FROM THE RECTOR
Moving in our Midst
One of the cardinal rules about gathering data from a group is that after you have received and organized that information, that you offer it back to them so that they can see it and interpret it themselves. That way, the group can encounter what they have collectively said, consider how it reflects and/or changes they ways that they know themselves, and then attempt to integrate this new understanding.
This Sunday, August 20th, in between the 9a and 11:15a services, at roughly 10:15a, we will be engaging in just such an opportunity. At the start of this year, at the request of the Vestry, a dedicated group of All Soulsians–– Madeline Feeley (chair), Anne Cockle, Gretchen Donart, Sheryl Fullerton, Howard Perdue, Martha Perdue, and Raymond Yee––guided a process of Appreciative Inquiry to learn more about where the Spirit has been moving in our midst in the past several years. For those who have come to this parish more recently, there have been a number of changes since 2013, some of them easy and some of them challenging. We have changed the structures of our common life, the staffing to meet these changes, and the services that we hold to live it all out.
Our hope in this inquiry was to take some time to reflect on these three to four years so that we can discern where the Divine whisper has been in them. Because principal to this process has been the belief that God is, in fact, in our midst. That there are gentle tugs of the Spirit in our communal life, and that we are attempting to respond to them. Along with this belief, I have learned over the years that where the Spirit is, there is life. There is vitality, energy, creativity, community. And our responsibility, both as individuals and as a community, is to seek out where Christ is and then to follow.
What was remarkable to me about the process was the wide range of voices and experiences. While we are one body, there is a diversity of encounter that is enlivening. Within that, the group that led this process has done the demanding work of gathering and organizing the pages and pages of data that many offered over this past spring’s sessions. Together we will reading through this information, reflecting on it, and offering our own sense of what it might mean.
So please join us this Sunday in the Parish Hall at 10:15a. Reflect on what our experience has been in these past several years. See where your experience is reflected, where others join you in finding life at All Souls Parish, as well as where your experience might be singular. Come to listen, to find out where the Spirit is moving in our midst, and where we are to follow next.
Upcoming Procession for Peace
Action on August 27th
Watching the scenes from Charlottesville, we are keenly aware that this violent hatred is not some far-off concern. White supremacist Christians are planning a rally in Berkeley on August 27th, and a number of us have been in conversation about how we might respond.
We are reminded of pivotal moments in history when people in positions of privilege are tempted to ignore growing threats and injustice until it is too late. The Christian Century cautioned this week, “The right-wing extremists aren’t counting on support from most white people. Just silence.”
If we are scared or shocked or grieving, that’s okay. But it isn’t a reason not to act.
Fortunately, God never asked us to show up perfect. She just calls us to show up so she can too.
To come into God’s presence, we are not tasked with getting everything together on our own and arriving ready. How could we? We come as we are, just people, angry at our siblings, petty towards our neighbors, distracted, defensive, helpless, and stinking of fish from the day’s catch. And we figure it out together.
Jesus teaches us in the middle of our own mess to look for where there is hurt and oppression, to be present to that pain, and to offer healing when we are asked.
In that spirit, and in a tradition of public witness that not only condemns evil and injustice but also extends the good news of a God whose justice prevails and whose love is enough, on Sunday, August 27th, we will extend our procession together from the end of the 11:15 service out into the streets. With song and banners and joy, we will make our way from All Souls through UC Berkeley’s campus to First Congregational Church, where an interfaith coalition is gathering. From there, some will go on to a designated sanctuary space to provide food and healing prayer and respite for those in need. Another group will proceed to MLK Park where the white supremacist rally is being held, to offer a raucous gospel choir and a joyful witness to a God of vulnerable, overflowing love.
I have been thinking of the last time we processed outside together, at the Easter vigil. One by one, we enjoined the saints to come rejoice with us in the resurrection. That public act is always a strange and special time for me – a joyous and slightly uncomfortable celebration of this mysterious, expansive faith we share, calling a cloud of witnesses across time and space to join us in front of anybody who happens to pass by on their way to Walgreens. It reminds me how out of place our faith can be in the day-to-day world outside our sanctuary. And how beautifully and powerfully it can transform that world and our experience of it.
