From the Associate Rector
A friend of mine, also a priest, received an anonymous voicemail soon after he began serving at a new church. In the message, the person shared their grave concern that children were making noise in the back of the church during worship, and asked that the priest do something about it. Intent on improving the situation, the priest sprung into action! He bought a rug and soft toys and arranged them at the very front of the church. Problem solved – no more noise in the back of the church!
I will allow that, just maybe, the anonymous deliverer of distress had a different understanding of the problem. And yet, I appreciate my friend’s response to a deeper concern. How do we invite our children to engage in worship? How can we support them in engaging the holy as themselves, sometimes wiggly and convulsing with laughter, sometimes belting out a song when others might be trying to blend in harmony, sometimes so focused in wonderment that adults have trouble staying with them in their concentration? It’s a tricky dance, finding the balance between teaching our children our rhythms of worship while also honoring who they are in this moment.
This fall, we are exploring the way we invite our youngsters into worship. We are experimenting with the ways our sanctuary is set up to facilitate – and inhibit – children’s experience and participation in worship. While learning to calm our minds and settle into stillness is a valuable spiritual practice for people of all ages, I think it’s also important to honor the need most children have to engage the world physically. As much as we give praise to an incarnate God and strive to honor God’s image in all people, it only seems fitting that we also celebrate the incarnation of our children. They are wiggly, they are hands-on, sometimes they are noisy, often they are sticky, and this is all good. They are welcome to come to church as they are, and we want to do a better job of respecting who they are.
What will this look like, practically? Children will, of course, still be welcome to sit anywhere in the sanctuary. But beginning in a week or two, depending on the carpet delivery timeline, we will have two soft spaces in the sanctuary designed specifically with kids’ incarnate goodness in mind. This Sunday, you will see that we have already removed the front pew closest to the door to the Parish Hall. Soon, there will be a comfy rug running the length of the pew, accompanied by baskets of soft toys and cushions. In the back of the church, in the area that was once a baptistery and more recently has been home to a harpsichord, we will be adding another smaller rug, a glider and a rocking chair, and more soft toys. Both areas will have easy access to doors, as a planned escape route is always important to those of us with volatile companions! The area in the back will be especially comfortable for nursing moms, though it is by no means a suggestion that that’s the only place for nursing. (Perhaps you’ve heard the story of my ordination…) The area up front will be particularly well suited for children who are eager to watch the action and participate in the liturgy, but need to be able to fidget at the same time.
And just as importantly, what will this look like relationally? Hopefully, it will be one more way for us to live into our vision statement, aspiring to be a community in which “we foster spiritual kinship with one another, especially across generations and diverse backgrounds.” While these new areas are intended for children, non-parenting adults are most welcome to join them there, engage together in playful, prayerful worship with them, and maybe even offer their parents the chance to pray somewhere else with stillness for a change. While we are trying to meet kids where they are, we also have no intention of making church a free-for-all, but it takes all of us – the village! – to live into this messy and blessed ideal together. Just last week, a parent shared with me that she felt particularly well supported upon learning that another parishioner had “given her kid a yellow card,” as she put it, on the playground. She was touched that someone was willing to step in and lovingly redirect some behavior that wasn’t working. It reminded her that she isn’t in this alone.
I invite you to give these new areas a try this fall, with your own kids or with someone else’s. Notice what feelings bubble up for you as you worship nearby. Reflect on how you want to collaborate in helping families flourish at All Souls. May our children be seen and heard, may we honor them for who they are today, and may they know how loved they are by this church.
From the Senior Warden
Ernest Boyer, a Roman Catholic lay minister, writes about a time when he attended a lecture on the Desert Fathers at Harvard Divinity School. Some of you might know that he spirituality of the desert draws on solitude, silence and prayer as paths to God. At the end of this lecture, Boyer approached the speaker and asked, “Is there childcare in the desert?”
I have never been the type of person that enjoys, let alone follows routines or disciplines, including spiritual disciplines. Whether I blame it of my personality type, my restlessness or lack of time, the truth is that finding and making quiet time to center and pray, to read or meditate has always been something that I’ve strived to achieve, yet have failed to sustain time and again. Adding children to the mix obviously has made it much, much harder, so the idea of “childcare in the desert” is beyond tempting. I remember that during my first years as a parent, I always had a lingering sense of guilt for not being able to make time for sustained prayer and Bible reading, which I believed were essential to my spiritual life. I at least made time for church, and showed up Sunday after Sunday, sometimes tired and sleepy, sometimes battling two screaming children… you know. Maybe you have been there too.
It was back then that I found the book “In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice”, by theologian and mother Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore. Although long, and somewhat dense, the book’s premise is to challenge the idea that spiritual depth can only be achieved through silence and serenity, and to offer parents and caregivers a spirituality that draws on the chaos of everyday life.
This Summer, I led a book group that reflected on portions of this book. While it is not my intention to summarize the book or our discussions here, (I do recommend reading it, and we have it in our library!), what we found was that most of the time we had more questions than answers. We also found that as parents, teachers or caregivers, finding a spiritual path, not only in spite of our busy, messy lives, but from them, is something we would like to explore more. Finally, we also reaffirmed the responsibility we all hold as a community at All Souls to support each other in this journey.
