maelstrom, thumps his chest, shouts “who wants a piece of me!!!,” and promptly disappears under a pile of arms, legs, and radiantly smiling faces.

Tara McCulloch

The first time I set foot in All Souls’ sanctuary was Easter Sunday, 2008. I had never before attended a Christian church service, and was completely overwhelmed and inspired by what I witnessed that day. The sermon’s compelling message of Christ’s radical, inclusive love; the angelic choral music; the sweet and hopeful prayers of the people; the warm greetings from strangers during the peace; the breaking of the bread; and the friendly folks at Coffee Hour — everything about my first visit to All Souls moved me deeply, and to tears. Although attending church was a brand-new experience, somehow sitting in the pew that day filled me with the unexpected feeling that I had finally found what I’d been looking for: I felt as though I had come home.

Since joining All Souls more than six years ago, I have served the community through many ministries. I have volunteered as a Sunday school parent; played bluegrass music in the Angel Band; served as a Stephen Minister for two years; and in 2014, I participated on the search committees for the Associate Rector and the Associate for Children and Youth positions. I am currently a member of an Open Door Dinner team; I serve on the healing team during Sunday morning worship; and have been an occasional participant on the Communications team. My ten-year-old daughter, who has attended Sunday school for many years, now serves as an acolyte, and is looking forward to participating in the middle school youth program next fall. Also, both my daughter and I were baptized at All Souls, and this has contributed to our feeling a profound sense of belonging and deep-rootedness in our spiritual community.

I live in Oakland with my husband, daughter, and two dogs. Professionally, I work as a fundraiser at UC Berkeley, and am also an active volunteer at my daughter’s public elementary school. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from UC Santa Barbara, and have more than twenty years of work experience in marketing and non-profit development and fundraising. I am an excellent communicator, a critical thinker, and enjoy working on teams with highly engaged people who share a common goal.

If selected for the Vestry, I will bring my faith, curiosity, intellect, and professional experience to contribute to All Souls’ next phase of growth. All Souls has enriched my life immeasurably over the years. Now, I want to give back by devoting my energy and spirit to serving my church as we discern next steps for implementing our shared vision. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to be nominated for All Souls’ Vestry, and would be honored to put my faith and skills to work to serve my beloved community.

N_Pryer_photoNancy Pryer

I have felt at home ever since the first time I walked in the doors of All Souls, circa 1989. Although we have had changes in leadership, worship styles, and décor, the heart of the All Souls community, rooted in faith, is constant. I see it everywhere I look, in earnest conversations, hugs and greetings and quiet prayers. I believe we are called to make this wonderful community known to the broader neighborhood, through invitation and welcoming of visitors, and outreach in areas of social justice and environmental stewardship. I serve as a co-chair of the Greeter and Newcomers committee, where we have maintained a strong welcoming greeter program, started a new orientation tour, and hold regular newcomer receptions and new member welcome events. As a Eucharistic minister, I have had the deep and humbling experience of sharing the Eucharist outside the walls of the church in home visits.

I’m not exactly a cradle Episcopalian; my family began attending St Dunstan’s Episcopal parish in Carmel Valley, CA when I was in high school, and I was baptized there at age 17. As many students do, I drifted away from regular church attendance in college, but felt called back during graduate school and found welcome and comfort in the familiar liturgy language and prayers; I was confirmed at Chapel of the Cross, in Chapel Hill, NC. Upon moving to Berkeley for a postdoctoral fellowship, I found All Souls and settled in. My husband Jack and I were married at All Souls, and our 14 year old son Henry is growing up here. I’m trained as a molecular cell biologist and spend my days working on developing new drugs to treat cancers and rare childhood diseases, at BioMarin Pharmaceutical, in San Rafael.

