From the Rector
“Santa is white. He is what he is. Jesus was a white man too. Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.” Those were the words offered by Megyn Kelly, a host on the Fox News Channel in the days leading up to Christmas. Now I realize that Kelly said them a few weeks ago and that we are no longer in the Christmas season. And that many, including the inimitable Jon Stewart, have spent time with this story. But her words have stayed with me in as much as they reflect a thorny theological issue. As I preached about on Christmas Eve, because of the Incarnation, every year we are freshly reminded that “matter matters.” And as this issue has shown us, image matters too.
The Santa Claus part of her statement (all of which she claims, unbelievably, was said in jest) is not as interesting to me for several reasons. One, Santa Claus is a fictional character. (I apologize if this has cratered someone’s worldview, especially if they are under 12, though if you are reading this Pathfinder and you are under 12, I am impressed) As such, one could imagine Santa Claus to fit any physical description. Sadly, though, it may be that this strain of a white-bearded and skinned Santa of popular American culture finds some its roots at my alma mater, General Seminary.
It is said (though convincingly questioned) that one of the early professors at General, Clement Clarke Moore, penned “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The poem describes this St. Nick,, “His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.” By this description one could say that this fictional character originally looked European (not surprisingly like the author himself). And that as a fictional character he can be made to reflect anybody, for actually the color that Santa Claus seems to stand for is green.
But the roots of this legend are much deeper. St. Nicholas of Myra was a real person, one who lived much of his 4th century life in what we now call Turkey. And the life of St. Nicholas has inspired Christians across the globe because of his generosity, his protection of the vulnerable and his steadfastness in the defense of the faith. So while Santa Claus can be white, St. Nicholas decidedly was not.
Now to what I feel was the more destructive of Megyn Kelly’s comments, which seemed something of a throwaway line, that Jesus was white. It is not surprising that someone would say this aloud in the United States. For the overwhelmingly dominant depiction of Jesus Christ is that of a white man, sometimes with clear, blue eyes and even light brown to blond hair. Many of these depictions are from European art, others from artists of this country.
I wouldn’t say that this statement by Kelly makes me uncomfortable. It actually saddens and makes me somewhat angry. Because once again a person of European descent has attempted to define Christ for all the world, and once again solely in their own image. To be clear, I do not take issue with depicted Christ as European. Because one of the scandalous gifts of the Incarnation is that All That Is was enfleshed as a human being like you and like me. So for some a European Jesus can be helpful in coming close to this Mystery.
Just like an Ethiopian Jesus can.
Or a Turkish Jesus can.
Or a Middle Eastern Jesus can.
This is why what Megyn Kelly said about Jesus being a white man really, really matters. Because one of the great dangers of Christianity is that, instead of trusting that we are made in God’s image, we begin to believe that God was made in our image. There is tremendous power in the former (this story from This American Life is outstanding, “Act Three, Soul Sister”). And awful peril in the latter, as we found in the Nazi regime.
For as far as we can guess, Jesus of Nazareth, born in the 1st century in Roman occupied Palestine, was of olive complexion, with black, curly hair. Does this mean that any other depiction of him is inaccurate and therefore unworthy of our gaze? I don’t believe so. It means that for us to come close to this Mystery, we often need to be able to see him how he most closely comes to us: with long hair, or an afro, or braids, or a goatee, or clean-shaven, or with a beard, etc. (this site has 100 images from throughout the centuries)
But when we believe that “our” image is the finite bounds of Christ and of God, then we misrepresent the totality of the Truth. Not just for ourselves, but also for others. And offer to the world a distortion that does great damage. As we gaze upon this newborn King (in our Sunday Gospels soon to be a grown man), we cannot forget that as we look, image matters.
