FROM THE RECTOR
I Had No Idea
I had no idea how much I needed that. I had no idea how much I needed to hear the Most Rev. Michael Curry preach at Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding this past weekend. And apparently I am not alone in this. It seems that millions around the world felt the same way. Somehow, remarkably, that’s not an overstatement.
Now, I realize that I’ve got a bias in the situation—I love our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Not only is he a caring, thoughtful bishop and an inspiring preacher, but in my experience, he is a humble and loving human being. Truthfully, the royal wedding wasn’t really on my radar until Bishop Curry was asked to preach it. So I was already curious and hopeful about his participation.
And then, amidst the pomp, beauty, and tradition, he preached this sermon. And it rippled across the globe, through Twitter and Facebook, and the myriad news organizations following the wedding.
For God’s sake, this past Monday, the number one trending article in the New York Times was about the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry. Going back a day, on my way to work early Sunday morning, I was stunned to hear the gracious, joyful words of Bishop Curry as he was interviewed on National Public Radio’s morning news show. I mean, Lulu Garcia Navarro was veritably gushing with admiration for his words and his presence.
And if that were not enough on Saturday Night Live—the same night of the wedding—there was a sketch, spot on and pretty hilarious, about the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that sentence hasn’t been written before. This is to say nothing of the interviews on the Today Show and Good Morning America.
So what I have been wondering this past week is why that 13 minute, 9 second sermon—which by the way, by Bishop Curry’s standards is actually rather brief—why it had such an extraordinary impact for millions of people around the world.
Some of it had to do with who Bishop Curry is, the striking symbolism of a black man preaching in a white institution. At a time when the United Kingdom is acutely struggling with the effects of its colonial history, and the racial prejudices suffered by many of its citizens, his presence alone was profound. As well, here he was, in a role reserved for English bishops and priests, an American preaching to the mother church—the mother church that wasn’t pleased when we broke away a couple of centuries ago.
So there’s that. Then there was the content of the sermon. Thoughtful, diverse in scope (biblical poetry, medieval poetry, African-American spirituals, 20th century Roman Catholic theologians), and clear about its theme—the redemptive power of love. All good, and to my ears, fundamentally consistent with the ethos and theology of the Episcopal Church. You will hear much of that content preached in Episcopal pulpits many Sundays.
But what seemed to captivate many—and rattle some—was the remarkable emotional expression that Bishop Curry brought to that moment. He was unapologetically emotionally expressive in a country where the dominant culture is purposefully emotionally restrained. It’s why you saw some shocked, some stunned, some disapproving faces in that chapel. And yet, for many, many watching in the United Kingdom, especially those from other parts of the Commonwealth, it was as if a window had been cracked open and fresh air came pouring in.
And so this is part of what I (and apparently millions of others) found so captivating—Bishop Curry’s effervescent joy. It was clear, absolutely, transparently clear that this preacher completely believes that love is the redemptive power that can change the world. This was no act, Bishop Curry was simply himself, so clearly radiating joy. This joy and trust in the power of love was real, it was authentic. Apparently people around the globe didn’t just need to hear this Good News—they needed to feel it as well.
In a world that that seems to be fracturing by the day—internationally, nationally, and locally—to hear someone make the case for love with conviction, humor, intellect, and affection, it was like water flowing onto parched earth.
Like many, many others, I had no idea how much I needed that.
From the Associate for Youth Ministries
My role as the All Souls youth minister began on August 30, 2015. I went to all three services and witnessed the glorious, holy chaos that is our Rally Sunday celebration. I listened to Stephen Shaver preach about the sense of joy he had seen at All Souls. I was tired from driving across the country to move to Berkeley, and I was nervous about starting a new life and a new job in a new city. But I was excited by the joy and energy I had felt at All Souls since my interview. I was encouraged by Stephen’s sermon and the many All Soulsians who greeted me with warm smiles and introductions.
That bright morning kicked off what has become almost three years of work, play, and service with adults and youth. Now, after a lot of careful and thoughtful prayer and discernment, I have realized that I need to find a full-time job with benefits. To that end, my last day on staff as the All Souls youth minister will be June 28th.
I have truly, deeply loved being on staff here. Working with Phil, Liz, Emily, Jamie, Nettie, Steve, Marguerite, Christopher, Joy, Nikky, Ali, and Aaron has been amazing. They have so much wisdom and care so deeply, and they have awesome senses of humor. Staff meetings have been one of my favorite parts of being on staff. I will miss them! I can’t remember a staff meeting that didn’t include bursting into laughter. I’ve loved our tally sheets and laughing, praying, planning ahead, and editing the bulletins with all of them.
I love the way that All Souls does church together. What we do and have done here, from Soup and Story nights to the Parish Picnic to the Easter Vigil, cannot happen without a village of staff and lay leaders. This cooperation and sense of community goes beyond specific events and worship. It shows up in more ways than I can count. Parents pass their babies around to teenagers and professors. People of all ages go to marches and vigils together. Several youth and a few brave adults play Dibble every year at the Parish Retreat. We work together, and we play together. I love that. I love the way we care for each other and for our world.
