From the Rector
Why We Worship
Over the years I’ve been worshipping with All Souls I’ve been curious about consistent feedback from visitors, especially from those who come to worship with us for a Sunday or two, then head back to homes across the United States and around the world. What they often say, even when we can’t easily communicate as they’ve come from Norway or Japan or Peru, is that they have felt the Spirit with us, sensed an aliveness in worshipping with us.
And so at the start of this pandemic, and as it has continued, one of the questions that I’ve been considering is a basic one, which is why we worship. Related to that essential question, I’ve been wondering about others, like why worship can feel so real and present at times, and dry and rote at others, sometimes within the same service. And just are what the qualities are that need to be present in order to have a “there” there? Can it feel like worship and not simply a production for those of us looking in the camera? And given all this, how do we create a space, a container, a form, that can help us come close to that experience we’ve known, even while separated in our own homes, participating through a screen and speakers?
My sense is that we come to worship for many reasons. We come to connect with each other. We come to look for a truer path. We come to bring our sorrow and lament. We come to hope for forgiveness. We come to be able to share joy with one another. We come to seek union with a Being, a Force, a Reality that is at once beyond us and within us. We come to be more alive.
Re-creating a medium for this encounter has been incredibly challenging. And while it is true that great creativity can come because of constraint, it is also true that constraints like those we have faced in the last couple of months have brought with them inevitable loss.
The early conversations between Bishop Marc Andrus, our Diocesan Chancellor Christopher Hayes and public health officials offered us the possibility of live-streaming from the corner of Cedar & Spruce––as long as we kept to a 10 person limit of people under the age of 65 and that our pool of participants remained the same. This has not been true in all dioceses in California, and I am incredibly grateful that we have been able to offer worship this way.
It has meant that we have offered sung music in a way that we otherwise would not have been able, but that we have only been able to engage the same voices to read, pray, and preach. I miss the full and broad range of All Soulsians even as I am grateful and have been fed by those who have offered their service to us.
Some of the constraints have been really basic––the technology available to us. Though it is different in orders of magnitude to what was available to All Soulsians during the flu pandemic of 1918, we still have been constrained, in our case by the Facebook app (which sometimes decides to crash, say during the middle of an Easter Sunday sermon), and the cables and equipment at our disposal. This has meant that we only have the capacity to use the people in the building for our stream, though now we have finally received a couple of pieces of equipment (ordered in mid-March), which might offer us more flexibility.
What I don’t want to change is something that I have come to believe as integral to our experience of worship––it being live in that moment. Yes, our services are being recorded and can be viewed at a later time; all of the services we have done since the start of shelter in place can be found <here on our site>. (http://www.allsoulsparish.org/worship-music-and-the-arts/worship-services/streaming/)
But I have come to trust that worship is a dynamic encounter with the Living God. Which means that one of our highest priorities is having all who participate be with us in that moment, in whatever way they may be offering worship––through prayer, song, or sermon. How we are able to use the current technology to broaden our contemporaneous participation is something that we are currently considering, but it is important to me that we be live in it, together.
As with many, many parts of our lives, it is not clear what the road ahead will look like, and how long we will be prevented by this contagion from worshipping together in person. It is likely that we will be streaming for some time, and that once we are able to return to in-person worship it will be in a limited capacity. This will mean that hybrid worship (in person and online) will be the course for a while, and will perhaps be a practice we maintain once the worst of this pandemic has subsided.
My hope is that somehow, some way you have been able to come close to the Holy One during this time. To cry, to shout, to mourn, to laugh, to sing, to listen, to keep silent. And that through the media of Morning and Night Prayer, the Triduum, or Sunday morning at 10:30am, you have encountered the Risen One again and felt more alive in the process.
Before the pandemic, I rarely listened to music. I spent eight years doing a Ph.D. in musicology while holding down church and concert gigs on the side, and then transitioned into full-time church music work.
