From the Rector
Come Rejoice With Us
As I write this reflection, there are residents of Jordan Court planting new starts in the veggie boxes in the courtyard. Green beans, collard greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and much more. It’s kind of stunning to see veggies being planted in this courtyard, just one glimpse of new life in a building full of it.
It has been well over seven years since All Souls began discernment about what to do with this piece of land and the building and parking lot that was upon it. Decades of faithful living had preceded this discernment: Benedictine monks and Franciscan friars, seminarians, asylum seekers, All Souls staff, youth groups, bible studiers, and Stephen ministers.
After prayer and conversation, we heard a call from God to build housing and community for elders who were vulnerable, some in dire need of shelter. Thanks $25.5M in city, county, state, and federal funds, and because of the hard work of hundreds––All Soulsians, folks from SAHA, local officials, construction workers––Jordan Court is now a reality. A couple of dozen residents now call the corner of Cedar and Oxford their home, with more to come in the next month.
And it is now time to celebrate. It is with a profound sense of relief and gratitude that I invite one and all to the Grand Opening celebration of Jordan Court on Thursday, May 5th at 12 noon. In a season of uncertainty and challenge, it is time to revel in joy. Join residents of Jordan Court, our Mayor Jesse Arreguín and members of the City Council, funders of the project, and fellow All Soulsians in giving thanks for this witness to collaboration, justice, persistence, and yes, faith.
There will be music, food, and a few speakers to memorialize the event. Margaret Sparks will be reading one of Ann Jordan’s poems, and all of it will be livestreamed, from our Facebook page and from our website. We will bring into the moment all those who gave of themselves to see this day, and all those who will be a part of it in the years to come.
In the words of the Litany to the Saints that we prayed at the Easter Vigil just a week or so ago, next Thursday, May 5th at 12 noon in the Jordan Courtyard, “Come rejoice with us!!”
From the Vestry
Update from the April Vestry Meeting
Tuesday night’s vestry meeting had a little bit of everything to keep the evening flowing. The meeting started with a reflection on the conversion of St. Paul and the question, “Who have we already made up our minds about?” The discussion was varied but with few surprises.
There was a lot of thoughtful discussion on how the vestry engages all the different ministries of the church using the lens of the organizational life cycle model (ask Phil if you’re interested in learning more) with a focus on pastoral care. Outcomes of this model vary all the way from healthy growth to regeneration/reincarnation to a proper burial. Ministry leaders can expect to hear more about this in upcoming months as vestry members will continue the discussion among various groups.
The Living Waters campaign was also a prime focus of the meeting as Richard Lynch led a discussion on current and upcoming activities, including the upcoming advance commitment event and an all-church celebration banquet. Please keep an eye out for more information or contact Richard if you have questions. This phase of the campaign promises to wrap up by Pentecost with a transparent and wide vestry process afterwards to decide how best to spend the funds raised.
Bob Cross followed up with a report on Jordan Court, wrapping up the legal work there. In addition, the Justice and Peace committee will be figuring out how best to support our new neighbors at the site. In more good news, the All Souls apartments in the building are almost furnished and one of the three final candidates for Jamie Apgar’s position will be staying there in an upcoming visit. The finalist will be picked before Jamie’s last Sunday on 7/10 and it is anticipated this person will be at All Souls by the beginning of August.
On a final note, this Easter was a glorious celebration after the last few years of pandemic services. Christ is risen indeed and the congregation had the chance to celebrate with our many rich traditions along with some new ones, such as the Agape dinner and a Holy Saturday service. We hope that every one of you had a chance to celebrate at the church in some way and that you also were uplifted.
Reflection on the Catechumenate
The How and the What
I started coming to All Souls in September, shortly after my partner and I moved to Oakland from the East Coast. I was instantly intrigued by the rhythm of the liturgy, pragmatic passion of the teachings, and openness of the community. But coming from an Evangelical background, much of what was said and done was unfamiliar. And so, when I saw the catechumenate advertised in the bulletin, I jumped at the opportunity to gain a more formal understanding of the beliefs of the Episcopal church.
Week one was as I expected. Reverend Dr. Ruth Meyers walked us through the liturgy—from the first notes of the gathering music, to the liturgy of the Word, through the liturgy of the Table, and back out into the World. After faking my way through so many Sundays, it was a welcome orientation.
Then things got weird.
I expected the following classes to focus on the Big Questions—to lay out what it is that Episcopalians believe. After all, how could I be expected to join a church without knowing what I was signing on to? But as it turns out, I was fixated on the wrong question. Rather than that what, the catechumenate focused on the how.
