From the Associate Rector
Trombones, chocolate, and ample humor
I actually laughed out loud when I read the description of Michael Lemaire’s current formation hour class, “Memento Mori.” Perhaps more than a few of us choose to think that if we’re of a certain age, (or level of health, or degree of invincibility, or…) we need not think about death. I could hear the playfulness of Michael’s truth-telling as he pushed back: “This class is appropriate and recommended for any members of the All Souls community who will die.” Well, shoot.
It’s no secret that on the whole, our society doesn’t do a great job of engaging the inevitability of death. A good number of years ago now, I was living and working in Chiapas, Mexico. I spent November 2nd in San Juan Chamula, a small town high in the mountains. Far enough off the beaten track to have minimal tourism, it offered a remarkable glimpse into another way of engaging death. Extended families gathered to feast throughout the cemetery, roving musicians could be hired to play the loved ones’ favorite songs, alcohol was in no short supply. It was an animated scene, part festival, part deep mourning. The human connection was palpable. I don’t mean to idealize another culture’s relationship with death – there was no question that there were plenty of unhealthy practices in place there as well. But I admired how openly people came together to name death, to anticipate it, to acknowledge its presence in our lives.
That’s not our strong suit here in the States. With families often spread out across the country, there can be logistical hurdles to walking with our loved ones at the end of their lives. The funeral industry has, in large part, allowed and encouraged us to sanitize and outsource the practicalities of death. With ever advancing medical capabilities, there are seasons in our lives when we can convince ourselves, albeit subconsciously, that we will be the exception, that we will outrun death.
As Michael reminds us, so far this possibility is unprecedented. Given that, I’m grateful that as a church, we have a rhythm that makes space for death. We remember and call into our presence those we love but see no longer. We reflect on our own finite lives. When we spend time with death, as much as it may make us squirm or ache, I believe it makes our time alive more full, more true.
I expect you already know this. I also know we can conveniently forget that which we’d rather not engage. And so, as we come to a place in the year where we have a little more room to consider death, I invite you to really go there.
It can be a remarkable gift to make plans for our death while we’re healthy and relaxed. It is a gift to ourselves to be so very human, to step into relationship with our time-bound nature. Rather than feeling pessimistic, to me it is a breath of fresh air. We cannot know how much time we have. Rather than presuming that death is impossibly distant, thinking about the end of our lives and what follows may help our active living now to be all the richer. Some of it can also make for a surprisingly fun project: you get to think about what you love most, what conveys celebration and connection to you. For my funeral? There will be trombones leading “When the Saints go marching in.” I want a wide range of fine chocolate, and ample humor. You’ll hear the raising of Lazarus, just as we’ll hear this Sunday.
Beyond shaping the way we live, reflecting and planning now is a gift to our loved ones. There are decisions of deep import that surround the time of death, whether it’s how you feel about life-prolonging measures, how you want to return to the earth, how you want people to celebrate your life, or what you want to do with the earthly treasure you can no longer use. Sometimes it’s fine for families to make these decisions for their loved one. And sometimes it can be an enormous and painful mess.
There are some very tangible ways to do this prayerful work. You can sit down with your family or close friends and talk through advance health care directives together. You can reflect on what you would like your funeral to look like. You can plan how you would like the dispersal of your belongings to reflect your values. There are many ways to engage this work available; one compiled by the Episcopal Church Foundation contains guidance for many of these conversations and decisions, and is available online here.
Beyond this concrete work of thinking, deciding and planning, we come together to do the spiritual work of engaging death as well. This Sunday is one of the days in the church year when we give particular attention to our mortal selves. But it is not a somber day! As we celebrate the feast of All Saints and All Souls, we pull out all the stops. There will be amazing music, there will be gorgeous new art in the sanctuary, there will be baptism (and incense) at the 11:15 service. We will feast around tables and the Table. We will give thanks for the saints in our lives who have gone before us, and celebrate the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. We will build a Celtic Tree of Life in our side chapel, a new cultural expression of the ofrenda that we have created in years past. Bring photos or mementos of your loved ones, and join in the art project during brunch to add to the tree. And most of all, bring your full hearts, your open hearts. Come ready to give thanks, to breathe in our finite nature, and to look for the resurrection together.
Wait! Wait! Don’t Call Me!
By the end of the day on Sunday October 25th, 92 individuals or families had submitted a pledge in support of All Souls’ mission and ministry in 2016. An additional ten people sent in pledges that were received by Tuesday. These 102 individuals or families have won the prize of NOT receiving a phone call from a pledge campaign volunteer. 102 winners! And you too could win that prize!
If you have not yet submitted your pledge card, it is not too late to be a winner. How can you join this fabulous group who will NOT receive a phone call next week? Follow the example provided by Al Soles: (1) find the pledge packet that you picked up at church or received through the mail; (2) pray about your commitment to All Souls and determine how you will express that commitment in 2016, (3) consider whether you are ready to move to proportional giving; (4) fill out the pledge form: and (5) either bring the form to church on Sunday or send it to the church through the USPS.
Whether you have already won or not, I hope you joined us on Sunday evening when five people were awarded additional prizes at the annual Parish Celebration Dinner. 155 All Soulsians gathered for food and fellowship, followed by music offered by the Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir and an exciting round of Wait! Wait! Don’t Call Me! Our celebrity caller, Bishop Marc Andrus, playing for Molly McGonigal-McCain, answered three of four questions correctly, thereby securing the prize of a reserved parking spot this coming Sunday for Molly. Don Strange was able to determine which of three “bluff the parishioner” stories about giving at All Souls was correct. Don was awarded John Chakan’s voice on his voicemail. Finally, we enjoyed the “parishioner limerick challenge” in which Margie Fay, Ruth Meyers, and Elvis Jones each answered correctly and won a unique prize. All in all, this was a wonderful and particularly All Soulsian way of recognizing our gratitude and celebrating the generosity of our parish community.
