From the Rector
Who and Whose We Are
This past Sunday afternoon, after our worship services and the continuation of the feast, I packed up and headed to the Bishop’s Ranch for our diocesan Vocations Conference. Held by the Commission on Ministry, it is the yearly three day gathering of those who have discerned a call to ordained ministry, to be a deacon or a priest in the Episcopal Church. All of those present had been sponsored by a congregation of our diocese, as in the Episcopal Church a call to ordained ministry must be recognized by those you worship, learn and serve alongside. There were those who had already been ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition, some who had already attended seminary and others who have yet to engage in formal training. Each of them took part in five rounds of group interviews, each group focusing on a different area of inquiry. Some of those areas were to be expected: your daily prayer practices, how you have handled times of stress or conflict, how the Baptismal Covenant shapes your call, about a transformational experience in your life. But one of the more challenging and revelatory questions came from a different angle. One of the groups asked each nominee to share a time or event that, for them, seemed like a “failure.”
Remarkable discussion emerged from this inquiry. As one might expect, the stories that emerged were heartfelt and moving. And with the stories also came an implicit understanding of the role of “failure” in a person’s life, especially in the life of a person of faith. Take a moment to reflect on this for you. How have you experienced what you have felt as “failure?” Where was God in that experience, before, during and after? Where has that experience led you? How has it changed you?
A couple of Sundays ago, on the first Sunday of Lent, I preached about the wilderness. As is the case every year, our Sunday Gospel as we enter into this season finds Jesus entering the wilderness, where he is tested, tempted. I preached about the nature of struggle and our engagement with it. This struggle can take the form of what feels like our own failure, but it encompasses far more than that. It also contains the pain of life that is thrust upon us by others as well as the chances that come, bidden or unbidden. And as happens for most every sermon that I preach, the conversation about this struggle continued after the service.
I actually find this conversation to be essential to my call as a priest. Because in the weeks and days leading up a Sunday I have spent hours and hours, reading, meditating, challenging, being challenged. So when I stand up to preach I see that time as a critical moment in the preaching life of our congregation, but not as the beginning of it (as hours of reflection precede it), and certainly not as the end. For I have found that the echoes of sermon conversations can be felt for weeks and even years.
Some of what has resonated with those texts for folks in this community have to do with that struggle in the wilderness. Many identified with that experience and some even articulated a sense of gratitude for what emerged from it. For what came out of these struggles was a sense for some that a critical piece of their identity would not have been known without that time in the wilderness.
From my experience as a pastor I have come to know that we need not seek struggle out, that often in leading a life of engagement with the world around us, struggle will find us. What the teachings and experience of Jesus and this time of Lent can offer us, though, is the possibility for greater awareness and identity because of the time spent in the crucible of the wilderness. For in the process of offering to God all that we are given in life––including the doubt, pain, fear, anger and frustration––in time we are offered something in return: new life.
It would be neat and tidy if this new understanding and identity came on time when the Easter proclamation rang out on Holy Saturday. For some this may indeed be the case. Yet even if it doesn’t coincide with this 40 day cycle, part of what we trust in this time of Lent––and throughout the seasons of our life––is that we will not be left alone in the journey towards wholeness, that in this parish family we are gifted with companions on the way. So friends, take heart. Remember that no matter our length of stay or our path through this wilderness, along the way we carry with us an eternal truth––who and whose we are, beloved of God.
From the Senior Warden
The Numbers Part of the Story
Yes, numbers tell only part of any story, but they are useful reference points. As a parish, we track average Sunday attendance and financial income /expenses, among other things.
Looking back at February, our average Sunday attendance for the three services was 221. The respective 9:00 and 11:15 service averages continued to be very close to one another, with only a 2-person difference this past month.
The cumulative pledge income for the first two months of the year was very close to 1/6 of the annual pledged amount ($457,283). Similarly, expenses were just slightly under 1/6 of the annual expected expenses.
This good start to the year is a reason for thanksgiving, certainly to God, but also to all of you who followed through on your pledged intention to give, and to you who are stewards of specific area expenses. Let’s not “rest on our oars”, though, but continue to fulfill our pledges regularly so that income is spread relatively evenly over the year.
And if you know someone(s) who probably would enjoy All Souls as much as you do, please invite them to come with you to a service or event. They probably have no idea what they’re missing!
An Opportunity to Serve
The Story of My Involvement with the GRIP’s Family Shelter Dinner
God has given me so much: life, health, and time to enjoy and to use, to be a blessing for others. He has given me faith, opportunities, and a spiritual inheritance of sacrifice, dedication, and service that I have witnessed in the lives of my mother, my husband, my son, and the church.
How can I respond to the blessings that God has given me? How can I express to God my gratitude for all that he has made and has done for me, for all of us? What kind of skills and talents do I have that I can offer to God? What form will my faith take? How will my beliefs be expressed in the actions I take?
