Phil Brochard 2016To Suffer With

One of the teachings for those who respond to disasters is about how you encounter someone who has experienced trauma. Whether it is the shock and grief of a family torn apart by a death, or a community that has been devastated by violence, it can be tremendously challenging to enter in with them. Words fail when encountering such pain and loss. It is a razor’s edge—empty platitudes on one side, statements of false optimism on another. And still the desire to say something.

One of the phrases that has been of use to me in the past when being with people in deep pain has been to say that, “I can only imagine what you are going though.” Because truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is like for that person as they navigate the shock and pain of trauma. At the same time, to say that I can’t imagine it can create distance, as if to say to that person, I cannot come anywhere near where you are. It can serve to unintentionally increase the feelings of isolation that often accompany traumatic grief.

The murder of at least 49 men and women at an LGBT+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday has rent this nation asunder. Once again, we have been targeted, attacked in a place that was supposed to be safe. Like schools and churches, clubs have served as sanctuary for many who are LGBT+. Once again, a sense of safety, of security, has been shattered. And many are struggling with what to say, what to do.

Our response, both in word and action, is most clearly seen in the definitive practice of Jesus of Nazareth: compassion. Compassion, from the Latin compati, to suffer + together with. As Christians, our consistent stance is to suffer together with another. The last few Sundays of Luke’s Gospel have illustrated this, from the widow of Nain to the woman who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears. In each story, Jesus enters into situations of pain and trauma, sees that person, and suffers with them.

This past week, an article in the New York Times focused on President Obama’s practice of meeting with the loved ones, parents, siblings and children, of those who have been murdered in mass shootings. Done without the press in tow, President Obama, often joined by his wife Michelle, meets with the family of each of those slain by gunfire. At least 20 shootings have prompted a presidential response in the seven plus years that he has served as President. Each time he has talked with the family member, often embracing them. This was the experience of Roxanne Green, whose 9 year old daughter Christine was one of six people killed in the 2011 shooting in Tuscon, Arizona.

“They were both very, very emotional. It was like it happened to someone in their family.”

For us at All Souls, compassion is taking many forms: that of prayer, of solidarity, of presence. This Sunday, we will be praying for all who are suffering and grieving as well as praying the names of all who died in Orlando, a practice we will be holding in the weeks to come. Below in this Pathfinder you will read one of Danielle Gabriel’s responses to the shooting, and her invitation to join her at the Trans March next Friday. And earlier this week, our outreach team moved by the witness and compassion of the GLBT Center of Central Florida, offered to send funds from All Souls, along with a letter of support and solidarity.

These are some of the ways that we are responding in the wake of this attack. They are but a beginning, for as the days and weeks unfold, as we enter into the suffering that has taken place and is ongoing, we will surely find other ways to stand alongside those in pain and grief, so that they do not stand alone.


The people who show up

Isabel at vigil for orlando

The picture above is of my daughter Isabel sitting on her Aunt Amy’s lap (with me in the background). She’s listening to the names of the murdered in the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre at the vigil in Oakland on Sunday. When I saw it in the San Jose Mercury News I cried. I cried for her, for my daughter Maggie, for the victims, for all of us.

Some context. The Pulse is a gay night club, and Saturday night was Latin Night. Most of the victims were Latino. So this violence is part of a long, long tradition of raids and homophobic attacks on queer bars and night clubs (think Stonewall), and it is part of a long, long history of violence against people of color in America. Does it matter that the person who committed this act claimed allegiance to Islam and to Isis? Yes. To me, as a Christian, it is a tragedy upon more tragedy to use faith as an excuse to brew hatred and commit violence.

But there’s some things you can’t see in the picture of Isabel and Aunt Amy. The first is that we are surrounded by people I’ve known since we were teenagers, and their children. These are survivors. We have all been harassed, intimidated, and assaulted because we are queer. Together we have been to countless vigils. We have carried so many candles in the dark for our brothers and sisters. But here we are. We are still alive. And we still love. And while we all desperately hoped that our children would never need to go to a vigil like this, we are holding them, and each other up. Together.

The second thing you can’t see in the picture is the stage. It is full of clergy. I can’t even count all the white collars I see. They are mostly queer, mostly folks of color. And they offer prayers, preaching and songs. They confirm for me that my Christian faith is relevant, in fact central to this struggle. At one point one of the organizers takes the bullhorn and, looking back at the clergy behind them, says “Uh, this wasn’t supposed to be a religious event. They just showed up.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Let’s be the people who show up. In the name of Jesus, let us be the people who just show up, bringing compassion and strength and deep faith.

One of this year’s San Francisco pride events, the Trans March, is on Friday June 24th at 6:00 pm in Dolores Park. If you want to join a group of All Soulsians at this march, we are meeting at 4:30 at the main above ground entrance to the downtown Berkeley BART stations. Feel free to email me at

Let’s show up together.

