FROM THE RECTOR
Steps Toward Each Other
This has been quite a month of October for Pope Francis. At the beginning of the month, in an ongoing effort to heal the thousand year old rift between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, he visited Orthodox churches in the Republic of Georgia.
And, just this past week he finished the month in a most extraordinary and auspicious visit to Lutheran churches in Sweden on the Eve of All Saints Day, the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther’s beginning of the Reformation.
In addition to his presence and active work towards the unity of Christians, some of his words have also been note-worthy. Among them was an acknowledgement that, “The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing,” and that, “We realize that much more unites us than separates us.” That’s right, the Pope praised Martin Luther’s faith and stated that those two churches have more in common than in difference.
For some commentators these statements were unremarkable, but considering the brutal and bloody histories that ravaged the European continent for centuries during and after the Protestant Reformation, I find them to be astounding. Clearly, as his comments to a Swedish journalist about the possibility of women priests in the Roman Catholic church show, significant and real divides between the Roman Catholic and other churches remain. But since his time as pope, Francis has been consistent and persistent in working from his belief that the divisions among Christians are a sin, a collective missing of the mark.
One of Francis’ primary titles is the Bishop of Rome. The New Testament scholar Bill Countryman reminds us that each order of ministry is an icon into an aspect of the Christian life that all the baptized are to live out. Deacons are to be icons of service, priests are to be icons of blessing, and bishop are to be icons of unity. In his words, Pope Francis is engaging in the work of unity in order to, “mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”
I hold Pope Francis up at this time in part because of the troubling currents I feel coursing around us. In a country as polarized as we are (and perhaps as much as has been in the past 150 years), I am searching for faithful witnesses, people in our world who are intentionally engaged in the work of reconciliation. In this time of division and strife I am actively seeking out those are orienting their lives towards communion, for my sense is that where this kind of effort is being made, the Spirit abides.
This past Sunday you may have heard me preach that I am not as concerned about the days ahead of us in this election as I am about the months and years that will follow it. It’s not because big issues aren’t at stake. It’s precisely because there are big issues at stake. But I do not see a viable future with a zero-sum approach to the real differences and divisions that exist in this nation.
To be clear, papering over discord actually makes the situation worse. This is as true with our physical bodies as it is with our corporate bodies. What I am praying for and working towards is the real, sustained work of communion by all Americans, leaders and everyday folk. In short, the hard, demanding and Gospel work of reconciliation, whether the break in the relationship took place last week, last decade, 500 or 1,000 years ago. For I truly believe that our lives, body and soul, depend on it.
From the Outreach Committee
Standing with Standing Rock
“Indigenous communities should be our principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space…” Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On the Care of Our Common Home
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe — also known as the Lakota and Dakota peoples — inhabits a reservation that straddles the border between North and South Dakota. The Missouri River, one of the major waterways of the Western United States, runs along the eastern and northern borders of the reservation. All Souls has a relationship with Standing Rock that goes back many decades. The Rev. Bill Fay and his wife Margie lived for more than fifteen years in Standing Rock — in the 1950’s and 1960’s – in active ministry with Dakota Episcopalians. In more recent times, Fr. Phil and All Souls youth groups have visited Standing Rock on several occasions to spend time in fellowship and service with tribal members, especially Standing Rock youth.
Over the last several months the Standing Rock people have drawn the attention of the nation and the world. A company known as Dakota Access LLC is constructing an 1170 mile-long oil pipeline that would transport oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to southern Illinois, where it is then rerouted to different points and ports around the country. The oil is produced through hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) in the North Dakota region. Although Native Americans have been opposing the pipeline for several years, the opposition reached new intensity last summer when the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River at a place called Lake Oahe, which is just about half a mile North of the reservation. The Standing Rock tribe is protesting because their water comes from the Missouri River and any oil spill from the pipeline would put their drinking water at risk. Moreover, the construction is digging in areas that are sacred burial sites. The Standing Rock Sioux also maintain that the Army Corps did not properly consult with them when they were investigating the route of the pipeline – another instance in the long history of disregard for Native American interests.
The Federal Government has issued a temporary stay on the construction at the Lake Oahe crossing of the Missouri River to perform a further review of the issues raised. Litigation in Federal Court is also still pending. Thousands of Native Americans and supporters have traveled to Standing Rock from far and wide to show support for the tribe and to maintain pressure on the Federal authorities. This week Bishop Marc and several deacons – including the Rev. Ken Powell, who was raised up at All Souls – have traveled to Standing Rock, joining with Episcopal clergy and laity from around the country to demonstrate the Episcopal Church’s support. All Souls is also sending a letter of support (signed by Fr. Phil) with a financial contribution to the Episcopal churches on Standing Rock.