In week two, for example, Reverend Dr. Paula Nesbitt delivered a lecture on “Church Polity.” Never in all my church-going life had I seriously considered the governance procedures of any church I’d attended, yet here I was learning the ins and outs of the governing bodies of the General Convention. While interesting, I was a bit confused. Why was it necessary for me, a new attendee, to understand this institution in such gory political detail?
In week three, Dan Carlson’s discussion of The Book of Common Prayer turned into a rollicking tour through the English monarchy. Once again, process dominated over substance; rather than unpacking the meaning behind the text, we focused on its historical evolution. And week four’s discussion of the Bible with Reverend Michael Lemaire was similar, discussing the compilation of the texts and the sources of the stories rather than any larger meaning or message.
The lectures were fascinating and the conversation stimulating. Yet here I was, four weeks in and no closer to answering my starting question than I was when I began. Just what is it that Episcopalians believe? I was intrigued and thoroughly amused. What was this strange church, united by liturgical practices rather than confessional statements?
It was in week five (Dr. Scott MacDougall; “Theology”) that things started to click. Another variation on the now-familiar theme (process over substance; the how over the what), but now with a more explicit normative lens. “Bad theology kills,” Dr. MacDougal reminded us. It matters, he implored, that we handle this gift we’ve been given with care; that we do theology right.
Built upon this premise, the lessons of the previous weeks began to make sense. To responsibly engage in such a serious undertaking requires some guardrails—from democratic governing institutions and oversight mechanisms, to limitations on what can be read or said or sung during the liturgy. And the history of this institution and its key texts provide important lessons about the ways that dogmatic pronouncements can undermine the Gospel message. The how, it turns out, really matters—perhaps as much as the what.
So I’ve decided to buy in, though I remain somewhat skeptical. Is the fact that this church largely affirms my political inclinations evidence that Jesus was a Bernie Bro, or are my politics driving my faith? Is the church’s decision to be creedal rather than confessional an act of humility in the face of our epistemological limitations, or are we capitulating to liberalism and its commitment to individual belief systems? If the church won’t take a firm stance on what truth is, who will?
Still, I take comfort. In the pillars of the church (scripture; creeds; sacraments; apostolic succession) that form the boundaries within which we can explore. In the church polity that embraces our shared faith and tradition despite (and through) vigorous disagreement. In this community, that is committed to exploring the hard questions and seeking truth, together. And in the fact that, on Easter, when we proclaimed Christ is risen, I know we really meant it. Alleluia!
From Adult Formation
Following Up: “Reconsidering Sin and Salvation”
A number of those who participated in the four-session adult formation course on “Reconsidering Sin and Salvation” asked for some additional resources. This is offered by way of answering those requests. I hope you find these suggestions to be helpful.
First, the quote about sin that people asked to have. It is this:
Sin is primarily a religious and theological term and not a moral term. Sin is not primarily breaking the moral law, but rather breaking the relationship with God. It is not primarily immorality, but rather rebellion and estrangement. Thus sin is not the opposite of virtue or goodness but, rather, of faith (see Rom. 14:23). Sin is spiritual and not carnal, a matter of the spirit or self and its pretensions, rather than the body and its impulses. Sin is a state or condition rather than an act, although issues in acts.
—Owen Thomas and Ellen K. Wondra, Introduction to Theology, 3rd ed. (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 2002), 152–53.
Second, additional reading material. I offer the following texts in order of increasing difficulty, along with some comments about each.
Samuel Wells, What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction (New York: Church Publishing, 2011). Sam Wells is a well-known and prolific author, in addition to serving as vicar at the renowned London parish St. Martin-in-the-Fields. This is a very non-technical introductory text to the basic themes of Christian theology from an Episcopalian perspective.
Fredrica Harris Thompsett, We Are Theologians: Strengthening the People of God (New York: Church Publishing, 2004). This is a classic and very readable text by an important historian in the Episcopal Church. She makes the case that we are all already doing theology but that intentionally doing theological work as laypeople is crucial for the health of the church.
Cynthia L. Rigby, Holding Faith: A Practical Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2018). This is a very accessible introduction-to-theology textbook written in a conversational style. While it has subtle a Presbyterian flavor, it is solid and well-worth reading.
The above-named third edition of Introduction to Theology, by former seminary professors Owen Thomas and Ellen Wondra, is the only current textbook introducing theology from a specifically Episcopalian point of view. (Wells’ book is not a textbook.) Not difficult to read, but slightly more advanced than Rigby’s volume.
Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 6th (25th anniversary) ed. (Malden, MA: Wiley–Blackwell, 2016). This is one of the most widely used textbooks in introductory theology courses for good reason. It is excellent, thorough, generally even-handed, and written by an Anglican theologian–scientist who teaches at Oxford. McGrath has been improving the book by degrees over the course of many years.
