From the Associate Rector
Someone Else’s Gifts
Before I was ordained, I don’t think it fully registered for me just how much of this work would center on giving away that which was not mine to begin with. There are some fairly obvious ways that this happens, ways that I anticipated. Sharing communion, a gift that is not mine but that nevertheless I get to place in open hands, one after the next. Or the gift of freedom, in the form of the words of absolution, reminding people that their sins do not define them and that God has already let them go. This forgiveness comes from God, yet I am trusted to give voice to these words. These practices are deeply humbling, and I more or less expected them. What I didn’t anticipate, and certainly not to the degree it happens, would be how often I would be trusted to give away your gifts — tangible ones. Money.
We are an urban parish in a county that has seen a 43% increase in homelessness since 2017. There is a correlating increase in the strain weighing on those who remain housed. It’s little surprise, then, that we encounter a lot of need. People regularly visit or call All Souls in the hopes that we might be able to help them out of a tight spot. Some have connections to the parish, or to the wider Episcopal Church. Sometimes the folks on hard times are members here. But most of the time, they are strangers — neighbors — who understand that the church is in the business of offering love to those who are down and out.
When these neighbors come, Phil and I do our best to listen, to unpack what the need is, and then respond as we’re able. The primary way we are able to offer support is through our shared discretionary fund. This fund isn’t part of the operating budget though — it’s replenished solely through gifts. Sometimes folks will make a donation after a wedding, funeral, or the like, and those gifts go into this discretionary fund. Whatever the reason for them, what I am keenly aware of is that they are just that: a gift, of both money and trust.
Last week I received a phone call from someone who we’ve helped a number of times over the years. He was elated to share that he’d just received his 8 year chip, and had found new work up north. After a long time camping, he was hoping for a little respite in a hotel before beginning this new chapter. It was an honor to celebrate his 8 years with him, and a joy to be able to pass on some comfort to him. Sometimes the support looks like filling a gas tank that is on empty, or paying for a prescription, or keeping the lights on. Too many times it’s been for a night in a hotel as a woman escapes a violent relationship. Sometimes it’s just a ticket for BART or the bus. Whatever the need, I am grateful for the generosity of others that allows us to respond to these requests.
If you find yourself in a season of abundance, or moved by the need that exists in our community, I encourage you to consider making an offering to the fund. You can drop a check in the mail or the offering plate, made out to All Souls, with “discretionary fund” in the memo line. It seems that the need these days is growing beyond how this fund has usually been replenished, and your generosity would help us continue to offer the same generosity to our neighbors. And, in all, thank you — for trusting me and Phil in this way, and for the grace of passing on your gifts to others.
Welcoming New Members
At the beginning of June, we welcomed many new members into the All Souls parish community. Today and in the weeks ahead, you’ll hear from them.
My name is Mary Vroman Elgin. By profession I am an organist/choirmaster. Two of my great passions in life are Anglican church music and doing music and drama with children. So I’ve had the best jobs ever, teaching music and directing children’s choirs at St. Mark’s Church and Day School in Altadena for many years, where my husband Bruce headed the Organ Committee which brought a beautiful tracker action Karl Wilhelm organ to the church. It is one of the loveliest organs in Southern California. After both my daughters and all my nieces and nephews graduated from St. Mark’s, I moved on to two other Episcopal churches to play, direct, and found children’s choirs.
Speaking of Bruce, he and I met over 50 years ago in the viola section of the Pomona College (go Sagehens!) Orchestra. He is now concertmaster of the Oakland Community Orchestra, but for 30 years he worked as a software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. When he retired we moved up here to live with our older daughter Rachel, and care for our younger daughter Meg, who lives with mental illness. Ask me about NAMI, the grassroots organization for anyone concerned with mental health issues.
Ask me also about Spiritual Direction and Benedictine Spirituality. Both Bruce and I are spiritual directors. The challenges to our spiritual life posed by our daughter ‘s dis-ease led me to spiritual directors and therapists who literally saved my life. And, as God brings good out of even the most difficult events, so I have grown and learned from Meg and her illness. I have also also gained so much as an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, as a “directee,” and now as a spiritual director.
