From the Rector
We Belong to Each Other
As I write this, helicopters continue to drone overhead. I am done with the helicopters. Like many that I have spoken with today, the constant whirling sound is wearing me down, reminding me that in our city at present moment is the potential for violence, riot and mayhem.
God only knows what the end of this day will bring—hopefully simply shouting—though maybe? perhaps? some conversation and exchange of ideas. What is assured, though, is that many in this city are on edge: civic and university leadership, the police and emergency services, those who attend and teach at Berkeley High and those who love them, those who live and work in and near downtown. They are on edge because the last couple of times these two factions—alt-right groups like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Alt-Knights, and the leftist groups like the Antifa and the Black Bloc—have met, violence and bloodshed has followed.
Given some of the reporting that I’ve come across, and backed up by the signs, slogans, and actions that both sides have promoted, I have been left with a couple of deeply troubling senses. One is that each side finds violence as one of the only ways to express their frustration, anger, and even despair. It seems that distrust and alienation have rooted so deeply for members of both groups that the one of the only outlets is the physical punishment of the other. There seems to be little room for discourse, dialogue, or conversation. And even if the violence remains with those who wish to be combatants, it still corrupts all those who come into contact with it, indirectly or peripherally. It inherently tears at the fabric of our common life.
And what underlies that impulse to antagonize, attack or demonize the other side is the denial of a fundamental truth—that we all belong to each other. As reprehensible as I may find your views or actions, I still belong to you. If, as Peter Block has suggested in his book Community: A Structure of Belonging, “a citizen is one who is willing to be accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole,” then as a citizen of this city, state, nation, and world, I am actually accountable for your welfare. It is another articulation of the Ubuntu principle of Southern Africa, “I am because you are.”
I will be the first to admit that when confronted with hate-filled slogans and visions of a world that is contrary to what most deeply believe, I find it very difficult to be able to stand in and seek the common welfare of the other. And yet, given the distress, paralysis, and turmoil that we have experienced several times in the last two months, I am convinced that the way forward does not lie with body armor, sticks, and fists. This simply leads to more retribution, violence, and division. In reality, not all means will lead to the common good. I do not yet know what methods will best achieve this, but I do believe that we cannot reach the common good unless we are willing and able to belong one to another.
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave souls shared how their own stories connected with the Stations of the Cross. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, in no particular order, but with much gratitude.
Station # 6 Reflection: The Scourging of Jesus
It’s been a very long time since I’ve read through The Passion of Christ. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve ever once carefully read, and then reflected specifically on any part of it.
To read the description of scourging, of what that means exactly…to read through the description of scourging is almost too much too bear. I squirmed, I put it down, I wept and ultimately I wanted to stop. Suddenly I knew why despite a fairly conventional Catholic upbringing, I’d never engaged earnestly in this experience before.
Where does my life intersect with Jesus’ story?
It is with Mary. I cannot stop thinking of his mother Mary. I could barely stand to read, to read, the description of his brutal torture and humiliation. I cannot fathom having to watch any human, let alone my child, endure this pain and suffering.
I am a witness to suffering, real life human suffering every day. I have been a nurse for 20 years, and for the last 10 years I’ve belonged to a small group of clinicians that are dispatched outside of the Medical Center to place adults who’s hearts and/or lungs have failed onto a special machine that keeps them alive, hopefully, until they can either recover or receive a Heart or Lung Transplant.
I see people and families in full anguish. I see them at what may very well be the most desperate and painful moments of their lives. I am privileged to be a part of what’s known as “extraordinary care.” Care that sometimes delivers miracles, and other times only serves to prolong an already horrible death.
Mary, she’s there and to me she never seems to waiver in her faith and in her willingness to endure this horrifying treatment with her son. She witnesses every unfathomable abuse. She is present. “I am here,” I hear her saying.
I have not always been a good witness. Like with reading The Passion, I emotionally flee from the human pain around me. And I’ve found that as I have become better and better at what I do, that this buffer between those suffering and myself has grown greater.
Until my oldest and best friend of was diagnosed last year with an evil and aggressive cancer. A cancer that took her from a beautiful, healthy 45 year old woman to an emaciated, naked body vacant of life in just 5 short months. What I witnessed is something that I can only describe as being eaten alive from the inside.
With nothing to protect me, no modern medical marvel, no cure, no technical language, no swaggering surgeon to stand behind…with no miracle I had only one job: To bear witness. And there was nothing else I could do.
I witnessed fully engaged a beloved’s agony, suffering and her eventual death. And, somehow…somehow…this event has brought me back here, back home, to you, to Christ, and to this exact Station. So that I may fully bear witness to Christ’s suffering, and in my own everyday life better bear witness to the suffering around me.
