From the Rector
In preparation for this year’s Annual Meeting I came across a startling discovery: that fifty years ago, in response to Dr. King’s call from Alabama, the Rector of All Souls, the Reverend Bradford Brown traveled to Selma, Alabama to join in the march for voting rights for all.
What was startling to me was that of all of the stories that I have come to know about this parish––joyful, painful and faithful––I had never known of this story. As the commemorations at the Pettus Bridge have been taking place in these last few weeks, I have been remembering, looking back at the glimpses that we have of those days, and looking forward to what might be.
First, to look back. Thanks to our Parish Archivist, Thomas Burcham, I’ve read the newsletters from the weeks of March 10th, 17th and 24th of 1965. As each issue is an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet, front and back, they can only give us a glimpse of what was happening in those weeks. But the glimpses are remarkable. From a section entitled, “Atop the Soap Box”, Bradford Brown writes, “Recent events in Selma, Alabama, are enough to appall the dullest Christian conscience…How long will we as a nation and as Christian citizens allow this to continue?”
The next week, March 17th, the question is asked, “what difference does it make that I am a Christian, what do I have to offer, should I offer what I have?” In one of the responses, the Social Action Committee of All Souls “interpreted the events in Selma to the congregation.” How this interpretation happened isn’t clear––classes? fora? articles?––but one of the direct actions was this, “(they have) made it possible for the clergy to witness a Christian concern for the oppressed, not only in Selma but throughout the nation. At this writing, Father Brown is scheduled to leave for Selma on Wednesday.”
Then, the following week, March 24th, there is this short and powerful article, about a telegram campaign of All Souls. Here is the text from that article:
“Friday afternoon was a busy time in the Secretary’s office. Four women of the parish spent an hour making lists of names to call, asking parishioners to come down to Church before 9:00 Friday night. They were asked to sign a telegram which was then sent to St. Paul’s Church, Selma, Alabama and a copy to Bishop Carpenter of the Diocese of Alabama. Following is the text of the telegram:
“The Rector, Wardens, and Vestry
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
“The undersigned members of All Souls Parish, Berkeley, proud that our Bishops and Rector are in the front lines of the struggle for human rights now being waged in Selma, deplore the reported refusal of St. Paul’s to admit negroes to their services. We pray that you align yourselves with the clearly expressed position of the Episcopal church and the only possible Christian stand in this matter. Pledging our prayers, moral support and brotherly best wishes, we remain–––”
“Telephone calls were made to as many as time allowed. Many people not at home or busy signals kept the number down, but we still had over 150 signatures.”
In the next column is a request to pray for all involved, for those who are afraid, for those struggling, for those who judge too quickly. And it ends with this, “We must be aware of casting the first stone when we are tempted to judge. On the other hand, if we wait until we are pure before we act, we will never do anything.”
This, to me, well sums up the challenge of responding to the moments of change around us. What is our response as Christians? What action is just? Given our scripture, our past experience and our engagement in this time, how will we listen, interpret, and act? While the way forward may not be clear, active response is necessary. As President Obama reminded us in his remarks at the Pettus Bridge a few weeks ago, “When it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.” For the past several months a group of All Soulsians has been meeting for just this purpose: to recommend to the Vestry areas of emphasis for us as a community to give of ourselves.
Focused on Christian Action and Practice, and led by Dr. Christine Trost, Raymond Yee, Sharon Roberts, Mark Koops-Elson and Ariane Wolfe, have been listening to members of All Souls, been in conversation with scores of leaders in the wider community working for systemic change, and will be bringing the fruits of this work to the Vestry for action.
As it was in 1965, so it is in 2015. The times have changed, but members of this Parish are still listening for where the Spirit is moving. We continue to interpret the events of our time in the light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. And, in the weeks, months and years to come, we will join many in taking action.
From The Associate for Liturgy and Music
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him! (Habakkuk 2:20)
In 2005, a uniquely strange and beautiful film was released: Into Great Silence. Through six months of filming, director Philip Gröning lived with the Carthusian monks of Le Grand Chartreuse, the head monastery of this, one of the strictest orders of monks (and nuns) in the world. They spend most of their days in solitary cells, gathering only for meals and liturgies – both the Eucharist and the many hours of prayer offices sung through the day and even in the wee hours of the night.
