From the Rector
All Together at the Table
One of the core practices of any Christian community is to gather together, to break bread with one another. Whether it is the Eucharist or an all-Parish feast or a simple meal in someone’s home, the act of eating and drinking together is fundamental to the practice of our faith. Some of this is because of the rituals that we have created over time. And some of the reasons we feast together is simply because we are human.
According to archaeological records as well as scriptural witness, for thousands and thousands of years, often when we humans have gathered to eat, we have included alcohol with those feasts. Some of the use of alcohol was practical––water often wasn’t safe to drink and the alcohol killed the pathogens. And some of the use of alcohol has been because it can be enjoyable. And some of our use of alcohol has been to excess, and it has been destructive.
This, of course, is nothing new. But the challenges of living well with alcohol seem to have been around the edges of our branch of the Christian faith for a long time. Whether it’s being called, “Whiskey-palians”, or the thinly veiled joke that, “Wherever there are four Episcopalians, there is always a fifth (of some kind of alcohol),” we have allowed for and sometimes embraced a culture where alcohol played an oversized role.
This challenge is not unique to our church or to Christian community in general. Our broader American culture struggles with the use and abuse of alcohol as well. But for the Episcopal Church, this challenge came into particular focus several years ago when an Episcopal bishop, the Rt. Rev. Heather Cook of Maryland, struck and killed a bicyclist while driving inebriated.
With that event, what had been a conversation around the edges was brought front and center. And in the years that have followed, the Episcopal Church has set policy, which has in turn been put into practice by dioceses like ours. And so, at our February Vestry Retreat, the All Souls Vestry discussed and passed a policy around alcohol that begins with this understanding,
“Our sacred texts speak of the presence of alcohol in many ways––to responsible use, as well as destructive use. Festive drink, specifically wine, has been a central element of the Christian faith since it’s foundation two thousand years ago. Orders of Christians over the centuries have made all sorts of alcoholic beverages as part of their communal life. And. It is clear that the abuse of alcohol can be corrosive and destructive to individuals, families, and entire communities.
We at All Souls Parish are seeking to live well as a body whose members practice in different ways. To that end, this policy is intended to act within the laws of the land, provide guidelines for responsible consumption, and ensure that a welcoming and hospitable environment is found by all. While these guidelines may not be able to envision every possible situation, they are written with the well-being of all in mind.”
To me the emphasis on, “a welcoming and hospitable environment for all,” is essential to our corporate practices at All Souls, including our use of alcohol. What follows in the policy are practical ways to have alcohol as part of our gatherings, rather than the focus, while also not giving more power to alcohol than it deserves. Keeping in mind that when we gather, in our body often are minors and those in recovery, we want to be mindful that the ways that we gather do so with intention and consideration of all.
For instance, all beverages will be clearly labeled and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be clearly separated. Any time we offer alcohol we will have equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages, a practice that we can give more attention to. All of this information, including simple checklists will be sent to the leaders of our gatherings: small groups, retreats, dinners, and Sunday hospitality.
Any change in habit must be practiced over and again before it becomes normative, and I realize it will take awhile before these new ways of being become reflexive. But for the sake of our kinship, and our ability to provide hospitality for all souls of this parish, I trust that in time this way of being together can be realized.
Parish House Update
What’s Happening with the Parish House, You Ask?
Come hear the latest news from the Parish House Group on Sunday, June 17th, at 10:00 or so, in the Common Room.
As you may already know, we are working with the non-profit Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) to replace the current Parish House and All Souls parking lot with an L-shaped building that includes affordable housing on one wing, and offices and residences for All Souls staff on the other. Parking would be moved underground. The design and plans for the
new building have been submitted to the City of Berkeley.
After a review of qualifications, SAHA and All Souls have identified the contractor we’d like to work with. Our current best estimate for the starting date for the actual construction is between July 2019 and May 2020. Before permits are issued, we will have a hearing before the Zoning and Adjustment Board. We will also likely have a hearing before the City Council.
A few hurdles still lie ahead, however, and we may call upon All Soulsians to write letters of support to City Council members in the next six months or so. Take an hour out of your Father’s Day to find out why….
The Numbers Part of the Story…
As we head into summer, this is a good time to notice where we are in relation to our predictions (budget) for this year. At the end of April we were one-third of the way through the fiscal year. Income from all sources is a bit ahead of 1/3 of what is expected for the year, and expenses are a bit less that we expect for the year.
This is all good, but income sometimes comes unevenly and early in the year, so this should not lull us into thinking we can slack off in our planned giving for the remainder of the year. Similarly, should you be a person who made an authorized purchase for the church and haven’t yet submitted it for reimbursement, please do this before the end of June.
The balance in Vanguard (Jordan) funds at the end of April was $1,057,583. Of this total, $845,340 is considered principle held for capital needs likely associated with the 2021 occupancy of Jordan House (the joint project with SAHA to provide affordable senior housing and housing/office space for the church). Earnings (unrealized gain) at the end of April were computed as $212,243. We are drawing $12,000 per month from earnings for mission-related costs this year.
If you have questions about any of this, or want further detail, I would be glad to talk with you.
Summer Sunday School
Wondering through the Parables
I wonder what is a seed bomb? I wonder what would happen if I tossed this seed bomb into this bare patch of dirt? I wonder what would happen to All Souls campus if we planted native wildflowers here? I wonder what would happen if we planted seeds around the whole block?
I wonder what makes bread so puffy and full of air? I wonder why the dough grows so big? I wonder who makes the bread for communion? I wonder what that bread really is? I wonder what would happen if we really feasted on that bread?
I wonder how you build a table? I wonder how you build a chair? I wonder how you build a whole house? I wonder what would cause me to trade in all of these things I’ve worked hard to create?
I wonder what hare-brained scheme they’ve cooked up for me this Sunday??
If you are a child somewhere between preschool and 5th grade, and you wonder things likes this, summer Sunday school is for you! (And, if you are a teenager or adult who would like to join in making this happen, please talk to Lenore, firstname.lastname@example.org!) We will be wondering about parables and more, in all sorts of creative and hands-on ways this summer. Join us at 10:10 in the Common Room!
Family Playdate & Potluck
Join us Saturday June 9th, 4:00 – 7:30 pm at Ocean View Park in Albany! The goal is fun, not fancy. Parents, bring your kids, some food or drink to share, and have a laid-back time of fun and connection with other All Soulsians who are in the midst of the adventure of parenting right now. You can RSVP here or email Glenn with questions.
Big Sur Camping Trip
Every summer we have an all-parish camping trip at the Santa Lucia campground in Big Sur, right on the river. The weekend includes swimming, singing and s’mores—as well as a group dinner and informal Sunday morning Eucharist at the outside chapel at the campground. You can find more info here and sign up here!
Walk With Us
SUMMER BOOK GROUP
Summer Book Group starts June 10 with a discussion of Chapters 1 and 2 of Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister in Denver, a two-time New York Times bestselling author, and a former standup comic. In her book she shares stories of her life and work pastoring House of All Sinners and Saints that help us to see God in unlikely situations and in people who society have typically dismissed. The summer schedule is: June 10: Chapters 1 & 2, June 24: Chapters 3-5, July 1: Chapters 6-8, July 8: Chapters 9-11, July 15: Chapters: 12-14, July 29: Chapters 15-16, August 5: Chapters 17-19. See you on June 10!