From the Rector
We Pray Together
Recently, as people have been joining All Souls, we have been asked what it means to be a member. Those who are considering joining this body have understandably wanted to know what will be asked of them as members of this parish.
One of the ways that we have been helping people new to All Souls understand who we are, how we practice, and what we believe, is by letting them know how we live out this life of faith, together. Emily Hansen Curran and I and other members of staff, alongside lay leaders from different areas of parish life, honed six areas of our common life. In her article in this week’s Pathfinder, Emily mentions these expectations that we hold at All Souls: worship with us, eat with us, learn with us, pray with us, serve with us, and give with us.
Over the next few months I will be highlighting one of these areas in this space to see what it is like to live that particular Christian practice at All Souls. Today, I’d like to spend some time with the phrase, “pray with us.” Here is the paragraph that accompanies it:
Pray with us. Join us as we deepen our relationship with God through daily prayer and meditation, personally and as a community. Prayer creates in us a space to discern God’s desires and guides our response through ancient practices, by worship, in small groups, and through spiritual direction.
Prayer is one of the essential practices of faithful beings: with praise, with gratitude, to release burden, to ask for help. It is a stance as much as it is a practice. As simple as paying attention to the breath of your life, and as intricate as a choral evensong, prayer is what Christian communities do, with and for each other.
For these reasons, prayer, and specifically intercessory prayer, or prayer for others, is one of our core practices at All Souls. It is what we do in times of joy, concern, confusion, and grief. When we as priests of this parish respond to someone at a painful or difficult juncture of their life, you may have heard one of us say that we will pray with you in that time of challenge.
This willingness to pray with someone is not an empty gesture, though it could certainly be used in that way. Instead, it is a promise to hold that person in our beings, our minds, our hearts, however we understand our conscious life. But this intention does not reside with solely us, because at All Souls there is a group of people dedicated to prayer, our Prayer Circle.
Whenever a request comes to Liz or me or our Parish Administrator, Joy Shih Ng, with that person’s permission, we send word out to this confidential circle to hold those people in prayer throughout the week. If this is a practice that you would like to take on, please contact Joy and she can help you take part.
In addition to individual prayers and the Prayer Circle, as a worshipping community in our Sunday liturgies, in the Prayers of the People we offer intercessory prayer to those in grief or pain as well as for those who have died. The prayers in the Sunday services are typically for critical situations and once the crisis has passed we remove folks from the prayer list. We also pray for those who have died, usually for the month following their death. Once again, contacting Liz, me, or Joy, is the best way to have All Souls pray for those in your life who are in times of trial.
In addition, when you arrive on Sunday morning at the 9:00 am and 11:15 am services, past the Baptismal font you’ll find an open book where you can write names or places in this world standing in the need of prayer. Our intercessors add these names to our corporate prayers in our worship throughout the morning.
In all, whether All Souls has been your spiritual home for a few weeks or several decades, I ask that you consider the ways that you pray with us. Deepen a practice of prayer or start a new one. Pray as you walk in the morning, as you commute to school or work, as you eat by yourself or with others, and before you fall to sleep. In all, take the time to hold others as you yourself are being held.
From the associate for ministry development
Is this place home?
This is a note to those of you who are newer, who might be considering giving, worshiping, eating, serving, learning, and praying with us. For those of you who have been around a while, perhaps this is a moment for you as well – to reconsider this place and how it can continue to be your spiritual and communal home.
June 12th is the next New Member Ceremony, and in the next few weeks many of you will hear from me asking you to consider becoming a member here at All Souls. I imagine you know well enough how to consider a decision like this, but in the case that you would like a little help thinking about it, consider this your nudge.
What does it mean to consider All Souls your home church? What does it mean to consider any place your home church? At what point do you say, “I’m here”? Is there a magical moment that confirms everything? Or is it one person you meet who confirms it for you? Is it quantifiable? And what kinds of questions should you ask yourself as your consider this place?
Obviously there is no one answer or even a right answer, but I imagine that feeling like this place is home should share some qualities as being in your actual home – a feeling of safety, of belonging, excitement, familiarity, and ease. But instead of trying to answer that question for you, I would like to say a word about who we are, and how we see things. For this purpose we have created a Pathway to Membership. This Pathway may or may not describe your experience here, but I think it is a helpful tool so that what we do, we do with intent and purpose.
The general idea is that after about three to four weeks of attending on Sundays, you, as the visitor, start trying out different things such as attending an Adult Formation class, and lingering a little in the Narthex after services to meet new people. Perhaps you even attend a Continuing the Feast or some other event going on around the church, or give an offering in the plate.
During this time and really throughout your time, we would hope that you not only do things, but that you experience some things as well. Our hope is that this place causes you to become curious about questions of faith or doubt; that you experience a sense of awe or wonder; that you come close to God and discover ways to develop your Christian faith; that you have questions, emotions, thoughts, or feelings unearthed; or that you simply connect with the people, theology, music, clergy, or programs here. Whatever it is, we hope you experience something bigger than yourself, and that these things that compel you to return.
