FROM THE RECTOR
Fanatics for Forgiveness
Several months ago at our Wednesday 9am Eucharist, Liz shared a conversation that she’d had with a lapsed Episcopalian. Standing in the aisles of Monterey Market, she talked with this person about her priesthood, what All Souls is about, and where the Episcopal Church is now.
And as part of that conversation, the person joked that she must be a fanatic. When we talked about that suggestion as part of the shared homily during that Wednesday Eucharist, we wondered—if that were the case, what kind of fanatics might we be? Truth be told, the Episcopal Church is rarely accused of fanaticism. But is there something that we care so deeply about that we would want to be fanatical about it?
As I’ve considered the question over the past couple of months, there might be several aspects of the Christian way that I believe in so deeply as to appear fanatical to others. And this season of Lent has brought to the fore a primary one: forgiveness.
The reason that I am attempting to be fanatical about forgiveness is because relationships break. We fracture the bonds that we hold with others all the time, sometimes with intent, other times without realizing it. In the end, though, these breaks have real consequence to our individual and communal health.
The corrosive effects of these breaks are why reconciliation—the willingness to ask to be forgiven when we have sinned against another, and to forgive someone who has trespassed against us—is central to our Christian faith. It is one of the few things that Jesus of Nazareth taught his students to pray for, and is one of the consistent teachings that formed the nascent community he fostered.
And it is really hard. The desire to protect ourselves by firing back or by fleeing the scene can be stunningly strong. It takes great courage to be willing to forgive someone who has hurt you, stay connected to that person, but not allow yourself to be dis-integrated by them. Frankly, this is the work of a lifetime.
And. Whether it is a family, a workplace, an elected body, or a congregation, I believe that the reason why we hear parables like The Son Who Was Lost (Luke 15), or how-tos about how to find forgiveness in a group of Christians (Matthew 18), is because of the profound effect that repairing relationships in the ways we gather. I am convinced that the willingness to seek reconciliation is one of the more powerful, yet unseen connective tissues of our communities.
It is also why the invitation to a holy Lent from our 1979 Book of Common Prayer focuses on repentance and reconciliation in this season. This is the time when we as a Body have for millennia particularly prepared ourselves for Easter and the fullness of communion that it promises by repairing the breaches within and among us.
So as you make your way to the Upper Room, the Cross, and the Empty Tomb, join me in attempting acts of fanaticism, the kind that witness to forgiveness and can lead to reconciliation.
Standing in Solidarity After Christchurch mosque shootings
Last Friday morning, as the horrific news of the Christchurch mosque shootings sank in, my wife, Laura, and I sought ways to gather with other people to support Muslims in our communities. When I turned to the All Soulsian Facebook group, I found that we weren’t alone in looking for a way to take action. Laura and I recalled a Friday night last November when a group from our parish stood with a banner of loving support in front of Congregation Beth El after the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That evening, remembering how Muslims had also stood prominently with Jews last fall — and surmising that Jewish people would want to respond in kind — Laura knew where to look: on the public Facebook page of Congregation Beth El, where she found a listing for an interfaith vigil right in our neighborhood.
On Saturday night, for the vigil roughly two hundred of us streamed into the Albany offices of Pacifica Institute, an organization inspired by Turkey’s Hizmet movement and dedicated to interfaith dialogue and friendship. I had never stepped foot in the Institute, even though it sat directly upstairs from a restaurant I often frequented. As Laura and I made our way to a couple of remaining seats at the back, we were happy to see friends from All Souls.
Despite a “heavy heart,” Fatih Ferdi Ates, a Muslim and the Bay Area director of the Pacifica Institute, radiated warmth as he welcomed the participants, telling us that our presence brought comfort.
Beginning with a call to prayer sung by a muezzin, we heard from rabbis, pastors, a Catholic sister, and a Buddhist sensei, as well as representatives from religious, human rights, and interfaith organizations, not to mention the City of Albany and the FBI. From the love of Allah to the darkness and triumph of the Book of Esther to the image of Jesus as mother hen taking us under his wings to the need for us to contend with the corrosive legacy of white identity, each of the presenters spoke truth in love in terms that authentically reflected the many traditions. As many spoke in response to Ates, making apparent the love and high regard that they had for him and for his interfaith work, I felt invited to be part of an extended community larger than the familiar and comfortable one that I ordinarily inhabited.
At the close of the vigil, Rabbi Rebekah Stern and Cantor Elaya Jenkins-Adelberg of Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El led us in a song of peace, and I recalled how warmly the Rabbi and the Cantor had greeted us in November as we stood outside of Beth El. After their song on Saturday night, Rabbi Stern asked us to turn to our neighbors to discuss what steps we might take to end the violence that had been the terrible cause of our coming together. I reflected that through stepping on to the grounds of Congregation Beth El — and now by walking into the Pacifica Institute — surrounded by a few friends I know and the many new friends I am yet to know — my heart grows that bit larger. May we continue to accept the invitations to take the small steps towards our beloved neighbors.
— Raymond Yee with contributions from Laura Shefler
JUSTICE & PEACE MINISTRY
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand: “I spoke with Donald Trump this morning. … He asked what offer of support the United States could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.”
