From the Rector
Before Easter, I started a series in this space to check in on the efforts of our strategic plan. It’s been a couple of years now since we discerned this way forward, and I thought it would be helpful to see where our focused attention around Deep Hospitality and Christian Action and Practice had borne fruit. Today, I’d like to check in on the third area of focused attention from the strategic plan: the Redevelopment of the Parish House. To do this, several members of the Parish House Project Group have helped to write this update.
As you may remember, in 2010 we purchased the Parish House from the Order of the Holy Cross. (The OHC is an Episcopal order of monastics) We made some initial improvements around safety and seismic strengthening and invited theological students to live in intentional Christian community on the top two floors, using the first floor for meetings, bible study, our youth room, and later, as respite for immigrant detainees. A couple of years ago, when Liz Tichenor joined us as our Associate Rector, the Tichenors moved into an apartment as part of her compensation. As part of our work around the strategic plan, and as a response to our parish vision, we began to imagine what might happen next on the corner of Cedar and Oxford.
After several years of consideration, the plans for the redevelopment of the Parish House are beginning to take shape. In January of 2016, our Vestry entered into preliminary negotiations with SAHA (Satellite Affordable Housing Associates), a local non-profit with decades of experience providing affordable housing and services in the Bay Area, to explore ways to replace the Parish House at the corner of Cedar and Oxford. This past December, at a couple of parish forums, representatives from SAHA offered information and ideas about what housing for a vulnerable population could look like.
At the December meeting the Vestry signed a Letter of Intent to formally begin the planning and development process. Current conceptual plans for the new building include two wings (offices, conference rooms, and two apartments for All Souls clergy in one, and a number of low-income senior studio apartments in the other), a shared courtyard, and underground parking. We are currently in the process of setting up the legal framework for how this kind of a partnership would work—leases, operating agreements, etc. The work of the Project Group and our Vestry has been extensive and tireless. I am so grateful for the faith-filled efforts and unswerving dedication that they have shown.
There is much to do before these possibilities can become realized. Among our first priorities are the following: consult with parishioners and our neighbors to gather input, finalize design, obtain permits from the City of Berkeley, and secure financing. The basics of the partnership are this—All Souls will provide the land with a long-term lease, and SAHA will seek financing, a combination of city and county funds made available by recent bond measures, and securitized tax credit swap with corporate partners entities. All along, our exploration and negotiations have been marked by mutual goodwill and understanding. Please join us for an in-person update in the Church on Sunday, May 14th after the 11:15 am service, at about 12:45 pm. And look for regular updates to come, as the Parish House Project begins to take shape.
Eventually, as the Parish Offices move over to the new building, we hope to remodel the undercroft of the church building as well, in order to provide much-needed flexible multi-use space. As you have questions, please reach out to Ed Hahn, Chair of the Parish House Proposal Group, Phil, or members of the Vestry. You can also direct questions by email to an email address set up for this project: CedarOxfordProject@alllsoulsparish.org Thank you to the many people who have, and continue to, give their thought, prayer, and attention to this project.
Members of the Parish House Project Group and Phil+
The Long[ish] Road to Seminary
Ethan Lowery is a postulant for Holy Orders, sponsored by All Souls.
I’m going to CDSP! [The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a few blocks away.] Yahoo!! What’s up All Souls? The long course of my discernment process towards ordained ministry has taken a big leap forward in the past couple of months and I couldn’t be more thrilled… or out of breath.
I began my [un?]official process of discernment three and a half years ago when I stumbled into Phil’s office one day and said “I think I’m supposed to be a priest? What does that even mean??” At the time, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and I think he knew that [hah] but we were onto something. What followed was a very long process of the work of discernment, on my own, in community with folks from All Souls, and as part of an official discernment process organized through the Diocese of California.
The process began with a lay discernment committee of folks from All Souls. The four of us met monthly over the course of six months and talked through everything from the Baptismal Covenant to the Nicene Creed to the actual services of ordination to the priesthood and diaconate from the Book of Common Prayer. We talked about how I understood my call as a Christian, and how each of these major tenets of our ecclesial life informed that sense of call, and if/why it meant ordination. It was bizarre to show up to what felt like a ‘committee meeting’ where the only topic on the agenda was for me to talk about myself. Discernment has a way of making you feel seen.
