From the interim rector
If I were to preach on the lesson from Genesis, this Sunday, we would be there until Tuesday You wouldn’t want that. I love the story of Joseph (and, by the way, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s telling of the story in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,) but it requires more time than this preacher has to do it justice. One commentator I read this week suggests I encourage you to read the whole story yourself. And that’s just what I’m suggesting you do.
It appears the lessons from Hebrew Scripture in this season of Ordinary Time in this cycle are designed to give us the broad strokes of the whole scope of God’s Promise to Abraham (and Sarah) through Genesis to Exodus and finally, to Joshua – entering and beginning to claim the Promised Land. On the surface, it seems like a reasonable undertaking. In actuality, it has been (to me, anyway) somewhat confusing and disappointing.
In these last weeks, for instance, we heard about Jacob tricking Esau out of his birthright, but we skipped the more defining and more interesting story of how Jacob and his mother, Rebekah, trick Isaac to steal Esau’s blessing. We heard the story of his marriages to Leah and Rachel but not of the birth of their children (and Jacob’s children with Leah and Rachel’s maids) nor of the story of how Jacob got so rich. Last week we heard the story of Joseph’s brothers’ betrayal of Joseph and Jacob (although not the whole story of why.) This week we will hear the end of the story – of the great reveal of Joseph (the now powerful minister of Egypt) to his brothers but we missed the whole story of how he got to be minister. Next week we skip ahead into Exodus.
Genesis as you have probably noticed in this quick overview contains the bones of every novel ever written: sex and love, lies and betrayals, family dysfunction and domestic violence, riches, power and glory, to name a few. For many scholars and teachers it has deep psychological as well as spiritual meanings. Rabbi Shefa Gold, takes the stories of Torah (the Five Books of Moses) and encourages us to see them as stories of the development and emergence of our true Self: e.g., our self wrestling with The Self, and learning to hold the paradox of two truths in our two hands: Joseph is treated cruelly by his brother, and God means it (works it?) for good.
In the meantime, it’s also a good story. There are no clear heroes or villains – each character is both victim and perpetrator, none is purely evil nor purely good. So, if you start at Chapter 37 and read to the end of Genesis, you’ll see all the themes I mentioned above and a few more. You’ll get the rest of the story. There’s a lot packed in there. Warning: some of it is X rated – or at least rated R – depending on your perspective. Oh yes, the story of Tamar is in those chapters too.
P.S. Take note of where God is in the story.
Representation Still Matters
In May 2019 I used this space to announce our Women Composers Initiative, which was aimed at mitigating the historic exclusion of women composers from the canons of music that have been constructed in Europe and the United States over the last two hundred years. Many parishioners gave resources to this effort, which not only sponsored the addition of 21 works by women to our music library
but left a small sum dedicated for future purchases. The Choir and Angel Band committed to performing each piece during our 2019–20 choral season, learning a large amount of new repertoire. While the pandemic has continued to prevent us from singing the last few planned pieces, we hold out hope for a time when we can finish what we started.
In that initial article, I explained why I thought this was an important endeavor: “One of the things about artistic canons is that they are circular: to commend, study, or merely perform a canonic work is to re-inscribe very the authority and value that had made it seem worthy of commendation, study, or performance. And so the fact that canons of literature, music, and other arts are shaped by larger sociopolitical forces means that they reproduce wider patterns of gendered oppression. Such cycles are hard to break without conscious interventions.”
If we simply trade “gendered” for “racialized,” this exact description can account for another, intersecting axis of oppression. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of composers who have been canonized in our so-called Anglican tradition have been not just men but White men (I capitalize “White” following Eve L. Ewing: https://zora.medium.com/im-a-black-scholar-who-studies-race-here-s-why-i-capitalize-white-f94883aa2dd3). Efforts to include women, moreover, have displayed the same racial bias: 16 of our 21 WCI pieces were by White composers.
This is as much about how, by whom, and for what purposes canons are constructed as it is about actual political, social, and economic conditions that restrict opportunities for people to become enshrined. As constellations of prestigious historical objects, canons reflect not just actual historical inequities but also the assumptions, biases, and preferences of consumers and institutions, whose choices about what to value cumulatively produce and reproduce a canon’s cultural authority over time. Thus, even composers of color whose historical achievements rivaled those of now-famous White composers are more likely to be edged out. A paradigmatic example is Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Joseph Bologne, a major figure on the late eighteenth-century Parisian musical scene. As a virtuoso violinist, composer, and conductor, Saint-Georges appears to have had some influence on his younger contemporary Mozart, yet he has received relatively little recognition in the White-dominated world of modern Classical music. Even once he began garnering more attention he was routinely reduced to “Black Mozart” (this Sunday I’ll be playing a prelude by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whom White musicians in the early twentieth-century U.S. similarly called “African Mahler”).
