From the Senior Warden
I’ve had a lot of conversations recently that go something like this:
Someone asks, “How’s it going being senior warden? Thank you for all the hard work you’re doing!”
And I reply, “Thank you. It’s actually been really easy.”
And then I tell a story about the incredible people of this community and the joy they bring to the work of many hands made light.
So here’s a story about how August’s vestry meeting came together.
Lewis Maldonado caught me after a service and said Justice and Peace was working on something big on climate justice. Could they present and ask the vestry’s endorsement? Of course.
Marilyn Flood emailed and said she needed slots for not one, not two, but three candidates for ordination for final vestry interviews. Of course.
Ed Hahn and Kirk Miller had next steps to present on the Parish House Project. A couple dozen All Soulsians contributed ideas for the building’s name, our wealth of pro writers – Jane Vandenburg, Jack Shoemaker, Bonnie Bishop, Jeannie Koops-Elson, Nancy Austin, and Tess Taylor – weighed in, and Phil asked vestry to come to a decision. Of course.
Phil and the Capital Campaign Committee had researched and interviewed a consultant to help us with our timeline and planning for the campaign, and also had some questions for vestry about our vision and goals.
Phil and Erin Horne and I looked at each other and said, “We’re going to need a bigger boat. Or a longer meeting.”
So on August 21, we gathered at 7:00 pm in the Common Room and dove in, with Priscilla Camp’s scriptural reflection and zucchini bread (from the fruits of Caroline McCall and Calvin Payne Taylor’s gardens) for fortitude.
Following a presentation by Mark Koops-Elson, Lewis Maldonado, Christine Trost and Paloma Pavel, the vestry adopted the following motion: “We resolve that the parish embrace climate justice as a parish priority in our education, action, worship, and prayer life. The parish will pursue joint action by engaging ministry teams in this effort and by collaborating with other faith communities.”
As Justice and Peace framed for us, this parish-wide initiative grows out of the vision work of 2015 to identify our major areas of mission to include immigration, foster care, and climate justice. Having made major strides in immigration and foster care by setting up the accompaniment project and the support team with Braid Mission respectively, it is time to deepen our work in climate justice. Look for a series of education and formation events in the coming months from this unstoppable team, and look for your vestry members to be attending in strong support.
Then, on the recommendation of the Vocations Committee, we officially advanced Nikky Wood on her final step to ordination as a priest and Ari Wolfe and Dani Gabriel on their final steps to ordination to the vocational diaconate. Each candidate shared their understandings of what it means to be ordained and to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.
The vestry was clear, as we have been throughout our journeys with these three, that each of these people will be (and already are) tremendously gifted and grace-filled leaders of our common life. It is our honor to lift them up for holy orders. Please join us in celebrating at their ordinations on Saturday, November 30 at Grace Cathedral!
On the recommendation of the Capital Campaign Committee, we approved funds to hire Marc Rieki of The Enrichment Group to consult on our capital campaign. The committee and vestry were impressed by Marc’s experience and his alignment with our expectations that a capital campaign deepen, rather than detract or distract from, the heart of our mission as a community. We also had a conversation about our own hopes and expectations for a capital campaign’s success.
Finally, Kirk presented updated drawings of the Parish House Project and reported back on changes that he had recommended at July’s meeting. He and the project team were pleased with both SAHA and the architects’ responses and will continue to update vestry as the project advances to design schematics. The vestry discussed possible names for the building and decided to advance “Ann Jordan Apartments,” “The Commons,” and “The Cornerstone” as potential names for SAHA to consider.
All told, August’s mega-meeting was a 3-hour distillation of the skillful and thoughtful contributions of dozens of dedicated All Soulsians, and a potent reminder of the blessings of being in a community that worships and builds and grows together.
How is it going being senior warden? It’s an easy lift and a real gift to be asked to sit at the head of that table and say, “Thank you. Okay, who’s next?”
— Laura Eberly
From the Nursery
Every Sunday morning, we offer childcare for babies and toddlers in our nursery during the 9 and 11:15 services. We are very excited to announce that Aanya Ismail will be joining our staff as our new Lead Child Care Worker, beginning this Sunday! Aanya has wonderful energy, a wealth of experience with children, and just the kind of curiosity and gentleness that our youngest members need to thrive here. Please stop by and welcome her to All Souls! Here’s a little about her:
From our Postulant
Hi All Souls! I’m back in Berkeley, raring to go for my senior year of seminary and coming hot on the heels of a summertime away in Austin Texas where I did CPE — clinical pastoral education, a required part of the priestly ordination process. Some of you may be well-versed in the work of CPE, either for having served on discernment committees or for other reasons. CPE is a staple experience for seminarians and I want to share some of what the experience was like to you all, the congregation sponsoring me for ordination.
