FROM THE RECTOR
All I really remember about my baptism was that I was in a tie. A very wide tie. And that all kinds of family that didn’t usually go to church were there for that Sunday. You see, I was baptized as child, just old enough to remember the event, but not a whole lot about it.
Which is to be expected, as many people in our tradition don’t remember their baptism, since so many of us are baptized when we are infants or toddlers. Since this is often the case, it falls upon those there that day—parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends—to tell the story, to re-member it with that person, so that those vows, that moment, that kinship isn’t lost to the mists of time or the dust of stacked boxes.
This is also why we have godparents. So far as I can see, my godparents were chosen from an older, traditional model. For the most part they served as backup legal guardians. If for some reason my parents weren’t able to care for me, one uncle on my dad’s side and an aunt on my mom’s side were ready to fill in. Which, thankfully, didn’t need to happen. And aside from a couple of religious themed gifts along the way, that assurance has been the extent of their godparenting. But over the years I have seen and known that there is much more in this relationship that can be offered and received.
A couple of months ago, I received a stunning and joy-filled phone call. My friends Greg and Stefanie invited me to be a godparent for their infant son Matthew. I was over the moon! Having had the joy of being a godparent for an incredible human named Sam, I was thrilled to be asked to live out this role with Matthew. The challenge was that he was going to be baptized at their local Episcopal church in Studio City on the Feast of All Saints. Which tends to be a big deal around here. They realized that I wouldn’t be able to be there, but wanted me to be his godfather regardless. I said yes without hesitation, and was sad that I couldn’t be there in person.
And then I had a conversation about this with my spouse. Who said, “Really? You’re not going to your godson’s baptism?” “But it’s the feast of title,” I protested, “there are baptisms and whatnot.” Then she said, “Well, is this important or not?”
Huh. Right. I do believe in this, the showing up part included. I really do want to practice what I preach. I prayed, I received counsel, and I listened. And I realized that between Liz, Jamie, Emily, Jess, and all who come together to make church, All Souls will be just fine.
And so, this Sunday, for the Feast of All Saints and All Souls, I will not be wearing a collar or dressed in a black shirt. And I won’t be with you all at the corner of Cedar and Spruce. I’ll be at the corner of Coldwater Canyon and Avenida Del Sol. I will be taking these ancient vows, making these promises with and for Matthew, that I will be, “responsible for seeing that he is brought up in the Christian life and faith,” and that I will, “by my prayers and witness help him to grow into the full stature of Christ.” And, I will be missing being with you all—reveling in the baptisms, remembering those we love and see no longer, and marching out those doors with all those saints.
In short, I am showing up this Sunday at Matthew’s baptism as a start of my practice of showing up for the rest of his life. That with God’s help, for feasts and for fasts, as a tyke, a teenager, and well beyond, I will continue to show up, as a guide along the Way.
A Detour to the Stephen Ministry
Eight years ago, I didn’t know much about the Stephen Ministry. I never considered confiding in a Stephen Minister, much less ever becoming one myself, especially when I heard it required 50 hours of training followed by ongoing bimonthly meetings. That didn’t sound like me.
But things changed. Events in my life didn’t go as smoothly as planned. My family was hit by tragedy and sudden loss of our older son who had been struggling emotionally for years. When a fellow parishioner suggested I meet with a Stephen Minister, I found myself readily willing.
From our very first weekly meeting, I experienced what a profound difference a Stephen Minister could make in helping me come to terms with things. Although there was no magical cure, my Stephen Minister’s empathic and caring presence alone brought great and immediate solace. He didn’t try to give me advice, paint a rosy picture, or fix the dark place I was in, nor did he put any expectations, judgments, or timetable on how I should grieve and carry on with my life. He simply listened, reflected, and cared. That was what I needed. We met weekly for almost a year until eventually, I felt strong enough to move forward.
I also felt strong enough to give back and begin the training process to become a Stephen Minister myself, hoping that if I could reflect even a fraction of the kindness my Stephen Minister showed me, I, too, could make a positive difference for someone else.
So the training fit in as an integral part of my life. I developed a ready sense of fellowship and shared mission with my fellow trainees, Stephen Leaders, and other Stephen Ministers. Further, I developed my skill in being present and caring for others to a level I never experienced before.
For the past six years, it has been a humble privilege to be there for others going through a tough time in their lives. While I’m glad to give back a part of what was given to me, I have continued to feel the gift of the Stephen Ministry by sharing the path with others.
I encourage others to give deep thought to becoming a Stephen Minister or to request one if going through a difficult time. I believe the Stephen Ministry is one of the most rewarding ministries at All Souls.
