FROM THE RECTOR
Practices to Keep
You might have had an experience similar to the ones that I had earlier this week when I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco. There was a palpable anxiety riding over the top of the people filling their carts with eggs and spinach and cereal. Which I expected as many of us are nervous about the potential spread of the coronavirus, or Covid-19.
And then I got to the pasta section. And it was empty. Cleared out. This I did not expect. Maybe I should have expected it to be cleared out, but given where we are (and where we aren’t) in this public health situation, I was surprised. Similarly when I walked Shattuck Avenue yesterday at midday, I had an eerie feeling, as the sidewalks were nearly empty. (photos below by ace reporter Liz Tichenor)
Part of what makes this so hard is the fear of the unknown. How easily is this virus transmitted? How dangerous is it? These are challenges that we as humans do not easily cope with––threats that feel so far out of our control. And yet, no matter how much soap or canned soup we buy, we still need to faithfully face the days ahead.
For us at All Souls, after consultation with our diocese, paying attention to the CDC recommendations, and learning from the steps that the Diocese of Olympia (Western Washington) is taking, I’ve outlined a set of practices for us, for now. As is the case with dynamic situations like this, our collective practices may well need to change. As that happens, we will do our best to communicate those changes. For the time being, here is how we are approaching worship and common life in the parish.
Whether it is worship, Soup + Story, or a meeting of a ministry team, if you feel unwell stay home, especially if you are running a fever and have a cough. And when you do, please let us know so that we can pray with you and care for you. And if you are coming to church or someone’s home, be mindful of how viruses spread: through airborne droplets propelled by coughs and sneezes, and when we have come in contact with the virus by touching something with our hands, and then touching our hands to our mouth, nose, or eyes. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands thoroughly (for roughly 20 seconds) and often, using hand sanitizer if you can’t wash them.
Within the context of worship, there are a few things that we are doing and paying attention to. I realize that some of these changes will be challenging for some of us, as our worship practices are physical, tangible ways that we have reliably come close to God. My hope is that through vigilance and perseverance we will be able to stem the tide of this virus and return to our regular patterns. Until then, here are some of the changes in our communal practice.
The first is that we will be removing water from the font in the Church and the holy water stoop in the Chapel, as we don’t want these containers of water to be ways that the virus spreads.
Another is that at the Peace or other times when we greet one another, for the duration of this outbreak, when we share a sign of peace with one another, we will do so with a bow, a smile, a wave, or other such ways. While it may not satisfy your soul like a hug or handshake, it will keep more folks safe.
The final changes for the time being will be around our foundational ritual, the Eucharist. What you should first know is that at the 9 and 11:15 services, when you see the altar party leave the chancel, our practice for several years is that we go to the Sacristy to wash our hands. Others who distribute the elements do this as well at the Announcements. We believe this to be a safe way to distribute the bread. At the 7:30a we have started using hand sanitizer.
In terms of the wine or grape juice, Bishop Marc today issued this direction, “I now direct all lay and ordained leaders to cease offering communion wine, either for sipping or by intinction, until we learn more about the nature of COVID-19 transmission and are confident the threat of mass infections has passed.” Know that for centuries the Church has understood that receiving in one kind is still full communion with Christ, so receiving the bread is sufficient in and of itself.
While this is a challenging time for all of us, one of the unexpected places of comfort for me recently was realizing that this isn’t the first time that this body has been through this before. Just over a century ago, as the Spanish flu epidemic was circling the globe, All Souls continued to meet to worship, to study, and to serve. As the story is told, the priest who preached famously would let his mask dangle from one side of his face so that his sermons could be better heard. My sense is that spiritually, emotionally, and physically, there is great benefit to our continuing to meet to pray, sing, and support one another. Until told otherwise by public health authorities, we will continue to do so.
The days and weeks ahead will tell us whether what we are experiencing is just the beginning of a much more severe outbreak, or if this will recede, having tested us significantly. Regardless, my hope is that we will keep practices that care for one another, continue to serve the wider community, and at home and in church bring us closer to the Holy One in this time of trial.