The basic form of the summer is Monday through Friday, 9-5 in the hospital. Thirty hours of the week are “clinical hours”, being assigned to a floor(s) and visiting patients. Another ten hours per week are spent in ‘class’ with CPE peers and educators, discussing our experiences with patients, sharing things about autobiographies and ministry experiences and senses of call, and learning some of the tools and language of pastoral ministry (family systems theory, grief, etc). This class time includes one of the classic CPE tools, presenting ‘verbatims’. The verbatim is basically an excerpt of a patient visit written as almost a screenplay, with dialogue between chaplain and patient (and any other actors, family members, medical staff, etc) and includes setting the scene and stage directions. The student group reads the verbatim aloud, like a table read of a TV show script, and then discusses the visit, giving critique and feedback and commentary to the student chaplain. It’s a dicey medium for learning — so much of chaplaincy feels like “well you really had to be there”. Scrutinizing a visit transcript as if it were a piece of literature is also a difficult (and vulnerable!) position for the student to be in, but that adds to the utility of the exercise, of course. On top of all of this was an about once-a-week ‘on-call’ shift, 18 or 24 hours spent in the hospital with the on-call pager as the only chaplain on-site, either from 5pm until 8am the next day (on weekdays) or from 8am to 8am (on weekends).
The hospital where I spent most of my time, then, was Dell Seton Medical Center, a downtown Austin non-profit Catholic hospital, part of a network of hospitals across the greater Austin metropolitan area under the banner of the Ascension Seton brand, including a children’s hospital, a mental hospital, and a number of rural hospitals. Dell Seton is the level-1 trauma center serving the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, with the occasional helicopter landing on the roof throughout the day bringing folks in from as far as 100 miles away. I was assigned to two floors, basically to the ER and the floor where folks get discharged to from the ER.
Simply put, it’s hard work. Brutal work, in fact. Human beings are amazing and resilient even in the face of enormous hardship. But as I was so often reminded, the hospital is one of the hardest and saddest places in our society and this hospital specifically was one of the hardest one, just full up to the brim with chronic illness, traumatic injury, mental illness, poverty and homelessness, people in untenable or abusive home situations, people with no friends or family and who feel all alone in the world. The work of the chaplain, as I saw it, was simply to be present to those people, help them process what’s happening to them, and to remind them of their distinct humanness (in a place where all the markers of your humanness are stripped from you — hospital gowns and sterile rooms, impersonal visits from over-busy doctors, etc). Especially for a soft, porous piece of pumice like me, it was painstaking work not to simply soak up all of the sadness and carry it around with me like a heavy weight on my chest for the rest of the day (or the rest of the summer, even).
I could preach an entire sermon series for all I learned and saw in my ten weeks this summer, but there are a couple of main takeaways I’ve been chewing on in the month or so since I’ve finished.
First, It’s easy to judge somebody’s life circumstances from a distance. It’s hard to confront them up close (and believe them). Twenty-first century American politics is replete with hot takes about what homeless people, unemployed and underemployed, chronically sick, and disabled people really ought to be doing to manage their situations without simply accepting government handouts. Our society loves to demand shame of people who haven’t, pardon my French, gotten their shit together like the rest of us. These kinds of judgments are easy and inexpensive to make from a distance. It’s far harder a thing to sit in a room with a person and believe them when they explain their life circumstances to you. I had people explain to me how they used to have great jobs and how a season of homelessness followed them back into the workforce, a stigma that made it hard to secure the same kind of work again. I had folks explain that for reasons of chronic illness, they were simply unable to work and how they were left with no options. Again, it’s easy to decide what these folks have done wrong in their lives to land them in their circumstances —but guilt is harder to assign when you have to do it in person.
CPE, oddly enough, helped me like/accept myself better. One of the things that you talk about in CPE is how the entire life of both chaplain and patient follow them into the hospital rooms. For patient, that means that sometimes the presenting spiritual/emotional issue is not about the diagnosis or surgery but about some other facet of their life. For chaplain, it means that all of our insecurities and life experiences come into the room with us, not necessarily in the spotlight but certainly there to influence how the chaplain reacts to and interprets what happens in the room. Our priestly ordination process tends to use harsh metaphors for how we manage those insecurities — we talk about hammering them out, or sanding down those rough edges, or interrogating those weaknesses. I came into CPE ready to communally berate myself for my shortcomings, and what I found instead was a cohort of peers and educators and staff who were insistent in gentle affirmation of my gifts and call in spite of my self-flagellation. For example, I’m an exceedingly sensitive person — I joked about being a porous piece of pumice — and my sensitivity was on great display all summer. It was great triple jump of a leap to realize that sensitivity is not simply a liability, but maybe its just a thing — that makes some things easier and some things harder — and maybe it’s just a thing gets to be okay.
