FROM THE RECTOR
As you may know, for the past several years, folks from All Souls Parish have been attending the College for Congregational Development. We’ve learned models of church, tools about how organizations gather and change, and read books about the structures and practices of healthy communities. Throughout our participation with the College, I have been consistently impressed with the quality of materials and their approach to building Christian community.
So when I was approached to be a trainer at the College this past June, for the week in Western Washington, I was excited to engage in this material in a new way, as a teacher in this setting. The week was excellent—even though the pace can be exhausting with mostly 12 hour days, people were focused and present, invested in learning.
One of the gifts of participating in an intensive week of teaching like this is that, in addition to learning a set of materials at an in-depth level in order to teach them, I was able to study alongside skilled practitioners from a variety of settings. Some of us serve on diocesan staffs, others in church plants, others in long-standing congregations. We were from a variety of places along the Pacific Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.
Ironically, even with trainers from up and down western North America, in a moment not unlike Mercer Mayers’ classic Professor Wormbog in Search for a A Zipperump-a-Zoo, one of the trainers who offered a most startling insight for me was none other than our own Caroline McCall, when she shared the simple truth that, “organizations are heliotropic.”
Organizations are heliotropic.
As in, they grow towards the light that is cast. Yes, there are many components essential to the growth of a plant—the soil has to offer nutrition, the roots have to have space to grow, there needs to be sufficient water, it has to fend off pest and disease. But this fundamental truth remains, that the direction in which plants grow is towards the light.
Consider this as you think of organizations that you are a part of, regardless of size. I believe it to as true for exceptionally large organizations of humans like the nation of the United States of America, to a medium-sized company, to a small family. Wherever people gather together, they tend to grow in the direction of where light is being cast.
Now, Caroline offered this specifically to a room full of lay and ordained leaders in Christian communities, as leaders have a specific responsibility through their words and actions as to where they are devoting their time, energy and attention. And yet it is just as true for each of us. How we give of ourselves, where we cast our light, offers a direction for growth to the people around us—in ways that can be helpful and not.
This truth came home to me at the very end of our week of learning, while reading through people’s evaluations. One participant noted that in our teaching of models, of practices, and in our overall stance, we never once mentioned the decline of the Episcopal Church. Why was that, they wondered, since this decline was so prevalent? For me, the reason is clear. It’s not that a decline isn’t real, there are a number of metrics that will bear that out. But that this decline it is not inevitable.
Our experience at All Souls and in many other churches is that there are myriad people who are hungry for an encounter with the Living God and are seeking lives of meaning and wholeness. And that our tradition has gift upon gift to guide us along this path. Yes, there are challenges that need to be met, sometimes the plant needs to be pruned to spur a healthy response, and the soil needs to be amended from time to time. But just as critical as these realities is our responsibility to be aware and attentive to where the light is being cast. Because that is where we will try to grow.
WELCOMING NEW MEMBERS
In June, we welcomed new members into the All Souls family. Today and in the coming weeks, we’ll hear from many of them.
Hello all. We moved to Albany about 2 years ago and had been commuting to our old church in the City until a bridge closure one weekend last summer brought us to the All Souls doorstep, and we instantly fell in church love.
A bit about us: Starting with our youngest: Tessa & Elliott are our 3-year old twins who are constantly keeping us on our toes. They’re still quite a handful and we’re we are relishing the last few months of quiet time during service this summer as it’s about time they graduate from the nursery (apologies in advance for any chaos). Sabine is our precocious rising 1st grader at Marin School in Albany and was the most vocal advocate for our move to All Souls (in addition to great kids’ programming, she particularly was enamored with the Eucharistic juice, snacks and playground).
Eric was baptized Episcopalian but was raised primarily in non-denominational Evangelical churches in Southern California, with a stint in Steamboat Springs Colorado (where he became a champion freestyle skier, a sport that remains one of his greatest passions). As a student of Math and Philosophy at Wheaton College, Eric explored a variety of faiths until he discovered the local Episcopal church and has been a die-hard member ever since. Eric started his career as a computer programmer, and then worked at Niman Ranch managing pricing (loved that free beef!), and has found his calling as an Enterprise Data Analyst at Wells Fargo. When he’s not studying Big Data concepts or playing with kids, you’ll see him biking the Berkeley hills, watching skiing or sailing videos or just enjoying some good jazz (he once was an avid trumpeter).
Julie (that’s me) was raised Roman Catholic just over the hill in Moraga, and had a variety of spiritual fits and spurts over the years (primarily Catholic with a bit of Glide and other fun places), until I discovered my spiritual home in the Episcopal Church via Eric. I was fortunate to be a Youth Group leader at our previous parish for six years (until the twins arrived), which truly was one of the most rewarding volunteer opportunities of my life, and hopefully prepared me to be a better mother. I have a degree in PoliSci from UCSB and an MBA from Washington Univ in St. Louis. I’ve pursued many careers – from politics, to software product management and management consulting to owning my own specialty publishing company – and currently run marketing for a mid-sized global consulting firm in the technology space. In my rare moments of free time, you’ll find me kickboxing or doing yoga at the Y, or occasionally dusting off the flute or piano.
Thank you to the many people who rolled out the red carpet to help us feel at home during our transition. We are so happy to be here and look forward to getting to know you all better.
– Julie, Eric, Sabine, Tessa and Elliott Legrand
Day Camp Adventures
We’re most of the way through our week of Mt. Cross Day Camp, a collaboration between All Souls, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, and Mt. Cross Camp. About 20 kids, plus many wonderful teenage Counselors-in-Training and adult volunteers have come together for games, art, stories, rambunctious worship and deepening friendships. Here’s a peek at some of the joy abounding up the hill!
Equipping the Beloved Community
Every few months, the Diocese of California hosts a packed day of workshops and trainings open to everyone in the diocese. The next one will be held on Saturday, August 27th, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at St. Stephen’s, Orinda. The morning and afternoon sessions will include a wide range of topics, including “Making Music With Kids: A Circlesong Experience,” “Compassionate Care for People with Dementia,” “Mind The Gap: Navigating the Cultural Commute for Youth in Church,” (with Ethan Lowery) and “The Generative Power of Appreciative Inquiry” (with Caroline McCall), and much more in between. If you would like to serve as a Eucharistic Minister or Visitor, the requisite training will also be offered this day. The keynote address for the gathering will be offered by Ed Bacon, a progressive spokesperson on issues of faith and justice for all regardless of race, gender, faith, or sexual orientation, and recently retired as rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena. Lunch, worship, and a chance to meet and enjoy Episcopalians from neighboring congregations rounds out the day. You can read the full list of workshops and register here.
GIVING THANKS FOR THE LIFE OF DON STRANGE
Please join together in giving thanks for the life of our brother Don Strange. His memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 6th at 11:00 am at All Souls. If you are able, please bring sandwiches or dessert to share in a reception following the service. As you mourn his death, if you find you would like space to talk, process, or pray with another, please, reach out. As Phil wrote two weeks ago, suicide is an awful kind of loss, profoundly sad and overwhelming. Liz and Phil are glad to spend time with you as you grieve. Through it all, please keep Don’s family and friends, and this community, in your prayers.