From the Rector
In 1972 evolutionary biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge posited a new way to understand how a novel species might begin. For over a century evolutionary biologists had been struggling to find in the fossil records how an organism might speciate. A gradual change in a particular over time wasn’t seen. So how was it that these new organisms came into being?
The hypothesis that Gould and Eldredge offered is known as punctuated equilibrium. The idea behind it is that radical change, like the birth of a new species, is most likely to occur on the edges of a system, and that these changes happen rapidly rather than gradually. These times of radical change then give way to another state of equilibrium, as it appears that most environments seek a form of equilibrium as soon as possible. Hence, punctuated equilibrium.
Recently I’ve been considering how this way of understanding changes in species might be useful in beginning to make sense of the uncertain and sometimes chaotic events of the past six months. I suppose that punctuated equilibrium resonates with me because my experience of human systems is that so often we live out the patterns we have made or received in spite of significant efforts to change them. We do them because we have done them and inertia is a strong force.
But sometimes there are moments that allow for something new to emerge: an idea, a practice, a movement. I believe that we are in one of those moments now. Here are some of the words from the OK GO song I’ve written about before, “All Together Now,” that illustrate this sudden shift,
Nothing changes until one day it does
Then there’s no going back
Our best selves and our worst selves
Live in that moment there
Sparring over who draws the new maps
And though their lines
May look the same
Everything depends on who wins that game
This time of life after COVID has been incredibly trying and destabilizing. And, at the same time, perhaps because of this time chaos, moments of punctuated equilibrium might be offering us opportunities individually and collectively to draw some new maps.
Not that these changes are easy, or that this time has come without loss and pain. But my hope is that in this punctuation exists possible futures that would have taken decades or centuries to come about. Perhaps, even, we’ll find in this time of trial the capacity to evolve.
Stories of All Souls
“Doorways” was the theme that I suggested a few weeks ago for our very first “Stories of All Souls.” I chose this as the kick-off theme for this new segment of the Pathfinder because I find doorways and thresholds pathways to good stories, and because this season of life is one in which a lot of us are reflecting on our lives––where we’ve been and where we’re going next – and making decisions about what will be now and next. This COVID-19 life is a doorway. For some it has been a doorway to another place, a chance to pick up and move. For others, it has been an excuse to reflect on what has been and remember. The two stories below are a little mix of all of that.
—Emily Hansen Curran
In My Mother’s Garden
My mother taught me how to garden in the Oklahoma red clay with a ten cent packet of zinnia seeds. In 1962, I was 7 and my mother not even 30. We were both so young. School was out and long hot days lay ahead. Zinnias like heat and can withstand humidity, which made them perfectly suited to an Oklahoma summer.
On a warm evening, after dinner and dishes, my mother invited me outdoors to the small garden bed at the foot of the rock wall that formed stairs to our front door. We knelt on the ground together – an unusual position for my mother, raised a Presbyterian. She loosened the dense soil with her gardening trowel, marking a line with the trowel’s edge. Mother started, and then gave me a turn. Once the ground was prepared, she carefully tore open the top of the paper seed packet. She peered into the envelope of seeds and smiled at the magic inside. “Cup your hand like this,” she said, showing me her cupped hand, and then tenderly shaping my palm and fingers into the same position. “Hold still, and I will give you some seeds. They are very tiny.” She tipped the packet and 5 or 6 seeds quickly landed on my skin. “Now, drop them into the line we made,” she instructed, pointing to the ground. With tiny fingers, I pinched the seeds from the palm of my hand and dropped them into the loosened dirt, then again, then again, then again. In that moment, I knew my mother was teaching me something very important. Somehow, these tiny seeds would germinate in dirt that was better suited to a brickyard than to a flower garden. “Bye-bye seeds,” I said, crumbling bits of red clay over them. Together, we patted the soil lightly, and I gave the seeds a drink with a small plastic watering can.
I have a vague recollection of seedlings appearing a few weeks later, and of watering the tiny leaves that sprouted green. No doubt by August, there were flowers – yellow, orange, and pink. Mother would have cut a few and put them on the kitchen counter in a jelly jar. These things, I remember far less than planting day – my mother and me kneeling on the damp red clay. The same sun on the backs of our heads, the same soil smudging our knees, saying in unison, “Bye-bye seeds.” Fast forward, and Oklahoma is far behind me. My days in Berkeley number in the decades. My mother, gone now a quarter century, gardens no more.
“There is no more beautiful spring than spring in Berkeley.” These words go through my head every year. The crab apple trees bloom in late February and March along Arlington Avenue. The red geraniums burst with color in May around the Marin Avenue fountain. The star jasmine at my back door scents the warm June air. And all of this against a background of clear blue sky. Let me repeat, “There is no more beautiful spring than spring in Berkeley.”
