From the Associate Rector
With a Grateful Heart
Last week at the Monthly Monday Ministry Meeting, as I was wrapping up my final time with the Children & Family Formation Team, Kay Dreher reminded me of something I hadn’t thought about for a long time – when I came to All Souls eight years ago I was a newly ordained transitional Deacon; I was not ordained a Priest until a few months later, and so it was that many folk from All Souls were there for that event.
I share this little snippet because it crystallized for me feelings that have been forming while knowing that the end of my time serving All Souls was drawing near. The last eight years with this community has fundamentally shaped me into the priest I am today.
You embraced my irreverent reverence and helped me build my holy kitsch collection. You allowed me to be present with you in times of deep sorrow, frustration and pain, and overflowing joy. You gave me feedback to help me find my preaching voice. (I could go on and on, but I’ll stop at three since it appeals to the Trinitarian in me, and really this list could be never ending.)
So it is because of this, and so much more for which I could never find words, that I am sorrowful to leave, and yet do so with an abundance of thanksgiving (another thing you taught me through example – how to live from abundance, not scarcity). It is a truth worth remembering, as Thomas Burcham noted at our Vestry retreat earlier this year, that priests come and go but the parish community remains. I am privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to be with you these last eight years, and you will continue to be in my prayers in the coming months and years. I expect more great things to come from All Souls!
So a few notes:
These are some of the plans I’ve put in place for the transition time until the arrival of The Rev. Liz Tichenor and our new Associate for Children & Youth. It should be no surprise that many people have agreed to step in and cover the time between, and to serve as point people to help orient our new staff. A few to note in case you have specific questions:
• The Very Rev. Don Brown will be the transitional Clergy Pastoral Care Coordinator, so please contact him if you are in need of pastoral care (his info will be in upcoming blue sheets in the Sunday bulletins)
• Kay Dreher will be the point person for both Sunday School and coloring sheets (one of my favorite ministries of All Souls!)
• Madeline Feeley will be the point person for Children’s Chapel
• Margaret Taylor is the Chair of the Children & Family Formation Team and will continue to oversee the Team and their assorted ministries
In this age of social media it is easy to stay connected with people over distance, and in the long run I am looking forward to continuing our relationship in a new way. But it is also essential when a clergy person leaves, to really leave, and to make space for those who come next. It for this reason that for the next few months I will be utilizing the friend lists that Facebook (which is the primary social media I use) allows users to create, to make that space. I am not ‘unfriending’ anyone, but I will change my settings so you won’t see my posts and I won’t see yours. It makes me very sad already just thinking about this, but it won’t be forever.
Saying goodbye is bittersweet. I have already said farewell to many folk who are away on vacation and will miss my last day at All Souls this Sunday. It has yet to really sink in that I will not see them again. It’s kind of like saying goodbye to fast friends from summer church camp – unreal because of how much you have meant to each other, and how much you’ve shared. I anticipate that this Sunday will be more of the same – I expect to either be a snotty, sobbing mess (which is why I purchased water-proof mascara!) or so overwhelmed with love and joy that my face will hurt from smiling so wide. It will probably be some of both. And for that and so much more I will leave this place with a grateful heart.
in peace, Kristin+
From the Youth Minister and the Associate for Parish Life
The Myth of Choice
In my home growing up, generally, there wasn’t much my sisters and I were “made” to do. We dabbled in sports and theatre and other extra curricular activities, as we were interested, and with varying degrees of commitment or involvement. Saturday mornings we were expected to take part in household chores. If our rooms weren’t clean and our beds not made, we were not allowed to watch television. At the time it felt like a heavy to the point of unbearable burden. Did you have us so you would have servants!? we would ask in frustration. Monday through Friday we were expected to be home to eat dinner as a family. At dinner we checked in with one another about our days, Dad’s favorite question for us was “Did you ask any good questions today?”
Other than chores and family dinners, the thing we did not have a choice about was church. We went to church as a family. We participated in Sunday School, youth group, VBS, mission trips and diocesan youth events. In middle school, when my dad was in seminary and gone early on Sunday mornings, I remember screaming at my mom that she “couldn’t make me go to church.” I just wanted to sleep in. I thought church was boring. I messed up acolyting and was terrified to do it again. What I don’t remember is how we resolved these fights – inevitably I would end up in the car with my mom and sisters, heading to church. In high school, I wanted to go to more Evangelical, non-denominational churches because I “just wasn’t connecting” with the Episcopal service anymore. Once again, though, my parents’ stoic answer was, “we do church as a family,” and so I continued my involvement at St. David’s Episcopal Church where my dad was the Associate Rector.
