From the Rector
Watch the Patterns
For the past four years I’ve participated in the St. Francis Pilgrimage, a multi-day backpacking trip with other priests and occasionally a bishop around the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Each year we read a book in preparation for the trip, say daily prayer together, talk about our work as priests, and immerse ourselves in Creation.
This year as I was preparing to head up to the Steens Mountain Wilderness in southeastern Oregon, I was asked a deliciously incisive question about the trip, “what is it that you are looking for out there?”
Right. Why take the time, trouble and expense to head out in the wilderness, punishing your body with endless ascents and steep descents, freezing temperatures at night and blazing sun during the day? What are we looking for out there that we can’t find right here?
One way that this question was answered by John Muir is that, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” For me the answer is that when I am in Creation, or to use Augustine’s description from our Parish Retreat a few weeks ago, the Big Book of Scripture, it is far easier for me to come to a different quality of attention. And this is something that I deeply need.
If Simone Weil is right, and I believe that she is, that “absolute, unmixed attention is prayer,” then I have found that being immersed in a cold, clear river or a glen of aspen or an ever-stretching desert is one of the ways that I can come to a deep place of prayer. It’s not that I can’t come to that kind of stillness or silence right here, but that when I am out there in wilderness, I often find an inner awareness begin to grow. Or, as it is written in the book of Proverbs, “Watch the patterns of creation, and you will awaken to grace and tranquility.” (Prov. 3:21-22, trans. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature)
One of my favorite things to do when deep in the wilderness is to find a place to sit, sit and listen. With no other agenda than to notice the light, to feel the wind. To do my best to watch the patterns, because within them, when I am able to pay attention to them, grace and tranquility begin to emerge.
And these two qualities, grace and tranquility, it feels like they are in short supply at this moment in time. But in order to come close to them you don’t need to head to the mountains, or the desert, or deep into the forest. You just need to find a slice of Creation and give your attention to it.
Open yourself to one of the passages of the Big Book of Scripture––watch and listen. You just might be surprised what you find.
Project Sandwich: Following Up
As many of you know, our well loved Project Sandwich is (mostly) over. We’re still delivering sandwiches, with St. Alban’s, on Fridays. Our commitment to our neighbors living in camps, however, is definitely NOT over.
Folks who had been coordinating Project Sandwich and our other work with the camps met last week, along with one of our friends from the camps. They decided to pursue both advocacy for our homeless neighbors and an Advent in gathering for supplies for the camps along with our Justice and Peace Committee. We are currently working on lists of supplies that are needed and advocacy ideas.
Some of the many suggested ways we may choose to support the camps:
Dry goods delivery
Other community supplies: tables chairs
Symposium on homeless issues
Join us on Election Day, November 3rd, at 4pm for some hopeful discussion of these and other possibilities in the months ahead. Contact me at email@example.com for details.
And please pray with me, again, this prayer from my last sermon:
watch over our siblings on the streets of Berkeley
the ones living in tents
and RVs and cars
bring them peace this morning
as they rise with no showers
or hot coffee
But a little sunshine
peeking out from the smoke
and the clouds.
Lord God watch over
People struggling with addiction
People struggling with defeat
People struggling with illness
all without adequate shelter.
Lord remind us
that every gift we offer
has an impact,
and every person who receives
also has their own gift to give.
Lord remind us
that we do not have the right
to run the vineyard,
and inspire us to share
our harvest and our power.
Thank you for all your blessings
and your goodness,
thank you for the opportunity
to get to know our neighbors
in ways we didn’t before,
to learn of their struggles
and to learn new ways of working together.
Your steadfast love endures forever.
From the Stewardship Committee
I attended my first Stewardship Campaign kickoff brunch in 2015. I had been coming to All Souls just a few months, was preparing to become a member, and was contemplating my first pledge. At that brunch, Caroline McCall, the chair of the Stewardship Committee at the time, formally introduced to All Souls the idea of proportional giving: pledging a percentage of your income rather than a fixed amount. The idea intrigued me, but I wasn’t ready to consider doing it myself. I had been unchurched for 20 years prior to that point, and the prospect of regular financial gifts to a church, especially for me as a gay man, was slightly unsettling. A proportional pledge felt like a step too far. “To practice proportional giving, you have to be hardcore,” I rationalized. “And they’d probably expect a traditional biblical tithe. Who can survive in the Bay Area giving away 10 percent of their income?”
