From the Rector

phil_brochardWho Is My Neighbor?

The news coming from all around the Mediterranean Sea in these past few months has been brutal and relentless. The tide of people fleeing the horrific violence in Syria, Iraq and other countries continues to rise, each month with an increasing sense of desperation.

It feels as if each day, each week brings new tragedy––flimsy boats overturned, survivors and the dead washing ashore. These past couple of weeks, at least in what is being reported on, the scene has shifted. The pressure that was previously being seen on the southern shores of Greece and Italy is, as of this writing, being most prominently shown in Hungary and Serbia.

And just in these past couple of days, the government of Hungary has taken new steps in reaction to the numbers of refugees seeking asylum and attempting to cross their border. Governmental forces are attempting to close the border by erecting razor wire and employing tear gas against these refugees––including women with small children. The situation seems to be on a knife’s-edge, as the desperation of these refugees comes up against the fear of those seeking to hold the integrity of a country’s border.

The challenges that countries face, around the Mediterranean and indeed the world, are real. Supporting and integrating refugees is costly and can be de-stabilizing for even the most grounded countries. But the numbers of people that are right now heading out to land and to sea make this an even greater challenge. The European Union is struggling as to how to respond, both in terms of border and infrastructure. In all of this, though, there is a more basic struggle: a struggle for self-understanding.

This struggle was highlighted for me this past week when the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, addressed his country and the world as to what was behind his government’s response, “The supply is nearly endless––we can see how many of them are coming. And if we look at the demographics, we can see that these people have more children than our communities who lead a traditional, Christian way of life. Mathematics tells you that this will lead to a Europe where our way of life will end up in a minority, or at least face a very serious challenge.”

I do not argue with Prime Minister Orban’s mathematical skill, I don’t know the numbers like he does. But if he is worried about the loss of a Christian way of life, I fear that he is looking at the wrong side of his border. As with many matters of the heart, for the Prime Minister of Hungary, the leaders of this nation, indeed all of us, it is for us to look well within. Because the greatest risk to the Christian way of life, in Europe or anywhere else, is from those of us who profess to follow the Christ and yet take actions that lead far from the path of self-sacrificial love that Jesus walked.

In fact, Jesus offered a very telling story about those who are vulnerable and in great need. When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, who is my neighbor?,” he told a parable about a man who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead. Several people passed by but did nothing. The repugnant twist to this parable––because parables almost always have a repugnant twist––is that the person who aided that vulnerable traveler wasn’t even considered his neighbor. The person who cared for this man, directly and financially, was a Samaritan, someone who should have been seen as an enemy.

I am not in Hungary right now in what I understand to be a tremendously confusing and complicating time. But these Christians are. And they are showing the way of Christ to all who seeking refuge, Muslim, Christian, non-believer. And they are not alone. Across Europe and the world, led by the witness of Pope Francis, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, Christians of many expressions are urging, imploring their governments and citizenries to open their countries, churches and homes to care for those fleeing for their lives.

And it is no different here. Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori has called for congregations and individuals to become active in our advocacy and action for those who are in great need. For instance, our country’s current position of allowing for only 10,000 refugees to migrate to the United States in a crisis that is orders of magnitudes more pressing, is not close to the kind of response that we are capable of.

When confronted with crises like these, the way forward is rarely easy. This situation is no different. And yet, we are still called to be neighbors. As you read through the Presiding Bishop’s statement, please consider contacting your congressional representative through the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s form here. It may well be that we at All Souls can be part of direct relief to those seeking refuge from the violence of the wars in Syria and Iraq. At the very least, though, we can make known our desire for the way of Christ––that of active compassion––to be the way we respond to the needs of our neighbors. And as we encounter the days ahead, please pray this prayer with me,

Heavenly Father, you are the source of all goodness, generosity and love.
We thank you for opening the hearts of many to those who are fleeing for their lives.
Help us now to open our arms in welcome, and reach out our hands in support. That the desperate may find new hope, and lives torn apart be restored.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who fled persecution at his birth and at his last triumphed over death.


From the Associate for Liturgy and Music

christopher_putnamPay some attention to the man behind the curtain!