Members of All Souls are attending local events to support Muslims and honor victims of the massacres at mosques in New Zealand. Last Saturday, nearly 20 joined a packed crowd at Pacifica Institute in Albany to meet each other, pray and hear speakers. And we are recalling when All Souls members joined the Beth El congregation to show support following an October massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Now, what more can we do to respond?
All Souls works with the Interfaith Coalition for Alameda County (ICAC) and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI). Here are their suggestions:
*Make a statement of solidarity.
*Donate: WWW.LAUNCHGOOD.COM/CHRISTCHURCH before 3/31/19.
*Visit a local mosque to express care and offer support.
*Educate & study; host a speaker or panel; share resources on Muslims & Islam.
*Join local Muslims in dialogue & worship.
*Learn how to support a Muslim who is being harassed.
*Pray and Learn about white power, white racism, & whiteness as heresy.
To join our exploration of this and other justice and peace concerns: Meet with us on the 2nd Monday of the month, 7pm, in the Sanctuary, OR talk with Janet Chisholm, 845-641-3648, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lewis Maldonado, email@example.com.
Back from (the) College
This last weekend, with the help of All Souls, I went to the Bishop’s Ranch with a team from St. Alban’s for the College for Congregational Development. The college was founded in 2009 in the Diocese of Olympia, and since then has been spreading throughout the church. Many folks from All Souls have been, and quite a few are trainers with the college. This was my first experience.
I spent three days learning nonstop, trying to keep up as the information flew at me. I got to learn more about models of congregational development that I learned at All Souls in our monthly ministry meetings, and a ton more. I deeply appreciated the chance to think more critically about church dynamics: why churches decline, how churches grow, and the interpersonal webs within them. We looked at challenges in our congregations, practiced difficult conversations, and examined our values. We learned about data gathering. We learned about what churches of different sizes need. My favorite part was analyzing other churches’ websites, imagining we were newcomers trying to find our way to a church home, and thinking of new and better ways to invite people to do that at our parishes. It was an evangelist’s dream come true. Since I’ve been back I haven’t stopped imagining the ways I might put the information to use.
The funny part about that is that I have long been resistant to this kind of learning. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t like analyzing church or if I just don’t like sitting still for that long. I certainly gave Phil a hard enough time about going to monthly ministry meetings! But in the last six months, since I’ve been away from home at my field placement at St. Alban’s in Albany as I study to (hopefully) become a deacon, I have seen things in a new way. To meet people in our community where they’re at we have to know who they are and where they are actually at. To chart direction for our congregations we have to know where we are actually at and what our resources are. And it all requires excellent communication, boundaries, and a willingness to hear and give feedback.
All the things I do easily, like tell stories and connect with people, will come to nothing if they’re not backed up with solid analysis and process. I’m surprised to hear myself say that, but I’m learning that is undeniably true. I want us to grow and thrive, because I have found the most amazing love at church. Jesus hangs out in this community a lot. And a three day meeting is not actually as difficult as it sounds, especially as the practical applications of the information now seem startlingly clear. I’m excited that I get to go back three more times over the next year and a half! I have a lot of homework to do in the meantime, and I’m looking forward to it. If you’re interested, you can join me. Thank you for making it possible.
PARADISE FIRE RELIEF
This Sunday, we will take a special collection for Saint John’s Chico to support their ongoing work with those affected by last fall’s terrible fire in Paradise. Please donate in whatever way that you — make checks payable to All Souls with Paradise Fire Relief in the memo line and we will bring them one large check, or bring gift cards they can give out directly.
PARENT FEEDBACK SESSION
March 24 at 12:45pm
We want to know from your unique perspective as parents how you feel children’s formation is working at All Souls now! Whitney Wilson has been working with us for several months to take a close look at how we do Children’s Ministry here, and she is excited to do a deeper dive with you all, to gather your wisdom and perspectives as parents for our youngest members. Whether you have been attending All Souls for ten years or two months, your opinion is valued as a member of the All Souls community. Parents are invited to come this Sunday, March 24 at 12:45pm. (for about 45 minutes). Please join us – childcare will be available on the playground!
CAMP ALL SOULS – REGISTER NOW!
This summer we are bringing back Camp All Souls, a week-long day camp for kids to adventure, connect, explore, learn, play, create, question and more, all right here at All Souls. This year the camp will be August 12 – 16. It runs from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and is for kids ages 5 to 11, who have completed kindergarten through fifth grade. Cost is $150, and scholarships are available. Once again, we will be welcoming middle and high school students to help lead the week, as well as adults who want to pitch in – it is a whole community affair! You can learn more and register online here or pick up a paper registration form in the narthex.
COFFEE HOUR SNACKS
Looking for an easy way to help out around church? Bring some bought or homemade snacks for coffee hour on Sundays! All snacks can be dropped off in the kitchen before the service begins.
Holy Week: The Trailer
For one Sunday only (!), April 7th between the 9 & 11:15 services, come together for a preview of Holy Week. Starting with Palm Sunday, including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Great Vigil of Easter, and finally Easter Sunday, All Soulsians will share a glimpse of each service, why it matters to them, and how we might think about entering in and practicing anew. Use this as a time to prep for what’s to come. Class will meet in the Parish Hall.