From the Rector
Re-investing in Relationships
Many of the pastoral conversations that I’m a part of on a daily basis have to do with some sort of a fracture of relationship. Whether it is deeply personal, like the fracturing between spouses or between parents and children, or conflict within a community, or the pain felt when an organization or institution fails in some way, all of these events have impacts.
It is not news that at this time, in this nation, there is a feeling that we are increasingly moving towards polarities. Whether it is expressed through physical violence or coarse language or a lack of respect, there has been a marked change in the ways that we live together as participants in this grand democratic experiment known as the United States of America. (Some of the seeds are right there in the name — individual states attempting to come together.)
There has also been an attendant lament that has accompanied the partisan rancor and unwillingness to work across differences. The question that many of us are wrestling with is, “what is my responsibility?” “What can I do, being one person among many?” What I have heard from many and experienced myself is a sense of hopelessness. It can feel like the scope of the challenges are so large, the divides so wide as to feel overwhelming.
Thank God for Margaret Sparks, Michelle Barger, and Jeannie Koops-Elson. This triumvirate felt a tug of the Spirit several months ago and through conversation and prayer launched the Pentecost Challenge. Inspired by the movement of the Holy Spirit in that Upper Room, in which people from across language and culture understand each other, they wondered what it could be like if we began to have conversations, true conversations that involved listening and stressed the common elements of communication.
The Challenge has begun and, in a deepening of this effort, during the past several weeks the group has added seven specific ways for you and I to be in conversation with people that we might not otherwise. Some of them are relatively easy to pick up and try out. Others will demand more time, attention, and, frankly, courage. This past Sunday one All Soulsian picked a particularly challenging one, something that they had been meaning to do for some time. Their plan was to put the card up on the bathroom mirror until they acted on it.
This is my Godly counsel for all of us. As you begin to feel hope hard to come by, or see little way forward, choose one of the following challenges and see where the Spirit takes you.
- This week, change your routine: your commute route, your dog walk, your favorite coffee shop, your habit of choice. Talk to someone along the way.
- This week, reach out and take back a hurtful exchange you wish you’d never had.
- This week, pick up the phone and reach out to someone from whom you feel separated.
- This week, find a news source you do not usually track. Listen for common ground.
- This week, put pen to paper and write a letter to an old friend or distant relative.
- This week, ask a co-worker an open-ended question. Listen and learn something new about them.
- This week, ask a good friend if there was a time when you could have been a better listener.
- This week, ask someone you know of a different faith to share an aspect of their practice that is important to them.
There’s an app for that!
The daily habit of seeking quiet and the presence of the Holy One can be wonderfully healing. And there are lots of lovely resources to facilitate and deepen both our individual and corporate prayer life in our Episcopal tradition. In fact one of the reasons why I found my home in this denomination is that we are renowned for how we pray.
There are a few tools for personal prayer which I’d like to make available to you, if you do not already have them. These are options for praying morning, noon, or night, or whatever patterns work best for you. These free resources can be used on mobile devices (with apps for iPhone or Android) or any computer with a web browser.
The Mission of St. Clare
The Mission of St. Clare is my personal favorite. It was created by a person struggling with the effect of 60-80 hour work weeks in Silicon Valley on her prayer life. The app I have on my phone offers Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in English or Spanish. Named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi’s companion, it includes all the Scripture readings and psalms in the Episcopal Church’s two year lectionary for daily prayer. In the English version, you have the option to play the chants or hymns which are included in each office. I enjoy the variety of musical offerings (but occassionaly choose to skip a hymn after the first verse).
What I particularly relish about the Mission of St. Clare is that the prayers for the church and for the world offer links to Wikipedia articles about each country and Ecumenical faith community (in alphabetical order) as the days go by. Which means I can pray more knowledgeably about the people with whom we share this planet. These are in addition to a rhythm of wide-ranging prayers from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for cities, for agriculture, for those who influence public opinion, and so forth, repeated over the course of a week.
The project’s English website offers links to many more delights, including choral Evensong on BBC, from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and Compline at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.
The Brotherhood of St. Gregory
The Brotherhood of St. Gregory offers a web app that you just open in your browser. It provides four daily offices (Morning, Noon, Evening, and Compline) with a wide range of dates. The font is large and easy to read, and the app includes all the Scripture readings and psalms. However, it does not appear to link to any chants or hymns.
Founded in 1969, and named after St. Gregory the Great, this flexible community describe themselves this way:
The Brotherhood of Saint Gregory is a Christian Community of The Episcopal Church, its Communion Partners, and the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose members follow a common rule and serve the church on parochial, diocesan, and national levels. Members — clergy and lay, without regard to marital status — live individually, in small groups, or with their families.
