From the Rector
Advent is the Antidote
This past week while getting my haircut I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation going on next to me. The hairstylist was asking about the holidays, what this person’s Thanksgiving was like and then, unbelievably, their conversation turned to practices of Advent.
This is where I started paying attention more closely. Ok, the word Advent was never mentioned, but the person getting the haircut talked about this Swedish tradition—his spouse’s tradition—of a large candle that is lit every night. It is numbered from top to bottom, 1 to 24, and each night you take time to burn down just a bit more. He then admitted that it was a kind of ritual, of sorts. (this is where I really was paying attention) And that he liked marking time, getting ready each day.
What was fascinating to me about his description of this ritual was that he never mentioned Christmas or that it was a Christian practice. It could be that he felt uncomfortable acknowledging that this was part of his religious belief, or that it was simply a vestige his spouse’s ancestors’ Christian belief from that he found meaning in. But what was clear is that it had enough meaning for him that he was really looking forward to it—and sending these candles to his adult children other places in the United States.
In this conversation I was reminded not only of the profound power of ritual, but specifically of the power of the rituals we practice during this season of Advent. Now, some of this may have to do with the fact that we live in the Northern Hemisphere, where darkness comes earlier day by day as we approach Christmas, and the need to mark time feels more urgent.
But I also believe that there can be a remarkable intimacy in this season of Advent. During Advent home ritual happens in a way that it doesn’t in other liturgical seasons. It could be that the rituals at Advent are so powerful because of the surrounding hysteria of the secular festivities that are nominally about Christmas. It is so easy to feel crazed and overwhelmed by the lead-up to Christmas—shop, party, send cards, all while being merry!
In this insanity Advent is the antidote.
Starting this Sunday, in this season of Advent make the space—you will be rewarded. Come each Sunday to a service to listen and pray and sing the story. Come this Sunday to our Advent Festival and immerse yourself in carol and poem, create an Advent wreath, make a card for a foster youth, create an ornament for your tree to come. Come to our Wednesdays in Advent, to share a simple soup supper, to become still, chant Taizé and come across a story of trust. Set aside time and space in your home so that each night you light a candle, listen, and pray.
Begin a new turn of the circle this Sunday. Come close to get ready—create space for silence, listen to another person’s story, intentionally invite the light. Mark the days in your heart and your home, remembering what has passed, anticipating what is to come.
Nothing quite like it
We might blame this on our dog. We found All Souls when wanting a place to have our dog blessed on St Francis’s day. We wanted this more because of our affection for our dog than our belief in the blessing. We had each quite separately left the church fifty years before. My wife, Jane Vandenburgh, had drifted away after high school and I had left in a violent fracture. Growing up Episcopalian, Jane had never read the Bible. Raised Southern Baptist, my Bible study had led me to enter briefly as a homiletics and pastoral major at a Christian college before devoting my adulthood to Zen practice. But strangely, as if renewed, we each found ourselves engaged by the liturgical experience, and faith and practice became subjects for prolonged discussion, often well after the lights were turned off. I felt invigorated as we began to talk over Bible stories, brand new for Jane and seemingly brand new for me as I considered them as if for the first time.
We decided we wanted to read the Bible, straight through, and see where that led us. But we realized we needed a group to provide incentive and to widen our discussion and understanding. GTU was available but expensive, and somehow a lecture class wasn’t what either of us wanted. As if on demand, we heard about EfM: Four years of devoted reading, weekly meetings with interested and interesting people, everyone with a different motive but all committed to a common goal, an intimate readers’ group to focus on the Bible, the history of Christianity, and theology.
We have just finished our first year and are dying to begin our second. Our next session begins on January 9th and continues for about thirty weeks, meeting on Wednesday evenings at 7PM. I think I can safely promise you’ll never have experienced anything quite like this opportunity.
If you might like to join us or or more information contact Steve Southern (email@example.com) or Jane Vandenburgh (firstname.lastname@example.org).
From the Justice and Peace Committee
Join Us for the Advent Ingathering!
This season of Advent, we continue our tradition of collecting gifts each Sunday for those in need in the community. Please bring these gifts to the altar before services to be blessed and shared through four organizations. This Advent, we invite you to bring gifts for Nueva Esperanza / New Hope, Braid Mission Cards of Hope, the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, and the Berkeley Food Pantry. These organizations are described below, with suggested gifts for each.
