From the Interim Sabbatical Rector

stephen_shaverAn invitation into prayer

One of the treasures of our Anglican liturgical tradition is the Daily Office: the twin services of Morning and Evening Prayer. Since the beginning, followers of Jesus have been seeking to live out Paul’s exhortation to “Pray without ceasing” by punctuating their daily lives with regular moments of prayer throughout the day. In the beginning they did this in their homes and their house churches; over time, as Christianity was legalized, they also began to celebrate their daily prayers in public in their cathedrals and parish churches. Nuns and monks celebrated the daily offices in their communities with great fervor and increasing complexity, but ordinary Christians also came together day by day to praise God and pray for the needs of the world, especially at two main times: the beginning and end of the day.

Over time, this popular practice of daily prayer began to dwindle, and by the late Middle Ages the daily offices were the province of the literate—mostly clergy, monks, nuns, and elite gentry with access to books and Latin literacy. So, in the first English Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer revised the Daily Office. What had become a lengthy and complicated lineup of eight daily services was simplified back into those two main hours of Morning and Evening Prayer. Now in English, the Office was again the “common prayer” of the whole church.

A generation or two ago, it was common for Episcopal congregations to celebrate Morning Prayer as the main Sunday liturgy. Today nearly all Episcopal churches have returned to the more ancient practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist every Sunday—and that’s a very good thing. The Daily Office was never meant to take the place of the Eucharist as our central feast on the Lord’s Day. Instead, it’s a framework within which our whole Christian lives can find rhythm and balance. Someone has called the Daily Office the “two lungs of the church”—a kind of breathing in and breathing out that marks every day in all its ordinariness. When we pray these offices, we’re in communion with our sibling Christians all around the world, handing off from one timezone to another in a kind of never-ceasing relay of prayer.

If you’ve never prayed the Daily Office, I encourage you to give it a try. All you need is a Prayer Book and Bible (and maybe a little practice at finding the daily psalms and readings—but it’s not too hard!). Or you can find it online (at sites like this one and this one and this one). There are also a number of good alternate resources (like this and this) if you prefer a different format: what’s most important isn’t doing the offices exactly as they’re printed in the Prayer Book but rather entering into the rhythm of daily prayer.

The great thing about the Office is that you can do it anywhere—at home, on the bus, on BART, at a favorite spot outdoors—and be connected with the prayers of the whole church, even if you’re by yourself. But there’s also something particularly special about praying the Office together. This summer, between now and Labor Day, I’ll be praying Morning Prayer in the All Souls chapel each Tuesday at 8:00 a.m., and Evening Prayer each Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Why not come join me?

Each office will be under a half hour, including some time for silent prayer. Whether the Office is already part of your prayer life or you’re a Daily Office newbie, consider coming along as we enter into the church’s daily round of prayer and praise.


From the Associate for Liturgy and Music

christopher_putnamHearts On Fire!

Recently, on that ethereal feast of the Holy Spirit, the day of Pentecost, our liturgy was full of the most physical, elemental stuff. We heard in the reading from Acts about images of the Spirit coming as tongues of flame – and saw those flames represented visually – as we journeyed with Hamid Ghanadan through the waters of Baptism. The response of the crowd to hearing the Gospel in their native languages hearkens back to the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, saying “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke?”

This Sunday June 28, our services at 9 & 11:15 will introduce Hearts On Fire, our newly-christened Gospel Choir. It’s more of a re-introduction, of course, as it’s their third time joining us in the leadership of our Sunday worship.

As we move forward, you will be learning more about director Katie McGonigal, as well as many of the other folks in the Music Department. But there is one question I’ve heard a lot and want to answer now: What is the difference between Gospel music and Spirituals?

It’s important to point out one thing that should be obvious: there is no single African American tradition, any more than there is a single Anglo-European tradition. Whether we’re talking about folk/popular music, art (“classical”) music, or sacred music, every culture draws on what has come before, synthesizing new material and continually evolving.

Spirituals grew out of a rural environment, primarily in the South, where they took root directly in the experience of our enslaved brothers and sisters. In Spirituals, he human voice reigns supreme, joined by handheld percussion and a few other portable instruments. In this world of limited literacy enforced by the slaveholders, the indigenous practice of “call-and-response” often called for a leader to sing varied phrases, with only one or two phrases for the group to respond with, as well as short refrains. One of our favorite songs as a parish is one of these classic Spirituals:

Refrain              Wade in the water (3x); God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
Verses               See that band all dressed in white; God’s a-gonna trouble the water.
The leader looks like the Israelite; God’s a-gonna trouble the water.

The version we know has 4 stanzas, but if we weren’t using printed books, a leader could sing as many or as few as needed. While Spirituals and the call/response pattern are the source material that became Gospel music, they were grafted into a different environment and took on new characteristics.

Crucially, after World War I, there was a huge migration of African Americans from the rural South into the urban North and West. No longer enslaved – though often nearly as circumscribed, both by custom and by law – African Americans developed distinctive styles of worship, rooted primarily in music and preaching, as well as the synthesis of the two.

But the other indispensable element of Gospel music was the development of amplification in the increasingly electrified world. Voices could be heard better, new instruments were invented, and the musicians who played Saturday night dances brought their musical sensibilities to Sunday mornings.