One of the important aspects of the All Souls community is how we all contribute to “make church,” in so many ways. It’s truly amazing to read the Annual Report every year to see the breadth of activities in this parish, and all who participate. Over the years I have participated in Stewardship and Finance, Outreach, the Open Door Dinner and lay Eucharistic ministry, in addition to Greeters and Newcomers. I view vestry membership as an important supportive role, with oversight of the finances, buildings, and staff that support the mission and ministries of the parish. I’m interested in discerning how we will use the Parish house as part of our mission and will look forward to an opportunity to contribute.

mary_reesMary Rees

I’ve had the pleasure of attending All Souls for nearly ten years, though for the first few years my ailing husband, Brian Hill, needed me at home most Sunday mornings. After Brian passed away, in February 2008, my children and I began attending services more regularly at All Souls. One of the things I enjoy most is the variety of music, especially singing Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Our Father.”

My kids and I started helping out with the Open Door Dinner a few times per year. We had received so much loving support from our family and friends — some of whom attend All Souls — in the years of Brian’s illness, and this was a way for us to give back to others. Eventually, Mary Hintz asked me to join Deirdre Greene’s team as co-captain, and I agreed. We have enjoyed this ministry, putting faith into action by serving the hungry among us. I’ve also been part of a Meals and Rides team and this fall joined a Loaves and Fishes team.

My background as a teacher of Russian, a translator, and a radio journalist has prepared me well to listen carefully and ask questions as a Vestry member, both at meetings and in conversations with parishioners. I look forward to getting a deeper understanding of how our parish works and helping guide our future path as a faith community.

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. around the Bay

mlkHere are a number of wonderful opportunities for worship, education, action, and community fun on and around Martin Luther King Day throughout the Bay Area. All of them are kid-friendly. Consider connecting at church on Sunday or on our All Soulsians Facebook group to make plans to go together!

A Worship Service of Reconciliation, Truth, and Solidarity
On January 18, 1pm at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco, 2097 Turk St., there will be a special Service of Reconciliation, Truth, and Solidarity in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The liturgy focuses on racial reconciliation, and the service will feature several speakers who will share brief reflections on their experiences either with racism or with being in anti-racist solidarity. Please come to this service to share in prayer and take a stand against gun violence and racism in the United States.

Reclaiming King’s Legacy for Children
This all-ages gathering will include a family and children’s space, teach-ins, sing alongs, art projects, story times, and youth led activities. The teach-ins will address how to talk to our children about what is happening in the wake of the recent protests around police action and racial violence, how to talk about the historical and continuing injustices to the black community, and how to move forward. Older youth will then be leading a march. The programming will begin on Monday, January 19, 2015 at 9:30am at Fruitvale Bart Station and continue to Coliseum Bart station via foot. More information is available here:

The NorCal MLK Foundation
There will be lots of different free events and programs offered through the NorCal MLK Foundation in the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, including a march, music festival, children’s discovery hunt, and film festival. Check out all the opportunities here:

Freedom Train
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley will charter Caltrain as its “Freedom Train” on Monday, January 19, 2015. The Caltrain Freedom Train is the only remaining of the nation’s more than two dozen official MLK commemorative train services launched 30 years ago by the late Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband. The trains were launched to commemorate the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama led by Dr. King that proved instrumental in the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Freedom Train departs from San Jose at 9:45 a.m. and expresses to San Francisco.  Freedom Train tickets are sold only by the association – Caltrain fare media isn’t valid. Tickets, priced at $10 each, are expected to sell out. Information:

Renewing Life at the Ranch

One of the great gifts of our diocese is the Bishop’s Ranch. Many of you have enjoyed its beauty on our annual retreat. Did you know that they offer lots of other retreats and programs throughout the year? Here are some of the upcoming offerings to consider embracing as your year unfolds:

The Rebirthing of God with John Philip Newell
January 18-21,2015
In ‘The Rebirthing of God’ John Philip Newell asks what it would look like if the true depths of the sacred were to come forth again in radically new ways. Immerse yourself in the of-godness, the sacredness of being at the heart of our lives and all life. What could Christianity’s blessing for the world be if there were a fresh birth from deep within? Explore the features of this birthing, especially coming back into relationship with the Earth as sacred, reverencing the Wisdom of other religious traditions, and living the way of Nonviolence.

Creativity Bound
February 20-22, 2015
Challenge yourself in two media at a workshop combining the visual and poetic arts. Over the course of this one-day intensive, we will work back and forth between building a poem and creating an art book.