My committee, and soon thereafter the vestry gave me their blessing and sent me onto the diocesan process of application for postulancy. The postulancy application required me to send four letters of recommendation, submit to a psychological evaluation, interview with the bishop, and go away to what’s called ‘Vocations Conference’ with the diocesan Commission on Ministry. Of all parts, that one by far held the most anxiety for me. It was one thing up until that point to be in discernment with members of my community, who’d seen me in my ministry. It was another to have four subcommittees of five strangers each give me 45 minutes to articulate my sense of call through the lens of a particular topic area. It was a harrowing but necessary step, I guess. If you can articulate your ministry to the folks who already know you, how are you going to function in places where you aren’t known?
All in all, the process has been savage and fabulous. It’s hard work to stay in ongoing self-reflection because it isn’t always cute or attractive what you find when you dig deep. And, I feel like a different person on the other end of all of it. It was really, really fun work to spend years intentionally and deeply reflecting on God’s call for me. I feel… idk… spiritually grounded? Secure in my Christian identity? Maybe I’m just emerging from the existential crisis of your mid-twenties but I do really believe that my process of discernment [whether or not ordination remained the outcome] did work on me and I feel all the better for it. And as I am often reminded, your discernment is never over. So catch me sipping a Gatorade and enjoying this brief spiritual respite before the next big thing: graduate school. [Pray for me.]
– Ethan Lowery
From the Emergency Preparedness Team
On Sunday afternoon, May 21st, just following the 11:15 am service, we will host a neighborhood open house for emergency preparedness. We will open our courtyard, snacks will be available, balloons will be bouncing, and music will be playing as we welcome our neighbors to join us to greet Berkeley’s finest firefighters, complete with fire truck, ready to be inspected, by one and all.
Why, you may ask? Because, just every now and then, we need reminders that when we are near Cedar and Spruce, and are just blocks away from the Hayward Fault. Also, with the rains nearing their demise, we will soon be back in dry fire-prone mode.
While no one is ever completely ready for disaster we can at least give it a try. Statistics conclusively show that folks who have made at least some preparation, fare better than those who don’t.
We are inviting our Cedar-Spruce Street neighbors to this gathering to let them know that we “live” here too, and neighbors look after neighbors. We have pre-school children every Monday through Friday; we have staff members Monday through Thursday, and we have Parish House residents who live here full time.
On Sunday, May 21st, in addition to the firefighters giving us some tips on information we may have forgotten, Khin Chin, Director of Berkeley’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, will update us on what’s going on in the rest of Berkeley.
Please join us on Sunday and let me know if you will be willing to bring goodies for our table.
– Margaret Sparks
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 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb
For the followers of Jesus, the worst has happened. He is dead. His mission is over. His movement is shattered. Everything he stood for has been shown to be useless in resisting the power of the state, of violence, of fear. It’s all been a lie. An incomparably beautiful, alluring, and inspiring lie. We must not get too far ahead of ourselves today and look to Sunday. No. We must remember today what this day meant to those who had invested so much in Jesus of Nazareth. The death of Jesus was for them the death of hope itself. Everything is lost. Everything. Place yourself there for a moment. Feel all hope draining away. Allow despair to set in.
And yet, even in the midst of this soul-shattering grief, care survives. Joseph of Arimathea, with no other way to minister to anyone affected by this disaster, offers a tomb to house the man who had tried to do so much and who had failed so spectacularly, a man they had all loved so deeply, and continued to love, despite his monumental miscalculations and misdirection. And the faithful remnant—what could they do? Nothing but carefully and lovingly shroud the vulnerable body of their friend. Wash it. Touch it. Wrap it. Lay it down. Maybe kiss it? And close the tomb.
What does it mean, this touch? It does nothing for Jesus. Jesus cannot receive their touch as a gift. But means everything to them. Their touch honors him. Reveres him. Reaches out to him, body to body, skin to skin. It seems like a ministry of futility. But this touch, this meaningless act of care for something that is no more, is not empty. It is tremendous. It is vast. It expands, in fact, to fill the world. Their world. In touching the dead Jesus, in tending to this beloved body, they resist. They beat back the black hole of suffering and death around them. With each touch, they weep the more and are strengthened to press on. With each caress, they feel the searing pain of loss and are awakened to the power of their touch to comfort the suffering around them. With each kiss, they experience the sharpening of their grief and are made alive to the power of love in the face of futility.
