From the Rector
February 1st, 1999. A day that will go down in the annals of All Souls Parish. For that was first day for a Parish Administrator named Joy Shih Ng. A few things have changed since then. Joy, thankfully, isn’t one of them.
As you may know, at our Annual Meeting several months ago, Joy announced her retirement, effective this June. Since then, I have been pretending as if it weren’t going to happen. Actually, that’s not true. Because of Joy’s diligence, and the hard work of many, we have been preparing for this transition, so that even as we will miss Joy dearly, the work of the parish will continue. But how?
Well, as we looked at what Joy’s week looks like, one thing that we noticed is that it has changed. Several times, in fact. Gone are the days when the Parish Administrator was responsible for the Pathfinder and website—Communications are now in Liz Tichenor’s able hands. And the parish database? Emily Hansen Curran has responsibility for maintaining that. These shifts have allowed Joy to take on more of the property management and work with outside groups, and focus more on the IT side of our office.
After spending some time reviewing tasks, workflow and overall staff responsibilities, it seemed that there were several aspects of Joy’s position that could fit well under Emily’s umbrella. Through conversation with Emily, Joy, the Wardens and others, it seemed to be a good way forward—to divide up the pieces that fit with Newcomers, Incorporation, Ministry Team Building, Kinship, and Discipleship, and to have Emily work with them. It’s with excitement, then, that I share that as of June 1st, Emily will go full time, taking on tasks like the monthly rota, the blue sheet and announcements, membership administration (baptisms, confirmations, etc), and a few others.
But what to do with the other (roughly) half of Joy’s position? Well a crackerjack search team of Nancy Austin, Holly Quarles, Marilyn Flood, Maggie Cooke, Renae Breitenstein, and John Love, have been searching for the last couple of months for someone who has skills in desktop publishing and property management, along with a pastoral sense. A tall order to be sure, but I am pleased to say that after having interviewed their three finalists this past week, I am hopeful that we will have a fit as our new Parish Administrative Assistant, and that they will be able to train with Joy prior to her departure.
And. Until then, All Soulsians, we have some work to do. Our job will be to thank Joy for the blood, sweat and tears that she has given over these 18 plus years. We will have several opportunities to do this. Listen for more information and ways to celebrate in the announcements on Sunday, and plan to join in a festive brunch in the Parish Hall on Pentecost, June 4th at 10:15 am, between the 9:00 and 11:15 am services. That will be the parish’s opportunity to laugh, cry, cheer, and pray, as we bid Godspeed to someone who has been a rock for so many.
So in these next few weeks, please pray with me for Joy, Emily, and the person who will be joining us. Give to thanks Joy for her years of service with this congregation. And get ready for what is to come, the next chapter of life in the ongoing story of All Souls Parish in Berkeley.
Welcoming New Members
On May 21st, we welcomed 21 new members into the All Souls family. Today and in the coming weeks, we’ll hear from many of them.
Beth and Will are both originally from Michigan. Beth is a former engineer who is currently pursuing a PhD in the Learning Sciences at UC Berkeley. Will is a former pastry chef who now works in the wine industry with Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. They met while working as camp counselors at a Lutheran summer camp in Northern Michigan many years ago. They’re currently planning their wedding, which will also take place in Northern Michigan later this summer. Beth and Will love hiking and being outdoors, our beautiful National Park System, Michigan football (GO BLUE!), and taking adventures of all kinds. Beth and Will are both lifelong members of ELCA Lutheran churches, but had trouble finding a church home and community in the Bay Area until they were welcomed at All Souls.
– Beth McBride and Will Meinberg
And more members
Hi! I’m Amanda and I’ve been attending All Souls for a few months. I was born in Walnut Creek, but my family moved away when I was 5 and I grew up in El Dorado County in a small town called Shingle Springs. I returned to the Bay Area in 2013 to attend UC Berkeley and graduated from Cal with a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy in 2016. I grew up in a Methodist church, but became drawn to the Episcopal church during college. During college, I was very active in my sorority and when I graduated from Cal I started to feel lonely and lost without the community that my sorority had provided. I realized my need to find a new community and hoped to find a church community like the one I grew up in. One morning I went for a run that took me past All Souls and wondered if it might be what I was looking for. I’m happy to say that I found the warm, welcoming community I was looking for.
I currently work as a litigation support clerk at a law firm in San Francisco. When I’m not at work, I spend my time running, going to the gym, reading, watching Giants games or hanging out with my bunnies. I have two lop-eared rabbits named Violet and Pepper, who are adorable, but also very mischievous.
I’m looking forward to getting to know more of the All Souls community!
– Amanda Price
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.
