From the Rector
Praying Shapes Believing; Believing Shapes Living
One of the tried and true teachings taught in every Episcopal seminary is the ancient statement lex orandi lex credendi. Translated as, “the law of prayer is the law of belief,” which has also been paraphrased as, “praying shapes believing.” And the hope is that over time, as we inhabit our beliefs, our lives change. It’s why in the Anglican tradition we place so much emphasis on our prayer books and hymnals. We believe that it matters a great deal the words we use to pray, the poems we use to sing.
At All Souls, we give a fair amount of our attention to the resources within the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion that we can draw upon for our Sunday worship. And when there are spaces within the liturgy to write prayer that is specific to our time and context we do that as well.
One of those particular areas is the Prayers of the People. While there are six forms in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the framers of the prayer book are clear to say that these forms are meant to be a starting point for communal prayer, not the final word. To that end, over the years we have invited members of the staff and congregation to write the Prayers of the People, especially when we had a vocational deacon serving in the parish. But it was the recent gun murders across the United States in grocery stores, churches, and schools that resurfaced a question in our practice: how do we pray for those who have died?
In our staff meeting this past week, it inspired a substantive conversation. What deaths do we hold up as part of our worship on Sunday mornings? Clearly, we pray for those in our parish family who have died. And often we pray for those who have died who are somehow connected to the parish. This past Sunday one of our intercessors asked if we could pray by name for those killed in Buffalo and Uvalde, which we did, and it was a powerful experience for many. Our discussion at our staff meeting then was around how to continue a practice of praying for those who have died by gun violence. Should it be simply those who have been killed in mass shootings? Or those killed in school shootings? Or those who have died by gun violence in the East Bay? What about other deaths, for example of those who have died due to overdose?
One of the reasons why we pray for the dead is because this has been an integral part of Christian worship from the beginning. And while the theology of what happens because of those prayers has been hotly debated over the centuries, the practice of holding the names of the deceased before God has been constant. For Christians, praying the names of those who have died is fundamentally an act of worship, of commending those who have died to the eternal love and mercy of our God.
And, there are other responses that emerge from this act of worship. To borrow from the Black Lives Matter movement, something happens when we say their names. Because for us this act of remembering is an act of worship as well as the expression of a desire for the world to change. If praying shapes believing, then over time believing should shape living. And by saying aloud, by making space in our hearts, and by holding up to God those who have been killed due to entirely preventable means, we are also attempting to open our hearts to the amendment of our collective lives. The way we pray, and who we pray for should change the ways we believe and the ways we live.
The staff meeting conversation concluded with the desire to invite a group of parishioners to work on the prayers of the people, and specifically to discern how we as a parish might remember the dead and continue our work to heal the living. If this is a practice that you would like to be a part of, to help shape the prayers we offer as a parish, please reach out to me or to Maggie. Together we will remember and pray our way forward as a people and a parish.
From the Sunday Night Service
It’s Pride month, and we’re coming out!
*Did you know the Sunday Night Service has a blog? Well, we do! Emily wrote our most recent blog post about Pride, and why identity matters in the way we lead communities. I thought it was worth sharing with you all! -Maggie
It’s Pride Month! And since we’re perhaps one of very few congregations in the East Bay led and pastored by queer women, I thought it time to talk about that very thing. We’re also six months into the launch of this Sunday Night Service and so I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce myself, my coming out story, and my family.
My name is Emily Hansen Curran (she/her) and I am married to a remarkable woman named Megan. We have a newly 3 year old daughter named Simone and a German Shorthaired Pointer named Scout.
Megan and I are both from Modesto, CA (a place I have deep affection for) and both attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo (a place I don’t have deep affection for), but didn’t meet until we had both graduated from college and moved back to Modesto. How we met and fell in love is a long and funny story, which I won’t detail here, but I will say that neither of us were “out” when we met in the fall of 2010 and that Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream was definitely playing in the background.
But the soundtrack I came out to was Sufjan Steven’s Age of Adz in the winter of 2011. I was a student at Fuller Seminary at the northern California branch over in Menlo Park, taking classes on nights and weekends. By day, I was working with a construction crew gutting foreclosed homes following the recession of 2008, and posting antique electrical trinkets to Ebay for my next door neighbor who was an online antique dealer.
At this point in my life I had already had a couple of relationships with women (only one of which was acknowledged for what it was), but I carried guilt and shame around those relationships because of my particular upbringing in the Church and a general belief in biblical literalism. So much guilt and shame that I started therapy to try to deal with this overwhelming pull I had towards female friends of mine. This therapist worked hard with me to get rid of my sense that I might be gay, but ultimately suggested I attend the Christian 12-step program called Celebrate Recovery, and labeled my attraction an addiction to codependent relationships (never once did I question that my “codependency” was limited to women only). I faithfully attended.
At this same time I was taking the second class of a three part course in Church History at Fuller Seminary as well as a class on Theology and Literature. And so it was in the middle of a 12 step program, a course on Church History, and Tom Robbins Another Roadside Attraction that I decided to risk coming out to myself. It was literally in the middle of Church History class when I realized that God was bigger than the rules of the Church, that God had always been bigger than the rules, and that people, for ages, had tried to confine and control the force that is God in the world to their own ends, which to be honest were not always bad and rarely malicious. In short, I realized that the Church and God were two separate entities. And I remember a flash in my mind––what if I wasn’t codependent, but just gay? And what if I was okay? What if I wasn’t a problem, I wasn’t disobeying God, I wasn’t full of sin, but I was just gay. I got up for a bathroom break, and didn’t come back to class that day.
