From the Rector

(Re)Making Church Together

It all began with some questions at our staff meeting several weeks ago. Knowing that we are approaching the summer time, when life around Berkeley (and therefore to some degree at All Souls) sloooows down, we wondered, “What could we do to take advantage of smaller summer services? What might we do differently at this time that wouldn’t be as possible at other times?”

Ideas bounced around, and after some working and re-working came this possibility: what if we brought the altar, ambo (or lectern), acolytes and altar party to the crossing? What if we moved the ritual action closer to the congregation, creating a sense of greater intimacy (made possible by summer attendance) as we gather around the table for this family meal?

We immediately started identifying challenges to this, and, after attempting to work out potential solutions, began to feel like this wasn’t as crazy as it first seemed. We then set out to talk with other folks who lead and serve on Sundays: sacristans, lectors, musicians, ushers, chalice bearers, leaders of Children’s Chapel and more.

After scores of conversations we decided that the next step was to actually move the pieces around in the space to see and feel what it would be like. So, on Pentecost Sunday, June 8th, after the 11:15 a.m. service ten or fifteen people stayed behind and started moving the pieces around.

It was a fascinating experience in making church together. While we haven’t moved the altar since the church was reconfigured over a decade ago, we have some experience in creating sacred space in new ways. Our Eucharists: at the Parish Picnic in Tilden Park, in the outdoor chapel at Big Sur, at the Bishop’s Ranch for our Parish Retreat, at our Feast of Mary in the Parish Hall—for all of these services we have had to create the space for us to come close to God together.

The conversation, the give and take, the questions and creativity that came forward on Sunday afternoon as we were re-creating the space were as important to me as the final result. Do the regular candles fit this space? What about the candles from the side chapel? How about bringing up the candles from the Chapel? Will there be enough space for people to receive and for kids to go against the flow for the grape juice chalice? What will sight lines be like? Where will the musicians sit? The conversation was lively, and at the same time, held the space for what might be.

Then, on Monday afternoon, Kristin and I went upstairs so that she could see what we had come to. Since this Sunday I will be with our team at the College for Congregational Development in Seattle, Kristin will be presiding and taking us through worship with this set-up for the first time. As soon as we walked in from the back of the church (which I hadn’t done yet), I realized that the credence table, which we were using for the altar, looked out of place, too small to hold the space. Time to re-make church together.

So that night, following our Ministry Night meetings, a different set of folks, some of whom had been there on Sunday afternoon and others new to this process, came together to re-make the space. We brought the regular altar down to the crossing and move the credence table up to the top step, and figured out new patterns for receiving the Eucharist. And then, we stepped back to see what we had made: much better.

I’m not quite sure what it will feel like to worship in our space in this way from now until the 7th of September. I can say that I am eager to try it, to experience Jesus together in bread and wine around the same table, but in a new way. I’m interested to see how reading and preaching are changed, what it will be like to gather together, on the same level, closer in. What I know for sure is that the process that we have followed to get there: wondering and inviting, conversing and learning, making and re-making, has been an experience of coming closer to the Spirit, all unto itself.


From the Seminarian

Thanksgiving from the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui

2 June 2014

Last Wednesday I landed in Hong Kong and was picked up by Chunwai Lam. He is a friend whom I met while he was finishing his studies at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, and is also the vice-principal of Ming Hua Theological College, where I am staying. He gave me a warm greeting, and on the ride to the seminary I began learning my first Cantonese. But there’s a bit more backstory required to appreciate the moment.

In December of 2013 I was awarded a grant from the Seminary Consultation on Mission of the Episcopal Church to spend six weeks in the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (the Anglican Church in Hong Kong) this summer. From December until May 25 I was really excited about this. And then on May 26, the day I was to fly out, I felt the anxiety start to creep into my body. I noticed the tightness in my stomach, where it always starts, and spent considerable time fretting about whether my clothing would fit in. Of course, these experiences were symptoms of the deeper reality; that I was afraid of the unknown before me.

Whenever I travel, people ask me, “Are you ready?” I always wonder what ability of foresight these people must have which leads them to expect I might answer, “yes”. All joking aside, it must be a wonderful gift they have. As far as I can tell, however, my gift is the ability to enthusiastically sign up for life-changing experiences, and then ride that commitment through the turbulence of last-minute jitters. “Readiness” just has to catch up with me in transit. So as I boarded my flight from SFO, I was relying heavily on this phenomenon. Also, it helps to have great family. And not just any family.