Getting back to the pathway, at this point, after having been here four to five times, you might request a name tag, send your kids to children’s chapel, start receiving the weekly newsletter, and make some connections with Phil, Liz, myself, and other parishioners. If the timing works out right you might have even attended a Newcomer’s Lunch!
If you’ve done all of these things, and find yourself here, reading this piece and wondering what’s next, you are in luck. Over the last few months I have worked with Phil and the ministry team chairs to create what we are calling our Membership Expectations. For the sake of space I will not include these here, but instead will send these out to you in an email in this coming week, and ask that you prayerfully and thoughtfully consider what it means to be a member here.
And why does it matter? Why does membership matter?
Joining as a member is a way of saying “I’m here,” of communicating with yourself and with the community here that you consider this place home. When we commit to each other by our commitment to this place, we lay down the tracks for building relationships of trust and extended family, and we grow the possibility of experiencing God.
I look forward to these coming weeks and processing with you all.
Summer Reading Groups
Where would you like to spend your summer vacation? On a trip to another planet? On the banks of Tinker Creek? In rural Tennessee? Or would you rather spend it discussing important issues of racism or spirituality? You can do all of these things just by showing up on Sunday morning this summer at All Souls! We will be having a number of reading groups throughout the summer. Note: some of these groups will meet on the same dates.
You can sign up in the narthex, during your current Adult formation class, or online here.
Here’s what we will be reading, as excerpted from Amazon reviews:
America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Walllis, led by Danielle Gabriel
Meeting Dates: July 17, 31, August 14
“In America’s Original Sin, Wallis offers a prophetic and deeply personal call to action in overcoming the racism so ingrained in American society. He speaks candidly to Christians—particularly white Christians—urging them to cross a new bridge toward racial justice and healing.”
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, led by Ruth Meyers
Meeting Dates: June 12, 26, July 10
“Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver’s riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver’s most thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.”
Life is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition by Wendell Berry, led by Alan Schut
Meeting Dates: July 14, 21
“Life Is a Miracle, the devotion of science to the quantitative and reductionist world is measured against the mysterious, qualitative suggestions of religion and art. Berry sees life as the collision of these separate forces, but without all three in the mix we are left at sea in the world.”
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, led by Michael Lemaire
Meeting Dates: July 10, 17, 24
“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of “beauty tangled in a rapture with violence.”Her personal narrative highlights one year’s exploration on foot in the Virginia region through which Tinker Creek runs. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall, she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays King of the Meadow with a field of grasshoppers. The result is an exhilarating tale of nature and its seasons.”
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, led by Glenn Brown
Meeting Dates: June 12, 26, July 7
“A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.”
Wonder by R. J. Palacio, lead by Jess Powell
Meeting Dates: June 19, July 24
“August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.”
When will we be able to sign up for a reading group?
You can sign up by or at church this Sunday or May 28 or by online here. Please contact Glenn Brown 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 read the selections, attend, and be ready to talk about the book if you are at church on a Sunday when your 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 you are welcome you to do so!
HOLY REFLECTIONS FROM A HOLY WEEK
On Good Friday afternoon, seven wise and brave members of All Souls shared how their own stories intertwined with Jesus’ last words. Today and in coming weeks, we will be offering some of those reflections, with gratitude.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” — Luke 23:46
The first time that I flew somewhere was when I was 15. Growing up in a family whose idea of a vacation was a weekend road trip to stay with my grandmother, that first plane ride came on a school trip to visit Washington, D.C.
Not having been on a plane before, I had no idea what to expect. Everything was going fine, though, right up until the pilot revved the engines and we began racing down the runway at 160 miles per hour. Soon after, the plane’s wheels left the ground and I felt g-forces for the first time.
I was scared stiff, paralyzed in my seat by horrible dread in addition to the physics of acceleration. While previously I hadn’t worried about the plane crashing, suddenly I was filled with utter conviction that something was going to go terribly wrong at any second, that we’d suddenly experience a massive explosion as an engine failed or wing fell off somehow, resulting in all of us plunging rapidly towards the earth into a giant fireball of terror and death.
As I prepared for what I felt would be my certain demise, I experienced an incredibly uncomfortable set of feelings in my body: racing heart, sweaty palms, tremor in my hands. Swallowing became difficult because of a lump in my throat, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Not having the knowledge at that point to understand what a panic attack was, I thought that I was so scared that I might literally go into cardiac arrest and die on that plane, even if it didn’t crash.
Worst of all, no one else seemed to be experiencing what I was going through. As I looked at my classmates around me and the random assortment of passengers flying with us from Portland, Oregon to Dulles International, I saw folks who were laughing, smiling, and seemed very nonchalant about the plane’s steep ascent. No one else looked like they were suffering.
I was alone in my fear.
And so I didn’t tell anyone. Not having any close friends on the trip, there was no one that I trusted to confide in or felt able to ask for reassurance. So I suffered in silence, and I did the same thing on the flight home, and all the flights I took after that.
In my self-perpetuating isolation, I felt immense shame for my fear & believed that I was the only intelligent person on the planet who was afraid to fly despite knowing that the odds were something like 1 in 11 million that I’d actually die in a plane crash.
