From the Associate for Ministry Development


Crash Helmets for Lent

“It’s a commonplace that familiarity blunts our awareness of everyday reality. Just so, unfamiliarity can remap our sense of the world.” – George Prochnik

Friends, it is time, once again, for the Catechumenate. But first, a story.

I’ve got this great friend named Caitlin. We shared a bunk bed in college. She now lives in San Francisco and works as one of the managers at Nopa, a restaurant in the neighborhood now generally called NoPa. A few years back she started a conversation and dinner series called The Civic Table Project where she hosts groups of folks to come to Nopa or Nopalito (their sister restaurant) to dine, but more importantly to converse with the goal of deeper understanding and action. She throws out topics like Water, Political Tribalism, Slow Food & Fast Tech, and the Politics of Origin. It was this last one where I spoke and shared my story. The question posed to the group was something like “has there been a time in your life when you changed positions on something?”. I laughed inwardly…”has there been a time…” hahah there have been so.many.times. So, I shared my Paul-like story of conversion, from speaking out against “homosexuals” while on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ to marrying a woman. In telling this story I (through some tears) shared about this church—All Souls, but also more broadly the Episcopal Church—and about the kind of salvation (to wholeness and healing, not from damnation in a fiery pit) that I have experienced. I looked around the room and saw tears in many eyes.

I left that night with a vulnerability hangover.

But, then a few weeks ago I got an email. It was from this guy out in Concord who happened to be at the dinner that night. He’s in the middle of some tough life stages and came to the Civic Table Project dinner because it was the only place he found where people were dialoguing, not to convert or pontificate, but to transform and to make meaning. My story stuck with him, and he figured that if what I said I found in the Episcopal church was true, maybe it was a place where he could start to find new life as well.

And I know that you know this place is good. You wouldn’t be here if you thought otherwise. But, this gentleman reminded of this truth: this is a radical place. All Souls in the 21st century east bay world, is wild. The theology and values of the Episcopal church are revolutionary, and if that’s not your experience right now, it might be time to revisit what it’s really about. If what you’re experiencing here at All Souls or in this Episcopal church is stale and lacks luster, this church might have become too familiar.

Enter the Catechumenate. Typically and historically the Catechumenate is a time of instruction meant to prepare folks for baptism. In the Catechumenate we teach here at All Souls we explore the whys, hows, and whats of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, the Episcopal church structure, and Episcopal theology. It’s basic stuff, and yet returning or revisiting the core of who we are as Episcopalians has the power to transform. While we can return again, and again, to the same point or the same life we have always lived, we never return to that point as the same person. And so it may be that you took the Catechumenate when you were 13 or 21 or 50, or that you’ve never done it but have been a church-goer your whole life—no matter, you are invited to participate.

At every baptism throughout the year that we do here at All Souls, we remind ourselves of our own baptisms, which isn’t to say that we actually are baptized once again, but it does seem to imply that we have reconsidered just what it is that we believe and are about. So, why not take the plunge (pun totally intended). Inherent to this tradition is hope, depth, and transformation. We have that to offer those around us. It’s what I incidentally offered that crowd in San Francisco when I simply shared my story a few months back. But, we have to keep coming to it, from our new places.

Last week in the Adult Formation class The Heart of Lent, we read these few lines from Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk. I’ll leave them here as a last word:

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

— Emily Hansen Curran

Camp All Souls

Registration is Open!

Calling all elementary aged kids! Come together this summer for a week of fun, community, adventure and exploration at Camp All Souls. Middle and High School students are invited to come aboard as camp leaders. This year, camp runs August 12th-16th, and is right here at All Souls. More info and registration is all available here.

camp all souls silly group shot

At Camp All Souls, kids can look forward to a wide range of activities: big group games, challenging activities like slack-lining, silliness like massive snowball fights, water fun and parachute games, art projects wonderful enough that they won’t be destined for the recycling bin, and more relaxed play with things like corn hole and enormous bubbles. We will make music together, join in worship designed for kids, and build deeper relationships with each other and with the wider parish community. Above all, these loving relationships and this strengthened community will be our foundation in the days ahead.

