From the Associate for Ministry Development
The Dignity of Risk
Dear church family,
This year October 2nd fell on a Tuesday. So, in the go-around at our Tuesday staff meeting (we share one word or image that sums up where we are) I said “anniversary” because October 2nd marks the anniversary of when I was offered this job here at All Souls, and this October 2nd marked three years. (Bonus trivia: October 3rd marked my three-year wedding anniversary—that was quite a week three years ago!)
Along with the word anniversary I noted that always, at this time of year, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be here because I have always felt like All Souls took a huge risk on me—giving me a home when I felt I had none. I mean, really, my resume was filled with construction and janitorial work, Campus Crusade for Christ, an almost-completed masters from an Evangelical seminary, and experience as a server in the debauchery that is a restaurant and bar in the Mission. I remember in that season of looking for a job feeling hopeful, because I trusted in a God who was present, but also that I needed someone to take a risk on me because there was not much in my resume that was going to take me very far.
And then came along the All Souls’ Search Committee and staff. They listened to me. Not just to my resume or the words that I was saying, but they really saw me and heard who I was. I can remember a phone call with Phil the day before my wedding (my back had gone out and so I couldn’t come in for my final interview, but we talked on the phone while I was laid up at home). There was an immense amount of transparency and trust as he asked if I thought I could find spiritual life here. I remember responding that I didn’t know, but that it felt like I could. And with that, he offered me the job.
But the really remarkable thing was that I was not alone in feeling like All Souls took a chance on me. After I shared my story, Liz chimed in with her own story of the circumstances surrounding her life when she was offered the job here, and then Jamie chimed in with his own version of the same story, and Nettie shook her head in agreement. And it got us thinking—how is it that we all feel this way? How is it that we all feel that All Souls took a gamble on us? Certainly it could be that we all felt we got hired for a job that was out of our depth, or that the tasks before us were a stretch. But, based on my three years here, I don’t think that’s the whole story.
Phil and I recently had a conversation about the dignity of risk. While that concept covers things much broader than my particular use right now, it seems to encompass what I think is at the root here. That is, this place, you all, seem to have a deep and risk-taking faith—one that affirms and gives life to each other. I am a recipient of that life-giving trust that you all have extended to each other. In fact, the course of my life has been greatly altered by your risky kind of faith. I say often that I think it saved my life. So, this is a note to say thank you. You’ve got a staff team who is empowered by this risk and sits, deeply grateful.
– Emily Hansen Curran
From the Associate Rector
A Plan to Give
Spontaneous giving can be a wondrous thing, and it’s not something I’m very good at. I find it challenging. It’s confusing as I weigh Jesus’ teaching to give to everyone who asks you with current scholarship of how best to address poverty, and then there’s the simple sticking point that I rarely carry cash. That makes it pretty simple, really — when people ask me for money, I respond honestly that I don’t have any cash to give, and that’s that. I get to stop thinking about it.
But then a few days ago, I was riding BART with a friend when a woman approached us carrying a toddler in one arm and in the other a sign, which explained she needed money for rent and food. I smiled but said I had nothing. At the same time, I watched as my friend reached for his wallet and took out a two-dollar bill, handing it to the woman. I looked at him, perplexed, and asked, “why do you have a two-dollar bill?” “For exactly that purpose,” he said. He went onto explain that he likes two-dollar bills, that they feel special and kind of fun. What’s more, he almost never has cash with him, so he started getting these special bills just to give away.
It’s a kind of giving that is responsive, one that hears the world. It’s a way of giving that can open us up, again and again.
And, it wasn’t just spontaneous. It was actually well-planned. Lately, I’ve been watching and thinking about how we engage gifts, how we ready ourselves to give. I’ve been taking in the different ways children go about it: the phase where it’s just a fantastic game, filling a gift bag full of anything and everything to present to a parent, only to dump out the contents repeat the act all over again. But the generosity progresses as they grow, becoming more elaborate in the art created or the elements involved, sometimes starting weeks out from a much anticipated birthday party.
