From the Rector
All bodies have immune systems
As you may know, this past summer, while on sabbatical, I spent time studying the practices that create and keep vital Christian communities. One of the resources that I found especially compelling is the book, Healthy Congregations, by the pastor and scholar Peter Steinke.
In it, Steinke uses the workings of the human body as a metaphor for the workings of a congregation. This is a well-founded approach—St. Paul found it an important metaphor as well in his first letter to the Corinthians, especially in chapter 12. Steinke, using work begun by physicians to describe health in the human body, then extends these principles to what health looks like in a body politic. My post from this summer about the book as a whole can be found here and a post about the 10 guidelines for Health can be found here.
Another teaching from the book that I found particularly helpful has to do with an understanding of the immune system. A functioning immune system is essential to remaining alive. Without it, the pathogens that exist in our body take over and, because of the effects infection or disease, we do not survive.
The basic function of an immune system is to determine whether a substance is of the body or not of the body. When functioning well, our immune systems detect the presence of viruses, malignant cells, and other pathogens that damage or destroy parts of our bodies. Sometimes, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, our immune systems overreact and attack a part of our bodies that is simply doing its job. What is clear is that a body cannot be vital and whole without a functioning immune system keeping its integrity.
This much you probably already know. What Steinke offers us is the lens that all bodies, physical and politic, have and need immune systems. The purpose of an immune system in a nation, or a family, or a congregation, is to ensure that the actions, behaviors, and responses of the body reflect who that body is. Again, is this action or behavior “of us or is this not of us?”
As with any lens, it is imperfect, but it can be helpful in looking at the groups around us and those we are a part of, in order to determine what actions and behaviors are most beneficial. For instance, you are likely aware of the current stand-off taking place at a federal wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon. At this very moment, local citizens, among them tribal leaders of the Burns Paiute nation, are clearly stating that this action of an armed militia from other parts of the country is “not of them.” The days ahead will show how the body politic responds.
This same principle applies to our lives as members of our families. A family, especially when raising children, asks itself, “Is this behavior of us, or is it not of us?” Is it beneficial, life-giving, will it help us to keep the integrity of all? As I said, this lens is most clearly applied when raising children, but is actually used for the entirety of the life of a family system, especially at times with emotional relationships are frayed.
This lens can also be used to look at the life of a congregation. This isn’t about whether people are “of the body” or not, but about the words we use and the actions we take. Are the actions of this body beneficial for its life and health? Are they leading us towards the vision that we have received at All Souls or will they lead us further away? If a behavior of an individual or a group continues, will it contradict or will it serve the congregation’s purposes?
Recognizing “what is self and what is not of self” can at times be hard. This is why the study of Scripture, and the regular practices of individual and corporate prayer, and of theological reflection are essential to our common life. When we learn and remember the best ways to live, listen for God’s will in the midst of our common life, and reflect on where we experience the Holy among us, we are more likely to act and respond in ways that give life.
Practice with this lens this week. As you read, watch or hear the news. As you reflect on the words and deeds of those closest to you. As take part in the life of this parish family. Ask yourself, “is this of us, or not of us?” Is this leading to life and wholeness for all?
Forum on Development Options for All Souls Parish House
All are invited to a forum about the Parish House to be held this Sunday, January 10, at 12:45 pm in the church. Throughout 2015, a task group charged by the vestry explored options for how All Souls can make the most of the Parish House property to further our mission. The task group identified several distinct options available for development and described the comparative costs and benefits—to mission, finances, time, immediate neighbors and the wider community—in a report delivered to the vestry this fall.
Much of the planning and life of our parish takes place through weekly worship, monthly meetings, an annual liturgical calendar and budget, and a three-year lectionary cycle. The implications for decisions regarding the Parish House property, however, represent a once-in-several-generations opportunity. Before the vestry makes a decision on how to proceed, they would like to hear the priorities and concerns of the parish community.
