From the Rector
Calls and Responses
A week ago in her Pathfinder article, our Senior Warden Toni Martinez Borgfeldt shared the exciting news that last week our Vestry accepted and endorsed the efforts of a couple of the groups that have been meeting to give focus and direction to our strategic efforts.
This week I’d like to go a little more in-depth into both of these reports, the directions that they are heading, and the actions that we have already begun to take to follow them. To begin, though, I’d like to simply offer heartfelt gratitude for the time, attention and effort that the members of Deep Hospitality and Christian Action and Practice groups have given. (the Parish House Roadmap group is still gathering information and will release their report in the next couple of months) Those who have served All Souls in this way have given scores of hours in research, conversation with local organizations, discussion, prayer and writing. Their efforts have resulted in reports that are grounded, faithful, and compelling.
First, to Deep Hospitality. Here is a passage from the beginning of their report, “We hope to offer opportunities for individuals to be invited into particular ministries, to further explore their gifts and talents and to serve the church. We also want to provide avenues for people to seek out and become involved in the ministries they identify as compelling to them. And then we want to bring everyone home. Home in this place of worship and community. Home in the relationships they build within the parish. Home to the saving love of Jesus.”
They are clear to highlight the good work that has been done at All Souls over years––the pumpkin/banana bread is near the top of the list. And, they are right to challenge us as a parish, to create a culture of invitation and welcome. One of their suggested actions is the creation of an Evangelism ministry team, building off of our budding efforts like the 2nd Annual Bike Blessing and Ashes on the Way at the Downtown Berkeley BART station. In addition, this group would be responsible for identifying ways for All Souls to intentionally reach out to the wider community. Over the years we have become adept at greeting people after they have crossed our threshold. The time has come to actively and intentionally invite folks in.
Once folks are here, we have a responsibility, in the words of our vision statement, “to draw (them) deep into this parish family.” This is a place of growth for our community. Some of the feedback that we have received is that it can be hard to find a place at All Souls as a newcomer. Our goal is to have a clearly defined, well-supported process for newcomers to enter further into our community, mutually discerning with them what gifts and passions they have and would like to offer. The hope is that those new to All Souls will have a clearly defined path and guide in this process.
Lastly, the group saw a need to provide more opportunity for “spiritual kinship and deep relationship.” In addition to our small groups on spiritual practice, they recommend creating new forms of space for parishioners of all ages, and across generations, to gather. In all, their proposals reflect a desire to build on what we have already begun and to become more intentional about how we invite, greet, orient, and incorporate those who come into the life of All Souls Parish.
The other group that presented their work to the Vestry last week was Christian Action and Practice. Their report was remarkable in scope and in depth. Their recommendation was that All Souls develop three areas of focus for at least the next 2-3 years: Immigration and Racial Justice, Climate Change, and Foster Care.
For Immigration and Racial Justice we are building off of our efforts of the last few years. From our participation in immigration vigils at the ICE detention center, to our fora on race, we have begun Gospel work that we are looking to extend in the years to come. In specific, our first response to this area of focus has already happened. At that same Vestry meeting this report was presented, our Vestry voted to use a room on the first floor of the Parish House as temporary shelter for asylum seekers in the midst of the immigration process. More on this initiative will be forthcoming in the weeks and months to come, but it is clear to me that the work of this group has been instrumental in breaking the trail ahead.
One of the thrusts of the report in focusing our attention on Climate Change is the acknowledgment that it can be easy to become paralyzed in the face of this wide-ranging, global crisis. And yet, the report calls us to begin by partnering with groups already at work in practical, actionable ways. Again, this builds on some of our very recent efforts, as recently our Vestry, with the guidance and support of the Finance team, decided to accept a proposal to purchase and install solar panels. This exciting work will be done in the next few weeks and will be part of our common efforts to reduce our carbon footprint for years to come. This will be the first of our individual and corporate responses to engage ourselves in this sacred work.
Lastly, the report challenges us support and advocate for youth in the foster care system, and specifically to, “provide loving support to the foster child well before he or she ages out of the system and to support the young person in gaining a firm foothold as he or she moves into adulthood.” This is a clear and present need, especially in our area, one that is being engaged by several outstanding non-profits. In conversation with several of those groups it became clear that through gathering supplies, mentoring, and advocacy, we can make a visible and necessary difference in the lives of children and youth who are living at tremendous risk.
In all, the initiatives and areas of emphasis that these reports raise are inspiring, engaging, and to be honest, somewhat daunting. A couple years ago, when we listened for God’s voice to guide us in our visioning process, we were unsure of the way ahead but trusted that we would met along the way. Now that more has come into focus through these reports, and our responses to them have begun, it clear to me that we have indeed been met and have been led. May this guidance and support continue in the years to come.
From the Associate Rector
It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that this past week Phil, the wardens and I have made the decision to part ways with Carolyn Richardson as our Associate for Children and Youth. Carolyn’s skills and gifts are many and rich, but unfortunately, in the end they did not match the present needs of our children and youth programs. Carolyn has expressed her farewell in writing, which is included below.
