From the Rector
As you may have read, seen, or heard, last Friday, a statement was released from the most recent meeting of Anglican Primates in Canterbury, England. For those unfamiliar with this body or this term, a Primate is the person who has a kind of “prime” authority in any one of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion around the world. This body, which first met as such in 1979, has met irregularly since then, most recently around the differences around the Communion in regards to human sexuality.
While there has been great disagreement about the efficacy or even possibility of the actions that a majority of Primates have most recently stated, it is clear to me that the words they used and the actions intended were effective—in furthering a divide and in wounding many. My thoughts here today are about process, structure and response.
First, process. As our diocesan Bishop, Marc Andrus, noted on his blog the day of the news, one of the effects of this statement and the actions in it is to scapegoat the Episcopal Church. The Primates’ statement is a response to our actions of well over the past decade around our belief that LGBTI people are whole and beloved, capable and deserving of any and all sacraments: ordination, marriage or otherwise. By attempting to remove this church from the conversation, the perceived wish was that it might somehow maintain the integrity of the Anglican Communion.
Not only is this a profoundly painful and misguided way to engage in reconciliation, a stated goal of both Archbishop Justin Welby and of many others, but it is also mistaken, practically and theologically. If I choose to remove the person that I am in conflict with from the conversation, there is little hope for any change of mind, any conversion for either of us. Paul’s letter to those in conflict in Corinth seems especially poignant, “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.” The intent signed by the majority of Primates, to remove one member of the Communion from participation, is about punishment, not conversation. This is not how I understand we are to live together in Christian community, even in times of conflict.
And, quite simply, this intention of removing the Episcopal Church from participation in the bodies of the church, is not how we are built. Not in the Episcopal Church. And not in the Anglican Communion. We are not now a hierarchically-structured body, and since the Anglican Communion was founded because the United States broke away from the British Empire and we formed the Episcopal Church, we have never been. That’s not how we roll.
The Dean of Episcopal cathedral in Atlanta, the Very Rev. Sam Candler, had an excellent reflection about this recently. He reminds us that words like “suspension” or “sanction” really don’t apply because the authority for a decision like this does not come from the Primates. They are not a Curia. In the Anglican Communion, each Primate’s authority rests in their province, no matter how many gather together. We are held together, as Dean Candler writes, “by common faith, common heritage, common tradition, and common spirit—but not held together by doctrinal absolutism, or one pope, or one body that sets global policy.” In this sense then, the statement that the Primates released was also a category error.
And now for our response. In conversation this past week, I was alerted to a statement by the Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the Episcopal House of Deputies. Gay is a member of another Communion-wide body, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). In her statement she reminds us that the ACC is a body made up of bishops, clergy and lay people, in short, the whole of the Church. The Primates don’t have the authority to restrict participation. And so Gay and the other representatives of the Episcopal Church plan to attend and to participate fully.
To me, this seems the most faithful response. I intend for us to continue to live our lives—as people and as a Parish—as members of what our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called, the Jesus Movement. If you haven’t yet seen his video response following the Primates meeting, it is 2:55 that you need to watch. It is a grounded, real, loving, hope-filled witness to who we are as Christians, Anglicans and Episcopalians. He asks us to remember that, “the Anglican Communion is really not a matter of structure and organization,” but about relationships, what has traditionally been called “bonds of affection.” Our most faithful response will lie within these relationships and in building new ones.
I care deeply about being a part of a global communion of Christians, personally and theologically. It is an expression to me of one of the fundamental truths of being Christian, that we do not, cannot, live this out on our own. Some of my greatest joys while being a part of All Souls have been the relationships we have built with people from all over the Communion. As Presiding Bishop Michael has said, it may be our vocation to help the Communion and others know that “all of God’s children are fully welcomed.” I trust that to be true, for us at All Souls, the Episcopal Church and the beloved of God everywhere. Fear not, for, again in Presiding Bishop Curry’s words, “the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.”
Astonished to Worship
This article was first published on Practicing Families on January 20th, and Tripp has graciously agreed to let us share it here, as well.
It astonishes me how comfortably he sits facing outward strapped to my chest as we sing. It is Advent and the music director and I are leading the congregation in an Introit. “Open my heart,” we intone. I am teaching the low voices, Christopher is teaching the middle voices, and the choir is holding down the melody as we enter worship together. EP is clapping and making eyes with one of the older members of the congregation seated in the front. We have all become accustomed to this.
This is sometimes how we worship now.
