Oakland church

Author Archive for Nancy Montier

Annual Blessing of the Animals – Virtual

Sunday, October 4, 3:00 PM PST  

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/716026467

Meeting ID: 716 026 467  or call: 510 421 2646 

On this day, Sunday Oct 4th,  we come together to acknowledge the sacred importance of all living creatures, honoring the wisdom of St Francis. 

Come and celebrate with us LIVE ON ZOOM, the animal companions in our lives with internationally renowned musician Ken Medema and Pastor Laurie Manning in a spirited, creative, joyous and spiritual ceremony.  

Especially now, as we are sheltering in place, this is a time to honor and give thanks for these beloved companions who are part of our families, that are a blessing to us all. This is an event for the entire family, so please bring not only your children, but also brother dog and sister cat, as well as your beloved gerbils, geckos, goats, hamsters, mice, rabbits, parrots, turtles, mini-horses, etc. All are welcome! 

Together we will:  

  • Honor the wisdom of St Francis, as well as indigenous traditions, Buddhism, and other faiths. 
  • Meet each other’s extended families!
  • Celebrate your pets -so bring them if you can on zoom, or bring your photos, and be ready to share your stories! 
  • Remember our beloved pets who have died, so bring your photos and your stories!
  • Sing and enjoy with Ken’s magical, gifted, improvisations!

Here’s an article by Oakland North from a few years ago when they covered our ceremony a few years ago:  “Dogs, mini-horses and a leopard gecko received blessings at Skyline Community Church [at the annual blessing ceremony], along with a cat, goat and photos of animals ‘with us in spirit.’ On a hot, summery afternoon, pastor Laurie Manning and church member Rhea Babbitt kneeled before some 40 furry, four-legged creatures and their owners, and blessed them. …Churches worldwide honor animals on the first Sunday of October, the feast day for the patron saint of animals St. Francis of Assisi….In the back were two mini-horses, their eyes like baseballs, their summer coats shedding. Some dogs sat on their owners’ laps while others lazed on the cool floor, perhaps tired from sniffing and circling other dogs before the service. One church member said he would have brought his cat, if not for his arm being in a sling, and his cat’s grumpiness that morning. Babbitt, who organized the ceremony, led the congregation in a reading. ‘On this day we come together to acknowledge,” they read aloud, “the sacred importance of all living creatures…. ‘”

And another article from even earlier!

Reverend Laurie Manning is available to bless your dog, cat, goat, parakeet, fish, horse or whatever your and your camera can bring to Zoom!  You can also bring photos of beloved pets who cannot handle a Zoom meeting (can you blame them?)  or have passed on to receive a blessing.

About Ken Medema – For four decades, Ken Medema has inspired people through storytelling and music. Though blind from birth, Ken sees and hears with heart and mind.  His ability to capture spirit in word and song is unparalleled. One of the most creative and authentic artists performing today, Ken custom designs every musical moment of his performance with brilliant improvisation that defies description. With an ever-growing circle of friends around the world, Ken’s vocal and piano artistry and imagination have reached audiences of 50 to 50,000 people in 49 United States and in more than 15 countries on four continents.

About Pastor Laurie – The Reverend Laurie J. Manning joined Skyline Church in 2006. She holds respective Master’s degrees from Union Theological Seminary (Columbia U), Harvard University, and the University of Michigan. Prior to becoming a minister Laurie worked in various management capacities for Hewlett Packard  and then as a consultant with high technology and medical clients. Laurie brings a solid understanding of the psychological and organizational complexities of living as a Christian in today’s pluralistic and scientific world.  She has a passion for the spiritual well-being of people, for social and environmental justice, and lives life with gusto!

Resources to Respond to the Divide & Reestablish a Shared Reality

Photo by Tim Gouw unsplash

Most of us, myself included, are experiencing anxiety as we reflect upon the upcoming election.  Now, even as we grieve the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is a fast-tracking of a new conservative justice. 

How did we become so divided?

How did our relationships become weaponized? 

How did we come to accept such lack of integrity in our leaders? 

How did we create worlds based on radically different sets of facts, and how do we reestablish a shared reality? 

Here are a few resources that I find helpful in answering these questions, and more importantly, in responding constructively. 

