FROM THE RECTOR
Church Being Church
The first restrictions on large gatherings came late on Wednesday, March 11th. Do you remember that far back? I realize that my calendar shows it to be just over two weeks ago, but in terms of lived experience, it feels like that directive, given five days before our current shelter in place order, it feels like like months and months ago.
As I started to sort through all of the questions that evening that were emerging, one of the primary ones that I kept turning over was, would a streamed service work? Even if we could pull it off, would it still feel like church?
I awoke the next morning still trying to come to an idea of what we would do that Sunday, and I did what I often do when faced with challenge of that size: I reached out for help. And by 10am that morning, a group of eight All Soulsians had assembled on Google Hangout, ready and willing to figure it out together.
There were folks who knew music, the sacristy, audio and video, the website and social media, children’s formation, and for the next hour and a half we considered the act of corporate worship from at least two perspectives. Would this feel like worship of the Living God with only a handful of people, filmed for the others to see? And for those encountering the liturgy through a screen and speakers, would it feel like worship?
After discussion it became clear that this tremendous challenge also presented opportunity. For the first time in decades, All Souls Parish could worship at one service. The reasons for having multiple services––that our spaces can only hold so many people––no longer applied, so we could be together, at least in this way. We also decided that it had to be streamed live, that simultaneous experience was paramount to a shared act across the cities of the East Bay, rather than a performance to be viewed.
Then what service should we use to worship with? To be clear, I believe that there are many ways to answer this question faithfully, and much of it depends on the context of the congregation. My sense was that at a time like this––stressful, intense, and uncertain––and on short notice, that we should be using rites and actions that are familiar and tested. So continuing with what we had prayed the previous week made sense.
But the Eucharist? What does it mean to celebrate the Eucharist when most of those participating, over 90%, can’t receive the bread and wine? A few considerations went into this decision. One was that the Eucharist is a foundational practice of Christians since that first celebration of the Resurrection, and a practice we felt essential to keep. And then one All Soulsian then spoke movingly that even if they couldn’t partake in the rite directly themselves, that it could be nourishing in and of itself.
Our tech folks quickly got to work on the streaming needs: phone, mics, cables, and our facebook page, while our the musical and administrative folks retooled the bulletin. We went through each element of the service––how would this read through a screen, would this piece of music work from home, would this prayer still pray?
A run-through on Saturday blocked out the shots, and let us consider the details, like whether to process (it might help folks enter into their own prayerful space), how to collect prayers of the people (Toni would follow the feed as the service progressed), whether to have the Thanksgivings (how could we not?), and how to conclude the service (saying goodbye is important).
To be candid, I had no idea if it would actually work. I knew that my sermon had to be shorter by about a third and that the silences had be smaller by about half. But would the music carry? Would people be able to commune with God, even if they couldn’t taste the bread or drink the wine or grape juice?
I got to All Souls over an hour and a half early. (this is not my normal practice) I rewrote my sermon, taking a section out, tightening another. We made last minute adjustments, walking people through their roles. We prayed. And we prayed some more.
But the moment that I knew that it would work? Well, it started when Jamie sounded the bell and Sarita’s voice soared, “Bless the Lord my soul, and bless God’s holy name…” And the rest of us there and elsewhere joined in and we began our procession to confession, to prayer, to the words written down long ago.
And it felt like prayer. And it felt like preaching. And it felt like communion. And even though I missed the voices and faces and hugs of All Soulsians, when the thanksgivings of a half dozen All Soulsians were handed to me, it felt like Eucharist.
Yes, there were (and are) elements that we are looking to change in the weeks to come, like adding another camera, and simplifying the distribution at the table so that people can pray into the moment for spiritual communion. And, yes, all of this is being re-imagined so that Holy Week and the Great Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil can offer us glimpses of the Paschal Mystery.
