From the Associate Rector
Considering a Rule
When I learned how much time we would be spending on creating rules of life at CREDO, a clergy wellness conference I attended in October, I was disappointed. And skeptical. How could I possibly add more things to my plate? Wasn’t I doing enough as it was? Surely this wasn’t realistic, or fair. No doubt it would just set me up to fail down the line when I couldn’t keep up with the lofty goals they made me set.
But there I was, in the high desert of Arizona, for a week. We were already deep into our retreat together when they sprang this Rule of Life business on me, and there wasn’t an easy exit strategy. I couldn’t just not show up. And so I did show up, sort of. Half-heartedly, at first. Still skeptical.
And then, something happened. The prompts the leaders offered, the conversation and reflection they led were less onerous than I expected. I realized I had been holding my breath against the shaming element of “you should be doing…” but it wasn’t present. Instead, it was a chance to name my core values, honestly take stock of how I was living, and take some time to strategically guide those two into alignment with one another. And what’s more, I was getting to do that work in the company of some wise and dear souls. My perspective shifted, in spite of myself.
I realized that this didn’t have to be a deadening process of adding one more to-do list to my life. This was not about another kind of report card to check off. And it was certainly not an exercise in making an empty promise to create a more monk-like existence, perhaps by waking up to pray Lauds… the small people in my life already take care of that quite religiously. Instead, creating a Rule of Life was about getting more intentional and clever and clear about wholeheartedly living the life I desire – and that in many ways, to my surprise and delight, I was already living! The process was as affirming as it was challenging: about half of the Rule of Life that I eventually developed was a commitment to continue practices that I was already keeping.
The process encouraged participants to examine our lives through the lenses of physical, vocational, spiritual and financial health, and explore ways to have the Rule of Life reflect those areas. It is a wonderfully broad understanding of spirituality, looking at how our faith can permeate all aspects of our living. Calling it a rule feels like a misnomer, in some ways – I’ve experienced it more as a pattern, a collection of intentions, a direction. It is a guiding rule that holds together elements from the different areas of life that are most important to me.
As with any new challenge, the results have been mixed. But because the Rule was born out of a careful articulation of my core values, the resulting set of practices has a feel that is wildly different from a new year’s resolution. It’s not something to take on and then watch fizzle away as the year gets busier. It’s a naming of how I want to live and who I want to be. It’s a roadmap that I can keep returning to, and starting again – and adjusting – as I seek to stay the course.
Some time after returning from CREDO, my five year old daughter exclaimed quite out of the blue that I had only yelled once or twice since coming back from Arizona. She didn’t know that practicing patience was part of this new Rule of mine, but she was observing its effect. I was sold – it was making a difference.
Now three months out, some practices have flourished more than others, and some are still germinating, asking for more attention. What has definitively shifted, though, is my sense of how this way – this life lived in alignment with my core values – is actually within reach. I am not too busy, or too tired. To a certain extent, I, and we, are already doing it. When we write it down, organize it, and name it to others who help us along the path, it becomes that much easier.
Does this slow yet seismic shift sound appealing to you, maybe in a way that surprises your skepticism? I can relate. And here’s one opportunity for you to try it on for size: beginning this Sunday, January 8th at 10:10 am, Emily Hansen Curran and the Rev. Phil Brochard will be leading a formation hour class on creating your own Rule of Life for yourself, your family, or another gathering of souls with whom you walk this life. Come, not to burden yourself with more lists or ways to fall short, but in order to give yourself the tools, perspective, and support to live the life you long for, now.
From the Stewardship Team
Resourcing Our Resolve
As I circled the gym yesterday, waiting in line for a parking spot and then again for an open elliptical, I had some decidedly uncharitable thoughts about New Year’s resolutions. Newcomers crowded the aisles, regulars rolled their eyes, and everything seemed sweatier than usual. I consoled myself with the self-congratulatory reassurance that most won’t last beyond the January discount.
Back home, I texted my mom. Over Christmas, we planned weekly check-ins to help her stick to her goals on a new joint-healthy diet. She hasn’t texted me back.
In a world where we are busily trying to be slimmer, stronger, and smarter all the time, resolutions that “This will be the year!” are ringing hollow. I suspect like many, I found myself on January 4th wondering, what goals and good habits have I stuck to so far this year. Maybe those are my (half-hearted) resolutions for 2017.
Except that can’t be it. Today is the final day of Christmas. Epiphany is coming.
It is the culmination of a season of advent and celebration when we affirm, again and again, the promise of something new. We tell each other, in wonder and awe, about the possibility of birth and the physical presence of God. We await and cheer the dawn.
Light, we proclaim, is coming into the world.
So where is it? Where will we seek it?
If 2016 was a difficult year, the darkness promised for many in 2017 seems overwhelming. Marginalized communities across the country brace for violence. We despair of ever healing our deep divisions and disparities. People who are sick, or poor, or outcast prepare for the dismantling of hard-won rights and resources – health, food, housing, and family are all at risk.
Yet our good news is that Jesus, the embodied God, hung out with these people.
As if God incarnate was not radical enough, time and again we hear stories of Jesus being present to people and communities he wasn’t expected to be around. As we face the new year and the uncertain world ahead, we get to follow Jesus’ light into places we have never been. Places that scare us and places we have collectively neglected. We can, together, resolve to be present to people unlike ourselves, people outside the acceptable, polite, and comfortably familiar company we ordinarily keep. Our current moment and our shared faith in these stories compel me to believe that this profound presence is as necessary now as it has ever been.
