FROM THE RECTOR
Stewards of the Story
One of the reasons why I find great meaning in being a Christian, and especially in being part of a Christian tradition that is intentionally rooted in ancient practice, is because of a core belief that we do not make our story on our own. In fact, our Christian life and indeed our existence as humans, or even as living beings, is a story that long precedes us and will long outlast us. In truth, we are participants, caretakers, and stewards of the stories of our families, our communities, and our faith.
Several years ago I began the practice of reading from the annual reports of All Souls Parish from 25 years ago and 50 years ago. It started because I was doing my best to learn the story of the parish—its joys and sorrows, struggles and successes. And as I was encountering the stories of All Soulsians past, I was amazed and inspired and really wanted everyone to learn from them as well.
This Annual Meeting of the All Souls, held in our Parish Hall this Sunday at 10:10 am, I will continue this practice, with newly found reports of 1967 and 1992. Those years were challenging years for this congregation, as this body struggled to respond to volatility and uncertainty around it and within it. Thank God history is in the past. Or not. Come and listen to how we listened, and attempted to respond faithful to upheaval and transition. It just might come in handy.
Also, we will be looking back at this past year, 2017. From many angles, the year we just finished was a signal year for All Souls Parish in Berkeley. You will be able to read about much of this in our Annual Report, downloadable here. Come this Sunday to hear stories from our staff—stories about our the moments of this past year that in some way crystallize the wonder, courage, and beauty we experienced. Celebrate the service and leadership offered by our outgoing Vestry members, and recognize this year’s recipients of the Rector’s Cross, those whose unsung acts might otherwise go unnoticed.
And we will begin to look ahead to this year of 2018. Come to learn more about where the attention—time, money, and energy—of this body will be oriented. And come to discern, as we will be electing leaders to serve, to listen, to guide this part of the Jesus Movement. As you have read in this space in weeks past, we have seven magnificent members of All Souls who have put themselves forward for consideration of a three year term on our primary leadership body, the Vestry. Come prepared to pray, to listen, and to support, as we discern the gifts, skills and experience that is needed at this time of the story that is unfolding on the corner of Cedar and Spruce.
Come to take your part as a steward of this story, one that began here over 114 years ago. Come to listen, to learn, to laugh, to consider, and to tell others what it is that God has done, is doing, and will be doing in our life to come.
From the Junior Warden
Reflections on the January Vestry Meeting
The meeting of your Vestry on January 17 served to remind me of the depth of feeling that factors into every decision the Vestry is called to make. Since we are elected to three year terms, a “class” of four rotates in or out each year. The January meeting traditionally includes time for this class to reflect on their time serving All Souls. These reflections range from mundane items (what worked or didn’t work) to truly personal statements of how the time on Vestry has changed them, with some parting advice on how to proceed. I am always impressed by the work that goes into crafting these reflections, and this year was no different. As we will be electing the next class of four on Sunday (BE there, VOTE), I wanted to remind the parish that this service is not just showing up at meetings, but being wholly present. It’s a honor to serve, and I’m looking forward to greeting our new members shortly.
Sr. Warden Tara McCulloch called the meeting to order, her last as Sr. Warden, and also as a vestry member. Following a welcome, scriptural reflection was offered by Co-Chaplain Kat Lisa on Mark 1:14-20 and Bishop Marc’s sermon on January 14th, about being called. Observations were offered about the call changing over time, mishearing the call, and maintaining the call even when feeling unsafe. The call is not always bright but is often uncertain; how did the apostles hear the call, “I will have you fish for people.” Being of service (on the vestry) might not be a calling, but simply being of service. A calling can feel like an honor. Does being called get drowned out by the fear of time constraints? The call is perhaps a pull to be outside your comfort zone to learn. “A vocation is what makes more of you,” (Gail Godwin). Bishop Marc reflected a call is not just doing what your parents did, or what’s expected of you. The responsibility is sometimes daunting, having answered a call and making decisions that affect others. A call can feel very personal but often occurs in the context of community, and it is our responsibility to make all newcomers feel safe to speak (having answered their call).
After accepting the most recent minutes and financial reports, we held breakout sessions to discuss how the vestry has worked well over this year and what didn’t work so well. Coming back together, some common reports from groups mentioned that this Vestry has a wide range of age and expertise, is free from any big egos, and works well listening to one another, sharing the space, focussing above all on how to do right by the church with decisions rooted in compassion. This cohesiveness can ironically be a challenge; with so much like mindedness, the devil’s advocate is needed to provide fertile ground for discussion – not contention for contention’s sake, but finding where the argument is sharpest. Other stumbling blocks included at times keeping discussions properly focused with a number of voices heard, meetings that ran late, and a push to properly prepare for each meeting by doing the requisite reading and asking questions beforehand to relieve meandering that can keep a discussion from remaining high-level.
