From the Rector
The Art of Being Human
In his book, Living on the Border of the Holy, New Testament scholar and retired CDSP professor Bill Countryman writes about what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century. And one of the more remarkable teachings that he offers is that a primary purpose of Christianity is training, learning, and being formed in the art of being human.
At its core, this is what the Christian way is—sacred texts, practices, understandings—that point us to the best ways to live. Some of these best ways have been obscured, others ignored, still others forgotten. That is why it’s an art. When it becomes rigid, formulaic and inflexible is when we most easily break it.
Like all forms of art, the Christian life requires discipline. And like all disciplines (or ways to follow) it needs to be practiced. For it is through regular practice that we learn—on more than a cognitive level—the movements, constraints, and depths of the art.
That is why this week ahead, Holy Week, exists. It exists so that in the practice of physically walking through the stories of Jesus’ last week, we can learn the art of being human. For in these stories of exaltation, intimacy, betrayal, abandonment, confusion, and hope, we find ourselves. When we re-member these stories, all of what it means to be human is made present, tangibly, materially. But only if we are present ourselves.
Take Part The week begins this Sunday, Palm Sunday. We begin our liturgies outside, on the steps to the Chapel for the 7:30 am and in the Courtyard for the 9:00 and 11:15 am. With palms waving, we sing our way in triumph, as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Once we arrive, though, the scene shifts and through the Passion narrative, we anticipate the days ahead. This year, we will do so in a slightly different way, as the congregation, the Body of Christ, will take part by giving voice to the words of Jesus.
Gather On Thursday, at 12:00 noon in the Chapel and at 7:30 pm in the Church, we will gather to remember the last night of Jesus with his disciples. Here the embodied teaching is about a particular kind of love. The preacher for those liturgies has compiled a list of love songs so that we might reflect on what kind of love Jesus means. After washing each other’s feet, and celebrating the Eucharist, in the evening we will clear the church of all ornamentation and process down to Chapel with the Sacrament, with many holding vigil overnight, in prayer and in silence.
Watch On Friday, we come together in one of the most elemental human ways, to be present with one who is suffering, to keep watch and to pray. At 9:00 am in the Chapel, there is a simple said service, with sermon, veneration of the Cross and prayer. At 12 noon – 3:00 pm is our contemplative service, with reflections by parishioners (always stunning), music and silence. At 4:00 – 5:00 pm is our Holy Week for Children service in the church, using the texts of Godly Play and entering into the story of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. At 7:30 pm is our Solemn Good Friday liturgy, beautiful in its music, with preaching, veneration of the Cross and prayer.
Kindle Saturday offers the Easter Vigil, a service that embodies the arc of human existence. Beginning in the dark at 8:30 pm, we slowly kindle the light through fire, smoke, story, song, water, chant, bread and wine. It is at this service that we proclaim the fullest truth of what it means to be human, and it often creates the space for the most profound encounters that we have come to know as Christians. It may take a few hours to do this, but, well, the human experience is that way.
Sing! Easter Sunday. In all of its glory. We quite literally pull out all the stops. At the regular Sunday times of 7:30, 9:00, and 11:15 am, we sing with full voice, proclaiming the Good News through our stories, music and sacrament. At 10:10 am we invite children to run around collecting eggs filled with treats. There may be a tenuous theological connection in this particular practice, but it is sure to elicit the unbounded joy of the day. At the 9:00 and 11:15 am services, all musical hands will be on deck to sing our way into the joy of Easter, with incense at the 11:15 am service.
I hope that you create the space to walk these ancient ways this week. I know that school, work, the everyday challenges of making your way through a week of Bay Area living, all this can being present a trial. But I am convinced that taking part in these practices will change you, that whenever you are present, it will lead you one step closer in the art of being human.
We Do Not Walk Alone
As part of the Discipleship Ministries team at the Diocese of California, I have the lucky responsibility to work with youth, young adults, and those who minister to them. When your youth minister, Jess Powell, invited me to All Souls’ suicide prevention gathering, I was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with All Soulsians, and continue learning how to support folks wrestling with suicide, and those who love them.
The workshop was expertly led by Alicia Hooton, a clinical social worker, and James Kirkham a marriage and family therapist, both of Seneca Family of Agencies. I appreciated their leadership, as they work directly with youth who are contemplating, or who have attempted suicide, and their families. This wasn’t theoretical for them, and their expertise was evident. This wasn’t theoretical for participants in the room, either; almost all attendees had been personally affected by someone in their life dying by or considering suicide.
Youth suicide is real; in 2013, 481 people under age 24 died by suicide in California. Fourteen of those deaths occurred in Alameda County, a number that doesn’t account for attempted suicides. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 in the US.
As members of the beloved community, as we build the kingdom of God here on Earth, we are charged with the responsibility to be loving community. In my experience, being loving community can mean asking hard questions, being vulnerable, and being gentle with our whole selves.