Watching all these ways to give, I’m reminded that the act of giving is a chosen way of life. We don’t have to do it, but are drawn to it, if we allow ourselves to be. Giving can be a way of praying, actively, that there be more life beyond us, a way of practicing the trust that there is enough for us here and now.
It seems that the act of generosity itself stretches us — the planning, the deciding, and the actual living out of the gift. This Sunday we will once again reach for that generous act together as we offer our pledges for the coming year. It can feel removed from the spontaneous act of offering a gift, but I believe there is room for the Spirit to move among us and inspire us to take a leap of faith.
For me, pledging is a way of saying that generosity is non-negotiable, that it’s a building block of life, not a passing off of the cream, the extra, the leftovers. It’s a way of stating, tangibly, what my priorities are: that the requisite tuition payment to my son’s preschool is as important as supporting the spiritual home that is raising him up, that contributing to our Open Door Dinner is as basic a need as my own groceries. For me, this sort of giving is a concrete way of saying both “first things first,” and also, to this whole community, “I’m with you in this, we’re in it together.” We pledge as an act of trust, and also as a way of building trust as a body, knowing that the only way we can pull off this wild vision of church is by doing it all together.
I hope you’ll join me in this bold act of generosity and trust. Come on Sunday morning, ready to listen to one of the greatest preachers around, be inspired, and then together, name our priorities and offer them up to God. As Howard shared on Sunday, stewardship really can be a blast! And then come back on Sunday night to celebrate! What a joy it is to choose this way together.
From the Senior Warden
Stewardship: Entrustment, Management, Care
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” The word entrusted emphasizes our connection to the past: we steward cherished resources passed onto us from others. The word management implies a connection to the future, in that the resources we steward are ours not to use up but rather to manage for a finite time before we in turn pass them on to future generations. And the word care conveys that the resources stewarded are, indeed, precious. It’s a fitting definition for Christian communities such as ours, which experience a sense of belonging to the communion of saints across time and space, and which understand that the blessings of our earthly lives are gifts from God.
Our Vestry members and church staff are engaged in stewardship activities on an ongoing basis. Their acts of stewardship may be mundane (replacing a broken-down refrigerator), substantive (deciding on employee benefit policies), or even visionary (partnering with a nonprofit organization to develop new housing for low-income seniors). In this month’s reflection, I’ll be sharing some of the discussions and decisions of the October 17 Vestry meeting through a lens of stewardship.
Vimala Tharasayi shared with the Vestry a draft of the expense figures for the 2019 budget. To ensure that All Souls is stewarding its current pledges as well as it can, a task force consisting of Nettie Pinell, Kat Lisa, and Bo Burlingham reviewed our current general operations expenditures and identified specific reductions that could be safely made. An example of this is moving our Internet and phone service to a new fiber Internet provider, which is expected to save us over $3,000 next year. All in all, total expenses for 2019 are expected to be about 1.5 percent lower than those for 2018.
Vimala also led us in a discussion of 2019 employee benefit policies. The Diocese of California provides benefits for church staff throughout the diocese but offers individual parishes the opportunity to make certain choices, such as a choice of health plans, whether to offer health plans to part-time employees and/or adult children of employees, and whether to offer Employee Assistance Program (short-term professional counseling) coverage. Decisions like these require the Vestry to balance costs with the desire to ensure consistent, quality health care for our staff and a reasonable benefits package overall. The Vestry approved a motion to maintain 2019 employee benefit policies at the same level as 2018 policies.
