Reflections on the Pandemic

Through the Eyes of a Chaplain

When I was a chef, people responded to what I did with interest and delight. I was a window into the world of fancy restaurants, aged wine, special ingredients, and extravagant indulgences. I was a cook at a time when being a chef was a job of ascending prestige. What did I like to cook? Where did I like to eat? Had I ever made…? Have I met…? I was peppered with enthusiastic questions. I enjoyed the attention, but these conversations had little connection to the long hard hours of physical labor that was being a cook. When I became a hospital chaplain, the reaction changed. The same dynamic of projection was at play but now my job conjured up images of sickness, sadness, grief, and death. Averted eyes, furrowed brows, a needed drink refill was the response I got now. That sounds sad. That must be so hard. I could never do that kind of work. I protested that it was not that bad, that it was not unrelentingly sad, that we laughed a lot, and that I worked with wonderful people but they seemed unconvinced. I think they suspected that I either cried myself to sleep each night or had some unwholesome fascination with human tragedy. The pandemic changed this dynamic. For one, my work did become sad and difficult though perhaps not in the way people imagined. Second, under the shared threat of illness and death, people wanted to know more about my work. I have been supported by All Souls in my work as a chaplain since coming to this community in 2003. I offer the following as window into my experience during the pandemic. 

The idea of the pandemic came to the hospital before the patients did. Looking back, the initial reaction in the spring and summer seems almost funny. We were wiping down every surface, washing our hands repetitively, and trying not to touch anything. I would come home and peel off all my clothes, put them in a trash bag, and jump into the shower. All this while we were not even wearing masks! Soon the hospital was cleared of all unnecessary staff. The number one priority for everyone at work was not to get sick. While this felt self-serving, the truth was that if I got sick, I became part of the problem. I learned to work remotely, give care by phone often with interpreters, to call family after family to see how they were doing. What made my job hard was the repetition of the same tragic situation. An otherwise healthy person suddenly becomes ill, getting worse and worse, until they come into the hospital only to continue to decline despite all medical interventions. I felt helpless. I felt angry.

The pandemic did not touch us all equally. On the one hand, within my social circle, no one seemed to be ill or even know anyone who was ill. Gradually, someone I went to high school with or a friend’s wife’s grandmother would become ill or even die but it still felt far away. Meanwhile at work, whole families were sick. Two and three generations of the same family hospitalized. I would get to know a family over a month as a loved one gradually succumbed to the disease only to find myself a week or two later talking to the same family with another member now making that same journey.

After a few months of the pandemic, I remember getting a briefing from an ICU intensivist who shared what he had learned about covid 19. One thing really stood out for me. There was an 80% mortality rate once you were intubated and placed in the ICU. I think most people tried to stay out of the hospital but finally shortness of breath would bring them in. There are a few medications that are offered but they do not seem all that consequential.  They do not stop a person’s slide from cough, to shortness of breath, to supplemental oxygen, CPAP, BiPAP, and finally intubation. Even on a breathing machine, it is an hour by hour struggle to keep someone’s oxygen level at a life sustaining level. It requires sedation, paralyzation, and proning. Proning is flipping someone over onto their stomach to try to give their lungs more space to expand, to try to wring out every last bit of mechanical advantage in lungs now too scared and stiff to function. As the pressures and settings on the breathing machine go up, so does the damage to the lungs. People mostly survive Covid pneumonia, but the damage done to their lungs and other organs along the way is often not survivable. Unable to recover but supported and sustained, the hospitalization drags on for many weeks until finally, with all physical reserves used up, a cascade of organ failures takes the patient. Family members feel helpless and isolated as their loved ones fight for their life without their presence and encouragement. No one wants to accept that this is happening. No one is ready. Everyone agrees, this is not how it is supposed to be.