There are also times in our lives when silence is a treasure.
A few years ago I realized that almost all my prayer time was verbal — spoken or read. I also realized that I too easily drifted into trying to tell the Holy One what to do. My personal prayers tended to be descriptions of just what I was sure was needed for x, y, or z!
Enter Centering Prayer, which focuses on quiet receptiveness to the Holy One and in which one gently returns one’s attention to quietness when it inevitably wanders.
There are Centering Prayer services in the All Souls Chapel from 7:30-8:30pm on the first and third Mondays of the month. These gatherings provide an introduction to the practice and plenty of time to share communal prayer.
Their free mobile app can be customized to fit your needs and preferences. Options include readings, screen images, duration, and musical tones (my favorite is Singing Bowl IV – 3x).
Just try it…
I hope that one or more of these resources might be helpful to you in deepening your relationship with the Holy One who loves each of us with a transforming, unquenchable love.
Paying it Forward
The stewardship team has been meeting over the spring and summer to consider our own giving philosophies and practices, and the design of the fall stewardship campaign. In reflection, we realized that a component of giving to the parish is “paying it forward.” This phrase refers to an act of generosity or kindness for which nothing is expected in return. Psychological studies show that generosity is socially contagious; the recipient of “paying it forward” often does the same for another, and bystanders witnessing an unreciprocated act of generosity are also stimulated to generosity.
Looking around at All Souls we can see that we benefit from the generosity of many previous generations of All Soulsians paying it forward. We are visibly reminded of this by engraved memorials such as the chalices used in Holy Eucharist and wall plaques in the chapel. But the great majority of it is unattributed. If we dig deep, though, we can see that nearly everything we now have at All Souls is there because someone before us donated their time, talents, or treasure (or all three some times).
One of the most notable acts of generosity in recent years was the donation of a large bequest by parishioner Ann Jordan. Ann was a fascinating person, deeply engaged in the All Souls community, and in the prayer and educational life of the parish. She lived modestly, in a small apartment with her cats, and upon her passing left a remarkably generous gift to the parish. That gift, named the Jordan Fund, has been invested, and the earnings have supported All Souls in expanding our mission, particularly by hiring additional staff and increasing our programs. Ann’s gift has been been paying it forward for a number of years, but much of the principal of the Jordan Fund is expected to be used for the All Souls wing of the Parish House replacement building, which will be a durable testament to her generosity.
While Ann Jordan’s gift was extraordinary, it illustrates how giving any amount contributes to the life of future generations at All Souls, and we ask that each of us prayerfully consider our giving in this context.
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
#FreeThemAll Family Press Conference Held at West County Detention Center July 14
The #FreeThemAll Family Press Conference was held Saturday, July 14, at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, with a number of All Soulsians in attendance.
Members of our community regularly attend the monthly prayer vigil, which has been led at the facility for seven years by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. This month it was announced that the facility will be closing. The press conference was planned as a circle of care to support the families and their loved ones who are currently detained and unsure of their future.
Several brave individuals — from Latin America and places as far away as Russia — spoke of the extreme hardship they are experiencing as the head of their family is held indefinitely or moved to a facility far away. One woman spoke of her husband’s relocation to Colorado and how hard it is to parent four children without him, especially when they had been able at least to enjoy the regular visits that were allowed twice a week. One woman said she will give birth in four months — and needs for her husband to be with her.
The organization is asking for alternatives to detention, including that:
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) use its discretion and release all current detainees so they can be reunited with their families and loved ones.
- Detainees not be transferred out of state — this makes family visitation and continuing legal representation nearly impossible.
- Those who have been transferred out of state be returned, so they can see their families and resume their legal representation.
As the immigration situation changes constantly, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity is seeking to raise bond money and financial support for families of the detained. You can contribute directly to this work.
News from General Convention
The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers receives the House of Deputies medal at GC79
The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Dean of Academic Affairs at CDSP and assisting priest here at All Souls, was recognized by the House of Deputies at General Convention for her dedicated service to the Episcopal Church.
On the Organ
I’m not very good on the keyboard, I know.
I play things too loud and I play things too slow.
But there’s one thing of all where I’m quite incomplete:
I have no skills for playing old hymns with my feet.
SUMMER BOOK GROUP
The Summer Book Group schedule continues with:
- July 29 — Chapters 15-16
- August 5 — Chapters 17-19