Facing outward, EP scans the faces of the rest of the ensemble gathered behind the altar. The instrumentalists and the singers sometimes return his gaze with a smile. He can see the congregation over the piano and past the altar. Sometimes he claps and makes his own noises as we sing.
Every Sunday that I take him to worship with me is a gift that I treasure.
Our son, EP, is nine months old now. Since he was large enough to sling across my chest, I’ve been taking him to Wednesday evening music rehearsals at All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, CA. Of course, this took some convincing.
I had to be convinced.
Yes, me. This isn’t a story about how I had to convince a congregation to accept my young child in rehearsal or worship. I, the wise and progressive parent studying liturgy at the doctoral level, did not demonstrate a new way of parenting to the cold and ignorant people of God. Nope. It’s quite the contrary. This reflection is mostly about my disbelief that they would accept him or that he would be able to manage all the stimuli. I assumed none of us, especially me, would be able to manage having such a little person with us. I was so very, very mistaken in my assumptions.
I assumed that I was going to have to quit attending Wednesday night rehearsals. My wife works in the theater and I often have solo parenting duties in the evening. When EP was two or three months old, my wife returned to work and I was prepared to tell our music director that I was not going to be able to attend. I approached him on a Sunday morning and started in, “Christopher, about Wednesday rehearsals…”
I got no further.
“Bring him with you! It’ll be fun.” You see, Christopher remembers being a little boy sitting under the church piano at rehearsals at his church growing up. He was already there.
So, I brought EP. The moms, dads, aunts, siblings of that musical community welcomed him in, passed him around, helped me to feed him, and rightly steered clear when a diaper needed changing. EP, for his part, was entranced. The sounds, the sights, the faces looking back at him captured his attention. He would hang there in the sling quietly listening, laughing, and now that he’s older, clapping and joining in.
He has a special love of banjos and of a cappella singing, apparently.
Wednesday evenings can be very special for us. But that’s not where this ends. This is where it begins for us.
Sometimes my wife works on Sunday mornings. Child care is available at the church, but when he was so very young, we weren’t quite comfortable with leaving him there. So, one Sunday I packed up the formula and the diapers and took him with me.
Strapped to my chest he slept and gurgled his way through the whole service. He smiled at the acolytes as they busily hurried past fulfilling their duties. Every so often one would stop and say hello. EP would kick in glee. He’s a social creature.
And we sang and played. I strapped on my guitar or mandolin and he hung on. Sometimes he would get a little squirmy and I would take him out of the sling and pass him around (He loves the soprano section especially. He has made new friends there.). He was entranced and entrancing. And I, his hesitant father, was astonished.
I am still astonished.
I am astonished by how much he can take in. I am astonished at how much attention he will pay to liturgy and, most especially, the music. I am astonished at how comfortable he has made himself in the sanctuary of the church. I am astonished by the hospitality offered to him and the hospitality he offers in return.
I wonder what this is doing to him, what kind of values are making their mark, what kind of sounds and actions are becoming a part of him so very early in his life. Instead of being quarantined from Life Together in Christ, EP is precisely in the middle of it. And I am too.
All Souls has a habit of making space for children. There are two areas with plush toys and rocking chairs for kids and parents. Often there is more than one small person in the procession as the choir enters the nave. They hold the hand of their parents as we all sing and gather. This is a common occurrence at All Souls and I am grateful for it.
Bringing my own child into this dynamic has changed church for me. I am more awake right now to the liturgy than I have been in some time. I’m not only seeing it anew through his eyes as many told me I might. I am also seeing it anew through a parent’s eyes. I’m a dad. In worship. With my son. My needs have changed. I need to make certain that EP is comfortable, that others are comfortable with him there. I need to learn how he engages worship. I need to know what it feels like to sing with him attached to me as his little body resonates against my own.
I need the priests to bless him when I take him forward during Eucharist. I need to come down from the choir loft when my wife has EP in her arms and is coming forward to receive on the Sundays she attends.
It feels selfish to list these needs, but these are not needs that I anticipated having and I am startled by them.
And the liturgy, the community that offers this service, is meeting my needs. They are meeting EP’s needs. They are meeting my family’s needs.
Liturgy is a service. It is a service offered to God and to God’s people. All of them. Even apprehensive parents who are surprised to find themselves in the midst of worship.