Station 4: Peter Denies Jesus
So, my beef with Christianity goes way back. The story is long and convoluted and we only have three hours, so I’m just going to talk about one piece of it, the piece that makes me think I might have some insight into what was going on with Peter that night, when, I think—I suspect, in some way, Peter freaked out and ran for cover.
To help you understand why I have spent so much time feeling so angry at Christianity, to the point that I’ve devoted my adult life to studying it as a political problem, I have to tell you about my grandmothers. Being bicultural, I have an American grandmother and, until she passed away a few years ago, a Dutch grandmother—my Oma.
I had a difficult relationship with my Oma—I know she loved me, and I loved her, but talking to her, growing up, was so difficult. We had language barriers, cultural differences, and most importantly, significant theological differences. My grandmother was one of the most pious, deeply devout and militantly Calvinist people I have ever met. She belonged to one of the strictest Reformed churches in the Netherlands, a group that split off from the main branch in World War 2.
What happened was that my grandmother and my grandfather were engaged to be married before World War Two broke out. When the Netherlands was invaded, they, along with everyone else in their church, joined the Resistance. The way my grandmother tells it, it’s just what you did. Many of the details of what happened next are a little fuzzy, retold and perhaps embellished by family lore, but the general outline is this: my grandfather was taken to work in a German munitions factory, and something happened there that caused him to be taken away to an internment camp further east. My grandmother had no word from him for years. At some point during that long wait, my grandmother did something extremely unusual for a Calvinist: she made a deal with God. She prayed and promised that in exchange for my grandfather’s survival, she would be the most pious, devout Christian it was possible to be. And she was, for the rest of her life. Amazingly, my grandfather survived and walked all the way across Europe, back to her doorstep. As the story goes, she fainted when she opened the door and saw him standing there.
It was…kind of a happy ending, but not really. War doesn’t actually permit happy endings, and those wounds are passed down, generation to generation, and so my relationship with grandparents was saturated with a great deal of unspoken pain and trauma. It was, at times, way more than I knew how to handle—way more than I wanted to handle—and as I grew older I struggled to relate to them, to her, often completely unable to communicate, and not really much wanting to try. It wasn’t just that it was hard, it was that it was overwhelming, and confusing, and I felt afraid to come near that terrible pain that I didn’t understand. Unable to make sense of the history of trauma, I fixated on the theology—and it wasn’t hard. Church was everything for my father’s family, and it seemed to me to be a stifling, crushing, guilt-inducing burden, such a burden that my father, the youngest of six, grew his hair long and left home when he was 14, to hitchhike across the world. (It was the seventies). “Calvinism! I’d say. Crazy! Christianity—twisted!”
Things reached a low point at my Oma’s death. I was back in the US at that time and had just started graduate school—a demanding, all-consuming kind of activity, and I wasn’t hard for me to invoke time and expense as reasons for not flying back to the Netherlands to be there for her passing, or for her funeral.
But my father was there, and he told me what happened in those two days before she died. They knew the end was coming soon, and the day before her death, my grandmother was crying because she was so afraid to die. She was afraid because she didn’t know, for certain, this woman who had made a deal with God, whether or not she was Saved.
Hearing this story enraged me, and honestly it still kind of enrages me—what kind of terrible religion lets pious old women who live their lives entirely devoted to other people be so terrified on their death bed that they are going to hell. Who does that? In my confusion and my grief and my guilt and my anger, everything became tangled up—it became too much, and I looked away.
So time passed. I got married, I finished school, I got on with my life…and things in general started to feel sort of okayish, stable even. Then, a little less than three years ago, I got pregnant. That is when life started to throw everything it had at me. 2015 was a relentlessly brutal period of hardship and illness for my family. I don’t have time to go through it all with you here—but the highlights were discovering that my sister, who became pregnant shortly after I did, had a brain tumor and needed emergency surgery in her 12th week of pregnancy. The effects of that surgery were fairly devastating and long-lasting. She’s recovering and she had her baby, quite miraculously, but it has been a slow, arduous, and scary road. Then, less than two months after my sister’s surgery, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and had to be admitted to the hospital two months early. Labor had to be induced six weeks early, and my son’s birth was a difficult, traumatic experience on its own. Both my son and I had our own brush with death. Being a pre-term baby, he was so small that he needed a few weeks in the NICU to put on weight before he could home. It was a rough period. But…I was okay. Not great, but coping. Most everything that had happened was stuff that biomedicine is pretty good at treating, and in the scheme of things, many other new families have to deal with much worse. I knew enough about life by then to be grateful and trusting. And it showed. People would make comments —“Wow, you’re so tough, you’re such a trooper…you’re handling all this so well” And I would make jokes in response: “well, fifteen years of yoga and therapy have to be good for something, right?” I had skills. I was hanging in there.
