From the Rector
A Way to Live
One of phenomenon that I have found to be particularly interesting at All Souls is the number of people who find space here who have come from varied Christian and other religious traditions. This is increasingly becoming true across the country as what was once a fierce denominationalism in American culture has largely dissipated as people feel more and more free to search for a faith community that fits.
At the same time, I’ve experienced this at All Souls to a degree that I haven’t in other congregations. Here at All Souls we have people who previously worshipped in Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Pentecostal, and non-denominational communities––and those are just our PKs (preacher/pastor/priest’s kids). With them are those who grew up not practicing any faith and those who were raised in Muslim, Jewish and Hindu homes. A couple of ministers who worship with us come from the Congregational and American Baptist traditions and we are a fascinating mix of experiences, interpretations and expectations.
One of the questions that I am frequently asked by people new to All Souls who come from other traditions is this: Why does being an Episcopal church matter? It’s an important question to ask, especially in this increasingly post-denominational age. One response you may have heard me say in a newcomer setting is that after we die, when we come face to face with All That Is (whether at a pearly gate or some other metaphysical junction), I am pretty sure that the question that we are asked will not be, “So…were you a baptized, confirmed, three-times-a-year communicating Episcopalian?” (more on what I believe that question will be in a future Pathfinder)
But the question still remains. Why have “Episcopal” on our signs, as part of our self-identification? Does it make a difference, does it matter? In some ways, no. And in others, yes. It doesn’t matter in that, like scores of other Christian traditions, we follow and know Jesus the Christ as the Incarnation, the Manifestation of the Holy. We worship, we serve, we learn, we care––like many other Christian communities. I suppose it is in the how we do this that it matters.
In the Episcopal Church, being a part of the Anglican tradition makes a difference. It has meant that connection through time, back to the earliest roots of our story, and around the world, is fundamental. It has meant that liturgy, or paying attention to how we express our belief, is essential. It has meant that the scriptures in the vernacular are indispensable. In the Episcopal Church, from our very beginnings, it has meant that democratic representation is foundational. And that, especially in the past forty years, taking stands for the dignity of all human beings has been central.
In a way, much of this was seen last month when Bishop Marc Andrus of our area, the Diocese of California, came for an episcopal visitation. From dawn to nearly dusk Bishop Marc was a physical reminder of our connection to why we follow Christ in the Episcopal Church. By receiving and confirming people throughout the morning he reminded all of us of our connection to Christians through the centuries and around globe (touch one bishop, it is said, and you touch them all). Through his preaching, he connected the Word to the lives we lead. With his prayers at the interfaith demonstration about structural injustice on University Avenue, and his presence at our Open Door Dinner, he was a visible support to the change and compassion we seek in this world.
On that day, Bishop Marc served as an icon for how and why we gather in the ways that we do. He reminded us of our connection to those who have gone before, of our connection to all who share the Eucharistic table around the Bay Area each week, and with our sisters and brothers on every continent. These emphases, then, are part of why we gather in the ways we do as Episcopalians. It’s not that we are perfect, or that others are insufficient. It may just be because the gifts that have been handed down to us over centuries still matter. For these gifts have resonance in a society desperate for meaning. They have depth in a culture yearning for something more than just today. They offer connection in an ever more isolated world.
One of the truths that is emerging in the 21st century is the acceptance that there are many ways to live. What I, and many others have found, is that this way, practicing as an Episcopalian in the Anglican tradition, is one that gives life, and abundantly. In the end, I suppose, that is what still matters.
Many ways to feed and be fed
On the second Sunday of each month, you will likely hear the call for extra volunteers at our Open Door Dinner. The jambalaya, hearty bread and hot coffee are all crucial elements of this ministry, and much appreciated by those in need. That said, the gift of our Open Door Dinner teams reaches beyond physical needs, striving to offer compassionate respect for all who visit this place. We recently received the following note from a guest, reflecting on his experience here:
I’m a homeless musician of Santa Cruz, San Francisco, & Berkeley. Of all the meals I’ve ever been offered freely, this was perhaps the most thoughtfully put together of all. I felt God in here, as a warm presence that made being alive & happy seem like a lighter thing.
Gratefully, Hunt S.”
The next time you see someone who contributes to our Open Door Dinner, thank them for a job well done, and take a moment to ask them about how they, too, have felt God in this gathering. If you would like to get involved, please contact Judith Lothrop.
The Adult Catechumenate at All Souls
Beginning March 1, Betsy Dixon and Ariane Wolfe will co-facilitate the eight-week adult Catechumenate class at All Souls. What is a “catechumenate”? Since the early days of the Church, those preparing for Baptism and Confirmation have been called “catechumens” (from the Greek word katekhoumenos, meaning “one being instructed” or “learner”). The word catechumenate refers to a group of catechumens who prepare together as well as to the period of preparation and learning.
Just as we worship in community at All Souls, we also discern and form spiritually in community, supporting, guiding, and encouraging one another along the way. The Catechumenate class at All Souls is designed as a safe, comfortable venue for adults who are interested in the rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, or Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows, as well as for newcomers who seek deeper relationships and commitment within our parish community, whether or not they are planning to participate in any of the formal rites of the Church.
In the past, people have asked about the differences between the Catechumenate and the All Souls for Beginners class. The two classes complement and reinforce each other. In the Catechumenate class, we emphasize experiential reflection and personal spiritual growth. We use scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, and other readings and activities as our tools. The Catechumenate meets on eight Sunday evenings in March and April and we ask participants to commit to attending all eight classes. All Souls for Beginners is a Sunday formation hour class in which Fr. Phil discusses church history, the Anglican approach to scripture and authority, Episcopal polity, and the sacraments. All Souls for Beginners is scheduled to begin April 12 and welcomes participants to attend on a drop-in basis.