Before we announce the resurrection, we name ordinary and extraordinary men and women of deep faith who have shepherded us on towards justice. It takes a while to get through them all. Many have walked this road with grace before us. And then following them to the foundation of our hope, we get to proclaim at the top of our lungs, “Hell is in an uproar…. Hell took a body and discovered God. O Hell, where is thy victory? Christ is risen and life is liberated.”
This is my prayer for us now. As organized white supremacists sow fear and hate, may they discover they have woken a deep, unshakeable force for repentance, liberation, and healing in us, in our church, and across the country. We will show up to be present to that hope.
There are many ways to be part of this witness on August 27th and our preparations before. You can volunteer to write prayers, make art, lead singing and chants, provide food, and offer healing prayers. For those who do not wish to march or who cannot walk far, there will be a chance to keep vigil at All Souls.
For those who plan to march, there is nonviolence training at All Souls on Saturday, August 19th at 1:30 pm in the Parish Hall which you are strongly encouraged to attend. For those joining the bigger interfaith team to march to MLK Park, know that there will be a volatile crowd that we may not be able to predict, and therefore risk for violence or harm. We will do all we can to keep one another safe, and we will walk with a large crowd of nonviolent people of faith as a united, peaceful and prayerful invocation of God’s justice and radical love.
I am organizing our response along with Phil+ and the Justice and Peace ministry team. To participate or contribute in any way, or if you have questions, please reach me at email@example.com or 603.545.5039.
In solidarity and love.
Justice and Peace Committee
The Hardest Thing: Centering Prayer for Social Action
“What is the hardest thing for you?”
A young boy once asked this question of the renowned peace activist and Zen Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh. Thay, as he is affectionately called by his community, responded: “to not be overwhelmed by despair.”
Thay went on to tell the story of his darkest, most difficult time, in the 1960s, when he was working in dangerous conditions to end the war in Vietnam. He and his spiritual community had started a school of Youth for Social Service to create refugee centers and rebuild villages that had been destroyed. He remembered one particular village, close to the de-militarized zone, which had been bombed and rebuilt and then bombed again four times over. When the students of the school came to ask him: “when do you think the war will be over?” he was nearly overcome. So he paused to breathe and look deeply within himself before answering, because he knew that his own fear and uncertainty would water the seeds of his students’ despair. It seemed to him that there was no light at the end of the tunnel of violence, of soldiers coming to kill and be killed, and it was overwhelming.
But in that moment of pause, he found the strength to reassure his students that this too would pass, and to continue his work of rebuilding.
In the Buddhist tradition, that strength-giving moment of deep quiet and contemplation is called mindfulness meditation. In the Christian tradition, we call it Centering Prayer.
Centering Prayer is a disciplined practice for cultivating compassion and hope in the most challenging circumstances, and it enables us to replenish our emotional stores when we feel drained by our work for justice and peace.
From the white supremacists on our doorstep to the perils of climate change, the call to work for justice and peace is as urgent and unceasing as it has even been. It feels, at times, that there is no light at the end of this tunnel. As many of you know, the All Soul’s Justice and Peace Committee is engaged in a number of collaborative actions for racial justice, environmental stewardship, immigrant and refugee accompaniment, and mentoring foster youth. There are many opportunities to answer the call to justice. But answering that call can be all-consuming, and the danger of burn out is real. In an effort to cultivate a sustainable collective practice of compassion and hope, the Justice and Peace Committee will be offering a course on Centering Prayer for Social Action this fall. We will be meeting from 7:30 – 8:30 pm in the chapel, every other Monday evening, between Labor Day and Advent, for quiet contemplation under the guidance of Terry Trotter, an experienced psychotherapist with training in Centering Prayer. Everyone who feels the need to replenish their stores is invited, whether for one session or all.