But once we cleared that first streamed service on March 15th, and learned of the hundreds of people who had worshipped together in this way, and the dozens of All Soulsians who were moved to tears through this worship, it was clear that, yes, this would work. At least for now, at least in this way.
So as long as we need to, as faithfully as we can, we will. Because these last two weeks have proven that the promise of Jesus is true––that as long as two or three are gathered in his name (in person and in many places), as long as church is being church, God will be there. Thank goodness.
Morning and Evening Prayer
I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves right now is to stay in a routine – mentally, physically, and spiritually. I know that my time in seminary has been enriched by a consistent cycle of prayer, and I want to bring that same consistency to our online All Souls community amid this mandate to shelter in place.
Every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30 am, I will meet at the Zoom link below to lead Morning Prayer. This morning office takes around 20 to 30 minutes. You can use the Book of Common Prayer to join me, or you can also use the Daily Office app from Mission St. Clare. The app is easy to use and available for both Android and Apple devices.
Here is the link for Tuesday/Thursday Morning Prayer, to take place every Tuesday/Thursday at 8:30 am PST: https://zoom.us/j/283425127
p.s. Calvin Payne-Taylor is leading evening prayer twice per week (on Mondays at 8:30p and Wednesday evenings at 8p). Join those meetings via Zoom below:
Here is the link for Monday night BCP Compline, to take place each Monday at 8:30pm PST: https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649
Here is the link for Wednesday night NZP Night Prayer, to take place each Wednesday at 8pm PST: https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649
A Reflection on Aging Within a Faith Community
In the recent dramatization about the Two Popes, the Dominic character tries to explain his decision to resign to the (soon to be) Francis character. He gives declining health as one reason, and his words go something like this: my physicians tell me that I am in good shape for an 86 year old man, but compared to humanity as a whole, not so much.
This resonated with me when I heard it, and does so even more so now that I am, at age 79, in a designated high risk group for the current virus. I am in good health for my age, and I work at it by exercising, eating well, drinking little, not smoking, watching my weight, socializing (ordinarily, although not at the moment), etc. I am grateful. But being in a special category solely because of my age leads me to feel vulnerable as never before, and gives me enormous compassion for the vulnerable feelings of those with compromising conditions, of every age.
What’s being in a faith community got to do with it? Let me give you a tangible example.
At our recent vestry retreat, one of the activities offered for free time on Saturday afternoon was a hike on the property of St. Dorothy’s Rest, near Occidental, where we were staying. I knew that some people had taken this hike last year, in the pouring rain, so I figured that it couldn’t be THAT hard, on a clear day. I didn’t ask questions, and no information was offered as to its difficulty, but in an excess of optimism, I decided to go. (Understand, here, that I am probably the oldest person on the vestry, but not by much.)
There were eight or so of us who went.
It turned out that my usual three aerobics classes every week (in ordinary times), including a Zumba class modified for us older folks, were not much help on this hike, although otherwise I would no doubt have found it even more difficult. The trail was rocky, there were drop-offs alongside it here and there, there were significant increases in elevation, there was water to be crossed on narrow boards; it was hard. Nobody fell, including me, and I never stopped to rest. I WAS bringing up the rear at the end, but someone was always back there with me, in a companionable way.
That’s the physical report. But here’s what really mattered. Each time I hesitated or faltered, a hand reached out to me. Not the same hand every time, but many hands, sometimes more than one at a time. Often I didn’t even know whose hand it was. All those hands were what kept me going. I was so grateful, and it seemed to be a kind of bonding experience for all of us. Afterwards, people told me that I had done great, and maybe I did. But it was largely because of them.
I share this because it is a metaphor of sorts. Once on the trail, there was no turning back, but I probably wouldn’t have, even if that had made sense. I felt secure. If I inspired any of my fellow hikers, fine. They surely did inspire me.
I would rather grow old in my faith community than any other way. Blessed as I am, I have that option. In these frightening times, let us reach out to each other, invite people who may not be among us now to come along, and always remember to thank those younger people who extend their hands in so many ways.