Our Paschal Candle
Lent is here! Or, as I like to call it “Big Candle Season.” Since 2011, All Souls has kept a wonderful tradition of melting down our altar candles to create a large paschal candle. This special candle is first lit at the Easter Vigil, the Saturday night before Easter, and then lit through the year at services for baptisms and funerals, representing the light of Christ coming into the world during these key moments in our liturgical life together.
This is my sixth year creating the candle itself, as well as decorating it with the appropriate symbology. It is labor-intensive, taking 8-10 hours from melting the candles to doing the last “pour” into the mold, yet also meditative and very rewarding. I’ve even created a Paschal Candle Playlist to keep me company as the wax melts in the gently bubbling double boilers on the stove, filling the house with the beautiful beeswax scent. 10 pounds of melted wax later, we get a 36-inch tall, 3-inch wide pillar candle with a triple braided wick.
I love so many aspects of this project: that we make the candle out of our already blessed and well-used altar candles from the previous year; that the candle is 100% beeswax resonating with the lines from the Exultet chanted at the Easter Vigil service, asking God to bless the candle, “the work of your servants, the bees;” and that we apply custom artwork on the candle so it is uniquely ours, changing yearly.
Along with the required cross, year, and alpha and omega symbols, the artwork has depicted many different resurrection symbols such as a phoenix, a peacock, monarch butterflies, and our own resurrection icon, as well as other visuals such as a beehive, baptismal waters, or the stained glass from our chapel. This year’s theme is in the works — check it out up close when you have the chance after the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday!
Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire church year is the initial lighting of the Paschal Candle in the new fire at the Vigil service on Holy Saturday. In the early evening darkness in our courtyard, the fire is lit, and the candle held over it to light, and once blessed, is then used by the acolytes to light their tapers, and to then share with all gathered who pass the flame from hand-held candle to candle, while we sing “within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away.” Processing into the church with only the Paschal Candle flame and our lit candles to guide us is a spectacular visual illustration of the meaning of Easter.
Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about the candle making process. I would be happy to teach others how to do it, and have created a document to share that outlines the materials and steps.
— Jocelyn Bergen
Stephen Leaders Training
I’ve just spent a whole week in a meeting in a generic hotel conference room in Anaheim on behalf of All Souls. Why, you might ask?
The week was spent in training to become a leader of our Stephen Ministry program, which has been thriving at All Souls for more than 10 years. Stephen Ministry is a Christian caring ministry in which trained Stephen Minister members of the parish are paired with others in need of care; providing support for those grieving a loss, undergoing or anticipating a life transition, or otherwise in need of caring presence. Stephen ministers meet regularly with their care receivers and offer care and empathy, a listening ear, prayer and scripture. You can learn more about Stephen Ministry at their website: What is Stephen Ministry.
Stephen ministry is non-denominational, was begun in 1975 and is active in over 13,000 congregations, primarily in the US. The program is quite rigorous; Stephen ministers receive 50 hours of training before they are commissioned to be matched with a care receiver, and then participate in continuing education and peer supervision meeting with other Stephen Ministers twice a month for confidential guidance in their caring relationships. All Souls currently has 10 active Stephen Ministers and a training class is in progress this winter and spring. If you think you may be interested in working with a Stephen Minister, see Father Phil or Madeline Feeley.
Back to that Anaheim hotel … leader training consists of an additional week spent learning how to recruit, train, and lead Stephen Ministers including matching them with care receivers and leading the ongoing supervision groups. There were 180 people training in Anaheim, from 24 states and 2 Canadian provinces, and from churches ranging in size from 40 to 13,000. Some attendees were learning about Stephen Ministry for the first time in order to introduce the program to their own congregations. The training was a combination of lecture, reading, group discussion, and role playing. Did I mention the Stephen Leader Manual? It’s a very thorough stack of paper weighing about 10 pounds! It was a deep privilege to spend a week with so many kind and caring Christians, to learn and reflect on the importance and impact of Stephen Ministry at All Souls, and to share our experience with others. This summer I will be joining Stephen Leaders Christina Robinson, Raymond Yee, and Madeline Feeley as a leader, and we will celebrate the leadership of retiring leader Nancy Austin.
