January 28, 2021: Hope

By Roy Woodall

2021 will not be an easy year for members of All Souls, for not only must we continue in our efforts to get past the current pandemic, but we must also continue our efforts to reunite our congregation and move forward. I have HOPE that we can do both. 
Recently, our Bishop, Mariann Edgar Buddie spoke of HOPE: 

What hope does is help us to rise again, not from our strength, but from the strength that comes to us from the deepest wells of the human spirit, where God’s divine spirit meets us.

Author and historian Jon Meacham also talked about hope in a recent sermon he gave at the Washington National Cathedral: 

The choice is ours: abandon all hope, or hold fast to it. I choose to wait and wonder not in despair, for the evidence of the Gospel is that in our barren times, in times of violence and of virus, of gloom and of fear, joy will come in the morning. That is our story. That is our faith.

I have frequently said that All Souls is where miracles happen – at least that has been true for me. As the oldest living former Senior Warden of All Souls, I thought that it might be helpful to others in the congregation for me to try to summarize some of the situations we have gone through since my wife, Jane, and I moved to Washington in 1985 with our two younger school-age sons to our new home only a couple of blocks from All Souls. Our first visit to attend an 11:00 Sunday Mass at All Souls was a disaster. There were no more than 20 people in attendance, and none appeared to be under retirement age…and certainly not the age of our sons. Our sons immediately and understandably said that they didn’t want to go there, so we started attending St. Albans. We heard nothing more from or about All Souls for the next couple of years, until one evening at a rehearsal of the Cathedral Choral Society, the conductor, Reilly Lewis, announced that his friend, Jim Weaver, head of music at the Smithsonian, had, "for some unknown reason," accepted the position of organist and choir master at All Souls, and had issued an invitation to any member of the Choral Society who didn’t have a church singing commitment to contact him. We did just that, hoping that things might have improved at All Souls since our original visit.  

What we found out, was that since our 1985 visit, the Diocese in 1987 had sent The Rev. Canon Wofford Smith, the recently retired Episcopalian Chaplain at the University of Maryland, to All Souls as the Priest in Charge, with the understanding that the church might become a Hispanic mission. Canon Smith felt that there was hope to turn things around instead, and that the best way to do that was by setting up a top music program. So he had hired Jim Weaver to do just that. As far as we knew at the time, there was no apparent active established congregational leadership at All Souls. That certainly seemed to be the case, as within a year I was elected to serve as Senior Warden (1988-1992). By that time, the Howells had arrived as Embry had responded to Jim Weaver’s newspaper advertisement  for choir members. Also, John David van Dooren, who lived in the neighborhood and was teaching at Episcopal High School while awaiting ordination, walked into an All Souls choir rehearsal one evening, said that he loved the way we sang the psalms, and asked if he could sing with us. Shortly thereafter, Canon Smith’s health started to deteriorate and with the help of Joe Howell, Stefan Lopatklewicz, and Bishop Ronald Haines, we were able to overcome some church polity obstacles and have John David act as Master of Ceremonies to assist Cannon Smith in the services.

In 1989 we went through a full search process which resulted in our calling The Rev. Julian Cave to be our rector. Julian was a former Baptist preacher, who had become an Episcopal priest and served as a Canon at the Washington National Cathedral. Julian was an excellent preacher, but, unknown to us, he had initially misrepresented himself to the Vestry. When the facts became known to the Vestry in 1991, he was asked to resign. At that point, the Diocese appointed The Rev. Jacques (Jack) Hadler as Priest in Charge, and we had to start an entirely new search process that ultimately ended up in our calling The Rev. John David van Dooren to be our rector in 1992. Following his installation, I saw the miracle of hope begat the miracle of growth at All Souls, which was accomplished for some periods of time in his and subsequent rectors’ tenures.     

Since my service as Senior Warden of All Souls ended in 1992, Jane and I have made an effort to be reliable and helpful individual members of the parish. All Souls has been our family’s church home. We both have sung with the choir for many years, and six of our grandchildren have been baptized at All Souls. We have appreciated the diversity of the congregation, but have not felt any special alliance with any particular group that might be considered a "faction." At this critical time in the life of All Souls, I feel that my HOPE for the miracle of renewal and growth of All Souls is also shared by all members, regardless of how they might feel about recent developments. It is a HOPE for the future of All Souls… one that parallels those statements of Bishop Budde and Jon Meacham quoted above… that we must hold fast to HOPE, and HOPE will help us to rise again.

Last Published: February 27, 2021 7:03 PM
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