These days, the dog gets me out of bed at 6 a.m. Bleary eyed, it is easy to forget what else is going on in the world. The birds are just starting to come out of the nearby oak tree to make their way to the bird feeder. The screech of the striped towey is so unbecoming for such a handsome bird. The click, click sound of the hummingbirds tells you that they, too, are astir. I study my garden boxes–has this year’s new dahlia come into bloom; is the moonshine sunflower taller than the night before; did any hydrangea leaves burn in yesterday’s hot weather? These are my early morning priorities.
Gradually, my mind remembers the state of the world. I shift my thoughts to the work day, my first client appointment, the upcoming court hearing. But at 6 a.m. on a spring morning, there is no better place to be than in the garden, surrounded by flowers, birds, and my mother, all here with me.
—B. K. Bishop
There is a thin doorway between the living and the spirit world. I never knew just how thin until someone in my daily life made that journey to the spirit world about 5 years ago.
Ever since my dad died, I have seen him several times, and I don’t mean a ghost but his real body. Once when he was younger, he was making toast late at night wearing his flannel plaid bathrobe, or another time he was sitting in the pew at All Souls during his final years. Most recently I saw him at what would be his current age, looking healthy as ever leaning over my bed to rub my forehead as I tried to fall asleep with a bad migraine.
One place I have always seen the doorway to the spirit world is before I have eye surgeries. As a doctor, my dad was always allowed in the operating room with me. He would sit on a stool above my head as I was waking up in the recovery area. I was always afraid because I did not have my hearing aids in, and could not see, and I knew that I was shaking. Then I could hear my dad saying “don’t give her codeine; she’s allergic and it says it on her wrist band.” I could always count on him to be my advocate.
As my companion through medical procedures, it would make sense that he would continue to accompany me after he died. I thought I would see him standing in the doorway between my pre-op room and the hallway. He was usually wearing what I called his psychiatrist uniform, a sweater vest and corduroy beige pants. His demeanor was calm, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed. Even though I knew my dad could not be with me anymore in the operating room physically, I was calmer knowing his spirit had entered through that thin doorway, and was looking out of my door for when the doctor would come to take me to the operating room.
Last week I had the conversation I have been dreading all my life with my eye doctors. No more operations can be done to save my vision. When I was a newborn and my parents were told that they could not save my vision, my dad asked to have a specialist see me and I had cataract surgeries at 10 days old which saved my vision for this long. Now, as I accept this new reality, I wonder, will I see my dad again? Will he ever again be in that doorway to let me see his presence? Without visual sight, will I still “see” him? When tough times are ahead? How will I know? I am looking forward to our next encounter, no matter how I am able to sense his presence through the doorway.
Project: Sandwich! An Evolving Ministry
On Sunday April 19 we launched the All Souls Project: Sandwich. We picked up 50 sandwiches, 10 each from five different households, and brought them to the Parish House where they were put into bags with a bottle of water, bag of chips, package of cookies, a banana, a tangerine, mayo & mustard packets, and a napkin. Two people then delivered these to an RV camp at Harrison & 8th and an encampment at Gilman & the freeway.
By the next week we had added more households and organized into four teams of sandwich makers (plus a fifth team on Open Door Sundays) with drivers picking up 70 sandwiches twice weekly (Sun and Wed) and delivering to four locations, an additional RV camp (Jones & 2nd St) and SeaBreeze encampment at the bottom of University Avenue.
We launched this ministry in response to the clear food insecurity issues brought on by the Covid-19 shelter in place restrictions. As we did research to figure out how to modify our Open Door Dinner, we learned that other meal / food operations had shut down entirely due to concerns about the spread of the virus. At the same time, our deacon Rev Dani Gabriel was hearing that our homeless neighbors in tent and RV encampments, who were already food-insecure, were suffering.
The outpouring of volunteer support from All Souls to meet this need was amazing. We had over 65 volunteers shopping, preparing sandwiches, picking up sandwiches, buying paper goods, buying fresh fruit weekly, packing the sandwich bags, preparing sandwich prep kits, and delivering food. It was clear throughout that this was all done with loving care and prayer. Project Sandwich was also supported by grant funding from Episcopal Impact Fund as well as proceeds from the garage sale of items from the Parish House.
In the early days, we were never certain of the duration of Project Sandwich, but built the calendar to the end of May. Then extended it to the end of July. Then to the end of September.
We now have come to a time where the impact of coronavirus on the availability of meals for those who are hungry has eased somewhat, and we plan to end Project Sandwich after the last sandwiches are delivered on Sept 30.