The ICU is a hive of activity, but the pandemic makes it seem more surreal. All the IVs and pumps that sustain a patient in the ICU now sit in the hall outside the room with lines running back though closed doors. This spares the staff from having to don all the necessary gear just to adjust or change a medication. The windows now serve as a note board where physicians and nurses write in erasable marker, vent settings, proning times, oxygenation stats as well as Christmas well wishes. There are no outsiders here. No family, friends, or visitors. Looking through those windows, you see patients, mostly black and brown folks, lying face down in the bed. It is strange and unexpected. It is surprisingly dehumanizing as I am often left wondering what I’m looking at. Without a face to focus my attention, my eyes wander back and forth searching for the person, for the identity. Is this the father of the two children I talked to today? Is this the wife of the man who died last week? Which particular story of loss and suffering are you? I can’t keep track. 

My team, the palliative care team, experienced the pandemic as a grinding sense of powerlessness. We are often the bridge for patients and families to move through the grief process that comes with terminal illness. We support people and try to help them make the choices they still can make. To focus on what matters now whether that is getting more treatment, spending time with loved ones, or getting back home with hospice support. Sadly, for patients with Covid pneumonia there were no choices. They could not go home. They could not get off the breathing machine. They could not even say goodbye to their loved ones. It felt wrong, heartless, and unjust. This feeling was compounded by the reality that people of color made up a disproportionate number of the dying in a time when the historic injustice of racism was already weighing on our consciences.

The pandemic feels like it is resolving for now. We have gone back to one ICU with a couple of Covid patients here and there. We are back at work in person but many things that changed have not changed back and may never. I find it hard to know how this experience will affect me. I am still trying to make sense of the pandemic experience as I am sure most of you are as well. One thing that has changed for me is I no longer dismiss the concern people express about my work as being mistaken. I think there is a cost, a secondary trauma to my work that took a pandemic for me to take seriously. That said, I also take more seriously the love and support of my partner, my family, my friends, and my church community as essential to my ability to do this work. I see more clearly how we are all woven together, how the love of God flows between and through us, and how much that really matters. As we navigate this transition from pandemic time to whatever time comes next (Normal time? Regular time? Ordinary time?) I encourage everyone to take some time to think and process their own experience of the pandemic. How have you been changed, traumatized, strengthened, or even ennobled? How has this experience reshaped your faith, your trust in God, and your spiritual journey? We are a community rooted in stories and so as we begin to recover it makes sense for each of us to begin to tell our own story of the pandemic as a way to both grieve and grow beyond it.

-The Rev. Michael Lemaire

From the Senior Warden

Updates Regarding Covid Protocols and Worship

Dear friends, 

As you know, June 15th marked an important milestone in California, ending the COVID-19 county tier system, and changing restrictions like social distancing, capacity limits and mask-wearing. On the same day, Bishop Marc met with clergy and Vestry members of the Diocese of California, to provide guidance for churches in the Diocese.

Per these new guidelines,  All Souls will continue with Sunday worship services at 9:00am in the courtyard and 11:15am in the sanctuary, with the following changes:

– pre-registration is no longer required, as capacity limits are lifted. 

– no symptom-checking upon entry, but we will ask you to sign in as a precaution for contact-tracing. 

– physical distancing, while not mandated, is still encouraged between pods and families. 

– all congregants must remain masked during indoor worship

-masks are not required for outdoor worship, however 6 feet of distancing will be required for unmasked people who are not in the same household

– clergy, choir members, readers, and intercessors may remove their masks while speaking or singing, provided they have attested to be fully vaccinated

– congregational singing is now allowed indoors and outdoors (yay!)

– coffee hour can resume for both services in the courtyard

– groups meeting in person (formation, ministry meetings, etc.) may meet indoors unmasked if everyone in the group can self-attest that they are fully vaccinated. 

These guidelines are expected to be in effect until the end of July or sooner, so look out for updates.

I want to take this opportunity to express deep gratitude to Cynthia Li, Molly Nicol, Jeannie Koops, Ruth Meyers, Renae Breitenstein, and Ray Concepción. Together with All Souls staff, as members of the Regathering Task Force, they have given incredible time and talent to make our regathering possible these past months, in ways that have been not only safe, but sacred and transformative for all.

