From the Rector
“We encounter the Holy through Gospel-inspired service, working side by side with our sisters and brothers in the wider community.” All Souls Vision Statement
On Monday of this past week, I found myself in a most unexpected situation: one on one with a state Assemblymember. It was Immigration Day at the State Capitol and faith leaders from around California had joined together with a host of agencies and non-profits to be in conversation with state legislators about bills that affect migrants in our communities.
I had prepared for this, reading about bills, hearing stories from those most directly affected, meeting with other leaders to distill strategy. But then the other faith leaders that I had entered the room with needed to leave for other conversations, the next group had yet to arrive, and there I was, on my own across the dark wood desk of Jose Medina of the 61st district.
Thankfully, I was joined by another faith leader from Southern California, and what followed was a remarkable conversation about the intersection of faith, public policy, power, and responsibility. We talked about the need we all have to work on behalf of the most vulnerable, as those most vulnerable rarely have a seat around the tables of power. All in all, it was a sobering and powerful reminder for me of the role that we as Christians can have in the ordering of our common life.
This was the second time that people of All Souls Parish have participated in this day, led by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. I joined Sharon Roberts, Lewis Maldonado and our Associate Rector, the Rev. Liz Tichenor, as all day we prayed, listened, and witnessed along side dozens of other people of faith from around the state.
For us at All Souls, our work as advocates has been an organic process. For a couple of years members of All Souls have attended prayer vigils at the detention center in Richmond where immigrants are being detained locally. We began to take a leadership role in the vigils, and then pairs of All Soulsians began accompanying recently released migrants to the airport or next place of transportation. Then this past fall, we opened up a room in our Parish House to serve as temporary housing for those whose next steps are not immediately clear.
Out of this “downstream” service has come a call to engage in more “upstream” advocacy. To this end, we have walked alongside folks like the Rev. Deb Lee of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, as well as rabbis, pastors, and other members of faith communities. This past trip to Sacramento we were in conversation about several bills working their way through the state legislature: access to health care, the use of for-profit detention centers, coordination between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents, the transparency of the gang database, and what is known as civil asset forfeiture.
In each conversation, I was reminded of a seat at the table that remains for members of the faith community. In a simple way, yes, we represent scores of voters. But in another way we occupy a place at the table concerned with the common good. At our best, as faith communities we bring an ethical, comprehensive, and long-standing perspective to matters that are often decided by advantage, partisan calculation, and expedience.
My hope is that this is but the beginning of the next turn for the life of All Souls Parish. That our lives of service with the vulnerable will continue to lead to expressions of direct care, deep listening, and lives of solidarity. In all, that we will take our part in the common wealth for everyone, in the words of Jeremiah, “seeking the welfare of the city…and praying to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” My hope is that this is where we will be found for years to come: side by side, taking our seat at the table for all.
What’s next for the corner of Cedar and Oxford?
Early this year the Vestry voted to explore entering a partnership with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), to develop affordable housing and expanded parish facilities on the site of the existing Parish House and parking lot. This decision came after the Parish House Roadmap PPG spent a year researching various ways to use the land in best service to our parish vision. Last fall the Parish House Roadmap Group presented those options to the Vestry, which discussed them over several months, and after a parish-wide forum held in December, the Vestry decided that building affordable housing would be most in line with our vision.
SAHA is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Berkeley which specializes in the development and management of affordable housing. The Vestry requested that a small group of parishioners meet with SAHA over six months’ time to determine whether construction of affordable housing would be feasible on our double lot, and whether SAHA would be the best partner for this work. I was asked to chair this Parish House Proposal Task Group; joining me are fellow businessman Gary Chawk, three members of the Vestry (The Reverend Phil Brochard, Nancy Pryer and Mary Rees), two architects (Caitlin Lempres Brostrom and Kirk Miller) and attorney Bob Cross.
