A great hunger to be made whole
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, is known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy. It’s the church where Jefferson Davis was worshipping when he received the news that Robert E. Lee had surrendered, a church where stained glass windows even now depict Lee as Moses leading the people. St. Paul’s is also changing. It is also the diverse and welcoming church where Bennett and I went to worship this past Sunday. Bennett charmed everyone by contributing to the children’s sermon and by joining other four-year-olds in helping to pass out communion bread. I was there to talk about race, reconciliation, poetry, and family with Gayle Jessup White, a friend and cousin, whose family is linked to mine through the legacy of slavery.
In Virginia, where my family is from, it is hard not to think daily about the legacy of racial violence in our country. Plaques for presidents and generals abound. The city of Richmond is debating what to do with its Confederate monuments. We practically can’t take a drive without crossing a battlefield. This past Tuesday, driving from Richmond to Lynchburg, my dad and I took one wrong turn, and literally ended up at Appomattox, the place where the Civil War ended.
In Virginia, in the face of these many histories, abundantly but sometimes imperfectly remembered, there is also a very real movement to begin conversations about how to transform our legacy— as people, as Episcopalians, as a wider society. In Virginia, it is also impossible not to notice how some of the most painful parts of our country’s history actually thread through the life of our church itself. This past Sunday, at St. Paul’s, Father Wallace Adams-Riley told a story: 80 years ago, there was a lynching in nearby Fauquier county in which members of the local Episcopal church were known to be involved. For 80 years, the entire community has lived in the shadow of that violence. This year, for the first time, members of a neighboring African American church invited the (mostly white) Episcopalian church members to join in worship. In response, the Episcopalians closed their church— and filled the church of their neighbors. They joined in community, and they joined prayer.
How do we come out of the shadow of violence— whether it be generations old, or flaring in the present day? What is the role of our faith in healing such deep wounds? The way Father Wallace tells it, the way Presiding Bishop Curry tells it, even recognizing our longing for healing is itself a gift from God. We are called to this longing because we are members of “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.” We are called to come together because the Jesus movement holds us each up in radical equality, dignifies each of our lives, and also asks each of us to lean a little more, to make the arc in the long arc of justice more possible.
In Berkeley, there aren’t quite as many plaques as there are in Virginia. The histories are perhaps more subtle, or perhaps equally violent, but more hidden. Sometimes we ourselves are newcomers to California—and there’s a sense that the most virulent racial violence happened elsewhere, maybe on the east coast, maybe in someone else’s family. Yet we’re on Ohlone and Spanish and Mexican land, we live a mere generation out of redlining and restrictive housing codes. Our homes are near prisons where immigrants are even now being detained. And, as we move through California’s beautiful sunshine, we feel the presence of enormous inequality around us. Our society continues to live in the presence of racial violence— from Trayvon Martin to Freddie Gray to Oscar Grant. This violence, and all it represents, is a source of great pain to all of us. Many of us have shared the grief we feel, the longing for something better. We struggle with our own longings to live in deeper more just community.
But how do we get there from here? It is partly because of this deep desire—because of the longing to make whole—that I’m so excited about the screening of Traces of the Trade this coming December 5th, from 5:00 – 9:00 pm. This movie, and the discussions around it, have been a huge part of my own faith journey, and my own sense of what the church makes possible.
For those who don’t know about this movie, it begins in another place where racial violence has at first seemed invisible, but was hidden just below the surface: Rhode Island. Katrina Browne was in seminary when she began to name the legacy of her own de Wolf family— who monopolized the slave trading industry. The movie is also about Browne’s longing to reconcile, to repair, to make whole. As part of the film, Browne’s cousin, Dain Perry, makes a remarkable journey along with Browne and several other cousins— retracing the triangle trade route of their ancestors. I have known Dain for a decade. I have heard him speak about how he was transformed by this voyage, by what it meant to him, and how it represented God calling out in his life. He is coming west with his wife Constance, who is African American, to do a screening of the film and facilitate conversation at All Souls. It will be an exceptional event, and I hope so much to see many of you there.
Dain and Katrina’s ancestors were Episcopalians, and Dain and Katrina are, too. I met Dain and Katrina, years ago at Trinity Boston, when I began the work that led me to find my African American cousin, Gayle White, and to begin conversations with her. I was drawn in by Dain and Katrina because to me they represented something so exciting that the church could make possible— a space for dialog, for calling out that the status quo is not enough, a space for recognizing how God is calling out to us to repair the broken places left to us by generations that came before.