In Christ, 

Tonantzin Martinez-Borgfeldt, Senior Warden

The Work of Sacred Ground Continues

An Overdue Education

During Bible College I participated in a mission trip to Haiti, during Seminary I completed my dissertation research in Guatemala with humanitarian aid workers at the city dump, where families spend their days scavenging for food. As a result of my experiences, I considered myself “woke” and was disturbed deeply when trauma was inflicted by our nation’s policies on those seeking asylum. However, when it came to domestic social justice issues, I somehow found myself less prepared to respond; I confess Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States has been on my bookshelf since college but never read its entirety. I was raised in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where 94% of the population is Caucasian. When the opportunity to participate in Sacred Ground presented itself, I knew I was overdue for education.

Participation in the program last year had a transformational effect on me. I learned a great deal about our nation’s history but also my own family history, such as the fact that my great-grandfather attended Lehigh University when the tuition for all students was $0. Several of my assumptions about the ways my family had prospered through hard work and self-reliance were challenged, and I began to understand some of the ways my family, along with others of my race, had benefitted from policies which did not benefit those of other races. Our group became close as we vulnerably shared our inner thoughts and assumptions when it came to racial injustices perpetuated throughout our nation’s history.

When the course ended, I was not yet ready to end my journey. While my group had been wonderful about sharing resources (articles, videos etc.) via email, I felt a need to continue our discussions. Our group decided to continue meeting on a monthly basis in the form of a book club. I was interested in digging deeper into materials introduced during the course; for example, the excerpt by Van Jones included in the curriculum provided solutions to our political divide and I wanted to read more of his book and discuss it with others. Each of us took turns selecting a book to discuss and facilitating the discussion. Thus far in 2021, we have read the following: How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together by Van Jones, Dog Whistle Politics by Haney Lopez, Minor Feelings: An Asian-American Reckoning by Kathy Park Hong, and Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson. Our discussions have brought about changes in my thinking and more importantly propelled me to take action.

Throughout the process of honestly reflecting on my own beliefs, I have been able to challenge my assumptions and to connect with other group members who have been willing to challenge their own assumptions.  I encourage others who benefitted from Sacred Ground to continue their own journey of self-exploration and racial reconciliation by forming similar groups.

–Cindy Townsend

* If you are interested in participating in a small group book discussion around race and faith, please join our summer book group, which will be meeting on Sunday mornings at 10:10a either on Zoom or in-person as we read the book The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. 

Treasurer Report

From the Finance Team

As we head into summer, this is a good time to consider where we are in relation to our forecasts (budget) for this year. At the end of May, we are approximately 40% of the way through the fiscal year.  

Pledge giving as well as total income for the year are nearly on target. This includes a planned withdrawal of $11,533 of investment income into the operating budget.   Income from facilities is also on target though we received less than expected income from other donations and offerings. Our year-to-date expenses are slightly lower.   

Overall, this is a good situation for us to be in at this point.  We’re so appreciative of your response to the appeals from the Stewardship Team.  However, income sometimes comes unevenly and in the beginning of the year.  So, all of us should continue with our planned giving for the remainder of the year.  In addition, if you made an authorized purchase for the church and have not yet submitted it for reimbursement, please do so as soon as you can.

The balance in Vanguard (Jordan) funds at the end of May was $1,025,839. Of this total, $781,900 is considered principal held for capital needs likely associated with the Jordan House Project (the joint project with SAHA to provide affordable senior housing and housing/office space for the church). Earnings (unrealized gain) at the end of May were $243,939.  We have drawn $7,430 from the Jordan Principal for mission-related costs this year.

If you have questions about any of this, or would like additional detail, please reach out to me.  

–Vimala Tharisayi, Treasurer

Upcoming Parish Campout at Big Sur !

July 16th-18th

Join the All Souls community for a relaxed weekend of fellowship and fun!

If you haven’t been to All Souls @ Big Sur before, please join the community for this special time—you won’t be disappointed! (If you know, you know!) This is a beloved weekend when we make church just by being together, sheltering under the big trees, splashing in the river, playing at the beach. There is conversation and laughter and quiet. It’s glorious.