We are currently carrying out that charge. We met first as a group in March and reviewed the Vestry’s list of “Essentials and Desires” for redevelopment of the property. When we met with Aubra Levine of SAHA, she saw nothing in that list that was a deal-breaker or a cause for concern, and she explained how the search for funding works and described a potential timeline for completing construction. The funding stage can take two years; construction can take another one to two years. We then hired an appraiser, and last week the group received an appraisal of $2,260,000 for the two parcels of property, excluding the cost of razing the current Parish House. A sub-group is currently meeting with SAHA to specify major design requirements, and another is weighing various financing alternatives and evaluating the financial feasibility of the project. A third sub-group will work on ways to communicate with All Souls’ neighbors about our plans and gather concerns and feedback from them. We anticipate being able to determine the initial feasibility by early July. I will keep you updated with further progress reports in the next few months.
– Don Strange
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave members of All Souls shared how their own stories intertwined with Jesus’ last words. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, with gratitude.
“It is finished” – John 19:30
I approach this passage as a theologian, a seeker, a questioner, and wearing many more hats. Love is a definitive part of creation. Death is an absolute part of creation. (Eros)Love and Desire go hand in hand around this story and our interpretation. We desire to know fully the outcomes because we have seen what happens when we fall into trust. As I approach this ‘last word of Jesus,’ I am startled by the questions that jump into my mind.
- What is finished? Death, life, this ministry, all the actors in the narrative, these words, violence, death, anxiety, depression…?
- Who is finished? Pilate, the other criminals, the disciples…?
- Is this about atonement? Substitutionary? Christus Victor? Nonviolent? Anselm? Aquinas? Paul?
- Does it mean state sponsored violence is finished? (We can clearly see that this is not the case, especially if you are a person of color in the U.S or in the drone plagued areas of the Middle East.)
- Should this be spiritualized saying, “The struggle between humanity and God is over?”
- Is it, as some feminist scholars have stated, “A distinct place to criticize God for child abuse? Is it that the “Son’s” relationship to the “Father” is finished?
- Is it Jesus simply knowing he was at his time of death?
- Was Jesus saying that the whole of his social ministry had come to an end with his execution?
- What does it mean to live an Authentic life among all this violence?
What if, that which is finished is answered in all and none of these questions? It is finished. “(Erotic) love is the force that gives life the relational essence that fills and empowers all of creation.” (Jungling, 217) The way we view this text is littered with our capitalistic desire for completion and perfection. We skip love and desire ordered toward relationality. Love and death. All we are, will be, may be, are/is at risk. All that is finished.
Do these love drenched words have any place for those of us seeking to live faithfully embodied lives in this world? In the end, is this about something that happens “in the sweet bye and bye” of my evangelical upbringing? I think it is central to see that Jesus saying “It is finished” is just as much a question that should spur us toward greater works of love than the end of a process. “It is finished” because the words are beginning to lose their ability to leak forward from this person’s mouth as he can no longer breathe. It is finished could very well have been “I can’t breathe.”
It is finished has stayed with me for the last several years in a deeply personal way. What does it look like to live a life of authentic hope? It was during Holy Week of 2013 that the words sat with me. DOMA and Prop 8 were being debated by the Supreme Court. The denomination that had raised me and trained me was, along with other conservative streams of Christianity, digging their heels in for a long fight. Images and icons were placed in solidarity as we all waited vehemently for decisions through social media or other media outlets. We were told within the denomination it was time to hold fast to the lines drawn in the sand around these issues. It was finished- We had to get in line. What can we do? How are we to be allies? Is this all finished? Well, no or so it seems. The only part that was finished was the portion of my identity that was tied to that tradition. After a long discernment process, we decided it was time to find a place of care and authenticity.
It is finished- The above process pushed me into the depths of questioning what it means to live into this Gospel message as a socially embodied event. It is finished is not for the “sweet bye and bye,” but for the here and the now where young African American men are being shot by pseudo-police officers and police officers alike, where people are being thrown into detention centers in Richmond for striving for new life, and where the planet is continuously ravaged by state and personal violence. To accept this Jesus who is crying out toward the Father, his mother, his Beloved, his friends, and his fellow imperially bound prisoner is to see in this event that what is finished is the acceptance of anything less than a full embodied love of all of God’s creation. Perhaps, It is finished is not a call of completeness, but a benediction to live embodied lives in and amongst a violent torn world. It is a call to embody desires of love and justice as we sit with the crucified.
