From the Associate Rector
I will readily admit that when I first started preaching at All Souls in 2010, I felt some degree of terror. The sheer brain power in the room, the depth of soul and heart, the breadth of all manner of experience — well, it makes for a daunting crowd at first.
It was what happened between the services though, unseen by most, that challenged me more: the example of and invitation to humility. Following the early service, after visiting with folks, Phil and I retreat quickly to the office. He has long kept the practice of inviting feedback on his preaching. What’d you hear? How was the landing? Did that story work? We dig into the manuscript. Sometimes it’s just a little tinkering, other days we remove whole chunks, or turn the thing inside out. It’s a fun creative challenge when it’s someone else’s work; it’s a more vulnerable task when the sermon is my own.
But as we’ve kept this practice, week after week, year after year, it’s grown on me. The fear that enshrouded that predictable time slot of inviting feedback has faded as I have come to recognize the freedom the practice holds as its core. It offers room to shift, experiment, try on different ways towards the same end. It opens space to hear, authentically, how another soul encounters your movement in the world.
The other day, the new rector of another parish visited All Souls to learn some tricks of the trade from Phil. He asked if he and I could also find time to sit down, that I might share with him my sense of what makes for a good rector. As I sat with the question, this practice of trading sermon feedback came to the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t because it’s helped me become a stronger preacher, though I appreciate that. Rather, it’s because there is a profound gift that comes from the primary leader of a community modeling this sort of humility as a downbeat in life. What worked? What can I change? Now that we’ve both moved to preaching without a manuscript, the questions have slid more towards Where did I get lost? What did I forget?
Maybe they aren’t just questions about our sermons.
The working assumption here is that there’s always more to learn, more to practice, more to hone. Not because we’re called to be perfectionists or to beat ourselves up if it doesn’t work — if anything, Phil has taught me quite the opposite with this discipline. Instead, it’s a way of reaching for conversion, again and again. Listening, responding, turning. It’s a practice of engaging in formation and reformation not as a way to arrive someplace, but simply as the Way.
And, in the end, isn’t this the life we’re called to as disciples? To keep learning, keep turning back, keep reaching for God in new ways and from new vantage points? It can happen through formation classes, walks with a Stephen Minister, special events like Christian Wiman’s visit this spring. This conversion can take root in marching, singing, creating. The Catechumenate offers particularly rich space for this work throughout Lent, whether you’re brand new to exploring the faith, or have been around All Souls for decades. And this formation can be as simple and direct as asking a friend for feedback, again and again. However we engage it, out past the fear of being challenged, tried, and formed, there is freedom. Here’s to trusting in that humble promise, and what lies beyond.
One Sunday Morning… All Life is Interrelated
On Saturday morning many of us will be gathering at All Souls to set off for the Oakland Women’s March. For what will we be marching?? Only women’s issues??? Not on your life. In the first place, there are no such things as only women’s issues. My own placard will read ”Environmental Justice All Life is Interrelated: Martin Luther King, Jr”.
Last Sunday proved to be quite an astonishing occasion, which of course always occurs when the Bishop comes to call, but even more so on this particular Sunday.
After a most stimulating 7:30 Service, Bible Workbench, and subsequent final moments of the 9:00 service, I made my way to Lewis Maldonado’s Formation Hour. I was not surprised to find most of the participants to be women. After all, the first principle of Environmental Justice is “Affirming the sacredness of Mother earth.”
After the Rev. Marguerite Judson’s opening prayer and Lewis’ introductory remarks, including apologies for absence of Harry Allen, his co-leader, we were given a bit of the history of Environmental Justice, when the door opened and the fireworks began.
In came All Souls’ own Paloma Pavel, expert on the subject and author of Climate Justice: Frontline Stories from Groundbreaking Coalitions in California escorting famed Carl Anthony, founder and co-director of Breakthrough Communities, an Earth House Center Project dedicated to building multiracial leadership for sustainable communities and author of The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race.
Now, remember, there are two doors to the Common Room and just as Paloma and Carl Anthony were introduced and seated, the other door opened and in came Bishop Marc, escorted by Father Phil!
The Bishop immediately launched into a too brief description of his Bonn, Germany experience at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference, when his delegation put forward the idea that faith bodies, who have long been working strongly for the healing of the planet could join with the climate-change promises of We Are Still In, calling all faith bodies to raise their efforts to greater collaboration and greater effort. “We also believe that as the Church we carry our spiritual values into climate action, and above all we carry our prayerful faith in God, whose love and providence contains all our efforts, with all our limitations.” Bishop Marc was filled with enthusiasm about the cooperative actions with Governor Brown in organizing a Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September.
The overflow group of participants was delighted!
