From the Rector
A Fallow Field
In a culture largely built on a system that demands ever-increasing profits, one could wonder about the value of a fallow field. If a field isn’t visibly producing something useful to me, what worth does it have?
This is, of course, is not simply a question for 21st century Americans, though we seem to follow this path of market efficiency with particular intensity. It is a question that has been asked over and over throughout the ages of humanity, and is often a theme in our scriptural witness.
Pre-eminent biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann looks to the roots of our story as the People of God, to the book of Exodus, for his understanding of this destructive practice. In his slim and powerful book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Brueggemann examines the relentless drive to have more, produce more, do more, as the fundamental practice of Pharaoh. And it is for this reason, that when the Israelites had been liberated from this oppression, that God made Sabbath one of the primary ways to live.
Yes, Sabbath involved the 7th day of the week as a time for all to rest, including “resident aliens.” But the practices of Sabbath extended far beyond the days of the week. In Deuteronomy 15, the People of Israel are instructed to forgive all debts in the 7th year, and in Leviticus 25, they are told that in the 7th year they are forbidden from cultivating their fields and vineyards. They can eat whatever is naturally yielding, but they cannot work the land for, “…in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land.” (Lev. 25:4)
The reasons for this are at least two-fold. One is that while the land appears to lie fallow, “unused”, underneath the surface, it is in fact re-generating. Another reason for the Sabbath for the land is that it is a reminder that all that exists—the field, the vineyards, the animals, us—all belong to God, and we need to remember that we are stewards, not owners.
It is with this in mind that our branch of the Jesus Movement has encouraged the practice of taking sabbatical. You may be familiar with this practice from academia or another field, and in the Church it has often taken place in the seventh year of a call for six months. Over time we have realized that there are other ways to live into this intention, but observe a different schedule.
It is with this intent in mind and heart, that when I invited the Rev. Liz Tichenor to join us several years ago as our Associate Rector, we offered her a sabbatical to be taken in her fourth year here at All Souls. It is hard to believe, but we are nearing the end of this four year period, and so this summer Liz will be taking a sabbatical to rest and reflect. Next week in this space she will be sharing her plans for this time that will stretch from mid-June to mid-August.
My experience having been blessed to have two sabbaticals in my time serving with All Souls Parish is that this time of a “rest for the land” is remarkably generative, both for the priest and for the parish. I expect that much will be the same, for Liz, and for All Souls.
At the same time, there are other aspects of communal life that will need attention in addition to mine, and so I am excited to share that during this time of Liz’s sabbatical, the Rev. Marguerite Judson will be stepping in as the Interim Associate Rector. Marguerite will be spending about three days a week, including Sundays, in this role with particular attention to pastoral care over the course of the summer.
For the next month or so, preparations will be underway so that this time can be fruitful for Liz, Marguerite and the community of All Souls Parish. What I ask is that as we get ready for this time of rest and reflection, that you join me in prayer, trusting in the regenerative Spirit of the Holy, just beneath the surface.
A Poem for Eastertide
— Judith Lathrop
Yeah—well, God and I have not been on speaking terms for quite a while now.
It’s almost thrilling to just up & say it-–in print, out loud, even in church.
I am surprised my friend does not jump back, afraid she might be taken,
collateral damage in the thunder bolt that will engulf me.
I am taunting God, like a kid on the playground who wants to pick a fight.
There is an orchard of ancient walnut trees we pass practically every day.
Just a remnant actually—may a dozen trees max?
They are old; no one knows how old; they none of them bear fruit.
Do any of us ever bother to give them more than a passing glance?
In the winter they are skinny, black, bent–like scary Disney drawings—
members of a forest you’d be a fool to explore.
And every winter I am certain they are dead for good. Really gone.
And that belief stretches for weeks and weeks,
pressing on into spring. Yup, dead and outta here—
absolutely fer sure this year.
But then: wrong again.
Brave little leaves peek and emerge, taking their first gulps of air.
Perfect and full of promise.
Not everywhere—but mostly. Something like all but 3 trees are back.
And God? I’m not ready for dialog. I’m not listening.
I want you to know that I’m not paying one bit of attention.
From Arts at All Souls
Our Paschal Candle Through the Years
Check out the latest exhibit in the “art space” at the back of the main church — on display are 5 of the 8 paschal candles that two All Souls parishioners have created and decorated over the years, another example of the vibrant visual arts present at All Souls.
This special large pillar candle is blessed and lit every year Easter Vigil, used through the Easter season, and then brought out through the year for baptisms and funerals. It is the largest candle in the worship space and displays some key symbols – the cross, the current year, the Alpha and Omega, and the 5 “grains of incense” – along with other religiously themed decoration.
