FROM THE RECTOR
What a Vestry Does
On January 27th, as part at our Annual Meeting between the 9a and 11:15a services, we will be electing four new members for a three year term to our primary leadership body, the Vestry. I am grateful for and excited about the All Soulsians who have put themselves forward for consideration for leadership in this particular way.
And often, as we approach an Annual Meeting, especially when there is a decision to make about which All Soulsians’ gifts, experiences, and skills are most needed by the parish at this time, I am asked what a Vestry actually does. It’s an essential question for any body, and an important question when discerning new leaders to join it.
My understanding of what this group of spiritual elders does has been informed by several sources: the Canons of the Episcopal Church, some best practices of governing bodies, and my own experience. As to the Canons of the larger Episcopal Church and our own diocese, they are surprisingly sparse to silent on what a Vestry does. There’s a fair amount of attention as to how one is elected to the Vestry but there is very little direction as to what one does once they are there.
How does a Vestry lead a congregation in their work of worship and service, learning and life in community? We often have a sense of the end we are aiming for, but little guidance about how a Vestry helps a congregation get there. Over the years I have found the work of those in the field of good governance to be helpful. One resource in particular has been the teaching of Barbara Taylor, William Ryan, and Richard Chait, distilled in their book, Governance as Leadership: Re-framing Non-Profit Boards.
They remind us that every primary leadership body has three distinct modes or functions: Fiduciary, Strategic, and Generative. In my experience, the majority of leadership bodies pay most of their attention to the first, some attention to the second, and very little to the third. Vital and engaged leadership bodies will engage each of these functions at various times.
Fiduciary functioning is the active stewarding of the entity. It involves budgets and finance reports, physical plant repairs and personnel policies. It pays attention to the details and attends to the potential risks.
Strategic functioning looks at the medium to long-term strategy of the organization. What are the stresses and challenges that we face because of the larger culture? What are the gifts and opportunities that we have because of it? Beyond the next year or so, where should we be pointing our efforts? This kind of work often ends up in vision statements, strategic plans, and goal setting.
Generative functioning is the creative process of framing decisions, broadening perspective, and considering new ways of engaging. Often groups get so caught up in the necessary details of the operation of a body that they don’t ask questions like, How are we seeing the issues in front of us? What else should we be considering? What are the questions we haven’t asked? This generative work often brings energy to the body and opens up new possibilities that hadn’t yet been seen.
Thinking now more specifically about Christian congregations, it’s been my experience that the Vestry is often the only body that uses all three of these functions. For instance, the Finance Team pays very close attention to the Fiduciary aspect of our common life, and the Children and Family team engages the Generative function in their work, and at times they both do some Strategic work. The work of the Vestry is to pay attention to all of those ways over the course of the year, guiding and supporting the many groups and teams that make All Souls go.
Consider this lens on the Vestry as you approach your discernment for this year’s class. And, for those of you who have been wondering about what it might be like to serve on this body, consider how this understanding of governance might be compelling to you—it’s never too early to be thinking about next year’s Annual Meeting. (smiley emoticon)
Accompaniment Update – Save the Date!
In 2016 All Souls established a Parish House Accompaniment Project. We prepared rooms in our Parish House (including bedrooms, a bathroom, and a shared kitchen) and recruited teams of volunteers to provide housing and other forms of accompaniment (food, fellowship, clothing, rides to medical appointments and court hearings, etc.) to immigrants or asylum seekers recently released from detention and who are known to the authorities.
Since then we have welcomed, housed, and accompanied asylum seekers from around the world, including from Gaza, Cameroon, Mongolia, and Central America, among other places. After weeks and sometimes months residing in the Parish House, some of our guests leave to live with relatives in other parts of the country, others move to more permanent housing and remain in the Bay Area as their cases slowly move through the asylum process.
Last Spring we welcomed a new guest, Erkhembat, who, upon arrival to the US, requested asylum and was immediately sent to the detention center in Richmond. After more than eight months, he was finally released. Erkhembat stayed with us for several months as his All Souls Accompaniment Team worked to secure medical care and permanent housing for him, accompanied him to an initial hearing, raised bond after ICE detained him for failing to respond to a summons (that was sent to the wrong address and he never received!), and began the search for a lawyer to help prepare his asylum case.
Due to the heroic efforts of Katie Saral, we secured a pro-bono lawyer for Erkhembat last fall, who has been hard at work preparing for Erkhembat’s final asylum hearing. We also found an expert who is knowledgeable about the specific form of violence that caused Erkhembat to flee his home country and the risk he will face if he is forced to return. This past Sunday, Fr. Phil announced a request for funds to help pay for the expert’s detailed report and testimony, which the lawyer thinks is essential to making Erkhembat’s case. It took less than one day for All Soulsians to respond and raise the needed funds. The immense generosity of this parish fills me with gratitude!
Erkhembat’s final asylum hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 7th, 2:30pm at 100 Montgomery St., Suite #800, in San Francisco. Judge Morwood will hear his case. Past experience has shown us that accompanying our guests to their court hearings can make a difference in how the judge rules. For this reason, and also to express our love and support for Erkhembat, we are making plans to accompany Erkhembat at his hearing, and we invite you to join us. For those who would like to travel together, we will meet on at 12:30pm at Downtown Berkeley BART and take the train into the city. Please join us if you can!
Justice and Peace Ministry
WELCOMING NEW MEMBERS
In December we welcomed many new members into the All Souls parish community. Today and in the weeks ahead, you’ll hear from them.
