FROM THE RECTOR
Welcome and Service
This past spring people from All Souls Parish participated in a three part series with St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and Congregation Beth El in a meal and conversation series about race and religion called, “Breaking Bread and Building Bridges”.
For every meal, one held at each of the three congregations, roughly 75 to 80 of us prayed together, sang, talked about how our lives have been intersected by race and faith, and ate. For many, it was a remarkable opportunity to have real conversations with friends and strangers about identity, companionship, fear, trust, justice, and more. What came clear as we spent time together is that this was just the beginning.
Since those meals several months ago, informal conversations and meals have continued from some of that initial table fellowship. And, the group of religious leaders that planned the series has continued meeting, wondering what might come next.
We discerned that following the anniversary of the murders at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, at least one act we could do was to come together as communities of faith to pray together. And we began considering scriptural texts and ritual actions that we could explore. It led us to an unlikely and compelling place—the washing of feet.
In Reform Judaism, the branch of Judaism that Congregation Beth El practices, the yearly scriptural cycle this week has congregations reading from Genesis 18, in which Abraham and Sarah receive three strangers. One of the first ways that Abraham offers hospitality to these strangers in the desert is to offer them water so that they could wash their feet.
That got all of us curious. What would it be like to structure a multi-faith worship service around the ways that our traditions have engaged in the act of washing one’s feet, or having one’s feet washed? How might the particularities of our traditions help us both understand what we hold in common, as well as what makes our practices and beliefs distinct?
We will find out next Wednesday evening November 13th, at St. Paul AME, (Ashby & Adeline), from 7:30p to 9p. The service will be formed around prayer, teaching, foot-washing (as with confession, none must, some should, all may take part), and conversation. Unlike our meal series, where there was a limit to the number of seats at the table, anyone and everyone is encouraged to come and participate.
So I ask you to join me in worshipping God with friend and stranger, in song, with prayer, by washing of each other’s feet, and through teaching and real conversation. This Wednesday at St. Paul AME, with companions from Beth El, come ready to be welcomed, to welcome, and to serve.
From Stephen Ministry
Looking For Listeners – Come Join Us!
Have you ever had someone really listen to you? I’m not thinking of the listening that involves a lot of excited interrupting or agreeing, or even the listening that involves lots of questions and follow-up advice. I’m thinking of the kind where you’re speaking in someone’s presence but their input may be barely noticeable. Instead of jumping in, they allow you to slowly unfurl your thoughts aloud, to meander and explore new ideas, to ask questions that don’t need answering. Most of us have not been listened to in this way, and it can be a shock as well as a comfort to be heard.
Stephen Ministers are trained listeners. The name is a little confusing, but we are not ordained – we are lay people right here in the parish, trained to offer compassionate listening, once a week, for an hour, for as long as care is needed. Upon commissioning, we agree to serve for at least two years. But many of us, myself included, serve for many more.
My first care receiver (person I listened to) was experiencing an illness and felt very confused and saddened by her sudden loss of mobility and independence. I arrived with a Bible and Prayer Book, thinking we’d need something substantial to read, but she laughed and said, “We won’t need those” because, as I soon realized, I was there to listen – to anything she felt like saying. I became a regular, steady presence; we could depend on our relationship because it was grounded in our most essential, steady presence: God’s love.
“But why sign up? Isn’t it a lot of time and hassle?” you may ask. As long as I have been listening, Stephen Ministry has been a blessing in my life. Through the 50 hours of training, I learned how to reflect back, be patient, and let the care receiver go first. It turns out, listening is a skill and can be practiced, honed, and used effectively every day. So while the training equipped me for my role on the Stephen Ministry team, it also helps me hear my colleagues, students, children, spouse, friends – even God. Listening well improves every relationship in our lives. When we stop offering advice and answers, and listen for what someone really feels or needs, a world of change can happen. It may even feel like healing.
This ministry has helped me to hear the spaces in between the words, to see the Spirit moving and breathing in unexpectedly quiet, unassuming ways. As I hear another’s story, I encounter God at work in their lives; this paying attention can bring peace and a sense of renewed faith to both of us.