It’s alright if we don’t know yet what that presence will require of us – what action matters, what tools we will need to tackle injustices that are bigger or more powerful than we are. We don’t have to go alone. People will tell us what they need.
At All Souls, we are planning a resource fair for Sunday, January 22 with many of the organizations our Justice and Peace Committee is already connected to. We will have a chance to hear what they need and how we can act alongside immigrants, foster youth, people of color, and people who are poor. To prepare, the Stewardship Team will offer take-home resources for prayer and reflection on stewarding our time and presence – how we can be present in intentional, impactful ways to compassionate work for justice and healing. In the coming months, we will seek action and create space for prayer and reflection together in community. You can keep an eye on the website, blue sheets, and the racial justice library for refreshed resources and opportunities to act together.
In resolving to throw in our lot with people on the edges this year, we can take courage and hope from the season. God is being born every day into the darkest corners of our world. Christmas reminds us of God’s incarnate grace and the New Year reminds us that we can make choices, each day, to draw near it.
As a community, we have chosen over and over to take those steps, at times tentative and at others bold, in the direction of action and service to God’s people. It’s a huge piece of what first drew me to All Souls and what keeps me here. I am heartened by this latest invitation to return to that truth and recommit – dare I say, resolve – to walk forward arm in arm. On behalf of the Justice and Peace Committee and Stewardship Team, I hope that you’ll come be curious and present with us too.
– Laura Eberly
Equipping Small Group Leaders!
Going Deeper – Healing Prayer
This fall our small groups steering committee authorized the Rev. Daniel Prechtel to lead a continuing education course for trained small group leaders and Stephen Ministers. The eight-session course explored multiple dimensions of healing and how they can be expressed in a small group context. Participants were from two other churches along with All Souls members. Here are what some participants had to say:
“For all those interested in the ministry of healing prayer or in forming prayer groups this class is a wonderful tool in helping people discern their calling to this ministry.”
“I firmly believe that small groups are a great way for The Spirit to reach us. Take the class & let yourself feel the healing that can happen.”
Apply now for the Spring Small Group Leaders Training!
Selected Saturdays at All Souls from 1:00-3:30 pm, March 4 to June 3. Deadline is January 31.
You are invited to apply for this twelve-session core training program for lay ministers and clergy for developing and leading church-based small groups that provide spiritual hospitality, community, formation, and mutual guidance. Staff-led demonstration groups and student-led practice groups along with reflection, reading, and discussion will combine to form a powerful learning community experience. Enrollment is limited and tuition is free to All Souls members.
Apply for this training program by contacting the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel by email or phone 224.636.2874. Learn what training graduates say about this program here. For more information talk to Sharon Roberts and Lenore Williamson.
Welcoming New Members
I came to All Souls looking for a community to worship and engage with. I grew up in churches in DioCal, and always felt this Diocese, no matter where I am in it, who I am with, or what we are doing, is my Home.
I’m an elementary school engineering teacher in Oakland, and am dedicated to improving STEM education for low income students. I like being outdoors, running, and spending time with my family, friends, and community.
– Annika McPeek
Return Your Forms!
Please, pretty please, bring back your Advent wreath forms this Sunday! As you put your Christmas decorations away, we would be most appreciative if you would bring your wreath form back to church and put it in a basket in the narthex. This simple act could help the budget quite a lot… ordering more forms each year is remarkably expensive. Thank you!
YOU could run the church!
Yes, you! Here’s how:
LAST CHANCE to suggest yourself or someone else as a nominee for Vestry and Deanery/Convention representative is Sunday, January 8. E-mail or talk with any Nominating Committee member (Madeline Feeley, Kim Wong, Thomas Burcham, Marilyn Flood) or one of the clergy about your interest or suggestion. Nominations close Sunday so that candidate statements and pictures can be published in next week’s Pathfinder. Nominations are not taken from the floor during the January 29 Annual Meeting.
One Book, One Parish
In summer 2017, All Souls members will read one book and come together each week to discuss it from different perspectives. During January and February, the Adult Formation Committee invites your nominations for the book we’ll all read. Books may be fiction or non-fiction.
Nomination forms and a box for submissions are available at the back of the chapel and in the narthex outside the main worship space. Or submit your nomination online here.
Nominations are due Sunday, February 26.
SAVE THE DATES
Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) local chapter’s launch: January 14, 4-5 pm
St. Alban’s, 1501 Washington Ave, Albany, CA. Light snacks.
Share justice/peace concerns, learn about EPF & shape local action.
Learn more from the EPF website, or by contacting Janet Chisholm, by email or phone: 845-641-3648.
Creating a Culture of Peace (CCP) Training: January 27-29
Friday 4:00 – 9:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sunday 1:00 – 8:00 pm; 3 dinners + Satu lunch.
Cost: $100. Limited scholarships. Ages 15+. Janet Chisholm, Senior CCP Trainer
Host: St Alban’s, Albany, CA.
Sponsor: Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Registration/Info: Deacon Kathleen Van Sickle, by email, phone at 510-306-7292, or online here.
CCP provides a spiritually-grounded and interactive learning time for being peaceful, hopeful people in a time of fear and violence — a practical foundation in principles, practices and power of active nonviolence. You will gain new tools, energy and concrete plans for taking action on issues that you choose. CCP is a national network of peace trainings offered to Episcopal churches and seminaries.