Of course, I will miss the youth and leading youth group, T-time, Confirm not Conform, and the immersion trips. I have more wonderful memories than I can count from doing youth ministry here. It has been a privilege, a joy, and a blessing to work with these teens and pre- teens and to watch them grow. They are remarkable, hilarious, insightful, and passionate people. I’ve learned so much from them and have spent so much time laughing with them! I will dearly miss playing foosball; talking about God, ultimate frisbee, Hamilton, Marvel, and many other things; eating dinner together; and hearing about their lives. I love the youth here, and I’ve loved being their youth minister. I love this work, and I’ve loved doing it here.
I am more grateful for the past almost three years than I can put into words. Thank you to the many volunteers and parents who have made youth ministry possible. Thank you to the vestry, which has supported youth ministry since before I started working here. I can’t thank the staff enough for being incredible mentors and coworkers. And, last but definitely not least, thanks to the youth for doing this with me for almost three years. I’ve had an amazing time, and it has been a joy-filled adventure.
As many of you know, my family and the church where I grew up are far from Berkeley. Thank you for giving me a home away from home and a loving church family. Thank you for showing me what good church done well looks like. It has been an honor, blessing, and privilege to be your youth minister. I have loved doing it! I will miss it, and I am eternally grateful for my time here. If you have any questions or want to talk about this, please reach out.
Peace and Love,
Welcoming New Members
I grew up in an evangelical community in Texas, where my parents were founding members of a now thriving Chinese church. My soul wandered, I left the church, and I took my questions about the human condition to the halls of medicine (to my dismay, this only raised more questions). After completing an internal medicine residency program in Dallas, I moved out to San Francisco to work with patients living with HIV/AIDS, both here and in China. I currently practice integrative/functional medicine — an approach to health that integrates mind, body, and spirit, and seeks to identify root causes of illness. I also serve as faculty on Rachel Remen’s Healer’s Art program for UCSF medical students, and guest lecture on health and spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union. I live in Berkeley with my husband, David Hochschild, our two daughters, a dog, a hamster, and some 50,000 honeybees.
– Cynthia Li
From the Senior Warden
Our most recent Vestry meeting was held on Wednesday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the All Souls Common Room. We managed to make quorum despite a series of illnesses and emergencies that kept a number of Vestry members from attending.
Chaplain Laura Eberly led us in a reflection on visions for the future, utilizing Acts 2:17, John 16:13–15, and poetry by Otto Renee Castillo and Adrienne Maree Brown. The various readings alluded to the idea of individuals having a vision and, in some cases, finding a way to realize that vision even though said vision may be out of sync with one’s time. Brown’s prose poem, a powerful imagining of Harriet Tubman’s experience as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, spoke especially well to this conceptualization of vision. Vestry members were invited to meditate on what such “vision” might look like within the context of All Souls.
Treasurer Marilyn Flood gave the Vestry some background on our current financial situation. About seven years ago, we received a bequest from the estate of a parishioner, Ann Jordan, and we have been using the earnings from that bequest to help us expand All Souls’ ministry in various ways, e.g., by adding an Associate for Ministry Development and an Associate for Youth Ministries; by providing for All Souls members and staff to attend workshops offered by the College for Congregational Development. Last year, our budget provided for merit and cost-of-living salary increases for staff—the first such increases in five years—aimed at retention, rewarding superior performance, and addressing gender-based inequities.
While we have had budget deficits in many past years, earnings from the Jordan bequest have allowed us to close our budget gaps, and the combination of a steady increase in members and a bullish stock market have allowed earnings to be fully replenished and the principal of the bequest to remain untouched. This year, however, we are faced with higher expenses and a more uncertain stock market. While the principal of the bequest is still untouched, and we are still able to close our budget gap with earnings, the total amount of accrued earnings is beginning to steadily decrease. It is clear that our current method of closing our balance sheet gaps with earnings from our bequest cannot continue indefinitely.
Our Finance Committee has been working diligently for several months to come up with a series of options for the Vestry, and All Souls as a whole, to consider in preparation for approving our 2019 budget later this year. These options will be presented to the Vestry at our July meeting. The background that Marilyn provided will help the Vestry to have a fuller understanding of all the issues at hand, so that we can make budgetary decisions that are fiscally prudent yet faithful to our vision of what we want All Souls to be.
Ed Hahn provided an update on the steady, incremental progress on the Parish House Project, and Stacey Alexeeff provided an update on the new agreements that the Justice and Peace Ministry is developing to help All Souls accommodate longer Accompaniment Project stays (see our April 26 Pathfinder for more information). For the Rector’s report, which concerned confidential matters, the Vestry went into Executive Session.
Other meeting business included approval of the housing allowance for Interim Associate Rector Marguerite Judson, approval of a resolution form updating our list of church officers with our bank, and approval of the previous month’s minutes and financial reports.
– Bob Holum, Senior Warden