Their near-total isolation from the outside world allows them the opportunity to develop a profoundly interior life of prayer and work as their witness to the Christian faith. Of course, the term “silence” is a relative one, as a simple lack of words or music simply brings to the fore an awareness of all the other sounds around us. We make gestures toward quietness and simplicity in our own worship in Lent, as public worship on Sundays is not really focused on silence. In fact, some of the changes we make in Lent may seem to be creating silence – I am thinking particularly of the returning procession following the proclamation of the Gospel. But a mere lack of music is not the same thing as silence; for that we require physical stillness as well.
In fact, you may notice on Sunday that the places where we specify silence in the liturgy are all times when no one is moving: before the Confession of Sin, following the Sermon, during the Prayers of the People (another not-really-silence, actually), and after the bread is broken before communion. However, we are coming up on some true, and truly profound, silences.
As we engage with the liturgies of Holy Week, we find opportunities for further true silences. The first comes at the end of Maundy Thursday, when, after our procession to the Altar of Repose (a clue found in the name!), the singing stops, and we remain in silence a time before departing. In fact, throughout the night, aside from the comings and goings of Vestry members and other parishioners keeping vigil through the night, the Chapel is held in silent prayer. Finally, on Good Friday afternoon, our contemplative service from noon to 3 pm is filled with true silences as we meditate on Jesus’ final hours on earth.
All of this, however, leads us into the one truly profound silence of which our silence is but an echo: that of Jesus, laid to rest in the tomb. His earthly ministry completed, followers dispersed and in shock beyond words – their silence is ours as well. We take a break from our own action of worship in the darkness, preparing to begin again, kindling the New Fire at the Great Vigil of Easter, when a single spark grows to fill the church with warmth and light, the outburst of light and sound announcing Jesus’ resurrection.
Enter into silence, and enjoy the sound!
– Christopher Putnam
Postscript: Into Great Silence is currently streaming on Netflix. An extended 2-disc DVD is also available for purchase. Promise yourself not, for once, to multitask, and you will be in for one of the most profound cinematic experiences ever.
From The Associate for Children and Youth
There is a miraculous quality to water. Unlike most molecules, when frozen, water expands instead of contracting. The water in rivers, lakes, and oceans freezes from above, not from below. This single property of the H20 is what allows fish to exist and life to evolve. Water is one of our most basic needs. Our bodies are 60% water. We can survive only three days without it. Without water there is no life.
Lent is a time to reflect on so many aspects of life. It is a time when we inventory and simplify. We look at our lives asking, what is keeping us from receiving God’s Grace? And so, we go back to the basics. We seek the kind of simplicity that reorients us, opens our eyes to God’s abundant love.
I recall a Lenten moment, walking a mountaintop path in India, attempting to interview a young Tibetan monk about Buddhist Death rituals. I struggled to hide my frustration as he frequently interrupted to ask me to join him in singing Celine Dion songs. We walked slowly as I struggled to keep him on topic. I felt as if the two-day journey to this mountaintop was a waste of time.
Interrupting his song, the monk suddenly put his arm out, stopping me from placing my next step on the dirt path. His eyes pointed toward my feet. I looked down, lifted my sneaker and saw a juicy green caterpillar inching along. Pulling back his long red sleeve, the monk reached down and moved it from our path, placing it gently on the side of the road before continuing the classic Celine Dion hit. His lesson was much deeper than the academic questions with which I had been hammering him. I had been lost in my cerebral cortex, destructively stomping through a beautiful day. His attention was informed by a profoundly simple and holistic reality: life is precious.
When simplicity informs our lives we are acting in solidarity with our global family. I tell this story to remind you of the preciousness of water, which serves to connect us all. And yet, alarmingly, almost a billion of our brothers and sisters do not have access to a clean drink of water. At the same time that their children might miss out on school in order to collect water, most Americans are chronically dehydrated.
Water connects us and clean water allows us to expand. Installing a well can also spur entrepreneurship. In the late 80s, the Indian government installed thousands of wells across Uttar Pradesh, and one of those was constructed near the home of Asharfi Lal. He remembers seeing a team dispatched to repair one of these wells near his home. Curious about mechanics, he went home, made tools and practiced by repairing his own hand pump. Soon he was running his own business. Thirty years later, he is known in his community as the man who could fix anyone’s water problem.
