Where Are They Now?
It’s been a little over a year since Julia, Abby, and I said our goodbyes to All Souls and moved about 50 miles north to the heart of Sonoma County.
I’ve learned since moving here that Santa Rosa has a kind of dual identity. In one sense, this city functions as a kind of northern outpost of the Bay Area. There are folks here who commute to San Francisco and to Marin. We listen to KQED and take day trips to Golden Gate Park. That “North Bay” identity has increased over the past several years as population growth and the housing crisis have sent Bay Area people northward (and of course our family is part of that trend).
Yet in another, older, sense, Santa Rosa is the hub of a separate region entirely: the Wine Country and the Redwood Empire. Folks from as far north as Mendocino and Humboldt Counties come here for shopping trips and hospital stays. Especially for people who grew up here, the sense of Sonoma County regional identity is strong. It’s not just about wine: it’s about agriculture of all kinds, especially dairy and orchards, and about a sense of connection to the hills, the redwoods, and the coast.
We really like it here. It’s a lot of what we love about the East Bay—great food, beautiful nature, interesting culture, quirky people—in a city that feels smaller and more manageable, yet still very much a city. Incarnation is a downtown parish surrounded by both rapid gentrification and significant inequality. Each week our congregation serves a hot breakfast to about 100-150 of our neighbors, most of them homeless, before our 8:00 liturgy. A number of our members are unhoused or face housing instability.
Everyone in Sonoma County was affected by the devastating fires of 2017. About ten families at Incarnation lost homes. Others were traumatized by terrifying evacuation experiences. The sights, stories, and smells from the Butte County fires last fall awakened those visceral memories all over again. During the fires themselves, Incarnation was actively involved in all kinds of hands-on relief. Today our work is more the slow, ongoing work of pastoral care, remembering, and healing—along with planning for what to do when, inevitably, there’s a next time.
My ministry at Incarnation is the most satisfying, soul-stretching kind of work I’ve ever done. Being the rector of a parish for the first time can be daunting. The role puts you at the center of lots of emotional force fields. There’s a never-ending list of possible tasks and projects one could be doing, with a constant need to stay grounded and keep the main thing the main thing. One of the greatest gifts All Souls gave me was a kind of training-wheels experience of the role when Phil invited me to serve as interim sabbatical rector in summer 2015. Just those few months have made a big difference for me in feeling ready to step into this ministry of pastoral leadership.
Since completing my doctorate in liturgy at the GTU, I’ve tried to stay involved in at least some scholarly activity, though that’s hard in the first year of a new ministry. I did publish one book review, and I’m working on getting my dissertation published. On a more practical note, I was asked to serve as minister of ceremonies for the ordination of our new Bishop, Megan Traquair. Planning a service for 1500 people in a concert hall not designed for worship isn’t exactly the same skill set as hunting down footnotes, but it was a fun and crazy learning experience! It was wonderful to share the day with some All Souls folks, and to read about it in Lily Conable’s great article last week.
Here at Incarnation we’re about 190 souls on a typical Sunday. We gather for three services (a busy morning schedule, which All Souls also helped me get used to!). We have wonderful music, lovely stained glass, and a gorgeous building built in 1873 out of two redwood trees. Beauty in worship is a great thing—and it can become empty if it’s not matched by a commitment to service and advocacy. That dual commitment is what I love about Incarnation, when we’re at our best, and what I continually brag about to folks in our diocese and beyond.
We also have our challenges. A history of troubled clergy departures, including several episodes of misconduct, means we do a lot of intentional work around communication, boundaries, and healthy conflict. All Souls is one place where I’ve experienced that kind of intentional work in the past—another gift I’m grateful for. At the same time, we have an incredible group of lay leaders and a kind of grassroots energy that has helped Incarnation to launch many of its most important ministries even during times of clergy instability. This community has a deep vitality at its core, and it’s been easy to fall in love with.
All Souls will always be a home place for our family. Next month we’ll celebrate the second anniversary of Abby’s baptism (her “special bath,” as she calls it) at All Souls. We’ll be lighting her baptismal candle and looking at pictures of many of you surrounding us as she joined us in the Body of Christ. All three of us send our love. Stop by sometime… we’re not far away!
In Christ’s love,
Rector, Incarnation, Santa Rosa
From the Associate for Ministry Development
First off, (and unrelated to the rest of this little article) I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for the support and love you gave my family these past few months. I can hardly remember a time when I felt as loved and cared for as I have these past few months.
But now, to the point. Remember back at the Annual Meeting in January when I told you all about this new small group program I was working on? Well, I’ve worked on it (a combination of my own experience of small groups in non-denominational Christian churches, with a conference on small groups, so many conversations with our own Erin Horne and Phil Brochard, and finally two beta groups), and I’ve finally got something. This fall Emmaus Groups will launch! But, before you all rush to sign-up, let me first tell you a bit about what these groups are and how they came to be.
As a staff team we have, for years now, noticed that many in this congregation have expressed a hunger to grow deeper relationships in this community, and into a deeper journey of faith and belief in Jesus. One way to answer to this, we think, is small groups—groups we’re calling Emmaus Groups. The name comes from the resurrection story in Luke 24:13-53 where Jesus meets two apostles talking and journeying to Emmaus. Discussing their dejection and then amazement at having just discovered that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, Jesus appeared to these two men. They, however, did not recognize him. Not until they were at dinner, seated around a table, when the bread was blessed did their eyes open and could they name that their hearts had been on fire while on the road with this stranger, and that this stranger before them was Jesus. The presence of Jesus was with them on their journey—in their questions, as they wrestled with their sadness and amazement—even when they could not see him.