Then, for me, as a welcome Afterword… on Monday morning KALW’s Rose Aguilar, in her One Planet Series, “The Nexus between Environmental and Social Justice” opened her program with: “We’re marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day by discussing environmental justice with Mustafa Ali, the former head of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Office.”
Over the past 24 years, Mr. Ali worked with hundreds of communities of color, low income communities, and indigenous populations. When the EPA decided to dismantle these programs last March, he resigned from the agency. In his resignation letter to EPA head Scott Pruitt, Mr. Ali wrote:
“…these communities, both rural and urban, often live with toxic levels of air pollution, a crumbling or non-existent water and sewer infrastructure, lead in their drinking water, hazardous waste sites and brownfields from vacant industrial and commercial sites…when I hear we are considering making cuts to grant programs, which have assisted 1400 communities, I wonder if our new leadership has had the opportunity to converse with those who need our help the most.”
One more quote to add to the interrelated theme: “We may have come to these shores in different ships, but we are now all in the same boat.”
And what does this all mean for the Women’s March on Saturday?? Everything!
See you Saturday morning… Guys will be welcomed with open arms!!
– Margaret Sparks, Marcher
From the Associate for Youth Ministry
Youth ministry in 2018 began with an Epiphany party on January 7th. Middle and high school students came. All ate together, played sardines together, decorated cookies together, and listened to Tomie dePaola’s The Story of the Three Wise Kings. It was the first time the youth group community has come together since before Christmas, and it was a lot of fun. Calvin Payne-Taylor and Kat Lisa helped with the party. Thank you both!
I’m looking forward to all that is coming in 2018. Next week, I will be at the Forma conference in Charleston, SC. Presiding Bishop Curry will be there and speak. I can’t wait to come back and apply what I will learn. From my experiences earning the Certificate in Youth and Family Ministry and going to the Forma conference last year, I know there will be many wise minds and decades of experience in youth ministry present. I look forward to collaborating with other youth ministers and connecting with our Episcopal community beyond the Bay Area.
Youth group begins again this Sunday. We’ve been exploring identity in both middle and high school youth groups since September, and we will continue to do so. The middle school youth have been reading (or, for many of them, rereading) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The story focuses on children of the Greek gods and follows them on their adventures. As Christians, we are children of God. The middle school youth, adult volunteers, and I have been digging into our understandings of what it means to be children of God, especially when compared to the youth in The Lightning Thief. We will continue to explore this in 2018.
The high school youth have expressed an interest in current events. They are well aware of what happens in the Bay Area and in our global community. We have spent several youth group sessions in the past discussing how to react to different events as Christians. This question remains relevant, and we will continue to explore it in 2018.
Of course, we will also make time for fun and food! The high school overnight will be April 15th. As always, games, snacks, and trips to Peet’s will be parts of all youth ministry activities.
I am still looking for All Soulsians to bring dinners on Sunday evenings for middle and high school youth groups. If you are interested in bringing dinner on January 28th, please sign up here. We only need one person to sign up per evening. If you can’t bring dinner on the 28th but would like to help in the future, please email me (email@example.com) or call me (510-848-1755 ext. 4).
I look forward to working with many of you!
From the Stewardship Team
A Snapshot of the 2017 Fall Campaign for 2018
|# Adults/Households||177||Total Vestry Amount||$80,860|
|Average Amount||$3,250||Average Vestry Amount||$6,738|
|% Households participating||83%||# Intentional Proportional||74|
|# Children/Youth||11||Total Campaign Amount||$575,747|
|Average Child/Youth Amount||$41||% increase over 2016 campaign||4%|
Campaign Participation by $ Amount:
(for operating years 2016-2018)
Book GroupS on CHRISTIAN WIMAN
Christian Wiman is coming March 9th and 10th! We’ve teamed up with First Congregational Church in Berkeley to host the poet Christian Wiman for an evening conversation at First Church on March 9th and a workshop and panel discussion on the 10th here at All Souls. To prepare for his coming, Emily Hansen Curran is hosting two book group meetings. The first will meet this Sunday, January 21st at 7pm in the Common Room. The second will meet on February 4th at the same time and place. For both meetings we’ll discuss Wiman’s latest poem anthology, Joy: 100 poems, starting with his introduction and dipping into a few of the poems listed. Anyone may drop in, perhaps bring a snack or beverage to share!
This year’s Annual Meeting will be held on January 28th at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall. This is an exciting meeting of stories from the year and years past, budgets, and electing new vestry members. You can read the statements from the vestry candidates (we’ll be electing four new members from among seven candidates) in last week’s Pathfinder. Come, bring food to share, and celebrate our year together!
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.