July 12, 2012
From the Rector
How Can We Keep From Singing?
Since 1789 the Episcopal Church has been meeting every three years in a General Convention to deliberate, discern, plan, worship and legislate. And legislate, legislate, legislate some more. As I write, the last few hours of this year’s Convention are coming to a close in Indianapolis. More happens at General Convention than you can shake a stick at. Worship services for thousands fill convention centers. Resolutions are passed on a variety of topics: canon law, social positions of the Church, liturgical practice, and governance. Youth and young adults have parallel tracks of retreat. The convention hall showcases hundreds of ministries of the Episcopal Church. Long-lost friends reconnect. In short, church happens.
This year, like in recent years, our General Convention of the Episcopal Church took significant enough action that even Google News took notice. First, the Convention passed a resolution which made it clear and official that transgendered people should not be discriminated against in the Episcopal Church. This resolution was passed in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops by a wide majority. (Since the Episcopal Church was founded by some of the same people that created the United States any action taken is a resolution that must pass both Houses of our bi-cameral system.) The resolution makes, “clear that the ordination discernment process is open to them, and another guarantees their equal place in the life, worship and governance of the church.” (Episcopal News Service press release) This action was momentous and remarkable, a signal act for those within the Episcopal Church and outside of it.
Then, within a day, news broke again that the Episcopal Church had taken an historic step. As you may have read in the New York Times, after three years of intensive work, and again by a wide margin, the General Convention passed Resolution A049, allowing for the use of a liturgy for the blessing of same-gender unions. This action, though passed in a day, marks the culmination of three years of intensive work. Led by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and chaired by our own, the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, the Blessings Project brought forward liturgical, theological and pastoral resources for congregations and couples.
Through meetings, conferences, retreats, and continuous dialogue the Blessings Project has worked tirelessly and often through tense and emotional terrain. They leaned on liturgical scholars, theologians, pastors, and, most importantly the experience of couples and clergy who had gone before. They met with congregations, dioceses and provinces, regularly presenting their material to the House of Bishops. In the end, not only was their work remarkable in scope, as the Episcopal Church is now the first major Christian church to nationally use a liturgy for same-gender couples, but also in process.
It is no secret that the Episcopal Church has seen a tremendous amount of division and schism in the past decade. And some of those who would have been against this historic step are now in splinter groups across the country. But the fact that this liturgy and the resources that support it was so overwhelmingly passed (171 to 50 in the House of Deputies and 111 to 41 in the House of Bishops) speaks to the leadership and the careful, and deliberate Spirit-led process that brought it forward.
As a testament to what had taken place and the arc that is bending toward justice, at the end of the vote, the assembled House of Deputies sang a hymn of thanks in response. How can we keep from singing indeed.
From the Music Department
Miracles on my Summer (non-)Vacation
I had the pleasure of spending the first week of July at the Bishop’s Ranch, which led to some really novel experiences of liturgy and music. We began with the Ranch Board gathering over the weekend. As has become our practice, we took a soprano friend along for a brief recital, rather like one of our Salon Concerts. We did favorites from opera, art song, and musical theatre, as well as a semi-improvised spiritual for an encore. It was great fun taking all that on the road!
The next day, Bishop Marc joined us for a special Evensong. As you may know, the Ranch has been replacing the chapel’s old ‘bubble glass’ with really beautiful stained glass celebrating nature through St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun (the basis for ‘All Creatures of our God and King’), and indeed, on Sunday, he dedicated the final one of those windows, one for the diocese. But on Saturday, we also blessed a new ikon of St. George, the chapel’s patron saint. written by local artist and teacher Betsy Porter. We’ll be sure to point the ikon and window out at the Parish Retreat in September!
I then stayed on for a week at the annual Family Camp, where I was responsible for daily chapel music, as well as an adult choir drawn from the participants, and there was even a bit of campfire-style singing in the evenings, for which I had very little to do except sing and do all the hand gestures too (including my least-favorite song ever, a Song-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named). First, though, we were treated to the closing performance of the annual Music Camp, which has changed in recent years from a traditional choir camp to a broader music and performing arts camp. Everyone sang, it’s true; but there were kids of all experience levels playing instruments, dancing and even acting as well. It’s a very exciting evolution in the life of the Ranch’s summer program.