My call to you is this: find ways to help yourself and your family pay attention to the clean top-quality water flowing from your tap. Not because we should feel guilty, but because paying attention to one of life’s most basic needs can inform our priorities and serve to connect us. Let us give thanks that precious clean water allows us to live and thrive. May this mindfulness bring you the joy of connection with the global Body of Christ.
– Carolyn Richardson
Please also consider donating to Charity Water, an organization that has installed thousands of wells across the globe. To contribute download the Evergive app and select Water Fundraiser. Checks can be made out to Charity:Water and put in the collection plate or given to Carolyn Richardson.
From the Junior Warden
One of the most useful pieces of information I’ve received in the last few years is a cross between “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” and “The Bible Come to Life”.* “The 10 Rules for Respect”, first brought to All Souls by Jim Richardson, our former Interim Rector, is a simple yet powerful way to live your life. It’s something I try to model on a daily basis with the young children I have the privilege to work with, along with (especially with!) their teachers and parents. It can be very helpful in making and maintaining relationships, especially when conflict comes up.
While you can find it on the church website for future reference, I’m writing it here to make it easily accessible. (you may recognize it if you were at our Monthly Ministry Meeting in October) Print it out, place it on your computer screen, your dashboard or anywhere else you look frequently and use it as a model for daily living, both in your private and secular life. I hope you will find it a useful practice in your daily life.
10 Rules for Respect (compiled by Bp. Greg Rickel)
1. If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately)
2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to you (privately)
3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I’ll do the same for you.)
4. If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go to Greg together. I am sure he will see us about this. (I will do the same for you.)
5. Be careful how you interpret me—I’d rather do that. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions.
6. I will be careful how I interpret you.
7. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If you or anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless a) the person is going to harm him/herself), b) the person is physically going to harm someone else or c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.
8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes.
9. I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated; do not let others manipulate you. Do not let others manipulate me through you. I will not preach “at you”. I will leave conviction to the Holy Spirit (she does it better anyway!)
10. When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked. Our relationships with one another, at the end of the day, are the most important things so if you have a concern, pray, and then (if led), speak up. If I can answer it without misrepresenting something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I will.
*Matthew 18:15-16—“If your brother or sister sins against you, go to them. Tell them what they did wrong. Keep it among yourselves . . . But what if they won’t listen to you? Then take one or two others with you.”
– Kim Wong
Lenten Immigration Forum
The trouble with All Souls… there’s always more—more community, more learning, more embodied faith, more community… so after 7:30 service, a lively Bible Workbench at 8:30, and evocative music and blessings at the 9, isn’t it time for me to be going forth? Well, not yet, because the “forth” has been brought to All Souls through series like the excellent one on immigration.
Not only have we heard of the plight of the immigrant, of which the newspapers have been quite full and the confusion and concerns of the undocumented, but also, we learned of the muddled quagmire of rules and regulations, (almost as bad as the tax code!) placed before everyone who seeks to be a legal resident of the United States.
Frankly, I almost stayed away from the classes. Sunday morning is not the time I want to be overwhelmed with such continuing tales of the poor and the downtrodden, that I come away feeling lost and helpless. However the stories of success and the will of those who strive to keep the promise of Miss Liberty, without endangering the lives of the citizens already suffering hardship, has made this series an inspiring experience, (and with John and Anne Cockle’s lighthearted performance as they viewed U.S. legal history, even fun).
“Building Our Beloved Community” has given me hope…and, following Terri Hobart’s sermon of last Sunday, inspiration for taking that special All Souls’ “secret sauce” into our community and workplaces.
I look forward to next Sunday’s final session, (including the musical opening!) when we are promised to continue the upbeat conversation and to make some recommendations on just where our “Beloved Community” may participate to bring justice and harmony to this complicated arena.
– Lisa Berndt
Equipping the Beloved Community May 2 at St. Matthew’s, San Mateo
On Saturday, May 2, St. Matthew’s, San Mateo and the Peninsula Deanery will host the next Equipping the Beloved Community event with the theme “What we need is HERE.” Author, pastor, and social entrepreneur Tim Soerens, and 22nd District Assembly Member Kevin Mullin will lead a dialogue about living faithfully and justly in the San Francisco Bay Area. View the full list of workshops available for this great lay formation opportunity at http://www.diocal.org/etbc. Registration links are available there. Contact Julia McCray-Goldsmith,firstname.lastname@example.org, with questions.