Finally, All Souls is the most welcoming, and also, the most liturgically exciting church I know! I’m excited to be a part of this Beloved Community.
— Mary Elgin
Reflections from Vestry
My time as a vestry member at All Souls has shaped me for my future church life. I have past experience as a church board member in other congregations but this was unique and wonderful. As a chaplain I reflected on the word with fellow church leadership. This practice is a very important part of what each monthly meeting is about. We are one in our love for the church and this guides the purpose of this body.
In my time on the vestry we may have had a record number of applicants for ordination. I felt honored to be a part of this fascinating process and what felt like the vision of what the future church will look like. In terms of the future of the church, the All Souls Parish House project is one that I was privileged to lend my help considering all the lives it will touch in the years to come.
I am not only saying goodbye to the vestry now, but to All Souls. I will greatly miss such a dynamic place and group of people. I consider you all family and I plan to return to visit regularly. I can’t wait to see what is in store in the years to come!
Your friend in Christ,
Lead Childcare Worker in the Nursery
It is with very mixed emotions that I share that Madeline Flynn, our lead childcare worker in the nursery on Sunday mornings, will be moving on at the end of the summer. Joy and awe are certainly among these emotions, as she has finished her studies at Cal in impressive time, and is heading on to new adventures in LA. And she will be sorely missed! Her steady presence and warm enthusiasm has been a great gift to our youngest members in the nursery.
We are now accepting applications for the job. Note that members of All Souls are not eligible to apply, but if you know of someone who might be a good fit, please share the job posting! You can find all relevant information on our website here. The priority deadline for applications is July 15
Thanks for sharing widely!
SUMMER SUNDAY SCHOOL… FOR FAMILIES!
This summer we’re changing things up a bit, and our formation offering for the summertime will be for kids and parents together. We’ll be looking at different ways to engage, explore and practice our faith at home. Starting July 7th, we’ll gather on the playground around 10:15 during summer Sundays to talk a bit about a different kind of practice, with projects to make and resources to take home. There will be plenty of time to climb, spin, dig, and chat too, depending on your age and what you’re most excited about. Join us!
CHILDREN’S FORMATION CELEBRATION
It’s been a wonderful year of learning and exploring in Sunday School, and we want to celebrate! All kids are invited to join in an end-of-year party this Sunday, June 30 at 10:15 downstairs in the 1st-3rd Godly Play room. There will be homemade food, games, and a time to look back and look forward together. We’ll also be sharing about the fun in store for this summer!
The first Sunday of July (7/7) and the first Sunday of August (8/4) will be Summer Choir Sundays; skipping our usual Wednesday rehearsal, we will rehearse a simple choral piece, and an Angel Band song, beginning at 8:30am (for the 9am service) or 10:45am (for the 11:15am service). You’re welcome to come to either or both services. If you’re curious about our choral community, and would like a no-pressure way to try it out, come join us one of these days!
ALL SOULS AT THE A’S
It’s time for our annual All Souls group outing to the ballpark: Saturday August 3, Oakland A’s vs St. Louis Cardinals, 4:30 pm start for the tailgate gathering in the Coliseum parking lot, 6:05 pm game time. Cost is $33/person including the hearty tailgate spread. Please RSVP to email@example.com as soon as possible, and no later than July 7. We hope you can include this fun evening in your summer plans!
BIG SUR CAMPING TRIP
Sign-ups available online
There’s still time to sign up for the annual parish camping trip to Big Sur, July 19-21! This is always an amazing weekend of relaxing beside the river with favorite people, of skipping stones in the water, conversations with new friends, soaking in natural beauty, getting dusty and getting clean, eating great food, counting stars, singing and praying around the fire… in short, making church away from church and building the beloved community. Please join us — sign up here!
SUMMER BOOK GROUP
Our Summer Book Group continues this Sunday, June 23! Please join us at 10:10 am to start our discussion of Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans.
Sunday, June 30: Parts II and III (Confession and Holy Orders);
Sunday, July 14: Part IV (Communion);
Sunday, July 21: Parts V and VI (Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick);
Sunday, July 28: Part VII (Marriage) and Epilogue.
You are welcome to join for any or all sessions.