From the Rector

Blessing with Open Hands

For several summers in a row I spent a week as a chaplain at St. Dorothy’s Rest, one of the two camp and conference centers of our diocese. The oldest summer camp in California, St. Dot’s was founded in 1901 to bring children suffering from the effects of illness in San Francisco out to the country to have time and space to rest and recreate.

Ever since, St. Dorothy’s has provided a safe and loving environment for many, many children. In addition to their two hospital camps, an oncology camp and a transplant camp, they offer weeklong summer camps for children from ankle-biters (as young as 5) to teenagers (as old as 17). One summer that I was one of the chaplains, the theme was around blessing. And so one of the other chaplains and I wondered with the teenagers, “Where does blessing come from?” “How do you know a blessing when you see it?” “Where does it go from you?”

I’ve been re-engaging these questions recently, especially as we prepare for our “first annual” Blessing of the Bicycles this Sunday after the 11:15am service. Because one of my primary experiences of participating in the life of All Souls Parish is one of blessing. I myself have experienced this sense of being cared for in this church, known joy through being part of this body, and have an increased feeling of gratitude in being able to share it.

When Bishop Marc visited with us a few years ago, in his sermon he shared an experience of being in our sister diocese of Curitiba, in Brazil. In a conversation with some indigenous peoples of that area, they shared with him their sense that people from the global north often receive blessings with a closed hand, rather than an open hand. When you receive something with a closed hand, they told Bp. Marc, the gift remains with you. However, if you are able to receive it with an open hand, it is much easier to pass that gift on to others.

It is with that sense that we have been living for the past year. A couple of years ago it became clear that many people were experiencing the blessing of God in and through this community of All Souls. And that in order to provide the physical and metaphorical space for more to receive what we have been given, we needed to make more space for others to join. As I wrote about in my article a couple of weeks ago, our re-structuring of our Sunday schedule was one of the ways that we have been keeping our hands open, offering to others what we have so wonderfully received.

And so in this spirit, this Sunday we will be blessing bicycles and their riders. One of the beliefs that I hold is that there are many people who wish to come close to this blessing we have received. But either because of painful past experience or an incomplete perception, they are wary of crossing our threshold at Cedar and Spruce. Another belief that I hold, however, is that God’s blessing – this divine desire for shared abundance and compassionate care – flows, and as long as our hands remain open, will flow from us.

With this belief in mind and on our hearts, we have been passing word of this Blessing of the Bicycles far and wide. Members of All Souls brought flyers and postcards to Bike to Work Energizer Stations, talked with groups like the Albany Strollers and Rollers, put up information in bike shops and shared it with friends in cycling clubs.

My hope is that this blessing this Sunday, of this particular activity, will remind us and show others of a truth that leads and guides us. That God, transcendent and present, desires for all of us to be healthy and whole. And that it is our vocation, our gift and responsibility, when receiving this blessing, to receive it with open hands, ready to pass it on to others.


From the Music Department

Telling Our Story

There’s one thing in particular about the Great Fifty Days of Easter that I really look forward to each year, and it may surprise you. It’s not any of the usual things in my liturgy and music world – hymns, anthems, color, or anything of the sort. What I really enjoy is the lectionary readings with their cycle from the Acts of the Apostles.

A continuation of the Gospel of Luke, Acts contains all the narrative stories of the early church, beginning with Jesus’ last words to the apostle, his Ascension, and the Day of Pentecost. From that point on, we hear about Peter; the calling of deacons including Stephen (whose story we will hear this Sunday); Paul’s conversion from persecutor to missionary and his travels; and other developments in those early years, even the story in Antioch of when the disciples were called “Christians” for the first time. (A three-minute summary can be seen here.)

Of course, even though Acts and the other books of the Christian Scriptures, or New Testament, were written, their world was generally not a literate one, meaning that these stories, like those of the Gospels themselves, were passed on primarily by word of mouth. We have lost track of the idea of an oral tradition to a great extent. Our use of and reliance on the written word means that we ascribe a certain authority to the precise text on a page, and while this is a wonderful thing in many ways, we as a society have lost sight of some of the truth to be found in narrative as distinguished from simple facts.

