In 1988 I was called by the vestry to become the 12th rector of All Saints’.. Little did I know then that I would still be the rector more than two decades later, making me the longest serving rector since All Saints’ was founded in 1903. What brought me here is what keeps me here. All Saints’ is a progressive neighborhood Anglo-Catholic parish dedicated to the Benedictine rhythm of ora et labora, “pray and work.” The prayer here is very traditional: “smoke and bells,” using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for Sunday and weekday Masses. And the work is very progressive: the social attitudes are definitely liberal, expressed energetically in the various social ministries the church has conducted over the years, including the Saturday neighborhood food program which is the oldest parish-based food ministry in the Diocese of California.
I sometimes joke that everyone should be brought up by Baptists, who conduct the best Sunday Schools and youth groups; should be educated by Presbyterians, who are head over heels above every one else in Christian education; but that we should all end up Episcopalian, since we do very well the ora et labora, the dynamics of our life here at All Saints’. That joke reflects my own spiritual pilgrimage. I was raised a Baptist in Buffalo, New York. All my graduate education has been Presbyterian: after a B.A at Houghton College, Houghton, New York in 1968 [sponsored by the Wesleyan Church], I went on to two Presbyterian institutions, receiving an M.Divinity in 1971 and a Ph. D. in 1980 from Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, and then a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 2000. But while I was a graduate student I became an Episcopalian: I was confirmed at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in New York in 1975, and under its sponsorship was ordained by Bishop Paul Moore to the transitional diaconate in 1977 and to the priesthood in 1978.
Before coming to All Saints’, I served in the Diocese of New Jersey at Trinity Church, Princeton, and Christ Church, New Brunswick; and in the Diocese of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, at St. Mark’s on Locust Street in Center City and St. Luke’s, Germantown. At All Saints’ I have been active in the Diocese of California as the Chair of the Department of Education; President of the Deanery of San Francisco; a member of the Ecclesiastical Court; a deanery representative on Diocesan Council; a member of the Board of Examining Chaplains, and the boards of 409 House, the Parsonage, Oasis, and Episcopal Charities; the instructor in theology at the School for Deacons; a member of the Commission on Ministry; and a regular participant in the weekly Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Vigil for Peace.
In all of this work outside the parish I have enjoyed the support of a vibrant parish led by dedicated staff, and lay and clergy volunteers who have made it possible for us “to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine.” Special thanks go to the clergy who have served as volunteer pastoral associates over the years, especially those who presently make for a wonderfully effective team: Judith Dunlop, Kenneth Powell, John Staley, Thomas Traylor, and Elizabeth Welch.
Together much has been achieved over the last twenty years. Some highlights for me are:
- The 90th Anniversary celebration in 1995, when we erected a shrine to St. Michael and All Angels in the Parish Garden in memory of the many members and friends of All Saints’ who died of HIV infection/AIDS.
- The Centennial celebration in 2005, when we renovated the façade of the church to make the church accessible to people with physical handicaps and to recall the lovely design of the original building.
- And, now in 2010, the success of several appeals for financial support in the midst of the economic hardship so many are facing: stewardship is healthy; $32,000 was given to our annual Christmas Giving appeal for the Saturday neighborhood food program, the CO-OP Youth Group, and the Centennial project; several people contributed to a fund for All Saints’ to sponsor a stained glass window at the Chapel of St. George at the Bishop’s Ranch in All Saints’ name; and many responded to the recent crisis in Haiti by contributing to All Saints’ our Millennium Development Goal fund for Episcopal Relief and Development. Gifts in all these endeavors ranged from $5.00 to $10,000.00. To me what is important is not the total dollar amount, but that so many people gave what they could to serve the common good of the parish and those we feel called to serve.
To the ora et labora of our spirituality here, I want to add et luda: “and play.” For me play includes enjoying living with John Roberts, my spouse for 35 years, who is the retired Head of the Music Library and Professor Emeritus of Music at UC, Berkeley; walking our dog Maisie; all three of us going to our summer place in Maine every August; swimming a daily mile, Monday through Friday; reading contemporary literature, especially the fiction of Eudora Welty and the poetry of Czeslaw Milosc; studying the theology of Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Austin Farrar, and Dorothy Sayers; and enjoying studies on Native American and Haitian culture, as well as Titanic lore.
A couple of years ago when I was interviewed for an article about All Saints’ for the local neighborhood newspaper, I was asked what spirituality motivated me in my ministry. Three ideals came immediately to mind:
- Remember that [in the words of the first Q & A in the Westminster Shorter Catechism] that our “chief end . . . is to glorify God and to enjoy [God] forever.”
- Be aware daily that the God whom we glorify and enjoy is the one “in whom we live and move and have our being” by praying regularly the Collect for Guidance in the Book of Common Prayer: Gracious God, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Live with the exuberant sense of gratitude expressed so well at the end of another prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, this one at Holy Baptism: Give us an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
This last prayer concludes the Mission Statement of All Saints’. It serves us well in calling upon God for the grace to become answers to our prayers for each other. If you would like to know more about All Saints’ I recommend you peruse the rest of our web page. Also you may read two books that feature us: The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray by Lindsey Crittenden, a member of All Saints’ and Transfiguration of Loss: Julian Norwich as a Guide for Survivors of Traumatic Grief by Jane Maynard, who served for several years as a volunteer Pastoral Associate at All Saints’. Maynard’s book includes an analysis of the self-transcendence she witnessed at All Saints’ by the loss we experienced from AIDS. What she describes rings true for us in the varied ways we strive to love God and our neighbor today:
- Members of All Saints who encountered enormous loss spoke of the tremendous emotional impact of this experience.
- [The] heightened perception of life and its fragility encouraged parishioners to expand their horizons of meaning and to reach out in new ways to God and each other
- Besides strengthening individual friendships, the experience of AIDS loss also helped to strengthen bonds across constituencies: between men and women and straight and gay members of the parish.
- A fourth source of transcendence at All Saints arose from the parish’s rich liturgical life.
- A final source of transcendent hope for All Saints parishioners resides in the hope of a God of justice: This hope appears to be both present and eschatological in nature. It is most vividly expressed in the makeup of the community itself. All Saints’ was and is comprised of people who . . . tenaciously cling to a vision of wholeness grounded in the love of God who embraces all.
You too can become part of the vision “of a wholeness grounded in the love of God who embraces all” by joining us in our worship and ministry. Welcome to All Saints’!