From the Rector
Tomorrow begins one of our tradition’s great festivals, a three-day Triduum of its own. The days of All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, known to some as Hallowtide, are celebrated in various and sometimes disconnected ways, but in fact have an interwoven strand: the contemplation of death and of life.
Each day has own character, accrued practices and cultural expressions. All Hallows Eve (or Halloween), October 31st, is the most popularly celebrated day of the three in the United States, and aside from the candy explosion, it often serves to explore our fear of death in many guises. From frightening creatures to a fascination with the skeletons, tombstones and the undead, on Halloween we create a rare cultural space to face up to death, even if we do so obliquely and in sensational ways.
All Saints day, November 1st, has traditionally focused on the lives of those officially designated as saints by the Church. Several Christian traditions (Anglican, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Orthodox to name a few) have different lists of saints and understandings of how one qualifies to be a saint, so there is distinction of practice and belief. So far as we can tell, the celebration of this feast stretches back to the 4th or 5th century, though it didn’t gain its official title in the 8th century. Through the years, this celebration has been one of communion with those who, because of the gift of their life for their faith or for their exemplary way of living, are known to be with God.
All Souls Day, November 2nd, has early origins as well. The official title and placement on this date can be found in the 10th or 11th century, but the practice of praying for those who have died and stretches back centuries prior. It is a commemoration of those, “whom we love but see no longer,” in the words of our burial liturgy. Rather than the people officially recognized as being with God (Saints with a capital S), it is a celebration for all who have lived this life in the hope of redemption. Whether an expression of commemoration (more Orthodox) or as an intention to pray for those in Purgatory (more Roman Catholic), this celebration has also grown alongside already present cultural traditions about the dead in the whatever culture Christianity found itself, whether Celtic, Aztec or other.
At its heart, though, this three-day festival expresses a yearning for communion. It contemplates our human desire to connect with our loved ones whom we can no longer touch, talk with, or hold. It is an elemental practice of understanding our finitude and our connection, one that we do in different ways throughout the year, but in a specific and intentional way at this time of year.
This being the church of All Souls, we will practice this re-membering, the knitting together of our family past to present, on Saturday, before our feast of All Saints Sunday (my sense is that our practice is more important than the order of the dates). In the afternoon we will be gathering to make our own ofrendas, small altars that honor our deceased loved own. After a potluck dinner at 4:45, at 5:30 we will gather in the church – to sing, pray, be silent, read the names of those who have died – in all creating a sacred space to be with God and with those who have gone before.
As we approach this Hallowtide, these three sacred days, I invite us all to create space to re-member. Re-member the lives of those who have come before us and have given themselves to God. Re-member those with whom you have come close but see no longer. And to gather together, to come close to God with one another, re-membering all of life that was, is now, and ever shall be.
From the Junior Warden
The Tradition of Ofrendas
Ofrendas have been a part of the celebrations of All Souls Day in our parish for more than ten years. The word Ofrenda means Offering in Spanish. In Latin American cultures, Ofrendas, also called Altares, are altars built in homes, schools, churches and public places, to honor and remember the departed during the holiday known as Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). This holiday, as you might know, is a beautiful and colorful expression of the syncretism between pre-Columbian and European traditions and beliefs around death and the afterlife. It is believed that its origins come from the Aztec rituals that celebrated life and death, which were then incorporated with elements of Christianity and associated with the feasts of All Hollows, All Saints and All Souls.
Among the amalgam of elements from many cultures, the belief that the spirits of the departed come back to visit their loved ones once a year, and the Aztec custom of burying the dead with possessions, food and drinks (to accompany them in their trip to the afterlife) developed over time into Ofrendas. These were built in homes to welcome the souls of the departed and offer them a feast of their favorite foods, drinks and any other special items. Cemeteries and tombstones were also beautifully adorned. This tradition has continued over time, and has now become an important cultural symbol that brings people together in honoring their loved ones in a joyful and even humorous way. Traditional Ofrendas include photographs, flowers, candles, incense, food, water, and Calaveras (skeletons and skulls fully dressed or adorned).
