FROM THE RECTOR
Making Church, Together
This morning I received a series of text messages that read, “Bulletins.” “Are.” “Printed.” Accompanied by animated graphics (in turn) of, confetti, balloons, and fireworks. Normally printing the bulletins on a Thursday morning doesn’t inspire this kind of celebration. This wasn’t a usual Thursday.
In fact, it is an extraordinary time at All Souls Parish in many ways, but one of them has come in the form of babies. Particularly two of them, born a couple of months apart into families of two member of our staff. On (Ash) Wednesday, March 6th, Nicolas Pinell, son of Nettie and Daniel, was welcomed into the world. And then, on Friday, May 10th, Simone Hansen Curran, daughter of Emily and Megan, was welcomed into the world.
One of the changes in our personnel practices in the last couple of years has been to increase the amount of parental leave that we offer members of our parish staff so that the they can recover, bond, learn new patterns, and fundamentally love each other. And while this can be a challenge for a small staff like ours, one of the gifts of serving a Christian community is that while the staff takes a lead on some parts of our common life, and does some of the detail work for other parts, we really do make church together.
It really is a different understanding than in many other organizations. If a manager is on parental leave at a grocery store, the customers don’t order groceries or stock the aisles. And if a couple of TSA screeners are out for an extended period of time, travelers don’t screen baggage. But in an organizations like this one, made up of those who serve with and for each other, it has been inspiring to watch as All Soulsians step into aspects of our parish life so that Nettie and Emily can be where they need to be—loving their newborn children.
Yes, Jamie and Liz and I are flexing and taking some pieces on ourselves, but it has been alongside a dedicated office crew of Marilyn Flood, Alan Schut, Nancy Austin, Kieran King, and Dana Kramer-Rolls. And even as Simone came a week sooner than anticipated, there was a newcomers and parish life team ready to step up—Mardie Becker, Molly Nicol, Howard Perdue, Renae Breitenstein, Erin Horne, and Jeannie Koops-Elson.
Week after week, through Lent and Holy Week, in the negotiation of new contracts and leases, into a new round of welcoming newcomers, and at the close of our youth group year, scores of All Soulsians have come forward to make church together.
So thank you, All Souls Parish, once again living with a remarkable generosity of spirit, of time, and of money. Together we continue to have glimpses of the Realm made known, all the while allowing for the littlest ones among us to be loved, well and truly.
Please join in welcoming Simone Margaret to the world, born on May 10th to Emily and Megan Hansen Curran. Everyone is home and doing well! Simone weighed in at 8 pounds 3 ounces, and measured in at 20 1/2 inches long. Well done, Megan and Emily!
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave souls shared how their own stories connected with the Stations of the Cross. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, in no particular order, but with much gratitude.
“It is finished.” (John 19:30)
According to John, these are the words Jesus uttered in delivering up his soul. His mission on earth was complete, accomplished through his death upon the cross.
John does not report how he, or Mary, the mother of Christ, or the other women and disciples present at the foot of the cross felt upon witnessing Jesus’ death. His account turns immediately to the practical need to bury Jesus’ body before sundown and the ensuing Sabbath.
This strikes me because I, too, have witnessed the death of someone beloved to me, my late husband Brian, and the experience left a depth of loss and devastation in its immediate wake.
Brian had been living with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, for about four years. He was no longer able to walk or talk; he used a feeding tube, a wheelchair, and a speech-communication device. He couldn’t swallow reliably, nor clear his throat. In December 2007 Brian chose to go into hospice, in part to get more nursing support at home.
His lungs and diaphragm were still strong, but Brian had choked several times in the previous 18 months. The biggest threat to his safety was potentially choking and dying in suffocation.
About three weeks into hospice, while talking with my therapist, I realized that I felt under enormous pressure to keep Brian safe, to prevent a disastrous, scary death. I was doing everything I could to forestall that: never leaving him alone, and training all our caregivers how to use the suction machine and do a jaw thrust to open Brian’s airway. And I would continue doing everything I could to prevent an accident.
And yet, I could not guarantee that there would never be an accident. Once I made that realization, I felt I had to share it with Brian. Doing so would honor the commitment to our partnership that we had made in marrying. It would honor his role as my partner, my husband.
About a week after that conversation, Brian decided he was ready to die. I asked if his decision was based on what I’d said; he answered, “no.”
Since his diagnosis, I had known he would die far too early. However, in the two weeks between that decision and his actual death, I could console myself with the knowledge that he was still with us, that he was in the world with me.
