FROM THE RECTOR
Retreat, Restore, Recreate
We are coming near the end of our time in Luke’s Gospel in our lectionary cycle, with just a couple more months of this account. And as we’ve been working our way through Luke, I’ve been reminded of the number of times that Jesus goes away to pray. Sometimes it’s for a night; often it’s up a mountain. But it seems essential in this telling of the story that he leave the intensity of teaching and healing for some time away.
I believe that it was with this model in mind that the Vestry of All Souls Parish, in the letter of agreement that outlines my pattern of life as Rector, made clear their expectation that I make a retreat every year. It is an incredible gift, and one that I do not take lightly.
For the past few years I’ve done this with a group of priests and occasionally a bishop, led by a former seminarian of All Souls, the Rev. Stephen McHale. Known as the St. Francis Pilgrimage, we have sought out places of wilderness, kept the daily office, celebrated the Eucharist, and read a book along the way about wilderness and the spiritual life—Richard Rohr about St. Francis, Belden Lane’s The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, and this past year Mary Oliver’s compilation, Devotions.
Each year has been different, both in landscape and group makeup. And, over time, while encountering the steep ascents of the North Cascades, a flash flood in the Paria Canyon of Southern Utah, and the sweeping vistas of the backcountry of Yosemite, I’ve begun to notice a pattern in retreat, one that has come clear thanks to the time, space, and companionship these retreats have afforded.
“Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Lk. 6:12)
One of the challenges of our daily living in the Bay Area of the 21st century is the insatiably demands of the daily grind. As commutes are increasing, and the pressures of what the French call, “metro–boulot–dodo”, or commute–work–sleep, are experienced as a kind of incessant lather–rinse–repeat cycle, it can be very difficult to see the forest for the trees. One of the gifts of retreat, then, is the possibility to perceive ourselves and our lives differently, to be able to see beyond the immediate. When we retreat from the pressures of the everyday and figuratively and/or literally head up a mountain we can gain a new perspective on who we are, and what is important—perhaps even seeing our lives as God does.
“Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.” (Lk. 9:28)
And, even as we gain our own perspective, one of the fundamental insights that I have learned and re-learned while on these wilderness pilgrimages, is that we do not (and cannot) do this on our own. It is a crucial, and sometimes painful, truth of our time that we are essentially interconnected. We often behave as if our words and actions simply affect us alone, but time spent relying on others and being relied upon for food, water, shelter, and relational sustenance has reminded me that this is just as true ecologically as it is interpersonally as it is spiritually. This is actually one of the ways that we know God—through the love that we offer one another.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Lk. 4:1,2a)
This past week, as I was gasping for breath at 9,000 feet, with granite stretching to the horizon above me, I remembered a phrase that a friend taught me years ago, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Mile by mile, it’ll take awhile.” A truth of these retreats, each of them in different ways, has been that some of life is about perseverance. There are times when you have to endure what it is in front of you, when what you have to do takes all of your effort, perhaps more than you imagine that you have to give. And, that even in those times of trial, that God is present there as well—indeed has been there in a real way Godself.
As is often the case, these three truths are in relationship with each other—new perspectives are often gained only through perseverance, and reveal the interconnectedness of our world. (and our cosmos and of Life) In order for us to realize them, though, we have to do what Jesus himself did. It could be for an hour along the Bayshore trail, or an afternoon in Tilden, or a few days in the High Sierra, but we all need to take time to retreat, to be restored, and to be recreated by God.
The Deep Silence of Taizé: a love story
This summer I visited Yosemite for the first time. One night we made our way to Glacier Point for the sunset, and then settled into the small stone seats of the amphitheater awaiting the darkness and the starry night.
As the darkness became deeper and deeper, layers and layers of stars gradually appeared.
The longer I allowed my eyes to adjust to the darkness, the more stars appeared.
That was my experience of the deepening silence of Taizé Prayer, as I daily rested into the chant and the prayer and the silence three times a day during my first week at Taizé. It is hard to explain why or how this happened, this cumulative Grace which filled me more each day, but it did.
That was my first visit to Taizé, in 1996, when I accompanied Princeton students to the Burgundy countryside of Taizé.
The cumulative gift of silence seemed to grow richer each day, as 1300 of us gathered in the Chapel of Reconciliation for Prayer, and Song, and Scripture and deep Silence, morning, noon and night.
The International Voices and shared stories of 1300 people, eating together in huge tents and doing daily chores, sharing Bible reflections in small groups and sleeping under the stars were special, but when the bells of Taizé rang at 8 and 12 and 7, we all streamed into the Chapel for what was the heart of our life at Taizé, the communal prayer and song, and candlelight, and silence.
The opening of God’s presence was like the layers of stars that appeared at Glacier Point…the more I quieted my soul, the deeper was that silence and the deeper was that sense of God’s embrace of me in the silence.
On the weekend of September 22 and 23, we will have the privilege of hosting two of the most senior members of the Taizé Community: Brother John (45 years) and Brother Emile (43 years).
We will first have a chance to welcome them on Sunday morning at 10:15 a.m. in the forum. We will hear the bells of Taizé, sing Taizé chants, and be silent together. Then we will hear from the Brothers about their life at Taizé, the international Pilgrimage of Peace, the history of the founding in the forties, and their own transformation through the Chants and Prayers and radical hospitality of Taizé. The Experiential Taizé Class will continue in October (6, 13, 20, 27) when I look forward to sharing Taizé chant and prayer, silence and stories .