Finally, self-care is harder than we think and our bodies collect fatigue and emotions in ways that our brains don’t always register. CPE is hard and it’s a lot of work and it’s easy to come home and eat some cake and watch Schitt’s Creek re-runs until it’s time to go to bed. And that worked for me for quite a while! But I did not realize that there was a rain barrel inside of me where I collected sadness and fatigue until around week 8 or 9 of CPE when it was suddenly overflowing. Netflix is great, but it doesn’t open the spigot on the rain barrel for me. I hold no illusion that a CPE summer could ever be somehow “sustainable” in the long-term (it’s not designed to be sustainable) but as Lizzo says — self-care is about self-preservation in a brutal world, it’s not just spa days and face masks”. Sadness and fatigue don’t always feel like sadness or fatigue and it takes savvy and sometimes counterintuitive work to take care of ourselves in the midst of travail.
There’s certainly lots more that could be said and there is certainly lots more processing to be done. A 1700 mile drive from Austin back to Berkeley (with intermittent crying to Sheryl Crow) sped the process along, but the big summertime experience will undoubtedly continue to unfurl itself well into my senior year of seminary (and probably forever thereafter).
With great faith and much love,
Beloved Community Training Day
Beloved Community Training is happening Saturday, September 21 at St. Paul’s, Oakland. This full day of workshops is just $10! Pick and choose from 18 different workshops, or follow a specific track. Check out the breadth of workshops and maybe even plan to go to them together as a crew of All Soulsians! There will be lots of different opportunities there to learn skills, get resources, and connect with others in the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area.
In addition to a wide variety of workshops, there are two particular tracks being offered:
DAY OF DISCERNMENT– for those interested in exploring ordained ministries, or just thinking about discernment in general, the Day of Discernment has been broken up into 3 separate workshops that can be taken separately by anyone or taken together to fulfill the “Day of Discernment” requirement for exploring the ordination process. These workshops are highly recommended not just for those interested in the process but also for Local Discernment Committees and clergy interested in the new ordination process in this diocese.
MULTICULTURAL AND DIVERSITY TRAINING– for those seeking further education in Healing Racism and overcoming bias, there will be two workshops offered to help further skills and awareness — Intercultural Conversations; and Gender Equality and Beloved Community: Trends, Challenges, and the Future. These two workshops are offered as continuing education for clergy as well as being open to any lay folks who want to address these issues in the context of Christian faith and the church community.
When: Saturday, September 21, 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Where: St. Paul’s, 114 Montecito Avenue, Oakland
Workshop Information: diocal.org/beloved-community-training-day
Contact: Amy Cook, firstname.lastname@example.org
Memorial Evensong for Christopher Putnam
We will remember Christopher Putnam on Thursday, 12 September at 5:15pm in the Quire of Grace Cathedral for a memorial Evensong and afterwards lay his ashes to rest in the cathedral columbarium. Please join us.
Job Opening: Parish Administrative Assistant
The search is open for our next Administrative Assistant. Do you know someone who is looking for half-time work, experienced in desktop publishing, volunteer coordination and property management? Are they familiar with liturgical Christian communities, are able to be flexible, and have a great sense of humor? Please send the job posting to them, available on our website here. Please note that people who are already active in the All Souls Parish community are not eligible to apply. Our hope is that by all of us sharing this posting far and wide, we’ll be able to find a great fit… thank you for your help!
Parish House Project Update
Join us this Sunday, September 8th, to learn about where things stand with the Parish House Project! A full update is in store beginning at 10:15 in the Parish Hall.
TAIZE EVENING PRAYER
Join us on September 22nd, during Formation Hour, and then again on Monday evening, the 23rd, when Brothers Emile and John from the Taizé Community in Burgundy, France will lead us in a Taizé Evening Prayer service. For more information contact The Rev. Peggy Patterson, email@example.com.
20S/30S SMALL GROUP
A group of 20s/30s-ish folks are meeting monthly this summer to break bread together in each other’s homes and explore different prayer practices. Expect tasty, dietary restriction-friendly potluck, equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages, and real talk about church, prayer, and our shared life together in 21st century Bay Area. Next meeting is September 17, 7–9 pm. Come once, come every month, you are welcome. For more information please contact Jane Thomason firstname.lastname@example.org.