From the Associate Rector
Seeking the Opposite of Dust-Shaking
I hate goodbyes.
I have said this sentence a good many times in my life, and I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. But as I get into the work of actually saying goodbye, I’m coming to think that perhaps I don’t loathe this process as much as I once thought.
In preparing to leave All Souls, as I head over the ridge to begin as the rector at Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill next month, the process of saying goodbye has already begun — with those who will be traveling when I actually finish, or who are just keen to get a jump on these conversations while there’s ample time, or with the groups that meet just monthly, for example. It’s a season of stepping back to look over what has been, what we have done together, taking stock.
As I’ve been steeping in this practice of active nostalgia, this morning a story from the synoptic gospels sprang to mind. Jesus has sent the disciples out in pairs, to share this good news, to preach and teach and heal. They are sent out with no possessions, instructed to eat what’s put before them, not bopping around looking for the next best thing. In Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts, Jesus also teaches them to offer their peace to the house. If the peace shared, wonderful, and if not, they are not to worry — their peace will return to them, and in response to the faulty hospitality, the disciples are to shake the dust from their feet and carry on. In essence, they will not lose anything by offering this peace and having it fall flat. And these stories stop right there.
But what did Jesus think about those times when a disciple showed up, bedraggled and empty handed, and found their peace not only received and shared, but multiplied? What if it spread and deepened and bore fruit, season after season? How then were the disciples to move on to their next assignment? I realized I was hoping to discover what the opposite of shaking the dust off one’s feet is, in the process of a most grateful leave-taking.
I don’t think I’ve found that one particular act yet. But I am coming to cherish this time of wending through the story of what has been with beloved souls, slowly beginning to untangle the weave that has held us together these years, and, for my part, seeing more and more clearly how much my strand has been blessed by calling this place home.
There have been times in my life where I have snuck out the back door — sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally. And, there have been times where I have felt a fierce temptation to pretend that something is not over, but somehow just tweaked, reoriented slightly, spread over a little more time or a little more distance. Rarely has this been born out in reality, instead the wishful, wistful thinking only served to make us do the work of leave-taking separated and late, the whole thing a little more muddled.
Perhaps precisely because I love this place and you people so dearly, I feel all the more compelled to engage my leave-taking head on. It can take a lot of forms, but some of where I’m trying to pay attention is resisting the urge to make promises I can’t keep, and refusing to pretend that the life we share now won’t change. Together with those commitments, I’ve been thinking about the counsel Phil and I often offer people preparing for a loved one’s death. While this is clearly not that, some of the things we do well to say remain the same. Things like thank you. And I’m sorry, and forgive me. And I forgive you. And I love you. And finally, actually, good-bye. In the few weeks I have left at All Souls, I hope to share these words with many of you, both to be real about what as been, and to be honest about what is coming.
Finally, a key part of this process seems to be the practice of staying all in till we’re out. Just as it can feel easier to pretend something isn’t over when it is, it can also be appealing to act like it’s finished when it’s not. And perhaps it does feel easier, but I think it just heaps on more loss. In this vein, I’ll leave you with a little-known image from the Parish House: the back stairs into our apartment. This past May, my kids and I and one of our friends painted them. Rainbow. With stripes. It seemed more than a little indulgent, taking all that time and not an insignificant amount of paint to spruce up something we knew would be torn down soon, maybe in less than a year.
And. Every time I dash up or down those stairs, I grin. Scaling them, gliding over the sweep of color, I have the visceral sense of being fully here, now. All in, for the time we have with this old building, even if what’s left is brief. Maybe this is the opposite of shaking the dust from our feet: relishing the peace that is here among us. This is my hope for the remaining time that I have with you here at All Souls: that it be colorful, and we all in and fully here, for the time we have, until we arrive at goodbye.
All Souls as Rural Wisconsin
The theme for stewardship this year is “Freed by love, Freed to give”. I think this means that because of God’s love and our love for each other we build safety and so we are freed to give.
When I moved to Wisconsin from Berkeley 30 years ago, I built this kind of safety. One day, a small tornado ripped through the area. The winds touched down at my farm and lifted up one of my greenhouses. It landed upside down on the one next to it, a complete ruin. I had just planted out the young tomatoes. The next day, 35 people showed up to take apart the broken greenhouse and salvage the tomatoes. I hadn’t asked anyone to come over. I hadn’t even told very many people about the destruction, but word had gone out.
