From the Interim Sabbatical Rector

stephen_shaverSabbath and Sabbatical

The seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
(Exodus 20:10–11)

The seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:14-15)

Did you know that the Ten Commandments appear in two different places in scripture? The first is in the book of Exodus when Moses stands on Mount Sinai and receives the commandments from God. The second is in Deuteronomy, when the Israelites have wandered in the desert for forty years and are about to finally cross into the Promised Land. In a farewell speech, knowing he will die before they cross the Jordan, Moses reminds them of the commandments and exhorts them to remain faithful.

The two versions of the Commandments are almost identical, with just one major difference: the rationale for sabbath is different. In Exodus, the explanation is that God rested on the seventh day after making heaven and earth, so God’s people should rest as well. In Deuteronomy, the explanation is that God has set Israel free from slavery in Egypt. Both explanations speak to our deep human need for sabbath time—time set apart from ordinary work for rest and prayer and play and community. Sabbath is about both creation and freedom: both our relationship with the cosmos and our relationships with one another.

And sabbatical, of course, has to do with sabbath. This summer Phil is on sabbatical, an intentional time for reflection and refreshment. But a sabbatical is a two-way street. Sabbatical time is not only for the pastor but also for the community. This summer we at All Souls are invited into a time of reflection and refreshment.

There is, of course, some work to be done during this sabbatical time—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When Jesus was criticized for healing on the sabbath, he replied, “My Father is still working, and I am working” (John 5:17). At All Souls we will keep working this summer on a number of things that serve God’s mission: our Love in Action campaign; guidelines for how we can best respond to our homeless neighbors; continuing to strengthen our welcome of newcomers; our two staff search processes; and all the other many areas of ministry that make this place a vibrant Christian community. Phil, too, is working, as he embarks on a course of study in congregational vitality. But for all of us this sabbatical is an opportunity to work differently, to shift our work into a different key and step back from the task list to reflect more deeply on the whys and the who we ares.

One of the pleasures of being new to a community is that a fresh pair of eyes and ears can help with that reflection. As I’ve begun meeting with parish leaders and staff, I’ve realized that sometimes the questions I ask simply out of unfamiliarity can help provoke new insights. “Why do we do it that way?” “Who’s involved in that conversation?” “Tell me the story of how that came to be . . .”

Meanwhile, I hope we’ll also live deeply into the spirit of sabbath this summer by focusing on our life in community and our relationships with one another. The parish picnic coming up on June 7 is one opportunity for that. Another will be the camping trip to Big Sur on July 17-19.

This summer, may God bless us with a spirit of rest, reflection, and new life.


From the Senior Warden

toni_borgfeldtThe College for Congregational Development goes local

As you might have heard, Father Phil is on sabbatical, somewhere between Arizona and Montana, reading and reflecting on congregational development and church vitality. Like him, last Summer I attended the College for Congregational Development (CCD) in the Diocese of Olympia, and I also became instantly fascinated by the study and exploration of church vitality. As I shared in my Pathfinder article, I came back hopeful and excited to share and apply what I learned, not only at All Souls, but also in my personal and professional lives. I also came back with a deep sense of urgency of the need and usefulness of this program in our own Diocese, so I was elated to hear that there were efforts underway to create a local program.

And so it is with great joy that earlier this year, the Dioceses of California and Northern California launched the Collaborative for Church Vitality in an unprecedented joint effort. Like its counterpart, the Collaborative offers a two-year training program in congregational development for clergy and lay leadership, utilizing the same concepts and curriculum of the CCD, but with a clear sense and awareness the unique characteristics and temperament of this region of California.

Co-directed by Andrea McMillin, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Northern California, Stephen Shaver, our interim sabbatical rector, and our very own Caroline McCall, the CCV gathered a team of trainers from the Diocese of Olympia, the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster and myself as a first-time trainer, for the first weekend session in late April. Clergy and laypeople from across the Bay Area and Northern California came together to learn, discuss and practice models of congregational development and facilitating skills. It was a remarkable weekend of exploration and connection, as participants enthusiastically talked about the work of their congregations and shared their hopes, dreams and challenges of being Episcopalian across different settings in California. It was also meaningful in the way it opened up new relationships and possibilities of further collaboration across congregations and across the two Dioceses.

Please include the Collaborative for Church Vitality, its directors, trainers and participants in your prayers, that the Spirit may continue to move in our congregations to be witnesses of the Kingdom of God in our midst.
For more information, you can visit the CCV’s website and on Facebook.


