From the Rector
I’m going to start this week’s reflection with a confession: I do not walk enough. I’m not talking about the 10,000 steps that we are supposed to take each day in order to maintain our health. I mean the centuries-old practice of a priest walking the “bounds” of the parish.
It’s a good practice for many reasons: it’s important to see what is going on with the neighborhood, who has moved in or out, who is on what corner, what is changing in this part of North Berkeley. In addition, since I’m almost always in uniform, it is often a great opportunity to be in conversation with the folks who live, work and wander through this part of the world.
And yet. If I don’t pay attention, I often find myself spending the entire day in meetings and appointments in my office. It’s not the meetings or appointments that are at issue, it’s that all too often they take place in the office. And then came this glorious October weather. My goodness. So, earlier this week I asked one of the folks that I was meeting with if they wouldn’t mind taking our conversation outside. Not settle a dispute, but to be out of doors, breathing fresh air, while discussing what was at hand.
It was during this walking meeting (at first uphill as it’s always nice to return with the downslope), that we came across this garage door.
You yourself may have seen it many times traversing these hills. What caught my attention was two things––the beauty of the woodwork and the simple utility that it served. For if the only intent was to provide light and ventilation then there are many, many ways to do this with less cost and time.
My walking partner then offered that, “the places where beauty and utility come together is pure Creation.” I was just as taken by this possibility as I was by the woodwork and asked where this understanding originated. Like many truths of our present-day world, some of the original articulation of this idea comes from Wendell Berry. In his piece “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” Berry offers a stunning and convicting critique of contemporary Christianity’s lack of resistance to the plunder and spoil of Creation in order to feed our rapidly increasing industrial way of life. At just under 7,000 words it is well worth your time.
About halfway into this essay Berry explores the modern, industrialized divorce of our work from God’s work of Creation. He writes, “(Good work) does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for.”
From this biblical and theological perspective, it is abundantly clear where our contemporary understanding of work and of craft and of life fall so short. When work becomes simply weekday endurance to live for the weekend or is divorced from craft and merely a material mean to an economic end, we have lost our essential role in the participation in co-Creation. We become cogs in a process that sees Creation in all of its glory simply as value to be mined, rather than as gift to be given. What I believe this to mean is that no matter where and when we offer it, our work is to give our time and attention to the task at hand, attempting to live at the intersection of usefulness and beauty.
And I suppose this is why I was so startled and taken by the woodworking details in a garage door. Because we offer this with whole hearts, this intersection of usefulness and beauty can serve as signs for us and for the world of the ways we are meant to live––integrating our passion and love with our work, our attention with the smallest of our actions, all of our selves with all of our lives.
Loaves and Fishes is Back!
Our first Loaves and Fishes meal of the 2014-15 program year is scheduled for Saturday, October 11. Loaves and Fishes is a ministry of casual dinners in parishioners’ homes: dinners where long-time friends and new acquaintances break bread together; where newcomers and established members form new ties; where young children, single professionals and grandparents come together to share stories over an informal co-created meal. These meals are one way that we live out two significant beliefs – that all are welcome and that we have all that we need.
There are going to be some changes in the Loaves and Fishes ministry this year. First, we will be hosting meals on regular nights each month – First and third Sundays and second and fourth Saturdays. Another change is that we are creating host teams, made up of several households each. The teams will work together to designate the location of a meal, likely by rotating among team members’ homes. Designated team leaders will serve as contact people for those who want to attend or to get more information about the meals. Our team leaders for 2014-15 are Gloria Bayne, Toni Martinez-Borgfeldt, Caroline McCall, and one yet to be named – perhaps you?
Most aspects of Loaves and Fishes will remain the same. The host members of our teams will provide a simple main course and will welcome all who come. Individuals who attend these meals will be encouraged (though not required!) to bring something to share with the others at the meal. The meals will remain informal ways to meet and get to know more members of the parish, while sharing food, drink and stories. Expect to hear more details about the Loaves and Fishes schedule in the next few weeks. Each of you is encouraged to attend one or more of these meals, offering what you can share and engaging in an experience of building abundance in community.
Our hope for this ministry is that we will create and sustain an ongoing sense of community connection and integration by gathering around shared meals in intergenerational groups of varied tenure at All Souls. This is a big hope – and we are optimistic enough to believe it is possible. If you are interested in being a Loaves and Fishes host, please contact Caroline McCall at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the first meal of the year on October 11th, contact team leader Gloria Bayne at email@example.com.
– Caroline McCall
Jill Anderson grew up at All Souls, and is nearing the completion of her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. This reflection first appeared on her blog, http://frompanyastopanchos.wordpress.com/.