Dain and Katrina, and the people of All Soul’s, and the people of Fauquier county are not alone in longing for pathways to repair. At the Ta-Nehisi Coates event at First Congregational Church of Berkeley a few weeks back, there were a thousand people— a church filled to the brim with diversity, life, hope, and mission. Coates articulated the problems beautifully. But as he spoke about our deep and systemic problems, he also said that he didn’t know the way forward. I am interested to know: Can we use the institutions that have failed us to build the way forward we need? What part does the church play in this?
The word reconciliation brims with religious significance: Jesus tries to “reconcile the world to himself.” At its root, this word means “to bring together again”— to repair, to mend. As we move towards Advent, we remember that it is also part of our job, as the Jesus people, to make the world a little more ready for God. I believe that we all suffer from racial violence— whether it took place generations ago, or flashes across Facebook now. It diminishes each of us. Like the parishioners in Fauquier county, we live with a great hunger to be made more whole. I’m so grateful to have a place to lean into that hunger, and to act, and to pray about how to make the paths a little straighter, the present more just.
So, west coast Episcopalians, Virginia sends you its love. I can’t wait to see ya’ll when I get back.
– Tess Taylor
Praise the Lord – my heart is on fire
Just last spring, Katie McGonigal approached me as I stood in the back of the church, listening to the Angel Band’s “Soon and Very Soon” – yes, I thought, I sang this during my brief stint in UC San Diego’s gospel choir. I remembered standing on risers in the choir room, absorbing then-unfamiliar rhythms, feeling welcomed and accepted, even as a rookie white girl, by the experienced musicians in my midst. Now Katie was starting a gospel choir, right here in this Episcopal church, and would I be interested – yes! Joining was more like an inspiration than a decision, like the best decisions are, when God seems to whisper something in a key or tune or language that speaks straight to your heart. You see, my father had died, my last child was about to leave for college, and music has always been one of my most trusted companions. Why not sing?
But why gospel? It’s a way to loosen up the liturgy, shout for joy, add some spontaneity – hallelujah! – to our scripted prayers. There’s an extemporaneous quality to gospel – the soaring soloist letting it really fly when the Spirit hits – but it’s tightly written, rhythms repeating then changing up then flipping again for good measure. I learned to watch the director, because anything can happen, and know my notes, but then put down that sheet music and hang on. It can be a challenge for the formally trained or classically focused. In the words of the singers: “It’s joyous, inspiring, and gives me an appreciation of the complexity of this music;” “It’s a fun and spiritual experience.”
For me, it’s like being inside a mass of gladness. We are an eclectic group, young to oldish, professionally trained to casual car-singers, churchgoing to not. But we always have a good time because, well – it’s gospel! The news is good, all the time. Who can resist the healing power of such titles as “He’s Always There For Me,” “Safe In His Arms,” and “I Love The Lord”? Or if you really believe what you’re singing (“I’m so glad He changed me,” “praise is who I am”), how can you resist God’s spirit moving within, and flowing out into the clapping, swaying congregation? When the lyrics stick with you all week – “create in me a clean heart – wash me, O Lord – anoint me, appoint me” – you feel sanctified, inspired, and thoroughly, gratefully, equipped to do God’s work.
Abundant thanks to Katie McGonigal and Christopher Putnam for pulling this off with such patience and pizzazz. In the words of Nehemiah 8:10b, from this week’s lectionary, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.
Please join us Friday November 20th, 7:00 pm, right here at All Souls, for our Autumn Jubilee.
And if you’d like to sing with Hearts On Fire Gospel Choir, contact Christopher or Katie.
– Madeline Feeley
From the Associate for Youth Ministries
The youth program started this year with our kickoff BBQ on September 6th and has been running since then! I have been incredibly encouraged and impressed by the involvement of the youth and our volunteers thus far and look forward to what we’ll do in the future.
The Parish Retreat and the Stewardship Dinner have been our main events this fall. At the Parish Retreat, we took time to laugh together, to play games together, to eat together, to pray together, to worship together, and to soak up the sun and swim at the pool! At the Stewardship Dinner, we enjoyed another opportunity to eat together and spend time together. New and familiar faces came to these events, joyfully building our community. Some of these activities have continued as the year has progressed. Snacks have naturally been a hit at both middle and high school youth group. We still pray together, play games together, and talk about what is on the hearts of the youth. Inspiring conversations have taken place that I feel blessed to facilitate, plan, and participate in!
Overall, I feel incredibly blessed by, encouraged by, and grateful for the youth activities that have taken place as part of the All Souls youth programs this year. The youth here have a wonderful amount of energy in some situations and can be incredibly insightful. Their passions shine through in our activities and conversations. These passions include the environment, different aspects of social justice, and (naturally for teenagers) food! We can enjoy each others’ company through both serious and not-so-serious topics. I consider these times incredible gifts, and I hope the youth here do so as well!