– Tripp Hudgins
School Supplies Ingathering
I am looking for supplies for my Kindergarten classroom. I teach at Caliber Beta Academy in Richmond, which serves a highly disadvantaged population of children. The school is a new charter school in its second year, which makes basic supplies particularly difficult to come by. I need crayons, markers, pencils, and construction paper. In addition, because the school is composed of trailers, the kids have to walk outside to get to the cafeteria and other locations several times a day. This poses a significant problem in this rainy season, as many kids do not have jackets. I am looking for children’s rain jackets, used or new, for kids 4 to 8 years old. Please help my kids by placing supplies and/or jackets in the baskets in the narthex on January 24th, 31st, or February 7th. Thank you so much in advance!
– Emily Hertz
Welcoming New Members
In December, we welcomed new members into the All Souls family. Today and in the coming weeks, we’ll hear from many of them.
I’m a business communications and e-Business consultant, most recently with Wells Fargo Bank. I grew up Methodist, spent several years at the Riverside Church in New York City, and joined St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in 1998. A year ago, after 29 years in my third-floor flat in San Francisco, I rented it out and moved to a ground-floor flat in El Cerrito that I rent from my dear sister and brother-in-law. Among the highlights of my years at St. Aidan’s was participating in our first mission trip to El Salvador in 2006, working with our rector Tommy Dillon to form the Bay Area Episcopal Salvador Mission Coalition, and planning the week-long visit the following year of Martin Barahona, then Diocesan Bishop of El Salvador and Primate of the Anglican Church of the Central Region of America. From 2009 to 2012, I worked with a team led by the late Felipe Sanchez Paris of St. Gregory of Nyssa to organize interfaith prayer services—at St. John the Evangelist, Grace Cathedral, and Mission Dolores Basilica—to honor the life and ministry of Oscar Romero, and the martyrs of Central America and Mexico. In 2004, I helped establish Performance Showcase, in which St. Aidan’s features Bay Area artists in contemporary music, dance, opera, and spoken word—most recently this New Year’s Eve. I never planned to leave St. Aidan’s but the bridge commute has limited my involvement. After visiting All Souls, participating in the immigration Vigil, and taking Phil’s class on making church together, I decided that this is where I want to be. I am delighted to join this lively parish and thank you all for your welcome.
– Cynthia Clifford
Hi, my name is Erica Clites and I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I moved to the Bay Area in 2012, and have been Episcopalian ever since moving to Riverside, CA for graduate school in 2007. I found All Souls thanks to the invitation of Jenn Ying! I love the music here especially, as it reminds me of my church growing up. I live in Albany and work for UC Berkeley as a paleontologist, digitizing thousands of clams, snails and other invertebrate fossils with the help of a team of students and volunteers. I love to play cards and board games, watch sporting events, hike, read and be outside. Thanks for welcoming me into this community where I feel both courageous and vulnerable!
– Erica Clites
High School Immersion Trip – July 31-Aug 9
9th to 12th grade graduates are invited to join other high schoolers from around the Bay on a trip to the Seattle area where we will offer relief work to those affected by the fires. The deadline to register is March 31st and the deposit is $250 deposit. We will all fundraise to cover the remaining costs. There is a mandatory meeting for the trip on April 17th from 2pm-4pm at St. Stephen’s, Orinda. For more information contact Jess Powell.
Please bring back Advent wreath forms!
We would be most appreciative if you would bring your metal Advent wreath form back and drop it off in the basket in the narthex. They are not cheap, and this way we’ll have them all ready to go for next year. Thank you!
Listening for a change: sacred conversations for racial justice
Join All Soulsians for the Trinity Wall Street annual theological conference, a satellite webcast with local discussion and engagment. The conversations will provide opportunities to talk skillfully about charged issues with people who might have differing perspectives. We will learn more about the racial issues of our time, including structural racism, mass incarceration, and policy change. Read descriptions of speakers and presentations here.
Date: January 23, 2016, 7:30am – 7:30pm (with lunch & dinner)
Location: CDSP, 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley
Registration: https://ssl.charityweb.net/cdsp/event/trinity2016.htm or call 510.204.0700
Cost: $50 standard, $40 GTU student, $25 CDSP student
Presenters: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Nicholas Kristof, Anna Deavere Smith, Michele Norris, Emilie Townes and others
Cheer on Cal basketball together
A crew of All Soulsians will be heading to basketball games in a few weeks. Come to Cal Women vs. Washington, Sunday January 31st at 2pm, $6 (chairbacks!), and Cal Men vs. Oregon State, Saturday February 13th at 3:30pm for $15 per ticket. Email Don Gates to reserve tickets.