— Nancy Pryer
One Big Party
Imagine you got invited to someone’s home for a dinner party. You say a very reluctant “yes,” because you know that you probably won’t know most of the people at the party. The night comes and you debate going––do I really need to meet new people? shouldn’t I just stay home and relax tonight? wouldn’t that feel so much better than dragging myself out to a party with people I don’t know? In spite of yourself (and because deep down you have a sense that yes, this party would be good for you) you decide to go. The door is open when you get there, so you take a deep breath and walk in the door. No one greets you, which is okay because you want to get a feel for the party before you decide to land yourself in a conversation with someone. So, you walk through the house, noting the clusters of people. You find the drink table and some snacks, and finally decide to go to the kitchen where there is the loudest din of voices. You linger a bit, making eye contact with a few people, but no one budges from their existing conversations. And so you are left, standing there with nothing but a drink in your hand.
Now, while one shouldn’t apply that vignette to a Sunday morning exactly, there are, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, some similarities. And so, I’d like to start a conversation about redefining our notion of greeting here at All Souls. Specifically, I’d like to redefine the notion that greeting is a role for certain people designated as Greeters.
In the scenario I shared above, the role of welcoming that particular newcomer to the party was at its base the job of the host. Of course, anyone could have stopped their conversation and recognized that there was a new person in their midst, but ultimately a host should be attuned to who enters their home.
Who is the host at All Souls? I would like to make the case that we all – those who call All Souls their home church – are the hosts of this party.
But a Sunday morning is a really big party to host! And, there are so many other friends on a Sunday to see! I totally agree. So, how about breaking the “party” into smaller chunks. What if the party you were hosting on a Sunday morning was your pew and the neighboring pews to yours. Because I mean, let’s be honest, most of us sit in the same general region of the church every Sunday. So, what if we held responsibility for just our pew and those pews around us?
But then what do you say? This isn’t actually a dinner party. This is actually a place with profound spiritual meaning. And, often people come to church for the first time out of great loss or hurt. How do we approach people with that as the backdrop? Well, our job is simple. We just want folks to know that they are welcome here. A simple hello, finding out their name, pointing them in my direction, helping them find the bathroom or water in the kitchen, walking with them to an Adult Formation class, finding out if they are new to the Episcopal church, and ultimately simply noting that you have not yet met them and you would like to (perhaps they aren’t new at all, but just regularly attend a different service!). These are some ways that you can say hello and be a welcoming presence even in the midst of what could be a profound spiritual moment for this person you don’t yet know.
The point is, the role of letting people know they are welcome here is all of our responsibility. So, this Sunday when you come to church, and the service is over, and you look to turn to a friend to catch up, first, look around and see if there is someone around you who you have not yet met, and introduce yourself. Maybe they’re still checking things out and don’t yet want to land in a conversation, but maybe they’re standing just outside hoping to be let in.
––Emily Hansen Curran
Snack + Stories
This Lent we a new family formation program that we are calling Snack + Stories. This Sunday morning program is designed to be a time when you can connect with your kids through a story and continue that connection with fellow parents at All Souls. Snack + Stories will be on March 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29th in the Common Room during the Formation Hour (10:15am – 11:10am). All children from infants to 5th grade are invited. It will include a time for parents and kids to (wait for it…) hear a story together and share a snack! There will be time for parents and kids (in two groups) to discuss the story and share their own stories. Parents will also have some time to discuss a weekly practice of prayer that they can use with their family the following week. If you have any questions, please email Whitney Wilson at email@example.com.
Have you wondered about the Episcopal church? Wonder no more! For the six Sundays in Lent, on Sunday evenings, we’ll host this introductory course. In it we’ll explore the whys, hows, and whats of the Episcopal church. If you are looking to get Baptized, Confirmed, Received, or Reaffirmed in the church, this is the course for you. Or, if you’re just looking to learn more about this Episcopal tradition, this is also the course for you. Written by our own Stephan Quarles and Emily Hansen Curran with help from a fellow Episcopalian, Andrew Lee, this course is meant to deepen our faith, our practice, and our relationships. All are welcome. See Emily, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information. This is the last week to join!
Save the Date—All Souls Blood Drive!
A blood drive is a great way to support others in need and build community. Not everyone is able/allowed to give blood, but there are other ways to contribute. The need for blood is constant and only volunteer donors can fulfill that need for people in our community. Nationwide, someone needs a unit of blood every 2 to 3 seconds and most of us will need blood in our life. To secure our date, the Red Cross needs to determine that All Souls can have at least 30 donors on that date to give blood. This Sunday, March 8, a member of our team, clipboard in hand, will be at all three services so you can sign up to either give blood or volunteer to help with the drive on June 13. Look for more details once we have secured our registration with the Red Cross.
