From the Rector

The Rev. Phil Brochard, Rector

A Tighter Weave

A couple of years ago, after spending time in North Cascades National Park in Washington state, my family and I found ourselves crawling slowly through downtown Seattle on Interstate 5. To pass the time I started counting construction cranes.

After five cranes I became intrigued. After ten cranes I was incredulous. And then, around a dozen, a realization dawned—the nearly unprecedented capital concentration that we were experiencing in the Bay Area, largely driven by the technology boom, was not simply a phenomenon of the Bay Area. The same cultural forces were also warping Seattle and environs.

We kept driving south along I-5 and as we entered the city limits of Portland, Oregon, I began scanning the skyline. And found the same yellow construction cranes sprouting up as we snaked our way through Portland.

And so I began to wonder. If communities up and down the West Coast were being buffeted by the same cultural forces, how are Christian communities responding? What could we learn from and with each other? Is anyone else curious about this?

One conversation with an Episcopal colleague in San Francisco led to another in Seattle. And from that initial seed of contemplation has grown a cohort known as Convivium West. Last year All Souls, Berkeley hosted the initial gathering, and this past week 17 of us gathered at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle to present case studies, make presentations, and wonder what the Holy Spirit might be doing in the Western United States.

Some of our work is around discerning what the characteristics of living in the West might be, as our hunch is that these characteristics have shaped, and are shaping, a particular kind of Christianity. And, if those who study cultural trends are accurate, and the Western United States is indicative of what the rest of the United States will trend towards, then how Christian churches (and in our case specifically Episcopal communities) are adapting could be of benefit to others.

We observed a host of characteristics: among them our fundamental relationship with the land and the biomes, the history of boom/bust economies, the intensive gentrification of urban areas and the effects on suburban and rural areas, and a distrust of institutions, especially as compared to other parts of the country.

And one characteristic that we kept returning to was something that I reflected on in last week’s Pathfinder, the rootlessness that many folks in the West feel, particularly in metropolitan areas. For a century and a half people from within the United States have been moving west, joined by others from around the world. While there is some sense of generational continuity in parts of the West, especially rural areas, this seems to be less and less true.

As I wrote last week, this sense of relentless disruption has had significant effects. One of them, as a colleague noted this past week, is that the weave of our common cultural fabric seems to be fraying. Because of the displacement we are experiencing, that which binds us together as a block, a neighborhood, a city, a region has to be constantly rewoven.

If this is indeed indicative of the reality around us, I believe that Christian communities, and specifically All Souls Parish, have an opportunity and perhaps even a responsibility to weave our lives together more tightly, and to be a force for this kind of work in the wider community.

I experienced this powerfully this past week, as we gathered to help build tiny homes for young adults living on the streets. I had the visceral feeling of the weave growing tighter, for me and for others as we pounded nails and quite literally raised roofs alongside people from Congregation Beth El, Kehilla Synagogue, and Dykes with Drills.

And it has been a driving force in our work to build affordable housing, not simply to provide four walls and a roof for those who are especially vulnerable in a rapidly rising housing market, but fundamentally to create space for community. In the end, I truly believe that this project will serve to strengthen the fabric of our neighborhood and city by drawing us together.

Closer to home it’s also why we have begun what we are calling Emmaus groups, small groups that meet regularly for companionship by being willing to be vulnerable with one another, to pray with and for each other, and to engage in conversations of meaning and depth.

My own experience, along with conversations with colleagues up and down the West Coast, lead me to believe that the cultural forces loosening the fabric around us are real and have power. And, that by following the vision we discerned several years ago, by fostering spiritual kinships across generation and background and working side by side with all who share our vision, we are doing what the Spirit is leading us to do in this time and place—to draw the weave tighter, so that we can all be held, together.



whitney wilson

As some people say: September has become the new January as so many things start again. Sunday School is no exception. We are gearing up to begin again this Sunday September 1st. With that in mind, this third article will focus on some of the changes we hope to implement into the children’s program this year. Looking back on some of the findings that came out of the meetings with parents and teachers, there seems to be a few things that could be added to benefit the program:


  1. During Rally Sunday, many parents filled out our registration forms for their kids. (If you missed this opportunity, there will be forms available when you drop off your child at Sunday School the next few weeks.) The forms looked slightly different this year with an option for which class might be best for the child. (i.e. would the child do best with kids slightly older than them or perhaps more their age). It also included a section to add comments for tips to best help the child feel comfortable in class. What can teachers do to help your child find their place in Sunday School?

We are hoping with these class choices based on need not on age and tips for teachers – all children can find their best place in Sunday School. All Souls welcomes all kids into the Sunday School program and wants to make it as positive an experience as possible.


  1. Following up on the summer Sunday School program focused on “Family Practices,” we will be offering a couple of Formation classes for parents this Fall. These classes will be focused on practices and rituals you can add to your life at home with your kids. Look for dates and times in the next few weeks.

These are the first few steps we are implementing based on ideas and questions that arose last Spring. We hope to be able to add more in the new year. And as Sunday School begins again, a quick reminder about class. Each of our three classes begins at about 10:10 am with gathering time and opening prayer. The first part of the class is the story. Children are always welcome to come to class at whatever time, but they might miss the story for the day, if they arrive too late. This story time is often their favorite time of class as the stories can be creative, interesting, challenging, and even funny. The teachers understand how challenging it can be in the mornings, but we miss having your kids with us to share the story. We hope we can see as many of them on Sunday mornings as possible.

If you have any further questions about the children’s programming or Sunday School, please feel free to contact me or Liz Tichenor.

