From the Associate Rector
What would you ask?
The longer I’m rooted in the Episcopal Church, the more I’ve come to see what I think is a quiet phobia of ours: anything having to do with marriage, save the actual wedding and its preparations. It’s commonplace to find marriage enrichment groups, retreats, and resources in other denominations, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church and in more evangelical churches. As yet, I have never come across such a program or ministry in an Episcopal Church.
I suspect that there is great intention at the root of this quiet absence. Our church has, in large part, sought to be a place of sanctuary for people who have found judgment in other places, whether that be pressure to marry, condemnation for living together or having sex outside of marriage, shaming for divorcing, or persecution for marrying someone of the same sex. We really, really don’t want to accidentally add to any of that hurt. But as a result, I think we just don’t talk about marriage.
This strikes me as problematic. We talk about how to die with dignity, how to parent well, how to practice working for justice in our community. We discuss, with some trepidation and vulnerability, how we endeavor to use money faithfully. We tackle guns and war and climate change and the housing crisis. But marriage? Generally speaking, as a community, we stay pretty quiet.
As I puzzled on this, I hoped the wider Episcopal Church might surprise me, and prove this theory wrong. But various internet searches around the theme of marriage + episcopal produced almost exclusively information on how to have an Episcopal wedding ceremony. There was one website for an Episcopal marriage encounter program, which was, comically, no longer operating. There’s not a lot out there that weaves together our progressive theology, our ancient practice of faith, and the daunting hope of living out a marriage in the 21st century.
Which is why I want to call for a shift in tides. Healthy relationships, including marriage, matter tremendously. I propose that we actually talk about how challenging it is to live out these relationships well. Where it gets hard, and what actually helps us through. What if we agreed, collectively, that this wouldn’t be a taboo subject? What then would you ask? One of the wonderful things about being part of this intergenerational community is that there are almost always folks who have walked further down the road than you have. Who might you turn to here for some hard-earned wisdom in making a relationship really thrive? If a younger couple asked you, what would you offer?
As we head towards what is perhaps the most stressful season for relationships, (Find all the perfect gifts! Travel while exhausted, and bicker! Spend lots of time in complicated family systems! But slow down, and be peaceful and thankful through it all!) I suspect we could all use some more tools and healthy practices. I’m no expert, but am grateful for what I’ve learned in working with couples as they prepare to be married. There is one exercise that I’ve witnessed create room for significant positive change, and it comes to mind as something that might be a helpful foundation before entering into the holidays again. It is almost laughably simple. Each person takes time to think of three requests they would like to make of their partner. Things you would like more of, less of, or to be different in some way in your relationship. Write them down. Take turns sharing them, and talk about them. It’s that simple… but not necessarily that easy.
The exercise reminds me of a part-time job I had in college in a metalworking studio. One of my responsibilities was to teach students how to cast things. They would carefully carve a piece out of wax – a ring, or some tiny tchotchke, then create a plaster mold, burning away the wax, and then finally pour molten metal into the plaster. It was an exercise in thinking carefully about negative space, what should be missing, what was needed. If the student did not carefully tend to the work of imagining what could come to be, by way of carving the wax, the end product would never satisfy them.
So it is with this simple practice of making clear requests of those we love, and listening openly to what they yearn for in relationship with us. It’s challenging work to craft a solid request. What do we need? How can we ask for it? And, of course, it’s also vulnerable to utter these requests, and to receive them. And I think it’s worth it.
There are many ways that we come together as family at All Souls – chosen, created, intertwined. There are many good ways to look for support, and to offer it, with marriage being only one. My hope though, is that we can learn from one another as we walk these paths, whatever the blessings and challenges we encounter along the way.
From the Stewardship Team
October 29th was Celebration Sunday at All Souls. At all three services, the Rev. Christopher Craun preached about love – the love that Jesus commands and the love which is present here at All Souls in Berkeley. Chris reminded us that our love for one another and those around us, like our love of God, is not meant to be contained or controlled. She challenged us to stretch beyond what is comfortable, to take risks by loving fully and giving generously. It is in doing so that we recognize our reliance on one another and are able to offer “tangible evidence of peace, light, joy, and hope” to a divided world. And the All Soulsians who were present that day did stretch. We prayed, we filled out our pledge cards, and we celebrated the love we have in abundance – love for God, for one another, and for those who are seeking light and hope.
This is what our annual pledge campaign has been about – building up in love and generosity. On October 29th and in the days since 142 individuals or households have made a financial commitment to the continued vitality of All Soul’s mission and ministry in 2018. Of that 142, 44% of them made these commitments as intentional proportional pledges. The total financial commitment thus far is over $482,000. In addition to those who have made financial commitments, and sometimes in addition to a financial commitment, 8 kids pledged their time to specific All Souls ministries. All of this is evidence of our willingness to generously “stand in a divided world and be love.”
There are over 100 individuals or households who have yet to make a financial commitment for 2018. If you are one of these, I invite you to consider what proportion of your income you are ready to commit to this community and our work both on the corner of Cedar and Spruce and out in the world. Complete and submit a pledge card to let us know. We are at our best when all of us take part in building up this community of love, faith and witness.
– Caroline McCall
From the Associate for Youth Ministries
As some of you may know, I am working on a Certificate in Youth Ministry through Forma, a network for Christian formation. I spent the first week of October at an educational intensive in Adamstown, Maryland for that program. Thanks to Maggie and David Cooke for letting me use their frequent flyer miles to get there!
Our days mostly consisted of meals, morning prayer, lectures, noonday prayer, more lectures, discussion time with our cohorts, free time, evening prayer, and discussion time with the faculty. It was a lot of information, and all of it was good. I was a Religious Studies major in college and studied the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament for that degree. I was expecting significant parts of what we learned at the intensive to be review. While some of it was review, I also learned how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.
We learned about volunteer coordination, young people in the church, event planning, stages of faith, and more. All Souls already lives into pieces of what I learned, especially concerning young people. Young people (everyone ages 15-29) value activism and aren’t interested in luke-warm Christianity. We want a warm community. Our churches need to feel like family. I remembered the crowd of All Soulsians and others who marched from our 11:15 am service through downtown Berkeley on August 27th to protest the rally. I thought of one of my first memories of All Souls: an Open Door Dinner guest walked into my interview, lit her lighter, and asked where the dinner was. I remembered the laughter I hear during church every Sunday. While no church is perfect, we are doing a lot of good.
Overall, the whole week felt like camp. I was surrounded by youth ministers and a handful of other Christian educators. I am blessed to see a handful of colleagues twice a month to plan immersion trips. That experience is very different from spending a week learning, laughing, eating, praying, and wondering together. I was with people who, like me, are fiercely passionate about youth ministry. They get it. Our work is hard, and it is more than worth it.
I left Maryland feeling incredibly grateful for and energized by my time there, the entire Forma Certificate program, and this amazing All Souls community. All Soulsians, thank you for being you. Thank you for making it possible for me to earn this Certificate.
The Episcopal Church at COP23
Earlier this week, Bishop Marc Andrus and ten others from around the Episcopal Church made their way to Bonn, Germany. Together, they form the delegation representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the whole Episcopal Church at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference, called COP23. There are a number of ways to follow along, learn with and from our delegation, and join them in action and prayer. Much of their work and reflections from across different platforms will be gathered at this storify cite, which also invites your input. You can also follow Bishop Marc on Facebook during the next two weeks as he posts periodic updates, photos and videos.
YOUTH GROUP DINNERS
Thanksgiving Day Service
All are invited to join for a simple Eucharist on Thanksgiving day at 10:00 am in the sanctuary.