So, if you are a parent, grandparent, teacher or caregiver, I invite you to ponder on the ways in which caring for children has formed you and brought spiritual growth. How can you incorporate faithfulness and spirituality into your everyday routines? How can you bring awareness to the many ways in which God holds you in the chaos?
And finally, whether you are a parent or not, how is God calling you as part of this faith community, to grow side by side and nurture each other in faithfulness and kinship?
May we all be blessed with the many gifts that all generations bring to us!
Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt
Outreach Ministry: Immigrant Support
The Outreach Committee at All Souls invites you to consider how you might be able to share your time and energy to support the needs of immigrants in our community. Here are some ways you can join the effort:
* Can you volunteer on a PRAP Team one day a month? PRAP (The Post Release Accompaniment Program) needs more volunteer teams. It is part of the interfaith organization that All Souls partners with to support immigrants in our region. Teams of two, a translator plus a driver, are called by PRAP to respond to an immigrant just released from the West County Detention Center in Richmond. They typically assist the immigrant with translation, personal items which PRAP provides, arrangements to make a phone call, and transportation to the next destination, such as a plane, train or bus station. For more information, contact All Souls parishioner Elena Ramirez by email or at (510)526-5346.
* Join All Souls at the monthly prayer vigil, Saturday, September 5, 11:00 am – noon, at West County Detention Center, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond.
* Help offer hospitality to guests right here at All Souls as part of the Parish House Accompaniment Project, which will offer short term emergency housing to recently released immigrant detainees and asylum seekers. Please contact Christine Trost if you would like to volunteer with this ministry, and/or complete this brief survey as we seek to gauge the kinds of resources we will be able to offer our guests.
Celebration of New Ministry with Jim Richardson
The people of Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa invites you to join them in welcoming their new Priest-In-Charge, the Rev. Jim Richardson, on Saturday, October 17, 2015. Pastor Jim comes from St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he was the Rector for seven years. However, many of you already know him well! Pastor Jim is returning to the Diocese of Northern California where he was ordained, and served as a canon and associate dean at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Sacramento for many years. He also served as interim rector here at All Souls before Phil was called here. More information about Pastor Jim can be found on their website.
A Celebration of New Ministry will be held at the Church of the Incarnation on Saturday, October 17 at 1:30 pm. Bishop Barry Beisner will officially install Jim as their new priest. After the service ends, they will have a reception and dinner. Childcare for children under the age of 12 will be available during the service and reception; you will be asked to collect your children to join you for dinner.
Seating is limited, so please RSVP to their Parish Administrator Alison Cole at by email or at (707)579-2604. Please let them know if you will attend both the service and dinner, how many people, and if you will need childcare.
All Souls for Racial Justice Event
Hear the author & join the discussion
Ta-Nehisi Coates will speak about his best-selling book, “Between the World and Me.” Join a group of us from All Souls who have committed to attend this exciting event in Berkeley and who plan to arrange a discussion session on Coates’ book and presentation at another date. For more information contact Missy Longshore or Janet Chisholm.
Toni Morrison praises this book as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer)
Wednesday, October 28, 7:30 PM – Come earlier for a good seat!
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley
Advance tickets: $15. Go to an independent bookstore, or call to see if they still have tickets:
Marcus Books, Pegasus (3 sites), Moe’s, Walden Pond Bookstore, Diesel a Bookstore,
Mrs. Dalloway’s S.F. They are sold out on line! At the door: $18
A KPFA benefit
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
“Powerful and passionate . . . profoundly moving . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’s journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory.”
“An instant classic and a gift to us all.”
—Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns
The Stewardship Team invites the whole parish to a catered brunch this Sunday, September 6th during the 10:10 am formation hour. This will be a festive launch to the annual pledge campaign, with a brief program and time for conversation and fellowship. All youth and adults are warmly encouraged to come, and there will be childcare available on the playground.
All youth are invited to a Labor Day BBQ, this Sunday September 6th at 4:30 pm on the Parish House Patio. Good food, good friends, good fun! RSVP to Jess so we know how much food to buy and bring something to share if you can!
Loaves & Fishes
The next Loaves & Fishes meal is Saturday, Sept 12 at 4 pm at Vimala & George Tharisayi’s home, please RSVP to Gloria Bayne. All are welcome to come share in a fun potluck meal and enjoy the time to connect with old friends and make new ones!
Fall Formation Classes
Fall formation classes begin for all ages on September 13th at 10:10 am. Look forward to “Science and the Spiritual Quest,” taught by the Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson, Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and All Souls for Beginners, a great introduction to this parish and our common life, taught by the Rev. Phil Brochard. Sunday school for children and youth will also begin on the 13th.
Parish Retreat, September 18-20
Registration is full for our annual parish retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch, September 18-20! It’s quite possible that some people will have to change their plans though, so you can get on the waiting list by emailing Caroline DeCatur Putnam.