“Bear one another’s burdens.” As Christians in community, we are called to offer compassionate care in the name and spirit of Jesus. We are called to walk alongside each other, to offer comfort, guidance, a prayer, a song. Perhaps we can be the hands and ears of our Lord as we travel with a questioning or struggling companion. With this in mind, Stephen Ministers also form a community, meeting twice monthly in supervision groups to offer support to each other. We respect the confidentiality of each care receiver, and prayerfully and intentionally seek guidance from our peers. In my years as a Stephen Minister, I have walked with young adults and the elderly, people of deep faith and those who aren’t quite sure about this whole church thing, and the sick and the healthy. One woman always looked forward to belting out “Amazing Grace” with me on Sunday afternoons. She bowed her head as we prayed, and recalled her years in church with great fervor. As her health declined, her faith encouraged me to keep visiting and singing, to keep seeing God in her sweet face, to keep showing up for the next unexpected moment of grace. Each Stephen Ministry relationship is born of a struggle or trial but each relationship is also blessed by God’s presence and undying love for us all.
We all want to be heard. Perhaps you could be the person to listen and to offer a comforting presence to a fellow All Soulsian. It is truly a gift to offer your time, to just be and let someone else talk.
Interested? Please join the Stephen Leaders for an information session on November 24th at 12:45. We would love to tell you more about the process of becoming a Stephen Minister at All Souls.
– Madeline Feeley
You May Be Wondering…?
Readers of Pathfinder vestry reports will have noticed reference to a capital campaign targeted for the first half of 2020. If you’re wondering what that’s about, join us for a parish forum on November 17 after the 11:15 service for a preview. Comprehensive campaign activities will launch in January, so this forum will just “lift the lid” on what is to come, a time that builds on history, personal experience, and our shared faith journey.
We make church together. We pray together, feast together, learn together, play together, and live into our promise to love our neighbors as God loves us from this place on the corner of Cedar and Spruce Streets. We are able to do this because many who came before us founded this community and prepared both a physical place and a spiritual home for all to gather. All Souls Parish is very much the work of those previous imaginations and hearts and hands made manifest.
Church is never finished. Just as others prepared a place for us to come to, we now hold this place in trust for those who are here today, both within our walls and in the world around us, and for those who will come after us. How will we serve them? What will we pass on to them?
Through the winter and the spring of 2020 as we as we live our life together, we will also engage in a process called a capital campaign. As a parish community we will dive deeply into these questions about what we are called to do for this place so that our hearts and imaginations can accept God’s love and bring that love to life for others.
This will not be just about money, truly. It will be about the faith that connects us and that motivates all facets of our community life. We will prepare ourselves to give in love toward what this place can be for others: Can we make All Souls more accessible? Can we update spaces in the church and Parish Hall buildings and make them more adaptable for different uses, some of which we may only dimly foresee at this point? Can we become carbon neutral?
You may have your own wonderings about how our faith can be manifest here at All Souls. Bring them to the conversation! We look forward to talking with you on November 17.
—Nancy Austin and Marilyn Flood, campaign co-chairs
This past Sunday we celebrated five baptisms: Nathan Clarence Good Jackson (child of Tyree Albert Jackson and Lani Good), Athena Lynn Crescenzi (child of Jenna Lynn & Nicholas Anthony Crescenzi), Alec French Sahagun (child of Angela French Sahagun and Aaron Peraza Sahagun), Elinor Rees-Hill, and Emma Calimag-Sisson. We were grateful for their presence, here are some photos of the day:
From Justice and Peace
Please join us at the formation hour this Sunday as we welcome back our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, and Dr. Sheila Andrus—and launch our new series “Caring for Creation: Hope & Action for Climate Justice.” Bp. Marc will speak on “Building the Beloved Community through Climate Justice.” Parish Hall, 10:10–11:05 a.m.
Memorial Service for Doree Laverty
As you may know, two weeks ago, on October 24th, longtime All Soulsian Doree Laverty died. Please join us in giving thanks for Doree’s life at her memorial service on Saturday, December 14th at 1:30 pm at All Souls. Join together to sing, to remember, and to celebrate our hope in the resurrection.