When I when traveled during college my Mom shared her concerns and fears with me, but then she gave me a hug and her prayers and sent me on my way. When I wrestled with the decision of which seminary to attend, my wife Linden was my constant and insightful discernment partner. When I wrote my grant application for Hong Kong, my Dean of Students Ann Hallisey coached me and encouraged me. All of these are signs of the family that supports me, and when Chunwai picked me up at the airport, he drove me right to the heart of that family.

After 18 hours of travel, the blast of Hong Kong heat and humidity, more skyscrapers than any other city on earth can claim, and the new song of Cantonese ringing in my ears, we walked into a small, quiet, cool room and I looked up to find myself and twenty neighbors seated around the Family table. Then I picked up a Prayer Book, of all things, just in time to join the feast. As they prayed in their language, I prayed in mine from the facing page, and relaxation flowed through my muscles and my mind. I was standing on a point of the globe that is nearly as far from my birthplace as it is possible to go, and was surrounded by my perfect, holy family.

As I participated in their youth camp and diocesan celebrations, I celebrated the Eucharist (“thanksgiving”) five times during my first four days in Hong Kong. That’s a lot even for an Episcopalian! And I enjoyed every moment of it. In the Eucharist, God and my family reminded me as they always do that though I am not ready, the Body of Christ is, and I will be well when I remember I am a part of that body. Thanks be to God for my Mom, Linden, Ann, Chunwai and every person of this Family whom I have met and whom I have not. I live in the hope that I will always know you in the breaking of the bread.

— Reed Loy

Associate Rector Search Update

Proceeding with Four Top Candidates

On June 4th, the Associate Rector Search Committee held its third meeting to review a pool of applications submitted by our posted deadline. The applicants are from all over the United States, both male and female, with diverse liturgical and preaching styles, and a wide range of experience levels.

After a period of thoughtful discussion, the committee agreed to proceed with four top candidates. These four were chosen for a combination of qualities that we believe would be a good fit for our All Souls congregation, including effective communication skills, demonstration of leadership and initiative, a focus on family and children, empathic pastoral care, a sense of joy, and an “infectious” faith.

We are very pleased with the pool of applicants that we have received, and are on track for a fall hire. We realize that there is great interest in the hiring process and some speculation on who the candidates might be. We appreciate your understanding of the confidential nature of this process and the important work that we are doing. We will continue to update the parish of our progress in Pathfinder articles.

—Tara McCulloch, Associate Rector Search Committee member

What do All Souls sound techs do?

“Whoever Has Ears to Hear, Let Them Hear”—With Help from Sound Techs!

New Members Urgently Needed

What do All Souls sound techs do? They provide amplified voices, adjusting equipment at the back of the narthex during the service to make sure that clergy, lectors, intercessors, and those making announcements can be heard clearly by all. Sound techs also capture a recording of each sermon for the web site. They manage the assistive listening devices. In addition to Sunday services, sound techs are called upon from time to time to provide amplified sound and recordings for weddings, memorial services, and other special functions.

So, if you have ever listened to website sermons, they happen only because a sound tech has recorded them. If you have ever strained to hear what is going on around the altar, know that services without sound amplification will always be that way. We need help to keep the sound system active every Sunday.

Several of the sound tech crew have moved and are moving away—WE NEED YOUR HELP! We welcome any youth or adult is interested in this ministry. Current team members will train you and give you help all along the way. Please ask Fred Lothrop, Jim Feeley, or David Cooke about becoming a “sounder”. The sound system is needed for two services each Sunday for four Sundays, sometimes five each month. That’s a total of 8 to 10 services per month—we’d like to at least double our team of four sound techs so that every service can be heard clearly by all.

Listenable sound doesn’t just happen—there is someone making it happen. That could be you.

—Fred Lothrop

Giving Tree Gift Appeal Update

We have been offered a generous $15,000 matching grant. To date, we have already received almost $10,000 toward our goal of $30,000. Our goal is to raise $2 for every $1 from this gift—and we are 1/3 of the way there! If you are able to give, please respond today to support our programs, reduce the All Souls budget deficit, and qualify us to receive matching funds. Our HEARTFELT thanks to those who’ve already given. Green Giving Tree Gift Appeal cards are available in the narthex at church.