FROM THE RECTOR
We have come to the time of year when it becomes much easier to find a place to park in Berkeley. The university and seminaries have held their commencement ceremonies, students have scattered to the four winds, and as this week is the end of the school year for the rest of schools, we are entering the slower time of summer.
Every summer, this shift is seen at All Souls as well, as many in the parish take time away to research and recreate. To that end, in the last several years we have been more intentional about how we spend these summer months: with book groups for all ages, summer Sunday school projects, and immersion trips. We’ve also taken the opportunity to try new patterns with our worship, with different texts, kinds of music, and even changing the space in which we worship.
With that sense of change of pace in mind, for the past couple of months we have talked as a staff about how we might re-create the nave as a space to worship. One of the ideas that emerged has actually been one that we have wondered about for some time, which is to worship all gathered around the altar.
The initial legwork of measuring the pews and the space was done by Jeannie Koops-Elson, who gave those measurements to Jesse Tichenor to upload to a design program. Jesse then spent hours poring over sight lines and seating capacity, and worked up 18 different schematics of how the nave could be oriented. After some conversation within our staff, I chose a design that brings us together in a semi-circle around the altar in the middle of the nave.
Then the hard part came—unscrewing the pews and moving the pews and chairs and altar into the new configuration. Jeannie Koops-Elson and John Love did incredible work on the often stripped screwheads that held (most of) the pews in place. Liz Tichenor, Emily Hansen Curran, Ed Hofmann, Andrew Hybl and Jamie Nelson from CDSP, our do-it-all duo of Lassandro Wilson and DeAngelo Beavers, and I then spent several hours placing the pews on furniture dollies and rolling them around the space. Some of the pews were moved up into the Quire, and others were moved to new places in the nave. Ed Hofmann then did some amazing work with the musician set up and Fred Lothrop came in to see how our sound system works best with this new arrangement. It was amazing to see how it all came together, much more quickly than we had anticipated.
I’ve now spent some time in the space, just sitting and praying. A few elements of this change have already come to the surface—the intimacy that this orientation creates is palpable, and for the first time, I find myself immersed in our stained glass of the Apostles’ Creed that surrounds the nave. I encourage one and all to come a little earlier this Sunday for worship. Find a space in a pew or a blue chair that seems right. Look around you, what do see that you don’t often take in on a Sunday morning? Listen closely, as the acoustics of the space are actually different. In all, pay attention to what emerges in you, how you are able to sing with joy and be still in wonder.
It will surely take some time to work out all of the wrinkles that we will find along the way. The patterns of acolytes, sacristans, ushers, oblators, musicians, presiders, preachers, all of us makers of the Eucharist, will have to be re-established. Some of these new patterns may not be a favorite, while others may open up aspects of the Eucharist we hadn’t yet glimpsed—and all will be information and learning about why we gather each Sunday in worship. As you come to experience this new way, let us know what it is like for you, how it changes your coming close to God.
After summer ends we will return to our familiar set up, and my expectation is that for some All Soulsians that will be a relief. And that some will wish to remain in the round forever. But that for all of us, this change of space will offer new ways of encountering the living God, together.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry lifts up the best
So often as Christians living in a hyper-polarized country, and in what many scholars call post-Christendom, we tend to define our community by what we are not, rather than by what we are. It’s understandable — we want to distance ourselves from so much of the pain that has been caused in the name of Christ. And, when this is most of how we explain our way, we miss out, and so do others who might be searching for more meaning and connection. In a recent interview, our new Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks to this tension. He explains:
“We’re a tradition that has historically been able to live with differences. And I think now we’re seeing that lived out in some new ways that — to be a church that really can embrace diverse, not only theological traditions or liturgical and worship styles and approaches, but people of all stripes and types.
And that’s — I think that’s the Episcopal Church and the Anglican way at its best.”
Bishop Curry is both fearless and delighted in speaking the truth of the Church. If you find yourself wondering how you might explain who we are, and more importantly, why we are, this short interview would be a good place to start. Take eight minutes and settle in with him here.
The Parish Picnic, in photos
This past Sunday, we moved our 11:15 am service up to Tilden Park, followed by a wonderful picnic feast. Here’s a glimpse of the fun shared:
DIY Tabernacling: Holy Objects & Holy Space, at home
This piece was originally written for the youth and families of St. Stephen’s, Orinda, and then published at the Episcopal Cafe. Ethan has graciously agreed to let us share it here, as well.
The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me. This is the offering that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue, purple, and crimson yarns and fine linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, fine leather, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and gems to be set in the ephod and for the breastpiece. And have them make me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell among them.
– Exodus 25: 1-8
I feel like society is on a pretty heavy anti-materialism kick these days. Buzzfeed Tiny House compilations are getting the *heart eyes emoji* treatment on Facebook; decluttering is now [un]officially a Lenten practice; neo-monastic resource-sharing/simple-living intentional communities seem to be springing up all over the church (I was in one!). And these things are all great, and probably healthy. And, taken too far, writing off of the material realm as comprehensively profane is tough, because, as St. Teresa of Avila reasons “We are not angels and we have bodies… As a rule, our thoughts must have something to lean upon, though sometimes the soul… maybe be so full of God that it will need no created thing to assist it in recollection. But this is not very usual…”
The Spiritual and the Material needn’t compete for our attention or jockey for superiority, but, as St. T goes on to say, reliance on the spiritual is cavalier (and unlikely to bear) without experience in the material: “This withdrawal from the corporeal must doubtless be good, since it is advised by [many of the saints], but it is my belief that it must be practiced only when the soul is very proficient: until then, it is clear, the Creator must be sought through the creatures.”