Ralph McMichael, ed., The Vocation of Anglican Theology (London: SCM, 2014). This an excellent book. It is, though, both quite technical and somewhat historical in its outlook and approach. Students tend to find it somewhat dry, but if you are interested in Anglican theological views on particular areas of theology over time, this is a terrific read.
I hope you enjoy the recommendations!
From the Living Waters Campaign
Living Waters by the Numbers – so far.
The Living Waters campaign is the culmination of years of prayer, community building and hard work by a large part of the All Souls community. Multiple committees and vestries have laid the foundation for the campaign, started in 2020 and concluding in the next month or so. Many, many All Soulsians have carried the campaign forward. It is no substitute for their creativity, spirit and inspiration, but here are a few measures of the breadth of activity and engagement, so far:
2012 – Creation of All Soul’s Vision statement.
2015 – Vestry adopts a Strategic Plan. Deep Hospitality and Christian Action and Practice are the two remaining areas of areas of focus.
$2,000,000 – Celebration Goal for new commitments beyond the Jordan Bequest.
17 Living Waters Directors who each guide a specific area of the campaign – from Advance Commitments and Children and Youth to Communications and Hospitality.
14 Living Waters Small Group conversations at Soup + Story or LW Coffees/Gatherings.
9 Small Group callers and schedulers who coordinated the small groups.
8 Small Group facilitators who led those information sessions and conversations.
110 People, including hosts and facilitators, attended those conversations. (Likely about 75 households.)
15+ People starred in the Living Waters Video.
1 Tour of the potential project sites. Tours are available after the 11:15 service on 5/1, 5/8 and 5/15.
9 Advance Commitment in-home visitors.
1 Advance Commitment Gathering, May 14.
1 All Church Banquet, May 21.
5 Commitment volunteers to help make sure everyone has a chance to make a commitment.
3 years – Length of time to fulfill a Living Waters commitment.
June 5 – End of formal fundraising phase of Living Waters campaign.
Save the Dates
April 30, 12p Family Cookout Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda
May 5, 12p Jordan Court Opening Celebration
May 21, All Parish Living Waters Party 5:30-8p
May 22, Guest speaker Russell Jeung presentation during the Adult Formation hour
June 5, Pentecost
Join us at 9am, in-person, outdoor service in the courtyard. This service will move indoors if the weather is below 40 degrees at 8:15a, if the AQI is over 150, or if there is rain.
Or (and!) join us indoors for the 11:15 service or on the live stream at 11:15a, which can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning. At our 11:15 service, masks are optional.
Then join us outdoors at 5p Sunday Night Service for a Eucharistic Service.
If you miss a Sunday, you can always catch the sermon on our homepage or as a podcast, anywhere you listen to podcasts!
Wednesday 9am Service
Join the Zoom call here, or join us in person in the Nave at 9a. Password: 520218. Masks are required for this service as it is indoors.
Living Waters: Renewal for our Second Century Capital Campaign
Living Waters Docent Tours!
Tour the All Souls campus with a focus on the capital campaign. The Living Waters Campaign has created a walking tour of All Souls, highlighting the areas where the capital campaign will renew us for our second century. A guide will lead the tour through 20 brief stops to better understand the places the capital campaign will touch. Docent-led tours are available on Sundays – April 24, May 1, May 8 and May 15. No registration or RSVP is required. The tour will leave from the Narthex at 12:45. The tour should last about 30 minutes and then volunteers will be available to answer any questions you have. Self-guided tour packets are also available in the Narthex.
- Save the Date! All-Parish Celebration on May 21st 5:30-8p at All Souls. RSVP online allsoulsparish.org/celebration or by calling the church office (510-848-1755).
The Living Waters team invites you to visit (and bookmark) the new module of the All Souls website to keep track of our campaign efforts, http://www.allsoulsparish.org/capital-campaign/. There you’ll find an overview, FAQs, campaign calendar, resources, and general announcements about our effort. We also invite you to read our first newsletter, if you didn’t already see it in your inbox. We look forward to communicating with you through the website, email, print, and social media in the weeks ahead.
Adult Formation Classes
We have three classes being offered this Sunday:
- Reading Between the Lines Bible Study @ 7:30a. Contact Kate Murphy, email@example.com to join that Zoom call, or join them in the Common Room!
- Reading Between the Lines Bible Study @ 10:10a. This Bible Study meets in the Chapel downstairs or on Zoom. Contact Daniel Prechtel, firstname.lastname@example.org to join that Zoom call.
