From the Rector
Beyond the Dividing Line
We are finishing the season of commencements. This season’s speakers have been particularly noted for what they have said (that making one’s bed in the morning is more important than previously thought) and for what wasn’t allowed to be said (former UCB President Birgeneau).
I do not envy commencement speakers for several reasons. First, the audience that one is speaking to is wide-ranging – from the graduates thrilled and agonized that they are leaving, to the parents feeling much of the same (with a dose of relief), to grandparents, siblings, friends, faculty, the board of trustees, and perhaps even a wider audience if your speech should make it beyond that stadium or glade or courtyard. The expectation for erudition is high and the tolerance for time to say it is very low. And God knows that, given the topic at hand, there is tremendous risk of being, well, trite.
It is for these reasons and more that I was so thankful for the commencement address of Dr. Jenny Te-Paa-Daniel at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) this past week. Dr. Te-Paa-Daniel, a theologian and scholar from New Zealand, has been one of the strongest, most grace-filled voices for structural justice and enduring pan-global relationships in the Anglican Communion in this past decade often marked by struggle, distrust and difficulty. (Please read this article in CDSP’s online magazine about Dr. Te-Paa-Daniel’s work.)
Her address at CDSP this past Friday minced no words. With clarity and strength, she reminded us of the conflicts which rage in this world: Sudan, Nigeria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and Israel. As she elucidated each conflict, she explored the underlying issues that contribute to the violence and discord – inter-tribal distrust, intra-religious difference – in all, hatred for the Other as marked by skin, gender, culture and faith.
She went on to name these conflicts as the effects of “identity politics,” our 21st century version of tribalism. Identity politics, in this understanding, is the artificial division of humanity into tribes in order to gain dominance over and against the stated Other. We have practiced this for generations, but the names change to fit whatever contemporary issue is in front of us.
Democrat, Republican, Tea Partier, Occupier, there are myriad ways we divide ourselves. Ostensibly we do this to protect ourselves, to nominally protect who we are, as expressed through our ethnicity (Russian in the Ukraine), our faith (Buddhism in Myanmar, Christianity in the U.S.), or our tribe (the Nuer in South Sudan).
Knowing oneself to be part of a group, or claiming one’s identity with a group, is not in and of itself the danger. Tremendous empowerment can come from knowing oneself as part of a group, as in the movement in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s that had James Brown and many others proclaiming, “Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m proud!” This identification can be a critical step, especially in a culture that explicitly and implicitly diminishes and degrades based upon sexuality, disability, gender and race.
And yet, as Christians we have be very clear to what end we are empowered. For, too often we have used our own empowerment to destructive ends – that of Empire (see the religious settlements of the Americas among other areas), and of State (see much, though not all, of the religious structure of the American Reservation systems). But these expressions from our tradition are not the totality of our sense of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ.
For when we gather and are transformed into the mind of Christ, we find ourselves oriented to a far different end. Because rather than use our particularity as a dividing line, or as a cudgel, we seek to find the image of the Living God in ourselves – and in the other. The particularities that form us – skin color, sexual understanding, ethnicity, gender – these are ways to know God more fully in ourselves and to come to know more of the fullness of God in others.
In this way, we cannot entrench ourselves in our positions, casting aspersions or stones across the dividing lines. We must approach another with respect, dignity and, in the end, love. It is never easy and often results in suffering and hardship along the way. But it is nothing less than the work of God’s Realm made visible on earth. Following the witness of Dr. Te-Paa-Daniel and many others, may it begin today and may it begin with me and with you.
Loaves & Fishes
You’re Invited to Dinner!
On the All Souls website, under the heading of Parish Life, you can find the following description of a program launched last fall. “Loaves and Fishes ministry provides informal opportunities for the people of All Souls to gather in small groups around a shared meal.” How does this happen? Several times each month, parishioners open their homes to any and all who wish to come to a dinner. The host provides a main dish, and guests bring something to share.
After hosting three Loaves and Fishes meals and attending others, I can say that this group is appropriately named because there is always enough food for anyone who shows up. Do we have fish and bread? Sometimes, but we have appetizers, salads, desserts. More importantly, fellow parishioners get acquainted with others they have seen in a pew or two back, or across the aisle, but may not know anything about. At a recent gathering, there were parishioners who had been at All Souls for 60+ years and some less than a year and they ranged in age from 6 to 90+.
These gatherings are casual and fun.
Don’t be shy about telling a host you want to attend one of these events or sign up on the All Souls website under “Parish Life” heading. Look for the dates and hosts in the Pathfinder and ya’ll come!
From the Acolytes
When I was in middle school I used to acolyte regularly. One Sunday I messed up – big time – and I was just mortified. The boys in my Sunday School class teased me ruthlessly. After that I spent Sunday mornings hiding from the acolyte coordinator until church started so that I didn’t have to acolyte. I have not served as an acolyte since!
I am so impressed by, and proud of, our youth who acolyte regularly. Their commitment and poise and leadership is outstanding. So, a few weeks ago, I asked several of the acolytes to share what they like about, and have learned through acolyte service, as well as any advice they have to new acolytes who will start this summer. Below are their answers. I hope you enjoy their insight and I encourage you to thank them for their being a part of our liturgy team.
What I like about acolyting is that it’s like your own small family. You are there for each other and it makes me feel like I’m part of a community.
The things I learned through acolyte service are leadership, communication, truth in yourself and others, and most important: teamwork!
The advice I would give to the new acolytes are to listen to the older acolytes and believe in yourself! Remember that you are helping your community!
I like being more involved in the service, helping, and getting to eat the extra communion bread.
The advice I would give would be to be on time and try not to get mad easily.
What I like about acolyting is that everybody is so friendly and engaged in what they are doing. I think serving as an acolyte is a great way for the youth to hang out, and get to know each other.
I’ve learned how to be a leader to younger kids and to take responsibility for robing up and making sure the service goes smoothly.
For the new acolytes, I’d say just to have fun acolyting and don’t be late, because if you are Dan WILL get on you for it (just kidding!)
I love the community aspect of acolyting and the amazing feeling of being up at the altar helping with the service.
I have learned to be a more patient leader and I have learned how to better support my teammates.
I like being able to take part in the service.
I learned that there is a lot more going on in every service than I first thought.
In your first year, say that you are unavailable for the holy week services.
What I have liked about acolyting the most is that it has allowed me to be exposed to and get to know a greater portion of the All Souls community. I have been able to meet and establish close relationships with the church staff that are invaluable, as well as meet other acolytes that are from other age groups.
What I have learned through acolyting is the importance of going with the flow and improvisation. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and it is imperative to be both flexible and able to make changes on the spot in order to be successful.
My advice for new acolytes would be to take this experience as an opportunity to learn how to be adaptable and learn responsibility and commitment early on.
From the Parish Life Team
THIS Sunday, 6/1, we will have our 11:15 service at the Mineral Springs site in Tilden Park. Following the service there will be a picnic and games. Please bring lawn/camp chairs, picnic blankets, sun screen, water bottles and food to share. There will be grills available so please also bring your own protein.
We are especially in need of of shade tents – think tailgating at A’s games! If you have one or two or…please bring them with you!
If you would like a ride to Tilden or are willing and able to give a ride or two please be in the All Souls parking lot at 10:30 on Sunday morning.
We’ve put together a map to help you get to the Mineral Springs site. Be on the look out for a sandwich board announcing All Souls as you approach! ASEP_picnic_map.pdf