In our day camp, we dig into what it means to live as Christians in the world, and how to work together for justice, peace, beauty and joy — with our neighbors and with all of creation. We will bring our sacred stories to life and look to the example of people who have worked for good throughout time and around the world. We will ask big questions, knowing that many of them may not have answers, but that we can wonder towards greater understanding together. The adults leading camp are committed to honoring the wisdom, experience and spirituality that each child already has within them. This week will be an adventure in collaboration, exploring this call to justice as young and old, side by side.

You can find the details about camp on our website, as well as the registration form. Please email Liz with questions or if you’d like to get involved with all the fun!

Supporting Oakland Teachers and Students

annika oakland teachers strikeThe teachers of Oakland’s public schools began a strike today, in the hopes of winning a living wage, more support for students, and smaller class sizes, among other things. This strike affects many All Soulsians directly, as we have both Oakland teachers in our congregation as well as families whose children attend Oakland public schools. This is an incredibly intense and stressful time for all involved – for teachers, as they have been doing the massive work of organizing on top of their already very full-time jobs, for families as they seek to balance work, childcare, and the unpredictability of the days ahead, and for administrators. As in any time of heightened stress, this is a good time to reach out and check in on each other. Especially if you are not directly impacted by the strike, please take some time to offer some love to those who are carrying the burden more acutely right now.

There are also practical ways for us all to support teachers and families in Oakland right now. First, there are a number of rec centers and churches that have been set up as Solidarity Schools, that is, places where kids can go during the day if their families have no other options for childcare. These places are being staffed entirely by volunteers, and are still in need of help. You can learn more and sign up for this and other volunteer opportunities here.  Second, because so many students receive free or reduced-cost meals at school, the strike has a heightened impact on them and their food security. Bread for Ed is a group coordinating the sharing out of food for everyone who needs it during the strike, and they are in need of both volunteers and financial support. You can donate to the cause here. If you have time to volunteer, please sign up here.

And, in all things, please pray for all those affected by this strike.


big sur 2017 13Environmental Stewardship Focus

Join us!
We are learning how to measure and reduce our carbon footprint.
There are steps each of us can take to create a healthier environment.

Go to for information and to join.
Enter your profile and household information.
You will receive many suggestions to reduce your footprint even further.

This is an All Souls community effort — we can work together & share our results!
If you want help, contact our volunteers who can help you get started:
Glenn Brown –
Terry Nicol –
Raymond Yee –

(Project Leader: Lewis Maldonado,


Join other All Soulsians in cheering on Cal Women’s Basketball, Sunday February 24th at 2:00 pm vs Arizona. General Admission tickets are a whopping $3 each! No advance purchase required but please RSVP to Don Gates at This is the final home game of the season, and a Haas Pavilion curtain call for two remarkable Cal Seniors, Kristine Anigwe and Asha Thomas.


Come on out to have breakfast for dinner, or the best jambalaya in town. Celebrate the last night before Lent and get your Mardi Gras beads. Light the holy fire in the courtyard and step into Lent with your All Souls family. Tuesday, March 5, 6:00pm. Tickets are $10 adults / $5 kids / $25 max per family. This event is a fundraiser for the Youth immersion trip to Dulac, LA this summer! Come support our Youth!


Sign-ups start this week! Soup + Story is a 5-week home group series that we host every year during Lent. Each week we gather in each others’ homes to study the Bible, share our stories, and eat dinner (soup). It’s a great opportunity to get to know other folks, and to be known by other folks in the church. The groups meet on different nights during the week, so you get to pick what night works best for you and/or your family. Sign-ups will start next week in the Welcome Area (the area just in front of the sound booth).


A few years ago we started a new tradition of shaping crosses out of clay with our hands, firing them in the Shrove Tuesday fire, and picking them out of the ashes on Ash Wednesday to carry with us as touchstones of our spiritual practice through Lent. Stop by the table in the courtyard or Parish Hall before or after services on Sunday to spend a few minutes crafting some crosses!