– Stephan Quarles
More Graduates of All Souls’ Core Small Group Leadership Program!
Four more people successfully completed the All Souls’ training program for spiritual companionship small group leaders. Two participants were from All Souls Parish and two from Christ Episcopal Church, Emeryville. The program ran for a total of ten sessions on Saturdays from November until February. The first six sessions explored small group structures, dynamics, theology, and leadership issues using the book by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel, Where Two or Three are Gathered: Spiritual Direction for Small Groups. Each session included participation in a small group model led by a member of the training staff or a guest leader.
After the six sessions with demonstrated small group models, each student developed and led their own practice small group with the leaders and fellow students as members and received feedback on their leadership. Here are statements volunteered by two of the recent graduates about their experience in this program:
“The group was led so skillfully and with such sensitivity for personal differences. I feel ready for most anything.”
“In growing leadership, as this course does, I felt the power, inspiration and heart of a group which acts as a fair witness in giving feedback. Good work is joyfully acknowledged and mistakes or blind spots are revealed as opportunities for learning. Trust goes a long way in producing excellence.”
Staff members were Lenore Williamson, Sharon Roberts, and Daniel Prechtel. Renae Breitenstein was a guest small group demonstrator. This is our eighth small group leaders’ training program, which began in Spring 2011. Two were intensives and the rest have been increasingly extensive programs. Our next core training program will run from March 4 to May 27, 2017 (with Holy Week off). All Souls provided small group leader training to 35 people, and has expanded its reach beyond the parish.
Lenore Williamson, Sharon Roberts, and Daniel Prechtel are happy to discuss this program with you.
– Daniel Prechtel
SUMMER READING GROUPS
Where would you like to spend your summer vacation? On a trip to another planet? On the banks of Tinker Creek? In rural Tennessee? Or would you rather spend it discussing important issues of racism or spirituality? You can do all of these things just by showing up on Sunday morning this summer at All Souls! We will be having a number of reading groups throughout the summer.
RAFFLE AND PIE THROW FOR FIRE RELIEF
The high school youth group’s immersion trip this summer is focused on fire relief in Okanogan National Forest in Washington. For the next few weeks, we will have fundraisers! Purchase raffle tickets: prizes are two $50 Amazon gift certificates, two sets of two free nights at the Bishop’s Ranch, and two sets of two free nights at St. Dorothy’s Rest. Tickets are $10 each with a discount of 4 tickets for $30. Throw pies: There will be a very silly Reddi-Whip pie toss game at our Parish Picnic! Pay $20 to pie one of our vestry or staff members, or pay $25 for insurance, for yourself or someone else to avoid being pied… unless more folks pay to have them pied! Whichever side raises the most money – to pie or not to pie – a particular person will win, with the 3 people receiving the most contributions being the ones pied. Contact Jess Powell with questions.
PARISH PICNIC, JUNE 5
Our 11:15 service will be an open-air Eucharist in Tilden Park followed by a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. (There will also be 7:30 am and 9:00 am services at All Souls.) Remember to bring a blanket and/or chairs for the service, sunscreen, AND grillable items or a side dish to share. Start training for the 3-legged race and brace yourself for the high school immersion trip fundraising pie toss! If you would like a ride to the picnic site, meet in the All Souls courtyard at 10:30 am. Location: Mineral Springs picnic site on Wildcat Canyon Rd. in Tilden (between Brazil Building and Inspiration Point).
Runners, try changing up your pace on Sunday, June 12th! Plan to worship at the 9:00 am and then join other All Souls runners for a fun run after your favorite formation class. Meet at 11:15 am in the courtyard and we’ll set out together for a variable length and pace run.
BIG SUR CAMPOUT, JULY 15TH -17TH
Mark your calendar for the annual parish camping trip to Big Sur! This is always an amazing weekend of relaxing beside the river with favorite people, of endlessly skipping stones in the water, of great conversations with new friends, soaking in natural beauty, getting dusty and getting clean, eating great food, counting stars, singing and praying around the fire… in short, making church away from church and building the beloved community. Please join us! Signups will begin next week– watch the Pathfinder for details or talk to Jeannie Koops-Elson.