FROM THE RECTOR
Bruce Smith, Julie Graham, Henry Bayne, Nedi Rivera Moore, Bruce Freeman. You surely have your own list, but these folks are just some of the people who have been mentors for me over the course of the past 25 years.
They have counseled me, questioned me, supported me, prayed for me, listened to me, loved me. At times when I couldn’t find a way forward, they helped to sound out a way. They recognized things in me that I hadn’t yet. They let me learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. They forged paths and beckoned me and many others to follow. They received wisdom and passed it along. When I closely examine the beliefs, practices, and values that I hold, I can see the direct lines to these people and others like them.
It is partly for this reason that I have felt so fulfilled to be a priest at All Souls Parish in Berkeley. Because of our proximity to the Episcopal seminary of the Western United States, CDSP, this congregation has served as a training ground for scores of priests and theologians over decades.
In just my tenure here we have served as a “teaching hospital” for fifteen students from CDSP and other schools. They are now serving in contexts far and wide: rural, suburban and urban, here in California, as well as in Virginia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Oxford.
Through practice and reflection, and by “riding shotgun” with me as I navigate the varying challenges and opportunities of parish ministry, it has been my intention to offer those who learn with us at All Souls a portion of what others have offered my over the years.
Perhaps this is why I resonate so much with the story in Luke’s Gospel when, after being visited by an Angel who announces this Glorious Impossible, Mary goes to visit her older cousin Elizabeth. As it is recounted in our Godly Play stories, perhaps Mary visited with Elizabeth because sometimes it’s really helpful to have someone with some experience to talk with when you aren’t sure what’s going on.
This is why one of the stances that I have held is that this time in field education or as a transitional deacon can be just the beginning of a life-long relationship of mutual learning. Yes, it begins with learning goals for the seminarian in this congregation, but I consistently find that in talking through liturgical practice, emotional systems, strategic planning, and pastoral care, I come to new ideas and practices. And, that over time, this learning can grow and deepen.
I have found this to be true over and again, that this learning and support builds over time, that our relationships with mentors can be touchstones, reminding us of what we’ve faced, how we’ve grown, who we are.
Thanks to Bruce, Julie, Henry, Nedi, Bruce, and many others, I am here today. Grateful for what I have received, hoping to offer some of the same wisdom, humor, love, and guidance along the way.
Our life of faith is steeped in prayer: the ones we say together or responsively during Sunday services and/or weekday Eucharists; the ones we share with our Jewish and Muslim siblings when we pray the Psalms; the ones we might say throughout the day, perhaps as part of Morning or Evening prayer; and the ones we could intensify during the season of Lent if we choose to fast – giving up a favorite food or beverage for forty days.
Giving up something for Lent is a sacrifice…not that the Holy One needs our sacrifices. But the discipline may well help us focus more deeply on our prayers.
In the last few years I have become aware of the intensity of prayer during the month of Ramadan when observant, healthy adult Muslims refrain from eating any food, drinking any beverage, or taking physical pleasure between sunrise and sunset – quite an amazing discipline when we think of the desert climate where Islam started.
I began to learn about this prayer discipline while at CDSP when the students and faculty were invited to join in the evening meal that breaks the daily fast – the iftar. Think “Continuing the Feast” potlucks at All Souls on steroids: a delicious meal shared with family, neighbors, and to which strangers are welcomed every night of the lunar month.
That evening there were several people who spoke about what the fast of Ramadan meant to them. It is one of the five pillars of Islam so there was/is lots to read or hear about this crucial time of reflection on one’s faith. I was particularly struck by the woman who described her new, daily, visceral recognition of the blessings provided by God: how every sip of water at the end of the day was a blessing; every bite of food was more delicious than usual; that everything pointed to the loving God who constantly poured blessings on everyone and everything.
So, when I went to the corner sandwich shop near San Francisco General for lunch breaks the next summer, I realized what an incredible gift and discipline it was for the Muslim family who owned it to prepare food for everyone else – all day long – while they kept their own fast for the month.