The passing on of tradition happens through story in many ways. I was reflecting on all this recently with the passing of Peter Hallock, whose name you may have noticed in our Prayers of the People. Peter spent many years as organist, choirmaster, and Canon Precentor of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. I only met Peter twice, but he had an enormous impact on my life. St. Mark’s is perhaps best known for their Sunday evening Compline liturgy, which began in 1955 with a small group of singers who gathered to sing plainsong. Soon their time centered on the singing of Compline, which in time grew in popularity to the point where now it is sung each Sunday at 9:30 pm, and the cathedral is packed, in addition to listeners to the live broadcast each week. There are literally people sitting in the aisles!

In the early 1960s, some students from the University of Redlands visited St. Mark’s and brought back the idea of starting a Compline choir there. That group became the university’s chamber choir, the Chapel Singers. After hearing them sing in 1982, I was hooked, and went to Redlands myself. My time there was formative for me in many ways, but it was the simple office of Compline that got me hooked. It was over a decade later that I met Peter for the first time, and was able to express to him just how meaningful his work had been for my life.

We all have those people, of course. I can trace my musical genealogy in two different directions back to Bach, which makes for an interesting story, but not one that means anything more than a bit of trivia, though my teachers themselves were fundamental to my growth as a musician and a person.

Our heritage through these other stories, though, is much different: the stories in Acts and the work of the people they tell about changed a world. Without them, imagine how much of human history would be different. They are not only the stories of long-ago events; they are our story as well. And we do well to consider how the stories we hear and retell week by week, year by year, change not just us, but through us, will have an influence on people who we will never know. It is for their sake that we keep telling our stories, whatever and wherever they may be.


Summer Book Groups

Sign up today!

What is a summer reading group at All Souls?
Instead of offering classes over the summer months, the Adult Formation Committee has organized reading groups. ALL youth and adults are welcome to join one or more reading groups. Please note that Bible Workbench will continue through the Summer months.

What is involved in being a member of a reading group?
If you are in a reading group, you will be reading a book that other members of All Souls will also be reading. Each group will meet 2-3 Sundays over the summer to discuss specific sections of a chosen book. Some Sundays will have multiple groups meeting. Groups will be led by members of the All Souls community who have an interest in a specific topic or book and who have offered to structure discussions. The schedule for reading group meetings will be set by the group leader. Most of the topics for the books that will be read this summer are related to the Adult Formation courses that have been offered in the 2013-2014 program year (September 2013 – June 2014). If you missed a class on a topic of interest, now is your chance to explore that topic in a new and different way! We are also offering two groups that will read fiction that include themes and insights relevant to our lives as Christians.

When will we be able to sign up for a reading group?
You can sign-up here or at church this Sunday, May 18th. A copy of each book will be available for your perusal this Sunday as well. Please contact Caroline McCall at with questions.

Do I have to be at every meeting of the reading group for a book I pick?
No, although we hope you will attend and be ready to talk about the book if you are at church on a Sunday when your chosen reading group is meeting.

Do I have to pick only one reading group?
No, please check the schedule of meetings and pick the books and meeting dates that work for your schedule. If you can and want to be in more than one group we welcome you to do so!

All Parish Picnic in Tilden

Church in the park and then some!

We’re looking forward to bringing our 11:15 service to a beautiful spot in Tilden on Sunday, June 1. After an open-air Eucharist we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. There will also be 7:30am and 9am services at All Souls.

In past years this has been a really fun event but everyone has to contribute to make it work. Here’s a bunch of things to remember:
• Bring food to share—either grillables (including buns, if necessary) or a side dish
• Bring a picnic blanket and/or chairs
• Sunscreen (we hope!)
• Balls or games

We also need (talk to Jeannie Koops-Elson):
• Grill masters!
• A few coolers
• A few hardy Souls to stay until the end and help clean up.

Mineral Springs picnic site on Wildcat Canyon Rd. in Tilden. If you are coming from the Berkeley side, Mineral Springs is on the left between the Brazil Building and Inspiration Point.
If you would like a ride to Mineral Springs, gather in the All Souls courtyard at 10:30am.

Calling all net bags!

If you still have your family still has a net bag or two that you have collected money in for Episcopal Relief and Development please bring them to church with you and leave them in the basket in the Narthex.

Thank you!