– David Wight
If you need someone to talk to because of challenges in your life, contact Nancy Austin or speak with a Stephen Leader. If you think you may have an interest in becoming part of this ministry, attend the upcoming information session or speak with a Stephen Leader. The information session will be held on Sunday, November 19, at All Souls (Rev. Liz Tichenor’s office), 10:20 a.m. Application forms will be available.
Or, please feel free to contact any of the Stephen Leaders:
Tom Reilly: (510) 528-7832 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Judith Lothrop: (925) 284-2354 or email@example.com
Nancy Austin: (510) 407-0037 or firstname.lastname@example.org
David Wight: (510) 525-4344 or email@example.com
For those interested in the Stephen Ministry training, classes will begin in late-February and run weekly (Thursday evenings) through mid-June 2018, with a couple of Saturday retreats. After training, the time commitment is one hour/week meeting with a care receiver, plus supervision group meetings of two evenings/month.
Being the Body of Christ
A little over a week ago, a ten year old girl named Rosamaria Hernandez was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Texas and placed into a detention facility for children. Rosamaria has cerebral palsy. Last Tuesday night, her ambulance was stopped at an immigration checkpoint while en route to a hospital to receive life-saving emergency surgery. Five officials followed her to the hospital and waited outside her room until her surgery ended, and then immediately took her in to custody. ICE gave her parents, both undocumented, the option of voluntarily releasing Rosamaria to a Mexican hospital. They have refused because the cost of this kind of medical care in Mexico is out of reach for their family. Deporting a child with disabilities from a poor family amounts to a death sentence. This was why her parents brought Rosamaria to the United States in the first place. Out of options in Mexico, and in the face of immigration laws that prioritize the needs of people who are already well-off, they crossed the border in search of life-saving medical treatment for their three month old baby.
Rosamaria is now waiting in a detention center 150 miles away from her parents. It is unclear if and when she will be released. What we do know is that she is in prison while recovering from major surgery and that she is alone.
Reading about Rosamaria in the newspaper this past week, a tiny detail caught my eye.
When Rosamaria’s ambulance was stopped at a checkpoint, she was on her way to the city of Corpus Christi. As soon as her surgery was finished, before her recovery, before being allowed to see her parents, she was expelled from the city named for the Body of Christ.
This detail haunts me.
Rosamaria is not the only person who has been expelled—there are thousands of other detainees, equally frightened, equally alone, in detention centers all across the country—but her story is a stark reminder of how race, disability, and poverty can intersect to tragic effect in an unjust immigration system.
I don’t know about you, my friends, but I do not accept a world where it is always the most vulnerable among us who are expelled from the Body of Christ. The reason I come to church every Sunday with you is to make our shared understanding of the Body of Christ into a real, expansive, living principle in the world. A principle so expansive it stretches across miles to gather those who have been expelled into its embrace so that they too feel Christ’s love, so that they feel seen and heard, so that they know they are not alone.
On Saturday, November 4th, from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, All Soul’s will be making Christ’s love present with a noise-making liturgy at the West County Detention Center. ICE subcontracts out a portion of the detention center to hold undocumented immigrants for lengthy periods of time. In partnership with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, members of different Bay Area faith traditions gather on the first Saturday of every month in a vigil to let detainees and their families know that they are not forgotten. This month it is our turn to host. One of the distinctive features of this vigil is that it isn’t silent—the point is to sing and clap and bang noise-makers together loudly enough so that those inside can hear us. We hope that you will join us (and bring your friends!) to help us show those inside that they are loved.
Details: Saturday, November 4th, at the West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway Richmond, from 11:00 am until noon. If you would like a ride, we will be arranging car pools and will meet in the parking lot of All Souls at 10:15, with a departure no later than 10:30. To sign up please e-mail Margaret Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at (510)524-6106. If you are able provide rides, please also give Margaret a call. Detailed driving directions are available here.
– Sarah Bakker Kellogg
From the Senior Warden
All Souls’ October’s meeting started promptly at 7:30 pm with a welcome, an agenda review, and a reminder to sign up for the Stewardship dinner. I also offered a word of gratitude to the vestry for acting quickly (voting between meetings) to approve an urgent request from the Justice and Peace Committee a few days before. The Committee had asked the vestry to vote to approve that All Souls join other local faith communities in signing an open letter to Phil Tagami, the developer of the new commodities export terminal at the former Oakland Army Base. The letter requested that Mr. Tagami dismiss his lawsuit against the City of Oakland regarding the City’s denial of his proposal to include coal export at the commodities terminal. In consideration of All Souls’ active participation in the No Coal Campaign over the past two years, and of the vestry’s decision that climate action and racial justice be two priority areas for the Parish, the vestry handily approved the request. For more background on this initiative, please refer to Lewis Maldonado’s May 12, 2016, Pathfinder article here.
