From the Rector

phil_brochardThe Stories We Tell

Last week I shared about “the sacred serpent,” one of the guiding metaphors of the recent preaching symposium hosted by our own Bishop Marc. As imagined by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the sacred serpent is a way of understanding the process of writing, that our imaginations are opened through the serpentine actions of contraction and expansion.

In contraction we focus on the finite. In this action of close examination, we can more easily connect another’s experience to our own. For often, in order to understand the whole we need to pay close attention to one of the parts. Or, as Bishop Marc has suggested, “Before you contemplate, you must first concentrate.”

In my own experience of preaching, this concentration is most clearly known in story-telling. Something changes in us when we tell and are told stories. Brain scan studies have given us pictures of neural pathways to describe an ancient truth: that stories can change us. In fascinating research by Paul Zak, it is becoming clearer and clearer that when we tell stories, something changes in our ability and willingness to engage with that subject matter.

This is not news, in the sense that it’s been known for millennia. It’s the very reason that Jesus taught in parables. By grounding his teaching in the story of a gardener, or of a pearl of great price, or of a shepherd, or of a long-lost son, he brings his listeners into the intimate spaces of life and then gives us the space to wonder.

This is as true for poetry, films or novels as it is for preaching. I take a great deal of time in preparing a sermon, giving thought to various ways of engaging a text, the structure of the sermon, and the choice of words to use to convey the message. I believe this all to be to the good. But I also know that when I am able to find a story to transport the message of that sermon, the preaching encounter changes.

For when I share a story from my own life, or a story of those in our parish family, the experience of preaching takes hold in a different way. For example, in sharing Thomas Kelly’s decision to donate his kidney to a stranger, a profound act of generosity that kept generating life, many found their way into an understanding of God’s love that they hadn’t yet seen. More recently, through the telling of the story of Nancy Snow and her devotion to her beloved Bob Kaiser, several people were able to understand the way of the Cross differently, including Nancy.

We tell stories to connect to one another. And we tell stories to connect our lives to the lives of those who have come close to God in years past. Because that is what our scriptures are: stories of people’s encounters with God. From histories like 1st and 2nd Kings, to descriptions of communities in growth and conflict like 1st and 2nd Corinthians, to wonderings about origins of life like in Genesis, we have been given profound stories of people who have struggled, lived and loved with God. And through the telling of them, over time we are changed.

The task, then, of a preacher is to listen. Listen to where these stories intersect with our own stories. To listen for the story of God, be able to concentrate it in the lived experience of our every day, and then ask us to wonder how this will change our story to come.



New Music Group Forming!

Gospel Music at All Souls

Music speaks to us in a way no other mode of communication does. The act of using our voices, getting lost in rhythm and sound, is unique to music. Music can convey the breadth of our common understanding as we reach toward the common goal of blending our voices into one.

We work on awareness of the other and in so doing, we discover that we are all the same in our yearnings for connection and understanding. Gospel music in particular, with its history of longing, is tailor-made to create such an experience.

Rooted in a language common across denominations, we will create a big, bold, lush sound, employing piano, drums, bass, and voices (of course), and enjoy being together and singing together. Join the Joy! More information here.


From The Interim Associate Rector

terri_hobartThe Ten Best Ways to Live

Last Sunday in our reading from Exodus 20:1-17 we heard The Ten Commandments, or as one of my friends recently referred to them the “NO, NO, NO Scriptures.” No is not a word that we like in our culture today.  We do not like to be told no.

As a result, many of us shy away from the Ten Commandments assuming they are a series of “No’s” from the angry and oppressive God of the Old Testament. However, when we do this we miss the point and we set aside one of the great gifts and blessings of our traditions. The Ten Commandments or The Ten Best Ways to Live (as they are referred to in the Godly play story) help us to live together in relationship with God and all of creation in such a way that Shalom reigns here on earth. Observing these guiding principles allows us to live into the fullness of life.