Patterns of inequity have shaped the history of music as much as every other cultural domain, but we can intervene by purchasing and performing music written by people who are not White. I’m asking for your help with funding this effort. As with the WCI, I have created a list of the pieces I’d like to acquire, so that you can get to know the words and music your donation will support. This is a way for our parish community to invest in the work of people whose artistic labor has been undervalued, exploited, or erased by the racist processes and structures of modern musical economies.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute!
Stories of All Souls
This month many of us have been reading Wendell Berry’s Watch With Me. It’s a collection of fiction stories centered in a small town in Kentucky around the turn of the 20th century. The stories are truly gorgeous, but it’s been the sense of community which has held me captive. It’s part of what we are going to talk about this Sunday during the Adult Formation hour (click here) at 9:15, but it has also inspired me to find new ways to create community around All Souls in a time when creating memories together is hard to do.
To that end, I’d like to kick-off new segments of the Pathfinder and the Soulcast. One of the things that has caught my attention in Watch with Me is the role of story in the community. Many of the novellas are of a person from the community passing on a story about another person from the community, usually one who has died. And since we can’t sit around each other’s dinner tables or the tables in the Parish Hall for coffee hour or potlucks, I think it might be fun to tell our stories here, in our Parish newsletter and Soulcast.
In the Soulcast this week Jen Dary and I introduce what we’re calling “Story Swap”. We’ll occasionally pull some cards with questions on them and ask those questions of our guests on the Soulcast. The hope is that we unearth some good stories, fun stories, and profound stories that tell more about who we are.
Then, for the Pathfinder, if any of you have read The Sun magazine or the Christian Century as of late, they have regular spots where they collect stories from their readers around particular themes and publish them as a collection. I thought we could give this a try. So, occasionally I will pitch a theme to you all and hope you’ve got some stories. You can take the theme in any direction you’d like, but we’d like to hear stories either about your own life, or your ancestors, or someone else close to you. Maybe even use this as a spiritual practice/exercise to make meaning and see God in your own life.
Here are the submission guidelines:
- The stories must not exceed 400 words
- The stories should be tasteful (I realize that’s subjective, but if something is questionable, we will reach out before publishing)
- Preference will be given to non-fiction stories
- Only one story per person per collection will be considered
- In an effort to honor confidentiality and privacy, we ask that you please refrain from mentioning other parishioners in your submission. If this is important to the story, then we ask that you get written permission to mention their name (you can cc Emily or another staff person on that email so we know that work was done.)
- This needs to be original work.
- When we get a critical mass of submissions, we will publish them together
- You may submit a story anonymously under “Name Withheld” if desired
- Email stories to email@example.com with “Stories of All Souls” as the subject line in order to submit.
- Lastly, just because a story is submitted, does not mean that it will be published––perhaps it does not follow the above submission guidelines, or because we have received too many for that particular theme. If that’s the case, we let you know why it was not selected and hope we can get another of your stories in next time!
The first theme will be “doorways”.
And here is a prayer my spiritual director always prays for the telling of stories:
O Our God!
There are stories embedded
in our skin, and words
enfleshed in us.
So, may you bless us
with each other,
and by our tender telling,
and by our tender listening,
may we release the tales,
trace the lines,
free the words —
one by one–
‘til we are hoarse
with the telling
and with the laughter
and perhaps the tears,
at being freed
to tell the stories
we have held
in our hearts
for so long.
Parish House Update
So much as been going on at All Souls even while we continue to shelter in place and socially distance––
First and foremost, Jordan Court—
At the 11th hour, a state agency objected to key components of agreements carefully negotiated between All Souls and our developer partner in 2017. The objections threatened the deal. But there was so much good that road on it! All Soulsians have donated hundreds and hundreds of hours these past five years. Calmer heads prevailed; a satisfactory workaround was proposed. We spent much of the past two weeks negotiating and crafting language—points that gave All Souls the same rights and protections it had in the original documents. There were points late Friday and Monday when I grew pessimistic the deal would actually close. But we had Bob Cross and Diocesan Chancellor Christopher Hayes working on it and creative solutions that will continue to protect All Souls for generations to come were crafted and put in place. The parties emerged relieved and with deepened respect for each other. The final language was crafted over the weekend. Junior Warden Toni Martinez Borgfeldt and I had the notary come to our gardens Monday and Tuesday afternoon so we could execute the documents, have them notarized and at the same time socially distanced!
