FROM THE ASSOCIATE RECTOR
Writing the Gift of Time
When I realized I was going to be arriving late, I sent a quick text to the leader. It was my first time going to this place, and wasn’t sure what to expect… and here I was, already showing up more than an hour late.
The reply came quickly:
“No rush at all, take your time.
This is what this place says about itself: You’ve been given the gift of time.”
It was a startling message to read, in sharp contrast with the zeitgeist of fruitless urgency and gridlocked traffic that seems to define Bay Area living. But it was true. I made my way, now more relaxedly, across the bridge, through San Francisco, and then onto increasingly narrow and winding roads, eventually just one single lane through the trees. Weathered sculptures began appearing by the roadside, then messages painted on the aged pavement. I crested a hill, turned a sharp and harrowing corner, and saw both the Pacific and a small cluster of buildings far below. I had made it.
This place, called Djerassi, was my home for the better part of a week this past February, and served as the foundation for my coming sabbatical. I was beyond grateful to receive a scholarship into a writing residency program at this strange and wonderful place, once a ranch, now a Resident Artists Program. There, I got a taste of the gift of time: open space, silence, creation to spark all senses, and vast, expansive time. I am continuing to work with their writing faculty through the year, and will return for another week in residence next winter.
As Phil shared last week, I will be embarking on sabbatical this summer, June 4 – August 19, itself a great gift of time. Over the last couple of years, Jesse and I have discussed at length what a sabbatical might look like for our family. As we’ve dreamed about it, I’ve come to see that Sabbath is not static. Whether in sabbatical, an extended form of Sabbath, or just one day or time of Sabbath, it cannot function well if prescribed as a one-size-fits-all practice. Sabbath practices must change over time, just as our well of energy and the demands placed on that same energy change over time. Jesse and I briefly entertained wild adventures in far-flung places – a summer in New Zealand, or an apprenticeship in stained glass and sculpture with James Hubbell in the San Diego mountains, or long backpacking trip. Maybe another time, we quickly realized, but not with young children.
What is the nature of rest? What restores our soul? I think it has to change with our own seasons. Jesse and I came to see that now, more than anything else, deep rest looks like living with the people we love, and especially with those who are eager join in parenting as a village.
In parallel, for me as an individual, this practice of restoration looks like the gift of space and time set apart to write. Time to step back, to look for patterns and connections, and to make sense of them on the page. Even though this act is generative, its own form of work, my soul is restored by the spaciousness and the transformative practice of writing.
For several years, I’ve been discerning a call to write more. I wasn’t sure what form this would take, or how I might live into it, when I fell into conversation with an All Soulsian some time ago. She is also the mother of little ones, and a fellow survivor of the gnarlier parts of life. We were talking about the great joy that can be present even in the midst of darkness, and vice versa, when I shared a brief story of what it’s like to be the parent of three children when one is dead. She stopped me short: “Liz, you have to write that book.” And as much as I’d been dragging my feet in slow, wobbly discernment, I knew she was right.
How do we live resurrection in the midst of death?
It’s not the kind of question that slides easily into conversation at a dinner party, or into a reflection on Sabbath practices, for that matter. My trust, though, is that wrestling the darker parts of our stories and meditating on the light that always comes is something we all need to do, and also can be deeply restorative. That is the work I’m entering into this summer. I don’t know what form it will take, whether I’ll spend a year doing this or ten, or where it will lead. But I’m entering into this gift of time set apart in order to write my story.
Thankfully, writing is a wonderfully mobile practice, and so I’ll be settling into it in many different places this summer. I’ll begin near Seattle, where I’ll also be serving as a trainer with the College for Congregational Development. Then my family and I will spend time at Lake Tahoe, in the mountains of New Hampshire, the rolling hills of southern Indiana, the Sierra foothills, and the San Diego Mountains. In each place, we’ll be joining people we love deeply, and reconnecting with land that carries deep meaning for us. And in each place, I will write.
Please know how grateful I am – and we as a family are – for the gift of this time and space. And please, pray for me this summer: for courage, for stamina, for clarity, for rest. And for patience and fun and wonder, as we trek far and wide with our young travelers. I trust that you will do wonderful things with Marguerite serving in my stead, and I will hold you in my prayers.
A Blessing for My Transgender Son
This article was first published in the June 2018 issue of Sojourners Magazine.
MY CONGREGATION, All Souls Episcopal Parish, is in a college town. In the summer when students and faculty go on break, our numbers thin considerably, so we move the pews to create a more intimate space in the round. But today was not an average summer Sunday. The pews were overfull. People were sitting on the sides, and there were extra chairs in the back.
My son Samson stood in front of our pew. One of the men in the congregation knelt and fixed his bow tie. The Sunday morning sunlight was streaming through the stained glass and the skylight. I hugged friends. This is going to be good, right? I prayed . Please, Lord, I hope we’re doing the right thing.
On Aug. 13 we renamed and blessed my son, Samson Red Gabriel. Samson is transgender. That week we had gone to court to legally change his name and gender, and that week he turned 10. That Sunday held the joy of five baptisms, all the hilarity and devotion that goes along with that, and this incredible rite that had never been done before in the Episcopal Church. As far as we know, nothing like it had been done for a child in a mainline church before, period.
To read the full story, visit Sojourners.
New Bishop in Mexico
On April 13th, I traveled to Guadalajara, México, to attend the consecration of the Rt. Revd. Ricardo Gómez Osnaya as the 4th Bishop of the Diocese of Western Mexico, one of five Dioceses in the Iglesia Anglicana de México.