And what I remember knowing on that fateful drive home from Menlo Park back to Modesto was that whatever was coming next was in my control to release, but that everything was going to fall apart and I wasn’t sure that it would ever be put back together (I didn’t yet know about “affirming” churches at that point in time!), but that I was alive: I was scared and excited and thrilled and I don’t think I ate or slept for a week.
Things did not go well next. I won’t get into it all here (I recount some of it in this podcast on the Abbey Normal Podcast), but some things did work out. I ended up dating Megan and eventually marrying her four and a half years later on a hilltop on Sonoma (at an older, wiser queer friend’s house, which he gave us as a gift) catered (also as a gift) by Tacolicious, my employer at the time. Two days after my wedding, I started my new job at All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley.
It’s taken me a long time to feel pride around my story and about being gay, but I feel it and I know it acutely when it comes to this Sunday Night Service because I know that who we are matters to what we believe. That this congregation is led and pastored by women and women who are queer matters. Part of the experience of being female and gay right now, at least for me, is to live into the power of what that means––to own the story and live into the specific power that comes from being overlooked, patronized, infantilized, objectified, and made secondary by the White male story of what it means to live this life (don’t get me started on the New York Times Sports page). In the gospels, this list describes the people who understand and know Jesus first and firsthand. Who we are matters to how we see God, how we know God, how we live in community with each other, how we lead, how we worship, and how we gather.
-Emily Hansen Curran
From Children & Family Ministries
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi on How to Raise an Anti-Racist
As you may know, we had planned to have a movie night for kids alongside a conversation for parents around race-conscious parenting on May 20th. We decided to reschedule that event due to all of the Living Waters campaign activities this weekend, and when we searched for another date, an even better opportunity presented itself!
On Friday evening, June 24th, First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley is hosting Berkeley Arts & Letters presents Dr. Ibram X. Kendi / How to Raise an Antiracist. This will be a presentation by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi about his upcoming book, How to Raise an Anti-Racist. You’re invited to join other All Soulsians to attend this event together and to a follow-up discussion hosted by our own Wendy Calimag and Molly Nicol on Sunday, June 26th at 10:10.
That same night, Friday, June 24th, All Souls will host a movie night for kids, beginning at 6:00pm until the parents return from the event to pick them up (~9:00, I’m guessing.) We will feed the kids dinner, and watch a movie together on the big screen!
The presentation by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is a TICKETED EVENT, so please, if you’re planning to come, follow this link and purchase your ticket(s) there. The cost of this event is $38, which includes a copy of the book. If this cost is prohibitive for you, please let me know. No one will be turned away for not being able to pay; however, we can’t predict whether or not the event will sell out, so please secure your tickets as soon as possible.
Then on Sunday morning, June 26th, at the 10:10 hour, while the kids are playing in the courtyard, parents are invited to a follow-up conversation to discuss what they learned on Friday evening. Of course, if you’re not able to attend Friday evening, you’re still more than welcome to attend the follow-up conversation.
This is a really great opportunity to hear from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a thought leader in anti-racism, and to connect with other All Souls families who are navigating raising children in an unjust society. We hope you can join us!
Save the Dates
June 5, Pentecost
July 15-17, All Parish Campout
August 19, All Souls at the A’s Game
September 16-18, All Parish Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch
Join us at 9am, in-person, outdoor service in the courtyard. This service will move indoors if the weather is below 40 degrees at 8:15a, if the AQI is over 150, or if there is rain.
Or (and!) join us indoors for the 11:15 service or on the live stream at 11:15a, which can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning. At our 11:15 service, masks are optional.
Then join us in the Parish Hall at 5p Sunday Night Service for a Eucharistic Service.
If you miss a Sunday, you can always catch the sermon on our homepage or as a podcast, anywhere you listen to podcasts!
Wednesday 9am Service
Join the Zoom call here, or join us in person in the Nave at 9a. Password: 520218.
Adult Formation Classes
Only one class offering this Sunday:
Reading Between the Lines Bible Study @ 7:30a. Contact Kate Murphy, firstname.lastname@example.org to join that Zoom call, or join them in the Common Room!
Children, Youth, and Family News
- Save the Date: June 24th, How to Raise an Anti-Racist: a presentation by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Youth in grades 6-12, save the date: June 26th for our Walking Pilgrimage to San Francisco!
- See the most recent Children and Family Bulletin or Email Maggie for more information about Children, Youth and Family Ministries at All Souls.
Other News & Notes
Summer Book Club
Part 1 (June 19 – July 17): A Short Course in Merton
Even as Thomas Merton continually aspired to the more monastic existence, he never disengaged from the most vital political conversations of our modern age, those regarding culture, social justice, literature, and religion. For All Souls’ first summer book club we’ll read two signature works as introduction to Merton in his entirety, touching on his work as social critic and contemplative.
The first three weeks will be devoted to Merwin’s Contemplative Prayer, published in paper and with an introduction by Thich Nhat Hahn. Contemplative Prayer is also available in audio- and e-book formats.
During our final week we’ll focus on his The Wisdom of the Desert, published by New Directions in paperback, also available as an e-book and on Audible. This volume of Merton’s translations of sayings and parables was one of his own favorites—he had hoped to spend his final years in the manner of the fourth century Christian Fathers in the deserts of the Near East, seeking solitude as a hermit.
June 19-July 17 **Please note: The book club doesn’t meet on July 3rd.
Part 2 (July 24 – August 7)
Part 2 – Please Vote for the book we will read in the second half of the summer. Voting will start soon in the narthex.
We have four possible books for our mid-summer book group. They are:
Colum McCann Apeirogon: A Novel
Omar al Akkad What Strange Paradise
Charles Blow Fire Shut up in my Bones
Peter Gomes The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart
Longer descriptions will be available soon in the narthex. Look for the jars and marbles and cast your vote!