We will gather at the Big Sur river under the tall redwoods of Santa Lucia Chapel & Campground, a mission of All Saints Parish in Carmel. The group campsite has running water and toilets (but no showers), picnic tables, a group barbecue area and a large campfire circle. A communal dinner will be prepared for all (by all!) on Saturday night, but otherwise meals are individual responsibility. The weekend will be framed with Evening and Morning prayer, and an informal Sunday Eucharist in the outdoor chapel. There is a family-friendly beach at the campsite, and there are ocean beaches and great hiking within driving distance for those who want to venture out.

If you are a novice camper, are traveling with small kids, or don’t have a lot of camping supplies, this is a great way to do camping-lite! You will be surrounded by a whole community of gear, food to share, and helping hands (to hold the kid, play Uno, kick the ball, coach the S’mores, light the fire, help with the tent, provide a can opener…).

Cost:  $40 per person for the weekend (children under 5 stay for free; $125 max per family)

Sign up HERE

All Souls Returns to the Ballpark!

We’ve had a lot of fun and camaraderie over the years at our annual All Souls group trip to an A’s game.  This great tradition became yet another casualty of the pandemic last year, and until quite recently it looked like it would not be possible this season either.  But I’m very pleased to report that we CAN return to the ballpark in 2021.

We are organizing a group to the A’s vs. TEX game on Friday Sept. 10 at 6:37pm.

Like many things we are returning to this summer, this version of the All Souls baseball night is a little different than we’re used to.

(1) Tailgate gatherings in the parking lot as we always used to do are NOT allowed in 2021.  Our response is to invite you to a “BYO tailgate gathering in the stands” before the game.  We’re asking folks to bring some food for your own consumption, and for sharing if you are so inclined, and show up at our seats starting at 5:15p, or as early as you are able.  The A’s allow fans to bring their own food into the stadium as long as it fits in a soft bag no larger than 16x16x8.  For bevs: factory sealed containers, 1 liter or less, of non-alcoholic liquids allowed.

(2) We’re not able to hold a block of seats with a small deposit as we have in the past.  There is still a group discount, but tickets have to be purchased in order to secure a block of seats.   So right now, before you forget, send me an email ( letting me know that you want to join us on Sept 10 and how many tickets you want.  Please let me know by July 12 if you’re planning to come. Then of course you need to put it on your calendar!

Looking forward to seeing you at the ballpark,

Don Gates

Weekly Worship

Sunday Mornings: Join us at 9am in the courtyard, in-person (holding a 6’ distance between you and anyone outside of your pod or family). Please remember to bring your own chair (if possible) and chalice!

Or (and!) join us in person (masked!) or online for the 11:15 service, which can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning. If you’d like to attend in person, don’t forget to bring your own chalice!

Wednesday Mornings: 9:00am PDT

Join us in person in the church, or online!

Join the Zoom call here:
Meeting ID: 860 8795 1049 Password: 520218

Thursday Night Compline (Night Time Prayers): 8:30pm PDT

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 847 3769 8405

Passcode: AllSouls

Adult Formation

7:30am Reading Between the Lines Bible Study Contact Kate Murphy to join that Zoom call.

10:10am Reading Between the Lines Bible Study Contact Daniel Prechtel to join that Zoom call.

 If you’d like to attend this class in person, it will meet downstairs in the chapel at 10:10am.

Summer Book Group for Adults Please join us for summer book group at All Souls!  Starting in June, we will be discussing The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee.  You may attend in person or by Zoom.  The reading and discussion session is:  June 13 (Intro through Chapter 3, p. 65), June 20 (Chapter 4 through Chapter 6, p. 165), June 27 (Chapter 7 through Chapter 8, p. 219), and July 11 (Chapter 9 through 10, p. 288).  

Missed the previous week’s class?? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be recording all of the Adult Formation offerings and loading them to the Adult Formation page of our website. Click here to get there and access the class recordings. 

New Racial & Social Justice Library

During the last year, All Souls has had a deep desire to share the truth about the church and our role in the history of racism. By sharing our experiences, and participating in the course called Sacred Ground, many have found life-changing ways to practice the way of Jesus and to repair the breach in our country. 