At the end of the day, the last thing I wanted was more music. That has changed over the last seven weeks, when I’ve been deprived of most of the music-making that used to fill my days. Even though I still have the privilege of singing and playing on Sunday mornings, I now spend more time listening: Renaissance motets and anthems (probably my greatest love), Bach (especially the Easter oratorio, but always on period instruments, please), and plenty of so-called English cathedral music (Parry, Stanford, Howells, and the like). Strangely, I realize that I haven’t yet re-visited my favorite pop and rock music from growing up (boy bands, divas, the odd indie or more mainstream rock group); maybe I’ll put some on later.
By doing this, I’m re-discovering what many of you probably already know: listening to music can provide diversion, comfort, fulfillment, emotional expression—means of connecting to people and things, by turns embodying and seemingly transcending the quotidian and the material.
But what if some of your favorites aren’t on your tapes/CDs/phone, YouTube, or your preferred streaming music service? This is a particularly acute problem if you have a favorite hymn or Angel Band song, which can be harder to find than the latest Billie Eilish hit.
Well, the All Souls music department wants to help. On Sunday after church, Ed, Sarita, Jocelyn, and I will be your jukebox. You can submit requests for your favorite hymn or Angel Band Song by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can pop your suggestion into the comments on our live-stream, and they’ll be collated for me to quickly review right after the service. We will have time for maybe 8 or 9, and will try to sing the most-requested pieces, but please know that we may be limited by personnel and copyright restrictions.
So put in your metaphorical quarters and let’s see what happens!
Twice per year Phil+ and I teach a Newcomer Class to anyone new to the parish looking to learn more about what it means to be a member at All Souls. This coming Sunday is the start to another round of this class, which will go for three weeks, ending on May 24th.
While this is a class for newcomers, it is open to anyone who is interested in learning about or remembering what it means to be a member here. In this class we’ll cover our Membership Expectations through the lens of our practices, history, and values. I know for me, in this changed landscape we’re in, I have had to re-think a lot of what it means to be a member of a parish. I mentioned a lot of this in my article last week in this Pathfinder, but this week I will attach our expectations below, so you all can see them.
Join us this Sunday on Zoom at 9:15a. Click here for the Zoom call link. Meeting ID: 869 9662 1202 Password: 223128.
Membership at All Souls
One of our core beliefs at All Souls is that we make church together. We welcome all at All Souls––anyone can come, worship, receive pastoral care, serve, or attend a class––but when people discern that they want to be a member of this body, we understand this to come with a sense of responsibility. What you see listed below are not rules but the expectations of our community life together. Please prayerfully consider these six ways of being as you discern how you want to make church with us.
Worship with us. We ask you to join us on Sundays to worship God––bringing your joys and sorrows, your experiences of brokenness and of healing––to share with us as we gather at the Lord’s Table. In time, our hope is that you help us prepare the space, greet, welcome, sing, read Scripture, lead prayers, and share the Eucharist, so that all will be able to receive food for the journey in the week to come.
Eat with us. Inspired by the breaking of bread together, we continue the Feast by sharing meals as a parish. Join us throughout the year as we gather around tables at church, in our homes, and all over town because when we enjoy good conversation, when we laugh and celebrate, when we savor good food, we are Christ to each other, we are the beloved community.
Learn with us. When you learn with us at All Souls you nurture your heart, mind, and soul. Join us on Sundays by taking an active role in enriching your understanding of scripture, engaging with the issues of our world, and the practices of our faith, as well as connecting with fellow parishioners to deepen your relationships with one another.
Pray with us. Join us as we deepen our relationship with God through daily prayer and meditation, personally and as a community. Prayer creates in us a space to discern God’s desires and guides our response through ancient practices, by worship, in small groups, and through spiritual direction.
Serve with us. Join us by participating in multigenerational faith-based actions that respond to the needs in our local community, the nation, and the world. Prepare and serve a meal to the homeless in our midst; provide accompaniment to recently released immigrant detainees; advocate for peace and racial justice; take action to protect our fragile environment.
