From the Interim Sabbatical Rector

stephen_shaverFrom filling slots to developing disciples

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the ways our common life at All Souls is evolving as we pass through what experts in these things call a “transitional” size. As this parish has grown, we’ve needed to find new ways to connect with one another and maintain deep relationships even while our organizational life has gotten more complex.

One of the ways we’re working toward that is creating a new staff position: an Associate for Ministry Development. At the beginning of the summer, Phil and the vestry agreed to create this position and begin a search. The job posting went up on our parish website yesterday—so the search is on!

What’s an Associate for Ministry Development? This person will be a half-time lay staff member whose main ministry responsibility will be helping connect people more deeply with our parish and with the ministry opportunities they’re gifted for. She or he will be working to strengthen connections throughout the whole fabric of our community; to welcome newcomers and find ways for them to integrate into our common life; and to help all of us discern where we’re called to serve both inside and outside the parish.

One of the perennial tasks in any church (and any organization that functions largely through the work of leaders who aren’t paid staff) is “recruitment.” So often, we come up against an urgent need and realize we need someone to fill a slot. It’s a task-based approach: something needs to be done and we need somebody to do it. When we’re always working out of that task-based framework, though, we can end up with a mentality of scarcity and anxiety. Sometimes our urgency to fill slots leads to placing responsibilities on people without giving them adequate support, leading to exhaustion. Sometimes the same highly involved people end up getting recruited over and over for multiple responsibilities, leading to burnout.

A different way to think about recruiting ministry leaders is a gift-based approach. Who are the people in our community? What gifts and passions do they have, and how is the Spirit of Jesus calling them to serve? Starting from people rather than tasks can help us reduce our anxiety and take an appreciative approach, one grounded less in what we don’t have than in what we do have. I once heard a pastor refer to this as moving “from hunting to farming”—instead of hunting down a recruit when we have an urgent need, we’re investing in people’s growth as Christian leaders over time.

Of course, an approach like this takes time and intentionality. So part of our new Associate’s work will be walking alongside people—new people and longtime members—to help them discern their gifts and apply them inside and outside the parish. It also takes a thorough knowledge of what ministry opportunities are available. So he or she will be working closely with our more than 25 ministry team leaders to help us all be strategic about deploying our resources, developing leaders, and matching people’s gifts to ministry needs.

I’m excited about who God may be calling to serve with us in this position. I’m looking forward to seeing how our new Associate’s ministry can help us weave our common life together in a way that takes account of everyone’s gifts and blends them into a beautiful tapestry. In the meantime, please share our posting widely with people you know, and pray for the Spirit’s guidance in this search process!



Mapping Abundance

Ethan_LoweryWhat’s going on at St. Mark’s across town? Are Good Shepherd’s raised beds being used for any community outreach? Who else in the country sends their high schoolers to the Standing Rock reservation for service trips? How many other All Souls-es are there in the United States?

If you’ve asked any of these questions, or others, I’m happy to tell you: there’s an app for that!



Or rather a map. The Episcopal Asset Map is a resource of Episcopal Relief & Development and the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church (i.e. the folks that work for the national church office) and has been the main project for my internship for the past year.

The asset map grew out of the US Disaster Program of Episcopal Relief & Development as an attempt to index the relevant resources for a post-disaster response effort: the food pantries, parking lots, generators, shower facilities, bilingual church staff and the like.

A couple of iterations (and a lot more input from folks all over the church) later, and we’ve broadened the scope of the info-gathering and created a searchable, visual database of all the ministry programs, human resources, and physical assets for every Episcopal church, school, and other institution across the entire United States (and abroad). That information is submitted by folks in congregations via online survey (how easy!).

What began as a tool for disaster work is now capable of being used to connect congregations to other folks doing similar work (networking!), to foster development of new ministry (information sharing!), and a whole slew of other things: diocesan database management (important), exploring Episcopal churches in a new city (church shopping), finding Episcopal Service Corps programs or campus ministries for keeping your young person engaged in the Church (transitions are often when people escape the church!), etc., etc., etc. I could go on for days.

At the moment, there are almost 8000 pins on the map and over 50 dioceses participating in map and more are being added to that count every day. Isn’t that so wild? I think it’s wild—there’s so much going on.

As the organizer for the map in the Midwest and western dioceses, it’s been such a pleasure to be able to share this work with so many awesome folks and evangelize the paradigm-shifting model of Asset-Based Community Development (short version: the scarcity-model paralyzes us with sadness; let’s work with what we’ve got—and who we’ve got).

