From the Associate Rector
God in the Micro and the Macro
Last Sunday morning, I was struck by the convergence of bread. Well, of bread products. Towards the end of the Great Thanksgiving — that long prayer tracing our meandering path through creation, Jesus’ life and death, and the present moment of giving thanks — I heard a familiar skittering sound. It was barely audible. A drop, tumble, roll: cheerios hitting the polished cement of the sanctuary floor. It’s a sound I know well. I smiled as we sang the Lord’s Prayer together, when out of the corner of my eye, I could see parents and a toddler down on their knees, gathering the little O’s back together. They offered a lively twist on a more traditional piety of kneeling in prayer.
It was a few moments later that it really hit me, though. After we finished singing, I raised the bread and broke it. I bowed down, honoring this mysterious feast where so little is always more than enough, and that’s when I saw it: one lone cheerio, sitting on the floor directly beneath me. Tiny, and whole, and ready. As we began to share the bread and wine out into more chalices and another paten, I knelt down, picked up the cheerio, and popped it in my mouth. I will admit that part of this act was rooted in playful cheekiness. But as the image has remained in my head in the days since, I’ve continued mulling over how this young one’s snack was part of our holy feast, too.
At our 7:30 service, at the moment where the table is set, the collection of our gifts has just been brought forward, and we pivot into this meal, we say “all things come of you, oh Lord, and of your own have we given you.” This cheerio, undergirding our Eucharistic bread, seemed to be a vision of just that: bringing all of our selves, all that we have, and sharing it together. A tiny cheerio, having rolled under the altar, seems to be a clarifying vision of who this community of souls is. I wonder if it also offers a glimpse of who God is: ready, present even (especially!) with our littlest ones, offering enough out of just a bit.
This funny, holy cheerio was still on my mind as we hit the freeway on Sunday afternoon, making our way up the hill to Lake Tahoe. I’m serving as the chaplain at Camp Galilee this week, the Episcopal Camp on the eastern shore of the lake. Just as making the trek back to summer camp was a awe-inspiring drive as a child, it feels similarly thrilling to return to this home away from home. There are plenty of reasons to be excited: the joy of seeing my children run feral, the wonder of watching people I adventured with when they were young campers now leading us as mature counselors, so much clean air to breathe in deeply.
But more than anything, I think it’s the vastness that grabs my attention.
Last summer, after years of drought, the beach at camp was enormous. The water was so low that we had to carry kayaks some 100 feet out before we could set them down in water. Rocks that we had only ever seen under water now towered high and dry. Small trees sprouted on dry ground in what had once been the swim area.
But now? After such a tremendously wet winter, the beach has all but vanished. Water laps at the bluff, leaving some stretches impassable without walking through water. As I took in this sweeping change, a counselor and I wondered just how much water it would take to fill this huge lake, and how much had flowed in to raise the level so dramatically in just a few months. And all the while, the mountains tower in the distance, many of them still covered in snow.
This creation is immense. Mind-bogglingly so, and far beyond the feeble words that try to capture it. And so instead, I’m sitting in the midst of this delightful paradox, encountering God in what is massive and what is tiny, all jumbled up together. And I wonder if perhaps this is the point, more than naming it: the practice of just noticing this holy presence in each, as it comes. I see God in the micro not just in the surprise of holy cheerios, but also by way of the seemingly disproportionate wonder our son Sam has in chasing ants, or that our daughter Alice has collecting beach rocks. I experience it in my own joyful thrill in discovering two tender new shoots rising from the roots of the second aspen we planted here for our son Fritz. And I see God in the macro — in the enormity of what surrounds us in this place, as people gape at sunsets that ought to seem clichéd, in mammoth rock crags jutting out of the sandy dirt, in the Jeffrey pines towering far above. Surely, God is present in this vastness.
I find myself left reaching to bridge the gap, stretching between these two poles of macro and micro revelations of the holy. Nearly a hundred years ago, French mystic Simone Weil wrote that “absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” So, perhaps this kind of prayer is hope: that we practice paying attention to what is so vast and so tiny that we might otherwise miss it. And I pray too, that this might be enough, that it might move us to thanksgiving as we find God in both places, and all along in between.