Church was never a choice for me. As much as I fought it as a kid I am glad now that this was something my parents insisted on. Just as I am glad they taught me the discipline of chores or the value of family meals. I have heard arguments for why people give their kids choice about whether to go to church or to Sunday school or other youth offerings. Such as, parents may wish that the decision about whether or not, or when, to go to church had been a choice for them as a youngsters. As sympathetic as I am to these preferences, I have come to think of them as the “myth of choice.”
Why? Because we it is our job to shape our young ones’ choices. When our children lie we ask them to tell the truth and provide consequences when they don’t. We establish expectations and through those expectations shape our young people’s values and worldviews. It is our job, as parents and as the wider church community, to hold up the promises we make at baptism to “do all in [our] power to support these persons in their life in Christ.”
What does it mean for us to promise? What does it mean for us to support these persons in their life in Christ? I believe that part of what that means is setting up expectations for our young people and modeling for them the importance of church. There is so much that we tell them about what is important by what we expect them participate. They must do their homework. If they sign up to be on a sport team they must be at practices and games. How can the church, a community that will uphold and support them for the rest of their lives, take a backseat to all else that competes for their (and our) time? By making church a point we inadvertently communicate it is less important than our other commitments.
I know there are a lot of things pulling families and youth in many different directions. We, as a culture, are overcommitted. Colleges and, increasingly, high schools are competitive and a robust list of extra curricular activities is important to get into a good school. By the time Sunday rolls around it can, I am sure, be difficult to think about adding one more thing to an already bursting calendar. I do sympathize.
I would like to suggest, though, that church is too important to allow it to fall by the wayside. This is where we learn how to be in community with people from all ages and walks of life. This is where we are prayed for and where we pray. This is where we can ask really difficult questions and find the safety to wonder together. These—community, prayer, relationship—are tools for the important and fundamental choices in our lives. Much as any sport or academic subject, we do not arrive in full possession of faith, we learn from others and it is our promise to help others on their journey. As every parent has surely realized, being present for and nurturing a child shapes you as much as it does the child. You emerge a different person. Our baptismal promise is about such transformative relationship.
We clearly communicate how important church is by making it a part of our regular routine as individuals and families. What are ways that we can make this more doable? I recently heard someone suggest that we be very intentional in inviting children and youth to come to church in their sports uniforms, ready to head to their game when it’s time. This way, the thought was, families don’t need to buffer “getting ready” time into their schedules. We seem do an okay job of that at All Souls already. I have seen several young people in their baseball uniforms but perhaps it is good to be explicit with this invitation.
Can you think of other things that would make Sunday mornings and other church events more manageable? What might you have to give up in your own schedules to make it work? What can All Souls do to help? Let’s start a conversation and begin to commit to making All Souls a priority for ourselves and for our families.
Listening and Learning at EYE
Reflection from the Episcopal Youth Event in Philadelphia
EYE happens every three years, with 1200 youth from all over the world participating in worship, workshops, and socializing. It stands for Episcopal Youth Event, and this year we all met in Philadelphia. 22 youth from the Diocese of California participated. It was my first time at EYE. EYE for me was spent mostly in my head. For most of the week, I sat back and watched and listened. Don’t get me wrong, I participated in songs and laughed and sang with all my new friends whenever I got the chance, and met as many people as I possibly could. I chatted with new faces while eating milk and cookies in the plaza and traded small items like buttons and stickers with them, creating a large collection of trinkets to show off on my nametag. For the most part, though, I just listened. I loved just being able to absorb what was happening. I saw growth in my newfound friends of Diocal, and in the ones I made from other countries and states as well.
I learned a valuable thing by watching. I found some friends who were not having a good time at all. I found friends that had lost their faith, or just thought the event was “ a waste of time.” These people made me realize that not everyone automatically will feel amazing once they come to EYE, which seems like something a lot of other kids just didn’t understand. I did my best to become a resource to them. They could talk to me about the good and bad parts, and finally be able to have someone listen to them about how they weren’t having an amazing time. When they felt broken, I tried to be there to help them be pieced back together. It helped me truly grow as a person spiritually and morally. I feel blessed to have met these people. EYE was so much fun, and helped me learn so many valuable things. I will never forget that week, and the people who helped make it happen.