The Rector’s Report by Fr. Phil included a chart reflecting our attendance levels over the last 20 years. Spoiler alert: they are rising! While “numbers” may not seem spiritual, these charts offer a clear visual of where people are putting their talent and treasure (money AND time).
Focusing on our Christmas services, it’s especially obvious the Nativity service is bursting and especially loud at Eucharist – perhaps the singing of carols would make the noise more intentional. It was noted that we are here for transformation of the individual so that we can be God’s transformation in the world. Moving on to the Bishop’s visit, we were reminded of the SIX baptisms and THREE confirmations (congratulations all)! Bishop Marc was not able to join the vestry after services as is customary, but he will instead join us for a Vestry meeting in the near future. We have outlined several topics of discussion already to make that time as productive as possible. Fr. Phil reports that his continuing education will be as co-leader of a retreat on Benedictine life and leading in times of anxiety, held in the Diocese of Rochester.
Ed Hahn reported on the three subcommittees of the Parish House Project (Design, Outreach, Legal/Finance). Plans are to submit the use application shortly, a few minor design items are under discussion, and we want to submit the right design the first time. Our community outreach will continue with appropriately scheduled meetings, but no more are required. According to our timeline, late summer of 2019 is the earliest (and we are hopeful) for groundbreaking. Parish House residents after July 31, 2019 will likely be on shorter contracts, perhaps month-to-month, if groundbreaking starts later than hoped.
Erin Horne presented the Evangelism Committee’s proposal for a poster during Lent to be on the right of the corner triptych at Cedar and Spruce. Timothy Schmalz gave permission to use an image of his sculpture of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench, and it will be accompanied by a quote from Dorothy Day: “Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love.” This proposal was unanimously approved. The Vestry expressed its support for how the Evangelism Committee incorporated our vision, noted the poster is explicitly Christian without being exclusively Christian, and suggested the image appear on our website. A story was relayed about a friend’s hearing their Lyft driver (slowing down when passing the current triptych) remark, “Jesus was a refugee; of course, I’d never thought about that.”
Reflections of outgoing vestry members Mary Rees, Tara McCulloch, Mark Koops-Elson and Nancy Pryer were detailed and personal. Three years included a lot of change, and there were times of contention, anxiety, urgency, and risk. Common among the four reflections was the expression of honor and privilege to have served, and encouragement to welcome our new class into the fold ready and willing to both teach them and learn from them.
After heartfelt prayers of Thanksgiving, Petition and Guidance were offered, the meeting was adjourned within a few minutes of “On Time!’
Thank you for your attention, and for your continued interest in the workings of your Vestry.
Letter to the Episcopal Church from Presiding Bishop, President of House of Deputies
Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:
In recent weeks, compelling testimony from women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by powerful men has turned our minds to a particularly difficult passage of holy scripture: the story of the rape of King David’s daughter Tamar by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13: 1-22). It is a passage in which a conspiracy of men plots the exploitation and rape of a young woman. She is stripped of the power to speak or act, her father ignores the crime, and the fate of the rapist, not the victim, is mourned. It is a Bible story devoid of justice.
For more than two decades, African women from marginalized communities have studied this passage of scripture using a method called contextual Bible study to explore and speak about the trauma of sexual assault in their own lives. Using a manual published by the Tamar Campaign, they ask, “What can the Church do to break the silence against gender-based violence?”
It is, as the old-time preachers say, a convicting question. As our societies have been forced into fresh recognition that women in all walks of life have suffered unspoken trauma at the hands of male aggressors and harassers, we have become convinced that the Episcopal Church must work even harder to create a church that is not simply safe, but holy, humane and decent. We must commit to treating every person as a child of God, deserving of dignity and respect. We must also commit to ending the systemic sexism, misogyny and misuse of power that plague the church just as they corrupt our culture, institutions and governments.
Like our African siblings in faith, we must create contexts in which women can speak of their unspoken trauma, whether suffered within the church or elsewhere. And we must do more.
Our church must examine its history and come to a fuller understanding of how it has handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse through the years. When facts dictate, we must confess and repent of those times when the church, its ministers or its members have been antagonistic or unresponsive to people—women, children and men—who have been sexually exploited or abused. And we must acknowledge that in our church and in our culture, the sexual exploitation of women is part of the same unjust system that also causes gender gaps in pay, promotion, health and empowerment.
