May 16, 2013
From the Rector
Deep Hunger, Deep Gladness
We are currently in one of the stranger times in the church year. Last week we celebrated the Ascension, the feast of Jesus leaving the disciples in the way that they had known him, in bodily form. In our Gospel accounts, Jesus promises that soon they will be joined by the Spirit. In the book of Acts this arrival comes at Pentecost, which we celebrate as the fiftieth day of Easter. But what of this time in the middle, these ten days between Ascension and Outpouring? Every time I read these accounts, I can’t help but wonder if the disciples were asking, but what happens now?
This past Sunday our Associate Rector, the Rev. Kristin Krantz, preached about one of the last sections in John’s Gospel (sometimes called the Farewell Discourse) and touched on what it means to be in the in-between, liminal spaces, neither here nor there. Sometimes it can be exciting, thrilling even, to be in-between. And sometimes it can be frightening, not knowing when that other time might arrive. Often I describe this excitement as being the kind of excitement that feels like you just might throw up. But (hopefully) you don’t.
We are in this sort of time right now at All Souls. In the midst of a transition as we grow and adapt, as we seek to understand how best to live into the Vision we collectively created last year, where we are going feels more up in the air than it has in quite some time. It is for this reason that following our 10 am service this Sunday (and what a service it will be, three baptisms, pull-out-all-the-stops music, banners soaring) we will be gathering in the Parish Hall for a parish forum to check-in on where we have been, where we are now, and what we can see up ahead.
After cake has been cut and served in the courtyard, please come to the Parish Hall and take a seat around one of the tables. Some finger food will be available to tide you over for a bit, childcare will continue on the playground until we finish. I will give some background as to where we find ourselves as a congregation and offer some reflections on the work that the Vestry and Transition Team have done in the past several months, including getting ready for three services each Sunday in the fall. I will then invite Christopher Putnam, Jeannie Koops-Elson, and Sara Gunter to give some brief glimpses into what is in store for music, children’s formation, and the life of the parish. Then around the tables, members of the Transition Team and Vestry will be facilitating conversation around our common experience of All Souls, the vision we have received, and how we each might take part.
As we come to this time together this Sunday, from this space in-between to the experience of the Spirit-on-the-loose, I would ask for us to all consider one of Frederick Buechner’s most abiding statements that, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It is clear to me that we at All Souls Parish have been gifted with deep gladness, in many ways. And that there is deep hunger in the world we are in. I find that it is precisely at times like these, preparing for change to come, that it can be fruitful to make space in ourselves for what might be. Not because what we “should” do, but because of the gladness for what has been gifted to us. For the gladness that we have come to, the closeness of God in this place, is hungered for by many. This Sunday let us come with open hearts, waiting for what is to come, ready to offer what we have received.
From the Transition Team
Where God Leads Us…
A funny thing about our current discussion about transitioning to a new worship schedule is the illusion that we have a choice not to change; that somehow, one of our options at All Souls is to remain just the way we are or, even better, just the way we’ve always been. There is no staying the same. We can change our worship schedule or keep it the same, but our community will continue to change either way.
Next month, Joseph and I will celebrate ten years are All Souls and we most certainly do not belong to the same community that we joined in 2003. We may gather at 10 am just as we did then and, in truth, I more or less sit in the same area I always have, but otherwise almost everything else has changed. The way we worship, the songs we sing, the words we say little by little have changed. Don’t believe me? Who presides? Phil, Kristen, Mary—all new since 2003. Who sings and leads? Christopher, Angel band, the piano, our soprano soloist, the trumpet player were not here in 2003. Still not convinced? At communion we use red wine instead of white and we offer gluten free bread. That is new. And I know I am not alone when I blurt out “and the son” in the Nicean Creed which for some reason I just cannot seem to get used to.
But in truth, these things are the least important and significant changes that have occurred. In our midst, our lives and the lives of those we love are unfolding, evolving and changing. Children are born and baptized, they grow, are educated, delight and challenge us, and then they leave us. People meet, fall in love, marry, and have children. Some fall out of love, separate, and divorce. We move through time together—graduation, unemployment, ordination, departure. Some grow old together, endure sickness, and some die. These are the real changes, the big stuff, the changes we cannot avoid.
Change is constant. For Buddhists, change and attachment are the key spiritual issues of being human. The permanence of change and our attempts to resist change by attaching ourselves to what is or what was is the central dynamic of human suffering. Our task is to learn to move with change, to learn to let go and cooperate with what is. Yet, the point is, mostly we don’t do that. We try to keep things the same. I want All Souls to keep being All Souls. I come to All Souls to be comforted, to find an oasis of community, of friendship, of support. I deal with plenty of challenge, sadness, suffering, and discord at my job. Just let me keep this one thing, this one place in my life predictable, safe, and nice. Let me come and hear the Angel band sing, Phil preach, Kristen chant, let me eat a slice of Patty’s coffee cake, drink coffee in the sun, and watch the kids play and laugh.