This resource will continue to grow and evolve as more churches across the diocese and country begin to offer up their ministries and content to the map, but our questions can begin now: How can we work together with the other Episcopal churches in town? What are our best ministries and what are our unique gifts, and how can those inform our work in the world? How can we continue letting go of the fear of scarcity, the fear that what we have isn’t enough to serve God’s purpose? And in the meantime, invite all your friends across the diocese to submit their info to their church’s page. I can’t wait to see what we all have to offer!

– Ethan Lowery

From the Rector on Sabbatical


Phil will be offering reflections from his time studying and his adventures on the road this summer. He cautions that, like him, his posting will be irregular. You can follow along at Practices for Living.

Simply put, it is humbling to spend time in the Colorado Plateau. A geographic area that is found in the states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico (a state defined by the borders of the Plateau would make a lot more sense than the four corners we now have), it a geologic wonder. Created over hundreds of millions of years, it is comprised of layer upon layer of sedimentary rock. Thrust up by tectonic plate activity, these layers have been exposed over hundreds of thousands of years, chipped, carved, chasmed.

These sediments, pressed into rock, thrust up and cut away, now reveal the life and times of oceans, deserts, swamps, forests––then oceans, deserts, swamps, and forests again. When faced with a canyon wall, as in the Grand Canyon, or a hoodoo or an arch, it is a nearly overwhelming feeling to realize that the very place you are standing was once under a vast ocean, or in miles of desert, or was a swamp patrolled by the great Allosaurus.

In our hikes, we have come across 300 million year old sea sponges and shells, seen the tracks of dinosaurs, unbelievably frozen in time. This work of gathering and compressing, over millions of years is almost incomprehensible. For one, it puts the climate crisis we face into stark relief. Through the study of this terrain, it is clear that our earth’s balance can tip precipitously and disastrously. Oceans can indeed become deserts, fundamentally altering the life that exists there. Given what we already know of the mass extinctions that life on this earth has endured, it should shock us into change dramatically the ways we live that are accelerating these changes. Our actions in this next generation will likely bear fruit for centuries.

Another realization has emerged in our time here. It has to do with the dramatic changes that can only come through persistent action. One of the challenges of encountering the Grand Canyon is the vast scale that opens up before you. Miles and miles across, roughly a mile deep, it is a vastness that can’t really be comprehended, you can only somehow absorb it. With that nearly surreal scale is the remarkable manner it which it came to be. Unlike Yosemite Valley, that was formed by massive glaciers shearing the granite, the Grand Canyon is being made by persistent, everyday actions of wind, water and gravity. The water and wind has worn away the rock, frozen in its walls, fracturing it in dramatic fashion. What once was a level plateau has been very slowly and just as surely changed into a canyon that can be seen from space.

Given the scale of time, this is almost more understandable with the Grand Canyon, with the mighty Colorado River coursing through the valley. Given the runoff that feeds this river system, one can see how even boulders can be shunted downstream. But this phenomenal course of action is also the case in Zion Canyon, where the shallow and gentle Virgin River flows.

Time_1There is no way, when looking at the small Virgin River, that one would surmise that it could have carved the canyons hundreds to over a thousand feet deep. What I have realized, though, is that scale of time that we use is often quite short. Six months? A few years? A few decades? Rarely a lifetime. We humans seem to shrink our scales of perception to what we might live to see. In reality, though, it is the persistent, long-term efforts that change the course of time.

Several years ago I read an article about a Roman Catholic parish that was being shut down in the Bronx in New York. After decades of attrition, there were few parishioners in the pews and the parochial school did not draw the same number of children as it once had. After years of study, the Archdiocese decided to shut the parish down, and send those who remained to nearby congregations. For those who had been baptized, married, raised their children in this parish, this was heretical. They organized to fight this decision––it was to no avail. But it was the answer of the Archdiocesan spokesman that got my attention at the end of the story. He was asked by the reporter whether or not the Archdiocese would be selling the property, seeing as how they had just shut down the church and the school. “No,” the spokesman replied, “we think that we’ll need it in the next 300 years.”

This reflection on time has reminded me of the scale of time we should be using. Our efforts, the way we live, the witness we give to the world should not simply be on the scale of six months or three to five years or even fifty-five years. It is folly, even hubris, to think of only our own lifetimes. Our scale, understandably, is focused in such small increments. But the psalmist talks about one day for God being like a thousand years for us. What might change or shift if we were to understand that we were participating in a river that has been flowing for almost 2,000 years, that itself is fed by a stream thousands of years older?