December 2: Nueva Esperanza / New Hope
Nueva Esperanza is a collaborative led by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity to support newly arrived migrant youth and families in transition. Nueva Esperanza brings together organizations, congregations, and trained volunteers to serve as accompaniment teams / familias de apoyo. The teams are matched with new migrant families or individuals, and support them in attending legal and court appointments; accessing health and dental care, and legal services; securing housing, food donations, job leads, and education; and providing a network of care. Find more information here.
What you can bring:
- Gift cards (for example, from CVS, Walgreen’s, or Target) to purchase supplies and household essentials)
- BART tickets
December 9: Braid Mission Cards of Hope
Braid Mission is a ministry of the Diocese of California reaching out to youth in foster care.Through the Cards of Hope program, All Souls provides holiday cards to foster youth, ages 7–13. These cards let individual children know that they are remembered, loved, and cared for. Co-directors Chris Chase and Rebecca Edwards emphasize the deep meaning of these cards; says Chris: “It continues to be hard for us to believe but we cannot express enough to folks how transformative these holiday and birthday cards are for the youth. When we visited the group home in Modesto, youth had their cards hanging on the walls above their beds and around the room. These cards are experienced by the youth as something relational; that is, the cards indicate to them that there is someone out there who feels that they are special and is willing to take the time to tell them so. We hear again and again about how these youth treasure their cards and read them over and over, not only the sentiment expressed but also the name of the person who signed them. Please appreciate how important a role All Souls has played in making these youth feel loved through your participation in Cards of Hope.” Find more information here.
What you can bring:
- Holiday card(s) with a message to foster youth wishing them well and letting them know you are thinking of them
- Make a holiday card at home or at the Advent Festival
- Gift cards (for example, Target or Amazon)
December 16: UC Berkeley Food Pantry
The UC Berkeley Food Pantry responds directly to the need for resources to fight food insecurity–that is, malnourishment and the lack of nutritious food. With rising fees, textbook costs, and living expenses, it is increasingly difficult for students to balance their cost of living with the expense of earning a university degree. Many students are faced with the need to choose between essentials like food and the costs of college. Part of the campus-wide food security efforts, the UC Berkeley Food Pantry was established to provide emergency relief for students striving to successfully earn their degrees from the University of California. Find more information here.
What you can bring:
- Canned soups
- Canned tuna or salmon
- Shelf-stable milk, soy milk, or almond milk
- Low-sugar breakfast cereals or hot cereal / oatmeal
- Rice, grains, or beans
December 23: Berkeley Food Pantry
The Berkeley Food Pantry provides healthy food to people in need in Berkeley and Albany. Since 1969, it has provided families in need, especially those with children, with enough nutritious emergency groceries to help them through times of financial difficulty when they can be overwhelmed by bills for food, rent, health care, and other items. The Berkeley Food Pantry has continuously increased its capacity to distribute emergency groceries to meet growing needs in our community. All Souls collects food donations for the Berkeley Food Pantry throughout the year, and it is our tradition to devote the final Sunday Advent ingathering to them, when they often have a great need and low reserves. Find more information here.
What you can bring:
- Peanut butter
- Canned soups
- Canned beans
- Gluten-free grains and pasta
- Low-sugar breakfast cereal
You’ll find reminders in the pews during Advent. And if you have questions, please speak with a member of the Justice and Peace ministry—for example, Lewis Maldonado or Christine Trost—or contact Emily Hansen Curran. It is a joyful season for sharing and we thank you!
From the Senior Warden
Our most recent Vestry meeting was held on Wednesday, November 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the All Souls Common Room. Ten of our 12 Vestry members were in attendance. The bulk of the meeting was devoted to updates on our 2019 budget, our Stewardship Campaign, the Parish House Project, and our Deep Hospitality long-term strategic goal.
Vimala Tharasayi, representing the Finance Committee, presented the latest draft of the 2019 budget incorporating preliminary 2019 pledging figures, and there was much good news to be had. First, the Stewardship Campaign has been successful by all standards, and should late-year pledging patterns be consistent with those of previous years, the Finance Committee projects a 15 percent increase in total pledging over 2018. The expense side of the 2019 budget is currently about 2 percent lower overall than 2018 figures. While there will still be a deficit in 2019 that we will cover with earnings from the Jordan Bequest, it will be a mere fraction of the $142,923 deficit reflected in the 2018 budget.