So while Gospel choirs may often sing Spirituals, they will be accompanied by a full complement of drums, keyboards, electric guitars and basses. An enormous new repertoire, drawing on the evolving musical languages of jazz and rock, continues to grow. Indeed, just as the music of Motown came to be the soundtrack of mainstream America in the past half-century, Gospel music has reached deeply into the experience of American Christianity far beyond its origins.

I trust the Spirit to be leading us in new and fruitful in many areas of our lives as individuals as well as in our shared life as a parish. For this Sunday and many to come, may we find our hearts truly on fire with that same Spirit!

– Christopher Putnam
Associate for Liturgy and Music

Responding to Charleston

Our witness against racism and gun violence

In the conversations swirling around in response to the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, many of us find ourselves grasping for direction, collaboration, and resources. As we collectively engage the intersection of race and violence in our country and community, here are some upcoming events and relevant resources that may be helpful in responding as the Body of Christ.

Black Lives Matter at All Souls
Please join a conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday, July 12, from 12:15-1:15pm in the Parish House. Childcare on the playground will be provided by members of the group; please bring a finger food to share if you’re able. More info available here.

Toni Battle on Reconciliation
Toni Battle will offer a presentation on reconciliation on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 7pm at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. First Church shares that “Toni is a Ph.D. student at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. Her dissertation research is on reconciliation. She is a leader and participant in the SF chapter of Coming to the Table, a national organization working with descendants of slaves and of slave owners around racial recognition issues. Historical harm trauma gets passed down generationally within many families. The grief manifests itself in various ways in each generation. What happens when one generation decides to begin healing and to not pass on the generational grief? Being descended from the Trail of Tears, enslavement, lynching and banishment histories, presenter Toni made a decision to begin healing from generational grief. She will share her story of the challenging journey.” Folks from All Souls are warmly welcomed to join, just as we will be welcoming friends from FCCB to similar gatherings that are in the planning phase for the fall. Email FCCB for more info.

Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence
Sharon Pearson, editor
Church Publishing describes this excellent book, published just a few months ago:
“Over 300 Episcopalians came together in Oklahoma City in April 2014 to renew their commitment to the Gospel call to make peace in a world of violence. Through deep conversation, prayer, and skill building the event empowered the Episcopal Church to address violence and reclaim its role in society as workers for nonviolence and peace.”

“This book is one of the outcomes of that event – resources to help dioceses, congregations, and individuals reclaim the Gospel message of peace for our society. Divided into five sections – Proclaim: The Gospel, Sustain: The Witness, Reclaim: The Response Pray: The Work, and Engage: The Next Steps- topics are offered in the areas of advocacy, education, liturgy, and pastoral care that our Church can use to address the culture of violence within and outside of the Church, the reader will hear the Gospel proclaimed through personal stories of witness from key leaders in the Church today, including Justin Welby, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Edward Konieczny, Eugene Sutton, Mark Beckwith, James Curry, Mariann Edgar Budde, Gary Hall, Kathleen Adams Shepherd, Mark Bozzuti-Jones, Kay Collier McLaughlin, and others.“

Bishops United Against Gun Violence

This group is one organizing force against gun violence in our church. Check out their website for more information, theological reflection, resources, and opportunities for action together with other Episcopalians.

Have You Signed Up for a Summer Reading Group?

books_125It’s not too late to sign up for reading groups, a couple of which will start this coming Sunday, June 28. ALL youth and adults are welcome to join one or more reading groups. (Please note that Bible Workbench will continue through the summer months.)

Gilead (a novel by Marilynne Robinson, first in the trilogy), led by Michael Lemaire, meeting June 28, July 12, July 19 [Please note, this group is already full.]

Lila (a novel by Marilynne Robinson, third in the trilogy), led by Betsy Dixon, meeting August 9, 16, and 23

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (nonfiction, by Reza Aslan), led by Mark Koops-Elson and Nathan Brostrom, meeting June 28, July 12, and July 26

Putting Away Childish Things: A Novel of Modern Faith (by Marcus Borg), led by Jamie Nelson, meeting July 5, July 26, and August 2

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice (by Bonnie Miller-McLemore, part of the Practices of Faith Series), led by Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt, meeting July 5, 12, and August 16

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (a novel by Benjamin Alire-Saenz), led by Julia Martin, meeting August 9, 16 and 23

Leaders of the reading groups will let participants know what portion of the book will be discussed in each meeting; please email them or Jamie Nelson to sign up. If you need help purchasing a copy or have other questions, please contact Jamie Nelson.


Interfaith Vigil to Support Immigrant Detainees
Join together with folks from All Souls and other Bay Area faith communities on July 4, and the 1st Saturday of every month. The vigil includes prayer, sacred stories, song, teaching and more to support detainees at the West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond.

All Souls at the Ballpark!
Come cheer on the A’s with All Souls! Saturday Aug 1, A’s vs Cleveland. The game starts at 6pm, but we’ll gather for a 4:45 tailgate party. See Don Gates to sign up by July 15. The all-inclusive ticket price, including the tailgate party, is $27.

All-ages Summer Sunday School
Beginning in July, we’ll bring all the kids together for a special summer Sunday school, involving music, art, outdoor fun, and stories. Stay tuned so you know where to go and what to expect!