From the Associate Rector
Sabbatical – A Time for Sabbath & Study
Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” ~ Mark 6:31
January 20 will mark the start of my six week sabbatical. What exactly is a sabbatical? The word sabbatical comes from the Hebrew shabbat, i.e. Sabbath, literally a “ceasing.” It is a time of rest from work, a break, and has its roots in the Bible (an example being Leviticus 25 where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year). In recent times sabbatical has come to mean a time away from the dailyness of one’s vocation in order to fulfill some goal, such as study or research. During my time away from All Souls I will be blending these two strains – Sabbath and study – to rest, renew, and create.
I am looking forward to some time to drop everything – or as much as I can while still taking care of my family whose regularly scheduled lives will still be going on! But being able to take some deep breaths, re-center, and hopefully to carve out a weekend retreat, are my hopes for the first few weeks.
After that I plan to turn my attention to a project that has been rattling around in my head for several years, but that I just haven’t had the extended amount of time needed to focus on. All Souls is not unlike other churches in that it draws in diverse people with various religious backgrounds, and some with no organized religious experience at all. Again and again I’ve found myself in conversations with parents who say to me, “So, my child asked this really hard question and I had no idea how to answer it. Can you talk to them?” I’m always happy to talk with kids, AND, I want to equip parents to be able to enter into conversation with their kids without freaking out.
So what I will be working to create is a five week adult formation class (which will be offered when I return in Lent – so consider signing up and joining this class while your kids are in their Sunday School classes!) which will cover some basic foundational Christian theology so that you have something to draw upon when the hard questions come, but just as importantly, an introduction to theological reflection. Because this is what our kids are learning through Godly Play. They already know how to do it. And once we as parents learn how to, then our anxiety level drops, and we realize it’s not really about being able to give our kids the ‘right’ answer (though hopefully you’ll have some new knowledge to bolster your confidence), it’s about engaging in holy wondering, conversation and reflection together.
I will be keeping you all in prayer during my time away, and I ask that you would do the same. I know that time will fly, and that even though Ash Wednesday is super late this year (March 5 which is during my first week back!), I’ll be celebrating Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras with you all before we know it.
Yours in God’s peace, Kristin+
January 12 – Sunday School
January 19 – Sunday School w/music
January 26 – Sunday School
February 2 – Annual Meeting during Formation Hour ~ NO SUNDAY SCHOOL ~ Children supervised on playground
Please Return Metal Advent Wreath Forms
Please de-green and de-candle your metal Advent wreath forms and bring them back to church to be re-used next year! You can drop them in the basket in the narthex. Thank you!
College Care Packages
It’s that time again! We’re getting ready to send care packages to our college kids next month, so parents please make sure we have any address changes, and everyone else be on the lookout for the opportunity to bake cookies!
Mt. Cross Day Camp & Big Sur Camping Dates
Mark your calendars now and get ready for great summer opportunities! Mt. Cross Day Camp, the Vacation Bible School we co-sponsor with Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, will be June 23-27 this year. Registration packets will be available in March, but be sure to include this in your summer camp planning now! The annual parish camping trip to Big Sur will be the weekend of July 18-20. Registration for this will begin in late May/early June.
Fostering Spiritual Kinship
“We foster spiritual kinship with one another, especially across generations and diverse backgrounds.” This is one of the phrases from the All Souls’ Vision that really resonates. Each week at Lunch Bunch, this part of the Vision is lived out. The simple act of preparing and sharing a meal together, a meal that is open to all, and one that requires you to bring nothing except a desire for community is powerful.
I first started attending Lunch Bunch a little over two years ago. I was nine months pregnant and my husband had to go out of town for a couple of days. He wanted to make sure that I had people checking on me and was getting good meals despite my (very) limited mobility. One of the leaders of Lunch Bunch heard him talking and invited me, assuring him that they would take care of me and make sure that I got a good meal, plus one to take home. Open invitations and kindness at a time of need. I had been invited before, but not been able to make the time. Since then, Fallon and I have become regular attendees. Often she is the only toddler, but she knows that she is welcome, cherished, and even has her “own” chair.
Each Thursday, members of Lunch Bunch gather after the noon Eucharist in the Chapel. We are a diverse crew. Some people are regular attenders of Sunday services, other attend different churches, and others may only enter a church for this meal. Regardless, the fellowship and relationships that are built are genuine.
