From the Rector

The Rev. Phil Brochard, Rector

An Obscene Photo Op

This past week has been filled with indelible images: of heartbreak and of mourning, of splintering and of solidarity, of rage and of hope. It has shown us once again the brokenness of the American experiment as well as the possibility for change and justice that exists.

And it offered us one of the most obscene photos that I have ever seen in my life—President Donald J. Trump using the Holy Scriptures of the Christian faith as a prop for his own partisan purposes.

The juxtaposition of this scene was so surreal as to be unbelievable. But it really happened. The context was this: President Trump finished a phone call with the governors of the United States, a conversation in which he admonished them with these words, “Most of you are weak. You have to dominate, you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. Somebody throwing a rock, that’s like shooting a gun. You have to do retribution, in my opinion.”

President Trump then moved to the Rose Garden to issue a statement that he was considering using the United States military to quell protests and demonstrations. While he was speaking, federal officers from a variety of agencies were teargasing and beating peaceful protesters and journalists in Lafayette Park and the area around St. John’s Episcopal Church in order to clear the area for his arrival.

Without any prior announcement or arrangement, President Trump, along with members of his cabinet and other aides, then walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Was he there to pray? No. Was he there to survey the damage of a fire lit the night before? No. Was he there to read from the life of the Prince of Peace? No. Was he there to deliver a speech about the power of faith to heal the breach? No.

President Trump and his Attorney General William Barr had federal officers gas and use force on protesters, including those resting in the churchyard so that photographs could be taken with him holding the Bible, using St. John’s Church as his backdrop. And then he left.

I use the word obscene with intention. While in our contemporary use we have narrowed it to mean pornographic, it simply means something that deeply offends our senses, something that is repulsive.

To use the Christian Scripture as a prop to appeal to Christians is not just wrong or misguided. It is offensive and repulsive, it is obscene. As Bishop Budde said so eloquently later that night, “Tonight the President just used a bible and a church of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for. To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard.”

It is repugnant to attempt to make the Word of God a pawn of one’s own agenda. But to do so after promoting tactics that are fundamentally at odds with the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ is abhorrent.

What is happening in our cities and across our nation is a response to centuries of systematic trauma. We, as a society, and particularly those with power in this society, have to listen, deeply listen. And engage in the process of individual and communal repentance, a turning around in order to change.

Repentance does not take place through domination. Healing does not take place through domination. Resurrection does not take place through domination. That is the work of Pharaoh and of Empire. The way of the Cross is the way of sacrificial love, known by a willingness to suffer with another.

If our President had spent much time with the teachings and life of our Lord he would know that. And so it remains our vocation as Christians to embody those Scriptures, to give daily witness to them in a way that words about domination and obscene photo ops will never convey.



Wrapping Up Connection Groups

Dear friends,

As most of you know back in mid-March we placed everyone in the parish into a Connection Group. At the time, the language of quarantine and shelter in place were brand new phrases to most of us and we were unsure of the toll it would take on our lives, our community, or the nation. What we have learned since March is that the toll is very different depending on where you are in life right now in addition to the resources that one has available.

As a result, we have decided that for the most part, the need for Connection Groups is not as great at this point and so I have asked all the Connection Group leaders to reach out to their groups to either wrap-up if needed or to find a way to continue to meet (for example, some groups are opting to meet every other week or once/month rather than every week).

I also realize that while many of us have adjusted our lives to this new normal, there might be more adjustments ahead, which would benefit from or even require the community of a Connection Group again. I also think about the work towards racial justice that we are all called to do and wonder if our Connection Groups might want to re-gather to do this work together? That’s all to say, I don’t see Connection Groups being finished, but rather paused, as needed, until we might need each other again in this way.

That said, if there are groups that would like to continue, I do hope that you do! And, if anyone comes into a place of any kind of need––either tangible or otherwise––I hope you lean on the connections that you made in those groups, even if you are not regularly meeting. We put those groups carefully together by neighborhood so that we would know we have support nearby, literally. Also, if there is anyone who is looking for an even deeper dive into community and intentional spiritual growth, we have Emmaus Groups available. Reach out to me if you are interested in joining one of those groups.



Braiding Sweetgrass

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Wisdom of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

In these times of national grief, dismay and fear over what our world is to become, we desperately need such calming voices as that of Robin Wall Kimmerer, an environmental biologist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Professor Kimmerer, who teaches at SUNY and was raised in her indigenous community in Upstate New York, here weaves an eloquent story of healing of those most fundamental of our bonds: with our own history, with one another as separate elements of one American people, and with the living earth and all that exists upon it.

Kimmerer’s beautiful book is a personal history of a biologist’s intimacy with both the spiritual and physical worlds gained by a lived experience she then augments with meticulous scientific inquiry into the history of place. She shares the lore of her own people, the necessary instruction that these relationships are both sacred and reciprocal, that we must learn to listen to the wisdom of plants even as we train ourselves to hear the diverse voices of the many beings.

Our summer book club meetings will take place during the Formation Hour over the course of five weeks, beginning Sunday, June 14th. Each section will be led by a different parishioner or community member with a specific approach to this achingly moving and inspiring book.

June 14 Planting Sweetgrass, Through 59
June 21 Tending Sweetgrass, pp. 61 — 117
June 28 Picking Sweetgrass, pp 121 — 201
July 5 Braiding Sweetgrass, pp 205 — 300
July 12 Burning Sweetgrass, pp 304 – 384

Braiding Sweetgrass is published by Minneapolis’ Milkweed Press, one of our most distinguished independent publishing houses. The book is available online or by phone through your local booksellers, including Moe’s, Books, Inc., Mrs. Dalloway’s, Point Reyes Books, and Pegasus on Solano. The audiobook version, read by the author, is available on Audible.