The Collaborative for Church Vitality leadership team


The Collaborative for Church Vitality in action

Summer Reading Groups

books_125Sign 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 work of fiction or nonfiction that other members of All Souls will also be reading. Each group will meet three Sundays over the summer to discuss specific sections of the book. (Some Sundays more than one group will be 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. Here are the groups:

Theological Reflection, led by Cathy Thompson and Stephen Southern, meeting on June 21, 28, July 5 and 12
Theological Reflection (TR) is a way of doing theology that starts with our experiences and leads to finding God in those experiences. According to The University of the South, Theological Reflection occurs at the junction of our faith and daily life. In this class, we’ll discuss the theory and theology behind TR and introduce TR models to the participants. Theological Reflection is a key component of the Education for Ministry (EfM) program. The class will be lead by Cathy Thompson and Stephen Southern, who are graduates of the EfM program.

Gilead (a novel by Marilynne Robinson, first in the trilogy), led by Michael Lemaire, meeting June 28, July 12, July 19
‘‘I myself was the good son, so to speak, the one who never left his father’s house… I am one of those righteous for whom the rejoicing in heaven will be comparatively restrained.’’ Such is the estimation of John Ames, the central character of Gilead, on his eventual welcome into heaven and it speaks as well to the general level of enthusiasm one greets a book or TV show about someone moral, steady, and good who stays that way. The book might have been titled “Breaking Good” because Marilynn Robinson’s Gilead is the story of a good, steady, Christian man, John Ames, writing a letter to his seven year old son who will grow up without a father because John is dying from a heart condition. Books about good people can so easily feel sentimental, pious, naïve, and/or annoying but instead Gilead struck me as simple, clear, and deeply honest. The book has a quiet cadence that slowed me down and invited me into reflection about the meaning and purpose of the life and especially life as a Christian. I loved the book for its many moments of insight, generosity, and compassion, but I read the book while on retreat and found myself dying to share the experience with others. So I am offering the opportunity to read or re-read this book this summer as a part of the summer book groups out of my own hope and selfish desire that others will want to spend time savoring the world of Gilead the same way I do!

Lila (a novel by Marilynne Robinson, third in the trilogy), led by Betsy Dixon, meeting August 9, 16, and 23
I invite you to return with me to the setting of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, the fictional and oh-so-real Iowa town where the Rev. John Ames leads the Congregational Church, and, late in life, meets and marries Lila Dahl, a woman half his age. This is Lila’s story. “Her name had the likeness of a name. She had the likeness of a woman, with hands but no face at all, since she never let herself see it. She had the likeness of a life because she was all alone in it. She lived in the likeness of a house, with hall and a roof and a door that kept nothing in and nothing out.” We meet Lila when she’s a small girl. One night, an itinerant woman sweeps her away from her life of loneliness and neglect. Together they follow a band of migrant farm workers across the Great Plains until dust storms and the Great Depression steal their livelihood and their dignity. Lila eventually ends up in Gilead, where she takes shelter from a rainstorm in John Ames’ church, one of the few places with an open door on a Sunday. Critics have described Lila as “remarkable,” “unflinching,” “timeless,” and “beautiful.” My word is sublime. I hope you’ll join me in August and explore how guilt and goodness, shame and pride, and love and loneliness co-exist in each of our lives. We’ll tackle questions of suffering, forgiveness, grace, and redemption. With luck, by the end we’ll have a better understanding, as does Lila, of who and Whose we are.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (nonfiction, by Reza Aslan), led by Mark Koops-Elson and Nathan Brostrom, meeting June 28, July 12, and July 26
Jesus of Nazareth: peaceful spiritual leader, zealous revolutionary, or Son of God? This question stands at the center of Reza Aslan’s compelling book, Zealot, which explores the historical life of Jesus in an attempt to answer this pivotal question. Aslan, a professor at UC Riverside, tells this story in a provocative, but entirely accessible, manner.

Aslan follows the life of Jesus in the tradition of the Jesus Seminar leaders, tracing Jesus’ role as a social revolutionary in an Israel subjected by Rome. Following his crucifixion, the book then pivots to how and why the early Christian church changed Jesus’ image to that of a peaceful spiritual leader, downplaying the radical and political elements of his life. The book culminates with the Apostle Paul’s ultimate transformation of Jesus from revolutionary leader to a divine figure, the Son of God. This radical transformation puts Paul clearly at odds with other early leaders like Peter and James.

