From the Rector

phil_brochard A Shelter in the Storm

As I write this, another set of rainstorms has swept across the Pacific Ocean and is showering us with rain and marching across the Central Valley into the Sierra Nevada, where it will soon be turning into snow. For much of the residents of California—grasses, trees, fish, waterfowl, deer, and myriad others, including humans, this is very good news. We have been suffering the effects of drought for several years now, and the trough of storms has been a blessing.

Unless you are unhoused. For those who are without regular dry shelter, those who like Jesus spoke of, who have no place to lay their head, this winter has been a tremendous struggle. And it is why the City of Berkeley recently reached out to faith communities to ask if, in addition to First Congregational Church in Berkeley, other churches could shelter people when the temperature is forecast to drop below forty degrees and/or if there is precipitation on the horizon.

For years, we at All Souls had been under the assumption that because of state restrictions arising from our housing a preschool, we wouldn’t be able to answer such a call. But through further research, we found that in fact, as long as guests left the premises before preschool activities began, that this could be a possibility.

So it was that at our January Vestry meeting, following the direction of our vision statement that reads, “We encounter the Holy through Gospel-inspired service, working side by side with our sisters and brothers in the wider community,” we engaged in conversation with Stephen Southern, an All Souls parishioner and a Dorothy Day House Board President.

From that conversation with Stephen, then with others working with the program at First Congregational and then still others at Christ Church, Berkeley, where Dorothy Day runs a weekday breakfast program, we decided to partner with Dorothy Day for a pilot project to provide overnight shelter at All Souls over the next several months. The plan is to offer this shelter on Saturday nights when there are the fewest shelter options, and again, when the temperature is forecast to be below forty degrees and/or rain is imminent. After the pilot has run its course at the end of May, folks from All Souls and Dorothy Day will gather to assess how the program has functioned with a look to next winter.

This pilot will be limited in scale, just 15 people per night to see whether or not our Parish Hall and the rest of our facilities are up to the task. Employees of Dorothy Day, including our own Lassandro Wilson, will be present from time the shelter opens in the evening, until it closes prior to 7am the next morning.

From the first conversations with the Vestry about intent and scope, to the nitty-gritty details that Joy Ng, our Parish Administrator, and Maggie Cooke, our Junior Warden, worked out with Dorothy Day House Executive Director David Stegman, Stephen Southern, and with the irrepressible J.C. Orton, it became clear that as we have responded to the call for shelter, we have found kinship along the way. By engaging in this work side by side, not only do we have the opportunity to give respite and rest to those at great risk, but we will gain friends and collaborators in the process.

In the days and weeks to come, I ask that you join me in prayer. For those who are without shelter and who endure the cold and the wet night after night. For those who wake every day early to serve breakfast and provide lunch. And for those who offer shelter at night, that hearts and halls may be open and waiting to receive those who enter.



From the Associate for Ministry Development

Emily Hansen Curran Notes from the Catchumenate

“…one can only blunder into the light… It’s not gradual, or progressive, or accumulative: you don’t get better or make fewer blunders, approaching the godhead step by step.  Blundering doesn’t work, except it does.  It can’t lead you there, except it’s the only way to get there.  I will go so far as to hazard that blundering might be generative, meaning that rooting around in a haystack long and fruitlessly enough could conceivably breed a needle.”

While this piece by Kay Ryan might highlight the haphazard a little too much (don’t worry, we do have some structure and order to the Catechumenate Class!), I find it a helpful articulation of a life of faith and that which has been exemplified in our Catechumenate Class so far. We are a blundering bunch.

We began our Catechumenate Class with an article by Stephanie Paulsell (posted outside my office door if you care to read it).  She wrote that during Lent we enter a “liminal space, where our perspective can shift, where we become vulnerable to transformation, and where new forms of being and living may be discovered.”

Our Catechumenate Class this year is made up of 13 individuals with varying backgrounds, from the Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Church, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, Buddhism, students in seminary, and of course those few Episcopalians returning from years away. Each of us bring our own stories as we sit in quietness of mind and listen to the essential stories of Scripture.

Our first week together we read the Catechism from the Book of Common Prayer as homework and then brought questions based on that reading. The questions were wide in range and were many, but I’ll list a few of them here. We asked about the nature of God’s communication in the Old Testament, of the inerrancy of Scripture, whether or not there is a confession of belief in the Episcopal Church, the nature of belief and faith, about the will of God, salvation, and of course, Jesus. My favorite was when someone asked if there were answers to any of these questions. And that was when the essence of this course became a lot clearer to me.

In this class we are covering a full range of topics and not in the kind of detail capable of birthing concrete answers. Instead this class is about diving into liminal space where transformation of heart might be possible. In this sort of dance we at once remind ourselves of the biblical stories and acknowledge our faith and doubts.  My prayer is that we as a class would learn to hold these questions alongside the lives we lead, knowing that this space of tension – of journeying through belief and disbelief – is where real faith occurs.

My hope is that this class sets us all in this motion of blundering; that at the end we would not necessarily have answers, but rather a posture of kneeling and reaching for God.

– Emily Hansen Curran

The Future of Solidarity


On Tuesday, members of All Souls attended a panel at First Congregational Church in Oakland, “The Future of Solidarity” on the subject of organizing white people to support the Black Lives Matter movement. On the panel were members of Bay Area Black Lives Matter:

– Robbie Clark, Housing Rights Campaign Lead Organizer, Just Cause/Causa Justa
– Devonté Jackson, Bay Area Organizer, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
– Janetta Johnson, Executive Director, Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project
– With Clare Bayard, Catalyst Project

It was phenomenal. The church was packed on a rainy Tuesday night! Some of the important lessons I took away were:

White people need to accept the leadership of Black people and Black organizations while taking initiative. Meaning, take direction on the focus of the campaign or action but don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do next.

