Memento Mori

Ash_foreheadPhil won the bet.

On Ash Wednesday Emily Hertz, Mardie Becker, and I set off into downtown Berkeley to share Ash Wednesday with people who couldn’t make it to church. We wore all black and carried cards about Ash Wednesday and All Souls, and a small container of ashes. I was terrified.

Phil bet that we would give ashes to 11 people, and we in fact gave ashes to exactly 11 people.

In the first few minutes we were completely demoralized. Nobody wanted ashes. Nobody even wanted to acknowledge us. We were starting to feel as crazy for doing this as my husband assured me we were.

Danielle and Emily ready to share ashes at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station.

Danielle and Emily ready to share ashes at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station.

But then things started to change. One man jumped up from where he was sitting, totally enthusiastic about receiving ashes. Another man said no to the ashes, but then ran after us as we walked away saying that he had changed his mind. One young woman was so enthusiastic that she called a friend to see if she wanted ashes too. There was even a woman who shared that it was the day of a friend’s funeral and she “really needed this.” Touching a someone’s forehead with the ashes was like nothing I have ever experienced. We are dust. And we are in this together.

We learned a lot. The most important thing we learned is that it is actually not about the numbers. Receiving the ashes clearly meant a great deal to every person we gave them to. They all came to the experience with their own history, their own pain, and their own reasons for wanting to be in touch with their mortality on a sunny Berkeley day when it would be so much easier to avoid the topic.

Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite days, and now it is even more so. Light as they were in my hand, those ashes carry an undeniable weight. I feel so blessed to journey through Lent with the All Souls community, and I pray that the people we met will find community of their own.

—Danielle Gabriel

From our College for Congregational Development Team

Caroline_McCall_2015_125Economic Security, Giving, and Stewardship of Resources at All Souls

In January every household at All Souls was asked to complete a survey that collected data on economic security, giving, and stewardship of resources at All Souls. The survey represents one part of a project that the congregational team we have enrolled in the College for Congregational Development (CCD) must complete in order to graduate in June 2015. The survey was comprised of seven questions and was completed by 89 households. The findings are summarized here.

Almost half of survey respondents (47%) perceive the socio-economic status of the All Souls congregation as upper-middle class or affluent. The data collected show a more varied status. The median level of reported gross household income is between $75,000 and $100,000, with 55% reporting gross household incomes of below $100,000 and 45% above. At the far ends of the income ranges, 5.6% of respondents report household income of less than $25,000 and 9% report incomes of over $250,000. The median among respondents is above the median incomes in Berkeley and in Oakland and is consistent with the median incomes in Albany and in El Cerrito. Since economic security is influenced not only by income, but also by debt, the survey asked about types of debt and the impact that debt had on the family. Twenty-eight percent of respondent households report at least one kind of debt that is of concern (either “feels like it is getting too high” or “is a constant worry”).

Our data show wide variation in patterns of giving.  Among our respondents, almost 27% report making annual donations to ten or more not-for-profit organizations, while almost 8% donate to one or none and another 24% report donating to two or three. Regardless of the number of organizations to which our respondents make donations, the vast majority (70%) make their highest dollar donation as a pledge to All Souls and another 11% report that their pledge to All Souls is in the top third of annual donations in dollar amount. Four and a half percent of respondents make a pledge to All Souls that is in the bottom third of household donations and over 5.5% report donating through the plate, but not making a pledge to All Souls.

In addition to questions about the economic status and giving of members of the congregation, the survey asked for respondents’ perceptions of the financial status of the parish and the way that the parish stewards its resources. About half of respondents consider the parish to be in a good or strong financial situation, and another 16% feel that the situation is generally okay. The vast majority of respondents think that All Souls manages our resources well, including financial resources (83%), talents of our lay members (91%), gifts of children and youth (79%), and our physical assets (82%).

While the team is still in conversation about the implications of the survey findings and the actions that we may take as a result, there is one clear request that emerged from the survey. Although 74% of respondents indicate that we do a good job of sharing information about the finances and financial health of the parish, several open-ended responses indicated a desire to know more. As a result, we will be working with the Finance Committee to explore ways to provide easy access to current information. Other next steps will emerge as our conversations and analysis of the data continues.

A huge thank you to everyone who completed the survey!

– Caroline McCall

From the Associate for Children and Youth

carolyn_richardsonPraying Aloud Together

It has become a habit to pause and listen before I exit my parent’s front door. Since I can remember my mother would stop me there while she gathered anyone home to circle up in team huddle. No one was spared. My brothers might try rush out, and even occasionally, my Dad, an Episcopal priest, might dash for the door. But we were always called back.

Standing in a tight circle, my mother would begin to pray without any particular script. My father’s prayers often began with a more global vision, asking for God’s intercession throughout the world, our community and family. When he tried wrapping things up, my mother’s voice would often rise with another round of passionate thanksgivings and petitions.

