FROM THE RECTOR
Prophecy & Repentance
This past Sunday All Souls hosted the second of three gatherings between three Berkeley faith communities: St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, Congregation Beth El, and All Souls Parish.
At the first of our gatherings, hosted by St. Paul, we reflected on a consistent theme throughout scripture, that God is known through togetherness, and that the division and separation so evident in our world is not God’s desire. This past session we then grounded ourselves in the words of the prophet Jonah and his warning to the people Nineveh. This story led us into conversation about prophecy and repentance.
Prophecy and repentance. Perhaps not the pairing that you’d expect. But as Rabbi Bekah, Pastors Tony and Dorisalene, and I met to plan for our gathering, we kept coming back to these two words. If we trust in the prophetic vision of the togetherness of God, and then look at the world as it currently stands, then we as a people have some repentance, or returning to do.
Because this t’shuva, or returning to self and to God, is one of the essential acts of a faithful life. And one that can be incredibly hard to enact. It is far easier to remain defended in our current patterns and habits than to be willing to encounter the suffering of another and be changed by it.
What followed around our round tables was conversation about what prevents each of us from returning to the prophetic truth of our fundamental togetherness. Some of the conversation was shared between people who had met at the previous gathering, other conversations were between perfect strangers. But in a culture that often is deeply uncomfortable to talk about race and religion, all of us were asked to deeply consider what return to togetherness would look like.
This, of course, is a conversation that is desperately needed across our nation, particularly as we continue to be deformed by the effects of structural and generational racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and homophobia. I think that many of us know this, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We know the fractures around us and within us. They are painful and they are real. And often our response is to ignore these fractures, minimize them, or assume that they cannot be healed.
But what I keep finding as I return to the table for real conversation and repentance is that this holy work, done together, can be the means, the conduit for remarkable healing. Not just in the words themselves, but the words that lead to actions. I’ve also found that every time we engage in the challenging work of repentance, a force of energy seems to be released, more is made of us in the process.
For those that haven’t been able to be part of these gatherings, have no fear. This practice of t’shuva will continue. It is not yet clear what next will emerge from our meals, our prayers, and our song. But from my own experience and the experience of the many who have come together to break bread, this is just the beginning of the returning, to ourselves, to each other, and to God.
From the Adult Formation Team
Thank you all for the fantastic list of nominated books. Winners all. The four nominations for the All Souls Summer Book Group are (drum roll!):
The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. Richard Rohr. 2019, Convergent Books.I n The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr, in the most recent best selling volume of popular theology, starts with the faith statement that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, existed before all time, and therefore everything – stars, rocks, trees, squirrels, and us – is made in God’s image and contains the presence of Christ. And as usual, he makes difficult subjects approachable in this very readable book.
Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. Barbara Brown Taylor. 2019, HarperOne. The best-selling Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others is by an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, who begins by telling her story of how she got from unbeliever to the church to parish ministry to teaching world religion in a small college in rural Georgia. She explains how in a changing world she finds wealth in the multi-cultural, interdenominational, and even inter-religious faith of others, without diminishing or straying from her own.
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Rachel Held Evens. 2015, Thomas Nelson. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church was not Rachel Held Evens’ last book. But in this we can find a distillation of her struggle and her discovery of a Christianity that is true to scripture and to our faith in God’s love. She explores the questions and seeks the answers of our lives set against the liturgical frame of our life in the church, but never strays from our real stories, loves, and hopes.
Almost Anything: Notes on Hope. Anne Lamott. 2018, Riverhead Books. Almost Anything: Notes on Hope by bestselling and local author Anne Lamott was originally conceived of as a journal for her grandson, distilled of wisdom she wanted him to know when he was grown up. It is a ramble through religion, politics, faith, people’s stories, but most mostly endless hope. Sometimes irreverent, sometimes deep, but always wise.
Voting Instructions: On or before June 2, cast your vote in the Narthex for ONE book that you hope to read over the summer by placing a marble in the jar for the book of your choice. The Adult Formation Committee will tally the votes shortly after voting concludes on June 2 and announce the result in the Pathfinder and at the services the following Sunday. The first book group session is June 23 and we hope to see you there!
From Stephen Ministry
Coming Full Circle
Many of you may not know or recognize me, but I’ve been a member of All Souls since 1999. I’d like to talk about a rich resource we, at All Souls, are lucky to have—a resource that’s available to every single adult in our congregation—the Stephen Ministry.
I took advantage of this resource after we lost our son suddenly nine years ago. I didn’t know much about the Stephen Ministry up to that point, and in fact, I may not have known it even existed. I believe it was Father Phil who first encouraged my husband and me each to sign up to receive a Stephen Minister. The Stephen Leaders thoughtfully matched me up to a wonderful Stephen Minister who met with me for about an hour once a week in her home.
