A Medium for Conversation

Phil Brochard headshot2You may have heard about the recent Pew Research study about political discussion on social media. It reflected a largely negative experience for many Americans whenever we attempt to engage in discourse about politics on social media. For some, this could be filed under the category of “dog bites man” news stories. As in, no kidding, responding to other people’s political stances on facebook or twitter or other media, is fraught with misunderstanding, attribution of ill-intent, and general miscommunication.

Roughly half of those interviewed said that the discussions about political matters on social media are less respectful, less civil, and less likely to come to resolution. As well, roughly half of those who responded also said that people are more likely to be angry when they discuss political matters than when they have these discussions in other ways.

Now, it should be said that this has been a particularly bruising, divisive election. Many in this nation perceive the stakes to be high and the way forward to be uncertain. Added to this heightened sense of fear, in the last couple of decades, our political discourse has become increasingly polarized, as we have gradually segregated ourselves with those who are more likely to think and vote like us.

And. It seems at least to some degree to this participant and observer that as Marshall McLuhan once said, the medium is the message. Part of the challenge that we face when we attempt conversation on social media is the nature of the medium itself. For instance, when we talk face to face, only 10% of our communication is being conveyed by the words we use. As I write these very words, I realize that when you read them, what will be absent is my body language, the pace, inflection, and tone that I am using to deliver all of what I am attempting to offer. As well, social media as a medium is unusually public, visible for all to see and to weigh in on. Added to this is a notion of anonymity, reflected in the Pew survey that found 84% of respondents believing that people say things on social media about politics that they would never say in person.

So what are we to do? Many of those who responded to the survey said that they simply back away from political discussions with people who differ from them. God knows this has simplified many a Thanksgiving dinner. The problem is, that when we follow this course, little changes. I don’t have to come into contact with a truth that I haven’t experienced or a way of being that I don’t yet know. And the distrust, the attribution of ill-intent, it remains. And it often festers.

I believe that as Christians we are fundamentally called into conversation, especially with those who differ from us. As former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold teaches, the word conversation is derived from the word conversion. To truly enter into a conversation with another person, in a facebook thread or in person, means that we are to prepare ourselves to be converted by them just as much as we prepare ourselves to convert them.

What might this mean for our engagement on social media about a political issue, or with any issue that really matters to us? The first step is to take a deep breath. Then, remember that relationship with that person is as important as any truth you hope to impart. Truly consider the words used by other person and resist the temptation to immediately assign intent. Offer your experience, knowing that it is necessarily incomplete. And, be ready to take it offline. Over the phone, or if possible, in person, eye to eye. In all, ready to encounter a truth to you as yet unknown.

The way forward for any community—whether family, congregation, or nation—lies in the ability to be in real, sustained, and fruitful conversation. It may happen through thoughtful and considered use of social media as well as in-person dialogue. But in order to work through the real divisions and divides that arise whenever people live their lives in common, we must be able and willing to truly converse, person to person.


From the College for Congregational Development

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All Soulsians at the College in June, 2016

Over the last three years, two teams of lay leaders have joined Phil and Liz at the College for Congregational Development in Seattle. As the leadership at the College have watched how All Souls has put this learning to work back home, they decided to visit Berkeley and make a short film about our community, in the hopes of inspiring other churches to take advantage of the great resources they have to offer. CCD Director the Rev. Alissa Newton shares, “I think All Souls is kind of unstoppable. They are full of life, and they have this quirky, fun way of being Christian together.” Watch their take on life at All Souls — it’s a fun glimpse of our common life, a window into some of what your leadership is drawing on to serve you, and most of all, a celebration of our community at its best.


Committee in Search of Music Associate

Maggie_Cooke_PicI am delighted to be part of the Search Committee formed to find our next Associate for Music, and it is a pleasure to work with Tripp Hudgins, Katie McGonigal, Jenn Ying, Ross Laverty, and Fr. Phil Brochard. The six of us bring varied experiences from many forms of music and we share an enthusiastic desire to see our program continue to serve our collective need for rich and multifaceted music to enhance our worship. Check out the Job Posting on the All Souls website and see what we’ve put out there to attract the person who will continue to shape music at All Souls in the years to come.

My hope is that the shape our program takes will never become fixed, but will always wax and wane, ebb and flow, with our changing seasons, our changing congregation, and our changing world. I cannot number the times I have been relieved of some burden I’ve carried into church by the music I heard and/or sang. How many of you have had the experience of feeling as if a song, a hymn, a motet, an anthem, or a trumpet fanfare had been chosen especially for you when you were carrying something on your heart?

Every one of you is invited and encouraged to complete the survey asking what you could contribute to the music making, on a regular basis, or once in a while, be it on an instrument or with your voice. It would be a tremendous gift to our new Associate of Music to have this information wrapped up with a bow from day one. These are exciting times to be sure; we currently have several résumés, and applicants may make submissions until November 15th. Please keep your search committee in your prayers, and pray for the person we seek to hear our call.

– Maggie Cooke

From the Associate for Youth Ministries

Practicing Love

jess_powellFor the past few weeks of youth group, love has been a recurring theme. Who do we love? How do we love? Who loves us? How are we loved? We have, of course, discussed Jesus’ summary of the law: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). We have added to our discussions the command to love our enemies. In the flurry of hate-filled political rhetoric that has been flooding our news and social media platforms, what does it mean to love as Jesus calls us to love?

Throughout youth group and Bibles and Breakfast (the youth Formation Hour class), we have come up with potential ways to at least strive to love our neighbors. This has often started by asking more questions. How do we love someone with whom we may vehemently disagree? Perhaps we can use God’s love for us as a foundation to love others, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. After all, we are all children of God!


Sometimes, love is eating and celebrating together.

We also dove into the nature of love itself. Love is more than a feeling. Feeling is an aspect of it, but sometimes love is action without feeling. Love is being nice to someone even when you don’t feel like it. Love is choosing kindness instead of anger. Love is respecting someone simply because they are human.

Choosing to act in love can be difficult, even with those we usually love. And yet this radical love is the path to which we are called as Christians. Jesus loved everyone, including his enemies. He acted in love. His love can inspire us to do the same.

I have seen the youth here show love through their actions countless times. They listen to each other and offer comfort and encouragement. They help their siblings and friends. They volunteer at Open Door Dinner. They play together! All of these are ways of practicing love.

As this election season draws to a close, I hope we can all hold the love here at All Souls both inside and outside of youth group. Perhaps we can carry that love outside of our church building. We—and our youth—do so already. Let’s be conscious of it and encourage it!



Please take a second to fill out this survey so that we can learn more about what you value and what you hope for about in children and family programming at All Souls. Please contact Danielle Gabriel with any questions. Thank you!


Runners, try changing up your pace next Sunday, October 30! Plan to worship at the 9:00 am service and then join other All Souls runners for a fun run after your favorite formation class. Meet at 11:15 in the courtyard and we’ll set out together for a variable length and pace run. And who is running in the Berkeley Half on November 20? Believe it or not, there is time to run and still make it to the 11:15 service! There will be a contingent of All Soulsians (Solesians) of all ages running and cheering and celebrating again together this year. Talk to Emily Hansen Curran, Jeannie Koops-Elson, or Kim Velasquez to make plans.


Men’s Fellowship Dinner October 31

All Souls men gathers on the last Monday of each month for dinner (at a shared cost) and informal conversations beginning at 6:00 pm. Sign up sheet on the bulletin board by the parish hall doors. Contact Ross Laverty at 510-526-5394 or by email to find out why they never actually eat spaghetti.


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. 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 Joy with the information. Please note that names of those who have died since All Saints Sunday 2015 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.