from the rector
Tokens of Trust and Comfort
As we anticipate renting our home while on sabbatical this summer, we have been sorting through boxes and shelves to clear space. Books have been sent to the library for the annual used book sale. We have maintained a brisk trade on freecycle, letting go of all kinds of accrued objects. And, sadly, there are also bags that are headed to landfill every week. It is stunning to see what gathers over time in a 21st century American household.
But of all of the items that have left our space, one category caught me up short––stuffed animals. Over the years, our boys were given all kinds of stuffed animals: bears, otters, whales, turtles, Super Grovers, and many others. As we looked to throw things away, it seemed almost sacrilegious to abandon these trusted companions to the dump.
Now, I realize that all things, no matter how much value they hold for us, all things end up being reabsorbed back into the earth. I realize this in an intellectual way, much like intellectually I know that one day I will die. But when you come close to an ending, letting go becomes much more real, and sometimes challenging.
So it was that recently I found myself sorting through a box filled with stuffed animals. And animal by animal, I began remembering. Remembering a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium that resulted in a whale, and a book about otters that resulted in a very cute otter. Several of the stuffed animals were so cuddly and in pristine shape, and had offered such comfort to our boys over the years, that I felt that somebody else surely must want them.
So I offered a few of the very special ones to a friend with a soon-to-be toddler, thinking that they could at least go to a good home. Except that our friends already had a surplus of stuffed animals and had no need for more, no matter how adorable and cuddly. So with disproportionate sadness, I relegated the whale, turtle, otter, and Mr. Snuffleupagus to the pile headed to landfill.
And I began to wonder. Why was I feeling so sad about these stuffed animals, these objects that my boys and others clearly didn’t have the same attachment to? It was then that I remembered one of my favorite feasts of St. Francis, when one of our octogenarians brought their favorite stuffed animal from childhood, a koala named Oo-oo (rhymes with choo-choo) to be blessed.
What I realized that Feast of St. Francis, and what resonates with me to this moment, is that these stuffed animals are powerful tokens. Tokens of trust and comfort, for children and for adults. They are huggable when hugs are hard to come by, and soft when the world is often cold and harsh. And that, in a world that seems increasingly bent on chaos, I wasn’t ready for my boys to no longer need these tokens, or for others to miss the value that they could hold as well.
After some reflection, I have come to realize that I am grateful that my boys are finding ways to know trust and comfort, in relationships with family and friends, relationships that hopefully are a medium for relationship with God. Perhaps letting go of these stuffed animals is really about the next step in my ability to let them grow up and become their own people in the world. I suppose that is ok with me.
That, and Mr. Snuffleupagus seems to like it on my desk.
Catechumenate is my favorite time of the year within the Church. And yes, this is during Lent. It is a time for me to listen and express the deepest parts of my faith through teaching. It comes, often, in the form of a deluge of questions, stories, and running back and forth to the white board. One Catechumenate from last year’s class expressed the process this way: “I feel like this whole [Catechumenate] process has been like being given six handfuls of seeds but not being told where to throw them!” These wise words really pull to the heart of the way Emily and I teach and lead this process and it is generally close to the way Episcopalians express our faith.
A primary goal in this process is to give you some basics of the Christian (And Episcopal) language. We do not seek to tell you what to believe or how to live into this faith. There are many ways of articulating your faith, commitments, beliefs, and practices yet we gather together at a table to be continually open to transformation. This transformation continually opens us to the heart of God and the heart of the world. Emily and I operate under an assumption during Catechumenate: this journey opens each person to the other, their self, and God in a variety of ways and this is a beautiful thing. Some people come as brand new people exploring Christianity for the first time, some have been burned by the Church before, some have been in the Church a long time and want a refresher, and some have no idea why they accepted Emily’s invitation. All are welcome!
Catechumenate will meet from 7-9pm on Sunday evenings in the Common Room at church on 3/1, 3/8, 3/15, 3/22, 3/29, and 4/5. We will explore some basics of the Christian faith and some particular emphases of the Episcopal branch of this Jesus movement. We will offer you several handfuls of seeds and help you find possibilities to cast those seeds. Where they land, we shall see!