– Danielle Gabriel

Welcoming the Stranger: The Middle School Immersion Trip

jess_powellStranger (as defined by Merriam-Webster online): someone who you have not met before or do not know; someone who has not experienced something; someone who is in a new and unfamiliar place.

I’m sure we have all, at some point, been strangers and met strangers. Anytime we meet someone new, someone about whom we know nothing from social media or others’ comments, we encounter a stranger. In the moment before that introduction, you are a stranger to them. This happens all the time. People move. At some point in your education, whether it’s the first day of preschool or the first day of your last class at school, you have encountered new students or been the new student. Perhaps you started a new job without having met everyone on staff. When joining clubs, sports teams, music group, or other types of extracurricular activities, you probably met someone you did not know. Maybe you didn’t know anyone! Maybe All Souls was once a place for you filled with strangers and now, hopefully, those strangers are now friends.

These are all people with whom we have things in common and will probably see on a fairly consistent basis. There are others who we encounter with whom that is not the case. What about the folks you see crossing Shattuck or another street with you whose names you haven’t learned and may never see again? What about those in homeless shelters, prison, or hospitals that you may never see?

The theme of the middle school immersion trip this year is Welcoming the Stranger. Three All Souls youth and I will join the youth and adult leaders from the rest of the God Squad (Christ Church in Alameda, St. Stephen’s in Orinda, Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill, and St. Timothy’s in Danville). We will stay in the All Souls Parish House, and the trip is June 27th-July 1st.

We will work with many non-profits in the Bay Area, including The Children’s Hospital of Oakland, Youth Spirit Artworks, and YEAH! The theme is inspired in part by a parable Jesus tells in Matthew 25:31-46, and we will ask some of the questions that the people in the parable asked. “When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you? When was it that we saw you sick and visited you? When was it that we saw you in prison and visited you? When was it that we saw you naked and gave you clothing? When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?” I am sure that other questions will come up, and we will of course discuss those as well!     

This trip will be an adventure and an incredible learning experience for all. Please join us in prayer as we serve our community and see God in both strangers and friends.


S’mores, stars, surf and souls

Big Sur Waves

These waves are about five minutes from our campsite.

In a few weeks, a fulsome gaggle of All Soulsians will make the winding drive down to Big Sur. If you’ve been thinking about it, feeling the nagging draw of sand and redwoods and lots of laid-back fun with delightful family and friends and strangers-turned friends, there is still time and space!

anders jumping big sur

And this deep pool and jumping rock is about 30 seconds from our picnic tables

Who might need and enjoy this time away? Well, a great many of us. Young babies go, dirt-tasting toddlers go, free-spirited kids go. Teens come, often with friends, and revel in the expanded freedom available there. Young couples and long married couples come. Individuals come, crews of young adults come, extended families come. You can be quite adventurous or only a little so – you can unload from your car into your tent, and the big campsite is mostly flat, save some stairs leading up to the bathrooms.

Beach lounging Big Sur

Matt, Michelle and Mark take in the ocean

It’s a time out of time, a place beyond place, where we can be together without agenda, without deadlines, without much beyond our basic needs for food and connection. So come. Really. It’ll be fabulous, or your money back.

Reading Big Sur

The gift of cross-generational relationships!

The cost is $30 per person for the weekend (children under 5 stay for free, $100 max per family) To reserve your spot you must sign up and pay in full no later than June 22nd. Contact Jeannie Koops-Elson with questions and  sign up here or in the narthex on Sunday.

Sending support to Orlando

The All Souls community has been shocked and saddened by the shootings in Orlando last weekend. In an effort to offer support during this difficult time, the Parish, through its Outreach Committee, has made a $500 donation to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida (“the Center”). We chose the Center because it is based in Orlando and has been doing heroic work at this time of great trauma — providing grief counseling in both English and Spanish, and raising funds for the families of the victims.

The Center, which has received very favorable coverage on NPR and other national media, has a website with more information. If you would like to make your own donation, go to the GoFundMe page set up by the Center here. The Center indicates that its board is working closely with the City of Orlando to ensure that all proceeds will go to the victims and their families.


On June 27, the Oakland City Council will finally decide what to do about coal. Will the City Council ban coal or will it make Oakland the biggest coal exporting city on the West Coast? This is a scheme that endangers the health and safety of Oaklanders and and would add to climate change throughout the world. Join All Soulsians and No Coal in Oakland on Saturday, June 25th, for a large rally at Oakland City Hall, starting at 1:00 pm. We will meet at noon in the All Souls parking lot to carpool.

From Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Berkeley

Please join us to mourn and pray and witness to the unbearable loss of our brothers and sisters in Orlando.
Saturday June 11, 5:00pm
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
1823 9th Street
How long, o Lord, how long.