- Christian Mystics Explore the breadth of mystical experiences in Christian faith communities, and ponder some of the ways the Sacred breaks through into your own life. Co-taught by the Rev. Daniel Prechtel and the Rev. Marguerite Judson, this four week drop in class introduces a wide variety of ways we draw closer to the Holy. There will, of course, be a substantial bibliography provided! click here for the juicy bibliography 🙂 The classes will be held in the Common Room, and on our Zoom link [HERE] between 10:15 and 11:05 am.
- April 24 – How do we define mysticism? What are some of its Biblical expressions? What are the practices which can open us to a unitive experience with the divine?
- May 1 – Two medieval mystics who led very different lives conveyed their experiences through visual art, music, and human language. Join us for a quick introduction of Hildegard von Bingen and Dame Julian of Norwich. What are the parallels in our own lives?
- May 8 – Notions about prayer and encounter with the Divine are further stretched when we consider the Cloud of Unknowing, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila and her contemporary, John of the Cross.
- May 15 – Contemporary mystics speak from a wide variety of traditions, including Anglican Evelyn Underhill; Quaker Thomas Kelly; and civil rights activist the Rev. Howard Thurman. What might all the mystics discussed over the four weeks teach us about how the Holy Spirit is moving in our lives and in the world?
Newcomer Coffee: April 24th & May 1st
Are you new here? Come out to a Newcomer Coffee to learn more about All Souls and what it means to get involved and/or become a member from the Rev. Phil Brochard and Emily Hansen Curran. We’ll meet over in the new Jordan Court meeting room (just off the courtyard of Jordan Court) have some coffee and snacks for you.
Children, Youth, and Family News
Family Picnic this Saturday! – April 30, 12:00pm at Sand Castle Picnic Area at Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda – Come grill out and spend time on the beach with other All Souls families for a pot luck picnic. RSVP HERE
Children: Join us this Sunday at 10:10am, for Sunday School! Children Pre-K-Grade 3 will meet out in the courtyard. Grades 4-5 will meet upstairs in the Sunday school classroom.
Youth: Youth Group and Office Hours continue this Sunday for youth in grades 6-12. Meet in the Youth Room (Maggie’s old office) at 10:10am for a donut and check-in, then join us from 7:00-8:30pm in the Parish Hall for Youth Group!
Save the Date: No Sunday School or Youth Group May 8th for Mother’s Day
Other News & Notes
There is a super easy way to give to All Souls––for either a one-time donation or for your ongoing pledge––that is through an app called Vanco Mobile (what used to be called GivePlus). You can find this app through the app store on your phone. Once downloaded, search for All Souls Episcopal Parish and you’re in! If you’d prefer not to download the app, you can just as easily give online through our personalized online donation page by clicking here.
A Great Way You Can Help a Hurting Friend
Do you have a friend, neighbor, coworker, or relative who is going through a difficult time? Here’s a great way you can help them—tell them about our Stephen Ministry! Stephen Ministers are members of All Souls who have received special training to provide high-quality, confidential, one-to-one, Christian care to people who are grieving the loss of a loved one, coping with a cancer diagnosis, going through a divorce or separation, battling a chronic illness (or caring for a spouse or parent who is chronically ill), experiencing a great deal of stress, facing the loss of a job—or encountering any of countless other life challenges.
Stephen Ministers meet weekly with their care receivers to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts for as long as the person needs care. It’s free, and it’s a powerful way you can help a hurting friend.
To learn how to connect someone you know with a Stephen Minister, talk with Rev. Maggie Foote (email@example.com) or Stephen Ministry Leader Madeline Feeley (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our Stephen Ministers are there to care!
If you are able to help provide some meals for parishioners in need, please contact Cathy Goshorn to help out! We are in great need at this time to help care for each other––please consider helping other All Soulsians in need by providing meals or gift cards for meals. You can reach Cathy at email@example.com.
From Justice & Peace
Coming soon: The Law, Criminal Justice, Race, and our Christian call to Justice & Mercy (Matthew 23: 23-24). A 3-session Monday night online discussion series based on the documentary series Philly DA — May 23, June 6 & 20. You watch episodes on your own then join the conversation with other All Soulsians. Email with interest or questions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, Dr. Russell Jeung will be with us on May 22 during the Adult Formation Hour (10:10-11:10a) to give a talk called, “Be Like Water: An Asian American Christian Response to Racism”. His talk will document the racial trauma that Asian Americans currently face, and what God’s been teaching him about how to heal individually and to effect social change institutionally. By integrating Taoist philosophy with a Christian perspective, Dr. Jeung develops a holistic approach towards racial justice. Check out his latest article in the Christian Century