ATime_2nd a river that we expect to flow for thousands more? Yes, our focus must be on what is immediately at hand, in our parish, in our neighborhood, In our city, in our diocese, This is important. Being able to see projects through for three months or for three year timelines is important.

But I have been humbled and inspired by the witness of persistence, of fluid water cutting through seemingly impenetrable rock. Drop by drop, minute by minute, millennia by millennia. It has me wondering what our persistent efforts, our continuing stance, the forces of our unrelenting love, will yield over decades, over centuries. For us as Episcopalians, Anglicans, Christians, we are fed by a Source that runs far deeper than we often allow for. As the Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel has written, “I am living in hope that we are coming to the realization that our traditions are not useless and dead, but rather mysterious and alluring to a new generation. It is not that our tradition is bad. The problem is that we don’t know it anymore.” The questions of our time, not only at All Souls, but for Christian communities around the world are these: What course are we setting ourselves to? How are we joining with the stream of billions? Are we ready to give our lives and our selves to the radical Good News of the reconciliation of Creator and created, that is right now as well as decades, centuries, millennia away?


Special Offering: Rebuild the Churches Fund

black_church_burningThis Sunday we’ll be taking a special collection for the Rebuild the Churches Fund. This fund has been set up to support those black churches whose buildings have been destroyed in recent weeks by suspected arson. Christ Church Cathedral, the Episcopal Cathedral in St. Louis has taken the lead in this effort and as of today, has collected $137,658, with many churches participating across the country. As fellow children of God, we stand with our sisters and brothers to help them rebuild these buildings—which are not just houses of worship but centers of ministry for their community. For more information, see the Fund website here.

Memorial Service for Deacon Barbara Hill

barbara_hillThe Rev. Barbara Hill served as a deacon at All Souls many years ago, and passed away recently. Her memorial service will be August 8th, 11am at St. Alban’s, 1501 Washington (at Curtis), Albany. All are welcome. Her family shared that “Barbara requested a celebration after the service and that is what we will have, so bring your dancing shoes – granddaughter Alyssa will be the DJ., spinning some of “Grandma’s” favorite tunes to celebrate Barbara’s life.”


Black Lives Matter at All Souls Gathering
Sunday, July 12, from 12:15-1:15pm in the Parish House. We will pray, read from the Charleston Syllabus, discuss, and plan ways All Souls can work for racial justice on a sustained basis. Childcare on the playground will be provided by members of the group; please bring a finger food to share if you’re able. More info available here on an ongoing basis.

Rotating Ministries Fair
This Sunday marks the beginning of our summer “Rotating Ministry Fair,” and our featured ministry group is the Kyakameena ministry. For the past 14 years a team of All Souls parishioners has shared a monthly worship service and spiritual friendship with the residents of Kyakameena Skilled Nursing Facility in Berkeley. All Souls members also offer support and friendship to Kyakameena in other special ways throughout the year. Please talk with one of our Kyakameena team members or stop by the table in the courtyard after the 9:00 and 11:15 services to learn more about this ministry and how you can help—maybe the Spirit is calling you to join in!

A public service announcement
please be mindful of your belongings during worship and avoid leaving valuables unattended (even while going up to communion, etc.). Recently a wallet was stolen out of a bag in church on a Sunday morning. Sadly, thefts can happen even in church—our worship gatherings are public spaces and it’s not uncommon for churches to be targets.

All Souls Baseball Party
Food, drink, fun, fellowship….plus an A’s game!
(Giants fans are welcome)
Saturday, Aug 1:
4:45pm Tailgate Extravaganza, Oakland Coliseum parking lot (locater map to follow)
6:05pm, The Athletics of Oakland vs. the Native Americans of Cleveland (we are a p.c. church)
$27 per ticket includes the complete pre-game meal
$10 optional discount parking pass ($20 at the gate)
Bring:  just your fun self
RSVP:  to Don Gates by July 12.

Alateen at All Souls
Beginning July 11, Alateen will be meeting every Saturday at All Souls from 11:30 – 12:30 in the chapel, offering support for teens ages 12-18 who have a family member who struggles with alcoholism. This is a wonderful resource for teens to connect with others going through similar situations and gain strength and resources. The regular Alanon group for adults meets from 11 – 12:30 on Saturdays in the Parish Hall.