Alicia and James taught us to ask the hard questions. Debunking the theory that talking about suicide makes folks more likely to consider it, they emphasized the number one takeaway for the whole day to be speaking candidly to youth about your concerns. Instead of cryptically saying “you’re not thinking about ‘doing something drastic’ are you?” we were trained to directly ask “are you planning on committing suicide?”
We learned about cultural contexts of suicide: the shame and stigma around a death by suicide in some families that leads to silence, sometimes for generations. We grieved that that 41% of transgender people attempt suicide, and that Native or 1st nations people are two times more likely to attempt. We discussed warning signs of suicide, that are myriad and too many to report in this space, but include change in sleep, behavior, drug/alcohol use, school performance, and tend to be triggered by a life changing event such as a breakup or change in family structure. We talked about risk factors like access to guns and medication, bullying, recent death, or the anniversary of a major traumatizing event.
We learned that if a youth expresses suicidal tendencies to ask (again), “do you feel like killing yourself?” followed by “do you have a plan?” If a youth explains they have a detailed plan that could be realistically carried out with lethal force (access to a gun and they plan to go home now and use it) then you should be concerned and call 911. Similarly concerning, but with less urgency, is a youth who has a plan but no realistic way to carry it out (desire to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, but no transportation to San Francisco).
What can parents and support systems do? Address the suicidal ideation directly, remove potential methods of harm from the youth’s access (knives, drugs, guns), model talking about emotions, be role model for good self-care, and most of all, listen to the youth. Alameda County’s crisis hotline is available 24 hours a day (1-800-309-2131), but we know youth are more apt to text that make a phone call, and the suicide prevention text line is 741741. There are many more tools and details in handouts from our trainers that I’m sure Jess will be happy to share.
Days after the workshop, I contemplated how this training is also holy work. When we proclaim in the baptismal covenant that we will “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” loving our neighbors as ourselves, we can do that by sharing tactics, and skills and support for those among us with suicidal ideation. When we do, and we show up as community, we are honoring Christ in that person, and loving our neighbor in crucial moments when they can’t love themselves.
I felt privileged to join the All Souls community for this vulnerable and important workshop. Sharing resources like this is the good work of being church, and the blessing of being part of a collaborative diocese. I’m reminded that we do not walk alone on this path of holy community, and for that I am grateful.
24 Hour Crises Hotline Alameda County: (1-800-309-2131)
Suicide prevention TEXT number: 741741.
– Andrea Foote, Interim Associate for Discipleship Ministries at the Diocese of California
From the Associate for Liturgy and Music
“…just the way we do at home.”
Those words are among the most amusing and frustrating words of Egeria, a 4th century Spanish nun who traveled to Jerusalem and kept an account of her experiences of spending Holy Week there. While vividly describing many of the novel (to her) practices of that far-off Christian community, Egeria also frequently includes tantalizing hints of liturgical practices which, even by that early date, had taken root widely throughout the Christian world in those early centuries.
Many of our own customs of Holy Week may seem utterly inseparable from those solemn days. Some may have been all but universal by Egeria’s time, while others have been recovered, lost, and recovered again in varying degrees. The contours of our worship in this coming week are widely familiar, even as the details are unique to each congregation.
I invite you to keep your own travelogue from Palm Sunday through Easter Day. To that end, I want to offer just one thing to notice about each of the days we observe (with two things for Good Friday, one for each of our major liturgies on that central, truly crucial day).
Palm Sunday: Many of our liturgies are polychromatic, often through the subtle interplay of larger seasons, particular feasts, and scripture readings which may not always speak with a single voice. On Palm Sunday, though, we have a truly bifurcated day: we begin with a festive, almost carnival atmosphere outside, entering to the festive hymn, “All glory, laud, and honor.” But once indoors, the liturgy turns to the Passion, the story of Jesus’ final day, making the bulk of our liturgy that day much more somber, pointing the way forward through the rest of the week.
Maundy Thursday: The beginning of the Triduum, the Three Great Days, celebrates two aspects of the Last Supper: the washing of the disciples’ feet, and the Last Supper. It makes for a rare occasion when we come forward twice in the same liturgy. In both activities, we are reminded of Jesus’ service to his friends, those who were otherwise making an effort to do what he wanted. On this night, there can be no confusion: we are to serve others in Jesus’ name.
Our evening worship ends with the stripping of the altar and procession down to the chapel, filled with flowers and candles, reminiscent of the Garden of Gethsemane. Parishioners come throughout the night to spend an hour in prayer, answering Jesus’ desire for the disciples to stay awake and pray with him before going to his death.
Good Friday: It’s all about the Cross. One traditional element of Good Friday piety is that Jesus was on the cross from noon until 3 pm, and the tradition of a three-hour liturgy is a rich one. At All Souls, our contemplative service that afternoon this year is marked by a focus on the “Seven Last Words” of Jesus, his final statements as found in all four of the Gospels. Seven parishioners will offer reflections, with poetry, music, and silence bringing us to a place of deep prayer and a kind of joy that can only be experienced, not really explained.
