From the Interim Sabbatical Rector
Congregational Development and Church Vitality
Stephen is away during the first part of this week serving as a trainer for the Diocese of Northern California’s College for Congregational Development. He’ll be back for Sunday.
The church is an organization.
The church isn’t just any organization.
Those two truths are at the heart of congregational development.
I learned early in my first parish that although seminary had formed me in scripture, worship, theology, and pastoral care, ministry in a congregation was going to require a whole new set of organizational skills, such as:
· How do we plan meetings that get things done and energize us, rather than leave us confused and depleted?
· How do we navigate organizational politics, change, conflict, and different personalities bouncing off one another?
· How do we make decisions collaboratively?
These are the kinds of questions organization development professionals work with every day. Their insights are good ones for any group of human beings—and whatever else a church is, it’s definitely a group of very human beings.
Yet a church is also different from a corporation like Starbucks or even a nonprofit like Doctors Without Borders. Our core purpose is unique: to participate in God’s mission of gathering a holy people, transforming us more and more deeply into the image of Christ, and sending us out to serve, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Phil wrote a few weeks ago that congregational development is about helping shape Christian communities that have a “there” there. That means having a strong core identity and a healthy community life. I’ve spent time in a lot of congregations, and I have to let you in on something I hope isn’t a secret to you: All Souls has a “there” there. Here in this place, lives are being changed and hearts are being drawn into living relationship with God and each other. To put it bluntly: I really like this parish! You are living out the gospel together in rich ways and being part of this community with you nourishes my own soul. I hope you feel that same joy.
That’s not a warrant for complacency, of course. Regular renewal and revitalization are always needed in any healthy community. And we’re doing those things in many ways. But it is a warrant for celebration and thanksgiving.
I’m thankful for what God is doing here at All Souls, and I’m grateful to be part of it with you this summer.
Welcoming New Members
On May 17, we welcomed 22 new members into the All Souls family. Today and in the coming weeks, we’ll hear from many of them.
We moved to Berkeley 8 days after our wedding. We had planned it that way – sort of – but I don’t think either of us was truly prepared for how hard it would be. I started school at Cal 4 days after moving, while we were still trying to assemble our IKEA furniture. (You know, there’s a therapist who has suggested building IKEA furniture together as an exercise in couples’ therapy, like here… it’s definitely a stressful endeavor! You probably should do it with a therapist, yep. I started to wilt as the weeks passed by. Suddenly I was living not in the house I’d been in since I was six, but a dark apartment the size and shape of half a train boxcar. My fun four sisters I always had around, whether to socialize with or be introverts together with, were suddenly 300 miles away in a different “state” (SoCal). The friends I’d grown closer to through the stressful experience of wedding-planning were far away too. I was friendless and very lonely. For the first time I realized what it meant that my significant other wasn’t “enough” – my new husband was lovely, and loving, and everything I could hope for, the best part of my strange new life. But he couldn’t be my entire life. How weird was that!
It was a few weeks before I got around to church hunting. The first place I tried had some lovely people, 12 to be precise. Twelve people as in, that was the entire church. A bit too small for me. The second church was larger, and also filled with lovely people; but in a strange twist, I found myself bothered by the complete lack of scriptural reference in the sermon. This was something I never before thought I might care about, but there it was. The third church I found walking home from Safeway one day. (Why isn’t it “Vons” here in NorCal!!) They had a red and white cross flag which looked kind of Nordic to me (I’m a Scandinavian studies major at Berkeley), and stained glass windows (100% of the criteria I used to pick my wedding chapel), and even a Byzantine painting, which I knew from art history class to be a very cool thing. So I resolved to come back that Sunday.
It All Saints’ Sunday. At All Souls Episcopal Parish. Did I mention I normally attend Altadena Baptist back in SoCal?? You can see where I’m going with this.
“I wonder if Episcopals always use incense and have communion with wine every Sunday?” I thought to myself. Pastor Phil commented, “Now if this is your first Sunday with us, you might find this a little strange… Well, this is actually the biggest Sunday of the year for us!” “Aha,” I thought. “What a hilarious first Sunday for me to be here!” After church I hit Pastor Phil with a gnarly theological question. Poor guy. He answered admirably. I never even looked for another church. All Souls Parish is more “high church” than I’m used to in the Baptist tradition, but it was surprisingly refreshing.
As a college student I don’t always rouse myself on a Sunday in time for church – yes, even the 11:15 service. But my atheist husband Aram quickly caught on that when regular Brianna went to church and socialized with “her people,” she’d come back glowing and happy. So, hilariously enough, atheist hubby would make Christian wife go to church, because he could see that it helped her.
Pastor Phil, perhaps remembering I like to ask hard questions, recommended I try the Catechumenate class this spring. I still don’t always make it in the morning for church, but I always made time in the evening for our class. I met new people and our relationships grew as we journeyed through questions together. And a few weeks ago, I stood at the front of the church as I joined this community formally. My atheist husband watched me from the pews. He doesn’t attend normally and doesn’t wish to, but he can appreciate my world for what it does for me, and came to support me that day. Incidentally, it was our 9-month wedding anniversary. I think this married Berkeley life thing is going to work out. I’m glad I’ve found a new NorCal family.