Living Waters Capital Campaign Informational Coffee
If you are unable to attend Soup & Story this year, we encourage you to attend one of several small-group gatherings for our Living Waters campaign listed below. These meetings will offer fellowship and information, with time for dialogue and questions. No financial commitments will be asked for or received at these gatherings. Signups will be available at church, starting March 8, and by mail/phone invitation. Contact Cathy Thompson for more information.
• Sunday, March 22, 1:00 pm, All Souls with childcare provided
• Tuesday, March 24, 7:00 pm, Albany
• Saturday, March 28, 4:00 pm, north Berkeley hills
• Sunday, March 29, 4:00 pm, El Cerrito
• Saturday, April 4, 4:00 pm, Berkeley hills
• Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 pm, Oakland hills
• Saturday, April 18, 2:00 pm, north Berkeley
• Sunday, April 19, 4:00 pm, Kensington
Every Sunday, we have the children’s chapel program during the 9:00am and 11:15am services. Those children (and adults!) that wish, join two leaders and go downstairs to the Chapel of the Nativity. During March, we are hearing stories about Jesus’ ministries from teaching with parables to including people at the table (Zaccaeus). We always open our time together with prayer because Chapel gives children a chance to experience ritual in their own language and at their own speed.
In March, we will be reading the following books:
3/1: “The Beautiful Story of Jesus,” by Maite Roche
3/8: “The Shepherd and the 100 Sheep” by Michal Hudak
3/15: “The Beautiful Story of Jesus” (2nd half) by Maite Roche
3/22: “The Story of Zacchaeus” by Marty Rhodes Figley
3/29: “The Story of And” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Join All Souls’ Caring for Creation team
* Planning Adult Forum Series: Thursdays, 7pm, Mar 5, 12, 19 & 26 at All Souls.
* Forum on Religion and Ecology: Friday, March 20 at CIIS in San Francisco there will be a day-long forum on Indigenous Lifeways, Cosmologies, and Ecology. See the CIIS website for more information. Cost ranges from $75-100. All are welcome!
Adult Formation Class
This Lent, head to the Parish Hall during Formation Hour (between the 9 & 11:15 services) for a class called Sacrificial Reflections. In this course, we will think together about the very troubled and troubling topic of sacrifice in the Christian tradition. The next session, “Reflections of Sacrifice,” will center on what it might mean to be living reflections of a healthy, life-giving view of sacrifice in the Christian context. In the third session we’ll turn our attention to the eucharist and explore ways in which our celebrations are related to sacrifice. And the fourth we’ll tie it all together.
This class will meet March 8, 15, and 22 and will be taught by Dr. Scott MacDougall, The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, and The Rev. Phil Brochard.
Celebration of New Ministry
Join the folks at Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill on March 21st at 6:30 pm for their Celebration of New Ministry for The Rev. Liz Tichenor. For those not familiar with it, this is a celebration of all the congregation has been and is becoming, and it’s also the time when Liz+ will be formally installed as the rector. It’ll be a party! All are most welcome. Clergy friends, it’d be wonderful if you vested and joined—please bring a red stole. Church of the Resurrection is at 399 Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill. There is ample parking in our lot and across the street in the medical center. The church is also about a 10 minute drive from Pleasant Hill Bart.
Summer Book Club
The Adult Formation Committee requests your nominations for a book to read this summer for Summer Book Group. Summer Book Group takes place from June to August. The parish selects one book to read through nomination and voting and then comes together each week during the summer to discuss the book. Books may be fiction or non-fiction, but we’re hoping for books that brought you into some encounter with God.
Nomination forms and a box for submissions are available at the back of the chapel and in the narthex outside the main worship space. Or submit your nomination online here!
Nominations are due by Sunday, March 15.
Summer Camps at the Bishop’s Ranch
If you are looking for an adventure for your family this summer or for your kids, registration has opened at the Bishop’s Ranch for camps! Check out the link below to see what opportunities await. https://www.bishopsranch.org/events/camps/