Although the colorful, (and in some cases even grotesque) images of dressed-up skeletons dancing and feasting might clash with the solemn and somber images we associate with death, and our belief in the Resurrection does not involve coming back to feast on foods and drinks, the liveliness, color and playfulness of this celebration are powerful reminders of the joy of eternal life.
When I came to All Souls, I was excited to participate in the group that built the Ofrenda in the side chapel every year for All Souls Day. Over the years, our Ofrenda has incorporated more elements from the traditional celebrations, such as the Papel Picado (the colorful paper banners) and, since last year, the paper flowers of cempazúchil (orange marigolds), which symbolized the path to eternal life. Every year, children in Sunday School also build small ofrendas with sugar skulls (which they get to decorate), clay, paper, glitter and all sorts of knick-knacks that help children remember and honor special members of their family (including pets, sometimes!). Beginning last year, we come together on All Saints day to prepare and build our Ofrenda together, adding our own remembrances of friends and family members who have gone before us, and rejoicing together in the Communion of Saints.
Getting ready and preparing the space for the Ofrenda has become a very meaningful practice for me. It gives me great joy to be able to share such a vibrant part of my culture, but it also allows me to be part of creating a sacred space for others and for myself to mourn and grieve, to rejoice and remember, and to honor our faithfully departed.
– Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt
Folding paper marigolds to prepare for the vigil
Decorating picture frames and telling our stories
The light of the Resurrection Our Ofrenda
Creation and Climate Change
If you’re like me, you fret about climate change, study it in passing, vow to be a change agent, but despair of making any difference. We know that the climate of our planet is changing rapidly. Through releasing immense amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we humans are responsible for potentially catastrophic climate change. To forestall disaster, we will need to fundamentally change the way we do business, move around, and feed ourselves, thus recreating many aspects of our lives.
That’s why I’m grateful that Mark Koops-Elson recently led the five-week class “Creation and Climate Change,” whose focus was to “examine ecosystem disruption due to human activity, focusing on climate change.” We worked specifically to “interpret and respond to climate change from a Christian foundation, both individually and as a community of faith.” Hats off to Mark for leading us through such a vast and momentous topic over a five week period. Some highlights for me were:
Learning about climate science
In one session, we focused on the basics of climate science. The current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 400 ppm (parts per million), the highest concentration in the last 800,000 years. As the concentration of CO2 increases, so will the volatility in the climate. Coastal flooding is one dramatic fallout of climate change. Major shifts in flora and fauna worldwide will invalidate millennia of folk agricultural knowledge. These negative effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor. Particularly moving was Mark’s exhortation to “give the vulnerable a stake in a ‘green’ future; prepare for climate change together.”
The Action Matrix
Kudos for an “Action Matrix” that the class filled in to shape our thinking on what we can do to mitigate climate change—as individuals, as a parish, and in conjunction with other groups. We identified the following areas:
● raising awareness
● political action and public policy
● fossil fuel divestment
● resource use and renewable energy
● community resilience
● honoring creation and protecting the land
So what do we do together next?
First of all, we can learn more about climate change. From Mark’s excellent list of relevant books, articles, documentaries, and organizations, I’ll recommend two starting points: read What We Know: The realities, risks, and response to climate change and watch the free short online film Disruption.
Our parish is made up of many knowledgeable people, even experts in the relevant disciplines. Let’s figure out how to share what know, ask each other questions, and talk to each other on Sunday and during the rest of the week. (I, for one, will try posting some tips and asking more questions on the All Soulsian Facebook group.)
Are there projects we can do together? Installing solar panels on the church is under serious consideration, supported by the new solar program from the Diocese of California. More adult education on the topic of the environment is coming soon. Some people in the class talked movingly about how they envision our kids getting their hands dirty by growing plants in a church garden, to get in touch with the flora upon which we all depend. May we all continue to dig together in God’s garden.
Reflections on Stewardship
I can only recite the really traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer, you know, the one with the “trespassing.” The contemporary version is too much for me to remember with my adult brain, but I do know how to sing it. Actually, I probably couldn’t sing it by myself, but I definitely could do it with all of you.
Singing the Lord’s Prayer in beautiful, simple harmony was one of the first things that drew me to All Souls. People don’t hold back, and that everyone sings it together makes it feel like family – reaching for God in a multi-layered, accessible, and vulnerable gathering of voices.
