From the Rector
Read the Whole Chapter
For the last couple of weeks of June I was able to take time away to re-create, for which I am very grateful. And as is often the case, almost all of the time that I was away, I was in or near wilderness, outside of the range of cell phones. It’s a practice that I developed on sabbatical several years ago and one that I have found great life in keeping.
But it is often a great shock to return to the rest of the world and catch up on what has taken place while out of contact. For instance, our country’s practice of tearing apart families who were attempting to immigrate to this country had been known for some time, but while I was out of contact, this became more widely and more graphically known. Americans from differing places on the political spectrum responded. And with vigor. President Trump has since given orders to stop this practice, though it is still unclear as to how these thousands of children will be returned to their families.
In light of a broad swath of Americans crying out, the response of member’s of President Trump’s administration has been telling. In particular I’ve been considering the response of the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, when he attempted to rebut those who believed the administration’s actions to unethical and immoral.
In an address to law enforcement officials in Indiana, Sessions said, “Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
I’d like to reflect on several elements of Mr. Sessions’ use of Romans 13. One is the historical use of this text to ground one’s argument. In may not be surprising to know that the Attorney General is not the first to attempt to rebut questions of unjust practices by citing this part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In the mid to late 1700s, those loyal to the King of England did as well, as a way to squash the rebellious colonists. Their arguments didn’t sway those who were fighting against a tyrannous regime. Less than 100 years later, this text was used by those who sought to continue the obscenity of chattel slavery in this country. Again, this appeal to the status quo was ultimately overcome.
So then, how to interpret this text? What are we supposed to make of it? The same question came to a young Christian leader as he sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writing on the margins of newspapers from his jail cell, wrote one of the 20th century’s most stirring missives. In it, among several questions––about direct action, negotiation, and moderation––he considered this question: how are Christians to live faithfully in a nation if it is made up of unjust laws?
For King, the issue hinged on the effects of the law. For his argument he quoted the preeminent theologian of the Christian church, St. Augustine, who said that, “an unjust law is no law at all”, as for King unjust laws, “distort the soul and damage the personality.” This does not mean that authority, or order, or law have no place. They can and they do. But only if they are pointed towards the ends that are consistent with the law of God. But how are we to determine that? What would fulfill God’s law?
This is where I wish that our Attorney General had kept reading that same chapter of Romans 13. He apparently only stopped at verse 7. If he kept reading, this is what he would find, in the culmination of Paul’s argument of how to live in the civil society that a Christian finds themselves a part of (for we are all strangers in the kingdoms of this world),
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)
Here’s my response to Mr. Sessions: order matters. Laws are necessary. But neither of these goods trumps the greatest good of human and divine existence: the love of neighbor. Finish the chapter.
Want to feel closer to Jesus?
Consider joining the Kyakameena ministry team on the third Sunday of every month at 2 PM for a simple communion service that lasts a mere forty minutes or so. We sing together, share prayers, listen to a couple of readings, pass the peace, and distribute communion. Where is the Jesus part? I find it in the simplicity of the service: no vestments, no choreography, no doctrinal subtleties. My favorite part is probably the passing of the peace, where we greet each attendee with a handshake or light touch whether they are fully cognizant or not. And we sing familiar hymns. Recently one of the residents has been bringing his bass guitar so we have been doing duets. He has perfect pitch and joins me almost immediately in whatever key I happen to be playing in. How cool is that?
It is a very moving service and I have found myself on the verge of tears many times. And sometimes the room doesn’t smell so great, but things probably didn’t smell that great in Jesus’s day either. But I keep coming. Why? Because if my son, who died four years ago, had outlived me, this might have been his world and I like to think that someone might do the same for him.
To learn more, please contact me, Carol Terry, at my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or see me after church (9 or 11:15 service). Or Erica Clites by email (email@example.com). We gather at the skilled nursing home which is located at 2131 Carleton St (near Fulton), Berkeley, CA 94704 at 1:50pm. Our next service is on July 15, 2018.
What is God making new?