  1. Brian McLaren (yes, the same author of the Great Spiritual Migration that we are reading!)  provides a short video on Kitchen Table Logic, describing  the emergence of a new electorate that represents the deep disruption we see today. He notes, “You may think, as many people do, that there are only two kinds of voters in American politics, Republican and Democrat or Conservative and Liberal. You may even add a third category, Independents. Whatever your current understanding, I think you’ll benefit from this alternate way of seeing American politics in 2020: there have been four kinds of voters in recent elections, but now, a fifth voter element is emerging, and that changes everything.”

  2. Netflix movie called “The Social Dilemma.” It does a brilliant job of outlining the complex challenge we now face with social media companies selling you and me (their real products) to advertisers. Their business model generates more profit when we are angry, divided, and divisive. We spend more time on their platforms in that state and, often unknowingly, click on more ads.

  3. If you haven’t already seen the film, Suppress the Vote, you might appreciate this film from Netflix: “All In: the Fight for Democracy”  The film offers a  primer on the history of voter suppression in the United States. The film features Stacey Abrams in her failed bid for the Governor’s office in Georgia. It serves as a warning that what happened to her could be a sign of what is in store for our future.

My intent is not to make us more anxious. It is to make us less naïve, more aware of the sophisticated strategies at work, and to empower us with a consciously loving, powerful and faithful response. 

We are in this together, keep the faith!

with love, Pastor Laurie 

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Prayer for the week: 

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love…
May it be so through our lives, in honor of those who have come before and those who will follow after us.
Amen.

– adapted from the UCC Prayers for Justice and Peace

 

God’s Economy vs Caesar’s

UCC CBLF Team Zoom Meeting


Here’s the reflection that I shared with our national  UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF)  group this week for  this Just Peace Sunday

On February 18, 1965  at the University of Cambridge, in a debate (the motion of the debate was that the American dream was at the expense of black Americans) between William F. Buckley Jr. and the brilliant author, James Baldwin, Baldwin responded: 

“The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” picked the cotton, and I carried it to the market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing,” he said, his voice rising with the cadences of the pulpit. “For nothing.”

In his 2012 book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future,  by Nobel Prize economist  Joseph E. Stiglitz, he writes,

“There are two visions of America a half century from now. One is of a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots, a country in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools, and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education, and in effect rationed health care―they hope and pray they don’t get seriously sick. At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know. It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”

Stiglitz continues, saying,

The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs… clean air, water, healthcare, education..  The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security.”

He adds,

“The protesters have called into question whether there is a real democracy. Real democracy is more than the right to vote once every two or four years. The choices have to be meaningful. But increasingly, and especially in the US, it seems that the political system is more akin to “one dollar one vote” than to “one person one vote”. Rather than correcting the market failures, the political system was reinforcing them.”

And now, the apocalyptic times have come. The perfect storm of  Covid 19, 1619, and the terrifying fires and hurricanes, all of which are disproportionately killing the poorest people of color.

As Nelson Mandela once wrote,

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

This Sunday’s gospel from Matthew reveals the great tension between God’s economy and Ceaser’s.  Just before today’s story, the disciples ask, Who will be the greatest among us?  (Aren’t we supposed to be first?) In typical fashion, in answering a question,  Jesus told a parable, about a generous landowner who promises the first workers a fair days wage, and the others, who are unemployed,  who came later – even just an hour before the end of the day, “whatever is fair.” 

In the end, each laborer received a fair day’s wage. 

And those who were first in line, complained.

The need is urgent, the time is now, and the place is here to bring forth God’s generous economy. Here in the US, the world’s wealthiest nation, where the top 3 billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50%, while at the same time 48% of the US population lives at or below the poverty line; while 20% of children and 1 in 9 seniors are food insecure, and are disproportionately poor people of color.   

I am grateful to be part of the CB&LF, doing our part, to transform the economy of Caesar into God’s economy, to reach out and to welcome those most vulnerable, into God’s generous vision for all people.   May God inspire us to do so together.  