Location: The chapel
Time: 7:30 – 8:30 pm
Save the Date: Equipping the Beloved Community
Finding Home: Embodied Welcome, Embodied Justice
What does it mean when folks say they’ve found a “home”? Perhaps that home is a place to live, or a community, a culture, or possibly even a country. Or perhaps finding a “home” could mean a “church home” — a place to deepen spiritually and practice faith and justice. How is helping people find “home” beyond making sure the church has a nice sign, a website and a greeter? How does helping another person find “home” require Christians to step outside the building and step into the community with a message of welcome, healing, justice, and acceptance?
Join us for leadership training for parish leaders, vestries, clergy, Sunday school teachers, interested youth, and adults. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Russell Jeung, a leading sociologist on Asian Americans, race, and religion. He will share from his own memoir At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus among my Ancestors and Refugee Neighbors, which Executive Council read this past year at the suggestion of Canon Stefani Schatz. Dr. Jeung will help us to recognize the hallmarks of following Jesus into the communities in which we live to welcome the stranger.
As well as the keynote there will be workshops offered on Reaching Young Adults, Faith formation in Changing Times, Sustainable Youth Ministry, LEM and LEV training, Invitational Communications in parishes, Stewardship materials, Utilizing Electronic Givings tools, Discernment, and more.
Workshop descriptions to come.
Registration available here.
When: Saturday, September 9th, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Where: St. Stephen’s, 3 Bayview Ave., Belvedere
IN THANKSGIVING FOR THE LIFE OF Florence Barnsdale
Please join together in giving thanks for the life of Florence Barnsdale, long time member of All Souls, who passed away on May 17. There will be a memorial service for her in the church on Saturday, August 26th at 11:00 am.
FAMILY PLAYDATE & POTLUCK
Saturday August 19th, 4:00 – 7:00 pm
Parents and kids! Come join for a fun playdate and potluck at Oceanview Park, 900 Buchanan St, Albany. The picnic area is the cement area immediately behind the playground with the large rock in it and the dirt area to the west of the cement area. The goal is fun, not fancy. Parents, bring your kids, some food or drink to share, and have a laid-back time of fun and connection with other All Soulsians who are in the midst of the adventure of parenting right now. You can RSVP here or email Glenn with questions.
YOUTH GROUP PARENT/GUARDIAN ORIENTATION
Do you have a child who is a rising 6th-12th grader? Are they interested in or curious about youth group and youth ministry in general at All Souls? If either or both of these are true for you, please come to the Youth Group Parent/Guardian Orientation on Tuesday, August 22nd! We will meet in the Parish House from 7pm-8pm and discuss parts of what youth ministry will look like this year. Whether your child has been coming to youth group for years or is completely new to it, you are welcome. Contact Jess at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and to RSVP.
RALLY SUNDAY & BLESSING OF THE BACKPACKS – AUGUST 27TH
Join us August 27th as we kick off the new school year! Bring your backpack to church to be blessed at any of the services. At 10:10, enjoy sundaes for Sunday School! Come sign up your kids and youth for Sunday School, eat ice cream, make giant bubbles, learn about Adult Formation classes this year, and more.
This year, we will again be collecting school supplies for Emily Hertz’s class of kindergartners at Caliber Beta Academy in Richmond, which serves a highly disadvantaged population of children. Please pick up some things from this list and bring them to the baskets in the narthex on August 27th to help these kids have a great school year too. The class needs:
COME TO THE RANCH — SIGN UP FOR OUR PARISH RETREAT
The 2017 Parish Retreat will take place at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg September 15-17, and the theme this year is Heaven. Our annual retreat is a special time for community building, spiritual growth and exploration. This inter-generational event includes activities for children, youth, families, and adults of all ages. In addition to the program of the retreat, the weekend includes free time for reflection, rest, adventuring and fun. More details and online registration are now available online here. You can also sign up with Emily Hansen Curran on Sunday mornings.