From the Interim Sabbatical Rector
This Sunday I’ll be away from All Souls, officiating a wedding I committed to before knowing I’d be here this summer. You’ll be in my prayers, and I’m looking forward to being back with you next week.
Schedules can be like that sometimes. And this month’s schedule feels particularly musical-chairs-like. Next week our wardens, Liz, and the rest of our College for Congregational Development team will be up in Seattle. Soon after that we’ll be bidding farewell to Terri, who has done so much to provide care and leadership at All Souls this spring.
There will be a few more ins and outs over the summer. On June 21 our parish administrator Joy will be celebrating her husband Don’s retirement as senior pastor at First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco. Then the two of them will be in Kansas City for a week at the American Baptist Churches’ biennial Mission Summit (something like our General Convention). Liz, Christopher, our sexton Scott, and other staff members and leaders will also have some vacation, camp commitments, and so on during the summer.
For myself, I’m excited that my own schedule will settle down after this weekend and I’ll be able to be here consistently for the rest of June and July. I’ll have one weekend off in August and then be here through Rally Day at the end of that month.
Summer is a time of different schedules for many of us. Through it all, we’re “making church together”—a phrase I’ve heard many times over the last month, and one that applies so well to All Souls. I love the way leadership and ministry are so broadly shared here. Our participation in God’s mission is lively and continuous.
See you next week.
From the Rector on Sabbatical
Phil will be offering reflections from his time studying and his adventures on the road this summer. He cautions that, like him, his posting will be irregular. You can follow along at Practices for Living.
The beginning to this sabbath time has been about rhythm.The normal structures of our days and weeks have been removed and as a result we are trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, and when it should happen. This initial sense of being off-kilter shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, as the same was true when we were on sabbatical in Oxford. Knowing that we were able to find stability then gives me some hope now as we make camp, household, spend time time together and do our work. (the boys have independent study while I have my own study)
Part of my reading on vital practices for congregations has been ordered by our ongoing work as part of the College for Congregational Development. Five folks from All Souls took part in the first year of this two year program last year and three more will join us this year for the week in mid-June. Between the first and second years, each congregational team is asked to undertake a project in our home congregation––ours has been to study the patterns and understandings around giving at All Souls. Along with that project, the College assigns several books to read in order to prepare ourselves for the next year and the work that we are to do together. This list is as follows:
In the Grip: Understanding Type, Stress and in the Inferior Function by Naomi Quick
Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
one of two books on facilitation, I chose Great Meeting, Great Results by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb
The Character of Organizations by William Bridges
Organizational Development and Change by Cummings and Worley
one of three books on congregational systems by Peter Steinke, I chose Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach
A People Called Episcopalians by John Westerhoff
Alongside these excellent books about best practices––whether practices for businesses, governmental agencies or university departments––the College has found it important to ground these practices in the ways that Christians have gathered for centuries. To do this, they have recommended a powerful book about the Rule of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal, an Anglican laywoman. What makes de Waal’s exploration of the millennia-old set of practices so compelling is that she isn’t a monk or a nun. She is living out this way of being in the midst of the chaos that life can bring. For her, the heart of the rule is the ways that we can live towards God, rather than what we cannot do. She writes, “…seeking God does not demand the unusual, the spectacular, the heroic. It asks of me…that I do the most ordinary, often dreary and humdrum things that face me each day, with a loving openness that will allow them to become my own immediate way to God.” (page 105)
In Benedictine spirituality, the daily tasks and chores, the householding, the details that occupy so much of our existence, can actually become entrances into a life of living with God. Benedict saw stability as essential in part because some ascetics in the early centuries of Christianity would leave communities as they grew weary of the ordinary, of the friction and the challenge of living in community with the people who annoy or frustrate us. It’s my experience that this has not changed. We leave jobs, schools, marriages, often looking for the next opportunity to be better than the one we are currently frustrated by. And yet, without real work, little substantial change comes from these transitions. We are still the same people, just in different surroundings. So what, then, are we to do when feeling besieged by the tide of demands that rise up around us? For Benedict and for de Waal the response is to actually enter more fully into the spaces and relationships where we are. It is remember that the grass is growing, here.
Again, though separated by thousands of years, the Rule developed by Benedict sounds a clarion call to us in the hyper-active 21st century. In her chapter on balance, de Waal reminds us that, “We are essentially rhythmic creatures, life needs this rhythm and balance if it is to be consistently good and not drain us from the precious possibility of being or becoming our whole selves. Unless we take this seriously we are going to reduce the amount of ourselves that is actually there and available to us. We will live with less and less of our whole selves.” (page 93)
For Benedict, alongside the core concepts of obedience, stability, and conversion of life came the foundational practices of work, study and prayer. For many of us, this focus on work is duly given, though often in ways largely removed from the manual labor that Benedict’s Rule supposed. But more often than not, it is wildly out of proportion to the other two practices that undergird the Benedictine life: study and prayer. Study, or learning to come closer to the an understanding of the world around us, can happen but we must make time for it. It is not seen as a necessity in our product-driven culture, and yet real, deep study serves as the fount of our creativity, our collaboration with God. And prayer…well, if we are not proactive, days can pass before we remember to create space in our selves and in our lives to give our attention to God. Again, while the Daily Office has been the rhythm for monastics and others for centuries, there can be other fruitful ways to come close to God. But we must create the space for them.