– Brianna Panasenco
Ai Weiwei Revisited: When Arts meet Outreach
Monday June 8, 5:30pm
“One could not help but be moved by the creative thought, research, courage and scale in the Ai Weiwei exhibit at Alcatraz depicting the faces of individuals across the globe, imprisoned or exiled for their beliefs. It causes one to especially value the freedoms we take for granted in the USA,” observed Don Strange when he saw the Ai Weiwei exhibit on Alcatraz Island.
On Monday, June 8, the Arts at All Souls is hosting a forum featuring views, both photographic and vocal, of the recent Ai Weiwei exhibit. The prison backdrop for this immense installation provides ample opportunity for interested parishioners, who were able to attend the exhibit, to share their thoughts and photos, and those, who were unable to make the trip, the chance to see, hear, learn from, and feel the experience.
From Arts at All Souls member, Hallie Frazer:
“The Ai Wei Wei With Wind exhibit at Alcatraz, a magnificent tribute to human rights and free speech, was stunning. The central piece was a large Chinese dragon made of traditional bamboo and light, rainbow-colored fabrics, suspended from the ceiling. The two sides of its face were kites. Its expanse covered an entire room. Freedom flying and agile within its confinement was likened to the freedom of the wind. Kites of beautiful, imprisoned animals were positioned throughout. In contrast, a lego display blanketed the floors in the following room, commemorating hundreds of political martyrs from around the world in hard, brittle reality. Each room and building lent new and unique expression to his passionate outcry against injustice.”
Mary Rees provides us with some thought provoking insights as she so eloquently connects art and social justice:
“Seeing all of those faces laid out on the floor, painstakingly created and re-created out of Legos, I was really impressed with how, despite his house arrest, Ai Wei Wei continues to find ways to speak out, to connect with those of us around the world who are not under arrest and do not face the same risks. Out of tiny pieces he made these courageous people’s faces larger than life, refusing to allow his fellow prisoners of conscience to fade into obscurity. His art prompts me to ask myself where and when I have ever acted so bravely, to follow my conscience and help others.”
“The line of prison cells with recordings of music and speeches playing in each one also raised questions of what imprisonment means. We recognize that the people recorded and aired there were arrested and held unjustly in their home countries. However, the location in Alcatraz makes us ask how often people are arrested and convicted unjustly in our own country. Why is white-collar crime so underrepresented in our prisons, for example, while crimes that arise out of poverty, addiction or desperation are overrepresented? Why are a disproportionate number of prisoners in the U.S. black and poor?”
Please join us at 5:30 for supper followed at 6:00 by the presentation of Lynne Turner’s photos and discussion led by Michelle Barger. The Forum will be over in plenty of time to make the Monday Ministries Meeting at 7:00. (However, the conversation will surely continue…)
Please RSVP to Margaret Sparks.
Here’s a little preview of this amazing exhibit:
From Interim Associate Rector
Does This Sound Like You?
A few weeks back, driving into Berkeley, I heard this amazing quote in an interview with Michael Kransky and Nicholas Dirks, U.C. Berkeley Chancellor. When asked how such an erudite scholar feels holding his current position that is essentially that of a fundraiser, Dirks responded,
“It’s interesting. I am basically telling them how great the university is, how important it is what we do. I am giving people an opportunity to invest in things they believe in deeply… And I feel as if there is a kind of mission to keep this extraordinary initiative afloat… I almost see fundraising as a missionary vocation for me because… it’s doing something about sustaining something I believe so deeply in and am so committed to.”
I thought to myself – “WOW! That may be the best description I have ever heard of the work of the stewardship committee.” So many people are afraid to roll up their sleeves and join the stewardship committee. Many are concerned that they will have to “sell” or ask others for money. I would like to disabuse you of that myth right now. As reflected in Dirk’s quote, stewardship is about sharing what we love about All Souls, inviting others to participate and invest deeply in the ministries that they believe in with time, treasure and talent. In this way we can sustain the unfolding of God’s mission in the community of All Souls and beyond.
If you are passionate about the transformative ministry of All Souls, if the above quote reflects your feelings about our community, the Stewardship Committee needs you. We will be meeting June 8th and 22nd at 7:00. If you would like more information, talk with me or send me an email.
All Parish Picnic in Tilden
We’re looking forward to bringing our 11:15 service to the beautiful Mineral Springs picnic site on Wildcat Canyon Rd. on Sunday, June 7. After an open-air Eucharist we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. If you are coming from the Berkeley side, Mineral Springs is on the left between the Brazil Building and Inspiration Point.
Associate for Youth Ministries Search
Spread the word! We’ve launched the search for our next Associate for Youth Ministries. The full posting and job description can be found here. Please share this information far and wide, and hold the search committee and potential candidates in your prayers.
Mt. Cross Day Camp
There’s still time to sign your kids up for Mt. Cross day camp! This year it’s June 15-19, and once again in collaboration with Shepherd in the Hills Lutheran Church. The camp is for kids who have completed kindergarten through 6th grade. It’s $150 for the week, and scholarships are available. There are registration packets in the narthex, and you can email Liz with questions.
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.