From the Rector
Fire to Ash
Finally, we are close. This Sunday’s Gospel, like every Sunday before Lent regardless of the month of the year, will be the Transfiguration of Jesus. And the Tuesday coming, March 4th, will be the annual celebration in the Christian calendar of the western church (those of us who follow the Gregorian calendar) of the Night Before Lent Begins.
This night tends to reflect the culture in which a particular branch of Christianity has taken root. Whether of Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Carnival, the common sense is that this is the last night before Lent begins, so it’s time to get ready. Again, the getting ready depends on the culture. Besides eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, those in the church in England (and across the Empire) have been called upon to “shrive,” or to confess their sins in anticipation of the entry into Lent. For other countries (and therefore churches) this night involved eating lots of meat, or rich and fatty foods––butter and sugar seem to be common themes. And many, many cultures celebrate this night with games for children, costumes (Denmark’s decidedly different than Brazil’s), and activities that highlight fun and frivolity.
For us at All Souls Parish, this night will have much of this and more. Starting at 6 pm, pancakes will indeed be hot off the griddle, and our famous jambalaya will be ready to eat after bubbling all day long. Tables will be set up in the Parish Hall and the Quire of the Nave. A newly created Alleluia banner will be ready to decorate, and in the church our parish musicians will be leading every song that one can sing that involves Alleluia. Throughout the night our youth will be collecting funds for the middle and high school immersion trips this summer. All in all, we will be feasting with Christians around the world, living it up as the day turns to night.
When I was fresh out of seminary, placed in my first parish as a new priest, we developed a fantastic Shrove Tuesday tradition. We brought in a local Dixieland band, cooked amazing food, played silly games – it was great fun for young and old. But as the night came to a close, I realized that we were all looking for a way to turn from the feast of that night to the fast of the morrow. We all knew what was coming and were looking for a way to mark it.
We found this way in the substance of the marking for that next day: ashes. Several of the congregations that I have served in some capacity or another have purchased their ashes from a religious provider of some sort. Which is fine (as long as they are dark enough, but that’s a story for another day) but it has always felt lacking for me. So, several years ago at this previous congregation, in a side alley with a small Weber and a few intrepid Altar Guild members, we renewed the tradition of burning the previous year’s crosses from Palm Sunday into the ashes for that year’s Ash Wednesday.
And every time, what amazes me is the visceral, sacramental pull this ritual offers for many. Fire, of course, is elemental, and watching form change shape seems to give us an experiential way to understand what is taking place as our night turns to the next day.
Each year that we have engaged in this ritual at All Souls we have given it more shape. This year we will invite one and all to join us in the courtyard, with not only the burning of the palm crosses from last year, but also with a new tradition we are beginning at All Souls—the firing of clay crosses for use throughout the season of Lent.
Thanks to Jeannie Koops-Elson, the children on Sunday mornings and the folks in our Idle Hands group have been carving crosses into small circles of clay for a few weeks. On that last night before Lent, in that same fire that burns our palm crosses for the next day, we will be firing these clay crosses to be used for our own time of transformation. On Ash Wednesday and on the first Sunday of Lent all will be invited to choose one of these crosses to take with them for this Lenten journey.
Come rejoice with us on Tuesday night––call it Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Vastenavond or Fastnacht or whatever you’d like. And then begin the journey with us on Ash Wednesday at 7 am in the chapel, 12 noon and 7:30 pm in the church. Come and receive what was transformed the night before: ashes to bear upon your brow and a cross to carry for forty more.
My Catechumenate Experience
Learning and Living in Faith
When my husband and I first came to All Souls, we were in a place of transition in our lives with no small amount of upheaval, and were in deep need of a spiritual practice, a way to bring God into our lives. We also needed a “crossroads” solution where our two disparate religious backgrounds might be brought together. When we decided that All Souls – and the Episcopal Church – might be what we’d been seeking, the next step was to learn more about both.
We went through the “Introduction to All Souls” (All Souls 101) class, which gave us a great foundation to start from. I really enjoyed the class, the services and everyone I’d met at church and we were pretty sure we wanted to become All Soulsians. But what about being Episcopalians? Not coming from a Christian background, I also wanted to understand not only what would be expected of me as a member of the parish, but even the basics of what it means to be a Christian, before I could make an informed decision about whether to become one.
I had a friend who had converted to the Roman Catholic faith, and asking her seemed to be a good starting point. She spoke about the process of spiritual growth and development she had undergone with the strong guiding hand of something called the Catechumenate, a place and a period of deep learning and discovery that gave her a sturdy foundation to build her faith upon. The idea resonated with me, and I asked Father Phil whether the Episcopal Church offered anything like this; and my path was begun.
As you probably know by now, All Souls does offer a Catechumenate class. “Class” isn’t really what it feels like, though; it’s more of an experience. I was one of the catechumens of the “Class of 2012”, co-taught (and very well, I might add) by Betsy Dixon and Blair Rorabaugh. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it, but it (happily) wasn’t about indoctrination and dogma, what we should believe and why… it was almost the opposite of that.