At EYE we had a ton of workshops we could choose from and participate in. It was amazing seeing all the options they created and the work put into them. There was something for everyone there. The last two days were the mission trip of the event, which was optional. This was a particularly hard subject to talk about, so I won’t elaborate too much. We traveled to Chester, only a city or two away from UPENN. UPENN is the university we stayed at for the last three days. Chester was a very run down, impoverished town, but the people in it were more full of life and brighter than any city dwellers I have ever seen. I can honestly say I made so many connections there. It was so amazing to hear all their stories and struggles, and the beauty behind it.
Thank you all for making this trip possible for me.
All Souls Parishioners Share their Thoughts
What have you learned from Kristin during her time at All Souls?
Priests are real people like everybody else. With the proper preparation from your priest, you too can answer your child’s theological questions and Midwestern religious kitsch can be pretty funny!
Thank you for the practical, calm advice you gave, the love you showed our children as well as the grown-ups and your sense of humor and playfulness. We’ll miss you!
Kristin Kranz has taught me many things, but I am most grateful for the ways in which I have learned to worship in everyday life, a kind of “spiritual mindfulness,” perhaps. Whether it’s offering thanksgiving to God while I cook dinner or praying as I walk to work, Kristin has given me meaningful guidance in how to notice God’s presence and to pray in informal ways throughout the day. These ways of connecting to God are critical to me in maintaining a spiritual life as a working mother of young children, and also foster my relationship with All Souls. I am profoundly grateful to her for giving me this.
“God’s love is always expansive and includes love for a good sense of humor.”
If I had to reduce to its essence what I have learned from Kristin during her time at All Souls, I would say that the two most important things are: (1) the importance of community and (2) the importance of prayer. A major theme running throughout Kristin’s preaching has been that Christian community is at the heart of our faith. The image of the Body of Christ, of which we are all a part, has been one helpful lens through which to view community. Kristin’s preaching — indeed, her very presence — has made this image come alive for me in a way that it had not before. I will be forever grateful to her for her insights about community.
I have also learned about the importance of prayer from Kristin. For example, when I was serving on the Rector Search Committee (which ultimately led to All Souls’ calling Fr. Phil), we asked Kristin to celebrate a Eucharist with us on the evening that we were to make our decision as to which three finalists to recommend to the Vestry for consideration. I will always remember that evening and Kristin’s calm, prayerful presence at the Eucharist before the committee regrouped to make its final, very important decisions. More recently, a few months after All Souls issued its new Vision Statement, Kristin preached about her own encounter with the Vision Statement and her use of prayer to bring it close to her heart. She encouraged all of us to “pray the Vision Statement” over the next couple of months and truly make it our own. That sermon brought home the importance of what the parish had done in preparing this Vision Statement and enabled all of us to go deeper into it than we had before.
I remember how great of a priest Kristin is and how great she handles sermons. When Kristin is preaching a sermon she put a lot of thought into it and finds the prefect balance between humorous and serious, but mostly humorous. I have been with Kristin all seven years that she has been at All Souls and have gotten to know her and her family so well. It’s going to be hard to lose such a great priest and friend, especially in church and on camping trips. We will miss her and her family!
I’ve learned from Kristin that anything can be holy – a child’s tantrum on the playground, a delicious potluck offering, a new pair of shoes. Don’t worry if your kids aren’t perfect; no one’s are, and God loves us for everything we are. Planning and rotas and time management are essential to the smooth flow of an organization, and God lives in those, too. Take time to notice others, say “Thank You,” and laugh often. Brother Jesus walks with us. All will be well, really, so sit tight and pray, intentionally, and have faith. God has given us what we need — hands, hearts, and minds — so just go for it, people.
Before every sermon, Kristin prays: “Gracious God, take our minds and think through them, take our hands and work through them, and take our hearts and set them on fire.” And then she plunges right in, often into the deep end of the pool. Listening to Kristin preach has opened up a feminist, post-modern understanding of the Gospel that has helped me to keep faith in the 21st century. By this I mean that she reminds us to questions the assumptions that we bring to our reading and thinking. I have learned from Kristin that it is not only “okay” to question the scriptural stories that inform our beliefs, but necessary to do so in order to understand why we tell these stories and where we find meaning in them. I am grateful for that. And for the reminder and example she has so often given us that with that with this understanding, and before and after it, we are asked to show up as individuals and as a community for acts of compassion and justice.