— Whitney Wilson

Parish House Project Update

Coming Together in Bits and Pieces

Parish HouseA process that began more than five years ago is gradually coming to fruition. The design plans for a new, L-shaped building to hold low-income apartments and parish offices on All Souls property are nearly finalized, and SAHA, our affordable housing partner in this work, will submit applications for financing in early 2020.

The building will replace the current Parish House and parking lot (though there will be underground parking). The Vestry voted to pursue affordable housing four years ago, and we’ve been working with SAHA, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, ever since. The city of Berkeley issued permits and gave the go-ahead for the project late last year, and parishioners Kirk Miller and Caitlin Brostrom have put in untold hours refining the design for the building and grounds. You can see the design and find out more on Sunday, September 8th, in the Parish Hall from 10:15-11:15.

At this update we will display the design, reveal possible names for the project, describe the upcoming phases of funding (including investment from All Souls) and construction, and discuss how we want to be communicating about the development with our neighbors, especially with construction likely to start by fall of 2020.

Put it in your calendars now: Parish update meeting, Sunday, September 8th, 10:15-11:15, in the Parish Hall. We hope to see you there!

— Mary Rees

Adult Formation in 2019-2020

adult formation poster image

Here we are beginning a new year of exciting programming during the Formation Hour, from 10:10 to 11:10, between the two choral Eucharistic services. Why do we have these classes? I believe our greatest, perhaps only purpose is to grow to understand God’s love for us and to more deeply understand the mind of Christ so we can learn to lead a life guided by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. We pray, receive the Sacraments, but we are learning, from Scripture, from teachers, but also from each other. As we begin this new year, we to invite you to find your call to All Souls ministry. You can find the full calendar of classes on our website here.

We will look at Scripture. In October the Rev. Michael Lemaire will do four weeks on that troubled and important King David, and what his life has to teach us. He was beloved of God, but also a sinner. We will go back to Scripture in May with “Story in Story” with the Rev. Phil Brochard and Mr. Jack Shoemaker. We will explore those Scriptural stories that don’t tell the same story the same way, and what that can teach us.

We will have two chances to experience the spirituality of the Taizé community. September 22nd we will host two Taizé brothers to teach us and pray with us, and then in October the Rev. Dr. Peggy Patterson will lead four weeks of Taizé meditation, a way to go deeper in our prayer life, and closer to touching God.

November 10th will launch the first of two series on Our Island Home, about saving the Earth, the gift of our Creator God, from destruction from climate change and human carelessness. The first speaker will be our own Bishop Marc Andrus, and in the following weeks our guests will be Mr. David Hochschild, Energy Czar for the state of California, and the eminent environmentalist and religious scholar Dr. Joanna Macy. A second series of Our Island Home will be presented in May 2020.

The seasons of the Church Year have much to teach us. Advent is a time of waiting and reflection and the poet Tess Taylor will lead “The Poetry of Advent.” Lent is looking inward, of spiritual change, and Dr. Scott McDonald, the Rev. Ruth Meyers, and the Rev. Phil Brochard will lead us into a topic so central to our faith, “Sacrifice and What is it Good For.”

We are incarnate people, and our bodies, times of our life, and ordinary experiences can also be seen through the lens of our faith. We will look at our health and our bodies as holy temples with Dr. Cynthia Li and the Rev. Liz Tichenor. And the Rev. Michael Lemaire will share his knowledge and experience as a hospital chaplain on death and dying.

We welcome all, and we have been blessed with many new members this past year. And our energy, care, and welcome continue to bring new members to our parish family. Emily Hansen Curran will lead newcomer classes in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. There is so much more, as we celebrate, pray, feast, and love one another. Come and enjoy, learn, share, meet new people, as we grow in our faith and understanding together.

— Dana Kramer-Rolls

Tiny Houses – Building a Better Future for Homeless Youth in the East Bay

raising the tiny house roof

Thanks to the 40+ All Soulsians who lent their hands and hearts last Saturday to build homes for homeless youth in the East Bay!

For those who couldn’t join us but are interested, there are three more dates available for you to build:
Saturday, August 31
Saturday, September 7
Sunday, September 8

You would sign up as individuals (there are no official All Souls groups participating on these dates), but you will be warmly welcomed and appreciated if you show up! Here are the details:

TIME: 9am – 4pm
PLACE: 2116 Brush Street – Oakland
PROVIDED FOR YOU: Lunch, snacks, drinks, hard hats, work gloves, tools

To sign up, click on this link. For more information, contact Vicki Varghese at


This Sunday we’ll be moving our pews back into the regular configuration. Many hands make light(er) work, and we would love your help! Food, fun, good work, all after the 11:15 this Sunday. Please email Emily if you can be there!


It’s filling up quickly!

Our annual Parish Retreat to the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg is coming up soon, September 13th – 15th, and there’s a little space left. It is a glorious time of fellowship, relaxation, intergenerational hilarity and reflection. Sign-ups are live, available online here!


Mark your calendars for Sunday, September 1, when our Choir will be joined by the Choir of St. Paul’s Oakland, at both the 9:00am and 11:15am services. We’ll be singing, among many other things, William Byrd’s spectacular setting of Sing joyfully. An event not to be missed!


A group of 20s/30s-ish folks are meeting monthly this summer to break bread together in each other’s homes and explore different prayer practices. Expect tasty, dietary restriction-friendly potluck, equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages, and real talk about church, prayer, and our shared life together in 21st century Bay Area. Next meeting is September 17, 7–9 pm. Come once, come every month, you are welcome. For more information please contact Jane Thomason