While each of the three cycles of our Sunday readings means a different Passion Gospel is read each Palm Sunday (this year it is Luke, in year C), Good Friday is always marked by the narrative from John’s gospel. While the details are different in each, the bottom line is that Jesus was executed in a public, humiliating way, with unimaginable suffering. Almost every understanding of the Crucifixion has a place in Christian history and piety, and while not all Christians agree on the meaning of the Cross, our shared prayer on that day brings us together in profound ways.
Holy Saturday: The day when Jesus was “resting” in the tomb, the daylight hours are quiet…liturgically speaking. A flurry of activity is going on, though, with flowers, candles, music, and everything we need for a huge celebration being put into place. Even though it begins at 8:30, the Easter Vigil is a certain kind of “sunrise” service. Gathering in darkness, lighting a fire, telling stories, and marching around outdoors all lead us to the first celebration of the resurrection. If you’ve never been to an Easter Vigil, make this year your first – it won’t be your last!
Finally, Easter Sunday is no longer the first day of the week, but it is the eighth day of the week. God rested on the seventh day after creation; Jesus rested in the tomb; with the resurrection we have entered into divine time, living in a way that can’t be measured by ordinary human means. Easter is the biggest Sunday of the year, and for good reason – everything we’ve been doing finds its fulfillment that day in a riot of color and sound. If the whole week weren’t already worth it, Easter Day would be plenty of reward!
Even those of us who are here all week all have different vantage points from which we’ve experienced these 8 most intense days of the year. In sharing them in the days and weeks to come, each of us can gain deeper meaning from and understanding of the great mystery at the center of our faith. Stay at home and join us on this great journey!
What will you have to tell your friends about your travels?
– Christopher Putnam
An alternative spring break… right here!
Not only is it almost Holy Week, it’s almost spring break! The two will overlap for a group of students from Willamette University, who will be staying on the first floor of our Parish House while participating in an alternative spring break program. They offer this introduction:
We are a group of students and staff from Willamette University in Salem, OR. We are part of the Take a Break (TaB) Program, which is a student-led alternative spring break program that allows students and staff to engage in community service and education. Our trip’s topic is Dis/abilities Studies and Ableism; this trip aims to create dialogue about the way dis/abilities are regarded and treated in our culture and environment. We will be visiting different communities that work to provide educational resources, service, and representation for people who embody differing abilities. We will engage in service at these organizations, actively participate in educational programs, and learn how to act as allies in different social spheres. We seek to create a safe space which students can bring what they have learned back to their classes, groups, and communities in Willamette.
Thank you for having us in your parish house; we really appreciate your help and support!
Continuing the Feast this Sunday:
Palm Sunday is a feast day! Let’s honor the day and approach Holy Week together. Bring food to share and continue the feast of the table with a festive brunch between services. There are no formation classes for adults or children, so it is a chance to catch up with friends and come closer to each other as we come close to Easter. In the Parish Hall during brunch there will also be an important opportunity to provide feedback on formation classes you’ve attended and brainstorm great new programming with the Adult Formation team. Join us and bring food to share!
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!
Phoenixes Game Night
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.
A round table discussion to help discern DioCal investment and divestment priorities, San Francisco
Following the Diocese of California’s historic decision to divest from fossil fuels at the 2015 Convention, it is time for the diocese to figure out the details of how it should move its investments. What positive priorities should investment decision makers have for reinvestment? Are there other areas in which diocesan giving should not invest? How quickly should leadership make these moves? These are some of the questions the Task Force for Socially Responsible Investing is considering, and they want direct feedback to help them make their decisions. Come to this meeting on April 7 to discuss various options, and then give them your feedback. They will be using a survey to help guide our discussion and give each participant a chance to give us feedback. Can’t come on April 7? The survey is available online here.
When: Thursday, April 7, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco
Contact: John Quarterman, SRI task force convener, firstname.lastname@example.org
Service [projects], mission [trips], and privilege: Fourth annual CDSP youth ministry symposium
On April 9, clergy, ministers and volunteers with family, youth, and adult formation are invited to join the fourth annual youth ministry symposium — sponsored by CDSP and DioCal — focusing on the challenges young people face when they become aware of their own economic, racial, gender, and political privilege in the context of mission trips and service projects. The day will include creative devotions led by the Rev. Canon Julia McCray-Goldsmith and the Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer, with presentations and hands-on resources from Anne Clarke, lifelong formation coordinator for the Diocese of Northern California, and Samantha Haycock, director of children and youth ministries at Christ Church, Alameda. You’ll go home for the day with new resources to help your congregation in every generation reflect upon inequality.
When: Saturday, April 9, 9:30 a.m. (registration), 10 a.m. (program) to 4 p.m.
Where: Church Divinity School of the Pacific, 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley
Cost: $25 (includes lunch and materials), scholarships available
Info and scholarships: Andrea Foote, email@example.com
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