There are some incredible, challenging books on racism and social justice being published right now, and we have set up a way to share these treasures among our congregation. In the narthex as you enter the sanctuary, you will find several shelves of new and used books. Please take one, keep it, pass it on, or return it. Add one or as many of your own if you see fit.

Children, Family & Youth News

Children’s Ministry

Children’s Book Clubs meet on Sundays at 10:10 in the courtyard. Older kids will be reading Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, week by week, and younger kids will read short stories. If you’d like to receive updates about this, but do not subscribe to the Family Bulletin, please email Maggie Foote ( for more information.

Youth Ministry

Youth group has concluded their regular meetings for this year, but stay tuned for information about special summer events! If you have a young person in your household in grades 6-12, and do not receive updates about Youth Group events, please email Maggie at to be added to the list!

Other News & Notes

Soulcast: Our Weekly Video Announcements

Check out Season 3: Episode 15 of the Soulcast!

**DISCLAIMER: This Episode of the Soulcast was filmed before the most recent Covid guidelines were published by the Diocese, and is, therefore, incorrect in saying that masks must be worn during outdoor worship. Social distancing of at least 6′ will be required for unmasked people in outdoor worship.

People needed to “Make Church Happen”

Consider joining the Usher and or Greeters teams!

During the week the musicians practice and the sacristans ensure the altar linens and other things necessary for the service are in order for the service. They arrive early on Sunday and set up for the service.  These preparations enhance our experience of Church. When we arrive on Sunday morning there are people who greet us, hand us a bulletin, and make note of newcomers then distribute wine and juice during the service. They answer our questions, help us with a chair and place to sit. They welcome us and want us to feel at home.

Does this sounds like something you’d like to do? If so, contact Renae Breitenstein.

Lectoring & Intercession on Sunday Mornings

If you are interested in becoming a Lector or Intercessor (the folks who read the bible passages and lead the prayers during the Sunday morning services), come to our Lector & Intercessor training next Sunday, June 13th between the 9 & 11:15 services. Dr. Scott MacDougall will lead a short training for anyone interested. For more information, see Emily,

Sunday Morning Tech Help

If you are technically inclined and looking for a way to help out on Sundays, we can use the help! Mostly we’re looking for a sound tech or two, and perhaps another person or two to learn how to operate the camera. All roles come with training and great company :). See Emily for more info,

Stephen Ministry: Christ Caring for People through People

That’s the motto of Stephen Ministry. The Stephen Minister’s role is to bring God’s love into the lives of people who are going through a difficult time or experiencing a crisis. What do Stephen Ministers do? They listen, care, support, encourage, and pray with and for a person who is hurting. And in the midst of this confidential, one-to-one, caring relationship, God’s healing love comes pouring through.

If someone you know is facing a crisis—large or small—and could benefit from the caring presence of a Stephen Minister, talk to Rev. Maggie Foote ( or Stephen Ministry Leader Madeline Feely (  Our Stephen Ministers are ready to care for you!

Ongoing Canned Food Drive

The ASP Food Drive continues to pick up and deliver food for the Berkeley Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Food contributors and drivers participate every other week. Please email Cathy: for more information.

Meal Train

If you are able to help provide some meals for parishioners in need, please contact Cathy Goshorn to help out! We are in great need at this time to help care for each other––please consider helping other All Soulsians in need by providing meals or gift cards for meals. You can reach Cathy at

Justice & Peace

Saturday, June 19th – 2:00 p.m. Inaugural Diocesan Feast Day Celebrating Juneteenth: Please join Bishop Marc Andrus, the Afro American Commission and the Vivian Traylor/Northern California Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians 

Grace Cathedral – both live and live-streamed on the DioCal Facebook page

Click here to register for in-person attendance (please register as soon as possible, as cathedral seating will be limited). 

Click here for resources on understanding and celebrating Juneteenth.  Click here for Juneteenth Liturgy resources.

Episcopal Summer Camp! 

The Diocese of California has two Episcopal Summer camps. Visit their sites for more information!

St. Dorothy’s Rest

The Bishop’s Ranch

Contemplative Pride Service at Good Shepherd, Berkeley