We did learn about church history, the Anglican Communion, and much about what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, Episcopal-style; but it was based in the idea that each of us comes to it differently, and so things like Faith, Prayer, Worship, How We Are in the World and What Church Means are different for each of us. It was a time of learning, reflection, prayer, discernment and probably more than anything else, community. We explored the Book of Common Prayer, Martin Luther and the Reformation; shared our personal stories and beliefs, (which were widely varied!), thoughts on the Bible and the presence of God; discussed favorite books, quotes and films… and even went on a field trip!
As we progressed in the class, it was clear that while we came from completely different backgrounds and paths of spiritual development, each of us was welcomed and valued for who we are – not who the church, the priests or anyone else wanted or expected us to be. By about the third class in, from a room of strangers, we had gotten to know each other, built trust and come to a place where we were enjoying our time together so thoroughly that instead of keeping with the assigned five-session course, we unanimously opted to gather for three additional meetings after Easter! Some of us did choose to be baptized, some confirmed, some officially “received” and recognized as members of the Church; and some chose not to do any of those things. It was a time and space set aside for discernment and seeking, and getting to know each other better.
The Catechumenate at All Souls was a wonderful experience that helped to enrich my faith, prepared me to approach baptism with real understanding and created a bridge to becoming an Episcopalian. Sometimes learning a thing is not enough; we need to weigh it, feel it move in or around us, and act into it, so that what we’ve learned is not merely intellectual, but palpable and useful in our lives. Whether you’re considering baptism, being received into the Episcopal faith or just want to discern more about this path (and your own), I can’t recommend the All Souls Catechumenate highly enough!
A new Catechumenate experience is starting the evening of Sunday, March 16th with two informational sessions on the morning of Sunday, March 9th. Please contact Betsy Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sean Albrecht at email@example.com for more information.
Stations of the Cross 2014
Call for Entries
Similar to last year, the Arts at All Souls Committee is crafting a set of Stations to hang in the church during Lent and Holy Week that will be created from the submissions of interested parishioners. But instead of poetry, this year it will be photography!
For the next two weeks, we will welcome your digital photography submissions expressing visually one of the Stations (listed below). The final format will be a square, probably around 12 inches, to be hung on the cement pillars and back wall of the nave. The committee will be curating the submissions, and selecting, cropping, and framing the images for each of the 14 Stations. If we have more images than the 14, we will be hanging them in the parish hall for everyone to enjoy. There is no need to print or frame or anything, just send your photo in a high-resolution format.
We recommend the use of one of the Stations as inspiration, listed below, though the subject matter and treatment are up to you. Please let us know the Station you have in mind along with your submission.
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus receives the cross
3. Jesus falls
4. Jesus meets his mother Mary
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face
7. Jesus falls again
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies
13. Jesus’ body is removed from the cross
14. Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb
Please send your submission or questions to Jocelyn Bergen (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michelle Barger (email@example.com) by March 7, 2014. If your photo is over 5 megabytes, please write to us first and we’ll arrange a Dropbox transfer.
– Stations of the Cross at All Souls (since 2007)
– Stations meditation
-Jocelyn Bergen, Michelle Barger, and the Arts at All Souls Committee
A New Small Group
Silent Prayer & Meditation Group Invites You!
As we approach Lent in a few weeks, consider sharing quiet prayer time in the Christian contemplative tradition with others. As part of our All Souls Small Groups offerings for the upcoming term, I will lead a “Silent Prayer & Meditation Group” on Tuesdays from March 11 to May 27 in the Chapel during the noon hour. After a short period allowing group members to share with each other, we will move into sustained silence for 20 to 30 minutes of prayer and meditation. Following the silence we will have an opportunity to reflect with each other on our prayer/meditation experience and how it relates to our lives.
The word “contemplative” can take on many meanings and there are a variety of prayer and meditation practices associated with it. My preference for this group will be to encourage an open approach that supports people silently being with the Divine Presence in whatever way seems best to them. For some, the practice may be the “centering prayer” method suggested by Thomas Keating’s and Basil Pennington, or “Christian meditation” as presented by John Main. For others, it may be a Quaker-style focus on “centering down” and sitting with the Inner Light. Some may use an Orthodox-inspired “Prayer of the Heart” such as the “Jesus Prayer” or “Trisagion.” Others may find that more active forms of imaginative meditation and prayer like those in Ignatian practices brings them into encounters with God.
We are not all the same in personality, temperament, and the places we are in our spiritual lives. So this group will honor the different approaches we may make in nurturing our relationship to the Holy One. In our practice together, and in our group sharing and reflections, we will discover ways in which God is present to us and how we can be present to God. This kind of group practice will also be a support for each of us as we take the fruit of our sharing into our personal lives and prayer practice at other times in the week.
I am looking for 5 to 8 people who will commit to regularly attending this prayer group until the last Tuesday in May. Please register no later than March 4 by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 510/724-6561. Want more information? Let me know!
—The Rev. Daniel Prechtel, DMin.
Assisting Priest at All Souls