Money is powerful, but really, it might be an illusion of safety. Most of the money that we see in our spread sheets and in our bank-balance is just a series of data lines in a computer somewhere far away. When we invest financially in All Souls, we can see what we have, it’s all around us. We have Jamie’s music, Liz’s and Phil’s sermons, Emily’s details, Howard’s handshakes, Tripp’s banjo, candles, a playground and that is just the barest beginning of all the tangible and spiritual. These are real investments.
I wasn’t sure where I would find a place to invest when I moved back to Berkeley, but I have found it at All Souls. I can see that through God’s presence and love, people here are cared for and thought about. It feels like rural Wisconsin and that’s why it’s important to me to invest financially, as well as with my time, to help make this community what it is now and for the future.
— Kate Stout
Making Church Together
I value this place, this community, in part because you help remind me on a regular basis that I am not in control, that I don’t need to be in control, that there is only one God, and that’s not me.
One of the experiences that helped me to understand this was at my first Easter Vigil here two years ago. We marched out into the street with drums chanting the litany of saints – those who have gone before. It was beautiful and moving. We returned to the church and were standing in the Narthex, the drumming stopped, and the cantor began to sing. Names: that I vaguely recognized but didn’t know, and I suddenly realized that she was singing the names of those in and connected to this community who had died over the past year. It happened to be the same year my dad had died unexpectedly, and I began to weep. And I couldn’t stop. I was standing there surrounded by people I largely didn’t know, literally out of control of my body.
For me, church is in part a community, a body, that has the capacity to hold grief or joy or hope when it’s too large or too audacious to hold alone. It’s you saying “We believe…” during the creed on the days when I don’t.
And that kind of community is necessarily made together, created and built together, and paid for together, collectively, by us because we are the ones who make it.
And so I said yes to joining the stewardship committee this year even though I don’t know most of you, because I think we should invest in church, I think we should invest in THIS church. And because if we don’t invest in this – I’m not so sure a lot of the rest of what we invest in is really worth it. So join us in making this place.
— Anna Eng
All Saints and All Souls Sunday
Join us on November 3rd to celebrate our Feast of Title. We celebrate the gift of this faith community, we remember those who have gone before us, there will be baptisms, and we’ll also be saying goodbye to the Rev. Liz Tichenor, as this will be her last Sunday at All Souls.
We are also collecting a gift of appreciation (a purse) for Liz for the many years that she has given to this parish and to this community. You can send a check in to the office, drop one in the plate, or hand deliver it to Emily (with gift for Liz in the memo line). Then, join us between the 9 & 11:15 services in the Parish Hall to celebrate what she has meant to this community.
Continuing the Feast
Please bring something tasty to share at the festive brunch between the 9:00 and 11:15 am services, roughly 10:15. This would be the perfect time to break out the favorite, signature recipe of someone you’ve loved who has passed on — what a feast that could be!
Cloud of Witnesses
This year we’ll be displaying photos all around the nave chapel of those we love who have died — please bring photos on Sunday, November 3rd and add them to the ribbons all around the sacred space, which will remain through the month of November. We will also be reading names of those who have died in the last year — please write their names on the clipboard in the back of the church or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please note that there will be note that there will be incense at the 11:15 service.
SAVE THE DATE!
Stewardship Celebration Dinner
Please save the date — October 27th, 5:30-7:30 pm — for this year’s Stewardship Celebration Dinner. It’s a potluck feast by table, and are we ever in for a treat! More than just delicious, this is a night to come together as a whole parish family, to remember very concretely that we are in this together, and that it is only by all showing up together that this wonderful community can exist. The spirit of joy, connection and tender interdependence is always exceptionally present on this night, as we celebrate both the gifts that we have received, the generosity of this place, and also how we are so much more than the sum of our parts. You can count on good food and conversation with friends new and old, plus good fun and entertainment.
Youth (grades 6-12) come together around one massive banquet table, and children share a meal and fun of their own, with childcare provided. Truly, the night is hilarious, it’s a blast, it’s a wonderful way to pack the church and celebrate this amazing life we share. Mark your calendars and sign up here or on the clipboard in the back of the church!