Coming into Peace Corps I had high expectations about changing the attitudes of many moms about nutrition, preventing many teenage pregnancies and doing many different projects. I soon learned that I maybe would change the attitudes of a couple moms and may prevent a couple of teenage pregnancies while focusing on two or three projects. The past two years have been more frustrating, disappointing, amazing, and eye opening that I could have ever imagined. I have learned how to waste hours of the day by literally doing nothing, I have learned how to shower with all sorts of animals at my feet from toads to pigs, I can sleep pretty much anywhere, even during a concert, and have grown to love cow heart and wild boar.
The most important lesson I have learned however, is how to appreciate small wins. Statistics may be important to keeping the organization funded, and allowing us to stay in the country, but the most important part of one’s service are the small impacts that a volunteer may never even realize they made in their community.
Today, during a planning session with my youth health promoters we were speaking about abstinence. One of the promoters mentioned that a fellow student asked him where he could find the contraceptive called abstinence, because he didn’t find it when he went to the pharmacy. The promoter explained that it wasn’t a contraceptive, but actually the act of not having intercourse and therefore preventing pregnancy. This made me realize that I had actually taught him something. After two years, I can confidently say that I have at least one youth health promoter that knows how to properly talk to his peers about safe sex in a way that they feel comfortable. This is a beautiful thing to see, because he now knows what safe decisions to make, and is there to support his friends through the rough road of adolescence and young adulthood. With all the cancelations, technical difficulties, and craziness, it is all worth it.
I am also doing a project with mothers of kids under 5 years in age, which consists of presentations and activities with themes such as sanitation, how to prevent respiratory and diarrheal infections, early childhood stimulation, and nutrition. To follow up these presentations, I have been visiting each house every month to put together a hand washing station, a clean area for plates and pots, and most recently to cook veggies. The other day when I was in one of the healthy households, constructing an improved cook stove, I saw something that made me smile like crazy. The mother had posted and laminated all the pamphlets I hand made about nutrition and hand washing up above her stove. After I had finished making 50 pamphlets with crayons and colored paper, I wondered if anybody would actually look at them. I now know that at least one mom actually read and cared enough about the message to post them in her kitchen. With all the long walks that more often than not end up with nobody home, and the hoping that moms will show up to the meetings, it is all worth it.
As part of the Healthy Home projects, we are constructing the improved cook stoves to hopefully reduce the number of respiratory infections. The stoves are wood burning, because that is what the majority of the mothers use, and it is constructed so that the smoke leaves the house through a chimney instead of filling the house. So far a counterpart and I have constructed three cook stoves out of adobe bricks, mud, an iron stove top, and a tin chimney. The most beautiful part of the job is that after 4 hours of being elbows deep in donkey poop mixed with mud, (the manure works miracles), the mothers make us a huge lunch of duck, goat, or chicken, fresh from their own yard, and some give us gifts of fresh eggs or passion fruit. Serving food in this culture, and I’m pretty sure all around the world, is how one shows love and thanks. It is so wonderful to be given gifts that are so close to their heart. Again, this journey of the mind, heart, and stomach, is worth every minute.
– Jill Anderson
The Numbers Part of the Story
Churches in summer, particularly those heavily influenced by the academic year, tend to have fewer people in pews and reduced pledged giving in the offering plate. In past years, that has certainly been true for All Souls. For whatever reason, this summer has been an outlier for us in a desirable direction. Our average Sunday attendance for the 9 Sundays of July and August was 210, 18 more than the same 9 Sundays last year. Our pledged giving stayed on track, not taking its usual dip during the summer. It’s impossible to know whether or not this represents some people completing their year’s giving early, but whatever the combination of factors, it is cause for thanksgiving to all who have contributed, and for our strong start into the Fall.
– Marilyn Flood
Continuing the Feast with the Beasts
This Sunday, October 5, we remember the ministry of St. Francis with our annual Blessing of the Animals! You are welcome to bring your beloved animal companions with you to the 7:30 or 11:15 service, or simply come after the 11:15 service (around 12:20) to have your pet blessed in the courtyard. While we absolutely welcome all kinds of beasts, we ask that you help us care for the diverse menagerie by keeping animals leashed or in carriers. We will then gather for Continuing the Feast. Please bring a dish to share, and enjoy a meal with friends from all walks – and species – of life. Remember, this is a great opportunity to invite people to visit All Souls for the first time!
Wholehearted Giving: Stewardship Celebration Dinner
October 26, 5:30-7:30p
At the retreat recently, many of us engaged in powerful conversations about transformation in our lives and about how we have experienced love at All Souls. Savoring the abundance of our life together, we will explore what it means to give back with our whole hearts. The extra-fabulous potluck and rich conversation with friends new and old always makes this evening feel like a great dinner party. There will be music, prizes, reflections on another vibrant year of life in our parish community, and an inspiring look ahead. Please join us for this special event! Sign up online here, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the coffee hour station in the narthex on Sunday.