Matt and I started coming to All Souls early 2012 and it was so easy to get involved. Matt joined the Angel Band and I completed the catechumenate class and became a Sacristan. By the time pledging season came around late in the year, I was kind of relieved that we were all finally talking about money and making it official: All Souls was our church home and Matt and I wanted to contribute to the place that was making such a difference in our lives.
Every Sunday here feels like something special is happening as we all look deeper for the Spirit in ourselves and in each other. For me, this started with songs and sermons, things that are composed. Nowadays, I also feel drawn by something more organic (in true Berkeley fashion): this group of people unlike any I have had in my life. All Soulsians have invited me to dinner, shown me music to make together, trained me to work my computer-bound hands as a Sacristan, and trusted me, a freshly minted Episcopalian who had come as a stranger only two years before, to be a part of your Vestry.
Being a member of All Souls makes me feel the joy of belonging to a community, not because of my age or race or religious background, but just because I am myself and I am here. I feel humbled when I see the persistent, open-hearted faith of the people here and hear their endless wisdom and experience. And the acceptance and courage I see make me feel empowered to give of myself and live more fully.
– Jennifer Ying
All Souls by the Numbers
No need to lose more sleep, the numbers are in!
No doubt you’ve been wondering how we can quantify these areas of our common life! In cased you missed it at the Stewardship Celebration Dinner last Sunday, may we present All Souls by the Numbers, 2014:
– Number of musical instruments in our menagerie: 28
– Number of pieces sung in church in a year: 1,008
– Number of individual copies of music moved to the new music annex: 41,076
– Vastness of our sheet music, in pounds: 4,405
– Distance, in miles, were all the stalks of bamboo in our parking lot to be put end-to- end: 2.84
– Number of rectors who have served at All Souls: 12
– Height, in centimeters, of our current rector: 188
– Hours spent collectively preparing sermons in one year: 758
– Hours spent collectively preaching in one year: 51.4
– Dollars paid to PG&E for energy in 2013: 15,984.71
– Miles Joy has covered commuting to and from All Souls: 153,600
– Loaves of glutinous bread consumed in a year: 284
– Loaves of Mariposa gluten-free bread consumed in a year: 4
– Liters of Port consumed in a year: 80.9
– Number of purificators washed in a year: 805
– Number of jambalaya meals served at Open Door Dinner in a year: 1,800
– Pounds of food donated to the Berkeley Food Pantry in a year: 2,200
– Total attendance at Sunday services in 2014, through October 19: 10,107
– Number of steps taken in the procession during the Great Vigil of Easter: 78,120
Daylight Savings Time!
Make sure to set your clocks back one hour this Saturday night, November 1!
Gathering and Blessing of Pledges This Sunday
In gratitude for all that God has provided and in awareness that God is calling All Souls Parish to serve others, there will be an opportunity during each of the worship services this Sunday, November 2, to return a portion to God by bringing forward your pledge card to the altar. If you need a pledge card, please pick up a packet in the narthex or in the back of the chapel, or ask an usher.
Loaves and Fishes
Come break bread, meet new friends, and connect with the different generations of All Souls! There will be a Loaves and Fishes potluck lunch this Sunday, November 2, from 1 – 3:30p at Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt’s house. RSVP to Toni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interfaith Immigration Vigil
Join members of All Souls holding vigil at: West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond, CA on November 1st, (and the first Saturday of every month) from 11 am – noon. This is one of 250 facilities across the country that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to house undocumented immigrants awaiting hearings or deportation. Immigrants picked up in one part of the country can be sent to a facility anywhere in the nation, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away from family. At each vigil, we sing, pray, and hear testimony from family members and friends of those held inside, or from recently released immigrants awaiting hearings.
All Saints and All Souls Day Festivities
Friday, October 31: All Hallow’s Eve Singing Workshop, 7p; email Christopher Putnam for more information
Saturday, November 1: 3:30 pm – Building the Ofrenda and Telling our Stories; 4:45 pm – Potluck Supper; 5:30 pm – Vigil of All the Souls
Sunday, November 2: All Saints Sunday and our own “Feast of Title” for the Parish, with incense at the 11:15 service.