Co-chaplain Katherine Lisa then led the group in a spiritual reflection and discussion on Matthew 22:15-22 and Thomas Merton’s prayer for peace. She asked the question: “What do we give back and what are we responsible for in the light of suffering?”
After the consent agenda was approved, Father Phil gave the Rector’s report, which provided an update on parish business. Topics included the search for a new parish administrator and the stewardship campaign. He also presented three possible content areas of focus for the 2018 vestry retreat, which will take place at St. Dorothy’s Rest in early February. The vestry discussed the options and voted overwhelmingly to do a deep(er) dive into the Appreciative Inquiry work that has been conducted over the past year. The vestry acknowledged the hard work that has gone into collecting this rich data, and expressed strongly that the content deserved to be more fully explored and used effectively to support the upcoming budget process, ministry leadership, and other purposes that support parish growth.
Next, Associate for Music Jamie Apgar presented the state of the church organ, which is quite old and needs a new blower. (The blower is the electric motor that generates the air flow that eventually gets pushed through the pipes to actually produce sound; the organ would be completely unusable if it broke down.) After a discussion about costs and timing for various options, the vestry voted to approve the purchase of the new part, which will help ensure that the organ continues to produce beautiful music throughout the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons.
Kirk Miller of the Parish House Project Group was up next and gave a PowerPoint update on the design of the proposed new building on the corner of Oxford and Cedar. Kirk spoke about the importance that the building be “harmonious” with the church, community, and neighborhood, and expressed optimism about the most recent designs produced by HKIT, the firm hired by SAHA to build the affordable housing project. All Souls parishioners will have a chance to see the latest designs for the Parish House on Sunday, November 5th, following the 11:15 am service, while the greater neighborhood community will be invited to the next Open House on Tuesday evening, November 7th at 5:30 pm in the Parish Hall.
The next two agenda items were a discussion and vote on All Souls’ benefits for its employees, and a discussion of 2018 changes to the salaries of All Souls’ clergy and staff put forth by the Compensation Task Force, led by Mark Koops-Elson. I cannot provide any details about the latter discussion, but I will share this: the vestry clearly recognizes and values the exceptional and transformational work being done every day by Father Phil, Mother Liz, and our wonderful staff who keep All Souls thriving as our beloved spiritual home all year ‘round.
As always, the meeting ended with closing prayers of thanksgiving, guidance, and petition and a blessing from Father Phil.
– Tara McCulloch, Senior Warden of the Vestry
Parish House Project Update
Both updates will focus on the near-final design for a building that will contain 35 studio units of affordable housing for qualified seniors and offices, conference rooms and residential space for All Souls. The project is in partnership with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), a Berkeley-based non-profit affordable housing developer.
The first update, intended for the parish, will be this Sunday, November 5th, at 12:45 pm (following the 11:15 am service) in the Parish Hall. Parishioners are also welcome to attend the community open house, to which our neighbors are invited, on Tuesday, November 7th, from 5:30 – 7:00 pm in the Parish Hall.
– Nancy Pryer
Set your heart on fire
I’m excited to say that next Sunday, November 12, our Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir will sing at the 9am and 11:15 am services! We’re trying out a modified rehearsal schedule; if you are at all interested in joining us, please contact me at email@example.com, or just come to the church on Wednesday November 8 at 8pm for a brief rehearsal, where we’ll have a score and a smile ready to go for you! On the 12th we’ll rehearse at 8:15am. If you can’t come at this time but are interested in singing gospel music at All Souls in the future, please also email me.
– Jamie Apgar
REMEMBERING AND CELEBRATING
All Saints’ & All Souls’ Sunday: Continuing the Feast
This Sunday is our Feast of Title! Join us 10:10 – 11:00 am for a Continuing the Feast brunch! Bring something to share and enjoy fun and fellowship in the Parish Hall. The services will all be extra wonderful as we celebrate this community and remember those who have gone before, and also look to those who lead us forward with baptisms at the 11:15 am service.
Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
We will remember loved ones in prayer at the services this Sunday, November 5th, All Saints’ and All Souls’ Sunday. All are also invited to bring a photo or memento of a loved one to add to the Tree of Life in the back of the church. There will be incense at the 11:15 am service only.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
THIS Sunday, November 5th is Daylight Saving Time. Enjoy the hour of rest!
Even at the Grave: Songs of Death and Dying
All Soulsians Adam Wood and Tripp Hudgins, along with cellist Hallie Parkins, are offering a concert of secular and sacred songs that explore death, dying, and our relationship to the dead, right here at All Souls. Come listen, laugh, sing along, and ponder your mortality.