“Belong Circle” – Friday Film Night and Discussion

Friday Ministry Team Film Night and Discussion

Friday, September 18th, 7 pm  
Join us!  We’ll be viewing the final episode of #bringtheheat’s Belong Circle,  an excellent presentation, a faith-based look at “defund the police” and “abolition” presented by Revs. Ben and Michael McBride, each distinguished Oakland and Berkeley pastors in their own right, Black Lives Matter activists, and much more! 
Zoom link:  https://zoom.us/j/901784352
Meeting ID: 901 784 352 One tap mobile
Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128
Dial in by phone: 1-346-248-7799
Nancy Taylor, contact via office@skylineucc.org

Orange Sky in the Morning is a Call to Support the Green New Deal

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On Wednesday morning, here in the Bay Area, we awoke to the strangest shared experience.  Even our cats were wondering… what’s going on? Why is the sky as orange as a pumpkin? Why is it getting darker rather than lighter? Why can’t I smell smoke? Will it get worse?   When will the locusts come?   As Marvin Gaye once sung it, “What’s going on?”
 
By now, many of you have read about what’s going on.
 
What’s really going on? Human induced climate change. Let’s do what we can in this upcoming election to support the Green New Deal! Thank you to our denomination, the UCC for being the first Christian body to endorse the Green New Deal!  Thank you to Skyline Church for initiating the resolution at our 2019 NCNC Annual Meeting, as it made it’s way up to the National UCC body.
 
Here are excerpts from my presentation at last year’s NCNCUCC Annual Meeting. I’d be happy to share more from my presentation, or from my climate change talk at Annual meeting.
 
What is it:

The Green New Deal (GND) marks the 1st time that Congress has been presented with an opportunity  to act on climate change by taking a vote that recognizes the scope of the challenge , the urgency of the crisis,  the intersectionality of the numerous justice issues that are amplified by climate change; the opportunity to act on climate in a way that also addresses racial injustice, economic injustice,  and the need to create clean, healthful, and family supporting jobs that our planet needs; and the opportunity to deploy solutions that address all of these moral challenges.

Here’s why it’s important: 

1. The GND addresses the most important justice issues that the UCC has been committed to for decades. It demands that the federal govt. address injustice of climate change in a way that also tackles the systemic injustices that disproportionately affect vulnerable and front-line communities, including racial injustice, economic injustice and the need to create clean, healthful, and family supporting jobs that our planet needs. 

2. The GND acknowledges the necessity of assuming moral responsibility for intergenerational harm caused by the failure to act on climate change and the urgency of acting on a comprehensive scale to reduce the catastrophic future generations will inherit.

3. The GND offers tangible hope in the face of threats that are becoming more and more real – in the US & world-wide- or to put it another way it’s up to us to transform these threats into opportunities. To create fair paying secure jobs,  secure clean air and water, redress manifestations of environmental racism, and pursue a just transition to clean and renewable energy.  

Here’s what we can do locally: 
 
1. standup for science & continuing to learn from new science

2. discuss climate change more often – at church, home & in social encounters

3. tell others that we already have all the tech. we need to achieve the goals of the GND

4. incorporate into our worship  & community leadership an awareness of climate change, its conseq. esp. for vulnerable & front-line communities, & make the changes science says we must & technology says we can

5.  help our communities prepare for extreme weather events & to become a resource

6. lift up this reality of millions of people, regardless of their political affiliation or resolve to support the GND

7. engaging federal state & local agencies as advocates for policies & legislation that advance the goals of GND including its commitment to address systemic injustice, that disproportionately affects front-line invulnerable communities.

8.  advocate for a just transition for all those workers & communities most dependent on fossil fuel energy so that they also have opportunities for clean healthful &: family supporting jobs that heal our planet. 

And here’s a resource from UCC – 10 Ways to Mobilize.

Our Story: We Are in this Together

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay


Can you believe it? This weekend is Labor Day! Where has the summer gone? Where has 2020 gone? I imagine far fewer of us are “getting away” for Labor Day weekend, so perhaps you’ll have time to remember the unique origins of how and why the US decided to change Labor day from May 1st, ’International Worker Day, from the rest of the world, to a sleepy weekend at the end of the summer. 
 
As is so often with history, there is a political battle for who gets to tell the story. In fact, it often is HIS story (a white wealthy, male landowner) telling the story.  Far too often, history is  told by the winners, while the voices of the marginalized and the oppressed are hidden. We are wise to learn from these hidden histories, so as not to repeat it. 
 