Recently, I attended a Preaching Symposium where I was privileged to hear Bishop Michael Curry poignantly preach on this very topic. In his inimitable way Bishop Curry, painted a picture of God’s dream for us. He described how these commandments create a set of boundaries or a space in which we can live into God’s dream for us. Then switching directions he suggested we reverse the Ten Commandments and imagine a world guided by such principles.

  • Worship any god you like.
  • Take that god and shape it in your image and then let it shape your life.
  • Never acknowledge God as the source of life and blessing. Assume that that you are the master of your own universe and, along with all the other little gods running around, take matters in to your own hands.
  • Never pause, rest, reflect and appreciate the beauty of creation or the blessings in your life. Rather rush, rush all the time and fill your life with activity.
  • Life is cheap so exploit anyone you can: women, children, minorities, the poor, the marginalized.
  • Vows, promises, relationships do not matter. Feel free to break them and do whatever you want.
  • And lumping the last three together: Greed is good; Do whatever it takes to get what you want; Steal, lie, let yourself be consumed by jealousy and desire.

By simply reversing the commandments, Bishop Curry painted a picture of a living nightmare!

Thanks to God, we do not have to suffer through such a nightmare. God has a better dream for us. God longs for a world characterized by justice, peace, harmony, abundance, joy and feasting. These commandments mark our way and show us the path that leads to this dream.

—The Rev. Terri Hobart


Stephen_SouthernWalk to Fight Hunger

I’ve never been hungry. Chances are, you haven’t either. Probably, all of us have said at one time or another, “I’m hungry” or “I’m starving”. But we really weren’t.

However, there are people in our community who are hungry and don’t know when they’ll eat next. What if you could help end hunger by simply going for a walk?

Friends, mark your calendars. The 2015 Berkeley CWS CROP Hunger walk is happening on April 19th. The purpose of the CROP walk is to raise awareness of hunger in our community, and to raise funds for local agencies that work to alleviate hunger in our community.

Church World Service, or CWS began in 1946 by delivering food to a hungry, war-torn Europe. Today, CWS provides much more than food. CWS is involved in international emergency response and development working in partnership with local groups and other NGOs.

This year, the CROP Walk will support four local agencies: Berkeley Food Pantry, Youth Engagement Advocacy Housing (YEAH), Youth Spirit Art Works, and Dorothy Day House. 25% of the money raised by all of the walkers will stay local and will be divided between the four local agencies. The rest of the money will be used by CWS for their many projects around the globe.

I’ve been honored to be part of the local CWS organizing committee for the last 3 walks. This year, we have set an ambitious goal: 300 walkers and $40,000.

Here’s an example of how much Berkeley wants to end hunger:

  • Two of the Bay Area walks last spring (South Bay and Berkeley) ranked among the nation’s top 100 walks for the 2014 fiscal year (7/1/2013 – 6/30/2014)
  • 2014 Bay Area spring walks raising a total of nearly $122,000 to fight hunger!
  • The amount of money raised symbolizes 4-million micronutrient packets for children fleeing conflict-rooted or natural disasters; or nearly 700,000 tree seedlings to stop erosion and store/filter water; or the creation and maintenance of 12,200 sustainable home gardens.”

For more information about the walk, please go to the website for the Berkeley walk: I will have registration material at All Souls beginning March 15. For more information or answers to your questions, please see Christine Trost or myself.

Many of you have walked before – please walk again. For those of you who have never walked – please join us. Together, we can help alleviate hunger in our community and around the

—Stephen Southern


Young Adult Retreat

Bishops_Ranch_through_a_window“I Want to Believe” Retreat, April 17–19, The Bishop’s Ranch

Spring brings time for engagement and recreation at The Bishop’s Ranch. The theme this year invites young adults to wrestle with their beliefs through the lens of the Nicene Creed.

What do you believe? Are you better at defining your beliefs in the negative than stating them affirmatively? This is a chance to examine the core ideas of Christian faith and learn new practices for discovering and deepening these beliefs in a community of other young adults from all over the Diocese. There will be plenty of free time for enjoying and being restored by the beatific setting, too!

Full cost $150; sliding scale available. Register here.
Contact: Logan Rimel at