March 20, 2020
Stephen Ministry Telecare
Listen and pray
Seems so simple you say
But given times like these
Telecare can help get you through the day
Look, we are all pretty stressed given the amount of uncertainty in our lives right now and in the future. All Souls is giving us an abundance of ways to stay connected and support each other, and we are so blessed to have this church family.
And yet, sometimes we need more than that. We just need to talk to someone 1:1 and vent about the rude shoppers at Safeway, the exhaustion of having a full time job plus be a homeschool teacher, the nasty hits we have taken in our 401K accounts, the loneliness of SIP, the fear of getting sick or someone we know getting sick, and [fill in the blank].
Stephen Ministers are trained in providing telecare so you can have a sympathetic listener on the other end of a phone call, FT chat, Zoom session or even an open air walk if possible. We will check in faithfully, listen with care and compassion, and offer support and prayer. These will be informal but confidential calls for as long as you need them. By having these calls you’re not signing up for a Stephen Ministry relationship. So please call Phil+ (510.848.1755, ext. 2) or Madeline Feeley (510.495.4512) and let us listen to and pray with you.
Sunday Live Streaming News
The live stream of Sunday services can now be accessed through our website (rather than simply on Facebook)! Click here to watch on Sunday morning. Please note that it will read “Coming Soon” on the page until about 10:25a (PST) on Sunday morning, when the live stream will begin.
Adult Formation News
Our Adult Formations Class, Sacrificial Reflections, will resume on Sunday morning via live stream on Zoom. Click here to access the class Sunday morning at 9:30a PST.
Children & Family News
We will be doing a children’s chapel program this Sunday at 9:30am (and every Sunday afterwards, as needed) via Zoom. I expect it will last about 30 minutes. Please email me for a link so your family can participate. If you have not used Zoom before – it is pretty user friendly in that I send you an invitation that you can log-in to at the appointed time. You can log-in with video so we can see each other’s faces or on your phone so we can hear each other.
I am hoping that this will give the kids a time together for their own “church” and a time to see their friends as well. Please email Whitney Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a Zoom invite or have any questions.
Spaghetti Again Men’s Dinner via Zoom
Hey Spaghetti Again Men are going to host a virtual meeting this month at 6p on March 30th. Please write to Bob Cross (email@example.com), George Tharisayi (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Kirk Miller (email@example.com) to request the Zoom meeting information.
All Souls Geek Squad
If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! On the homepage of our website is a box with the words “Technical Help”. Click on that box and you will be taken to a form that you can fill out. Once you fill that out, we’ll have someone get in touch with you to help with your tech problems. You can also click here to access the form directly.
Jane Vandenburgh and Jack Shoemaker have been holed up together in their place— this is a live/work space a couple of blocks from the water in Richmond—with their dog Georgia and nearly 10,000 books, a spot they’ve named The Paradise Library. Each is happy being there with their pup, working from home. They and all in their large, intense and somewhat complimented, very Berkeley-ish family are well, for which they each, throughout the day, thank God.
The Nicols have been playing lots of charades and hide and go seek, jumping rope and practicing soccer, and passing batons (Terry and Molly). We are so grateful to have Sunday worship, Children’s Chapel, Soup + Story and Emmaus. Please reach out if anyone is in need!
Bill Eldridge: This week CDSP has finished evacuating those of us who were in the dorms and I’m settled in to my new temporary apartment. And, in an attempt to keep my spirits up, I’ve taken up painting! Here’s a picture of my new paint set:
… and now it’s your turn! Instead of catching up during coffee hour, we’d like to include updates from you and your families each week as we navigate our new reality! Please email Jen Dary (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a short update about how you’re all faring and an optional photo by 5pm on Thursdays. We’ll include them all in that week’s Pathfinder, a good way to keep in touch outside of social media. Reminder: technically, the Pathfinder is open to the public via our website, so share your information with that in mind!