As to Family Camp itself, well, it was an amazing experience! This year was the 25th anniversary of the camp, with nearly 100 parents and kids spending the week. I was the only brand-new person there without any veteran family members bringing me along, and felt instantly at home (as did Caroline, who joined us in the middle of the week). It made me realize that the ‘Family’ in the name meant two things: not only that the week is geared toward multiple generations of families attending together, but that it creates an extended family who come together for an annual reunion and who often stay close during the time in between. (And yes, you can think of this as a shameless plug for next year – I know I’ll be back!)
There was something absolutely miraculous, too, a meeting which was pure chance. As many of you know, I had a very serious health scare in 2001, and spent time in the Neonatal ICU (NICU for short). I sat down to lunch with a family on July 4; the mother had been there all week, but her husband and daughter had just come up for the day. When we introduced ourselves, he said “Actually, we’ve met before, but you wouldn’t remember.” It turns out he was one of my NICU nurses, and he and Caroline had (and the many other nurses & doctors) had spent time together while I was asleep. I then learned that his wife had actually been the head nurse in the NICU when they installed the machinery that quite literally had saved my life, and while she was gone by the time I was there, she had known my story and they had both thought of me often over the years. It’s the kind of real-life event that would be too cheesy to write into a script, but was really profoundly moving.
And I had the rare experience of attending church someplace new on Sunday morning, at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. I knew they had a fine pipe organ, but didn’t know anything more. After a bit of waiting outside with other visitors, the doors were finally opened for us and I spent a very pleasant morning. The church was rather full, and while the liturgy was almost straight out of the Prayer Book and music all from the Hymnal, the spirit of the place reminded me a bit of All Souls, with visitors’ goody bags (chocolates instead of bread) and all. But after two weeks away, I was very glad to be coming home, not only to sleep in my own bed, but to reconnect with this, my own parish family.
I hope you all find your summer plans taking you to family of all sorts, whether you’ve met before or not. And as you find your own miraculous encounters, may they bring you home safe and happy, and ready to greet your old life with new eyes.
–Christopher Putnam, Associate for Liturgy and Music
Seminarian in the Summer
Life as a Summer Camp Chaplain
Now halfway through our summer at Camp Galilee, the Episcopal Camp of the Nevada nestled on the shore of Lake Tahoe, I’d like to share some reflections on this adventure in ministry. Life as a summer camp chaplain is filled with quirks. My vestments are drawn from the costume box, and often involve flamboyantly dated silks, shoulder pads revived from the 80s, a zebra-print fedora and a wide selection of capes. Pastoral care visits are rarely at the bedside, much more frequently taking place on a kayak trip, hiking on the Tahoe Rim Trail, during our weekly tie-dye bonanza or while quietly building rock sculptures at the beach. Despite outward appearances of chaotic merriment, my work here at Camp Galilee is pretty simple: I get to be a companion to the youth (campers, teenage counselors and young adult staff alike) as they explore their place in this magnificent creation. I’m putting my seminary education to good use as I lead daily chapel gatherings, try to meet the pastoral needs of the community, and engage all kinds of interesting “stump-the-chaplain” type questions. Prompts like “So, what is baptism, anyway?” or “tell me about original sin” or “who made this lake?” pepper our time together, keeping me on my toes and fueling wonderful conversations.
In addition to leading the spiritual dimension of our summer camp program, I am also donning my researcher’s hat in preparation for writing my thesis in Ethics and Social Theory at CDSP next year. By observing the community in action and by interviewing the staff and counselors, I hope to learn more about what things work especially well for youth and young adults at camp that could be implemented in the parish setting. One element that has struck me from the beginning is how camp facilitates an exceptionally wide range of experiences within a community, thereby helping it to quickly grow strong and deep. Camp involves so much silly fun that campers and staff can easily cast off the inhibitions that restrain them in other places, thus making space to be unusually vulnerable with one another. Every day involves new challenges – rock climbing, kayaking, acting, camping out under the stars – and the community has no choice but to rely on each other. In some cases, as with rock climbing, we literally trust each other with our lives!
Living in close relationship with the created order enriches our community’s prayer life in delightful ways. Looking out across the glassy lake from the outdoor chapel, kids have no trouble calling out their thanksgivings. Reflecting on the challenges they have faced and those that still loom ahead, they are ready to ask for help – both from God and from their neighbor. With room to dance and jump and clap, worship music comes alive in new ways. Many of the good things camp has to offer are already well established at All Souls, and for that I give thanks! I look forward to collaborating with you in bringing new elements of camp adventure home when we return to Berkeley in August.