We ask you to begin as the vestry and task force have done: prayerfully read our parish vision statement, then imagine the church All Souls seeks to become 5, 10, 20 years from today. As we develop into a place of deep welcome and intergenerational connection, and a center for daily Christian practice and action. What does this look like and how can we best use this particular property, our resources, time, and energy to bring this vision to fruition?
Background on the Parish House:
The building at the corner of Oxford and Cedar Streets that we now know at the Parish House was built in 1906 as a single-family residence. Over time the building was modified and expanded to a 3 story, 10-unit apartment building. All Souls initially acquired this property and the adjacent parcel in 1965 at a cost of $194,000. The house on the adjacent parcel was razed to create our parking lot. The remaining apartment building was used for rental income to amortize the cost of both properties to the parish.
Over time, the management of the building and the cost of repairs relative to rent became financially disadvantageous. In 1983, the apartment house was sold for $20,000 to Incarnation Priory for use in housing brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross. The Priory was a good neighbor and presence in the All Souls community for more than 25 years.
In January 2010, the Order of the Holy Cross sold the building back to All Souls for $45,000. Since that time the 5 upper floor apartment units have been used to house seminary students living in an intentional community and our associate rector. The community members are not tenants and do not pay rent. They do offer gifts that help to offset the cost of maintenance to the building. Since 2013, the ground floor of the Parish House has been used for expanded meeting space by the parish. In the summer of 2014, the office of the associate for liturgy and music and the music library were also moved into the ground floor space.
According to the Alan Block Inspection Report (March 1, 2010), significant work is needed to bring the Parish House up to code. All areas of the building are worn and/or substandard and many safety issues result. The wiring for the building is original/old and substandard. The plumbing is inadequate. Problems with the exterior walls, insulation, roof, and seismic safety were all cited. As the building has a brick foundation, engineering and earthquake retrofitting (underpinning, sheer walls, connected laterals, and in-filled garage area to reinforce the soft story at a cost of approximately $52k) was completed after the most recent purchase in 2010 in order to provide an improved level of safety for the occupants.
Options for Development
A. Partner with a non-profit developer to build affordable housing that benefits the wider community at and provides parish offices/meeting space. What does this look like? Join the church parking lot and Parish House parcels to make room for a 3- or 4-story building to house target populations such as transitional-age youth, seniors, or others with special needs. Possible underground parking for the church, and minimal parking for the building residents. First floor All Souls office and meeting space. Upper floors dedicated to subsidized apartments. All Souls retains ownership of the property but enters into a 55+ year agreement with the non-profit partner who is responsible for management and maintenance of the program housing. Funding is largely through government loans and subsidies. All Souls may need to contribute funds for construction of the portion of the building that is exclusively for church use. Expected time for development and construction: 4 to 6 years. Expected cost to All Souls: $600,000 up to $1 million?
B. Partner with a for-profit developer to build market rate housing at no cost to the parish and provide a revenue stream (perhaps $40,000 per year) and parish offices/meeting space. What does this look like? Join the church parking lot and Parish House parcels to make room for a 3- or 4-story building. Possible underground parking for the church, and minimal parking for the building residents. First floor All Souls office and meeting space. Upper floors dedicated to market rate apartments. All Souls retains ownership of the property but enters into a 75 year lease agreement with the for-profit partner who is responsible for management and maintenance of the housing. Funding by private investment through the developer partner. Expected time for development and construction: 4 years. Expected cost to All Souls: $0 to $1 million, depending on space and parking needs for church.
C. Rebuild or remodel the building to suit our needs. Through a capital campaign and possible use of the Jordan Fund, raise money from parish members to provide at least 2 units of below market rate housing (as required by the City of Berkeley) and office/meeting space within the Parish House parcel. Expected time for development and construction: 4 years. Expected cost to All Souls: $2.5 to $4 million, depending on scope of the project and space and parking needs for church.
If you are unable to attend the forum but have thoughts to share, please contact a vestry member or Fr. Phil sometime this week so that your concerns can be available to the vestry as they deliberate and decide on next steps for the Parish House.