Soup + Story 2020
Every year we have an extended staff planning meeting to prepare for Lent, and every year I learn a little more about our Episcopal tradition and why we do what we do. This week, in our planning session, I rediscovered an appreciation for our tradition in the way that we designate an entire season of the church calendar to understand, in our bodies and our bones, the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for us. Because Jesus’ death and resurrection is so large and so mysterious an event, Lent is a season set aside for us to contain and focus our understanding and connection, to this wild event in Christianity. I realize that’s not the whole of Lent and what it is, but it’s what I see this year, in this season of my life.
This year, as I have the past three years, I invite you to consider joining a Soup + Story small group as a way of focussing your attention in this season of Lent. Joining one of these groups is a sacrifice. It takes time to show up with other people, energy to engage them, and effort to drag yourself and/or your family out of the house on a weekday evening. But, it’s a great way to observe this season with others and to set aside focussed time to practice living deeper.
For those uninitiated, Soup + Story is a small group series that meets during the five weeks of Lent. Parishioners all over the East Bay open their homes on different nights and different times of the week through sign-up sheets (click here to sign-up on the online version, or check out the table at the back of the Nave starting this Sunday to sign-up in person). Then you, as a participant pick a group based on which night works best for you and/or your family, and then you show up! The same group of people will meet for the five sessions, in the same home, and you all will take turns providing the soup (and whatever else you’d like to contribute to dinner).
A couple of things to note as you choose a group this year. As you’ll see on the sign-up sheet, there are several variables group to group. One of these variables is whether or not it is kid-friendly. Soup + Story groups are built with families in mind. The hope is that these groups––in a world of commutes, soccer practices, and dance classes all over town––would be a family event, where you and your whole crew could show up and practice your faith together (and get fed dinner!). Another variable is geography. In an ideal world, you would choose the group that is meeting closest to your home. Lastly, check out the accessibility notes on each house as some houses have many stairs to entry.
The curriculum for this year’s Soup + Story is going to be about practicing prayer, holding in mind that prayer is about attention. Each week we will try new ways of praying, focusing on new forms of practicing attention to that which surrounds us. Then, in the last week of Soup + Story, we will turn our attention to a very specific event in the life of All Souls, which is our capital campaign. While the capital campaign isn’t a prayer practice per se, it is the product of much prayer and attention––essentially we (as a church community) exist because others gave their time and attention for our building, space, and community to exist. This upcoming capital campaign is a vital event in the life of our parish and we want to give some space and time (or attention) for us to talk in small groups about this project, not only in the whats, but also the whys and hows. We feel that Soup + Story groups are great small group communities, which already exist, and in which these kinds of conversations can be had.
We do not practice our faith alone, instead we practice and learn in community. So, join us this year in a Soup + Story group in order to prepare for Easter. Set aside this five-week season to focus your mind and heart so that you might come to deeper understandings of how we can live together as radical Christians in this world.
—Emily Hansen Curran
2020 Capital Campaign News
Save the Date—Feb. 16
Marc Rieke, consultant for the 2020 capital campaign, will be our guest preacher during worship services. Join him and the capital campaign team at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall to learn more about the purposes and practices of the campaign.
Coming Up in Youth Group
High School overnighter and Middle School late-nighter, February 8-9th. Youth Group, February 23rd @ 6:30p.
Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, Save the Date!
Mardi Gras this year is February 25th. This year’s Mardi Gras will benefit our high school youth who will be traveling to Magalia, just north of Paradise, CA to do fire relief sort of work in August. Come support the youth! Then, come back, the next day for Ash Wednesday––services as 7a, 12p, and 7:30p.
Adult Formation Classes
Anglican Prayer Beads or Rosary
Over three sessions we will be learning more about the history and symbolism, how to make our own Anglican prayer beads, how to use them, and how to write our own prayers. Join us in the Common Room downstairs, Feb 2, 9, & 23.
This class will explore the reality of death in our time, the culture of denial that surrounds it and engage in a variety of spiritual practices to raise our awareness of our own death and how it can clarify and vitalize our lives today. Join us in the Parish Hall, Feb 2, 9, & 23.