Related to our stories, and the importance of hearing everyone’s perspectives about OUR stories, I want to share with you a beautiful quote that Nancy Taylor lifted up  in our bible study today. The context was that we were lamenting about how hard it is to connect with people, including beloved friends and family members, because we are so far apart on issues, (especially when our stories and the media perpetuate the belief that we are separate).  We were discussing what is at stake when we fail to remember that we are all in this together.  The quote is by Michael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology (follow the link or see text below). 
 
Last week in our McLaren discussion I challenged each one of us, as hard as it might be,  to seek to connect with someone with whom we are are far apart on issues, and seek to empathically connect with them. I look forward to our continued conversation about this!
 
May we be moved to go out to the margins and the edges of life, and in doing so, find each other. 
 
with love, Pastor Laurie 

“There’s an old Irish myth about how when the center falls apart, when there is no big unifying story that can be told in public so that everyone remembers, yes, we all are in this together, when that happens, when the center cannot hold, the old story says then it’s time for each person to go to the margins and the edges of life. Because the center when it’s missing does not completely disappear. Rather, the elements of the center are then found at the margins and edges of life. And so it becomes a time for each person to go to the edge that attracts them and at the same time causes them to be fearful.

And the old story says that if each person goes in the direction that is both attractive and fearful to them, they will find that at the edge of their life a thread, and if each person would then pick up that thread and begin to pull it back towards the center, then the unifying center can be remade from the weaving together of many individual threads of life. In the greater myth that serves life, not death, no one has to be heroic and do it all or claim that they are the only one who can do it. Each person is just responsible to find their thread and find a way to weave it back into life. And the key to this narrative of the great way is that no one can be excluded for any reason, not because of their age, or their origin, or their race, or their economic disposition. Because each person has a life thread that has vitality and meaning and creativity in it.

And the point isn’t to indulge in some kind of magical thinking that would say that no one is going to die on this troubled path that we all share at this point. And certainly, the point cannot be that we’re all going to go back to life and business as usual. The understanding of the bigger myth right now is the world as we knew it is already gone. The point now is to be inhabiting a bigger, unifying living myth in which the words that we are all in this together have genuine, heartfelt meaning. We are in a time of radical change throughout the world, where life and death are struggling on a daily basis. And that requires each of us to change and come out of the crisis as greater souls not smaller people.”

– Michael Meade

 
 

Plant of the Month at Skyline – August

Buckeye butterfly

Checkerspot butterfly

Red monkeyflower

Orange monkeyflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticky Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus, formerly Mimulus aurantiacus)

This perennial shrub, the monkeyflower, is a mainstay native of the East Bay Hills , with it’s orange trumpet-shaped flowers and sticky, aromatic, bright green leaves; growing on dry rocky slopes or in shady areas. Look closely to see the “monkey face” of the flower, and touch the leaves to feel the stickiness.  Medicinal, drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, it provides food for hummingbirds, bees, and for larval  buckeye and checkerspot butterflies.  At Skyline Church, we have orange and red- flowered Monkeyflowers in the Labyrinth, at the head of the Redwood trail, and near the Gazebo.

The Miwok people (Marin and Contra Costa counties) used the plant to treat minor ailments such as sores, burns, diarrhea, and eye irritation. They used the colorful flowers for decorative purposes. 

In the Name of Love, It’s Time to Change the Story

I recently posted this on my Facebook page:  In a sense, this is a “burning bush” moment for us, as a country, especially here in California. Can we see the signs? Do we have the patience and faith to embrace it, understand it, and be inspired to come together to liberate all people, all life, and our very planet from this captivity? Your thoughts?

The responses ranged from “climate hoax” to NY times articles explaining the causes, and critiques of NY Times articles, to the importance of prayers, to the need to do so much more than pray.  WE are living in a country with radically different visions for our country and our world.

So it is in within our political parties. the Democratic and Republican National Conventions offer us radically different visions for these “United” States, and the world.

Today, our unity is fractured. Our shared story as a country is breaking down. It needs to break down. For too long our story has excluded the voices of minority voices, interests and values, it is crumbling from a lack of integrity. The Story that is emerging around the world requires us to include those we have ignored in the past, on the democratic left and the republican right. We are being called out for our bias and hoarding of power. It’s scary for the privileged and vital for those without.