Two weeks ago a group of Allsoulsians went on a walk through the neighborhood on a Thursday evening. We walked silently, trying to be aware of our surroundings and open to the spirit. We were hoping to begin to figure out where we see God moving in the neighborhood around All Souls and where we could join in their action. We know that Evangelism is not just about inviting people to church, but is really about engaging the spirit in the world. We want to learn and plan for the work of the Evangelism Committee over the next year.
Sitting in prayer in the chapel we opened with: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29: 5-7)
The door banged behind us. You could smell the Jasmine and feel a sweet breeze. The summer time crowds were much less than usual. People passed by, heads down, and we remained silent. We smelled dinner from the place on the corner. Someone said “hello!” to us and we all jumped.
We stopped at Shattuck and Haste to hear “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21: 3-5)
At the end of our walk we prayed silently for a few minutes. Then we talked about what we noticed. “Everything looks so nice!” said one person. Several of us noted that people weren’t acknowledging each other on the street and that we were all surprised when one person greeted us. We talked about how much our neighborhood changes with the seasons, sometimes full of students, sometimes relatively empty. We left pondering what that means for All Souls, and what it means for us connecting with our community.
Here is the framework we are using, adapted from resources I picked up at the Evangelism Matters conference this spring. We are guided by these principles:
- God is already out ahead of us, active in our neighborhood.
- All the clues for how to join with God in our community are already there.
- We continually ask: “Where are we being called to join with what God is up to in our neighborhood?”
- We are shaped by a desire to know and pay attention to the stories of the people in our neighborhood.
- We are cultivating new practices of engaging our community.
Let’s see what God is making new in north Berkeley. Join the Evangelism Committee to walk through our neighborhood and notice where we meet God and how we see Her acting in our community. We’ll be talking about sharing our faith in the world, reading poetry and scripture, and thinking about how the spirit is calling us to engage with our neighbors here in this corner of Berkeley. You don’t have to join the committee! Just join us for an evening and see what we learn together.
Thursdays: July 12 and August 9 at 6:00 PM. For details, contact Dani Gabriel (firstname.lastname@example.org).
From the Archives
Lost Soul Found
The Archives are a well of surprises. While Thomas Burcham has written deep history of All Souls, and, trust me, he knows where all the bodies are buried, I don’t have that profound knowledge. What I do have is a fresh eye, and sometimes something will turn up which calls to me. One such was a death notice.
We have in the archives two shelves of binders with a page for everybody who has ever been a member of All Souls, up to the time when that method of keeping track stopped. I found my baptismal and confirmation record from 1965, and it was a rush. In going through loose papers, and there are many, I found a printout from the Canadian Great War Project, titled Second Lieutenant Edward Herbert Pepper, son of Edward John and Minnie Florence Pepper. Native of Liscard, Cheshire. Enlisted in 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders) Battalion, transferred to Royal Flying Corp. The rest of the information is skimpy. We know he died on August 23, 1918, at the age of 22, of unknown causes. He was buried in France. But boxes for religion (unknown), height (unknown), marital status (unknown) and a whole bunch more were blank. A life lost. So little known. The war ended November 11, 1918. Edward Pepper didn’t live to see it.
I pulled out the appropriate binder and there were a ton of Peppers. I cross referenced dates, and looked at typed notes, but not everything was clear. I found his father, Edward John Wilson Pepper, right away. Born in 1869 in England, died in Stinson Beach in May of 1942. All we know about his mother, Minnie Florence Pepper, was that she was born in England. There were brothers, and possibly a sister. Frank was born in England in 1897, and transferred with his wife Evelyn Margaret, to St. Alban’s in 1937. Peggy Eileen, Frank’s sister, born in England in 1911 confirmed here in 1929. His sister Molly was born in England in 1900, confirmed at ASP in 1920, and married here in 1922. Frank had two sons, Herbert Wilson, born and baptized at All Souls in 1930, and Thomas Edward, born and baptized here in 1927. So who was Peggy Wilson, and are Peggy Eileen and Eileen Peggy the same person? And who is missing? Where is our airman, Lt. Edward Herbert Pepper? We know he enlisted in British Columbia, from California. He was here, with his family. And he died in France. And I have no page for him, as though he never was.