This year, Ramadan began on Wednesday, May 16th. In a time of increased conflict and violence – active in Gaza and Afghanistan, threatened in Iran – it helps me to remember how many millions of Muslims are devoting themselves to prayer and fasting during this month. And to pray with them and be taught by them about how to give thanks for the blessings of food, water and community shared and deepened among different faiths around the world.
A Pentecost Challenge
At Pentecost, we remember tongues and voices — a profusion and confusion of speech and our own familiar language resonating through. We celebrate the coming of the Spirit and bend our ears to hear her voice again.
This Pentecost we challenge you to a season of listening.
Many of us grew up in a part of the country or a religious tradition far from All Souls, Berkeley. Even for those most local, our world today is a new and different place. Many of us have conversations with friends and family that have ended abruptly or dried up over time. Sometimes we think don’t we share a language at all.
Sometimes we don’t feel we share the same church or God or family or culture.
Are there friends or family with whom you want to restore these conversations and perhaps listen more carefully, remembering your shared roots in your shared environment.
The Pentecost Challenge is an opportunity to renew these connections, to pick up the phone or a cup of coffee with an open heart and open ears and listen to those voices. The challenge is find that common thread of language or story you hold together, to try to understand someone from whom you may not have heard in a long time, to listen for the Spirit.
Let’s talk further at the Pentecost Feast on Sunday. Look for our table!
– Michelle Barger, Jeannie Koops-Elson, and Margaret Sparks
WELCOMING NEW MEMBERS
Charlotte Blackmer is a sixth-generation Northern Californian who lives in West Berkeley with her rescue cats, a room full of fabric from her historical reenactment and quilting days, and a lot of books.
She was raised Methodist (and singing in church) in the Sacramento Valley, spent time with the conservative evangelicals during the “Jesus Movement”, and became an Episcopalian when she wandered into Grace Cathedral after graduating from UC Davis and moving to downtown San Francisco.
She works as an IT systems administrator for a small engineering firm in Benicia and listens to language tapes, music, and sports (Dubs and her beloved but often hapless A’s) on her long commute. She is a musical theater buff and can frequently be seen sporting her “Hamilton” hoodie at All Souls (she was lucky enough to win $10 tickets, twice). She loves about anything to do with food – eating, cooking, dining out, teaching, food policy and security, and worrying about the effect the weather has on the crops. (“House Made Pickles” and “Take The Cannoli” are the names of her cover bands.) She was an Internet early adopter and is a “history and politics” maven (having seen both unfold in the daily headlines as a child in 1960s California), although she is taking a temporary break from modern American politics and studying Scandinavia instead. She ran both the monthly free meal (“Open Door” equivalent) and coffee hour/special events at her previous church (among other things) and is happy to be a part of the hospitality team at All Souls.
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!
SUMMER BOOK GROUP
The results are in! Thank you to everyone who suggested books and voted. The book that received the most votes (it was close!) is Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister in Denver, a two-time New York Times bestselling author, and a former standup comic. In her book she shares stories of her life and work pastoring House of All Sinners and Saints that help us to see God in unlikely situations and in people who society have typically dismissed. Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks candidly and with grit as she helps us to see grace even in our own messy lives. Discussions of the book begin June 10 and last through the summer. We will have two copies available for loan in the Parish Library and the book is also available at local public libraries. See you on June 10!
Join us for a fabulous feast and good fellowship between the 9:00 and 11:15 service this Sunday May 20th, beginning around 10:15 am. Please bring food and drinks to share!
It’s coming quickly! On June 3rd, instead of meeting at church for the 11:15 service, we’ll head up to the Padre Picnic Area in Tilden Park for the Eucharist. Make sure to bring hot dogs, hamburgers, or vegetarian options to cook up and/or side dishes to share. We’ll have another All Souls Kickball Intergenerational game and other activities for the kids. And, as always, feel free to bring a friend! The 7:30 and 9 am services will still take place at All Souls.