—Nancy Austin, for the Parish House Roadmap committee
Ashes on the Way
I know Christmas has JUST ended, but it’s time again. Time for Ash Wednesday, for Lent, and finally for Easter! This is my favorite part of the year. Seriously. Because of All Souls and the Episcopal church, I’m learning to love Advent and Christmas, but they’re really not my thing.
Why do I love being reminded that I am dust? Well, for me it is about courage. In Ash Wednesday and Lent I find that the call to repent, to turn, allows me to see and accept those areas of my life where I need to do better. And to act.
Last year my experience of Lent gave me the courage to do something very radical. I stopped taking a medication that had stabilized an illness I live with but had side effects that seriously curtailed my life. I had spent a lot of time bemoaning how much I hated it, swirling in the sin of self pity (one of my personal favorites) and the belief that God was not going to be there for me when push came to shove. Instead of self-pity I let myself feel real grief about the experience. And then I made my move.
It was a dangerous decision. But I am dust and the time is now. Like, right now.
Last year a small group of All Soulsians took Ash Wednesday to the streets. We offered ashes to anyone who wanted them, along with a card that included a prayer, information about Ash Wednesday, and contact information for All Souls. People had amazing and unexpected responses! It was a profound experience (read more about it here).
This year we are going out again! Ash Wednesday is Wednesday, February 10th. If you’re interested in joining us, please email me at or call me at 510.332.0631. It would be fantastic if you could join us!
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.
Hi! We are Holly and Stephan Quarles and are so excited to be new members at All Souls! We recently moved to Berkeley from Chicago, so Stephan could pursue his PhD in systematic and philosophical theology at the GTU. Holly works as an administrative assistant in San Francisco at an executive search firm. We are also very new to the Episcopal Church and have been attending one since leaving the Nazarene Church in 2014. We love to play games, read (especially Harry Potter!), and watch the Big Bang Theory. All Souls has been extremely welcoming to us and we feel so grateful and excited to grow with you.
New formation classes begin this Sunday
Classes meet during the 10:10 hour on Sunday mornings.
Growing Up in Christ: Nurturing Children’s Faith at Home and in the Congregation
The Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer, associate professor of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
When children are baptized, parents and godparents promise to bring them up “in the Christian faith and life” and to help them “grow into the full stature of Christ.” The whole community of faith promises to “support them in their life in Christ.” What does it mean to keep these promises? In particular, how does a child’s faith develop, and what can parents, godparents, and a congregation do to support and nurture that emerging faith? In this four-week series we will explore faith development in children and young people, reflect together on how the practices of being a Christian are learned, and develop personal and shared strategies to cooperate with God’s Spirit, Who is already forming and shaping our children’s spiritual lives. Open to everyone who loves and cares about children!
Living Wholeheartedly with Your Money
Caroline McCall and Jamie Nelson
How would you describe your relationship with money? Do you have a sense of how much money is enough? What does money have to do with your faith? Jesus gave a lot of attention to money and wealth and their role in a faithful life, but many of us would rather not go there, and our socio-economic narrative of success says nothing about faith. In this course we will be drawing on scripture, Brene Brown’s insights about living wholeheartedly, and a book entitled Money and Faith: the search for enough (edited and compiled by Michael Schut). We will deepen our awareness of how money affects us as Christian people and whether the news of God’s abundance can be trusted in the face of a story of scarcity.
Lectionary Bible Study: Bible Workbench
Garden Room, Parish House
A lectionary-based Bible study practice designed for small groups, the material invites us to explore scripture in a broader context; learning to see how the texts relate to what is going on in the world, and to our own lives.
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!
January 17th, come to summer camp!
Well, almost. We’ll be hosting Camp Sunday at All Souls. Sean Swift, executive director of the Bishop’s Ranch will be preaching, and Ardath Dixon, summer camp director, will be leading camp activities (with s’more making!) during formation hour for the 4th-5th graders and youth. Ardath and Sean will be available throughout the morning to talk with folks about camp and share information about registering for summer youth and family camps.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets.