A Vision Coming into Focus

phil_brochardSeveral years ago, All Souls Parish undertook a visioning process. We did this because as a community of people who trust in God, we believed that the Spirit was already at work in the community around us and we wanted to take part.

The vision that emerged from this process was without a doubt, robust. It points to a congregation that is rooted in worship, active in drawing people in, and reaching out to be present in the world around it.

The next step for us was to figure out how to put this statement into practice. As one of the leaders of the strategic planning process stated, “I want to be able to tell people I meet what All Souls stands for, and the ways that they can join us to do something about it.” For the better part of a year, using the vision statement as our foundation, we listened, distilled, and planned.

The three areas for focused attention that emerged from this process were, Deep Hospitality, Christian Action and Practice, and the Planning for the Parish House. More will come in the weeks ahead about where our efforts of Deep Hospitality and the Parish House are, but this week I’d like to hold up where we are as we engage in Christian Action and Practice.

It takes only a cursory glance around us to see the pain and brokenness that exists, both here in Berkeley and beyond. One of the effects of far-reaching and always-on media is that we are aware of more that is happening than ever before in human existence. And facing the sheer magnitude of need, often times one of our first responses is to feel overwhelmed.

Because of this response, we found that it was important to listen for three distinct initiatives to take our part in. Again, there are many, many more ways that members of All Souls give of themselves, but the areas of emphasis that we are focusing in the next several years as a parish are: Immigration and Racial Justice, Climate Change, and Youth in the Foster System.

It is no mere coincidence, then, that the teaching and action that we are taking part in over the next several months is oriented in these directions. We are attempting to practice what we preach. In Margaret Sparks’ article in this week’s Pathfinder, you will read about her experience of taking part in the interfaith, inter-generational Prayer Vigil at the West County Detention Facility and about hosting the Vigil this Saturday at 11:00 am. This initiative has also been the impetus for the hospitality we are extending in our Parish House to those who are emerging from detention and seeking asylum.

As well, our strategic plan was the catalyst for one of our teaching series on Sunday morning, Standing with Foster Youth. Also in this week’s Pathfinder, you will read Raymond Yee and Laura Shefler’s article on the series, especially the session this Sunday, May 8th. As part of our learning what it is like to be a youth in the foster system, so that we can know how best to stand with them, four youth advocates who are current or former foster youth will speak to their experience.

And last but in no way least, our Youth Minister Jess Powell has written in this Pathfinder about the immersion trip that several of our high school youth will be making to western Washington later this summer to engage in forest renewal. As the devastating fire in Alberta, Canada is reminding us as I write, the effects of climate change are exacerbating what is already a serious challenge in North America. Our youth are joining with other youth in the Bay Area to take part in Christian practice of the restoration of Creation, one action of several that we are taking part in with others.

These, of course, are but three ways that we are attempting to follow the Spirit in and around us. More is to come in the days, weeks, and months ahead. As you discern how you might be drawn to take part in the reconciliation of this broken world, consider one of these ways to practice, knowing that there are many on this path with you, ready to walk alongside.



margaret-sparks125wideAs I remember, It was about four years ago when Elena Ramirez began urging the rest of the Outreach Ministry to join her for a vigil on the following Saturday out at the West County Detention Facility. These monthly vigils were held in support of the undocumented inmates who were being held in that facility, often for no other reason than they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The reaction from the group was supportive, but somewhat tepid. Maybe, like me, a vigil, I thought… that meant mournful people standing on a street corner in the dark holding candles and praying. And, this one at a jail?! How depressing can it get? I hate to make that confession, but I am just not up for depression.

My own sort of reluctance to join in did not deter Elena…she kept right at it, each month reporting on the importance of this effort. It wasn’t too long before Janet Chisholm, Christine Trost and a couple of others added their names to the All Souls’ delegation.

But it was over two years before I broke down one Saturday and rode out with Janet to the Detention Facility.

I was totally blown away.

Instead of mournful prayers and mournful people, the air was filled with joy and optimism! Men, women and young people from all over the East Bay (and beyond) standing in a large circle that opened up for us to join in.

We were active participants in a service directed by one of the churches, religious groups, supportive non-profits, or community organizations responsible for the program. We listened to inspiring music, we sang and we heard stories of sadness turning into bright futures.

The best part for the youngest people and for most of us uninhibited noisemakers was at the very end when we bellowed out loudly so that the inmates would know we were there.

The political debate on the status of the undocumented that is currently raging in this country today makes our participation in this local activity ever more important.

Please join us this Saturday, May 7, 11:00 am to noon, when it is All Souls’ turn to take the leadership of the service. Ruth Meyers, the Angel Band and a whole host of us will be there to give our support. Noisemakers of all ages are welcome!

During this vigil, we will collecting a special offering for a family in need. An immigrant family from Richmond made homeless after the father was deported will offer testimony. The mother is raising 5 children, receiving temporary shelter at the Catholic Worker House. Her 7 year old was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. Please bring your money offering this Saturday to support this family in need.

The vigil will be held at the West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. If you want to come and would like a ride, let me know. Car pools from the church will be available.

– Margaret Sparks

Don’t Miss the Panel with Foster Youth Advocates This Sunday

raymond yeelaura sheflerFinding a place in the world as we transition from youth into adulthood is difficult enough for any of us. Youth in foster care who make this transition face especially profound challenges, and the right kinds of support can greatly reduce their risk of poverty, mental illness, and homelessness.

For this reason, the church has selected foster care as one of three parish initiatives for Christian practice and daily action (along with climate change and immigration and racial justice).

Last Sunday, we launched this initiative with the first session for “Standing with Foster Youth.” It was awesome, and we hope that you can get involved. During the first session, we talked about the foster care system in California, in particular, and got a glimpse into the circumstances of youth who age out of the system at 18 or at 21. We learned that relatively few of the young people in foster care are there because of abuse: In most cases, they are there because their families are unable to care for them.  We heard that African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented in the foster system and that foster youth suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a higher rate than U.S. war veterans. Finally, we learned that while there are many governmental and non-profit programs designed to help, there is still a great need for action.

Sorry you missed this class?  Don’t be — because the best is yet to come.

This coming Sunday, May 8, four youth advocates from the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project, a program of the California Youth Connection, will lead us in conversation.  The speakers are current or former foster youth (ages 16-24), who, in collaboration with child welfare professionals and youth-serving organizations, develop and deliver training for people (like us at All Souls) wanting to support transition-age youth. The panel will address such issues as housing, permanency, employment, wellness, intersectionality, parenting, education and foster care and identity (culture, religion, etc) — as well as respond to written questions.

We are very much hoping that people from all parts of our congregation will attend to learn more about this vital social justice issue. In addition, we are offering two more sessions:

On May 22,  we will hear from representatives from religious and secular organizations that provide services and opportunities for foster youth. The Rev. Christopher Chase of Braid Mission will be preaching that Sunday.

On May 29, we will reflect on what we have heard and learned so far to formulate some possible next steps for the parish. Join us for the class and for the longer term… we need people to take up the charge.  Will it be you?

– Raymond Yee and Laura Shefler

Rise Up! High School Youth Immersion Trip

jess_powellThis summer, three high school All Soulsians (Anikka Wright, Tess McGinley, and Ivy Waegel) and I will go to Okanogan National Forest on the annual high school immersion trip. We will be joined by the rest of the God Squad (folks from Christ Church Alameda, St. Stephen’s Orinda, St. Timothy’s Danville, Church of the Resurrection Pleasant Hill, and St. Paul’s Walnut Creek) to engage in various fire relief activities. Over the past two summers, fires have severely damaged many parts of Okanogan County. Our work will help restore the forest itself, and our projects may include any of the following: ash and trash removal, metal removal, foundation removal, tree felling and bucking, and tree planting. For the last few days of the trip, we will have time to explore Seattle!

We will also have thematic programming around the theme Rise Up! Through the work we do on the trip, we want to do everything we can to help those in Okanogan County rise from the ashes. The other God Squad leaders and I also, of course, want to encourage the youth to rise up not only to the challenges of the trip but also to grow in their faith. One of the many goals of immersion trips is to create space and time for the youth to deepen their faith and build community. Immersion trips create treasured memories that last a lifetime. They have the power to transform and impact a youth’s faith like no other activity can. I know many adults who still talk about immersion or mission trips on which they went in high school. Those trips shaped who they are and what their faith looks like now.

Even though most of you reading this will not actually go on the trip, there are still many ways that you can partner with us! On each remaining Sunday in May, there will be a table where you can find at least one person who is going on the trip. We will have more information about the trip there. We will also have raffle tickets! The raffle prizes are two sets of two nights for free at The Bishop’s Ranch, two sets of two nights for free at St. Dorothy’s, and two $50 Amazon gift cards. While the funds go directly to All Souls, the raffle is among all of the God Squad churches. Each ticket costs $10, and you can get four tickets for $30.

At these tables, you can also pay $20 to pie someone from a list of our vestry and staff members or pay $25 to insure one of them. While you cannot pay to pie the same person twice, you can also pay to insure or pie someone else! The amount paid to pie the person must exceed the amount of insurance paid to protect them in order for them to be pied. Only the top three who have raised the most money will actually be pied!

At our Continuing the Feast on May 15, we will also have baked goods for donations. Come and get some delicious baked goods for a freewill offering.

I hope many of you will partner with us in these ways and in prayer. Please contact me if you have any questions. It will be an incredible trip!   



Continuing the Feast Brunch, May 15: The Spirit blows big on Pentecost at All Souls and we like to celebrate. There will be no formation classes for children or adults and we will continue (or begin) to celebrate the feast of the table with a festive brunch between services. Take advantage of the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new connections! Brunch will be between the 9:00 and 11:15 am services in the Parish Hall. Bring food to share and think RED (strawberries, tomatoes, red velvet cake, watermelon, … ?) or whatever the Spirit moves you to bring!


Save the date for our annual bike blessing! Ride to church and stay for fellowship! Invite your friends and neighbors!

All Souls for Racial Justice

Join All Soulsians at these upcoming events to educate yourself and work for racial justice together. For more information, please contact Danielle Gabriel.

Talking with Kids about Race and Racism: A Community Conversation
Tuesday May 10, at 6:30 pm, at the West Oakland Branch Library, Oakland, CA

Everyone is welcome at this community event, where a panel of local parents, caregivers, and educators will share their thoughts, experiences, and best practices relating to how adults can discuss race and racism with children. Childcare and race conscious social justice programming for kids will be provided at the event by Abundant Beginnings.

Anne Braden’s Legacy: White Activism in the Struggle for Racial Justice
Thursday, May 12, 7:00 – 9:00 pm (doors open at 6:30pm) at First Congregational Church of Oakland (2501 Harrison St, Oakland)
Sliding Scale $10-25+. Please pay what you can. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Join us for a documentary film screening of “Anne Braden: Southern Patriot” by Mimi Pickering and Anne Lewis, about the life of civil rights leader Anne Braden and her work organizing white communities in the South for racial justice. The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion linking Anne Braden’s civil rights work with contemporary struggles for racial justice.
Panelists include:
• Rahula Janowski, Catalyst Project
• Gopal Dayayeni, Movement Generation
This event is a fundraiser for the Catalyst Project and our work training and supporting white,
antiracist leaders in California and across the country.

“The fight against racism is not something we (white people) are called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved as if our lives depend on it because, in truth, they do.”
–Anne Braden

Parish Picnic, June 5 – save the date!

On June 5th we will we move the 11:15 service to Tilden Park for our annual Parish Picnic. We celebrate the Eucharist in a beautiful outdoor space, bring music to the trees, and make church in a new way. We will roll straight from service into an all-parish picnic & BBQ. It is aways a fun event (picture Jesus + grillables + capture the flag + popsicles + all ages) so plan to join this favorite All Souls tradition, and bring a friend!