From the Rector
“It doesn’t get better than this.” The number of times that I heard this phrase from parishioners this past parish retreat was remarkable. People who had made many retreats said it. Those who found themselves at the Ranch for the very first time said it.
As always, there were many reasons for it. For some it was desperately needed respite. For others it was rising early in the morning to see the wonder of the mist clinging to the Dry Creek Valley. And yet others loved that they got to wrestle in front of the Dining Hall and beat adults with pool noodles all afternoon. For just about everyone it was the “Talent Optional Talent Show” that was unlike any variety show that Jimmy Fallon or Ed Sullivan show has ever hosted.
All of these things, to me, were to the good. And I am so thankful to Caroline Putnam, Liz Tichenor, Jess Powell, Jeannie-Koops-Elson, Christopher Putnam, Jamie Nelson, Michelle Barger, and the hosts of others that gave hours and hours of their time to structure, program and presence for these three days. As I have reflected on the time together, what I found to be so incredible, my “it doesn’t get better than this,” was the profound sense of being together that pervaded the weekend. People in their first decade playing and talking with people in their eighth decade. Those who had only just begun coming to All Souls deep in conversation with others who have been a part of the community for decades. You could see it in the times of relaxed conversation, focused program, Sabbath rest. Simply put, it was good to be together.
It was from this place of gratitude that we approached our program on Saturday morning. The Rev. Canon Andrea McMillan led the adults in a program about evangelism which you can read more about more in-depth in Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt’s article in this Pathfinder. To put it simply, evangelism does not need to be (really should not be) about getting someone to assent to a particular set of belief statements. As Canon McMillin reminded us, it is about inviting someone into something good that you have found. In our case, it is the kind of good that changes people’s lives.
For some at All Souls this invitation of goodness will be offered through music, like the Parish Choir, the Angel Band or the Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir. For others it will be through service, like Open Door Dinner, or our Parish House Accompaniment Program. For others it will be a shared meal, like at a Loaves and Fishes or a Hootenanny. For still others it will be with our youth, making sacred space on Sunday evenings.
In all of this, though, the work for each of us is to pay attention. To pay attention to the goodness we are experiencing. This may take some getting used to but it is a deeply spiritual practice that is essential in life. And once we recognize that has changed us for the better, we are then to invite others to take part. Sharing this Kingdom come near is part of receiving this gift. As several people recognized this weekend, there are scores of people yearning to experience the kind of goodness that changes a person, a family, culture. Friends, at All Souls Parish we have clearly been gifted with it. And it is meant for us to share.
From the Senior Warden
It is no mystery that Episcopalians traditionally have not been very fond of “the E-word,” you know, Evangelism. For many of us, the word Evangelism brings up negative associations with brain-washing, indoctrination or proselytism. For others, it is what other Christian denominations do, but not really “our thing,” and it is enough to embrace our motto of “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” expecting visitors to find their way to our communities, where we warmly welcome them. Some of us also really like to think of our faith as a private matter, more so in the Bay Area culture, where mainline Christianity tends to have a bad reputation. …And yet, Jesus calls on us to evangelize.
This past weekend at the Parish Retreat, the Rev. Canon Andrea McMillin, from the Diocese of Northern California, led us in an introductory exploration of “Episcopal Evangelism: Invitation to Transformation.” Drawing from Scripture and Art, we talked about Evangelism at its root: sharing the Good News of God in Christ, sharing with those around us the Good News of what God is doing in our lives, and inviting them to encounter Jesus at the Table with us. The Evangelism we talked about is about giving witness not only through our actions, but also through our words, sharing our stories of faith, doubt, hope and transformation, and how those stories are shaped by our being part of a worship community.
One of the things I enjoyed most from the Rev. McMillin’s presentation was hearing that we are not called to persuade or convert anyone into a belief system. Conversion of heart and mind comes from God. We are called to be channels of God’s Love and Grace. Light of the world and Salt of the Earth.
As we gather around the Table week after week to be nourished and transformed, I invite you to consider how many people around you might be hungry for just this kind of Bread, and open your heart to God as the source of all invitation. Consider what your spiritual journey has been, and who might find solace or hope in hearing it.
As a continuation of this topic, next month Danielle Gabriel and I will lead a Formation class on Evangelism (watch out for announcements in the blue sheet!). Danielle was appointed earlier this year as the chair of a new Evangelism ministry, which will lead the efforts of the whole congregation in sharing our faith and inviting others into our community. If you are interested in this topic, or in being part of this exciting new ministry, please email Danielle Gabriel.
—Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt
Echoes from the Parish Retreat
During our Eucharist last weekend on the Parish Retreat, three parishioners shared their stories of coming into the All Souls community recently. Priscilla Camp has graciously agreed to let us publish her words here, so that all may hear her experience.
My partner Bonnie Bishop and I came to All Souls about a year ago, after a summer “walkabout” visiting various congregations in the area. I had been at another local parish for 20 years, but was feeling the need for a different kind of energy. I didn’t have a specific idea about what kind of energy, just different. (Bonnie had her own agenda, which she is quite capable of articulating for herself. I’m speaking only for myself here.)
I had heard, from someone familiar with such things, that All Souls was “everything a church should be.” I was skeptical. After all, that would require very hard work, such as joyful commitment to trying to actually live out the gospel. What a concept!
The lay theologian Verna Dozier said two things that form the lens through which I view my faith experience. The first is a question: “Do you want to worship Jesus, or follow him?” The latter is the hard part. The second is the notion that if what happens on Sunday doesn’t change what happens on Monday, Sunday was a waste of time. I experience All Souls as addressing these concerns pretty well.
Last night at the Talent Optional Show we sang “Oh Happy Day”. There were only four of us there from the Gospel Choir and we didn’t do a particularly good job, but everyone sang along because the song is so familiar, so that didn’t matter much. Edwin Hawkins had a big hit with that song and it’s in the vernacular. The refrain is “oh happy day”, but until I sang it with the Gospel Choir I didn’t know the verse: “He taught me how to watch, fight and pray, and live rejoicing every day.” I want to be in a congregation that is working on those things.
I am 74 years old, and I must be very intentional about how I spend my remaining years in this life. So far, I feel like spending them with you.
Thank you for welcoming me.
– Priscilla Camp
Money that almost grows on trees
There is a very easy way to raise money for the children and youth ministries at All Souls by doing almost nothing! eScrip is a widespread program that donates to charities, All Souls being one of the possible recipients. In short, if you sign up with eScrip, they give a percentage of your purchase to All Souls. In the past, a number of popular grocery stores have participated, and while they no longer are, there are still great ways to take part. For many people, the participation with Amazon may be the most helpful: eScrip will donate 1.2% of our purchases at Amazon (as compared to just 0.5% that Amazon Smile will contribute). All you have to do is sign up and make sure you go to the eScrip site first before clicking through to Amazon. Yes, it’s an extra step, but if we all do it, it will add up to a really substantial amount of financial support for our children! We can also earn for All Souls by dining at participating restaurants and shopping at other stores online. To register for the dining program, click on “Dine out and earn,” at the lower left of the eScrip site. Enter your credit or debit cards, and use them if you visit any of the participating restaurants. To shop online, go to the eScrip site and click on “Online Mall.” Click on the store where you want to shop, and you will be at that site and can shop as usual.
If you haven’t registered, here is the procedure:
Log onto escrip.com. Make sure you have the correct All Souls Episcopal Parish. Register your credit and debit cards. The program is free; the church automatically receives a percentage of your purchase. If you’re already signed up for eScrip through another organization, you can add All Souls and proceeds will be split (up to three ways).
Please call or email Mardie Becker if you have questions or suggestions. Thank you for your help!
The North Berkeley Senior Center needs your help!
Volunteers are invited tomorrow, September 25, to help at the North Berkeley Senior Center! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. They will be painting 2 rooms, installing window film, and installing ceiling tiles. They will be working from 9 am – 4 pm at 1901 Hearst Ave. in Berkeley. Breakfast and lunch will be provided!
All Souls Acting for Racial Justice Discussion
On Wednesday, October 14th, from 7:00 – 8:30 pm, All Souls Acting for Racial Justice will host a discussion of the book, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Everyone is welcome, even if you haven’t finished the book!
St. Francis Day is coming!
Mark your calendars for October 4th! We’ll be celebrating St. Francis Day, blessing pets at the 7:30 service and after the 11:15 service (though you are welcome to bring your pets with you to worship at the 11:15). After the 11:15 service, we’ll also celebrate stewardship of creation by blessing our solar panels. They’ve been installed, inspected, approved, and finally turned on – so it’s time to celebrate! Bring your pets, your friends, your neighbors… anyone you think would enjoy the joyful chaos of worshiping with critters and watching holy water flying from the rooftops.