In ordering online please consider using a non-profit that’s donated more than $2 million to independent bookstores struggling with Covid-19 closures. Please support independent book publishing, bookselling and distribution.

—Jane Vandenburgh, member of our Adult Formation Committee


Sunday Live Streaming News

The live stream of Sunday services can now be accessed through our website (rather than simply on Facebook)! Click here to watch on Sunday morning.

Adult Formation Class this Sunday

This Sunday join our teaching hour at 9:15a to take part in a conversation with Rick Fabian, author of Signs of Life: Worship for a Just and Loving People. In 1978, Rick Fabian and Donald Schell founded St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. As Rick explains in his new book, Signs of Life, the congregation was formed to continue the liturgical renewal that led to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Nearly twenty years later, the congregation moved into a building in the Portrero Hill neighborhood designed for their distinctive worship. At St. Gregory’s, worship is highly participatory and draws on all the senses, incorporating incense, unaccompanied song, bells, dancing, brightly colored cloths, and distinctive icons.

Signs of Life digs deeply into Scripture and Christian tradition, connecting ancient practices to contemporary worship at St. Gregory’s.

This Sunday, at 9:15, Ruth Meyers and Phil Brochard will be in conversation with Rick Fabian about his book. Their conversation will be followed by opportunity for questions. Join us on Zoom; you’ll find the link on our site, under “Virtual Formation” or simply click here.

Children & Family News

We will be doing a children’s chapel program this Sunday at 9:30am (and every Sunday afterwards, as needed) via Zoom. It should last about 30 minutes. Please email Whitney Wilson for a link so your family can participate. If you have not used Zoom before––it is pretty user friendly in that I send you an invitation that you can log-in to at the appointed time.  You can log-in with video so we can see each other’s faces or on your phone so we can hear each other.  We are hoping that this will give the kids a time together for their own “church” and a time to see their friends as well. Please email Whitney Wilson at if you want a Zoom invite or have any questions.

Evening Prayer via Zoom

Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline For safety, the password needed to join the call is 329903.

All Souls Geek Squad

If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! On the homepage of our website is a box with the words “Technical Help”. Click on that box and you will be taken to a form that you can fill out. Once you fill that out, we’ll have someone get in touch with you to help with your tech problems. You can also click here to access the form directly.


Check out the latest episode of the Soulcast for more parish announcements!

Tiny Homes Collection

Last August under the leadership of Vicki Varghese, many in the All Souls community donned hardhats and tool belts or made sandwiches to help construct some of the small houses that currently homeless youth will move into in July.  (see Happily, they are all built and ready to be furnished. In memory of Vicki whom we miss, please help us stock the new homes with the following:

-24 clocks

-19 desk lamps

-24 wall mirrors.

If you would like to give an e-card please make it out to Gift cards are welcome, as well!

Please click on this link if you have some of these items to donate. A few of us will come by to collect them ( contact-less) and deliver them to the tiny house project on Alcatraz Avenue. Pickups will happen on Friday June 5 or Saturday June 6. Or you are welcome to leave items on the front porch of 2423 Woolsey Street. (Please leave out of view of the street). Either way, fill out the spreadsheet and thank you! If you have questions, call Jenny Kern at 510-684-6445.

Berkeley Canterbury Summer School

All are invited to join Berkeley Canterbury for a series of talks designed to inform and encourage during this time of pandemic. Each week, beginning next Wednesday the 20th, Tom Penoyer will host a speaker on a different topic. Tom will send out the zoom link on the morning of each talk. Email him for more information:

Here’s the lineup:

  • June 10th: Dr. Jacob Sherman who will be speaking on the importance of the imagination as a practice of resilience.
  • June 17th: Mr. Jared Ladesma who will be talking about how art offers consolation and meaning in times of crisis.

All Souls Children’s Virtual Library

We have reached out to a few people to ask them to make some videos for the All Souls’ kids but realize that many of you might be willing to help us as well. It is very simple and a pretty fun project:

  1. Pick out a children’s book with bright colorful illustrations. (If you don’t have any books at your house email Whitney and she will drop one off at your house!)
  2. Make a video recording on your phone of you reading the book making a special point to show the illustration.
  3. The video needs to be less than 15 minutes long.
  4. Email the video at
  5. We will then add your video to the virtual library so the kids can watch it and enjoy hearing your voice reading a story.

And by the way, the video is not for public viewing so it doesn’t come up in any kind of search.  You would only be able to access it if you have the direct link.

Questions?  Email me at

Justice & Peace

Back by Popular Demand – Encore! Save the date. “The Human Element”, watch for free (June 8-17 anytime through Interfaith Power and Light) then meet with filmaker James Balog (5 pm June 17) and Diocese of California parishioners for community dialog.” See Paloma Pavel ( for more information.

Amazon is streaming Just Mercy for free!

First Church in Berkeley has partnered with Sandhya Jha and the Oakland Peace Center, in conversation with Black, non-Black POC and white spiritual leaders and activists to host an online prayer vigil for youth protesting racial injustice this Friday. Sign up to join in prayer for an hour during this 12-hour vigil Friday, 7a-7p Pacific Time. Because prayer changes things. The vigil will be held for health, healing, wholeness and liberative power for the youth protesting injustice this week, that they might witness justice, that they might stay free from state-sanctioned violence or incarceration, and that they and their families might be protected from COVID. Sign up here. The vigil will be held on Zoom.