I didn’t make a proportional pledge that year, but the idea stuck with me. Over time, I came to understand that All Souls didn’t expect a 10 percent pledge, or any particular percentage at all. They only cared that I chose a percentage thoughtfully and prayerfully. I also heard a number of individual parishioners share their own positive experiences with proportional giving; invariably, these were people I admired and respected a great deal. So in the fall of 2017, I spent several weeks carefully contemplating the percentage of my income that I felt called to give, and I made my first proportional pledge to All Souls.
To me, the beauty of proportional giving is that it de-centers money and re-centers the cultivation of gratitude and generosity in myself. My pledge feels less transactional—less like another bill I have to pay each month. The actual dollar amount I give during the year is more fluid, changing as my circumstances change. When I get a raise, I immediately adjust my giving upward in line with my chosen percentage. If I were to go through hard times financially, my use of a percentage could allow me to give a smaller total amount while remaining spiritually centered in my practice of giving. (This point may be especially salient in 2020, as many of us are experiencing dramatic changes in our income or our ability to give.) What remains constant for me throughout is my personal act of giving as praxis, as both a reflection of and a deepening of my faith.
What is the best percentage to choose? The answer to that question is truly up to you. For me, the right percentage has been one that makes me feel a pinch in my budget, that encourages me to be more mindful about all my spending, without creating a true hardship. The end result is that I give more generously than I would otherwise and feel at true peace with my gift. Some All Soulsians choose one percentage to give to the church and another percentage for other charitable organizations they care about. If you feel uncertain about proportional giving, you could start with a relatively conservative percentage and bump it up 1 percent each year until you reach a target percentage you would like to be at. For any of you considering a tithe, I will note that I have heard perhaps a half-dozen All Soulsians talk about their tithing practices over the years, and all of them have described it as a transformative, life-changing experience.
If you haven’t adopted a practice of proportional giving for yourself, I highly encourage you to consider doing so for the first time this year. It has the potential to change your relationship to your pledge, your church, and your faith in the best possible way. You don’t even have to be hardcore.
From Children’s Ministry
The first time I ever witnessed a Godly play class in action, I was so taken with the way that the children who were participating in the class stared at the candles with such wonder. I was new to children’s ministry at the time, and the idea of allowing children anywhere near lit candles nearly sent me into panic mode. I was a college student, and had just been hired as the Director of Christian Education at an Episcopal Church with a robust children’s program with lots of dedicated volunteers. I took my cue from the teachers, who were all trained in Godly Play, and most of whom were parents of the young children in the class. I thought, if they’re fine with this, then it must be safe, right? I’ll never forget that day, and the way that the leaders of the class treated the children, all of whom were between the ages of 4-8, with deep respect.
If you’re not familiar with Godly Play, it is a tool for children’s Christian formation that is “based upon the recognition that children have an innate sense of the presence of God. All they lack is the appropriate language to help them identify and express it so it can be explored and strengthened.” (godlyplayfoundation.org) I have found this to be true in all of my experience with children, from Godly Play, to summer camp, to Children’s Chapel, to Sunday morning worship. Children have the capacity for a deep interior life that truly thrives when it is nurtured by their families and their communities of faith.
When we begin to regather for our outdoor contemplative worship on October 25th, we will once again have the opportunity to create an environment in which we foster the spiritual longings of the children of our church family. When we invite children into the mystery of faith, and the deep well of our tradition, we teach them the language to articulate the innate presence of God of which they are already aware. This, of course, requires patience, intentionality, and humor; all of which I have found to be abundant in my time so far at All Souls.
When we regather, you may notice that we take extra time to prepare for contemplation, or to explain something that we’re doing. These are small ways that we can demonstrate to our children that they are a part of what is happening at church. After all, renowned professor of liturgics, Louis Weil, tells us that “the celebration of liturgy is the shared activity of all the assembled people.” Are not children part of the assembled Body of Christ? Is not their spiritual wonder a cause for joy and celebration?
Sunday Livestreaming News
The livestream of Sunday services can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning.
Adult Formation Class this Sunday
We have three class offerings this Sunday:
- Reading Between the Lines Bible Study. Contact Daniel Prechtel, firstname.lastname@example.org, to join that Zoom call at 9:15 am!
- Imaginal Meditation: Why and How taught by the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel on October 4, 11, 18 at 9:15 am.