The Middle School Immersion Trip, in photos
Last week, 15 middle school students from East Bay Episcopal Churches moved into our Parish House and offered their time and energy in service, learning, and exploration of our community. Here’s a glimpse of their adventures:
From the Archives
The Beginnings of All Souls: Chapter 7
As if a war were not sufficient agony for the world, the fourth horsemen of the apocalypse appeared in the form of the great 1918 Influenza (Spanish ‘flu) Epidemic, which killed more people than the war itself. In Berkeley, and across the U. S., everyone was required to wear a gauze mask covering the mouth and nose when in public. Public gatherings in general were discouraged. The Reverend Dr. Herbert H. Powell, who was locum tenens while the Reverend W. R. H. Hodgkin, the vicar, was away in the Y.M.C.A. working with the army, said that he could not conduct the service or preach through his mask, so he let it hang from one ear. Because health authorities banned indoor meetings, and the weather was too severe for outdoor services, All Souls suspended Sunday services for three Sundays from October 20, 1918 to November 3, 1918.
On November 10, 1918, the entire congregation, all masked, was able to meet again in the vacant lot, which is now the courtyard. The Rev. Mr. Hodgkin was present in his Y.M.C.A. uniform with the Rev. Dr. Powell preaching. It was a Thanksgiving service in more ways than one. An armistice was imminent. The Rev. Dr. Powell instructed the choir to sing the “Te Deum” immediately if the siren announcing the armistice should sound during the service, but it was not to be. The news of the armistice did not arrive until midnight.
All Souls was able to resume regular Sunday worship services on “Victory” Sunday, November 17, 1918, with the congregation still wearing masks. At this midnight service, aisle candles were used for the first time at All Souls. Because the Rev. Mr. Hodgkin was ill, the officiants were the Rev. Dr. Powell and the Rev. Richard M. Trelease, later vicar and the first rector of All Souls.
At Easter 1919, the altar candlesticks and the rood-screen were consecrated. After returning from war service with the Y.M.C.A., the Rev. W. R. H. Hodgkin spent much of his time at St. Mark’s deputizing for the Rev. Edward Lambe Parson, until November 1919, when the Rev. Mr. Parsons was consecrated as Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese, and the Rev. Mr. Hodgkin was called as rector of St. Marks. The Rev. Mr. Hodgkin’s last service at All Souls was on December 28, 1919, and the Rev. Richard M. Trelease, who was called as vicar, celebrated his first service as vicar on January 4, 1920.
All Souls continued to grow, and it became clear that additional space was needed for the congregation to meet after the service. With the permission of the vestry of St. Marks, of which All Souls was still a mission, the two adjoining lots to the south of the chapel were purchased, adding 85 feet to the Spruce Street frontage. Plans were drawn to build a parish hall (“Parish House”) on the new property and funds were being raised.
– Thomas Burcham
Help this Saturday?
This week the floor in the Parish Hall was refinished. Many hands made light work on Sunday as we emptied it of all furniture… and now we need to put it back! It would be really fabulous if we could have some more willing hands come this Saturday morning at 9:00 am to help roll it all back. Please let Emily Hansen Curran know if you can come. Thanks!
MIDDLE SCHOOL ANGEL ISLAND TRIP
ALL SOULS IS READING ABOUT JOY!
Did you come to last Sunday’s group discussion of The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World? If you missed it, please come this Sunday July 9th to the Parish Hall during the formation hour following the 9:00 am service. Rob Johnson will lead the group in discussing this week’s selection: “Days 2-3, Obstacles to Joy” (despair, loneliness, envy, pp. 115-144) and “Joy Practices, Overcoming Obstacles to Joy: Loneliness—A Common Humanity Practice; Envy—A Mudita Practice” (pp. 322-24).
Please come whenever you can, even if you haven’t found time to do the reading. The questions and ideas are so engaging that the discussions will be easy to join. Copies are available at the Berkeley Public Library and in paperback and e-books for about $14. Contact Stephan Quarles if you’d like to borrow one of the copies the parish has purchased for our use.
Please join us!