I am looking forward to a conversation with you about how the ministry of All Souls has enriched your life with gratitude and generosity. Wouldn’t it be great if that conversation were not about your pledge? Join us to celebrate our feast day this Sunday, and bring your pledge card with you. I look forward to our next conversation.
– Caroline McCall
Beloved Community Confirmation
Please join us in celebrating with All Soulsians Tripp Hudgins and Oya Erez as they are confirmed on November 7th. The Beloved Community Confirmation — one of three annual General Confirmations sponsored by the Diocese of California — emphasizes multiculturalism and service to the community as expressions of our mature Christian faith. On Saturday November 7th, at St. James/Santiago, 1540 12th Avenue, Oakland, all are welcome to join in the celebration. Come at 1:00 pm for crafts, music, and service opportunities. At 3:00 pm join the bishop, confirmands, and sponsors for a bilingual Confirmation service. Please bring cans of tuna to support the food pantry, and come prepared towrite a holiday card to a youth in foster care.
Installation of the 27th Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry
Two events will highlight the Installation of the next Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Bruce Curry. There will be a Vigil Celebration and Eucharist, sponsored by the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) in honor of the 27th Presiding Bishop on Saturday, October 31st at 11:00 am EST in Washington, DC., and there will be a live webcast at http://www.episcopalchurch.org. The Holy Eucharist with the Installation of Bishop Curry as the 27th Presiding Bishop will occur on Sunday, November 1st at noon EST at Washington National Cathedral. There will be a live webcast available here. The event hashtag is #MichaelCurry.
All Saints & All Souls – Continuing the Feast
This Sunday is our Feast of Title! Join us 10:10 – 11:00 am this Sunday, November 1st, for a Continuing the Feast brunch! Bring something to share and enjoy fun and fellowship in the Parish Hall. The services will all be extra wonderful as we celebrate this community and remember those who have gone before, especially with our Hearts on Fire Gospel Choir singing. All are also invited to bring a photo or memento of a loved one to add to the Tree of Life in the side chapel. Please note that there will be incense at the 11:15 service.
New Formation Classes continue on November 8th at 10:10 am!
Telling our stories: evangelism
October 25, November 8, 15, led by Danielle Gabriel & Toni Martinez de Borgfeldt
Join us to explore what it means to share our faith, our space, and the radical love of Christ. This is evangelism like you’ve never seen it before! Your money back if you don’t have fun.
Memento Mori: The Spiritual Practice of the Remembrance of One’s Own Death
November 8, 15, 22, led by The Rev. Michael Lemaire
As a spiritual practice, recalling the impermanence of life in the form of our own mortality, has been recommended through time and across religious traditions and yet, we find ourselves in a culture and time deeply invested in the denial of death. Our attention is individually and collectively redirected away from something that once, along with taxes, was described as the only certainty in life. In this four week class we will explore the reality of death in our time, the culture of denial that surrounds it and engage in a variety of spiritual practices to raise our awareness of the our own death and how it can clarify and vitalize our lives right now. We will also explore the resources of the Christian tradition that support this inquiry. This class is appropriate and recommended for any members of the All Souls community who will die.
Interfaith Immigration Vigil
Join members of All Souls holding vigil at West County Detention Facility, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond, CA on November 7th, (and the first Saturday of every month) from 11 am – noon. The Detention Facility is one of 250 facilities across the country that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to house undocumented immigrants awaiting hearings or deportation. At each vigil, we sing, pray, and hear testimony from family members and friends of those held inside, or from recently released immigrants awaiting hearings.
Talking with Kids About Race 101 and 201: Saturday, Nov. 7th
How does one start a conversation about race with a child? In the wake of the uprisings in Ferguson, NYC, and Baltimore, many of us are imagining that another world is possible. The most powerful change we can make is on the micro level, with what we teach our children about race and implicit bias. The day will have two parts, both led by renowned race educator Micia Mosely. It will take place in the Women’s Building in San Francisco and is adults only. If you want to come but need help finding a sitter, let us know. Purchase tickets here. The event is being put on by the Stay Woke Parents Collective, co-sponsored by Our Family Coalition, and your attendance is encouraged by All Souls Acting for Racial Justice.
Guide my feet, Lord, while I run this race!
All Soles are hitting the streets at the Berkeley Half Marathon on November 22. This is a fun community run that includes 5K, 10K, and 13.1 mile races. Talk to Liz Tichenor to join the hearty parish crew running together. (And you can still make it to the 11:15 service in your All Soles race T-shirt!). If you don’t want to race, we’ll certainly welcome a cheering section! The half marathon route will go right up Shattuck, across Cedar – a short walk from All Souls.
Traces of the Trade
What does it mean to grapple with the racism that surrounds us? How does the past inflect the present? In Traces of the Trade, Episcopal divinity student and film producer Katrina Browne tells the story of her forefathers, the deWolf family, the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. The film follows Browne and nine fellow family members as they retrace the triangle trade together- and begin to think about how to address legacies of racial violence in the present. This December, Dain Perry, who made the journey with Browne, arrives at All Souls to offer a screening and discussion. This will be a rich, unforgettable night. Join us for dinner and a movie as we discuss both the problem of racism- past and present- and our hopes for reconciliation and repair. December 5th, 5:00 – 9:00 pm. Food, film, and discussion to follow.