My parents, formed by diverse traditions, taught me how to pray. Raised in Brooklyn, Mom’s southern Baptist roots shaped her spiritual life, while my father’s was influenced by Disciples of Christ traditions in suburban Oregon. My father’s eloquent and gentile language brought me into a deeper understanding of spiritual mysteries and opportunities for healing the wholeness of creation. My mother’s passionate personal prayers inspired within me the fullness of joy and gratitude for all that God had given us.

Despite the faces we made or eye rolling that I engaged in with my brothers, the prayers seeped in and shaped who I became. For our family and yours, it is as simple as setting aside an ordinary moment, an insistence on articulating the abundance of blessings, holding the realities of suffering, and connecting with an ever-present lifesource.

This past weekend at Happening, a diocesan retreat for high schoolers, I was tasked with holding healing prayer for four groups of teens for an hour and a half. I worried how we would fill the time. I was struck with the generosity and vulnerability of those youth who offered up personal, painful petitions and the other teens who held them in prayer. The youth surrendered their angst, held each other physically and emotionally as we all prayed over each other, one at a time.  Sometimes eloquent and sometimes clumsy, punctuated with long stretches of silence, we comforted each other and invited God to inspire our words. Our prayers ranged from silly to overly serious, but at the end of each session the room and the people had been transformed.

Prayer requires little of us, and is delivered in different forms. Many of the students asked, “What am I supposed to say?” Somehow it always worked. Prayers flowed out leaving the recipient somehow lighter and fuller.

These days, Mom can be spotted occasionally around Berkeley, grocery bags at her feet, head bowed, standing with a stranger or acquaintance, maybe holding hands, praying aloud. That moment may initially feel awkward for the recipient, but I also know that it is a gift. I’ve seen people in tears and throwing their arms around her in gratitude. Praying aloud together is a practice that I have with my family and one I hope to share in our community. So the next time you see me, let’s pray.

– Carolyn Richardson

Immigration: Building a Beloved Community “I didn’t know.”

immigration_button_125Join us in giving up this disclaimer for Lent and attend the Adult Formation class on at 10:10am on Sundays.

Today, Margaret Sparks and I hear words of surprise and disbelief here in the East Bay. “I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” These are common responses when we ask others if they are aware of the conditions at the immigrant detention center next to the Richmond Country Club. Or if they know about the immigration court’s “rocket docket” to deport 40 children at a time without legal representation. We both admit that we don’t know much about immigration – and we feel compelled to learn more.

For me, there has been an eerie and haunting echo of similar words I heard before. “We didn’t know; we didn’t know,” countless individuals had said to me. I remember being shaken and unprepared for the unsolicited confessions that poured out when I met Germans casually on trains and in beer cellars, in churches and university classes. I was just a young American studying abroad then, a college religion major researching the Confessing Church under Hitler, auditing a few theology courses and, hoping to improve my language skills. Of course, that was long ago in 1963.

We will all learn more about Immigration during this Lenten series. All the guest speakers are committed Christians. They are involved locally in the struggle for immigrant justice, freedom, humane treatment and support. Together, we can learn from their personal witness and presentations, our own group discussions, and from artistic expressions, prayers and scriptures. We will understand more about how immigration enforcement is conducted on our behalf and with our tax money. We will explore ways that Christians feel called to respond.

February 22: East Bay Immigration Issues – a faith response.
– The Rev. Deborah Lee, Director, Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (ICIR)
– Daniel Pinell, Interfaith Organizer, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME)

March 1: There Ought to be a Law, a one act play on U.S. Immigration policy
– Margaret Sparks & Company with Lady Liberty

March 8: Getting Legal.  Who qualifies?  What is required?
Immigration categories, agencies involved, legal representation, court processing and more.
– Cara Jobson, Immigration Attorney & Parishioner at All Souls

March 15: Why They Come.
Root causes & effects. Local responses.
– Manuel De Paz, Coordinator, Community Development & Education, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

March 22: Faith Into Action!
Ways to engage in 2015 and make a difference.
– Kristi Laughlin, Director, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME)

Janet Chisholm & Margaret Sparks, Coordinators; Linden Rayton, Music; Elena Ramirez, Chaplain

About All Souls’ Small Groups!

Daniel-Prechtel2-125wideAll Souls provides rich opportunities to go deeper into spiritual life in the company of other small group members. You do not need to be a member of All Souls in order to join one of these groups led by trained facilitators. Just contact the group leader about joining! When new groups are being formed we will announce this here in the Pathfinder and on the parish web site. We aim for to launch one or two new groups each Fall and Spring. Some groups continue beyond a term, and others are short-term.

Important information to know about joining one of our parish small groups:
– Join a small group by directly contacting the leader. There may be a wait list.
– The groups are not restricted to All Souls members or to Episcopalians. We welcome those who are interested in a group.
– If the group is reading a book you should order your own copy as soon as possible after you contact the leader and are admitted as a member.
– All small group leaders have completed leadership training to better serve you.