In Seeking God, Esther de Waal uses an evocative metaphor of what it is like when a Rule, when the Word of God finds space in us. She writes, “(we are to) establish a life that can be lived after the Gospel, and that for St. Benedict means, above anything else, a life that is earthed in Christ.” (emphasis mine) Perhaps it is because of the physical spaces that I write this in, but this understanding of “earthing” our beliefs rings truly for me. For if we do not earth them, or ground them in our regular living, then our beliefs become like all of the good intentions of our lives––wished for but not actually lived by. So one of the questions that de Waal’s Seeking God has made me consider is this:
How do I incorporate (make into being), or earth, these three elements of work, study and prayer into my daily, weekly, and yearly life?
In the weeks and months to come, I am looking forward to having initial answers to this question, not just in ways that are in rhythm for this time of Sabbath, but in ways that will sustain as we re-enter the intensity of school and work come September. After our last sabbatical, in addition to the study around intentional Christian communities I also developed some practices around rest. What the Rule of St. Benedict is opening up for me now is a real desire to create practices around study and prayer that create the downbeats and pauses needed to be earthed in Christ that I may come closer and closer to my whole self. What might this “earthing” look like for you?
A Glorious Day in Tilden Park
Photos from the Parish Picnic
Last Sunday many of us gathered in Tilden Park for our annual picnic. What a job to worship in a gorgeous natural sanctuary, feast together, and join in fun and games. Here is a glimpse of the delight!
Coming Out of the Closet
It hasn’t been easy living with Bipolar Disorder. Not only do I have to treat my intense moods that are the hallmark of the condition, but ever since I was diagnosed at 16, I was always taught directly, or indirectly, to be ashamed of who I am because of it. From the very beginning, close acquaintances, and society at large, have told me to hide that part of myself…to reject that piece of myself that’s “unacceptable” and “intolerable.”
I remember desperately wanting to write about my Manic Depression for my college entrance essay, only to be told by a teacher that I shouldn’t because colleges might reject me because of it. I remember my father telling me to hide my medication, in case a stranger or distant relative thinks I’m “crazy”. And of course there are all the jokes that people make about people with mental illness and taking medication, as well as movies, TV shows and news reports of “dangerous lunatics” who are mentally ill and go around hurting people.
So throughout most of my life, I lived a double life. My outer world that I allowed the public to see, and my inner world that I desperately wanted to hide, that only I and my most closest acquaintances knew about, always afraid that my two worlds would collide and ruin my chances of having a “normal” life.
It’s a hard to live a life where I only accept one piece of myself while rejecting the other, loving one part while hating the other. I suppose that’s why I’ve gone off my medication so many times, desperately hoping each time that the psychiatrists had made a mistake and that I was actually “normal”. After all, who in their right mind wants to be labeled “crazy” and be the constant butt of everyone’s jokes, derision and rejection? But no such luck. Each and every time I went off my medication, I’d eventually end up in the hospital.
But recently, after a very challenging series of events that showed me how much stigma our society still has towards mental illness, I finally decided to take the plunge and come completely out of the closet with my condition. I started talking about my Bipolar Disorder on social media, with people in my church and even sometimes with strangers. Through conversations, discussions, and meetings I wanted to do my part to fight to eradicate stigma.
I have been astonished by how much support I’ve gotten. My worst fears of being socially excluded and isolated were instead replaced with others coming to my support in sympathy, compassion, and empathy. People from my church started telling me about their own experiences with mental illness and with that of their relatives. People on Facebook started to “friend” me and respond positively to my comments, and even strangers gave me their approval and support for fighting for the cause of ending stigma of mental illness. I was simply amazed by the level of acceptance I felt not only from others, but also from myself. For me, it’s my firm belief that I was born to have my mental illness as many people were born with the genetics that caused their own mental illnesses. And it’s also my firm belief that no one should ever have to feel ashamed simply for being the way they were born. I can finally be my whole self now without feeling self-stigma and shame.
Loaves and Fishes
Come to a Loaves and Fishes meal this month and connect with friends, new and old!
June 20th at Toni Borgfeldt’s house, RSVP to Toni.
Big Sur Campout, July 17-19
Join fellow parishioners for a relaxed weekend of fellowship and fun! The cost is $30 per person for the weekend (children under 5 stay for free, $100 max per family) To reserve your spot you must sign up and pay in full no later than June 22nd.
The Santa Lucia Chapel and Campground, a mission of All Saints Parish in Carmel, is a private and secluded campground in the gorgeous Big Sur area. The campground itself is right on the Big Sur River and has a family friendly beach area.The campground has running water and toilets (but no showers), picnic tables, a group barbecue area and a large campfire circle. A communal dinner will be prepared for all on Saturday night, but otherwise meals are individual responsibility. The weekend will be framed with Evening and Morning prayer, and an informal Sunday Eucharist in the outdoor chapel.There are ocean beaches within driving distance for those who want to venture out. In general this weekend is a time to relax, play in the river and on the beach—and for the kids to roll in the dirt! With questions, contact Jeannie Koops-Elson, and you can sign up here.