At the Easter Vigil service, the candle is the first to be lit in the new fire, kindled out in our courtyard. It is then processed into the church for the first part of the service, and is placed centrally as the Exultet chant is sung, readings are read, and baptisms are performed. It is then used to lead the congregation in the procession around the block, and brought back to the church again for the rest of the service and the arrival of Easter.
Here at All Souls, we took up creating our own Paschal Candle in 2011 by melting down the altar candle stubs from the previous year and pouring a new candle with 100% beeswax, and then decorating the candle with a new custom design each year.
The process to make such a large candle was designed by Kelly Marston who perfected it over four years, and managed the expansion of the candle size from 2” to 3” diameter, working with the Sacristans to order a custom sleeve that fits in our candle holder, and holds a candle that can be made with a particular size of plastic tubing, as there are no commercially available molds to make such a large candle. Jocelyn Bergen took on the making of the candle in 2015.
Jocelyn has decorated the candles with various themes arrived at in collaboration with clergy and the arts committee. Pomegranates bursting open, the phoenix, the peacock, and the monarch butterfly themes are resurrection based, while the beehive and stained glass pattern refer to the making of the candle itself and our physical building.
This year’s theme of the flowing waters of baptism (the current candle located up by the altar, of course) is a perfect fit for our recent new practice of immersion baptisms in a large feed tank. The actual painting process is a bit precarious as wax is not the easiest support, but Jocelyn has devised a way to use acrylic paints, and occasionally gold leaf, to apply the illustrations.
We have documented the candle making process we’ve refined to date — available as a downloadable PDF — and hope to teach it to anyone interested in taking on this ministry at All Souls, or trying it at their own church. If you are interested in helping us set up a workshop within the diocese, or have any other questions about this project, please contact Jocelyn Bergen, email@example.com.
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave souls shared how their own stories connected with the characters of the cross. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, in no particular order, but with much gratitude.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed. — John 18:15-18, 25b-27
Two and a half days a week, I work in a very old high rise building in San Francisco, the Flood Building, two blocks from the Tenderloin, four blocks from Union Square, across the street from Bloomingdale’s, and a stone’s throw from the Powell Street BART station. Out of my building to the East is the Powell Street cable car turnaround. Out the door to the West is a stretch of Market that reeks of urine–it’s so often the same people, some I smell before I see, before I see them, before I see the Christ in them, before I find the Christ in me.
This is not a call for action on homelessness or housing or addiction. This is about fear and grief.
Last year I was horribly sick. I lost almost 25 pounds, and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong. Try this. How about that? I couldn’t sleep. I got so thin my wedding ring slipped off and I could not find it. My clothes did not fit. Even my shoes were too big.
Like Peter in yesterday’s reading, I had been robust in my faith, even Faith Fully outraged – surely Jesus you should not wash my feet!
Later that night, after the foot washing, Peter was violent, using his sword to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.
Put your sword away Peter, Jesus exclaimed. Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?
After Jesus was bound and led away, Peter didfollow, but when asked he denied three times he was one of His disciples.
Peter the robust, the Faith Fully violent, was Peter the fearful.
Peter the fearful.
We see in the passage how violence and fear have a relationship, not in this passage how they feed each other, but how they are bound up in the same man.
Later, after Jesus has died, when Mary leads the way to the tomb, we see how grief and courage are related, how they are bound up in the same woman.
I’m supposed to be talking about myself here. I am talking about myself here.
Where do I go before I see the human in those beings, those people lying along Market Street, across the street from Bloomingdale’s? That is, before I see Jesus in them and find Jesus in me?
I have been very sick. I have felt very poor. I’ve been outraged. I have even been violent.
When will I default to the Mary in me, instead of the worst part of the Peter in me?
We won’t always have those very same poor people on Market Street.
By feeling the fear and grief they feel, which is to say the fear and grief Peter and Mary felt, can I come to the courage that follows devastating loss?
To Mary’s courage.
The evening I lost my wedding ring, my husband Spike and I retraced my steps. I had been hiking up in Tilden Park.
The sun had set. It was dusk. We were searching with headlamps, and I was weeping.
I forgave Spike for everything. How could I ever have thought I could have done better, married someone else?
And what about all the times in my life I’ve been about the worst part of Peter and not about Mary?
When we got back to our house that night, Spike found my wedding ring.
– Joe Garrett
Join us for a fabulous feast and good fellowship between the 9:00 and 11:15 service on May 20th, beginning around 10:15. Please bring food and drinks to share!
SAVE THE DATE(S)
Mark your calendar for our parish picnic, camping trip, and the Parish Retreat!
• Parish Picnic: June 3rd. Instead of meeting at church, the 11:15 service will happen up at Tilden Park complete with a potluck BBQ and games.
• Camping Trip: July 20-22nd. Every summer we head down to Big Sur and camp alongside Big Sur River at the Santa Lucia Campground.
• Parish Retreat: September 14-16th at the Bishop’s Ranch.
Log these dates away, you’ll not want to miss these opportunities!