We believe that each of us has a role to play in our collective repentance. And so, today, we invite you to join us in an Ash Wednesday Day of Prayer on February 14 devoted to meditating on the ways in which we in the church have failed to stand with women and other victims of abuse and harassment and to consider, as part of our Lenten disciplines, how we can redouble our work to be communities of safety that stand against the spiritual and physical violence of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Neither of us professes to have all of the wisdom necessary to change the culture of our church and the society in which it ministers, and at this summer’s General Convention, we want to hear the voice of the wider church as we determine how to proceed in both atoning for the church’s past and shaping a more just future. May we find in our deliberations opportunities to listen to one another, to be honest about our own failings and brokenness, and to discern prayerfully the ways that God is calling us to stand with Tamar in all of the places we find her—both inside the church and beyond our doors, which we have too often used to shut her out.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies
The 2017 Annual Report of All Souls Parish
Here it is, hot off the digital presses! This report includes a detailed look at the last year from all of our leaders and different areas of ministry, as well as our financial records and budget for 2018. We will print a limited number to have available this Sunday at the Annual Meeting. We highly encourage all who are able to bring a laptop or tablet to read it electronically instead, though, in an effort to reduce our paper use. You can read or download the report here.
Our Annual Meeting is this Sunday, January 28th, from about 10:10-11:15 am in the Parish Hall. We’ll gather to tell stories of the last year, as well as 25 and 50 years ago, share food (can you bring some?) and elect new vestry members. There are seven candidates running for four vestry places. You can learn more about the candidates in the third article of this past Pathfinder. To be eligible to vote, you must be over 16 years old, be a member of All Souls, and have been here for at least 6 months.
Celebrating Baptisms and Confirmations
On January 14th, together with Bishop Marc, we celebrated the baptisms of Marian RosenSmith, Margot RosenSmith, Aaron Dary, Mestie Thomas, Esubalow Thomas, and Richard Page, and the confirmations of Andy Willis, Rob Johnson, Emily Hansen Curran, and Richard Page. What joy!
Children’s Choir Returns!
NEW MINISTRIES IN THE NEW YEAR
There are so many ways to serve and be here at All Souls. If you aren’t yet connected on a team, consider joining one in this new year! Help is needed with the Sacristans, Ushers, Greeters, Counters, on the Adult Formation team, Children and Family Formation team, Stewardship team, and on the Hospitality team. See Emily Hansen Curran, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Eucharistic Minister and Visitor Training
Are you interested in becoming a chalice bearer or Eucharistic visitor – the folks who bring communion to those who are at home while sick or recovering? Next month there will be a training offered at Grace Cathedral, together with a range of other workshops that may be of interest. If you are interested but cannot attend this training, please contact Caroline McCall.
When: Saturday, February 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco
Cost: $15 (lunch included, scholarships available. Contact Amy Cook for details email@example.com)
Have you or someone you know been wondering about the Episcopal church? Wonder no more! For the five weeks in Lent, starting February 18th on Sunday evenings, we’ll host this introductory course. In it we’ll explore the whys, hows, and whats of the Episcopal church. If you are looking to get Baptized, Confirmed, Received, or Reaffirmed in the church, this is the course for you. Conversely, if you’re just looking to learn more about this Episcopal tradition, this is also the course for you. Written by our own Stephen Quarles and Emily Hansen Curran with help from a fellow Episcopalian, Andrew Lee, this course is meant to deepen our faith, our practice, and our relationships. All are welcome. See Emily, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
BOOK GROUPS ON CHRISTIAN WIMAN
Christian Wiman is coming March 9th and 10th! We’ve teamed up with First Congregational Church in Berkeley to host the poet Christian Wiman for an evening conversation at First Church on March 9th and a workshop and continued conversation on the 10th here at All Souls. To prepare for his coming, Emily Hansen Curran is hosting two book group meetings. The next will meet on February 4th at 7pm in the Common Room. For both meetings we’ll discuss Wiman’s latest poem anthology, Joy: 100 poems, starting with his introduction and dipping into a few of the poems listed. Anyone may drop in, perhaps bring a snack or beverage to share!
SOUP + STORY RETURNS AND NEEDS HOSTS!
Soup + Story is a dinner group series centered on Bible study and dinner in parishioner’s homes. If you enjoy hosting people, and have a home that can accommodate a dinner group of about 10-15, this might be a great opportunity for you! We’ll assign you a facilitator so that all you have to do is have a home ready for people. The dinner series will begin the first week in Lent and run for the 5 weeks of Lent. If you are interested, or would like to know more, contact Emily, email@example.com.