During our sessions, I realized in a short time that I could deeply trust my Stephen Minister. She had received 50 hours of quality training and was an excellent and empathic listener. She became the solid shoulder I knew I could depend on. She asked pertinent questions and encouraged me to open up and share difficult feelings, which I was able to do because of the level of trust we had quickly developed. I understood that anything I said was considered completely confidential and would never be circulated around the church community, or anywhere.
My Stephen Minister never preached to me or tried to influence my spiritual beliefs. She prayed with me, but only if that’s what I really wanted to do and only if I felt comfortable with it. She really tailored our sessions to meet my individual needs, not hers. But mostly, she listened to me. I don’t know how many of you have had the opportunity to be truly listened to empathically by someone with expertise, but it is a very healing experience.
I would use my hour to share what went on during the week and how I was dealing with what had happened to our son and to us, uncovering layers of grief, anger, and guilt.
During the time I met with my Stephen Minister, other stumbling blocks arose and she helped me work through them. My work dried up and financially we were struggling because of it, afraid we might lose our house. My older sister passed away from ALS. My mother moved out to the Bay Area from back east and I became her primary caretaker. She was then diagnosed with stage IV cancer and my Stephen Minister helped me to deal with this fact, with the following chemo treatments, and with my mother’s eventual death.
I learned that a Stephen Minister is trained to help get folks through any of life’s rough patches, no matter how large or small; struggles such as loneliness, an empty nest, worries over starting a family, getting through the holidays, the stresses of being a family caregiver, illnesses, strains on a relationship, a pending move—and of course, all the myriad feelings that come with these situations.
I ended up seeing my Stephen Minister for three years, an unusually long period and not the norm, but a lot of issues had cropped up in my life during those years, one after the other.
Finally, four years ago, I went through the Stephen Ministry Training myself and have been a Stephen Minister ever since. I guess you could say that I’ve come full circle. So, I’d like to remind you that we Stephen Ministers are here as a resource for all of you. You don’t have to be going through a major life trauma to receive our care. We can help you deal with any sort of road block on your life path—all you have to do is ask.
If you feel that you could benefit from having a Stephen Minister, please contact Rector Phil Brochard, Associate Rector Liz Tichenor, or Nancy Austin: (510) 407-0037, firstname.lastname@example.org
— Susan Wight
From the Junior Warden
Jesus says to love our neighbor, sure, ok got that. Now what?
One third of our Vestry Chaplain trifecta, Matt McGinley, led us in our reflection to begin our May Vestry meeting. I personally chuckled thinking, “yeah, that part comes fairly easy. But what else can we actually do for Jesus to spread the Gospel?” We talk often and openly here at All Souls about loving our neighbor, seeking out those who need support, striving to include those who have been marginalized by society, their families or communities. So what’s next?
Well, the question got answered repeatedly over the next two hours as our vestry discussed virtually every ministry and program within and outside our church walls. From the Rector’s Report to the Ministry Area Updates; from the dozen or so parishioners volunteering to cover the work of Nettie and Emily as they are out on leave expanding their families, to the prayers at the closing of the meeting, it is abundantly clear that All Souls knows how to love the heck out of our neighbors and how to put that love into practice!
Even though Father Phil is in the business of bringing the Good News, he was especially on fire during this meeting! The Spirit continues to guide our efforts with the Parish House Project as more funding and opportunities make themselves known. With everything working out so gracefully, conversations are furthering regarding housing following December 2019 when construction is set to begin if all continues on schedule. We also discussed the blessing of having one of our neighbors be Church Divinity School of the Pacific, which is benefiting us to be able to continue to employ and support Jamie Apgar as our Associate for Music.
Apparently, Jesus’ words are flowing through our ministry like the ease of water through a stream. For the last forty-five minutes of our meeting, we moved into groups to discuss updates, needs and celebrations from our ministry areas. A big “thank you!” to the dedication, passion and love of so many volunteers who chair our ministries and ensure that programs new and old bring life and vitality to All Souls. Each vestry member is a liaison to a handful of committees who keep in touch so we know how we can support your efforts. It was awe-inspiring to hear from one vestry member after another of the joys and successes of their ministries they liaise with. The outpouring of God’s love is abundantly clear and we look forward to learning from you how you see All Souls furthering Jesus’ Good News!
— Erin Horne, Junior Warden
CAMP ALL SOULS — LAST CHANCE 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!
PENTECOST CONTINUING THE FEAST BRUNCH, JUNE 9TH
The Spirit blows big on Pentecost at All Souls and we like to celebrate. There will be no formation classes for children or adults on June 9th and we will continue (or begin) to celebrate the feast of the
Parish Picnic in Tilden, June 16TH
Our 11:15 service will be an open-air Eucharist in the park and then we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. (There will also be 7:30am and 9am services at All Souls.) Remember to bring a picnic blanket and/or chairs, sunscreen (we hope!), balls or games to share. Please bring grillable items or a side dish to share! If you would like a ride to the picnic site, meet in the All Souls courtyard at 10:30am. Location: Padre picnic site in Tilden. Talk to Jeannie Koops-Elson if you’re willing to help out with grilling or schlepping!