There are a wide range of prayer practices that are part of our Christian spiritual tradition. Some are reflected in public liturgical prayer; others are expressed in personal ways of praying and meditating. In this course we will be looking at, and practicing, a form of prayer and meditation that is deeply personal, inter-relational, and uses our creative imaging capability.
Zoom link for Daniel’s class: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81964989924
- Gender, God, and the Church Today taught by the Rev. Dr. Paula Nesbitt on October 4, 11, 18 at 9:15.
God has been described extensively throughout the Bible and in Christian worship as Lord and Father. But how might other gendered and gender-neutral understandings deepen our knowledge of God and our faith, and help us to live affirmatively in a changing world? This 3-week series will explore feminine and other biblical images of the Divine, gender inclusive leadership and worship, and how feminist and similar forms of ethics can be used for social and spiritual justice.
Zoom link for Paula’s class: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86982368811
Missed the previous week’s class?? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be recording all of the Adult Formation offerings and loading them to the Adult Formation page of our website. Click here to get there and access the class recordings.
Children & Family News
There will be no Children’s Chapel this Sunday, October 18th, as we prepare for our in person Christian Formation options beginning on October 25th. There will also be a virtual option for families who are unable to attend in person. Children and their families can meet in the courtyard at 10:10am on the 25th and the following Sundays for our new in-person Children’s Formation hour. Please be prepared to stay with your children and to keep your children in their own family pod, and also, to be wearing masks. Stay tuned to the Family Bulletin for more information about this, or if you have any questions, please email Maggie at email@example.com.
If you are looking for some current information regarding Children’s Chapel or the upcoming Kids Book Club – check out the new additions to the All Souls website, which has been updated to include some new information and resources (including the links for all the storybook videos) for families.
All Souls After Hours
This Sunday will be our final (for now) Jukebox! If you’d like to submit a song to be considered for the Jukebox, please email Jamie at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday at 2:00pm.
Stephen Ministry: We’re here for you!
2020 has been a challenging year, right?! Most of us have been struggling and overwhelmed. You are not alone. Stephen Ministers understand and are available to listen, support and pray for you. We can offer you a confidential caring relationship or an occasional phone call to help you through these ever-changing times. Contact Maggie Foote at (513) 309-1079 or Madeline Feeley at (510) 495-4512 so we can be there for you.
Thursday Compline via Zoom
Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline, which starts at 8:30 PDT:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 786 3029 4068
All Souls Geek Squad
If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! On the homepage of our website is a box with the words “Support Desk.” Click on that box and you will be taken to a form that you can fill out. Once you fill that out, we’ll have someone get in touch with you to help with your tech problems. You can also click here to access the form directly.
Check out Season 2, Episode 6 of the Soulcast!
Ongoing Canned Food Drive
The ASP Food Drive continues to pick up and deliver food for the Berkeley Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Food contributors and drivers participate every other week. Please email Cathy: email@example.com for more information.
Wednesday 9:00am Service
Join the Zoom call here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86087951049?pwd=THNxbjlqMm5zdjc5RGNLWkFrZk16QT09
Meeting ID: 860 8795 1049 Password: 520218
If you are able to help provide some meals for parishioners in need, please contact Cathy Goshorn to help out! We are in great need at this time to help care for each other – please consider helping other All Soulsians in need by providing meals or gift cards for meals. You can reach Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tiny Home Project
Hi there! We are Youth Spirit Artworks, a local nonprofit based in South Berkeley that offers homeless and low-income youth job training and empowerment programs through art. We are currently in the process of building the first Tiny House Village for homeless youth in the U.S.! Right now, we are in the final stretch of getting the Village finished – but, we need your help to get there! We have volunteer builds happening every Saturday at our Village site at 633 Hegenberger Road in Oakland. Builds start at 9:30 am and end at 4:00 pm. We ask that volunteers come wearing masks and ready to socially distance – there’s lots of space at the site! Builds can involve a variety of projects for those with and without construction experience, including building yurt floors, erecting yurts, painting planters and fence planks, completing Tiny House construction (ie., caulking, trimming, etc.), cleaning the site, and so forth.
Regathering on October 25th
In case you missed it we are planning to regather for worship in the courtyard on October 25th. You will need to register in order to attend as capacity will be limited to 50 people. Watch for next week’s Pathfinder for instructions on how to register.