FROM THE RECTOR
A couple of weeks ago I shared in my sermon for the first Sunday of Lent about a discipline that I have taken on this season, to be home for dinner. For the most part I have been able to follow it. When I have, I can see what changes in me—in my family, and in my work. I am more present and feel more whole through this discipline. When I haven’t been able to follow it, I can also see the changes—in me, in my family, and in my work. I feel more scattered and splintered. It has been a challenging and clarifying time.
There’s another discipline that I have been following from the start of Lent. This one has been harder to follow. You see, one of my interests for many years has the study of social and political change. How communities and countries change over time, what moves them to change, what sustains the change. As part of this, like many of you, I inhale sometimes unhealthy quantities of news. A real newspaper that I can hold in my hands, radio news in both short and long format, often a weekly magazine aggregator of news, digital sources like Flipboard, and myriad blogs and websites with written and video content.
Which was almost sustainable. Until this presidential election cycle hit. As a journalist visiting from the UK has described it, this election has been so unusual, so unpredictable, and at times bizarre, that for him, writing about it is like shooting fish in a barrel. For me, it has been really hard to put down. Especially because of this amazing, damnable magic rectangle that is almost always within reach.
Because a smartphone is always ready to deliver breaking news, breathless accounts and mostly incisive commentary. And as the season of debates and debacles has picked up speed, I have found that my moments between things were swirling down the drain of latest projections, backtracking pundits, and Supreme Court intrigue. I don’t mean just moments like waiting for a BART train. I mean moments like between the dining room and the kitchen while clearing my breakfast dishes. Distracting myself from where I needed to be and most especially the people that I needed to be with.
And so this Lent I have been trying on a discipline of only engaging in presidential election news during specific times of the day, so that I stay informed and put my engagement with this election in its place. But it has made me wonder. Why this incessant need for information? Why is it so hard to set this aside?
In addition to the shots of dopamine that my brain craved when a new piece of information flashed on the screen, I came to realize that this constant search for trends and prognostications has been a desperate attempt at control. Control over a situation that matters to me and one that I actually have little control over. I think it’s essential to be aware of what is happening in our community, our city, our state, our nation, and our world. Elections matter. At the same time, being caught up in the non-stop spin cycle of this election is not increasing my ability to act as hope-filled, wholly-present human.
This is why I was even more receptive to some wisdom offered at our 9:00 am Wednesday Eucharist yesterday. We celebrated the feast of St. Chad—not a hanging chad of the presidential election of 2000, but a Bishop in what is now central England in the 7th century. As part of our discussion following the readings, we talked about this election, and about humility and how we engage with others, especially when we cannot fathom their political choices. One member of the circle reminded us that God did not come to Elijah in the whirlwind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the still, small voice that followed.
That is what I am leaning into this Lent. Time away from the ceaseless noise. Time to put down my election-news-delivery-device and listen, after the whirlwind has passed, the earthquake is over, and the fire has died out. Time to listen in the sheer silence. To God and to those around me, especially those that I might not have heard before. For it is in the listening, even amidst or in spite of the chaos, that God is made known.
Seeing the World Again for the First Time
The decision to apply for a guide dog involved a lot of praying and discernment on my part. I knew it would be a huge responsibility, ongoing training and practice, and I was afraid that it would not only set me apart even more from the mainstream, but cement my identity as a disabled person. I had learned to adapt over the years to try to fit in and if I stared at the ground while I walked, I could keep up with the rest of the world. As my vision deteriorated over the past few years, I knew something had to change if I wanted to maintain my independence.
It did not occur to me that getting a guide dog would actually change my life in the most profound, amazing, grace-filled, beautiful way. All of a sudden I am noticing the sounds and sights and conversations around me as I walk down the street, not having to concentrate all my energy on navigating obstacles. I can carry on a conversation, practically skip down the block, go through airport security with ease, and hop on the bus without a care in the world.
Next time you see me in church, you can meet Opie. He’s a rambunctious, sweet, yellow lab, and when he’s not working he thinks everything is a party, beginning by making a circle-eight through my legs.
Opie has been preparing to be a guide dog since the first few weeks after he was born at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA. I have spent the last two weeks at Guide Dogs learning from him and my instructors how to walk through life with this new companion. On our graduation day on March 5th, Opie will be blessed by a pastor friend and we will be ready to hit the town!
