from the rector
Courage and Trust
I spent the better part of last week in Atlanta, Georgia, participating in and presenting at an Episcopal conference, Rooted in Jesus. As I’ve been reflecting on my time there, I’ve been holding onto the prophecy of Phyllis Tickle and the wisdom of Jesus the Christ.
First, Phyllis Tickle’s prophecy. As you may have heard before, Phyllis Tickle recognized a pattern in Christian history––that about every 500 years, the Church holds a large rummage sale and sorts through all of the things that it has, seeing what it needs to hold onto, and what it can let go of.
This happened after the fall of the Roman Empire, again in the split of the East and the West, and again during the Reformation(s). And, as the institutions of Christianity began to change dramatically towards the end of the 20th century, she saw this happening again. As I sifted through the various presentations, worship, and approaches, I was reminded over and again of this metaphor of the rummage sale.
As I looked around, I saw a really interesting mix. Some of the practices and structures that we have held onto were instrumental in passing on the faith decades or centuries ago. But they no longer serve the purpose that they once did, and we have to let go of them, as hard as it is to do this. We cannot hold on to practices that no longer bring life––at least as evidenced by the fact that not many people seem to find life in them.
This is something that Jesus knew, and tried in many ways to teach his followers (and us) about. From his parables about the householder and the fig tree in Matthew to his metaphor of the vine and the branches in John, Jesus knew that change was an integral element in how people come close to God. What we are to hold onto are the things that help us grow, that keep us alive, that help us to come close to the Real.
Thanks be to God, I also experienced these things in Atlanta. While listening to/encouraging William Barber II in his stunning address about the dangers of worshipping God without a conscience. And in the incredible witness to racial justice, reparation and reconciliation by the people of Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore, that I preached about this past Sunday. If we show up where God is, we will be alive.
So, yes, the way ahead will not be easy for the Episcopal Church. And we will have to leave behind things that once gave us comfort. And we are not quite sure what the way ahead looks like. But I have deep trust that many of the ways that have sustained us in centuries past will continue to be conduits of life, and that we will re-discover ways that once were forgotten.
What will be required is courage and trust––that the God who led the Church through the rummage sales of centuries past will lead us on as well.
Anglican Prayer Beads or Rosary
We are nearing Lent and frequently I start thinking about what spiritual practice might I use to focus my prayer time in this season of self-examination and repentance. One option for prayer and meditation is to use Anglican prayer beads.
The use of Anglican prayer beads follows a long history of religious traditions using beads or knots to focus prayer. Many find the kinesthetic action of touching beads as they pray a way to stay focused and helpful in developing a contemplative prayer practice. The prayer beads or rosary that is used in the Anglican tradition is different than those used in other denominations or religious traditions. This specific design was developed in the 1980’s. Even the number of beads in an Anglican rosary is different than others and holds symbolism.
As we pray using our beads a single prayer is repeated as each similar bead is touched. The touching of the beads helps to keep focus and the repeated prayer allows us to find a centered place of meditation. The goal is not to race through the prayers to completion but instead to find a place of centered peace with God. The final step is listening to what God is telling us. For those that pray with beads often the simple touch of them in your pocket can quickly bring one back to a peaceful centered place with God.
Over the three sessions (Feb 2, 9, & 23) we will be learning more about the history and symbolism, how to make our own Anglican prayer beads, how to use them, and how to write our own prayers. Please join us!
––The Rev. Annie Jones & Will Bryant
touchstone crosses for lent
Several years ago an old Presbyterian minister friend gifted me the idea of making small crosses in clay for Lent. We have tinkered with the process over the years at All Souls and made the practice our own.
I first brought the clay to our Godly Play classes, thinking it was a good way for the kids to be creative, get pleasantly messy, and offer something to the rest of the church. Before long, adults discovered that the process of shaping and etching clay this way is absorbing, meditative, and strangely addictive. Trays of clay and information on varieties of crosses used through the ages found their way to adult formation classes and meeting rooms. One year, All Souls knitters set up in a pub, shaping dozens of crosses and conversations with curious pub patrons at the same time. We have come to count on the youth group for their particularly creative designs. Liz Tichenor always churned out beautiful crosses on the Vestry retreat. In all these settings we have learned that rich conversation often springs up over good work with our hands, sometimes because of it.
We’ve learned other things over the years, too—how to fire the clay in layers of redwood sawdust and charcoal; tinkering with the right recipe of fuel so it burns hot all night but is not too dangerously hot in the morning; which shapes and sizes hold up best; that we need A LOT of crosses so that there are enough for everyone.
Like many All Souls practices, this one involves a party. After beads and jazz and pancakes and jambalaya on Shrove/Mardi we will gather around the holy hibachi in the courtyard to light last year’s Palm Sunday leaves and the fire that begins our Lent. The crosses we have made will
bake in that fire all night (and in the auxiliary Weber on the Parish House patio), hardening and darkening into small stones.