Author and futurist, David Korten, writes in his book, Change the Story, Change the Future:   “Choice-making beings of many possibilities, we humans live by shared cultural stories. They are the lens through which we view reality. They shape what we most value as a society and the institutions by which we structure power.

When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong.

We are in terminal crisis because we have our defining story badly wrong. Seduced by a fabricated Sacred Money and Markets story, we live in indentured service to money-seeking corporate robots and relate to Earth as if it was a dead rock for sale.

Communications technologies now give us the capacity as a species to choose our common story with conscious intention. This is a moment of unprecedented opportunity to create a future consistent with our true nature and possibility as living beings born of a Living Earth, born of a Living Universe”

Change the story, change the future”

Here are a book review and David Korten’s website on the book.

Yesterday Jacob Blake, an unarmed African American man, was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin in front of his three children. He is now paralyzed from the waist down.  We add his name to a long list of black women and men shot by police that should not exist.

The prophets of old and the prophets of this day shout God’s timeless message: In the name of Love, it’s time to change the story.

Abolition and Liberation – Connections Between the Prison Industrial Complex and Freeing Palestine

On Thursday August 28, 10-11:30am Pacific time, The Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity is co-hosting an international discussion of the connections between Black Lives Matter calls for abolishing the prison industrial complex, and Palestinian calls for tearing down all apartheid walls and freeing Palestine. 
 
Our speakers bring years of on-the-ground experience and strategic thinking to the conversation.
  • Angela Davis is an international activist and scholar, whose legacy dates back to the 1960s. Her 2003 book Are Prisons Obsolete?  laid the strategic groundwork for the current abolition movement.
  • Jamal Juma’, a leading grassroots organizer since Palestine’s First Intifada in 1987, and currently the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots :Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign” and “Stop the Wall”.
  • Kristian Davis Bailey, a co-founder of “Black for Palestine” and a co-author of the 2015 Black Solidarity with Palestine Statement signed by more than 1,000 Black activists. Kristian currently works at Palestine Legal and is a member of “LeftRoots”. 
There has never been a more critical time for this thought-provoking and inspiring conversation. Please join us as we sharpen our understanding of these critical issues and build our capacity for effective resistance!
 

If There Was Ever a Time to Conspire Together in Love, it is NOW

Lighting, Fires, blackouts, a heat wave, a pandemic, economic recession, and the poorest people of color are suffering.

We are living in apocalyptic times . Early Sunday morning, lightning bolts lit up the Bay area sky.  Within days, fast moving fires ignited across Northern California. We wake up each day: check the news, check our cell phones for area alerts about everything from air quality, PG&E rolling blackout alerts, & Covid updates, and then reach out to our loved ones, as the raging fires double in size. We wonder, what’s ahead this fall?

All this in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession that has resulted in 170,000 deaths in the US, unemployment rate at 10% and another enormous transfer of wealth to billionaires.

I am worried about us, especially those most vulnerable. Where is our hope? Could it be in the very midst of this apocalypse? The word itself, Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις, apokálypsis) is a Greek word meaning “revelation“, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”.

In fact, we are in the midst of apocalypse. It is a time of great unveiling, things not previously known are being revealed, if we have the eyes to not only see it, to hear it, to be transformed by it, and to take action, together,  to participate in our collective salvation. Who will save us? If there were ever a time for a great spiritual migration, it is NOW. If there was ever a time to participate, to conspire together, in love, it is NOW.

Who would have ever imagined that the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, born right here in Oakland during the civil rights movement, would give her acceptance speech as the first woman of color on a major party ticket?  She urged us to perceive the times and to take collective action together for justice for all people. Former President Barack Obama issued a grim warning about the durability of American democracy, and our role in participating in democracy as informed, engaged, voters.

A short time remains before the US elections on November 3.  While churches can take no partisan stands, we can pray and work for a just common life as a natural extension of our faith.

Resources to assist with this are available at Our Faith Our Votehttps://www.ucc.org/ourfaithourvote)

 Thank you my friends, for our leadership and migration together. 

                                         Love, Pastor Laurie

This Sunday:  

I am so pleased to have as our guest preacher this Sunday, our very own Teresa Jenkins!.

After the service, we continue on our journey, continuing our book discussion of Brian McLaren’s the Great Spiritual Migration, facilitated by Tom Manley! (please review the article below for details)