Why is this an issue that we as Christians and members of All Souls should care about? Our Baptismal Covenant requires us “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” While the construction of the pipeline is an environmental and climate concern, it is also at its heart an issue of racial justice, indigenous rights, and respect for human dignity. Pope Francis’ encyclical rightly emphasizes the connection between racial justice and environmental degradation. Moreover, we have seen these issues intertwine in various contexts in recent years – from the Flint water crisis to the uranium contamination of Navajo lands to the brutal murder of activist Berta Cáceres in Honduras to our own No Coal in Oakland campaign.
The successful effort earlier this year by African Americans, environmentalists, labor representatives, and people of faith to ban coal export from Oakland is an example of what can be accomplished when people of good will come together in pursuit of justice. After the Oakland Army Base closed, plans for the redevelopment and future use of the property were proposed. One of the major proposed uses was to serve as an export facility for various commodities. The land is not part of the Port of Oakland but is adjacent to it. In 2015 the developer added coal export to the planned uses, although that had not been part of the original proposal. Coal would be shipped by rail through West Oakland – hundreds of railcars each day — and loaded onto ships for export abroad. Large coal interests in Utah negotiated a partnership with the Oakland developer for this use and, of course, promised money and jobs.
The coal export project was strongly opposed by a wide array of East Bay community, environmental and faith organizations, including many African American clergy and churches in Oakland. The shipment of coal by rail through Oakland would have increased health risks to low income and largely African American neighborhoods that are already impacted by pollution. Moreover, coal is the dirtiest form of carbon-based energy that directly contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
The faith community played a leading role in this opposition. In fact, it is fair to say that the most effective leader of the opposition to coal export was the Rev. Ken Chambers, the pastor of Westside Missionary Baptist Church, whose congregation and community in West Oakland were most directly affected by potential coal export. All Souls developed great respect for and a good working relationship with Rev. Chambers and many of us attended rallies and vigils to support the work. Through the assistance of parishioner Nancy Snow, we were also able to have State Sen. Loni Hancock speak at one West Oakland rally.
The opposition to coal export culminated in a wild, emotionally intense five-hour meeting at Oakland City Hall on June 28, 2016, that a number of us from All Souls attended. City Hall was packed to the rafters and many people addressed the Council, both for and against the proposal. Some of the most effective speakers were clergy and lay representatives from diverse faith communities in Oakland – including Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists, as well as many Christian denominations. At about 10:30 that night the Council voted unanimously to ban coal export from Oakland, notwithstanding threats of litigation from the developer, whose lawyer spoke at the meeting.
I found the No Coal campaign to be an inspiring and even transformative experience. The courage that was shown, the goodwill that was expressed, and the interfaith connections that were built (including the amazing formation of the new Interfaith Council of Alameda County) have given me great hope at a time when our national mood is often clouded by fear and despair. I carry this hope with me as All Souls seeks to find ways to support the Standing Rock community in its opposition to the oil pipeline. If you would like to learn more or join the discussion, you may want to speak with Janet Chisholm or Mark Anderson, parishioners who have been looking at ways to engage further with Standing Rock.
As winter is approaching the northern high plains and the portion of the pipeline not subject to the stay is drawing closer to the Missouri River, tensions have risen. Standing Rock tribal chairman David Archambault II has asked that those assembled “remain in peace and prayer.” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a statement in support of the tribe, calling the opposition to the pipeline “the new Selma.” Episcopalians from around the country gathered at Standing Rock in solidarity with the tribe this week. Our Book of Common Prayer instructs us that “the Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace and love.” BCP, p. 855. Whether we are in Berkeley, Oakland, or present at Standing Rock, let us provide whatever support we can to Standing Rock, in courage, faith and prayer.
– Lewis Maldonado
Chair, Outreach Committee
Caught on the Edge of a Threshold
Every morning now that the skies are darker, my cat (who normally adores the outside) hesitates to go out. He sniffs the air and decides he is better off staying inside. We don’t know the details, but clearly Waldo thinks something dangerous is out there. Yet he’s not happy with his decision to stay inside; he runs to the living room and howls.
I think I am a bit like him—too often. If something bothers me, I tend not to tackle it directly. I would rather stay inside, maybe howl, maybe hide under the couch with him.
Of course I don’t literally squeeze under the couch; I won’t fit. But I’m not too old to try hiding in less obvious ways. Somehow clinging to an issue—held at arm’s length—seems a lot safer than tackling it head on. But alas, it resolves nothing. I don’t seem to move forward with it. Are you the same? I wonder why we allow ourselves to get stuck?
Have you wanted to reach out and find a sympathetic listener? Stephen Ministers are exactly that. We know thorny problems have developed over time and often involve several people. You may be a primary player (enduring a difficult boss or grieving a loss). Or you may be stuck (wondering why you have no tolerance for a particular family member, for example). Regardless of your role, it could be that you are having trouble discerning how much you—as one person—can do in a difficult situation in your life. But if a good listener can help us discern better what actions might be best, or accept difficult feelings about ourselves and others, then we can approach the problem with a better perspective, more energy, and (most important) more love—for everyone involved.