Of course, this is just the beginning! We have many other exciting opportunities planned for both middle and high school youth group. On a weekly basis, Sunday school happens during the Formation Hour and is usually in the Parish House. This week, we will join the Evangelism class in the library. Middle school youth group is from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm in the Parish House, and high school youth group is in the Parish House as well. Events for the rest of the year continuing into the summer of 2016 are: helping at an Open Door Dinner, YES!, Happening, the Middle School Immersion Trip, and the High School Immersion Trip among others. Keep in touch for more information!
If your youth is interested in becoming involved in our youth community here at All Souls, or if your youth knows someone who would be interested in doing so, let me know! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All youth (grades 6 through 12) are welcome, as are their friends!
Thank you for encouraging your youth to participate in youth group and Sunday school and for making their involvement possible, and thank you to the volunteers who have joined me in leading these activities!
Are you relatively new to All Souls? Looking to connect and learn more? Join us for a Newcomers’ Luncheon at Margaret Sparks’ home in Berkeley on Sunday, November 22nd, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Look forward to sharing good food, connecting with other newcomers, longtime members, and All Souls staff. You’ll also have the chance to ask Phil and Liz your most puzzling questions about the church! Please RSVP to Margaret: (510) 524-6106; email@example.com.
Advent is coming! As we prepare for this holy season, we often think of the beauty of the Advent wreath and what it represents—the circle of prayer and ritual, the candlelight, the winter greenery. For three Wednesdays starting December 2nd, we will join together for a soup supper and a time of reflection on the meaning of Advent in our lives using the wreath as our symbolic starting point and going deeper with scripture, story, and song. We’ll begin with a soup supper at 6:30 pm and end with Compline at 8:00 pm. Watch for more details in upcoming Pathfinders and blue sheet announcements. Please join us—these Wednesday night programs are favorite events in our parish life!
Soup for Our Advent Suppers
We will need five people each week to make soup, bring bread, and help set up for our soup suppers December 2nd, 9th, and 16th. It’s always a treat to taste the variety of soups made by our wonderful parish cooks. So if you’re willing to participate by bringing a pot of soup for 12 or picking up a loaf of bread or helping to get ready for the supper, please sign up at the Google spreadsheet or contact Sheryl Fullerton.
Even PBS has Stephen Ministers???
Okay—we really don’t know, but here’s a PBS site about Stephen Ministry. It shows a Stephen Ministry training session from a series called “Religion & Ethics.” While you’re checking that out, here’s a link to a series of interviews from people who have had Stephen Ministers. What’s more, everything you need to know about becoming a Stephen Minister will be in the Common Room this Sunday, November 15th, at 8:30 am and at 12:30 pm. Find out the nuts & bolts of Stephen Ministry—how to apply, what’s involved in training, and (best of all!) offering your gift of compassionate listening to another. Can’t come to a session this Sunday? Contact Nancy Austin, 510-407-0037 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It’s a Fall Celebration, featuring the Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir
Friday, November 20th at 7:30 pm, right here at All Souls. Celebrate the very best of the season with a truly uplifting night of music, friendship and great food… and more music! Come join us — grab a friend and get your joy on!
Racing and cheering and rerouting, next Sunday!
Next Sunday, November 22nd, is the Berkeley Half Marathon. Driving through Berkeley will be challenging for many of your regular routes that morning, but you can learn more about road closures and suggested alternate routes here: http://berkeleyhalf.com/race-day-traffic-advisory. More importantly, this is a wonderful chance to come and cheer on fellow All Soulsians – or rather, All Solesians. More than thirty of us, ranging in age from four to… a lot more than four, will be taking to the streets to run the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon Races. The Half Marathon course even goes right up Shattuck, crossing Cedar, making it very easy for you to walk down the hill and join in the fun.
Traces of the Trade
What does it mean to grapple with the racism that surrounds us? How does the past inflect the present? In Traces of the Trade, Episcopal divinity student and film producer Katrina Browne tells the story of her forefathers, the deWolf family, the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. The film follows Browne and nine fellow family members as they retrace the triangle trade together- and begin to think about how to address legacies of racial violence in the present. This December, Dain Perry, who made the journey with Browne, arrives at All Souls to offer a screening and discussion. This will be a rich, unforgettable night. Join us for dinner and a movie as we discuss both the problem of racism- past and present- and our hopes for reconciliation and repair. December 5th, 5:00 – 9:00 pm. Food, film, and discussion to follow.