Bishop Gómez comes from a long tradition of Anglicans in Mexico. In the early 1900s, his grandfather lost his life defending his faith during the Cristero war. His late father, the Revd. Alfonso Gómez Sr. -who incidentally completed his BA in Divinity at CDSP- established various missions throughout Western Mexico, including two English-speaking congregations. Bishop Gómez’s brother, the Revd. Alfonso Gómez Jr., was Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Mexico City, the church I called home for most of my life.
In the 80s, Bishop Gómez was part of a group of young people from the Diocese of Western Mexico, who helped develop and spread spiritual renewal programs for children and youth (one of them was Happening, an Episcopal weekend retreat for teenagers, that some of our All Souls youth have attended). Because of the relationship with Dean Gómez in Mexico City, the group traveled to my home Diocese to share these programs. This sparked a spiritual revival and a long-lasting collaboration and kinship between the youth of the two Dioceses, which was felt deeply at Bishop Gómez’s consecration, as many of us “youngsters” were there to cheer for and pray with him. My participation and involvement in these programs as a teenager (and later as a young adult) were a crucial starting point in my faith journey and my overall development as a young person, and they have had a lasting effect in my formation as a Christian, and in my commitment to my church to this day.
Before being ordained, Bishop Gómez earned a BA in Biological Sciences. He also traveled worldwide representing Mexico in the Ballet Folklórico de la Universidad de Guadalajara and Ensamble de México, a musical group. As a lay person, and later as a priest, he founded missions in the states of Jalisco, Michoacán and San Luis Potosí. He has served as professor and Dean of the Centro de Estudios Teológicos San Andrés, and as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Guadalajara. He lives in Guadalajara with his wife Erica and his children Andrea, Sara and Isaac, and grandchildren Mikel, and Lucca.
I ask your prayers for Bishop Gómez and his family, and for all our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Western Mexico and the Mexican Anglican Church.
– Toni Martinez Borgfeldt
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave souls shared how their own stories connected with the characters of the cross. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, in no particular order, but with much gratitude.
After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. — John 18:1-5
The moment that strikes me the most is actually the bravery and radical acceptance that Jesus demonstrated when he “knowing all that was to happen to him” offered himself up to his betrayers and said, “I am he.”
I think many people-myself included-spend a decent amount of time trying to shield ourselves against pain, rather than confronting it head on. The singular wish most parents seem to agree on for their kids is that they are “just happy.” Which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with happiness per se. But I’m starting to wonder if there is something even greater to hope for in ourselves and in our children, something that Jesus shows us here. Rather than aim to be happy every day, I hope to have the same kind of acceptance for each day as it unfolds that Jesus somehow manages – even if what unfolds is sad or painful, or even fatal.
My daily prayer is often simply, “thank you God” and I truly do have much to be grateful for. I think about those even in my own inner circle who have experiences and trials so different from my own and wonder how they muster strength to walk through each day as it unfolds.
My dad, Steve, wakes up every morning to chronic, debilitating depression. His mind – for 50 years or so- has tricked him into believing he’s not worthy of all the good things this life has to offer.
My older sister Peggy wakes up every morning to the ever-present, haunting ghost of drug abuse, which she narrowly escaped, but which still menacingly hovers over her and her five children.
My 20 year old niece, Johanna, wakes up in the morning to the onset of schizophrenia. A good day for her is one where all the medications in her young body configure to some semblance of balance.
My students in Oakland wake up every morning to the odds stacked against them in every direction it seems and yet still find their way to school. As young people, they are in the thick of trying to make sense of the world and their place in it but that world feels like an antagonist to many of them.
My good friend, A, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer as a 37 year old non-smoking dad of two, wakes up every day now not knowing if it will be his last chance to take a scooter ride with his son, or the last time he will kiss his wife good night.
I wake up every morning to the sweet sound of baby babble. I go to my chubby, healthy, red-haired 11 month old and I open the curtain of her bedroom window that faces east as we say good morning to the beautiful Berkeley hills. I then go to a job that feels important, and I come home to the family I prayed for.
When things are good, as I am fortunate that they are for me right now, it is very easy to be accepting of what is and assume all tomorrows will be as today. But I sometimes wonder about when the inevitable darkness comes. When life betrays me and the lanterns, torches and weapons surround me, will I be able to muster the same courage Jesus did to come forward instead of hide under the covers? Instead of accepting only being happy each and every day, I hope to simply accept each day for what it is. To whatever greets me each morning, darkness or light, I hope to be able to respond with confidence, with grace and with gratitude, “I am she.”
– Molly Nicol
Gospel Choir Rehearsal
Join us for a fabulous feast and good fellowship between the 9:00 and 11:15 service on May 20th, beginning around 10:15. Please bring food and drinks to share!
SAVE THE DATE(S)
Mark your calendar for our parish picnic, camping trip, and the Parish Retreat!
• Parish Picnic: June 3rd. Instead of meeting at church, the 11:15 service will happen up at Tilden Park complete with a potluck BBQ and games.
• Camping Trip: July 20-22nd. Every summer we head down to Big Sur and camp alongside Big Sur River at the Santa Lucia Campground.
• Parish Retreat: September 14-16th at the Bishop’s Ranch.
Log these dates away, you’ll not want to miss these opportunities!
Skills You Need Class
All Soulsians, you are invited to participate in the Skills You Need leadership development classes. This three-part class is meant to teach skills that translate to your work, home, and church life. This final class on May 20th, 1:00 – 3:30pm, will focus on facilitation skills. Lunch is provided. Register here!