I grew up in a small college town in the middle of Ohio. After attending university, I began a career as a bookseller. When Kevin and I moved to Chicago in 1985, it was an exciting time because Chicago was then a city of bookstores. We lived in Hyde Park on the south side for almost 30 years. Moving to Oakland in 2012 was a big change for me, but I’ve grown to love the Bay Area and now I’m happy to have a church community at All Souls.
I am from the mid-west, having spent most of my adult life in Chicago. My wife, Laura, and I married there in 1985. My working career has been in community development finance, providing capital for projects that benefit low-income people. Since moving to Oakland from Chicago in 2012, I’ve been working at the Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco. The Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home for about 30 years. Laura and I swim together most mornings. I love the arts (most especially music and poetry) and sitting in our garden on a quiet afternoon.
FROM THE STEWARDSHIP TEAM
Tomorrow will mark the official end of the 2019 Stewardship Campaign. You can still make a pledge confidentially, by using a google form to pledge on-line. You also email our Giving Secretary, Maggie Cooke, at email@example.com to make or change a pledge.
Throughout this campaign, the parish has offered its resources to enhance the financial foundation of the community; the Stewardship Committee is grateful for your patience and generosity. But apart from the solicitation letters, the brunches and the pledge forms, this pledge campaign has seen moments of grace, bravery and transformation.
Here are just a few of those moments to share a sense of how vibrant and inspired our community has been about supporting our ministries and each other:
A relatively new All Soulsian made her pledge around in-gathering Sunday, and as ever, we were grateful for someone taking this big step to make a pledge here for the first time. A few weeks later though, she got in touch to ask if it would be ok to change her pledge — in fact, she wanted to nearly triple the original amount. I was stunned and inspired — not so much by the dollar amount, though it certainly was helpful. Instead, it was remarkable to witness this person’s courage and trust in discerning again, circling back, and choosing to chart a yet more generous way forward.
At Vestry last night, one of our leaders reflected that through this Pledge Campaign, she saw the members of this parish as a whole taking a responsibility for this community in a new way. In essence, we saw folks engaging more deeply, participating more fully, and deciding to more tangibly respond to the shared needs and opportunities with concrete commitment.
A parishioner came into church on pledge Sunday planning to renew her pledge at her current rate of $10 per month, because she planned to give more of her time in the coming year. But, she describes, “something happened between then and when it was time to fill out the card and I decided to tithe. I’m taking a risk and trusting what my community and the people I love have been saying. It’s only for a year at a time. I can re-evaluate every year.”
A parishioner apologized to a Stewardship Committee member for not making a bigger pledge. He explained that his family wanted to contribute more but just could not find a way to afford it. The committee member told him we were grateful for his pledge and the huge contribution they make to the parish in other ways. The parishioner said that All Souls was their anchor and that without All Souls they would have moved out of the Bay Area years ago.
This parish sustains and transforms lives and offers grace. Your pledges allow that work to happen.
We are humbled and grateful.
—The Stewardship Committee
SAVE THE DATE: ANNUAL MEETING
January 27th, 10:10 am
Please come together for our Annual Meeting: a time to hear about the budget, to listen to stories from this past year and many years past, and elect our new leadership. To read about the people standing for election to the Vestry, please see last week’s Pathfinder. Please bring food to share! Childcare will be available on the courtyard; Sunday School does not meet this day.
CALLING ALL FORMS!
As you put away your Christmas things, please bring back your Advent wreath forms! You can drop them in a basket in the narthex. We reuse them year after year, and if you bring them back, then we don’t have to buy more in advance of next year’s Advent Festival. Thank you!!
FROM ADULT FORMATION
Faith in Practice: Spiritual Disciplines
This Sunday, January 20th, Dr. Diane Haavik will share about the practice of silence and the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel will share about Benedictine spirituality. Join us at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall on Sunday morning as we learn about these sustaining practices together.
CARBON TRACKER APP WORKSHOP
During the 10:10 teaching hour this Sunday, Glenn Brown will lead a workshop in the Common Room about how to use the new Carbon Tracker App. Stop by to learn more about how to use this great resource!
Justice and Peace 2018 Donations
The All Souls Justice and Peace Ministry each year selects worthy organizations and projects serving the poor, the marginalized, and our fragile planet Earth to receive funds from our budget – funds that come from all of you. In 2018 we made gifts to the following groups: (1) Braid Mission, a ministry supporting foster youth, led by two Episcopal priests; (2) California Interfaith Power and Light, an interfaith coalition working to address climate change; (3) the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, a state-wide organization which works on behalf of immigrant rights and racial justice; (4) the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, which unites a diverse coalition of faith groups in social justice work, with a particular emphasis this year on the housing crisis and homelessness; (5) the No Coal in Oakland campaign, which seeks to prevent the construction of a coal export terminal in Oakland; (6) Tapestry Ministries, which provides pro bono legal services for immigrants; and (7) Episcopal Relief and Development, particularly to support its work in response to the recent wildfires.
We also hosted four Advent ingatherings, in which parishioners generously donated items needed by the following organizations: Nueva Esperanza / New Hope, led by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, supporting the transition needs of newly arrived migrant youth and families; UC Berkeley Food Pantry, providing food to students and their families who have used up all financial aid; Braid Mission Cards of Hope, providing holiday cards and gift cards to foster youth ages 7-13 to let each child know that they are remembered, loved, and cared for; and the Berkeley Food Pantry, providing healthy food to those in need in Berkeley and Albany.