Many organizations providing food for our homeless neighbors that had initially closed have now figured out ways to open back up and get meals to people that need them. For example, Temple Beth El has moved their monthly meal to downtown Berkeley where it provides a barbeque meal to go. Our friends at St. Albans have a long standing sandwich ministry that pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic; All Soulsians have been helping to deliver these once a week.
We continue to be in touch with our neighbors in the tent and RV encampments to discuss new and ongoing needs where we may be able to help. A few possibilities are: canned goods, Covid supplies / N95 masks for the RV camps, tents for SeaBreeze. And, as noted above, the St. Alban’s folks are continuing to make sandwiches once a week – they need drivers but not sandwich makers. Contact Jeannie Koops-Elson if you want to participate in this, email@example.com.
Some of our homeless neighbors get monthly meals from the Open Door Dinner and we encourage you to volunteer for this ministry. Contact Pat Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Don Gates (email@example.com) for more information. In addition, another way to meet food insecurity needs are through our collection of non perishable food items for the Berkeley Food Pantry. If you wish to have someone pick up a donation from your home, contact Cathy Goshorn, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have seen what our community can do when mobilized and look forward to seeing where God leads us next.
Sunday Livestreaming News
The live stream of Sunday services can be accessed through our website or by tuning into our All Souls Episcopal Parish Facebook page. Click here to watch on Sunday morning – this week, live from the Bishop’s Ranch!
Adult Formation Class this Sunday
The Reading Between the Lines Bible Study class meets every Sunday and is the only class meeting this Sunday. Contact Daniel Prechtel, email@example.com, to join that Zoom call at 9:15 am!
This year’s Parish Retreat will be one for the books for many reasons, but first and foremost because the Rev. Dr. Vincent Pizzuto of St. Columba’s in Inverness will be joining us as our retreat speaker this year! The theme this year is Creation and Incarnation, following our Justice & Peace team’s attention to climate justice in the 2019-20 academic Adult Formation year. From Fr. Vincent: “The Incarnation is not merely a human event, but one in which all of Creation is so thoroughly infused with the Divine that Christ might “be all and in all” (Col. 3:11). Building upon this scriptural imperative, Fr. Vincent will explore the cosmological implications of the Incarnation which underlie the urgency of Christian ecological discipleship in the world.”
You can register for the retreat here.
A’s v. Giants baseball night at All Souls!
Yes, it’s true we can’t do our traditional ballgame night at the Coliseum. Those seats are now filled with cardboard cutouts of fans. But we CAN gather in the courtyard at All Souls, A’s and Giants fans in one happy gathering, with two TV screens tuned to the Bay Bridge series tomorrow, Friday, September 18 at 6:30 pm. All COVID protocols will be followed starting with appropriately spaced seating. Some “ballpark themed” food & bev will be provided (individually wrapped), and you will be invited to bring your own as well. And you MUST wear your A’s or Giants swag.
We are strictly limited to 25 total guests, so please RSVP only if you are sure you can come. We will maintain a limited waiting list if we are oversubscribed. RSVP here! Or email Don Gates, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more info.
Children & Family News
We will be doing a children’s chapel program this Sunday at 9:30 am via Zoom. It should last about 30 minutes. Please email Whitney Wilson for a link so your family can participate. We are hoping that this will give the kids a time together for their own “church” and a time to see their friends as well. Please email Whitney Wilson at email@example.com if you want a Zoom invite or have any questions.
If you are looking for some current information regarding Children’s Chapel or the upcoming Kids Book Club – check out the new additions to the All Souls website, which has been updated to include some new information and resources (including the links for all the storybook videos) for families.
All Souls After Hours
No after hours this week. Enjoy your Sunday afternoon!
Evening Prayer via Zoom
Here is the link for the Thursday night BCP Compline https://schoolmint.zoom.us/j/7124066649?pwd=d0Z4c1RHeld0QllOLzdlS1IxK3FKZz09. For our safety online, the password needed to join the call is 329903.
All Souls Geek Squad
If you’re having any trouble with technology during this time of tech-only contact with others, we want to help! Use this form to describe the problem and request help.
Check out Season 2, Episode 2 of the Soulcast!
Ongoing Canned Food Drive
The ASP Food Drive continues to pick up and deliver food for the Berkeley Food Pantry on a weekly basis. Food contributors and drivers participate every other week. Please email Cathy: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Wednesday 9am Service
Join the Zoom call here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86087951049?pwd=THNxbjlqMm5zdjc5RGNLWkFrZk16QT09
Meeting ID: 860 8795 1049 Password: 520218
If you are able to help provide some meals for parishioners in need, please contact Cathy Goshorn to help out! We are in great need at this time to help care for each other – please consider helping other All Soulsians in need by providing meals or gift cards for meals. You can reach Cathy at email@example.com.