You can learn more about Camp Galilee and sign up to come join in the fun.
– Liz Tichenor
Former Seminarian in the News
The Rev. Martin Elfert wins Brave Preacher Award
From the Beatitudes Society’s eNews:
The Beatitudes Society’s 2012 Brave Preacher Award goes to The Rev. Martin Elfert, who is curate at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Washington.
Each year, The Beatitudes Society honors prophetic preaching with the Brave Preacher Award. With this $500 award the Society seek to recognize and encourage new preachers (and their congregations) to address difficult social justice issues through the lens of the biblical story and the current cultural context. This year, the cultural context of our Brave Preacher Award was violence, and we cited in our announcement the worldwide climate of violence, from the murder of Trayvon Martin to unending war to popular entertainment. We received an outpouring of fine preaching.
A small panel of experienced preachers read and listened to the submitted sermons, and selected Martin’s as the one that best embodies courage and keen attention to both the congregational context and the preacher’s craft, in the spirit of the Beatitudes. He preached his sermon on Easter Sunday, and in it he described Jesus as one “who chooses beauty over violence” and, following on the work of Richard Rohr, as one “who will not transfer pain, who transforms it instead.”
In his application, Martin, a 2011 graduate of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, spoke to the heart of prophetic preaching:
“…how do I name both hard and inspiring messages from the Gospel without throwing hand grenades of accusation from the pulpit, and, thereby, unintentionally teaching people to ignore me? For me, the answer has to do with trust. First, I need to trust the congregation enough to be vulnerable before them: if one seeks to draw on the prophetic tradition, a certain amount of self-implication is necessary when naming a wrong. My experience is that if I insulate myself from criticism—if I make the homily about the wrongs done by ‘you’ rather than ‘us’—I will generally precipitate defensiveness and, thereby, make genuine listening unlikely.
“Second, I need to trust the congregation enough to treat them like grown-ups—like people capable of encountering hard questions and, as importantly, like people capable of drawing a moral and faithful conclusion from these questions without being dragged to that conclusion like a mule. (In this particular homily, trusting that my listeners were grow-ups meant that I employed comparatively few specific examples of violence. Speaking to parishioners in the days after this homily, it is clear that the examples of violence congregants found for themselves were more powerful than the ones I might have found on their behalf.)
“Finally, I need to trust in God—to trust that God will find a way to work in and through a homily, no matter how inadequate my words may feel in the face of matter as hard as this one.”
Upon receiving the award, Martin said, “St. John’s Cathedral is a politically and theologically diverse church. In a context such as this one, the preacher’s temptation is to deliver an innocuous sermon so as to be sure of offending no one. (That temptation is redoubled before the many visitors on Easter!) I am grateful to the St. John’s community for their choice to not merely tolerate challenging preaching but, rather, to actively encourage it. And, on this day, I am particularly grateful to the The Beatitudes Society for three things: First, for this award - it is special to be recognized by my peers. Second, for the Society’s Prophetic Preaching Workshops - as a workshop graduate, let me attest that my preaching is indebted to the work that we did. And, finally, for using this award to encourage preaching on the often neglected subject of violence. For all of these things, and for all of the ways that you live into the Beatitudes, thank you.
The Beatitudes Society announced the First Brave Preacher Award in January 2011 to honor a preacher for a compelling, prophetic sermon in response to the shootings in Tucson. The award was presented to Rev. Alison Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson.
Martin’s voice, like Allison’s, is one we need today, and we are proud to honor him and his congregation with the Brave Preacher Award.
We’re all in this together,
The Rev. Anne Howard, Executive Director
Click to hear Martin’s sermon.
Reel Theology Summer FIlm Series
Adult Formation invites you to the third in a series of five films, Son of Man (NR, 2006, 86 minutes, South Africa, Khosa and English with English subtitles), on Friday July 20th, 7:30 pm in the Chapel. This vivid, highly musical placement of the life of Jesus in 21st century Africa reminds us that his life and teaching were both contextual and universal, and enables us to see his life and teaching with new eyes. Watch the movie trailer.
Reel Theology is designed to stimulate theological reflection and insights. Gather to watch the film followed by a facilitated discussion. Bring a snack to share!
2012 Vision Process
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