– Mitch Kassemos
From the Associate for Youth Ministries
Time to Celebrate
Since the beginning of this school year, four high school students have participated in the Confirm not Conform (CnC) program. Phil, Liz, and I have been using CnC to help the youth understand the Episcopal tradition and to choose whether or not they want to be Confirmed.
Fifi, Tess, Ivy, and Anikka have been working incredibly hard since September. They are dedicated, thoughtful, eager to learn, and honest with their questions and answers. They have spent hours in CnC lessons, on our fall retreat, at Convergence Covenant Church, at Congregation Beth-El, and here at All Souls exploring our faith and the faiths of others. There is a service project in the works that is focused on planting trees in the Bay Area.
The youth have the option of being Confirmed on May 20th, but Confirmation is not a requirement. Some of them will be and some will not. CnC is meant to teach them about what it means to be Episcopalian. Part of that identity is to think, not to just blindly follow or accept doctrine. Regardless of what they choose, they have all invested a great deal of their time and energy in this program. We want to honor their hard work!
There will be an All Souls Confirmation Celebration for Fifi, Tess, Ivy, and Anikka on May 20th from 5:00 – 7:30 pm. All are invited and welcome! We will begin with a service in which the youth will share memorized Scripture passages and reflections. Afterwards, we will eat together and rejoice!
Please come and listen to the wisdom of these youth. Enjoy a glimpse of their faith journey this year. Our faith cannot happen in a bubble. The CnC community is naturally a part of the All Souls community. Come and celebrate the fruits of this part of our community with us. And if you would like to help make it happen, please contact me either by email, by phone (510-717-1753 ext. 4) or in person on Sundays. I will need people to set up the Parish Hall, bring food, clean up, and do other tasks. I hope to see many of you on May 20th!
Walking in the Resurrection
Join the Reverends Michael Lemaire and Phil Brochard to practice Resurrection this Easter. For five Sundays after Easter we will be using the centuries-old Ignatian tradition of sacred imagination to enter the Resurrection accounts of Jesus. No prior experience needed, just a willingness to engage the story and share it with others. This class will meet in the Common Room downstairs, and began on April 23rd and go through May 21st with the exception of May 7th when we’ll break for a Continuing the Feast.
Reading Between the Lines: Lectionary-based Bible Study
Join us as we study one of the texts for the following Sunday in a lectionary-based Bible study designed for small groups. We meet in the Common Room right after the 7:30 am service, in the Chapel during the 10:10 formation hour, or on Thursdays at 11 am in the Common Room. On-going class; drop-in, occasional attendees welcome.
Looking towards summer:
Vote for our Summer Reading Group book!
Earlier this spring, All Soulsians nominated books for our summer reading groups—six got the most nominations. Now we need to choose one of them that everyone will read over 8 sessions between June and August. In the Narthex, you will find a set of six glass jars, one for each of the books.
Read through descriptions of books in person and online.
Cast your vote in the Narthex for ONE book that you hope to read over the summer by placing a marble in the jar for the book of your choice.
Lobby your community to vote for your choice.
The Adult Formation Committee will tally the votes on May 7th and announce them in the Pathfinder and at the services that Sunday.
PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH IN OAKLAND ON APRIL 29
If you are concerned about climate change, please join other All Soulsians in the People’s Climate March at Lake Merritt in Oakland on Saturday, April 29th. We will gather with other faith communities for an interfaith service at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater at 10:30 am. Following the service there will be a rally and a march around the Lake with many others from around the Bay Area who want to make their voices heard in support of environmental and climate action. A People’s Climate March will be occurring on the same day in Washington, D.C. and in other cities around the country. All Souls has made climate action one of our priorities for focus and commitment as a congregation. By showing up and participating in this event, we can demonstrate that the faith community is united in our commitment to address the climate crisis through policies that adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, cut pollution, and invest in clean energy and transportation. Please contact Lewis Maldonado for more information on logistics.
Family Playdate & Potluck – this Saturday!
Join other All Souls parents and kids for a fun and easy playdate and potluck this Saturday, April 29, 4:30 – 7:00 at Ryan Greene-Roesel’s house. Please RSVP here, and you can be in touch with Ryan if you have questions. Bring some food or drink, an instrument if you play, and just come enjoy a laid-back time together!
Sign up soon for Camp All Souls!
The deadline to sign up for our brand new summer adventure, Camp All Souls: Called to Justice, is rapidly approaching! It is open to kids for ages 5-11, August 7th – 11th, and the deadline to register is May 31st. You can learn more and register online here or pick up forms in the narthex. Camp will be a great time for kids to build closer relationships with each other and the fabulous teenage and young adult counselors, learn about and practice justice, and explore where God is in the midst of it all. And it’s going to be a ton of fun! Let me know if you have any questions.