What Did Jesus Say?
March 13-15, 2015
What if his words were more like poetry than anything else? Immerse yourself in some of Jesus’ wisdom sayings from ancient Syriac sources. Among his first followers, Jesus was understood to be the Life-giver, not the savior. In the Aramaic he spoke there was no word for salvation. To be “saved” was to be made alive. Jesus came up from the waters of his baptism filled with the Spirit, as the Life-giver, the Unified One. His followers became “those who are one.” Jesus spoke of these things in Aramaic. What if his words were more like poetry than anything else?

Inner Journey Retreat
April 6-10, 2015
Most people have a tenuous relationship to their spiritual self. And yet, this is by far and away our most powerful self, enabling us to do the “heavy lifting” of life with our very presence. Further, our culture tends to draw us toward an unbalanced, outward-driven life lacking deep meaning. Without sufficient understanding of our inner world, we make outer world decisions that keep us from our true path. Our life becomes denigrated through acquisition and attachment. We need a worldview (a weltanschauung) that empowers us to consciously and purposefully generate life for ourselves.

Song and Silence
April 10-12, 2015
Join a circle of voices in experiencing Hildegard of Bingen’s music the way she shared it with others – through a gentle, contemplative process of listening and echoing what we hear. Savor the ringing silence that follows song, and feel warmed and strengthened as the music settles in your heart. Enjoy plenty of silent time for rest and rejuvenation in the quiet beauty of the Ranch. Open to everyone who enjoys singing or has always wanted to sing.


Liturgy of Lament & Remembrance
Please join us on Sunday, January 18 at 7pm in the sanctuary in a service of healing and hope for all who have experienced loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, lost children, abortion, placing for adoption, failed adoption placement, or inability to conceive. This liturgy is designed to offer a space for grieving and healing through prayer, hearing God’s word, anointing and sharing of memories. Everyone who has experienced these losses – both women and men – are welcome. Whether your loss is a recent hurt or something you have carried for decades, this liturgy will provide a place and time to enter into memory, grieving, prayer and conversation with God, and hopefully a spirit of healing. For more information please contact Mo. Liz Tichenor.

Advent Wreaths – Return Your Metal Wreath Forms!
As you pack away all of your holiday decorations, consider returning the metal wreath form from your Advent wreath so it can be re-used next year! Drop them in the basket in the Narthex next time you’re at church.

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 two more meals in January:
January 17th at 6p, RSVP to Toni Martinez Borgfeldt
January 24 at 5:30p, RSVP to Caroline McCall

Phoenixes Game Night
The Phoenixes (our 20s and 30s group) is having a game night the fireplace room in the Parish House on Friday January 30 from 7-9pm. Feel free to bring snacks or beverages to share. Please send Emily Hertz an email if you’re planning to come.

Annual Meeting
Join us for our Annual Meeting on Sunday February 1 at 10:10a. The Annual Meeting is an important gathering for our community, during which we elect our leadership, tell stories of All Souls from the past year (and past century!) and look ahead to 2015. There will not be formation classes, but childcare will be available on the playground and in the nursery. If you are able, please bring breakfast goodies to share to sweeten the ordeal!

Calling all high schoolers!
February 6-8th St. John’s Ross Church will host Happening, an annual retreat for high schoolers run by high schoolers. All Souls’ Meghan Sweeney, who served as the assistant rector last year, with serve as Rector for Happening 2015. For more information please contact Jennifer Snow or Carolyn.

Just one minute – really!
Please take a moment to help our College for Congregational Development team and complete a very, very short anonymous survey. Thank you!

Catechumenate Beginning Soon!
Are you a newcomer seeking a deeper relationship with All Souls Parish? Are you considering Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, or Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows in the Episcopal Church?  If so, you are invited to join the Catechumenate class facilitated by Betsy Dixon and Ariane Wolfe beginning March 1. The class will emphasize spiritual growth and use scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, and other readings and activities.

Betsy and Ari will hold informational meetings on February 22 in the Common Room after the 7:30 a.m. service and in the Chapel after the 11:15 a.m. service. The Catechumenate will meet weekly from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at All Souls and run from March 1 through April 26, with no class on Easter Sunday. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Betsy by email or 510.527.5872 or Ariane by email or 510.207.9955.