For some time now, I’ve thought that one of the questions clergy ask prospective musicians should be “What music is on your phone?” This being the week leading to the Parish Retreat, at Liz’s suggestion, I’m giving you a bit of a peek into my music library – things that interest me and that I think you’ll enjoy hearing. I’ve actually come across all these as part of NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts” series, in which musicians come in and play, unadorned, in the actual NPR office spaces.

1. Anything from the “Goat Rodeo Sessions,” a 2011 collaboration among four outstanding musicians from the worlds of bluegrass (Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan, and Edward Meyer) and classical music (Yo-Yo Ma), who play at total of 11 different instruments at various times. The term “goat rodeo” is, um, a polite term from aviation for a situation which requires about 100 things to all go right for everyone to survive. The musical version of this high-wire act makes for some breathtaking music-making. Check out their “Tiny Desk Concert” at the NPR Studios – you’ll want to hear the whole thing after that.

2. Years ago, I was singing in a Seventh-Day Adventist church when the pastor decided to end his sermon with a recording of Bobby McFerrin’s Psalm 23, which he adapted with feminine language to honor his mother. I instantly recognized it as an absolutely traditional Anglican chant, albeit with McFerrin singing all four parts on different vocal tracks. It has since been performed and recorded by countless choirs, but none is as good as the original.

3. One of my go-to recordings for longer than I’d like to admit is Ani di Franco’s version of “Amazing Grace.” It’s a bit out of left field, taking a single chord pattern, layered with percussion and a recording that sounds like it’s right off an Appalachian front porch, making an unusual, and unusually mesmerizing bit of very familiar music sound very new.

4. In the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time with Gospel music in my ears, and indeed, I could have made a list of my top five in that incredibly rich genre. As our new Hearts On Fire Gospel Choir continues to add repertoire, you’ve had a chance to hear many of my favorites in person. One we haven’t gotten to yet, though, is “Order My Steps,” originally sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. It’s calmly rhythmic, with rich harmonies, and, in the original, a full orchestra. We’ll get to it, I promise!

5. Finally, a bit of really virtuosic fun, the best of the world coming into the church. On Sunday, June 28, 2009, just 3 days after Michael Jackson’s death, organist Robert Ridgell played this mostly improvised tribute to Jackson’s music after the liturgy at Trinity Church, Wall Street. Church music isn’t all fun and games…but enough of it is to make it worth all of our time.

So there’s a peek inside my musical brain at the moment. Make of it what you will, but the next time something we do at the front of the church causes you to raise an eyebrow, well, just consider the source!

– Christopher Putnam

Coastal Cleanup Day at Shimada Friendship Park

Shimada_Friendship_ParkSaturday, September 19th, 9 am – 12 pm

Come join The Watershed Project for Coastal Cleanup Day, the state’s largest shoreline cleanup project. Volunteers are needed to pick up the massive amounts of debris that accumulate on our beaches and inland shorelines. Last year, volunteers removed over 5 tons of waste across California.  Join us in saving marine habitat. Bring your families and friends.

Volunteers will walk the Bay Trail and the salt marsh picking up trash and debris.  There is also a small beach area suitable for children.  Wear boots or shoes that can get dirty and use sun protection. Materials will be provided, but please bring reusable items such as plastic baskets, bags, and gloves, if you have them. Snacks and lunch will be provided.

Gather at Peninsula Drive and Marina Bay Parkway in Richmond. It’s free, with a healthy lunch and snacks provided for volunteers. More details are available here.

Lost Childhoods exhibit of the Foster Youth Museum at Grace

fym-postcard-4-frontBraid Mission is sponsoring the Lost Childhoods exhibit of the Foster Youth Museum at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, from Thursday, October 15 to Sunday, November 1. This extraordinary museum has been compiled by former foster youth who donated artifacts from their childhoods that vividly portray their experience of being in foster care.

Please join for these events:

The Forum at Grace Cathedral — The Revs. Chris Chase and Rebecca Edwards of Braid Mission will facilitate a conversation with two foster youth who contributed to the museum
Sunday, October 18, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Gresham Hall

Closing Eucharist — a “Museum Mass” as part of the regular Sunday-evening eucharist at the cathedral
Sunday, November 1, 6 p.m.

Braid Mission is a ministry of the Diocese of California reaching out to youth in foster care. For more information please visit