From the Junior Warden

maggie cookeBusman’s Holiday

How good are you at multi-tasking? Personally, I believe the research that finds it the stuff of myths; sometimes it’s just a euphemism for my scatterbrained behavior.

Can I drive and have a phone conversation? Yes, unless I am driving somewhere in particular and have to navigate as well. During one hands-free phone conversation with my brother, I drove three miles past my exit before I realized I’d passed it. I listen to audiobooks while driving; since these are not conversations, I don’t lose my way, but I frequently forget that I meant to stop at the store or gas station. I might start wondering if I set the DVR for the Warriors game or begin to compose an email in my head; when that happens, I don’t hear a word of the audiobook and have to press “rewind 30 seconds” until I hear something familiar that happened before my mind started to wander.

We have a left brain and a right brain, and I can handle only one task from column A and one task from column B. Add an additional task to either side of the brain, and I’m impaired. Sure I can fold clothes while watching TV, I can do the dishes while having a serious conversation, but I cannot effectively process more than one stream of information. I can’t read a book while listening to music with lyrics. I can’t compose or read a text message while talking or listening to another person. And for some time now, I’ve had trouble successfully worshipping on Sunday if I’m singing with the choir. Neither prayer nor singing feels like a task to me, but both require care and concentration. There is also the added dimension of having had a career singing, and so when the service ends, somehow I feel like I forgot to go to church, although the experience has been rewarding because I have always loved to sing.

The bus driver who takes the family on vacation on a cross country bus tour still feels refreshed by the time off, right? So I can certainly release the notion that every time I sing with the choir, I am on a busman’s holiday. It just takes some creative multi-tasking… oh, there’s that word again, that mythical word. Actually it takes opening my heart. Unlike the restricted storage my brain offers, there is limitless space in my heart to hold all that God’s word has to offer. But I have found it takes great care, undivided attention, and continued exploration. Simply put, it takes a desire to listen. “Hear our prayer” – Watch over me.  “Hear our Prayer” – Grant me patience. “Hear our Prayer” – Heal the sick. “Hear our Prayer” – Be with me. “Hear our Prayer” – Teach me.  There are as many interpretations of our repeated words and prayers as there are are drops of water in the sea. Pay close attention to the words, every time you say the words, every time you sing the words. Leave your daily concerns at the the door, don’t even think of multi-tasking. You have one job. Listen.

So, I believe I just analyzed the joy out of worship. Not my intention. I suppose I can be overly dramatic. But I need to have a meaningful spiritual practice, and frankly, I need to sing, and in my case, it takes work to keep it from feeling like work. It mustn’t feel like work. I have to feel I am being given a gift, many gifts, different gifts. And that takes devotion to the task, the one task, of listening. It’s getting easier for me to feel God’s words flowing through the music straight into my heart, without being diverted to my “working” brain. I’ll undoubtedly attempt to multi-task from day to day, even if it is only my one left brain task paired with one right brain task form of multi-tasking. But when I pray at home, when I pray at church, and when I pray twice at church by singing with the choir, it won’t be a brain thing. It’ll be my heart doing the work. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life, right?

Peace and harmony,


All Souls’ New Lead Child Care Worker

maria galloWelcome, Maria!

We are delighted to share that Maria Gallo will begin this Sunday as our new Lead Child Care Worker in the nursery! Maria brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with children to All Souls. She a seasoned preschool teacher, having worked a great deal with both infants and toddlers. She has also worked for more than a decade as a children’s entertainer, bringing fun to birthday parties and the like. Maria’s warmth and energy are infectious, and we are very much looking forward to having her join our community! Please extend a warm welcome when you see her.

Come Celebrate with our Youth!

The Impact of Confirm not Conform

CnC youth 2017This Saturday, we will be taking time to celebrate the hard work and dedication of four of our All Souls youth. Ivy, Tess, Anikka and Fifi have thoroughly given themselves to the Confirm not Conform program this year. They have explored our faith tradition, unpacked their own beliefs and questions, visited other places of worship, and worked to craft a service project in the community. They have been courageous in engaging in important conversations with each other and with their mentors. And now, the time has come to celebrate with them! This Saturday, May 20th, we will gather at 5:00 pm in the Sanctuary for a special worship service, part of which will be each of them offering reflections and teaching. Immediately following, we’ll adjourn to the Parish Hall for dinner and karaoke! Please bring a side dish, drink, or dessert to share. You can RSVP online here or contact Jess by email or at 510-848-1755 ext.4.

