FROM THE RECTOR
We Do Not Walk Alone
These past weeks have tested us as a world, a nation, a community and as people. Bombings in Istanbul and Baghdad, the killings of Philando Castile and of Alton Sterling, and then of Dallas police officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens, have drawn deep shadows across our lives.
Fissures, cracks, and chasms have emerged between nations, within our country, and for many, within ourselves. It increasingly difficult to look around us and see light and hope. For us at All Souls, this pain of dislocation was compounded by the stunning death by suicide of our friend and brother, Don Strange.
What has come clear in the days since Don’s death is that he, like many, was fighting a battle that was not seen by any who knew him, family and friend alike. Beneath the surface of his life was pain, suffering, and ultimately a desperation that was invisible to those around him. Nearly every conversation that I’ve had about Don’s suicide has involved us replaying our last conversations, emails, or texts. We all have wished that we could have intervened, wish that something might have triggered a response and another way. What we have been left with is a profound sadness at a loss of life and love.
This loss has been added to the dislocations of living in communities and in a culture and a world that so clearly does not live by what it professes, and it is soul-wrenching. The toll that it takes can be overwhelming. As I write, our Outreach team is discerning actions that we can take part in to repair the breaches of our community and country. More will be known in the days and weeks ahead as we take our part in the reconciliation and re-building of our cities and country.
And still, day by day, we struggle on. What has been clear to me in every encounter that I’ve had since returning to All Souls is our responsibility—for each other and for ourselves. Several years ago at All Souls, we took part in a Lenten series entitled “We Do Not Walk Alone.” Inspired by a phrase in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech from the Lincoln Memorial, we asked people of different races, ages and places to share from their own experience. We did so because we knew that it is only with one another, through truly knowing each other, that we will make it together. It was as true for us as parish then as it is now, and as it will be for our nation and this world.
What I ask this week, as we are reeling and confused, angry and grieving, is that we resist the urge to turn inward. That instead this be a time when we open ourselves up with and to others in compassion. This will be the hallmark of our actions in the weeks and months to come as we respond to the crisis of structural racism and violence, as well as how we live together as sisters and brothers in this parish family.
If you are reeling, reach out to someone. It could be a family member, a friend, it could be with Liz, or me, or other priests here at All Souls. You do not need to carry this burden alone. If you are desperate, if you don’t see a way out, talk to someone. And if you see someone that looks to be struggling, gently and lovingly inquire. Let them know through your words, actions, your presence, that you are with them and that they are not alone.
I am convinced that this will be our only way forward, that the more that we turn inward and away from one another, that the pain, tragedy and suffering we have felt will only continue. Within our families, our places of school and work, in this parish and in this city, we must remember our essential relationship as neighbor. For no matter the road ahead, we do not walk it alone.
In thanksgiving for the life of Don Strange
We are deeply saddened to share that Don Strange died by suicide on June 27th. He gave generously of his time, energy, joyful spirit, and leadership, both at All Souls and in the wider community. We will share information about his memorial service as it is available; the service will be in August at All Souls. In the meantime, please pray for Don, for his family and friends, and for this community as we all mourn. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Chronicles of a Middle School Immersion Trip
Over the past week, the youth group from All Souls and from four other churches traveled around Berkeley/San Francisco. On Monday, we learned all about community organizing. Everyone picked a partner and traced each other’s bodies on pieces of butcher paper. We put some words and phrases inside the body that would be used to say to a neighbor, and we put some words/phrases outside the body for strangers. Monday night we ate dinner and played sardines.
On Tuesday, we made S’mores-On-the-Go bags with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate for the kids at Saint Dorothy’s Rest. We also decorated and filled bags with snacks and took them to the Oakland Children’s Hospital. There, we learned all about the hospital’s background and how they take care of their kids. One thing that I found interesting was all of the obstacles families and children can face to get medical care. Last but not least, we took a tour of the hospital. That night we had tacos and played Commando Church.
On Wednesday, we went to Youth Spirit Artworks. We helped paint a labyrinth there, and we also decorated cards. I thought that painting the labyrinth was fun, and it felt good to be helping young adults and kids out. Youth Spirit Artworks is a community that cares for young adults and children that don’t have homes; they stay there during the day. While they’re there, they paint beautiful murals and artwork. We got to take a tour around the building and look at some murals. Then we went back to the Parish House, had dinner and s’mores, and played Commando Church.
On Thursday we went to the GLTB community in San Francisco and learned really interesting and sad things about them. We went to Dolores Park and ate lunch. Then we went back to Berkeley by Bart and had baked potatoes for dinner. Then we played Commando Church.
Our final day was Friday. We delivered clothes and toiletries to Y.E.A.H. They shelter up to 30 young adults at a time. We took a very interesting tour of that. Then we walked back and cleaned up since it was our last day. Then we had a church service and we all read our elevator pitches that we had been working on. Mine was on how to prevent sexism. Finally we went home.
– Cloey Klinefelter
Welcoming the Stranger: Seeing Both Sides
I didn’t know what to expect going into the middle school youth immersion trip, but leaving it afterwards, I learned a lot. One of the things that I was not expecting was how we got to meet the people and see the causes we were helping directly. This, to me, demonstrated the theme of welcoming the stranger because I felt like a part of the causes we were helping. One place where I especially felt a sense of community was when we visited Youth Spirit Artworks to paint them a labyrinth and we met everyone there. At the end, we all stood around the labyrinth and appreciated it, which made me feel connected with everyone else.
Another time the theme of welcoming the stranger was exemplified was on Thursday when we tried to visit an LGBTQ+ history museum in San Francisco. The docent working at the museum was reluctant to let us in, as we were a group of teenagers who he probably doubted would be respectful visitors at the museum. A few minutes after he turned us away from the museum, he changed his mind and invited us in just to listen to a tape, but then he told us we were free to look around at what they had. The museum had lots of documents from the LGBTQ+ rights movement that taught us more about what it was like decades ago. On our way out of the museum, the man complimented us on our behavior. You could see that the docent was at first skeptical of us, but he gave us a chance and realized that his assumptions of us were not accurate. From this experience, I learned how it feels to be judged off of stereotypes and appearances, and felt what it’s like to be reached out to.
On the middle school youth immersion trip, I learned about the importance of welcoming strangers. I learned what it feels like be a stranger who is welcomed. Most importantly, I learned how easy it is to turn strangers into neighbors when you make an effort.
– Elinor Rees-Hill
SAVE THE DATES NOW FOR THE 2016 PARISH RETREAT
Whether you’re brand new to the parish, or you attend every year, you will find this to be a special time for community building, spiritual growth and exploration at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg. This inter-generational event includes activities for children, youth (on parallel retreat), families, and adults. More information including the exact cost for this year will be shared soon, but in the meantime, put it on the calendar! It’s not to be missed.
“LET ME HELP”
Those words can bring a sigh of relief to people going through difficult times. A Stephen Minister could provide support by listening and being there while you work through this tough time. If you would like to explore this possibility, talk to any of the clergy or Nancy Austin 510-420-1533. Stephen Ministers are trained lay people who provide confidential, one-to-one care and support.