The bodies of the crucified lie all around us. Those who are suffering and have suffered. And in so many cases, there is nothing we can do for them. The friend who is trapped in addiction, or resentment, or the process of dying. Prisoners, migrants, and the condemned, whose bodies are no longer their own but have become property of the state. The tortured, whose bodies are assaulted and hidden from our view. Animals beaten, neglected, exploited, and tortured in the name of food or science or entertainment. The body of the earth itself—its grasses and trees, rivers and rocks—suffering, bleeding, dying. To touch them seems like a ministry of futility. What good does it do? The tender care of a loving caress, what difference does it make. Ask Joseph of Arimathea. Ask those who swaddled the mangled and crushed body of Jesus in linen cloth and laid him in the tomb, the horrible reverse image of his mother doing the same and lying him in a manger, back when her hope was fresh and her heart was full to bursting. What does it accomplish? It kindles a new spark in the world.
The uselessness of touching the tortured reverberates in the stillness of the void. The futility of caressing the enslaved and the raped restores a measure of what has been robbed from them. The meaninglessness of kissing the suffering, dying, and dead turns out to mean everything.
– Scott MacDougall
Continuing the Feast – this Sunday!
Spring has sprung! Let’s celebrate with good food, fun & games! This Sunday there will be no formation classes for children or adults between services, but there will be bubbles, corn hole, potluck brunch, and any other fun you can cook up. (Bring your hula hoop or hacky sack! You could fit in a quick game of charades— recruit your friends!) Bring some food to share, your fun hat and your love of the All Souls community.
Four All Souls high school students have been working hard in the Confirm Not Conform confirmation program all year. Come and celebrate their dedication and discernment on Saturday, May 20th from 5:00 – 7:30 pm. Join us for the service at 5:00 pm, including the students’ own personal reflections, and stay for dinner and festivities (including karaoke!!) afterwards. Bring a side dish, drink, or dessert to share. You can RSVP online here or contact Jess by email or at 510-848-1755 ext.4.
SIGN UP SOON FOR CAMP ALL SOULS
The deadline to sign up for our brand new summer adventure, Camp All Souls: Called to Justice, is rapidly approaching! It is open to kids for ages 5-11, August 7th – 11th, and the deadline to register is May 31st. You can learn more and register online here or pick up forms in the narthex. Camp will be a great time for kids to build closer relationships with each other and the fabulous teenage and young adult counselors, learn about and practice justice, and explore where God is in the midst of it all. And it’s going to be a ton of fun! Let me know if you have any questions.
NEW HOPE! NUEVA ESPERANZA (WITH GOD’S HELP)
Nueva Esperanza is a program devoted to supporting the needs of newly arrived immigrants, teens, young single adults, and families fleeing extreme poverty and violence. To carry out this mission, Nueva Esperanza seeks to organize Accompaniment Teams of 4 or 5 people each to support an individual or family attempting to navigate the confusion of this new, unfamiliar world. For example, the Team assists by seeking housing or by supporting housing hosts, by helping to maneuver a path through the legal process, by supporting job-hunting and transportation, and by finding those back-up community resources such as food banks and school registration. Join us May 14 during the formation hour to hear Miriam Noriega describe the program and training for the Accompaniment Teams and to explore forming one or more teams at All Souls. What could be better than reaching out a hand. . .
EcoJustice Weekend with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Save the Dates!
On May 19 and 20, the Diocese of California is hosting EcoJustice, a two-day event dedicated to protecting and celebrating God’s creation. If you haven’t already, please check out the event page at diocal.org/ecojustice, which includes details about the Friday conference, the Eucharist service Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will hold at Grace Cathedral Friday evening, and the Saturday morning Eco-Confirmation service. Please participate in any way you can.
Vote for our Summer Reading Group book
Earlier this spring, All Soulsians nominated books for our summer reading groups—six got the most nominations. Now we need to choose one of them that everyone will read over 8 sessions between June and August. In the Narthex, you will find a set of six glass jars, one for each of the books.
Read through descriptions of books in person and online.
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.
Lobby your community to vote for your choice.
The Adult Formation Committee will tally the votes on May 7th and announce them in the Pathfinder and at the services that Sunday.