Looking ahead, we are committed to rebuilding these wonderful and important areas of ministries. In the short-term, Ethan Lowery has agreed to step up to lead the youth group, together with Reed Loy, Phoebe Dixon, and Jesse Tichenor, for the remainder of this academic year. Our youth Sunday School class will briefly be on hiatus while we regroup and look towards the summer and fall programming. I will be taking responsibility for guiding the various elements of our children’s ministry. Looking further ahead, we are in the process of gathering a team of lay leaders and staff together to discern and prepare for a search this summer. We firmly believe that our young people belong at the center of our life at All Souls, and we are committed to ensuring that they are supported by thriving ministries here.
Please keep Carolyn and All Souls in your prayers as we make our way forward through this transition. Feel free to talk with me or Phil if you have any questions or thoughts about what’s to come.
My time here at All Souls is coming to an end and while I’m sad to leave I am held in the knowledge that this parish is a shining star in this community. The wealth of individual passion and knowledge combine with an intention to create space where we can all come closer to God is a blessing that expands far beyond the walls of All Souls. Thanks to all of you who I’ve been lucky to work with and learn from and especially the children and youth that made my time here so memorable. You all will remain dear in my heart.
From the Archives
The man who shook Lincoln’s hand
If I were a betting man, I would wager you did not know that All Souls had a parishioner who met and shook hands with President Abraham Lincoln. Arthur Harris Smythe, who was born in Ohio on November 15, 1850, did. The story was reported in the Berkeley Gazette on November 16, 1939, as follows:
“The only living Berkeleyan who met and talked to Abraham Lincoln was 89 years old yesterday. His eyes have failed him and he never again will be able to see the beautiful flag-draped picture of the Great Emancipator that hangs on his bedroom wall. But in his mind is a boyhood picture of the day Mr. Lincoln shook his hand and wished him well.
“Arthur Harris Smythe of 1334 Spruce Street lived that eventful day all over again on his birthday yesterday as he recalled his childhood in Ohio. He saw his brother, the late Rev. Henry Herbert Smythe of Massachusetts, standing beside him back in 1860 in the senate chamber of the Ohio Capitol. For more than an hour the two brothers had waited in line to meet Abraham Lincoln and behind them were several hundred others.
“When four-year-old Henry Smythe in his excitement put out his left hand, Mr. Lincoln said kindly, “The other hand, my little lad.” Then he extended greetings to the 10-year-old Arthur Smythe.”
“Arthur Smythe’s love for Lincoln grew until in February 1931, he organized the Abraham Lincoln Fellowship. The 10 charter members who assisted him had all seen or heard Lincoln. Of the charter membership that observed Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1931, only Arthur Smythe and former Gov. George C. Pardee of Oakland are still alive, as far as Smythe knows. The late William H. Wharff was president of the Fellowship.
“For years the owner of a bookstore in Ohio, Smythe made it a point to collect books and material on Lincoln. Before he was forced to give up his active work of perpetuating the memory of the Civil War president, he had founded the Little Lovers of Lincoln among the younger school children. They were given the opportunity of shaking the hand of the man who shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.
“Other youngsters will have the opportunity to shake the hand that shook the hand of Lincoln as long as Smythe is strong enough to be taken to public schools. But the eyes that looked upon Lincoln will not be able to see them.”
Arthur Harris Smythe died at home at 1334 Spruce Street, on August 11, 1942. Arthur Smythe’s name is found in All Souls’ parish registers reflecting that he transferred to All Souls before 1936 from Trinity Church in Columbus, Ohio. He is shown in the 1920 voter role living 1586 LeRoy, with his wife Charlotte P. Smythe and in the 1922 voter role living at 2691 Cedar Street. By 1924, he had moved to 1334 Spruce Street. He had two children – Alice Ring Smythe and Donna Smythe. Arthur Harris Smythe is another of All Souls’ souls to be remembered in your prayers.
– Thomas Burcham
Being Present to Nepal
Many of us are wondering how we can offer support to those suffering from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near Kathmandu last weekend. One organization that is doing excellent work and is well-connected to respond is Episcopal Relief and Development. Our own Carol Anne Brown has been a longtime leader and supporter with Episcopal Relief and Development, and can tell you more about their widespread support of our sisters and brothers around the world.
You can support Episcopal Relief and Development’s work in Nepal by donating online to their Nepal Earthquake Response Fund.
In their own words, Episcopal Relief and Development describes the situation and their response:
“Responding to immediate needs for food, clean water and shelter, as well as the need for accurate information through on-the-ground assessment, Episcopal Relief & Development will support ACT Alliance efforts implemented through a partner office in Kathmandu. The ACT Alliance works in coordination with major international groups such as UN OCHA to maximize efficiency and impact of aid, mobilizing local networks to reach remote areas.”
“Episcopal Relief & Development is in contact with the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia regarding support for the work of the Deanery of Nepal, which is part of the Diocese of Singapore. The organization may also support other partners in the region including CASA, the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches in India, and the Amity Foundation, an independent Christian organization in China.”
A Prayer for First Responders:
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Adapted from the Book of Blessings, page 587, by Diana Macalintal
Blessing of the Bicycles
Celebrate the start of the cycling season by having your bicycle blessed at our Second Annual Blessing of the Bicycles, coming up on Sunday, May 17th following the 11:15 service, about 12:30 pm. Invite your friends! Come to church dressed to ride! Guarded bike storage will be available during the 11:15 service, with snacks and merriment following the blessing.