Current small groups:

Listening Through Scripture—Join with us as part of a small group who read, listen, and apply God’s Word and uphold one another in prayer. As we gather, we’ll briefly share our concerns and thanksgivings, and then using the Lectio Divina approach, open the Gospel and read and discuss it. Before leaving, we will pray for the concerns raised and give thanks for our blessings. Bring the Bible translation of your choice. Meeting Saturdays 4:00-5:30 approximately every other week in the Parish Library. New members welcome to join this ongoing group. Contact leader to join or for drop-in possibilities. Leaders are Sharon Roberts, (510) 527-4181 and Stephen Southern, (510) 684-8007.

Contemplative Prayer and Meditation—For one hour a week, put aside your everyday thoughts, relax, breath deep, be silent and give God a chance to come in. Through prayer and meditation we will open our minds and hearts to a conscious contact with God. This small group began in the Fall term of 2014. The group will take a break for Lent and then reconvene weekly meetings on April 7. Meeting Tuesday evenings weekly beginning promptly at 7:00 pm in the Chapel. Contact the leader to join the group or for drop-in possibilities. Leader is Lenore Williamson, (510) 841-6165.

Interested in Small Group Leadership Training?
The next All Souls core small group leadership training program will run for six sessions on Tuesday nights from 7:00-9:30 pm from April 14 to May 19. This training provides demonstrations of “spiritual companionship” models of small groups as well as discussion of small group dynamics and more. Additional small group practice sessions are required as part of the mutual discernment of people considering being an All Souls small group leader. However, this training is not restricted to All Souls members. If you are interested in this training program contact the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel no later than April 7 at 510-724-6561.

For further information about All Souls’ small group ministry and training for small group leadership please contact the Rev. Dr. Daniel Prechtel at 510-724-6561.


Phoenixes Taizé Service
On Friday Feb 27, the Phoenixes are hosting a Taizé worship service for 20s and 30s in the All Souls chapel. We will have music-filled worship from 7-8pm and then dessert and drinks from 8-9. Food/drink contributions are welcome. Feel free to bring friends! Please see Linden Rayton or Emily Hertz with any questions.

We want your selfie!
If you consider yourself “active” at All Souls, and would like to be in the 2015 Parish Directory, please send all info to us and include current address, email(s), phone numbers, and children’s names. If we already have your info from last year, just send updates. Please Indicate any info NOT to be published. This year we would like you to send a family or personal photo—high resolution, with your faces clearly seen—we want to use this to get to know each other! or ask someone to take one for you. Send to Joy by March 15th.

Lenten Series – The Heart of the Matter: Forgiveness
We’ll be gathering Wednesdays during Lent for a warming soup supper and to explore the beautiful, challenging, perplexing topic of forgiveness. Led by the Rev. Michael Lemaire, we’ll gather on Wednesdays in Lent at 6:30 to share a simple meal, dive into the program for the night, and close with praying Compline by 8:30. If you are able to help provide soup or bread for one of the suppers, please contact Jeannie Koops-Elson.

Join in Lent Madness!
Lent Madness is a playful devotional practice for the season put together by Forward Movement, the folks who also bring us Forward Day by Day. It’s a wonderful combination of good humor and learning more about the saints who have gone before us. Just fill out a bracket (downloadable here, and there are paper copies in the narthex) with who you think would win these imagined matches between the saints. Bring your completed bracket to church and put it in Jeannie Koops-Elson’s box downstairs to play along with your staff! You can choose your metrics for who would “win,” or what that might even mean, and vote online here most days during Lent. Good luck!

Loaves and Fishes
Loaves and Fishes is a way to connect with All Souls community in a smaller, more intimate group by sharing meals together in parishioners’ homes. There are two more coming up in February:
2/21, RSVP to Toni Borgfeldt
2/28, RSVP to Caroline McCall

Continuing the Feast
Join us after the 11:15 service on Sunday, March 1 to feast! The theme is “what you’ve given up for Lent” – Sundays are always feast days, even in Lent, so bring your favorite indulgent food and share in the fun (and chocolate, or bacon, or…) together! Contact Jeannie Koops-Elson with questions.

Get the All Souls App!
We now have our very own smartphone app called Evergive. It’s a great way to stay in touch – receive information about upcoming events, links to the Pathfinder, and real-time news that can be otherwise difficult to disseminate quickly, and lets you be in touch with other parishioners who have the app. The app also includes a platform for mobile giving as an easy way to make one-time donations. Because there is a fee associated with the convenience of giving this way, we encourage you to fulfill your pledges and offer other recurring gifts through the other avenues for giving, like check or automatic online transfers.

Just go to the app store on your phone, download Evergive, input the community code “souls,” and then choose a password. You can also go to this website and enter your cell phone number to receive a text message to download the app.