One of the ways we know that this passage matters is what we hear from past students. This week we heard from Katy and Jack Robinson, who are eager to celebrate with this group of CnC youth this Saturday, and were also generous in sharing what the program has meant to them. In their words:

“I think that CnC definitely helped shape my faith life in a positive manner because it made me more attached to the church than I would have been if I had not gone through the program. The program brought up a lot of questions that I have with my faith and my relationship with God. Bringing up these questions at a young age was important so that I could start thinking about them with my peers to work out ideas. The most prevalent question that held then and still holds today seems to be how close I am with God and how close I should be. I still remember an exercise where we placed a candle on the ground and were asked to talk about how close we were with God, being the candle, and to demonstrate that by standing closer or farther to it. It was important to start to realize that when you are far away sometimes you can see the light but cannot feel the warmth of God. There are Christian programs here at Cal Poly and I do not think that I would have joined one such as a bible study if not for my original positive experience that I had in CnC. I hope that some of these comments help and I really did enjoy the program. In terms of suggestions I would say just continue to think about your relationship with God as you go forward into the future and that it is a never ending process and you have to continually work at it.”

– Jack

“Wow! It’s been almost 6 years since I went through the CNC program and was confirmed into the Episcopalian Church at All Souls. Confirm not Conform is a great title for the program because it really taught me what it means to choose Jesus. Even though Jesus and God chose us before even our first heartbeat or breath, we still have the option to choose them. No one else can make that decision for us. It is our own. My whole life I had gone to Church and called myself a Christian but CNC helped me to examine and develop my own unique relationship with God. My relationship with God is unlike anyone else’s and every day I make the commitment to choose him first, to choose to honor and build our relationship. CNC helped me to learn about why I follow the faith that I do. During the program we went to many different types of church services to help understand why do I want to be an Episcopalian? What is it about my faith and this church that keeps me coming back? What does being an Episcopalian mean not to my parents, not to my peers, but to me? This was so incredibly important to learn at a young age, especially as a sophomore in high school, because it taught me to trust in myself and in God. It also taught me what it means to be an Episcopalian. My CNC teachers were always so supportive of me while I was deciding to be confirmed or not. They never once tried to sway my decision one way or another, rather they encouraged me to ask questions, to question why as an Episcopalian do we believe this? I never once felt pressured that I had to conform to be confirmed so that I could still be a part of the Church. They showed me what it means to have unconditional love and acceptance for another person’s journey with God, and whatever outcome I chose I knew they would support me no matter what. Lastly the CNC program taught me the value of community. I learned from CNC that I would always have a home at All Souls no matter where my life took me. At the end of the program I chose to be confirmed and to this day it is not only one of the best decisions I have ever made, it is also one of my proudest achievements. One suggestion I have as you go forward in your faith is never stop asking questions. Never blindly accept what is told to you. Asking questions is what brings you closer in your faith and to God.”

– Katy

Story Making for Our Uncertain Times

1.This Is Why I CameNovelist Mary Rakow in conversation with the Rev. Liz Tichenor

Two thousand years ago a huge body of stories predicted a Savior who, as promised, then came into the world. The events of this life and death proved so momentous they prompted an infinite number of retellings, The Bible becoming the most influential book of its time, or any time.

Stories beget stories and this one created the world we know. Yet for us as moderns living in a secular age there’s often an embarrassment in speaking aloud in intellectual circles about our interest in Bible stories, as if we might have thought to leave all that behind in Sunday school when we moved along to something with more intellectual rigor.

But why? While maybe divinely inspired these are human stories, so clearly written, so obviously crafted in the hearts and minds of individuals. They are told in the human voice yet there still exists the unreasonable demand that these stories be somehow strictly believed. And, as good enough students of history to understand what comes of that kind of certainty, we remain doubtful of any doctrine that asks us to become in their presence what these stories are absolutely not, this being simple minded.

How do we regain the sense of breathless wonder with which these stories were first told? How do we come to stand again in that sacred place where belief and disbelief seem to touch, sizzling to ignite the spark in which awe at the miraculous is born anew, as great art always does?

In her new book novelist Mary Rakow offers the character of a contemporary woman returning to mass after decades away. As Bernadette awaits the first confession she’s made in 30 years, she reads the Bible stories she herself wrote out long before, compiling them into a handmade book she once fashioned as an act of youthful faith.

But Bernadette’s modest hand-stitched book also embodies the adult self, her skepticism and doubt and so This Is Why I Came has been called “an agnostic’s gospel.” The novel offers more than sixty of the Bible’s reimagined tales; Rakow’s retellings are intimate, fond, oddly comforting.