Putting Away Childish Things: A Novel of Modern Faith (by Marcus Borg), led by Jamie Nelson, meeting July 5, July 26, and August 2
Among bestselling author/scholar/theologian Marcus Borg’s prodigious output of writing was a single novel, Putting Away Childish Things, published in 2010. Unapologetically didactic in its approach, Borg crafted a story to explore familiar themes such as fundamentalism and sexual orientation while also probing into questions of vocation and discernment. The protagonist, Kate, is a professor of religion with a penchant for pints of Guinness and red shoes. Through Kate’s journey, we too can reflect on the complex theological issues facing Christians today, whether in a fictional Midwestern college town or in Berkeley, California.

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice (by Bonnie Miller-McLemore, part of the Practices of Faith Series), led by Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt, meeting July 5, 12, and August 16
From the book’s description on Amazon:
“Theologian, mother, and writer Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore gives us some answers… and shows us how to integrate and strengthen the practice of faith in the everyday (and often mundane) experience of raising children. In the Midst of Chaos reveals what it takes to find the spiritual wisdom in the messy, familial ways of living. By rethinking parenting as an invitation to discover God in the middle of our busy and overstuffed lives, it relieves parents of the burden of being the all-knowing authority figures who impart spiritual knowledge to children.”

In my early years of motherhood, when I did not have enough energy to stay awake and think straight, let alone find quiet time to pray, I longed for answers on how to continue nurturing my spirituality, or to at least to ease the guilt of not “making enough time for God.” This book saved my sanity, eased my guilt, and continues to give me answers to my struggles as a parent and Christian. Parents and caregivers, I hope you can join me in this exploration, where we can read, question, rant and laugh together on this most challenging and meaningful path of parenting.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (a novel by Benjamin Alire-Saenz), led by Julia Martin, meeting August 9, 16 and 23
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a fantastically lyrical summer reading book that follows the story of two teenage boys, Aristotle and Dante, who meet at a pool. Ari is quiet and angry, while Dante is very open and loving, so much so it can get him into trouble. At first, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. The book explores self-discovery, ruling one’s own life, and overcoming fear.

When will we be able to sign up for a reading group?
You can sign up by emailing Jamie Nelson  or Caroline McCall, or at church this Sunday or June 8. A copy of each book will be available for your perusal this Sunday as well. Please contact Jamie Nelson 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!

The Parish Picnic is nearly here!

parish_picnicDo not come to church at 11:15 on June 7th! You’ll be sorely disappointed when you find an empty church. Instead, come to Mineral Springs in Tilden Park! After an open-air Eucharist we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. There will still 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. Sign up here.
• Bring a picnic blanket and/or chairs
• Sunscreen (we hope!)
• Balls or games

We also need (talk to Andrew or Kat Lisa):
• Grill masters!
• A few coolers
• Shade tents
• 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.


Missing that special Eastertide flair? Fear not! You can keep the celebration coming by joining the Parish Choir and Angel Band on a pilgrimage this Sunday to St. Clare’s, Pleasanton. We will be combining forces with the choir of St. Clare’s in a special Trinity Sunday evensong at 5:00 pm. More singers, more instruments, more music – what’s not to love? St. Clare’s is at 3350 Hopyard Rd, less than an hour’s drive. Let’s share that famous All Souls energy as we worship with another congregation in our diocese!

Associate for Youth Ministries Search
Spread the word! We’ve launched the search for our next Associate for Youth Ministries. The full posting and job description can be found here. Please share this information far and wide, and hold the search committee and potential candidates in your prayers.

Mt. Cross Day Camp
There’s still time to sign your kids up for Mt. Cross day camp! This year it’s June 15-19, and once again in collaboration with Shepherd in the Hills Lutheran Church. The camp is for kids who have completed kindergarten through 6th grade. It’s $150 for the week, and scholarships are available. There are registration packets in the narthex, and you can email Liz with questions.

Big Sur Campout, July 17-19
Join fellow parishioners for a relaxed weekend of fellowship and fun! The cost is $30 per person for the weekend (children under 5 stay for free, $100 max per family) To reserve your spot you must sign up and pay in full no later than June 22nd.

The Santa Lucia Chapel and Campground, a mission of All Saints Parish in Carmel, is a private and secluded campground in the gorgeous Big Sur area.  The campground itself is right on the Big Sur River and has a family friendly beach area.The campground has running water and toilets (but no showers), picnic tables, a group barbecue area and a large campfire circle.  A communal dinner will be prepared for all on Saturday night, but otherwise meals are individual responsibility.  The weekend will be framed with Evening and Morning prayer, and an informal Sunday Eucharist in the outdoor chapel.There are ocean beaches within driving distance for those who want to venture out.  In general this weekend is a time to relax, play in the river and on the beach—and for the kids to roll in the dirt! With questions, contact Jeannie Koops-Elson, and you can sign up here.