There are very real and intense divisions between our communities. We all need to be willing to be vulnerable to build real relationships and start the healing process.

Take responsibility for organizing white communities and majority white organizations!

Be uncomfortable. White people are used to being comfortable. Seek out challenging situations and be willing to sit with and really know the pain of racism.

Racism harms everyone. Our humanity is at stake. While the consequences of racism are very very different for Black people and other people of color and white people, we are all being devastated by it.

And finally, back to this: around 400 people showed up for solidarity on a gloomy week night amid spattering rain. I was so moved by the showing of commitment and support. And I was honored to be a part of a group of All Soulsians, both newcomers and old timers, who made this event a priority.

There is a movement that continues to build and we can be a part of it. Whether you are a person of color or a white person, you are welcome in this movement and there is a place for you. You don’t have to block the freeway or march in the streets. You can make flyers or phone calls, you can discuss racism in your classroom or office, you can talk to your children.

Join All Souls for Racial Justice in upcoming events and meetings TBA! Look for us in the blue sheet and the pathfinder. On March 19th we’re going to hold a report back event on the Future of Solidarity event, gathering at 1:00 pm for brunch in Berkeley, location TBA. Email me for more info and to RSVP.

While we are challenging ourselves, as a mostly white group, to address white privilege, this is by no means a group only for white people. We want to build with everyone in our community!

Solidarity looks like this. Solidarity looks like us.

– Danielle Gabriel

Save the Dates!

parish picnicIn an effort to help you plan more easily for the highlights of community life at All Souls, we have put together a calendar of the major dates coming up in 2016 – things like big feast days, bicycle blessings, camping trips and retreats. It doesn’t include everything we do (that would be too long a list to be useful!) but we hope it helps as you plan for other commitments through the year. It will remain available on the website as well.

20: Palm Sunday, Continuing the Feast brunch
24: Maundy Thursday
25: Good Friday
26: Great Vigil of Easter
27: Easter Day

23: Family Potluck Gathering

7: All Souls hosts the Interfaith Immigration Vigil (Saturday morning)
15: Pentecost, with Continuing the Feast brunch
22: Trinity Sunday and Blessing of the Bicycles

4: General Confirmations at Grace Cathedral (Saturday morning)
5: Parish Picnic in Tilden Park
27-July 1: Middle School Immersion Trip

15-17: Big Sur Parish Camping Trip
25-29: Mt. Cross Day Camp
31-August 9: High School Immersion Trip

28: Rally Sunday kickoff to the new school year

16-18: Parish Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch

2: St. Francis Day and Blessing of the Animals, with Continuing the Feast brunch
23: Stewardship Celebration Dinner

6: All Saints Sunday: Our Feast of Title, with Continuing the Feast brunch
24: Thanksgiving Day Service
27: Advent Festival
30: Advent Series (Wednesday evening)

7, 14, 21: Advent Series (Wednesday evenings)
24: Christmas Eve
25: Christmas Day


Fill Easter Eggs!
The children’s Easter Egg Hunt in the courtyard will be between the 9 and 11:15 am services on Easter. Please take some empty plastic eggs from the narthex, fill them with treats (edible and non) and bring them back before easter so we can be ready for the hunt! Thank you!

Help create our Paschal Candle
Here at All Souls we have a marvelous tradition of melting down our (100% beeswax) used up altar candles each year to make the next year’s Paschal Candle, which is first lit in the new fire on the Easter Vigil, the Saturday night before Easter. Making the candle is a big job and we’d like to share it among people, and teach people how it’s done. Please contact Jocelyn Bergen if you would like to participate. We will work in shifts, but you can stay as long as you like!

Saturday, March 12
9:00 am to 7:00 pm
Parish House kitchen

Continuing the Feast Brunch on Palm Sunday, March 20th
Let’s continue the feast of the table and the Palm Sunday celebration with a festive brunch between the 9 and 11:15 am services. There will be no formation classes for children or adults, so take advantage of the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new connections. Please bring hearty brunch food and treats to share!

Upcoming Events with the Phoenixes, our 20s and 30s group:
– Saturday March 12, 10:00 – 11:30 am: Brunch and Bible Study in the Parish House.
– Friday March 18, 7:00 – 9:00 pm: Pre-Holy Week Game Night, first floor of the Parish House. You are welcome to bring favorite games, snacks/drinks to share (drinks can be alcoholic or not). Please RSVP to Emily Hertz  if you plan to come.

Lenten Series
Join us at 6:30 pm on Wednesday evening, March 16th for a soup supper and the last portion of our Lenten Series. Our program this year is “Entering the Seasons of the Soul” and will use the liturgical year, art, scripture, and practice, led by the Rev. Suzanne Guthrie. If you are able to help provide soup or bread for one of the suppers, please contact Jeannie Koops-Elson or sign up here.

Stop the Crucifixion of Black Lives: Good Friday Action
Join All Souls for Racial Justice as we take our love and our truth-telling to the local seat of power and ask our city officials to end, once and for all, the state sponsored crucifixion of Black life.

Friday March 25th at noon
Oakland City Hall
1 Frank H Ogawa Plz, Rm 201