On a Friday morning, with the lights turned low and Joni Mitchell singing in the background, Brian’s sister and I began the medications that would put Brian into a deep sleep. He slept more soundly than he had in a year. I fantasized that he would wake up well-rested and be his old, quirky self. Towards evening of the second day, sitting with Brian, I finished reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to our children. Then they said “Good night” to their Dad and went off to bed.
Brian died about twenty minutes later. His erratic, shuddering breaths came further and further apart, then ceased. A short while after, his heart stopped.
My therapist had described feeling her husband’s soul leave the room at the moment of his death. I had hoped I might feel something similar. However, just as Brian was dying, the on-call hospice nurse arrived, turning on the bright overhead light and introducing herself in a loud voice. I was distracted and not fully attentive. When Brian’s heart stopped, I sobbed and fell against his chest. I didn’t catch that flight of energy my therapist had described. It was over, and Brian was gone. The world felt empty.
Brian died peacefully, in his sleep. He died with grace, similar to the grace Jesus displayed despite a prolonged, painful death over which he had no control. I was disappointed by the disruption of the quiet ambience, and devastated at Brian’s departure. From my perspective, it wasn’t a “perfect” death, but really, what I wanted was beside the point. Our goal was a calm death for Brian, free of stress and fear and danger. And that we accomplished.
— Mary Rees
NEXT UP IN ADULT FORMATION
Our next session of Adult Formation classes begin on May 19th at 10:10 am. Classes coming up are:
I Feel for You: exploring the art and science of compassion
Rob Johnson and special guests, meeting in the Common Room
Compassion. It’s one of those words that feels so positive and pristine, it almost has a halo around it. Yet when we try to live out compassion in our everyday lives in the real world, things often become messy and difficult. What does it mean to live a life of compassion when we are bombarded by stories and images of others’ suffering via the media? Should there be limits on who is worthy of our compassion, in a nation with school shooters and literal Nazis? Can compassion lead to enabling people? How do we keep from burning out on compassion, from falling into “compassion fatigue”? In this class, we’ll delve into the questions of how to develop a robust, embodied spirituality of compassion in the messiness of the real world. Over the course of three weeks, we’ll explore compassion (and its close cousin, empathy) through the lenses of science, scripture, and faith. Come join us as we wrestle with this deeply meaningful, deeply challenging topic together.
With the Least of These: Criminal justice, poverty, and the Christian perspective
Kaki Logan and Don Gates
This three part series attempts to build awareness of how the criminal justice system weighs most heavily on the poor, of the interplay of poverty, justice and race, and of what we are called to do as a Christian community. Session 2 will feature a guest speaker from a leading criminal justice reform organization.
CAMP ALL SOULS — 2 MORE WEEKS TO SIGN UP!
Sign up by May 31! This summer we are bringing back Camp All Souls, a week-long day camp for kids to adventure, connect, explore, learn, play, create, question and more, all right here at All Souls. This year the camp will be August 12 – 16. It runs from 9 am to 3 pm and is for kids ages 5 to 11, who have completed kindergarten through fifth grade. Cost is $150, and scholarships are available. Once again, we will be welcoming middle and high school students to help lead the week, as well as adults who want to pitch in — it is a whole community affair! Please email Liz if you want to help volunteer and/or lead. You can learn more and register online here!
Planning for Healthy Aging
Seniors resident in Berkeley, come Learn About Gateway, a project of Ashby Village. Thursday May 23rd at 2 pm in the All Souls Parish Hall, 2220 Cedar Street in Berkeley. Consider your goals, needs and challenges and let us help you or a loved one plan those next steps for a positive aging experience. Gateway offers ideas, information and linkages to existing resources in the community. Come join the conversation and learn about the Gateway Pilot Project and, if interested, sign up for a free visit. RSVP on this form. Questions? Contact Liz Tichenor: firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-848-1755×3
THE GOOD BOOK
The Berkeley Rep has offered us discounted tickets to see their new play The Good Book, running through June 9th. The Good Book weaves together three distinct yet connected stories: a devout young man struggling to reconcile his belief with his identity; an atheist biblical scholar trying to find meaning as she faces her own mortality; and the creative journey of the Bible itself—from ancient Mesopotamia to medieval Ireland to suburban America—through the many hands, minds, hearts, and circumstances that molded this incredibly potent testament to the human spirit. Our promo code is: ALLSOULS for these dates: Friday, May 10 at 8pm, Friday, May 17 at 8pm, Sunday, May 19 at 7pm, Thursday, May 30 at 8pm, Friday, May 31 at 8pm. Feel free to use it and pass it on to others!