With this as the base, our vision for Emmaus Groups is simple: to gather and journey together in small groups in order to deepen our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.
How will this work, you ask? Functionally, Emmaus Groups will meet every-other-week, as groups of no more than 12, in two 16-week covenant periods throughout the year. By “covenant” I mean simply that for 16 weeks folks will be committed (covenanted) to meeting. At the end of the 16-week period the groups will open so that some folks can leave and other folks can join (if that is desired and/or if there is room), but the idea is that most of these groups will continue to meet in the next 16-week period, and will then continue to do so for as long as the group wants. There will be some structure to the meetings themselves (i.e. content), though it won’t be anything as tight and structured as, say, Soup + Story groups. Generally, these groups will focus much more on journeying together, than studying together.
A new session of Emmaus Groups will launch the week of August 25th. These groups will then run through the second week of December, but the exact nights/times that these groups will meet will be determined by a Doodle poll that I will send to all interested in joining a group this fall.
Here’s the thing: I feel deeply hopeful that latent in these groups is the power to heal us, grow us, and ultimately expand the way we do church together. And that, to me, sounds both scary and exciting.
If all of this sounds exciting to you, or even the tiniest bit interesting to you (even a little bit), go ahead and email me, call me, or catch me some Sunday after a service. I’d love to meet with you or chat with you about joining one of these groups. But, if you are interested, I need to hear from you by August 4th! After August 4th we’ll have to look to the spring.
With great excitement,
From the Senior Warden
The Parish House Project with SAHA is feeling a bit more real to the vestry this month.
Don’t worry. We’re not making these decisions ourselves. But we did devote nearly our entire July meeting to a meticulous presentation of the proposed architectural drawings, going literally line by line with Kirk Miller’s expert guidance. While SAHA has contracted directly with the architectural firm planning the senior building, All Souls also has final approval. As Phil rightly points out, “We’re going to be living with this building next door for the next hundred years.”
Kirk’s career in architecture, eagle eye, and incisive red felt-tipped pens caught several questions in this first set of official drawings, some substantive and some cosmetic. At his recommendation, the vestry passed a conditional approval of plans, citing a comprehensive list of these points to be resolved before proceeding to the next step of design drawings. The whole vestry expressed gratitude to Kirk for his volunteer services and, as senior warden, I’d like to extend similar gratitude to the vestry who trusted and supported each other through a weighty series of decisions outside most of our expertise. We await the next set of drawings with assurance that we’re in good hands.
In other business, we heard the Rector’s Report and brief update on assembling the team to guide our upcoming capital campaign. Kaki guided us in a spiritual reflection on the unexpected nature of God’s movement in our lives and in prayers for guidance and thanksgiving.
— Laura Eberly
This summer we are gathering for a family formation classes during the Sunday School hour, exploring different faith practices to engage during the week at home. This last week we looked at the idea of Sabbath. Please note that we won’t be gathering for family formation this Sunday, July 21st, and will continue on the 28th.
Cease from what is necessary, and embrace what gives life.”
—Pastor Ken Shigemastu in “God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God”
Sabbath time is an often-misunderstood term because it has been used in the past to mean different kinds of practice. For our purposes today, we are going to focus on Sabbath as a time to pause and rest and focus on the abundance of God’s goodness in our lives.
Sabbath is not restricted to just one day or a certain amount of time. Instead, Sabbath is better understood by what it offers us: time. And in today’s world, that usually means being unplugged from our electrical devices so that we can be better connected to God and those around us.
A visual reminder for families to practice sabbath is something as simple as paper people chains. This simple paper project that be made longer and longer as you add more “people” to your chain. On each “person” write a practice that your family does to be “connected” with one another and to come closer to God. Here are a few suggestions:
- Indoor or outdoor picnic
- Card games of puzzles
- Make a meal together
What does your family enjoy doing together and unplugged? – that is sabbath!
Resources for Kids:
- “All the World” by Liz Garton Scanlon.
- “The Stars” by H.A. Rey
- “Good morning Yoga” by Mariam Gates
Resources for Adults:
One of the biggest challenges for establishing a ritual for sabbath is our electronic connection. You need to unplug, take a deep breath, and pause. Here are some resources to help:
Support our High Schoolers
Five of our high schoolers and two All Souls adult volunteers are joining with youth from other area Episcopal Churches to go on an immersion trip to Dulac, LA at the end of the month. While there, they will do work with ongoing flood damage in a Native American community. The group is still raising funds for the trip, and would love to have your support! You can give a check to the church, or contribute online here.
ALL SOULS T-SHIRTS
The shop to purchase All Souls t-shirts is now open for orders again! All proceeds, after the cost of the shirt, will go to support the High School Immersion Trip. You can order the t-shirts online here, pay online, and they will be mailed to your house! They’re printed by a fantastic local unionized shop. The online All Souls store will be open until August 15, after which point they will print the shirts and mail them to you. The three designs this time are “God erases no one,” “Jesus was a refugee,” and “Banjos for Jesus.”
SAVE THE DATE
Parish Retreat 2019
Mark your calendars for our annual Parish Retreat! We’ll be heading to the wonderful Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg September 13-15. (Note that this is on the early side — it’s still the 3rd Sunday of the month, but the earliest that can be!) It’s a fabulous time of fun, connection, good food, time to listen and reflect, and all kinds of intergenerational fellowship. More info coming later this summer, but please set aside the time!
SUMMER BOOK GROUP
Our Summer Book Group continues this Sunday! Please join us at 10:10 am to start our discussion of Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans.
Sunday, July 21: Parts V and VI (Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick);
Sunday, July 28: Part VII (Marriage) and Epilogue.
You are welcome to join for any or all sessions.