Ed Hahn presented some important updates on the Parish House Project. On October 16, the Berkeley City Council approved $6 million in funding for our project. The approval of the project itself has been rescheduled with the Zoning Adjustment Board for November 8. In addition, Alameda County has released its application for affordable housing bond funding, which is due in just a few weeks. The application indicates that, presumably in response to the ongoing Bay Area housing crisis, projects designating up to 20 percent of their units for people who are currently homeless will receive priority for funding grants. (Since our project is for low-income seniors, this means that up to 20 percent of the units would be designated for low-income seniors who are homeless.) The Vestry felt that such a designation was clearly within the spirit and intention of the project as it had been conceptualized throughout and, after some thoughtful discussion, approved a motion to proceed with the funding application making the designation as described above.
Finally, the Vestry discussed the use of the Jordan Bequest, which has been mentioned in several recent Pathfinder articles and at our Stewardship Kick-Off Brunch because of its relevance to our budget. Although Ann Jordan did not place any restrictions on her bequest that would have legally encumbered us in how we used it, we know it was her intention that the principal of the bequest not be used for “ordinary expenses.” In 2016, the Vestry approved a motion that the principal of the bequest be set aside for “special purposes” but did not specify what those purposes might be at the time. The current Vestry felt it was the right time to make a more specific designation to help ensure that the bequest will be used wisely in the coming years. Accordingly, the Vestry approved a motion formally designating the corpus of the Jordan Bequest to be utilized for capital needs. The motion does not legally restrict us (i.e., a future Vestry could change this designation), but it does establish a policy that will help us to be mindful—or, along the theme of this reflection, to be good stewards—of how we put Ann Jordan’s generous gift to use.
As we prepare to offer our pledges as a community for 2019, let us prayerfully consider why we engage in this exercise of giving. It is not to raise money for money’s sake. It is to facilitate a broader practice of collective stewardship—to facilitate the entrustment, management, and care of all that has been passed onto us, that vitalizes us, that allows us to minister to others, that makes our life as a Beloved Community possible.
—Bob Holum, Senior Warden
All Souls and All Saints Sunday, November 4th: Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
We will remember loved ones in prayer at the services on November 4th, All Saints Sunday. To have the names of your departed loved ones remembered, please legibly print the name(s) on the form attached to the clipboard in the chapel or narthex or email Nettie with the information. Please note that names of those who have died since All Saints Sunday 2017 will be read aloud (taken from our prayer lists); all other names will be listed in the bulletin. There will be incense at the 11:15 am service only.
Continuing the Feast
We’ll celebrate All Souls and All Saints Sunday with a festive brunch, too! Please bring something tasty to share 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
We’re trying out a new way of lifting up the memory of our loved ones this year. In past years, we’ve made Ofrendas and a Celtic Tree of Life. This year we’ll be displaying photos all around the nave. More information will be coming next week, but in the meantime, know that this year we’ll be inviting you to bring in photos without frames.
STEWARDSHIP CELEBRATION DINNER
Last chance to sign up!
Please join your All Souls Parish family for a really wonderful time this Sunday, October 28th, both morning and night! RSVP here right now for our Celebration Dinner, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. We will welcome a fabulous guest preacher at all services, the Rev. Martin Elfert, rector of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon and former All Souls Seminarian.
Our Annual Celebration Dinner promises fellowship, fun, and surprises in a new game show. There will also be programming for children and youth — the youth will have their own banquet table, and children will enjoy pizza and games. (If you would like your child seated with you instead, just let us know.) Please note, your table host will contact you ASAP about what dishes people will be bringing – stay tuned!
Please RSVP here by tonight!
ARE YOU NEW TO ALL SOULS?
If you’ve been coming for a few weeks now and are interested in diving deeper, here are a few next steps! The first is to sign up for a name tag. You can find the sign-up sheet on the foyer (Narthex) counter or on the Welcome table in the back of the Nave in front of the sound booth. The second is to attend one of our Adult Formation classes. This is a great way to get to know other folks here and engage in good dialogue. The third way is to show up to one of our newcomer classes scheduled for mid-November. That’s a little ways off, but it will come soon enough—promise. Thoughts? Questions? See Emily Hansen Curran, firstname.lastname@example.org.