And so, unless any of us has been raptured and achieved Divine Union, we are invited to explore Holiness in the physical—the places and objects—around us. But sometimes, outside of the set aside Sunday churchtime, holy spaces of respite and prayer can be hard to come by during the week. In the day-to-day bustle, many of us have hastily blessed and made do with our automobiles, our desks, our usual seat on the bus or subway, or even our mental head space (i.e. NPR-on-the-radio zen-mode). But we don’t have to just make do.
In the Book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to collect holy and beautiful (or, shinyand valuable) objects from the Israelites and to construct a sanctuary where they would offer praise and sacrifice. We might not have precious metals, premium dyed linens or goat hair lying around, but we do have the Holy Stuff of our lives – consecrated and made sacred by its consistent contribution to our daily ministry and our humble toiling. Our favorite coffee cup can be a chalice. Our favorite book can read like scripture; our favorite sweater can feel like a vestment. And that –stuff– matters! Cultivating a discipline of appreciating of The Holy Mundane can be an avenue to express our praise and thanks to God, to sharpen our gratitude, and to tap into God’s presence all around us. And the practice of at-home altar-making can become that practice.
A place to start is to take a stroll around your home and notice what objects spark your affection and gratitude. As you go, collect them. Look at your bookshelf. Look at your bedside table. Explore your pantry. Wander your living room. Think of the places you haven’t looked and look there. Look in your car. There should be stuff – if you’re coming up short, think of all the things you’re grateful for and take another lap.
You should have an armful of stuff. Bring it the highest-traffic/least-used table or surface in your house or bedroom and dump it. Take three deeps breaths: 1 for Aesthetic, 2 for Architecture, 3 for God’s Grace and get to stacking. Go ahead, I trust you.
Does it look okay? No? Try again. Still no? Well, I think it looks perfect.
Check it – here are some examples of altars and why the folks picked what they picked.
You may ask: What makes sense to put on my altar? The answer is anything you want. Books that matter to you, family heirlooms, your most faithful utensil (cooking, writing, eating or otherwise), a nice postcard from a person you miss, crosses, crucifixes, icons, rosaries, a craft someone made for you, a soft stuffed animal, candles, incense, soaps, a trophy/medal/achievement you’re proud of, something that reminds you of your favorite sport or hobby or craft., something that reminds you of your parish, etc., etc., etc. Really it can be anything that put a warm feeling in your heart, a sweet memory in your head, or heightens your awareness of God.
You may ask: Where does it make sense to set up my altar? The answer is anywhere.
You might try a coffee table, a bedside table, a mantle, a wall-mounted shelf, a desk, the top of a cabinet or dresser, a glass-fronted hutch, a bookshelf, a plank of plywood between two sawhorses, hah, just anywhere. Anywhere you’ll see it, on purpose or by accident, at least once a day.
You may ask: How should I pray with my altar? The answer is anyway you like!
You can stir your gratitude over each object or you can meditate on just one, you can sit next to it and listen for God, you can explain the elements of it to someone you love, you can journal or read in the same room as it, you can just walk past it and notice occasionally, you can just leave it alone and let it billow prayer vibes into the space – whatever you want to do will be great. However you normally like to prayer, try figuring out a way to include the altar, passively or directly.
Ethan’s altar: book-heavy and sensory, assembled on a tall shelf with some wall image as backdrop.
Steve’s altar: leaning more on the religious imagery and iconography, with BCP open to the Holy Eucharist
Spencer’s altar: with many well-traveled items that symbolize to different spaces & places of ministry in her life.
– Ethan Lowery
IN THANKSGIVING FOR THE LIFE OF GARY CHAWK
Please join us in giving thanks for the life of Gary Chawk and celebrating the light of the Resurrection this Saturday, June 11th at 10:00 am at All Souls. In lieu of flowers, gifts are directed to All Souls. Please keep Gary’s wife Suzanne and their family in your prayers. May Gary rest in peace and rise in glory.
Phoenixes Game Night this Saturday
20s and 30s are invited to come together for our game night in the Parish House from 7:00 – 9:00 pm this Saturday, June 11th. Bring your favorite game, and snacks if you feel so inclined! Or just bring yourself for some laughter and fellowship. The Parish House is across the parking lot from the church, and we will prop the door open as people arrive.
SUMMER READING GROUPS
Where would you like to spend your summer vacation? On a trip to another planet? On the banks of Tinker Creek? In rural Tennessee? Or would you rather spend it discussing important issues of racism or spirituality? You can do all of these things just by showing up on Sunday morning this summer at All Souls! We will be having a number of reading groups throughout the summer.
Runners, try changing up your pace this Sunday, June 12th! Plan to worship at the 9:00 am and then join other All Souls runners for a fun run after you enjoy a cup of coffee or a book group. Meet at 11:15 am in the courtyard and we’ll set out together for a variable length and pace run.
BIG SUR CAMPOUT, JULY 15 -17
Join fellow All Soulsians 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! Contact Jeannie Koops-Elson with questions and you can sign up here.