These were lives, a whole family, all of whom ended up at All Souls Parish and stayed here for a long time. And what do we know about them? Very little. What did they like, do? What were the joys and tragedies of their lives? I’d bet there are pictures of at least some of them in that unsorted and unidentified drawer of old pictures in the Archives. And one of them died in France at 22, just months before the end of the Great War, the War to End All Wars. And we know how that worked out. We have faith that when we die, we will rest in peace and go to Glory. And in this world we have rich lives, and family, and experiences. But what I know about these good Christian All Soulsians are a few facts on old sheets of paper in a binder. And one missing. Perhaps the lesson here is that we need to cherish and remember our own. Because life in God may be eternal, but our lives together are fragile and fleeting.
– Dana Kramer-Rolls
From the Choir
Come join our pick-up Summer Choir on Sunday July 8! The music will be manageable enough to prep entirely on Sunday morning, creating an opportunity for those looking for a slightly different way into our choral family. Come at 8:30 sharp to sing at the 9:00 service, 10:45 sharp for the 11:15 service, or both!
Habitat for Humanity Greater SF
Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is proud to partner with St. Francis Lutheran Church to host Building in Harmony, our first interfaith benefit concert and art auction. The evening will feature live musical performances by D’Deuce, a soulful, bluesy duo with punk rock roots on tour from the East Coast, and San Francisco’s own Rob Grant, a virtuoso guitarist and faith-infused folk vocalist.
Following the concert will be an art auction featuring pieces from Rob Grant’s recent show, “Invincible Summer,” alongside the work of other local, faith-infused San Francisco artists. Wine and refreshments will accompany the auction. 100% of the proceeds from the concert and all profits from the art auction will benefit Habitat for Humanity’s mission of creating pathways to affordable homeownership and neighborhood revitalization in the Bay Area. Tickets for the concert are available on a sliding scale at https://donate.habitatgsf.org/interfaithconcert.
The concert and art auction will take place from 7:30 pm-10 pm at St. Francis Lutheran Church, located at 152 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94114. Doors will open for the concert at 7 pm. The venue is readily accessible via public transportation, situated across the street from the Church Street MUNI Station, and walkable from the 16th Street BART Station. Public transit is highly encouraged as parking is limited.
Summer Sunday School
Wondering through the Parables
I wonder what is a seed bomb? I wonder what would happen if I tossed this seed bomb into this bare patch of dirt? I wonder what would happen to All Souls campus if we planted native wildflowers here? I wonder what would happen if we planted seeds around the whole block?
I wonder what makes bread so puffy and full of air? I wonder why the dough grows so big? I wonder who makes the bread for communion? I wonder what that bread really is? I wonder what would happen if we really feasted on that bread?
I wonder how you build a table? I wonder how you build a chair? I wonder how you build a whole house? I wonder what would cause me to trade in all of these things I’ve worked hard to create?
I wonder what hare-brained scheme they’ve cooked up for me this Sunday??
If you are a child somewhere between preschool and 5th grade, and you wonder things likes this, summer Sunday school is for you! (And, if you are a teenager or adult who would like to join in making this happen, please talk to Lenore, email@example.com!) We will be wondering about parables and more, in all sorts of creative and hands-on ways this summer. Join us at 10:10 in the Common Room!
Big Sur Camping Trip
Every summer we have an all-parish camping trip at the Santa Lucia campground in Big Sur, right on the river. The weekend includes swimming, singing and s’mores—as well as a group dinner and informal Sunday morning Eucharist at the outside chapel at the campground. You can find more info here and sign up here!
Walk With Us
SUMMER BOOK GROUP
The Summer Book Group schedule continues with:
- July 8 — Chapters 9-11
- July 15 — Chapters: 12-14
- July 29 — Chapters 15-16
- August 5 — Chapters 17-19