What’s more, the actual amount of Jordan Bequest earnings expended as of October 31, 2018, is only $61,742. The Finance Committee is currently projecting that total disbursements from Jordan Bequest earnings in 2018 will be about $74,000—just over half of what we originally expected to spend. To me, what all of this says is that All Souls is striving to remain true to its vision of parish life and congregational development and is stepping up to meet practical challenges in an intentional, pragmatic, and faithful way. The Vestry asked questions and discussed various budget details, and we are on track to approve a final version in December to be presented for approval at our Annual Meeting in January 2019.
Ed Hahn presented his monthly update on the Parish House Project, with the big news being that the project was unanimously approved by the Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board at its second and final hearing on November 8. In the coming months, we will be working with our project partner, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, to continue to secure funding for the project.
Over the summer, the Vestry engaged in a series of conversations about our progress on our 2015 Strategic Plan with its three overarching goals of Deep Hospitality, Redevelopment of the Parish House, and Christian Action and Practice. This month, Emily Hansen Curran provided us with an update on the work she has been doing with regard to Deep Hospitality, specifically the ways in which she is fine-tuning her work based our Vestry conversation over the summer. I won’t try to recap Emily’s presentation in detail here except to say that she continues to do phenomenal work as our Associate for Ministry Development, and this should not be a surprise to anyone. The Vestry is most grateful for all that Emily does to help All Souls be a vital, engaged church community.
One other agenda item I’d like to highlight is the transgender rights triptych poster proposed by the Justice and Peace Committee and unanimously approved by the Vestry. Its simple, powerful message is a true Christian response to the open expression of hatred we too often face in our time and an affirmation of our values as a Christian community. Please check out the poster on our triptych if you haven’t already.
Remaining agenda items included our monthly spiritual reflection, a change to how we compute the Associate Rector’s housing allowance necessitated by a change in how the Episcopal Church is computing her pension eligibility, a brief discussion about 2019 Vestry nominations (you areconsidering running for Vestry, aren’t you?), the Rector’s report, and approval of the previous month’s minutes and financial reports. Our meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m.
—Bob Holum, Senior Warden
NEW ADULT FORMATION CLASS
This Sunday in the Parish Hall at 10:15 am, Dr. Scott MacDougall, Dr. Sarah Bakker Kellog, and Emily Hansen Curran will start a new series on Christology: Theologizing Jesus for Christian Discipleship. In this class the presenters will engage in an open conversation on who Jesus is and why what we think of Jesus matters. We’ll also talk about how Christian theology has dealt with and currently deals with Jesus. We’ll open the dialogue up to all present, so come with your thoughts and questions. All are welcome!
This Sunday at 4:00 pm!
Welcome Advent with together at our kid-friendly Lessons & Carols service, followed by wreath and ornament making, (bring your wreath form back if you still have it!) cookies and hot drinks. Please bring your first batch of Christmas cookies to share, warm yourself around a fire in the courtyard, join in the merriment as we begin to get ready!
Christmas Pageant Sign-Ups
The Christmas Pageant is the heart of the 4pm service on Christmas Eve, and a great way for our kids to experience this sacred story through their bodies. This year we’ll be trying out a new way to look at the story, focusing in particular on how hospitality might have been offered that night. There are ways for kids and youth of all ages to participate, on and off stage, and we also need a crew of adults to help rehearsals go smoothly – please email Liz if you can help! Find more info and sign up here or in person with Liz by next Tuesday, 12/4.
ADVENT SERIES: STILLNESS, SONG AND STORY
December 5, 12, 19
This Advent we are once again keeping our communal practice simple. For the first three Wednesdays in Advent we will be gathering for a soup supper in the Parish Hall at 6:00 pm. At 6:45 pm we will enter a candle-lit church for a Taizé service. Icons will be set up around the space, we will chant, keep silence, hear scripture, and pray. Similar to our 12 noon service on Good Friday, a parishioner will offer a short reflection each week. If you can bring soup or bread, please sign up here.