Mary Rakow came to the writing of fiction by way of theology, taking her doctorate at Harvard. As a novelist she uses the frame of Bernadette’s hand-stiched book to tell of Moses and Jonah and Mary Magdalen. Here Joseph, silent in Scripture, is given words to speak. Here too we find Cain strangely becoming the one we root for the brother we sit with in jealousy, sympathetic to his terrible banishment.

On May 26th at 7:00 pm Café Society is honored to present Mary Rakow in conversation with the Reverend Liz Tichenor. They’ll be talking about the trouble we find in making the miraculous work for us in the hard realism of the twenty-first century. Please join us.

Fourth Fridays at Kaleidoscope Coffee
109 Park Place, Point Richmond 90801
Friday, May 26th, 7:00 to 9:00 pm
Free admission
Street parking on Railroad Avenue behind the café

Café Society is a group of Bay Area writers, artists, poets, folks in the book publishing world, — story makers and tellers of all kinds — who put together monthly events presenting what is excellent in the work of others.

For more information or to information on how to get involved, go to or find us on Facebook.

– Jane Vandenburgh


On Sunday afternoon, May 21st, just following the 11:15 am service, we will host a neighborhood open house for emergency preparedness. We will open our courtyard, snacks will be available, balloons will be bouncing, and music will be playing as we welcome our neighbors to join us to greet Berkeley’s finest firefighters, complete with fire truck, ready to be inspected, by one and all. Firefighters will come prepared to give us information on how to prepare for a disaster—be it fire, earthquake, etc. We are inviting our Cedar-Spruce Street neighbors to this gathering to let them know that we “live” here too. In addition to the firefighters giving us some tips on emergency preparedness, Khin Chin, Director of Berkeley’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, will update us on what’s going on in the rest of Berkeley. Please let Margaret Sparks (, 510-524-6106) know if you can bring goodies to share.

Goin’ to the Chapel and We’re…

…tearin’ up ca-a-ar-pet.  Will you help make it a day to remember? Saturday, May 27th is the big day, and we’ll start at 9:00 a.m. Casual attire. Please join us. RSVP to Maggie Cooke or check in with a comment on the All Soulsians Facebook group. We need your help.


Runners, try changing up your pace on Sunday, May 21st! Plan to worship at the 9:00 am and then join other All Souls runners for a fun run after your favorite formation class. Meet at 11:15 am in the courtyard and we’ll set out together for a variable length and pace run.

Celebrating Joy

Retirement Extravaganza on June 4th

Joy Shih Ng, our fearless and beloved Parish Administrator is retiring after 18 years! We want to celebrate her faithful service, thank her, and send her off with our best wishes. Plan to gather between services on Pentecost, June 4th for a festive brunch and a celebration send off. Please mark your calendar and bring food to share!

All Parish Picnic in Tilden

Church in the park and then some! We’re looking forward to bringing our 11:15 am service to a beautiful spot in Tilden on Sunday, June 11th. After an open-air Eucharist we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. Start training for the 3-legged race and brace yourself for the balloon toss! There will also be 7:30  and 9:00 am 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 stocked with ice
• Some hardy Souls to help clean up & cart supplies back to church

Padre picnic site on South Park Dr. in Tilden. If you are coming from the Berkeley side, turn right up South Park Dr. just after the Brazil Building. Padre is on your right on South Park Dr. about halfway up to the Steam Trains.

If you would like a ride to Padre, gather in the All Souls courtyard at 10:30 am.

Big Sur Campout, July 14-16th

Mark your calendar for the annual parish camping trip to Big Sur! This is always an amazing weekend of relaxing beside the river with favorite people, of endlessly skipping stones in the water, of great conversations with new friends, soaking in natural beauty, getting dusty and getting clean, eating great food, counting stars, singing and praying around the fire… in short, making church away from church and building the beloved community. Please join us! More information here. Sign up here, or talk to Emily Hansen-Curran.


Thanks to all who nominated and voted for our “one parish, one book” for our summer reading group. The clear choice was The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, a narrative of a conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The first discussion group will be June 18th in the parish hall during the formation hour following the 9:00 am service and will continue for the next seven weeks over the summer. Come to as many sessions as you can; each one will be designed to focus on a section of the book but should be accessible if you haven’t read the whole book. This delightful and wise book and its ideas are suitable for All Soulsians of ages. Here’s some more about the book.

Copies are available at the Berkeley Public Library and in paperback and as an e-book for about $14. The parish will also be purchasing several copies so please contact Stephan Quarles if you’d like to use one of those copies.

Please join us!