Give with us. Realizing that all we have comes from God, we give freely and generously of our talents and skills, our care for one another, and our physical and financial resources. Join us in giving your time and skills, as well as giving through the offering plates during worship, in response to special appeals, and, most significantly, through an annual pledge of meaningful financial support for our ministry in service of God’s mission.
––Emily Hansen Curran
From the Vestry
It is the best of times, even in these, the hardest of times.
Although we have been sheltering in place since March 15, your church continues. In unbelievable time, Phil+, Emily, Jamie et al. were able to move our services online. We know it’s not the same – we miss seeing each other in person on Sunday, at Soup and Story and all the other wonderful events All Souls creates and facilitates for us. We grieve, we laugh, we take joy in the ways we are still able to connect, virtually but viscerally, less intimately but more supportively perhaps.
Please let us know via email or through your Connection Group if there are ways in which we can help you feel more held by our community. Your Vestry continues its work and Phil+ and the rest of the staff, well, you can see what they have done –
Our Streaming Services are reaching people all over the country. We even have people joining to worship with us in Europe and Latin America. The best of times All Soulsians are joining us who haven’t been able to do so in years.
Our Sandwich Project, steered by the Rev. Dani Gabriel, Pat Jones, and Nancy Pryer, has been an overwhelming success and will be expanding from two days to four each week. All Soulsians and now members of St. Alban’s, Albany make sandwiches at home, the sandwiches are picked up and delivered to those in need in homeless encampments in our community.
Our PPP loan application was approved by Mechanics Bank. Through the federal CARES Act, we have received funding which will be forgiven if we maintain our current staffing through early July – which we fully intend to do. These funds help reduce All Souls’ economic uncertainty due to the temporary curtailment of our Hearts Leap preschool program and the loss of income that entailed.
During our April 29 Vestry meeting (via Zoom of course) we discussed at some length our Associate Rector search which is continuing–– the discernment and final interviews are currently underway.
The Jordan Court project is charging along. The Parish House has been vacated and we expect demolition to begin in mid to late July. The new building truly will be beautiful, the result of tremendous work by many All Soulsians who have volunteered countless hours to make it truly stunning.
It is the hardest of times, but in many ways, the best of times. Our work continues, and we will emerge from this and be able once again to say in our church, “Thanks Be to God!”
Sunday Live Streaming News
The live stream of Sunday services can now be accessed through our website (rather than simply on Facebook)! Click here to watch on Sunday morning.
Newcomer’s Class this Sunday!
Phil+ and Emily will be teaching our regular Newcomer’s Class this Sunday at 9:15 on Zoom. If you are new to All Souls or have never attended a newcomer class, please join us! Click here for the call link. Meeting ID: 869 9662 1202 Password: 223128.
Children & Family News
We will be doing a children’s chapel program this Sunday at 9:30am (and every Sunday afterwards, as needed) via Zoom. It should last about 30 minutes. Please email Whitney Wilson for a link so your family can participate. If you have not used Zoom before––it is pretty user friendly in that I send you an invitation that you can log-in to at the appointed time. You can log-in with video so we can see each other’s faces or on your phone so we can hear each other. We are hoping that this will give the kids a time together for their own “church” and a time to see their friends as well. Please email Whitney Wilson at email@example.com if you want a Zoom invite or have any questions.
Evening Prayer via Zoom
Here is the link for the Monday night BCP Compline, to take place each Monday at 8:30pm PST: https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649
Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649?pwd=d0Z4c1RHeld0QllOLzdlS1IxK3FKZz09. For safety, the password needed to join the call is 329903.
All Souls Geek Squad
If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! On the homepage of our website is a box with the words “Technical Help”. Click on that box and you will be taken to a form that you can fill out. Once you fill that out, we’ll have someone get in touch with you to help with your tech problems. You can also click here to access the form directly.