There are many, many people to thank. Ed Hahn, your leadership has been indispensable. Bob Cross, your legal advice throughout has been critically important. Kirk Miller and Caitlin Lempres, the work you did on the iterations of the plans was truly extraordinary. Vimala Tharisayi, your financial stewardship, as always, has been heaven sent. Nancy Pryer, Mary Rees, Margaret Sparks, Maggie Cooke, and Ed Hahn, you have contributed in countless ways. All the Wardens and Vestries these past five years—I’m sure I’m leaving people out.
Most importantly, we owe a debt of gratitude to Phil Brochard+, without whom––his vision and leadership specifically––the project would not have happened.
As we watch the demolition and witness the beautiful new building go up, imagine the seniors, the homeless people and the All Soulsians who will benefit from this extraordinary building for many generations to some.
Sunday Live Streaming News
The live stream of Sunday services can now be accessed through our website (rather than simply on Facebook)! Click here to watch on Sunday morning.
Adult Formation Class this Sunday
This Sunday we’re hosting the final class on Wendell Berry’s Watch With Me. In Sunday’s class we’ll explore community as represented in Berry’s book. Emily Hansen Curran will help guide this discussion.
Meeting ID: 891 6365 4939
Children & Family News
We will be doing a children’s chapel program this Sunday at 9:30am via Zoom. It should last about 30 minutes. Please email Whitney Wilson for a link so your family can participate. We are hoping that this will give the kids a time together for their own “church” and a time to see their friends as well. Please email Whitney Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a Zoom invite or have any questions.
If you are looking for some current information regarding Children’s Chapel or the upcoming Kids Book Club – check out the new additions to the All Souls website. The All Souls Website has been updated to include some new information and resources(including the links for all the storybook videos) for families. Here is the link:
All Souls After Hours
Whitney Wilson will be telling a story: How do you recognize God? I have been thinking about this question after Emily Hansen Curran’s sermon on Sunday. (For those of you that haven’t listened to it – check it out here!) She talked about how the disciples (those closest to Jesus) did not recognize him when he came walking out on the water towards their boat. What must he have looked like if they thought he was a ghost. Was it because of his actions on the water? Or his physical appearance looked different? These questions have gotten me thinking about where I have recognized, and perhaps not recognized, Jesus in my life. Where has Jesus shown up and I didn’t see Jesus because Jesus looked different than I expected?
This Sunday during the All Souls After Hours, I want to explore some of these questions with all of you. And I want to do this by remembering our own stories of faith. One of the elements of Godly Play that I have always appreciated is the goal that there are more stories to tell. Yes, there are the written and published Godly Play stories for churches to use but there are also many stories that have been created for a certain space and time to reflect the stories of those people. These stories are written with love and wondering and often ask that question, “Where is God in our lives?” I invite you this Sunday, August 16th after the 10:30am service to join me as we create our own Godly Play story. Your faith story and my faith story and we ask ourselves, “When have I seen God?”
Evening Prayer via Zoom
Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline
https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649?pwd=d0Z4c1RHeld0QllOLzdlS1IxK3FKZz09. For safety, the password needed to join the call is 329903.
All Souls Geek Squad
If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! On the homepage of our website is a box with the words “Technical Help”. Click on that box and you will be taken to a form that you can fill out. Once you fill that out, we’ll have someone get in touch with you to help with your tech problems. You can also click here to access the form directly.
Check out Episode 17 of the Soulcast!
Ongoing Canned Food Drive
The ASP Food Drive continues to pick up and deliver food for the Berkeley Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Food contributors and drivers participate every other week. Please email Cathy:
email@example.com for more information.
Wednesday 9am Service
Join the Zoom call here:
Meeting ID: 860 8795 1049 Password: 520218
Save the Date
Rally Sunday is August 30th. Make sure to tune in that morning for a Blessing of the Backpacks
as well as a Zoom formation hour when we’ll launch our formation programs for the year!
And the Parish Retreat is September 18-20th, but will likely just take place on that Saturday, the
19th. Save the date!