Finally, when I was 18, I learned what anxiety was, and when I couldn’t force myself to get on a plane for a campus ministry trip, I confessed to my dad that I was afraid of flying.
I found out that I wasn’t alone- that many people have a phobia of flying, including well-respected, successful celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, who travels in a private bus as a result of witnessing a mid-air small plane collision. I also learned that I most likely wasn’t going to literally die from a panic attack.
I’d like to say that awareness was enough to make my phobia something that didn’t hold me back, but the truth is, I flew only once in my 20s, and even with taking Xanax, it was still terrifying.
However, when I turned 30, I moved here to Berkeley, a short Southwest flight away from my family, who all live in Washington or Oregon.
I took Amtrak to come to my faculty interview when I was applying to seminary at CDSP & I moved down here in a rental car, but when Christmas came around, I decided that I was going to fly, and I was going to chip away at my phobia until it no longer held me back from doing the things that I wanted to do, including my goal of studying abroad through CDSP’s exchange program in England.
So I worked hardcore on mindfulness techniques with my therapist, and we tried out EMDR therapy too. And one of the things that came out of that time of intense personal work was a word that I could repeat to myself, a mantra.
And this is the loose connecting tie between my rambling tale of airplanes and anxiety and Jesus’s words on the cross, because my word was “surrender.”
Nope, Jesus didn’t say surrender.
I’ll read the verse again: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
Commend means to entrust for care or preservation, and surrender means to give the control or use of something to someone else.
To me, sitting in that seat on the airplane taking off from Oakland International headed to Portland, & repeating the word “surrender” over and over in my head with each breath, it echoed a similar wish for God to take my burden of suffering from me.
Now, I’m not trying to say that during the hours of agony while he waited for death to release him from his suffering on the cross, Jesus was trying to practice mindfulness.
Simply that in our own lives, from time to time, we may know the feeling of trying to shoulder a burden or to control something that is already in motion and far, far larger than we can carry ourselves. And in that moment, remembering Jesus’s utter trust in God’s love and care, perhaps there is a space for us too to pray, into your hands, God, I commend that which I am carrying, that which I am powerless to overcome, that which isolates me in my suffering.
To wrap up my own story, whether it was the mantra or just being at a place in my life where I had a better understanding of how to live with my omnipresent anxiety I don’t know, but “surrendering” my fear worked for me.
In the two years since that flight, I’ve gotten so that I no longer have to take Xanax before getting on a plane, I’ve spent a semester in England, and I’ve taken a job which requires air travel. And on April Fools Day, my sweetheart Sidney and I have ticket to fly up to visit my parents for the weekend, just for fun.
I won’t say that my fear of flying is entirely gone and I accept that it likely will always be present to a certain degree, but it no longer prevents me from doing the things I want to do.
I still repeat the word “surrender” to myself sometimes on takeoffs and landings.
And in closing, if anyone here today is experiencing anxiety thinking about crosses, I want you to know that you’re not the only one who’s ever felt that way, especially on Good Friday. There’s even a word for it: staurophobia.
– Jamie Nelson
BLESSING OF THE BICYCLES
THIS SUNDAY, come celebrate the Blessing of the Bicycles!
Ride to church and if you feel inspired, wear your cycling gear to worship at the 11:15 service (guarded bike parking in the courtyard). The bike blessing will be at 12:30 in the Spruce St. courtyard – holy water, a prayer for a safe riding season, snacks, and fun ways to make your bike more festive. Fixies, mountain bikes, tandems, balance bikes, tricycles – all are welcome!
RAFFLE and PIE THROW FOR FIRE RELIEF
The high school youth group’s immersion trip this summer is focused on fire relief in Okanogan National Forest in Washington. For the next few weeks, we will have fundraisers! Purchase raffle tickets: prizes are two $50 Amazon gift certificates, two sets of two free nights at the Bishop’s Ranch, and two sets of two free nights at St. Dorothy’s Rest. Tickets are $10 each with a discount of 4 tickets for $30. Throw pies: There will be a very silly Reddi-Whip pie toss game at our Parish Picnic! Pay $20 to pie one of our vestry or staff members, or pay $25 for insurance, for yourself or someone else to avoid being pied… unless more folks pay to have them pied! Whichever side raises the most money – to pie or not to pie – a particular person will win, with the 3 people receiving the most contributions being the ones pied. Contact Jess Powell with questions.
Parish Picnic, June 5
Our 11:15 service will be an open-air Eucharist in Tilden Park followed by a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. (There will also be 7:30 am and 9:00 am services at All Souls.) Remember to bring a blanket and/or chairs for the service, sunscreen, AND grillable items or a side dish to share. Start training for the 3-legged race and brace yourself for the high school immersion trip fundraising pie toss! If you would like a ride to the picnic site, meet in the All Souls courtyard at 10:30 am. Location: Mineral Springs picnic site on Wildcat Canyon Rd. in Tilden (between Brazil Building and Inspiration Point).
Runners, try changing up your pace on Sunday, June 12th! 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.
Big Sur Campout, July 15th -17th
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! Signups will begin next week– watch the Pathfinder for details or talk to Jeannie Koops-Elson.