As I considered these questions, I was inspired by reading the story in the Gospels of the miracle of the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-15). In this story, it seems to me that Jesus tells the disciples there are many people gathered with us. They are hungry and in need. You must do something. God wants to provide for them through me, through us. Jesus said to the disciples: Feed my people. Bring what you have and share it that all may be fed.
In this story, I hear a call for us to stand with our neighbors in need, here in Richmond, today. This is the challenge – to take responsibility, personally and socially. This is the question for every Christian; how will we give substance to our faith?
The only decent answer for me comes from this story. Like the answer from the little boy with five loaves and two fishes: Here is what I have, oh Christ. Here I am present, as a member of the Church, a resident of Richmond and the East Bay, as a Hispanic. With what little, or however much I have, I put in your hands, Lord, for your fruitful blessing of the homeless.
“Blessed are those who care for the poor and needy;
in the evil day the Lord deliver them.” Psalm 41:1
I became involved with the ministry of All Souls Parish to the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) Family Shelter more than two years ago through my participation in the Outreach Committee. Our deacon at the time, the Rev. Mary Louise Hintz, invited us to attend meetings of GRIP’s Social Justice project. There, I learned of the Family Shelter and of the involvement of many congregations in serving with the programs of GRIP (to learn more follow this link). The Family Shelter provides emergency shelter and transitional housing year-round to about 60 residents, including both adults and children. These families may stay at the shelter up to one year but many stay for approximately three months while receiving assistance with finding permanent housing, looking for work, and receiving medical and dental care.
As a result of attending that meeting and hearing of the needs, All Souls responded with people and funds to host a dinner on the fourth Friday of every month. For more than two years, we have purchase food, prepared, and served a meal to the families of the shelter. The dinner preparation begins at 4:30 pm and the meal is served at 6 pm and ends around 6:30pm. The residents are in charge of cleaning up. This ministry speaks to God’s call to us to care for our neighbors and I invite any who are interested to speak with me, or Outreach chair Christine Trost, and to join our dinner service on Friday, March 28th.
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body and spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. (“For the Poor and the Neglected,” prayer 35, BOCP)
–Elena C. Ramirez
Join Us For a Berkeley Walk!
CROP Hunger Walk 2014 and CWS
On Sunday afternoon, April 6, All Souls parishioner families and friends will once again take to the streets of Berkeley for an afternoon of camaraderie, exercise and (hopefully) sunshine, while supporting a most worthwhile cause. Will you join the Walk or give support?
And, just what is the CROP Hunger Walk? For 60 years the CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) Walk has been one of the principal fundraising activities of the Church World Service (CWS)
Founded in 1946, CWS works with partners in the United States and around the world to build interfaith and intercultural coalitions to eradicate hunger and poverty, and to promote peace and justice. In order to attain these goals, CWS supports sustainable grassroots development and disaster relief. When disaster strikes, CWS works with partners on the scene to provide shelter, food and water, blankets, recovery kits, counseling – the basics needed to ensure the survival of individuals and communities at risk.
In addition to rapid emergency disaster response, CWS also provides long-term development initiatives, helping vulnerable families and communities prepare for and recover from natural and human-caused calamities. For example, in drought-ridden Ethiopia, CWS and partners are assisting 120,000 people with food and seeds to restart farming activities.
CWS works to assist refugees and internally displaced persons through a broad range of programs – from conducting interviews with refugee candidates for U.S. resettlement throughout sub-Saharan Africa, to providing resettlement and integration services through a network of offices in the United States. In the area of climate change, CWS is working with environmental organizations and other church-related relief and development agencies to promote policies that strive for equitable solutions to the challenges ahead.
Each year some 2,000 communities in the United States join in these locally organized, interfaith CROP Hunger Walks to support the work of the CWS. CWS shares a fourth of what is raised with local communities’ hunger-fighting efforts. In Berkeley, those agencies sharing this funding are St. Dorothy’s Rest, Berkeley Food Pantry and YEAH (Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing).
To participate in the CROP Hunger Walk, the All Souls community is invited to walk and/or make a donation to CWS by registering in person on Sunday mornings in the Narthex or online at this link.
For further information please contact your team captain at (510) 524-6106; firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Capt. Margaret Sparks
New to All Souls Parish Gathering on April 6th
Are you interested in learning more about All Souls Episcopal Parish? Do you want to get to know people in the church better while also learning some of the ins and outs of life at All Souls? Would you like to learn more about what it means to be a member at All Souls and the upcoming new-member recognition ceremony?
You are invited to a gathering on Sunday, April 6th at 1:00 pm at the home of Betsy and Steve Dixon at 45 Menlo Place in Berkeley (cross street is Thousand Oaks), phone (510) 527.5872.
This will be a time to get to know others that are new to the parish as well as those who have been involved longer. In addition, some of the leaders of All Souls will be there to discuss life at All Souls and what it means to be a member if that is something that interests you. A light lunch will be served. Childcare will be provided as well as rides for anyone who needs one.
If you are interested or have any questions, please contact Erin Horne at email@example.com or (510) 674-8877. Please RSVP by Tuesday, April 1st.
We hope to see you there!