From the Rector
Common Objects of Our Love
Yesterday, January 20th, marked the 58th inauguration of a presidential term in the United States of America. In the words of one of our Wednesday Eucharist participants that morning, it was a moment that somehow managed to be both, “mundane and miraculous.”
Mundane in that inaugurations have happened dozens of times before. Miraculous in that just two weeks prior, on the steps and in the halls of that very building, a violent mob of insurrectionists was attempting to prevent this peaceful transfer of power from taking place.
Mundane in that we’ve heard those songs sung countless times before, and heard those oaths taken many, many times. (and sometimes twice) But miraculous in that they took on a profundity and power precisely because of the fragility that we have all felt in the past two weeks. (how is it possible that it has only been two weeks since the Epiphany?!?)
This pairing of the mundane and the miraculous brought me to tears several times in the proceedings––this was civic ritual at its most dramatic, and I dearly miss being in conversation with our friend and All Soulsian Bob Bellah about it. All of the components––from the panoply of musicians, to the personal resonance of artifacts, to the power, courage and depth of the poetry––the actions, intentions and allusions of that event held up for anyone watching much of what we hold dear in this nation.
This was surfaced for me in one of the quotes that President Biden reflected on in his inaugural address. In the one of the address’s pivots he said, “Many centuries ago, St. Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? I think I know. Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.”
First, it was a remarkable use of one’s Christian faith in the public square. President Biden didn’t presume that others shared his faith, instead he drew upon the wisdom of his tradition to illumine another tradition. I find this to be a faithful and generous testimony to one’s faith that is authentic but not assumptive or triumphalist.
Second, he was asking all Americans, and perhaps especially Christian Americans, to critically examine the objects to which we offer our attention and heart. To me, this is another way of living into the teaching of Jesus, that, “where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.”
My experience of much of the past four years of the Trump Presidency is that there was little desire to see what we hold in common, and the results of this approach to governance have been disastrous. But this is not simply a responsibility for our elected officials; this is a responsibility that we all share.
For our experiment in democracy to survive, we must engage in an intensive and sustained reckoning and renewal as we once again rediscover what we want our common objects of love to be. What it means to live faithfully in a diverse, complex, and, in the words of Amanda Gorman, “unfinished” country. This rediscovery will involve conflict and compromise––communal life always does. That has always been true in our attempts to form a more perfect union.
It is my hope that in this past year a new moment has emerged in our nation, one that will allow us rediscover what we love in common. May now be the time and we be those people.
From the Deacon
Reflecting on our Ingathering
I have been a part of many All Souls ingatherings, but this one was different in a couple of key ways.
First, we couldn’t all gather to bring our gifts for our unhoused neighbors and the Berkeley Food Pantry. We had a few small outdoor services, but for the most part we were meeting online because of the pandemic. Could we still host an ingathering, we wondered? How?
It wasn’t easy. Our ingathering required a lot of flexibility and creativity on the part of staff and parishioners. We had drop off days, rescheduled drop off days, missed connections, and the offer of project sandwich style pickups. We had some items dropped off on Sundays in between services and some dropped off on Wednesday afternoons. Some early ideas about how to collect items had to be scrapped. Thanks to the dedication of many All Soulsians, by the time it was distribution day we had a nursery full of items for the camps. And when it came time to distribute food to the pantry, once again the nursery was full.
I noticed something else this year: this felt like a project we were doing with our community, together. It didn’t feel like charity. We requested lists of what folks actually wanted, and we filled as many requests as possible. We were in conversation from the beginning about what was most needed, and we learned a lot about the reality of life in the camps. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with the people we have met in the camps and growing this ministry in the coming months. If you have energy for this I look forward to hearing from you! And our relationship with the Berkeley Food Pantry continues to grow with our regular Friday donations. If you’re interested in having food picked up from your doorstep email Cathy Goshorn at email@example.com. Even in the midst of difficult conditions, All Souls continues to be incredibly generous, and I am grateful!
From the Associate for Music
Note: A version of this essay ran in this past Sunday’s Composer of the Week column, which appears every week in the back of the bulletin for the 11:15am service.
It is pretty common for liberal churches with majority-white congregations to sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” annually on the Sunday before MLK Day. All Souls is one. Yet, in a country that has failed so many communities in so many ways for so long, we should routinely ask ourselves not only whether we should continue observing this tradition but what we want it to mean.
The text and historical context of “Lift” strongly suggest that the subjects of the poem—the people referenced by poet James Weldon Johnson’s “we” and “our”—are Black Americans. For musicologist Shana L. Redmond, the anthem is “a living document of Black experience.” Johnson himself offered an even bolder interpretation: asked for guidance on how to sing the final stanza, he gave very specific performance instructions that were supposed to manifest his belief that, in this musical moment, “the American Negro was, historically and spiritually, immanent.” All Souls is a community of individuals holding many different (racial) identities, but most of us do not identify as Black. The obvious question, as formulated by writer Janelle Harris Dixon, is, “Should a song that threads the black [sic] experience be communal domain?”
Those who answer “yes” to this question tend to emphasize how musical performance can be a site for empathy, solidarity, and transformation. Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, recently announced plans to put forth a measure that would make “Lift” the nation’s national hymn, placing it alongside “The Star-Spangled Banner,” currently the national anthem. Clyburn argued that this gesture would send a message to Black Americans that “Lift” is not “separate.” It would be “an act of healing,” he contended, since “everybody can identify with that song.” In suggesting that anyone can find a way to connect with the poem, Clyburn perhaps encourages us all to see our fates as inextricably linked. According to this view, it would make sense for everyone to sing about the experiences of Black Americans, because the suffering of any people is bad for all people, while the liberation of any people is good for all people. Some theologies of congregational singing use corporeal metaphors to advance a similar idea: much as forging, deepening, and healing relationships is supposed to enable a worshiping community to become “one body,” singing together has been theorized as making “one voice” out of many individual voices—with differences not eliminated but synthesized into a new whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Those who answer “no” to Dixon’s question tend to be more skeptical of such possibilities. After all, the United States has a long track record of delivering symbolic progress even as social and material conditions regress. Michael K. Fauntroy, associate professor of political science at Howard University, agrees that honoring “Lift” as Clyburn wants to do would be “symbolically notable for Black people,” but stresses that it “isn’t going to put food on people’s table, it’s not going to increase people’s pay.” This insight points to a particularly American cliché: time and again, people in positions of social privilege have pursued goals like “eclecticism,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” haphazardly and self-servingly, showing little willingness to dig deeper into their complicity in systems of injustice. The fear is that those who sing Black experience without living it will be content with paying lip-service.
Music has always contributed toward both outcomes. Sometimes it helps people engage with each other in ways that change relationships for the better; sometimes it helps people embrace fantasies that cause harm. If we are to believe in a hopeful both/and, we must remember that sharing a song is no substitute for justice.
New Small Groups
To start off this new year right, we’re launching a few different small group options. There will be more coming, but to start, here are two options set to start in February.
Conversations for Connection: We’re excited to announce an upcoming workshop for couples who want to:
* Understand and change their conflicts,
* Increase their loving bond, and
* Celebrate their relationship in a meaningful way
Based on the best-selling book by Dr. Sue Johnson: “Hold Me Tight: seven conversations for a lifetime of love,” we will discuss the role of attachment in love, disconnection, and conversations. We will also include guided conversational exercises about negative patterns/rigid “dance,” raw spots, apologies and forgiveness, and enhancing loving conversations. We also recommend that participants read Dr. Johnson’s Hold Me Tight book in order to more fully benefit from this workshop.
This workshop will start on Sunday, February 7th, 1:30-3:00 PM, and will meet remotely over zoom for six consecutive Sundays with the final meeting on March 14th. This will also be a small group of eight couples and we ask for a commitment to meet for the duration of the workshop.
Presenters will be Paul Guillory, PhD, who is certified in Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and Tracy Smith, PsyD, both licensed psychologists. They are also in a committed, loving partnership, which is guided by their Christian faith.
And, the second option is another round of Sacred Ground! This could be for those who have not yet done Sacred Ground, or for those who would like to do it again. Below is an article that Christine Trost wrote describing a possible option for this particular round of Sacred Ground.
Sacred Ground Ambassadors
I had the good fortune of participating in a Sacred Ground group led by Emily Hansen Curran and Annie Rovzar. Because the group met over Zoom, I was able to invite my 85-year-old mother, who lives in Wisconsin, to join us. After the pandemic emerged, my four siblings and I set up a weekly Zoom call with our parents (which continues!). Seeing our faces (along with spouses and grand children who pop in from time to time) and listening to us describe our week seemed to lessen the isolation they were feeling and gave us all something to look forward to. I thought the Sacred Ground group would add another element of connection and interest to my mom’s uneventful weeks. I had no idea how transformative it would be for both of us.
Emily and Annie created a welcoming and safe space that allowed for honest and vulnerable sharing, which was the key that unlocked the transformative power of the curriculum. The stories and contexts revealed by the films and readings were new to many in my group – historical truths left out of our textbooks and family histories. They inspired deeper conversations and reflections on privilege and power, faith and belief, and a willingness to acknowledge and grapple with painful truths long hidden or denied.
At our last Sacred Ground meeting my mom said she now feels she has the tools she needs to engage – in dialogue – people who make racist comments (which she said happens fairly regularly where she lives). This is huge for her since she is usually the quiet one in the room. My dad told me that my mom shared some of what she learned from the class on their New Year’s Eve Zoom call with friends. A member of an Episcopal church located in a mostly white and politically conservative Wisconsin town, my mom also plans to meet with her rector to explore the possibility of setting up a Sacred Ground group at her church. It is exciting for me to see her take what she learned from Sacred Ground into other parts of her life. She has become a Sacred Ground Ambassador!
As we try to make sense of the January 6th insurrection in our nation’s Capitol and prepare for new threats of violence and extremism led by a mixture of anti-government and white nationalist activists, many of whom identify as Christians, faith-based conversations about race, inequality, privilege and power have never been more urgent. The Sacred Ground curriculum provides a framework for promoting dialogue and understanding on these issues, and I am hopeful that the more congregations that adopt it, and the more parishioners who engage it, the more learning, transformation, action and, ultimately, healing there will be.
If you know of friends and family in other parts of the country who are interested in racial reconciliation and healing, please invite them to join an All Souls Sacred Ground group or start one in their own congregation. And if you have not had a chance to be part of a Sacred Ground group, please consider joining one. If you have questions or would like to know more about what is involved, please reach out to me or other members of the Justice and Peace Ministry Team (e.g., Janet Chisholm, Don Gates, Lewis Maldonado), who have also completed the course.
Member, Justice and Peace Ministry Team
Sunday Live Streaming News
Join us at 9am on Zoom for what was our outdoor, courtyard worship service. Or (and!) join us for the live stream of Sunday’s 11:15 service, which can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning.
Adult Formation Class this Sunday
We have three class offerings this Sunday
- Reading Between the Lines Bible Study. Contact Daniel Prechtel, firstname.lastname@example.org, to join that Zoom call at 10:10am.
- Praying with Scripture taught by Madeline Feeley and Toni Martinez Borgfeldt
10:10 Virtual Formation Class on Zoom (click here for class link) 1/10, 1/17, & 1/24
Looking for new ways to pray? Resolved to make 2021 a Year of Prayer?
Join Tonantzin Martinez-Borgfeldt and Madeline Feeley as we explore ways to use scripture in our daily life. We all desire a closer relationship with God, but it’s often hard to hear the Spirit in such a noisy world. Perhaps the Bible can help us center and focus that desire. Each session, we’ll use texts from the week’s lectionary and introduce you to practices designed to enrich your prayer life. You’re welcome to attend as many sessions as you can. We look forward to praying with you!
- Newcomer Class taught by Emily Hansen Curran and the Rev. Phil Brochard
10:10 Virtual Formation Class on Zoom (click here for class link) 1/10, 1/17, & 1/24 Anyone is invited to participate in our Newcomer Class, starting this Sunday, but you are especially welcome if you have started attending All Souls within the last 6-8 months or so. This is a 3-week class taught by the Rev. Phil Brochard and Emily Hansen Curran where we’ll look a little at the Episcopal church generally as well as the history of All Souls in exploring what it means to be a member at All Souls.
Missed the previous week’s class?? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be recording all of the Adult Formation offerings and loading them to the Adult Formation page of our website. Click here to get there and access the class recordings.
Children & Family News
In-person Children’s formation is temporarily on hold as we are under a new Shelter in Place order, but Children’s Chapel takes place weekly via Zoom at 10:10! If you’d like to receive updates about this, but do not subscribe to the Family Bulletin, please email Maggie Foote (email@example.com) for more information.
Youth group resumes meeting every other Sunday at 7:00pm via Zoom. Our next meeting will be January 31st. Hope to see you all there, and if you have a young person in your household in grades 6-12, and do not receive updates about Youth Group events, please email Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the list!
Stephen Ministry: We are here for you!
2020 was a challenging year, right?! Most of us have been struggling and overwhelmed. You are not alone. Stephen Ministers understand and are available to listen, support and pray for you. We can offer you a confidential caring relationship or an occasional phone call to help you through these ever-changing times. Contact Maggie Foote at (513) 309-1079 or Madeline Feeley at (510) 495-4512 so we can be there for you.
Sacred Ground Small Groups!
We are launching another round of Sacred Ground groups! What is Sacred Ground? It is a film and article-based dialogue series on race and faith written by the Diocese of the Episcopal church for people looking to examine their notions of race and whiteness. You can read more about the program on the National Diocesan website here.
Back in June, we did our first round of these small groups and had about 80 or so parishioners go through the curriculum together. Because of the response and success (the impact the curriculum had on our lives) of this initial round, we have decided to continue to offer these small groups.
Details: these groups meet for 10 sessions, which can be spaced out as works for the group, but the suggestion is to meet every-other-week for 20 weeks. You should budget about an hour and a half per week of readings or meetings for the 20 weeks. When the groups meet will depend on the availability of the group, which you can indicate by filling out this interest form.
Breaking Bread Building Bridges
Building Bridges: Pray for the Peace of the City
With Guest: Mayor Jesse Arreguin
Sunday January 24 at 2:00pm
Join us for the next in our series of Building Bridges programs with St. Paul AME Church and Congregation Beth El – this time with guest City of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. Building upon our conversations about isolation and connection back in November, in this session we’ll broaden our horizons to focus on our wider Berkeley/East Bay community.
Grounding our conversation in Jeremiah 29:7, we’ll discuss our role as members of religious communities and envision together a city and region in which all people are whole and at peace. Grab an afternoon snack and a beverage of choice as we gather around our screens to learn, laugh and support each other through this challenging time. Whether you’ve participated in previous Building Bridges programs or this will be your first, all All Souls adults and teens are welcome.
Please sign up for the session at this link:
You’ll receive the Zoom login information after you sign up as well as a reminder email with the link on the day of the session.
Evening Prayer via Zoom
Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline, which starts at 8:30 PDT:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 786 3029 4068
Check out Season 2, Episode 18 of the Soulcast!
Ongoing Canned Food Drive
The ASP Food Drive continues to pick up and deliver food for the Berkeley Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Food contributors and drivers participate every other week. Please email Cathy: email@example.com for more information.
Wednesday 9am Service
Join the Zoom call here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86087951049?pwd=THNxbjlqMm5zdjc5RGNLWkFrZk16QT09
Meeting ID: 860 8795 1049 Password: 520218
If you are able to help provide some meals for parishioners in need, please contact Cathy Goshorn to help out! We are in great need at this time to help care for each other––please consider helping other All Soulsians in need by providing meals or gift cards for meals. You can reach Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s Annual Meeting is January 31st at 10:10a on Zoom! Click here to register for the meeting (you must register to attend!)
Wanting to be a remote lector for Sunday morning’s 11:15 service? Let me know and I’ll get you trained. Email email@example.com.
Around the Diocese
Coming Soon – Good Shepherd Mutual Aid Education
As part of Good Shepherd’s efforts toward community engagement and social justice work, Gordon Gilmore and the Rev. Bill Trego will be co-facilitating a course/reading group on mutual aid strategies (via Zoom.) The course will meet every other Sunday beginning January 17, 2021 from 1:30-2:30 and plans to meet 7 times in total.
The idea of this course grew out of Good Shepherd’s anti-racism and Black Lives Matter initiatives, and the goal is to educate by reading texts on mutual aid strategies, horizontal organizing, and solidarity networks. The hope is that from this course we can develop a solidarity network in the north-/south-/West Berkeley areas, potentially joining forces with ones that already exist. The formation of such a solidarity network would serve to assist in resisting systemic oppression.
In this course, the goal will be to explore the texts together, everyone bringing their experiences in working with the community and critical lens to bear on the texts we are engaging and the strategies they suggest. The texts will look at the history of such strategies and organizing in the history of the church, such as Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers Movement, as well as in revolutionary groups that often inspire liberation theologies, such as the Black Panthers. We will also look at strategies for such organizing in the present day, and brainstorm with one another about how best to implement these strategies.
If you’re in the Berkeley area and are interested in joining the conversation, please contact Gordon Gilmore at firstname.lastname@example.org