Then, two days after Milo’s birth, the well-baby doctor came with a team of residents into our room in the NICU, and asked to speak with me. “Ms. Bakker—can we come in? We have gotten a result from the California Newborn Genetic Screening Program, and we need to talk to you about it. Milo has been flagged for something called Ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency. We need to do some tests, and we might need to put him on a special formula prepared by the geneticists. We recommend that you NOT google it.”
Friends—that is when I officially lost it.
I won’t leave you in suspense—after more tests, and about six months of successful feedings in which my son did not fall into a coma, the geneticists were able to determine that there is a 99.9%-ish chance that he does not have this disorder. It turns out that pre-term babies are often flagged incorrectly on the newborn screen. So…we are pretty sure he’s fine. After sharing those two weeks with the other families in the NICU, I live every day pierced by the knowledge of how fortunate we are. But the first six months were brutal, and I was in shock, exhausted, in pain, and living in terror of every feeding. My husband developed severe postpartum depression, and I probably did too but I don’t even know because I was in sheer survival mode. In those early months I was living the barest of lives, a walking zombie.
What I did to survive was sing. Those first six months, I sang compulsively at my son all day, everyday—I would narrate whatever we were doing, changing a diaper, going for a walk, in song. I’m really not a singer. I just did it. In retrospect it was kind of weird, but it got me through.
At some point in those early days my mother came to help out for a few weeks and she noticed the singing, and commented:
“You know, your Oma used to do that.”
“When you were a baby, when we lived in Holland. I was so young I didn’t know what I was doing…and she would come over every day and help. She’d show me what to do to take care of you. And she’d sing to you, the whole time. For three years. You definitely didn’t get the singing from me!”
My grandmother sang to me. And I didn’t know. But now I was singing to Milo to survive.
This is what I think of, when I think of Peter’s betrayal, when I picture what it must have been like to deny someone who you love, and who loves you, to confuse someone’s theology for the truth that that theology is trying imperfectly to describe. I think about how confused and overwhelmed and afraid Peter must have been, how he was running for cover from the pain of a truth that was too much for him to bear much less understand. And how despite that denial, in the end, love’s grace came for him anyway.
– Sarah Bakker Kellogg
Last Chance for Camp All Souls
If you haven’t already, please sign up your kids for Camp All Souls: Called to Justice! It runs August 7th-11th, and is for kids ages 5-12. The registration deadline is May 31st. We have a full range of ages signed up, amazing staff already preparing, and big plans brewing. It promises to be a week of wonder, big questions, beauty, and tons of fun. Talk to Liz if you have questions or need scholarship assistance!
Summer Sunday School: Journey to Jerusalem
This coming Sunday, May 28th, is our last day of regular Sunday school. We’ll take a couple weeks off, and then on June 18th we will begin our summer program for kids in preschool through 5th grade. This year, Summer Sunday School will be an experiential adventure through many different aspects of life in Jerusalem around the time of Jesus: looking at food, dress, architecture, ways of life, art, and more. Think lots of hands-on explorations, hopefully a big collaborative project, and plenty of time outside. If you are interested in helping to lead, please let Liz Tichenor or Lenore Williamson know.
GOIN’ TO THE CHAPEL AND WE’RE…
…tearin’ up ca-a-ar-pet. Will you help make it a day to remember? Saturday, May 27th is the big day, and we’ll start at 9:00 a.m. Casual attire. Please join us. RSVP to Maggie Cooke or check in with a comment on the All Soulsians Facebook group. We need your help.
Retirement Extravaganza on June 4th
Joy Shih Ng, our fearless and beloved Parish Administrator is retiring after 18 years! We want to celebrate her faithful service, thank her, and send her off with our best wishes. Plan to gather between services on Pentecost, June 4th for a festive brunch and a celebration send off. Please mark your calendar and bring food to share!
ALL PARISH PICNIC IN TILDEN
Church in the park and then some! We’re looking forward to bringing our 11:15 amservice to a beautiful spot in Tilden on Sunday, June 11th. After an open-air Eucharist we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. Start training for the 3-legged race and brace yourself for the balloon toss! There will also be 7:30 and 9:00 am services at All Souls.
In past years this has been a really fun event but everyone has to contribute to make it work. Here’s a bunch of things to remember:
• Bring food to share—either grillables (including buns, if necessary) or a side dish
• Bring a picnic blanket and/or chairs
• Sunscreen (we hope!)
• Balls or games
We also need (talk to Jeannie Koops-Elson):
• Grill masters!
• A few coolers stocked with ice
• Some hardy Souls to help clean up & cart supplies back to church
Padre picnic site on South Park Dr. in Tilden. If you are coming from the Berkeley side, turn right up South Park Dr. just after the Brazil Building. Padre is on your right on South Park Dr. about halfway up to the Steam Trains.
If you would like a ride to Padre, gather in the All Souls courtyard at 10:30 am.