I understand not wanting that to change. But zoom out a little, and look at things from a larger perspective and it is already all changing and passing away and something new is replacing it. But I am also not a Buddhist. Part of my faith is the belief and confidence that God’s mission is unfolding in the world and that things are not just changing, but things are evolving and getting better. Finally, I do believe that God gives good things to his children and I think we are being called towards something better.
The suggestion has been that we need to adopt the new worship schedule so that those who want to follow us into All Souls will find a place to sit. Based on everything I have read and heard about how churches grow, the finding that we have reached a kind of limit at our 10 am service seems to be true. But for me, I do not find the issue of hospitality and growth as compelling as the spiritual practice of placing my trust individually and collectively in God. For me it comes back to the problem of change and they way we practice our faith in God.
We come to All Souls for many reasons—to find comfort, support, and community, to feel welcomed, grounded, and connected to the Divine. We come to worship, to be inspired, educated, and nourished. We come to participate, to grow, to stretch, and to blossom forth. We practice the gospel. We risk trying it out. We follow Christ and in that way we step out further and further from our comfort zone, away from what we know and we learn to follow where God leads us. But the way forward is never all that clear. Creating a place for God requires letting go of what we know in order to embrace God who we do not know. Over and over again, scriptures tell us about the encounter with God in the wilderness, on the margin, in the place most unlikely. If you want follow God, you’ve got to leave the fleshpots of Egypt. If you want to follow Christ, you must get out of the boat and step out on faith. Changing our worship schedule in the scheme of things is slow pitch softball with lots of room for do-overs, but it is a way for us collectively to show our faith in the promises of the gospel. In this life, we will face, both individually and collectively, far more severe challenges than this. Do not be afraid. Our faith will make us well.
—The Rev. Michael Lemaire
All Souls’ Assisting Priests
Good-bye and God Bless!
Two of our young priests will be completing their time at All Souls in the few next weeks. Though we are sad to see Liz Tichenor and John Shellito depart, we celebrate with them the joy of completing their work in the Bay Area, being ordained to the priesthood, and being called to new positions.
Liz has been with us for three years while she completed both a Masters in Divinity and a Masters in Ethics and Social Theory. While at All Souls, Liz has served in liturgy and worship, assisted with our youth progam, led adult formation events, and with her husband Jesse and daughter Alice, been an active member of the All Souls community. In December, Liz was ordained to the priesthood at All Souls by Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Last summer, Liz worked as chaplain at Camp Gallilee at Lake Tahoe which must have gone rather well because they called her to a permanent position which she begins this summer. Liz’s last Sunday at All Souls will be May 26th.
John has been at All Souls since last fall. John has been serving this year as a chaplain resident within the acute and geriatric psychiatric units at Alta Bates Summit hospital in Berkeley and Oakland. As one of seven chaplains in the interfaith residency program there, John ministers to individual patients in need and works in close community with the other chaplains to provide the best spiritual care. Though that work has required his presence some weekends, John and his wife Haley Bolin Shellito have been welcome members of our parish community (and guests at the parish house). John’s last Sunday with us will be June 9th, before he and Haley move to the east coast. John has been called to serve at St George’s in Arlington, Virginia, and Haley has accepted a position in the US State Department.
Please find an opportunity to wish John and Haley, Liz and Jesse and Alice all the best. If you wish to contribute to the “Thank you” gifts for Liz and John, please make out a check to “All Souls” and note “seminarian gift” in the memo line. You may put your check in the plate or give to Fr Phil or senior warden Nancy Austin.
All Parish Picnic in Tilden June 2nd
Church in the park and then some!
We’re looking forward to bringing our Sunday service to a beautiful spot in Tilden on Sunday, June 2. After an open air Eucharist we will continue the feast with a potluck picnic lunch, games and fun. Come for the service at 10am or join the picnic around 11:30. (There will also be 8am and 10am 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 a picnic blanket and/or chairs
• Sunscreen (we hope!)
• Balls or games
• Parking at the picnic site is not abundant; plan to carpool!
We also need:
• A couple of extra grills—do you have a charcoal grill you are able to transport over there? Talk to Jeannie Koops-Elson or Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski.
• Grill masters!
• A few coolers
Laurel picnic site on South Park Drive in Tilden. Here’s a map: picnic site map If you’re coming from the general direction of All Souls, just after the Brazil Building in Tilden, turn right on South Park Drive and head up the hill (towards the Steam Trains). Laurel picnic site will be on your right (past a trailhead on your left and after Padre picnic area).