On Monday, September 23, at 7:00 p.m., All Souls Parish (all of you!) will host the East Bay for a Candlelight Taizé Prayer with Meditations by the Brothers. Special music will be offered by
Dr. Jamie Apgar and his musicians. The service will be followed by a festive reception.
We have invited friends from CalCanterbury, CDSP, The Newman Center, the University Lutheran Chapel, First Church, and the Mercy Center. We have also invited others in the area who love Taizé. Please join us on Sunday morning and Monday evening. If you would like to bring a goodie to share at the reception, please do! Questions? email@example.com.
— Peggy Patterson
From our Seminarian
Happy Fall and what a joy it is to be back with all of you! This summer was full of time with loved ones. I was able to spend a great deal of time in Arkansas with Kevin as we worked on planning our wedding. I also was able to spend over a week in the great and mighty mountains of Yosemite. I have no idea how an Iowan had this happen, but the truth is nothing feeds my soul more than backcountry backpacking, preferably in high alpine terrain. Add in a waterfall or mountain river and you will see my happy smile. The joy that comes to my heart from hearing that water is hard to explain, but to me it feels as if the water moving is singing a song and that melodious tune goes directly to my heart. Last spring was hard and my grief clouded my entire world not giving me much space for any happy smiles nor to hear much of the melodious tune from the world around me. Looking back on the past several months though I can now see how those around me were singing that melodious tune and holding the space that I needed until I could hear it in my heart again. Knowing that you all were a part of that glorious hymn holding me as I grieved gives me gratefulness and joy and a happy smile. Thank you!
For me being here at All Souls is such a gift thank you for being part of that gift and of my song! As we walk together for another year I pray that we can continue to hold space for one another and to help sing the songs of each other’s hearts just in case someone needs help remembering the words. I look forward to hearing more of your stories and am honored to share in your lives.
Save the Date
Stewardship Launch Brunch: September 29th, 10:10 am
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Wait, no, it’s not almost Christmas. But it’s almost stewardship season! This is your favorite, right? Ok, maybe not. I confess that I do spin the dial of my car radio during NPR’s pledge drives. And, it has always felt different to me here.
Part of what I love about stewardship season here at All Souls is the way in which it is counter-cultural: a whole big, diverse group of people coming together to fly in the face of one of our most entrenched taboos: the discussion of money. A great many of us were raised with the strong admonition that it was beyond impolite to talk about — much less ask about — money. And yet, here at All Souls, we do. We strive to teach and learn, to reflect and pray, and most especially, to faithfully grapple, with the question of money. What is it good for? Where does it trap us? What could it make possible, seen or used another way? How do we want to experiment with a new way of engaging with it?
Being the mother of an almost-eight-year-old, a significant portion of my time is now spent immersed in the world of Harry Potter. As such, I am routinely reminded of the sharp divide in practices people keep around either speaking explicitly or in quiet euphemism about Voldemort, the most evil dark wizard. Wracked with fear, most of the wizarding community fall back on the sheltered option of referring to him as simply “He who shall not be named,” or “You know who.” Harry consistently uses his actual name, to many people’s discomfort, but his mentor Dumbledore finds pride in this choice. As Dumbledore urges, “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” In essence, if we are unwilling to speak about something directly and openly, it gives that very thing more power, and cultivates more fear around it.
And so we talk about money here! What ideas we have inherited, where we struggle, where we want to reach for other ways. And we also talk about gratitude — for what we have received, yes, and also for what is possible when we all join together in common purpose. This is the essence of what we do together in stewardship season. Please join us on Sunday, September 29th at 10:10 am in the Parish Hall for our annual Stewardship Launch Brunch. There will be a delicious spread of food, the Stewardship Team will be sharing out about where we are now financially and where we hope to be going, and collectively, we’ll be talking with one another about what matters most. Sunday School will still be in session, and childcare for babies and toddlers will be available in the nursery, as always. Come, one and all!
JOB OPENING: PARISH ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
The search is open for our next Administrative Assistant. Do you know someone who is looking for half-time work, experienced in desktop publishing, volunteer coordination and property management? Are they familiar with liturgical Christian communities, are able to be flexible, and have a great sense of humor? Please send the job posting to them, available on our website here. Please note that people who are already active in the All Souls Parish community are not eligible to apply. Our hope is that by all of us sharing this posting far and wide, we’ll be able to find a great fit… thank you for your help!
Bless this Mess: digging into parenting and faith
Conversation with the author + playdate and potluck
Parents, mark your calendars! On Saturday, October 5th, 4:00 – 6:30 pm, we’ll be coming together for a special event. Rev. Molly Baskette is the senior pastor at First Congregational Church, just on the other side of the Cal Campus. She is also the co-author of a brand new book — Bless this Mess: A modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World. In it, Molly tackles the thorny questions of parenting we all wrestle with at one time or another, from the perspective of a progressive Christian. Alongside this perspective, her co-author Dr. Ellen O’Donnell offers her wisdom as a child psychologist, helping us to understand more of what is going on developmentally at these different stages, and what might actually be helpful to our children.
So! We’ll have childcare on the playground from 4-5:15, while the parents have time to hear from Molly and crack open this rich topic together. Her book will also be available to purchase if you don’t yet have it. Then we’ll enjoy a laid-back potluck together. Please sign up here, so we can be sure to have sufficient childcare!