Stephen Ministers can help you find that perspective. We can’t “fix” your problem. We don’t have crystal balls, but we can ask you questions that might help you see better where your blinders might be, where others may be coming from, and what solutions are truly possible.
Stephen Ministers are carefully selected and trained—with over 50 hours of supervised instruction—in how best to listen and to make a path for God to enter and set things aright. And we can do it on your terms. You like prayer? We can pray. You don’t like prayer? We won’t. We take as long as you need—visiting together for about an hour each week–until you feel you are strong enough on your own, whether that takes a couple months or a couple years. What do we ask of you? Only to show up at the time you and your minister have arranged and to participate in the conversation.
What about becoming a Stephen Minister? Can you be compassionate, faithful, and reliable? Are you good at communicating encouragement through conversation and writing? Now is the time to give this important ministry some serious consideration. Throughout November we will be available to further explain the program and answer your questions. If you’d like to join us, we will have two information sessions on November 13 (10:30 and 12:30), and application forms will be available. Training is weekly—Thursday evenings beginning late February through mid-June 2017, with a couple of Saturday daytime retreats. After training, the time commitment is one hour/week–meeting with a care receiver– plus supervision group meetings of two evenings/month (Thursdays). If you are like most people, you will be glad you completed the program and you will enjoy putting that training to work.
More questions? We’d love to hear from you! Please see any of the Stephen Leaders:
Nancy Austin: 510-407-0037 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Judith Lothrop: 925-284-2354 or email@example.com
Tom Reilly: 510-528-7832 or firstname.lastname@example.org
David Wight: 510-525-4344 or email@example.com
COMMITTEE IN SEARCH OF MUSIC ASSOCIATE
Since being asked to serve on the committee searching for a new Associate for Music, I have reviewed my experience and observations as a choir member, with the following result: Originally, and for many years, the choir loft was to the right of the sanctuary, now the chapel. It is under a large concrete beam, an unusual architectural treatment for a music area. I have forgotten which innovator moved us out into the sanctuary.
All Souls has been fortunate in having gifted organist/music directors over the years. When I started in the choir (1964) the director was Art Laurence. There have been at least seven others since, some for more than one time. Two of them, Norm Mealy and Don Aird, were known and respected throughout the Bay Area and wider music community.
Aird and Ted Flath, in particular, were mad musical geniuses. They were occasionally brusque, but under them the All Souls Choir performed glorious music. Flath directed our singing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the Berkeley Promenade Orchestra, from memory, the pinnacle of my musical experience and one of the highlights of my life.
From time to time, we have been blessed with excellent instrumentalists, James Tinsley (trumpet) being the most outstanding one who comes to mind. At one time, we had a small parish group: tuba, trombone, trumpet, and whoever else came. As I hope you have noticed, presently we benefit from the abilities of several members of the parish who play guitar, violin, and mandolin, for example. If you yourself can play an instrument (or sing) you are urged to complete the All Souls Music Department Survey so that the incoming Associate for Music may know what skills we offer.
The choir library contains many excellent pieces, most of which we have performed. They cover a wide range including, for example, Bach, Poulenc, and American traditional. They add a depth and beauty to our services and they often develop Biblical passages such as Paul’s magnificent outburst in Romans 8:38 (“for I am assured that nothing can e’er separate us…”). I hope that our coming Associate will find things there for us to sing – and build a choir which can sing them.
The Hymn Book 1982 (“the new hymnal”), as I hope readers know, contains service music (which we called canticles), in addition to hymns. They have useful and pleasing texts set to some delightful music. In the past, the congregation has been familiar with them and sang them regularly. Perhaps we can all learn and use them again. Our new Associate will find a substantial music program in place, primarily the Angel Band and the Hearts On Fire Gospel Choir. I hope that in addition to those ways of making music, she/he will appreciate and incorporate also some of the music we have used in the past, now fallen into disuse.
All Saints Sunday, November 6th: Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
We will remember loved ones in prayer at the services on November 6th, All Saints Sunday. And once again, we will be building a Celtic Tree of Life, this time at the back of the Nave. Please bring photos and other mementos of those whom we love but see no longer. The Tree will be in place for several weeks until the first Sunday in Advent. Please note there will be incense at the 11:15 am service only.
This Sunday, November 6th is Daylight Saving Time. Thanks be to God, we will be falling back an hour. Enjoy the hour of rest.
Sunday, November 13th, 2016, 1p-3p. Look forward to sharing good food, connecting with other newcomers, long-time members, All Souls Staff, and the chance to ask Phil and Liz your most puzzling questions about the church! Please RSVP to Emily Hansen Curran: firstname.lastname@example.org