Sometimes I have heard the lunch referred to as our church’s Senior Luncheon and while most of the attendees are more senior, anyone who is looking for a good meal and camaraderie is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Last month Fallon celebrated her 2nd birthday at Lunch Bunch with cake and singing surrounded by people who have supported her. This month we will celebrate Pat Walker-Sprague’s 80th birthday and dedicate time to remember the life of Betty Bernard, who passed away. As we grow as a congregation, ministries that celebrate life, create connection, and give us time to really talk to one another also bring us closer together and Lunch Bunch is just such a ministry. I look forward to sharing a meal with you at an upcoming Lunch Bunch.
Mother Pat Walker Sprague is a loving, hugging person. She came to All Souls in the 90s and worked with shut-ins and parishioners with problems and helped many people. Her husband Bill Sprague is very helpful in bringing her to church and Lunch Bunch when she is able. We will celebrate her 80th birthday at Lunch Bunch on January 16th.
Betty Bernard was a cheerful, loving person who loved hats. She worked many years at Kips near Cal and knew everybody by name – especially the football team. She walked to church because she never got her license. Later, when walking was more difficult she got rides from church people. She never missed Lunch Bunch. She and Ann Jordan were fast friends and always sat together at Lunch Bunch. They talked every evening by phone. Many people here at All Souls have taken Communion to her. She was always delighted to see them. Holy Communion was very important to her. Then, when she was housebound, her neighbors arranged for helpers to bring her meals. Though Betty passed away in December, Lunch Bunch remembers her fondly and looks forward to celebrating Betty’s life on January 23rd
From the Muffin Ministry
A Little Bit of Goodness
I hope that everyone who reads this article has something that they do for All Souls which they know to be a contribution. You sing in the choir, teach Sunday school or an adult formation class. You serve as an usher or lector or chalice bearer. Perhaps you show up on Saturday morning to work in the sacristy – arranging flowers, ironing linens, mending vestments. Or, when a work day is announced, you come to help paint the Parish House, or clean the windows of the nave. You help with Open Door Dinner or do service in the community. You pray for those on the prayer chain list or take meals to those going through a challenging time. Some of these roles are highly visible; others take place behind the scenes and if you haven’t been a part of them, you may have no idea how they come to be or who makes them happen. All of them are part of the fabric of our life together, a warp and weft of things we do for each other that make our life together more full. More beautiful, more soulful, more hospitable, more meaningful, and … more tasty.
One behind-the-scenes but on-the-table-in-front-of-you contribution is the Muffin Ministry. Did you notice that someone has been baking muffins for you, for months? I am about to pull back the curtain to reveal to you who that is and why they do it. Not one, but ten women with wooden spoons, mixing bowls, love and other wholesome ingredients, have baked these muffins so that, with only 5 or 10 minutes for 75 or so people to grab a hot beverage and a bite to eat on the way to a formation class, you can have a muffin with your coffee or tea. Herodia Allen, Nancy Austin, Michele Barger, Jeannie Koops-Elson, Kristin Krantz, Caroline McCall, Ana Nakamura, Patricia O’Gillooly, Shelley Stevens, and Kim Wong each bake 2 dozen muffins once each month. They do this at home at their own pace and they do it because they were asked to do so. They do it because they love to bake, or because their families enjoy the extra muffins they set aside. When you see them, thank them! If have an interest in baking and can contribute a little bit of goodness by bringing one- or two-dozen muffins once a month, please contact Nancy Austin (firstname.lastname@example.org) to join the Muffin Ministry. If a regular baking schedule isn’t possible for you but you can bring other food from time to time for coffee hour please let Pat Jones know at email@example.com
And, if all this talk of food isn’t what appeals to you, yet you are looking for a way to contribute to All Souls that feeds your soul and makes more of our life together, please do talk to Sara Gunter for ideas about where your gifts are needed.