On Ash Wednesday (and the first couple Sundays of Lent) we will pick them out of ash to carry around with us. Many people keep them in their pockets, something to touch and hold to remind them of the whatever Lenten practice they have chosen to take on. Some people hold theirs in meditation and prayer. Some children collect them like treasures. Phil and Liz often used them in pastoral care to remind people that they are loved by God and being prayed for by their community.
So look for trays of clay in the courtyard, in meetings and in classrooms during the weeks of February. Enjoy a few minutes of making with your hands. What will the cross that you make look like this this year? How will you carry it with you through Lent?
High School Immersion
“The immersion trip was a super fun experience overall. Being in an unfamiliar place with new people is a great way to connect with them. In Louisiana, we did a lot of work that I wouldn’t normally do. The work that we did showed me that helping people is a great and fun experience in general. I also felt like I was personally contributing to the world by helping people. I think that with this trip, I learned more about the values of christianity, while also feeling more connected to the religion. The best part of it was meeting new people and having a chance to connect with them. I would definitely do it again.”
“The HSIT trip was incredibly fun, and taught me a lot about privilege. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience helping Native American peoples in Dulac, Louisiana. The trip permitted me to get out of my comfort zone and take on a new perspective regarding socio-economic standpoints.
Living in the Bay Area, and growing up in a mostly white, upper middle class town and church, the change of culture was significant. The stark contrast between my upbringing and people in Louisiana was remarkable. Immersing myself into Dulac’s culture humbled me and awoke my inherent human need to help others thrive. Being able to empathize with those less fortunate than me, helped me understand that we don’t choose where/what we are born into. It eliminates the construction of a just world mindset.
To believe in a just world is to not believe in privilege and luck and instead overvalue hard work. We fall into this way of thinking far too often and forget to consider most of life is out of our control. The trip to Louisiana helped me see with a clearer lense what privileges I possess and become more thankful for what I have. It also helped me recognize the tools I can use to help people.
This trip spurred a spark of social justice and understanding. Not only did this trip allow me to recognize these notions, but it also allowed me to foster relationships with new people and experience an entirely new part of the country. Social and cultural customs are totally different and it is good to be put into an uncomfortable new situation. Viewing places with major impacts to North American history and hearing stories of people who lived there was invigorating. It gave me new comprehension of Southern states and peoples.
Before this trip, I didn’t know Native peoples were pushed out of their lands into marshes. These are the effects of European imperialism that is just not taught in schools. To be there, to hear from someone’s mouth their life experience gives me a craving for even more knowledge. When we painted a lady’s trailer, she was very thankful and this small action showed me that it doesn’t take much to create profound change.”
––Emi Akiyama Tahara
Last summer you all helped five of our high school students get to Dulac, LA with the Godsquad (a cohort of Bay Area Episcopal churches). As you just heard, these trips are often life-changing. This year, we’ve exited the Godsquad and are starting a new high school immersion trip venture with Christ Church, Alameda and Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill. Our plan? We’d like to start a high school summer program with an alternating rotation of immersion trip and pilgrimage each summer, starting first with an immersion trip. And so, this summer it’s Magalia 2020 (a town just north of Paradise, and just east of Helltown) where we’ll do fire relief related work.
But, we need you to come party with us on Tuesday night, February 25th, for Mardi Gras because it’s a fundraiser for this trip. You’ll hear more in the coming weeks about why this night has meaning and significance for us as a church, but, it’s also a way to help our youth have more experiences like Ronan and Emi named––of connection with others and expansion of heart.
2020 Capital Campaign News
Save the Date—Feb. 16
Marc Rieke, consultant for the 2020 capital campaign, will be our guest preacher during worship services. Join him and the capital campaign team at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall to learn more about the purposes and practices of the campaign.
Coming Up in Youth Group
High School overnighter and Middle School late-nighter, February 8-9th. Youth Group, February 23rd @ 6:30p.
Save the Date!
Mardi Gras this year is February 25th. This year’s Mardi Gras will benefit our high school youth who will be traveling to Magalia, just north of Paradise, CA to do fire relief sort of work in August. Come support the youth! Then, come back, the next day for Ash Wednesday––services as 7a, 12p, and 7:30p.
Candlemas at St. Mark’s
On February 6 Bishop Marc Andrus will celebrate Candlemas at St. Marks here in Berkeley. There will be a choral service with music spanning from the 11th to the 21st centuries. There will also be blessing of candles. Afterwards Bishop Marc will present on Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther king. This comes off of time that the Bishop got to spend in Viet Nam with Thich Nhat Hanh and his community. Thursday February 6 at 6:30 pm at St Marks in Berkeley. Entrance through the gate on Bancroft Avenue. RSVP (preferred but not mandatory) or questions by responding to this or contacting Tom Poynor, firstname.lastname@example.org.