Betsy and Ari will hold informational meetings for the Catechumenate on February 22 in the Common Room after the 7:30am service and in the Chapel after the 11:15am service. The Catechumenate will meet weekly from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in the Common Room at All Souls and run from March 1 through April 26, with no class on Easter Sunday. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Betsy by email or phone 510.527.5872 or Ariane by email or phone 510.207.9955.
About the leaders:
I first came to All Souls with my husband during Lent in 2011. Coming from a non-Christian background I wasn’t sure whether Christianity was the right path for me, but I felt drawn to the Episcopal Church and wanted to spend some time learning and discerning. I felt welcomed and accepted as I was and became a member of All Souls that summer. After completing Fr. Phil’s All Souls for Beginners class, I realized that I wanted to look into what Baptism would mean for me. I was a catechumen in 2012 and was Baptized and Confirmed that spring. My experience in the Catechumenate group was truly instrumental in preparing me for Baptism and Confirmation and for my role as an Episcopalian and a Christian in the world. It deepened my faith, gave me a foundation to work from and set my feet firmly on the path I’ve chosen to follow.
The traditions of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are rich and diverse, and after four years I feel I’m starting to get the hang of it. I am excited and honored to be co-facilitating this year’s catechumenate class with Betsy and I’m looking forward to spending time learning and growing with the new catechumens.
I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1979, when I was a young adult living in Salt Lake City. I don’t remember many details about my experience as a catechumen, but I know something stuck: the Church has been my spiritual home for 36 years. I first came to All Souls Parish in 1996 and I co-facilitated the Catechumenate class in 2010, 2012, and 2014. I’m grateful to Fr. Phil for asking me to co-facilitate the class with Ariane this year. For me, the catechumenate is one way I can fulfill my baptismal promise to support others in their life in Christ, and to have others encourage and guide me as I prepare to renew my own faith during Lent and Eastertide.
What’s calling your name?
Last week Phil invited us to consider what vocation might be calling out to us – what way of being in the world might help us make more of ourselves. There are a great many ways to do this vocational living, from being more intentional in how we parent, to embarking on a radical reorientation of our career path, to the ways we share our time and energy with our church family and wider community. If you are wondering what service or ministry might be beckoning to you with the possibility of becoming more fully yourself, consider some of these groups at All Souls that are eager for new members:
Adult Formation Team
Help to guide the vision for how we are formed as Christians here, including through formation classes on Sundays, special programs, and Lenten and Advent series. In particular, the team is looking for suggestions of books (especially fiction) that would be good fits for summer reading groups, and leaders to facilitate these discussions. Contact Caroline McCall.
We love to feast here – but it doesn’t happen magically! Help by contributing food or setting and replenishing the delightful spreads on Sundays and special occasions. Contact Renae Breitenstein.
Newcomers and Greeters Ministry
Stepping into an unfamiliar community can be daunting at first. This remarkable group of parishioners helps visitors to find their way, learn more about the church, and begin building relationships. New greeters are needed on Sundays, and you can also contribute by helping the committee imagine how else we might become more welcoming. Contact Betsy Dixon or Nancy Pryer.
Help Spread the word! Your ideas and communications skills can help shape how we share information within and outside of All Souls, in print, image, and online. Contact Liz Tichenor.
Lectors, Intercessors, and Eucharistic Ministers
Ready for a new kind of leadership on Sunday morning? Step up to be trained as a lector, reading our sacred stories, as an intercessor, leading the congregation in prayer, or as a Eucharistic minister, helping to guide the service and share communion. More Eucharistic visitors are also needed to bring communion to those who are sick or otherwise can’t come to church. Contact Joy Ng.
Set, decorate and care for our sacred spaces and the physical elements of our services, both for regular Sunday services and more elaborate holidays. Contact Shelley Altura.
Help our community hear the word – literally! We are in need of more sound technicians to run the sound system during the 9 and 11:15 services. Contact Fred Lothrop. Also needed is a new person to lift the sermon audio clip out of the service’s full recording and post it to our website each week. Contact Liz Tichenor.
Just one minute – really!
Please take a moment to help our College for Congregational Development team and complete a very, very short anonymous survey. Thank you!
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. The next meal is on January 24th at 5:30p, RSVP to Caroline McCall.
Join us for our Annual Meeting on Sunday, February 1st at 10:10am. The Annual Meeting is an important gathering for our community, during which we elect our leadership, tell stories of All Souls from the past year (and past century!) and look ahead to 2015. There will not be formation classes, but childcare will be available on the playground and in the nursery.
Seeking Goodies for the Annual Meeting
If you can contribute muffins, bread, coffee cake, and/or fruit to sustain us while we celebrate and highlight the work of All Souls at the Annual Meeting, Sunday February 1st at 10:10am, please sign up here: [http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0c49a8ad23a3fb6-coffee]. Many thanks.
Phoenixes Game Night
The Phoenixes (our 20s and 30s group) is having a game night the fireplace room in the Parish House on Friday, January 30th from 7-9pm. RSVP to Emily Hertz.
Calling all high schoolers
February 6-8th St. John’s Ross Church will host Happening, an annual retreat for high schoolers run by high schoolers. All Souls’ Meghan Sweeney, who served as the assistant rector last year, with serve as Rector for Happening 2015. For more information please contact Jennifer Snow or Carolyn.
Advent Wreaths – Return Your Metal Wreath Forms
As you pack away all of your holiday decorations, please return the metal wreath form from your Advent wreath so it can be re-used next year! Drop them in the basket in the Narthex next time you’re at church.