from the interim rector
Who do you say that I am?
Last night in Vestry we reflected on Jesus’ question to the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” It was a rich conversation with plenty of silence and reflection. I didn’t speak to the question. Others had said what I would say more eloquently.
Then in the Daily Office this morning we began reading the book of Job. It was good to get away from the violence of Joshua and Judges and the stupidity of Samson. Not that the story of Job isn’t violent, I’m just glad it’s just not genocide. Job’s story draws me in with its human suffering and deep questions. It’s a story for these days of Covid-19, loneliness, injustice, wildfires and a tough economy.
I fell in love with the book of Job when I was in college. For some reason the story hadn’t made much of an impact on me before. I don’t remember it in Sunday School or at my Bible rich boarding school. However, our college glee club sang a huge piece, Job, composed and conducted by Dick Winslow, head of the music department and glee club at Wesleyan University. It was a hard piece. The story is harder—God
allows Satan to pretty much do his worst with Job (Satan isn’t allowed to kill Job) to prove Job’s faithfulness.
The music itself was difficult for this untrained singer. We sang in the chapel—some of us in one balcony, some in another, some in the chancel. Parts of the piece were chance music: the section leader would flash a card labeled with a letter of the alphabet and we would sing the line of music so labeled. The words of the chance music were the various sorrows and pains inflicted on Job, interspersed with speeches between Job and his friends, and finally between Job and God. The one line I can still sing from memory: “Where were you when I created the foundations of the world?” I suspect many of the folks listening would have found this cacophonous, but I grew to love it.
The story of Job itself doesn’t have a satisfying end. Oh sure, Job’s riches and wealth are restored, he has a new family, but God’s behavior is never justified. Teresa of Avila has it so right, “If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few.” Winslow, however, adds a stunning epilogue: At the end of God’s answer to Job, as the choral music ends, a man in a friar’s habit, enters the chapel from the back, walks slowly down the aisle chanting the prologue to the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things
were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was
made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. . . . And the
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his
glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace
and truth.” (John 1.1-14, KJV)
Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus is God’s ultimate answer to Job. The one who suffers with us in the pandemics of injustice, Covid-19, wind and fire. Who is Jesus? The one dying while a police officer (with his hand in his pocket) keeps a knee on the dying man’s neck. Who is Jesus? The one who walks with us, loves us, embraces us and calls us each by name. Who is Jesus? All the ‘least of these’ – those dying alone of Covid-19 and the diseases exacerbated by poverty: diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and so many others. Who is Jesus? The one responding to this sorrow.
I see Jesus working in and through you and through All Souls. I see Jesus sitting in a chair in the office telling me the story of his hard life. I see Jesus in the women struggling to feed their children. I see Jesus making, packing, delivering sandwiches and jambalaya to those who hunger. I see Jesus in your relationships with folks who live on the streets. He’s right there beside us – loving us unconditionally and calling us to do the same.
From Anxiety into Faithful Action
I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has driven my anxiety through the roof. Add to that our ongoing crises of racial injustice and climate catastrophe, and I’m often on the edge of overwhelm.
Since March I have found the simplest decisions incredibly difficult. I am a really decisive person. I know what I want and I go for it. But not these days. Every decision seems to have too many potentially deadly implications that I can’t predict. There’s no one to answer my questions, and the rules keep changing. This has made ministry very, very challenging. The only thing that has been clear is that inaction will not serve us. So our Justice and Peace team, along with many others at All Souls, began Sacred Ground.
This is a big deal. I want to stop and acknowledge that.
We have 11 groups and 2 congregations engaging an anti-racism curriculum over 20 weeks. It has not been a perfect process: talking about racism is difficult. As a white person I find myself continually making mistakes, attempting to learn from them, and moving on to new mistakes. It’s worth it though, because I see concrete change in myself, and in our communities.
I am excited to lead the group from St. Alban’s. We have begun meeting, and I learned a lot from the materials and the discussion. I am grateful to be in this process with both my congregations, and grateful that so many of you responded and are participating. As the Prayer for Social Justice we used in our a Sacred Ground Commissioning says:
In the Name of God, we recognize each of you. Let us pray together. Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For everyone engaged in this work, thank you. It IS challenging, and it will continue to be. It is worth it. Now is not the time to be paralyzed by all the possibilities for mistakes: now is the time to take faithful risks and be open to the possibility of painful learning. If you have any need for support along the way I am open to conversations. When we reach the end of this program, it will not be the end of the need for anti-racist action. I am excited to learn what your thoughts about that might be! You can reach me at email@example.com.
It is that time of year again – to start up our new year of Formation programming with a kick-off on Rally Sunday — August 30th. Although this year will feel like no year before – we are making plans!
Plan to join the 10:30am Worship service for our annual Blessing of the Backpacks (or devices?) within the Prayers of the People as kids/teachers/returning workers start a new schedule. After the live-stream has concluded, there will be a short slide show we’re calling “All Soulsians at Work” and then a Zoom Rally Sunday with breakout rooms for people to gather and hear about the new programming for kids, youth, and adult formation.
All Soulsians at Work will be just like our Easter and Pentecost coffee hour videos. Please send Emily (firstname.lastname@example.org) photos or a short video (less than 20 seconds) of how you and your family are creating space for the new school year, or a picture of you in your work space at home for this fall. Questions or wonderings? email Emily. Videos must be received by Saturday, the 29th at 5p.
Lastly, heading into this fall, All Souls is offering a new resource and way for people to stay connected during this time of feeling disconnected. There is a new “Support desk” (launched earlier this summer) available for All Soulsians that has two purposes: to ask for help and to offer help. If you need someone to pick up an item for you, drop something off or something similar – please add your request to the Google doc found on the Support Desk page of our website. If you have a bit of time and can help – please add your offerings to the Google doc on that page. Questions about this new resource? Email Emily or Gloria Bayne (email@example.com).
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
No Adult Formation this Sunday. Stick around for Rally Sunday next week!
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: http://www.allsoulsparish.org/children-youth-and-families/childrens-virtual-formation-during-covid/
All Souls After Hours
This week we’re having Coffee Hour with Emily just following the 10:30 service. You can find the Zoom link to that on this page of our website.
Evening Prayer via Zoom
Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649?pwd=d0Z4c1RHeld0QllOLzdlS1IxK3FKZz09. For our safety online, 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 18 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: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86087951049?pwd=THNxbjlqMm5zdjc5RGNLWkFrZk16QT09
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, which will be included in the Prayers of the People this year. Then stick around for 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!
All Souls at Work Video for Rally Sunday
Send in to Emily (firstname.lastname@example.org) a video of your kid’s first day of school pictures, a video of you and/or your family as they work from home this fall, or just a picture or video of you in your habitat this fall. Videos are due by Saturday, the 29th at 5p and must be 20 seconds or less or they will be edited to be so 🙂
Stories of All Souls
If you missed it, read last week’s article by Emily Hansen Curran on this new writing project. In short, send in a short reflective story on the theme of DOORWAYS, to be published in the Pathfinder.