If Opie has his working harness on, he can’t be touched or petted. Sometimes, if he is not currently helping me maneuver, you can calmly pat him but please always ask me first. As much as Opie would love to snuggle with everyone, he needs to stay calm and focused so he can help me. I know It is so tempting, but if you want to play with him, you’ll have to meet us at the park.
Thank you for all your support during this adventure and Opie and I are looking forward to seeing you in church!
Thank You From the Adult Education Committee—and an Invitation
To all who have come to Sunday morning courses and the Lenten and Advent Wednesday night soup suppers—thank you! The All Souls adult formation committee is grateful for your participation and for those of you who have taken the time to respond to surveys letting us know how well the offerings accomplished our goal of nourishing the hearts, minds, and souls of everyone at All Souls. During Lent, we hope you’re engaging with Ruth Meyers’ course on baptism and Jesse Tichenor’s course on practices of stewardship for the earth, as well as Suzanne Guthrie’s Wednesday night series on “Entering the Seasons of the Soul.” Coming up in April we have ongoing Bible Workbench sessions, a series on end of life issues, and Phil’s “Stories of All Souls” designed especially for newcomers. In May we’ll have Sunday morning courses on foster youth (a parish initiative) and on children, youth, young adults, and money. Book groups will start in June and continue through August, as they did last year.
Here’s how you can help us in our efforts to make adult formation offerings vital, relevant, and helpful in our communal walk of faith:
- Give us your feedback. Filling out surveys that come to you after a course ends provides valuable information on how well they worked—and how we can do better. We take them seriously and do our best to incorporate their insights into upcoming offerings.
- Give us your ideas. At the Continuing the Feast on Palm Sunday (March 20), we will tack up large flip chart-sized pages around the parish hall so you can write your suggestions for topics, presenters, or anything else that you’d like us to know. All comments will be welcome and used in planning for upcoming programming for 2016-2017.
- Lead a book group this summer. If you have a book that you think would be of interest and value to other All Soulsians, please volunteer. You would need to lead two to four discussions, which can be spread out over several weeks.
- Join the committee. We are always looking for new members who are interested in adult formation and want to contribute to this important part of our parish life.
For more information, to volunteer for the committee, or to discuss a possible book for a summer group, please contact Ruth Meyers (chair) or another member of the committee (Sheryl Fullerton, Alan Schut, or Stephen Southern).
THE BEGINNINGS OF A MONEY AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Recently, Mary Rees reflected on this year’s vestry retreat, one part of which was beginning to create our own money autobiographies. This is the final of three issues of the Pathfinder in which we share the questions we engaged. They are adapted from Elizabeth O’Connor’s prompt in “Scattered Pilgrims.” We invite you to sit with the questions, write about them, talk about them, pray with them.
Do you pledge? If so, how do you really feel about it? Is it a proportional pledge? Do you pledge because this is how you want your money used, or do you pledge because you want to belong and are willing to pay this cost of belonging?
Have you made a will? If not, why not? Did you include anyone in your will besides your family? The biblical faith says that we have a common life together — a common wealth. How do you feel about a private will?
How do you deal with the fact that two-thirds of the world’s people are poor? If you have personal relationships with people who are poor and /or work for social justice, how has that affected your attitude toward money?
In what ways is your relationship to money a training ground for your spiritual practice, or an expression of your deepest values?
In thanksgiving for the life of Lewis Patton
A Memorial Service for Lew Patton will be held at All Souls on Saturday, March 5th at 11am, with a reception to follow.
All Souls for Racial Justice
March 3rd at 7:00 pm All Souls for Racial Justice will meet in the Parish House. Join us to talk about where we are and where we want to go. There are so many opportunities to get involved in exciting work right now! If you have any questions contact Danielle Gabriel at 510.332.0631 or by email.
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
Upcoming Events with the Phoenixes, our 20s and 30s group:
– Friday March 4, 7:00 – 8:30 pm: Taizé Service (a time of beautiful meditative music, short prayers, time for silence and reflection, based on the tradition of the Taizé community in France) followed by munchies and conversation in the All Souls chapel (along Cedar St.)
– 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.
Join us at 6:30 pm on Wednesday evenings during Lent for a soup supper and 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