Original LGBT Pride Flag on display at the Queer California exhibit. Photo by David G
by David G.
August 10th was my five-year anniversary of attending Skyline Community Church. What drew me to Skyline were the words “open and affirming congregation”, something I didn’t understand coming from a fundamentalist denomination.
I quickly learned what it meant.
From the moment I stepped up to the door, I was welcomed and accepted for who I was. People didn’t flinch when I told them my name. No one sneered at my suit and tie. I was treated with love and respect. I felt like I mattered.
This acceptance was reinforced with the announcement that Skyline was participating in Oakland Pride and having a Pride Service. Really, I thought. This church celebrates Pride? This would never happen at my old church!
Well, every year since then I’ve celebrated with Skyline. I’ve marched (and danced) in the Oakland Pride Parade wearing massive rainbow wings. Spoken about my experiences at Pride services. Risen at first light on Easter to sing the Sunrise Service with the Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus.
And last weekend, I attended a field trip organized by Nancy Taylor. A small group of us met at the Oakland Museum to see the Queer California exhibit, as a way to become more educated about LGBT history and the LGBT experience.
This, folks, is what acceptance is all about. When some places and people are downright unfriendly or mean, I know I have a community that is safe and understanding. This means so much to me.
On Sept. 8th, a small group from Skyline will be marching in Oakland Pride and handing out rainbow bracelets as an outreach, sharing the gift of acceptance and love that drew me in. You’re invited to join us!
Last Sunday morning (Aug 4, 2019) we awoke to the horrible news of yet another mass shooting. Our faith calls us to condemn the hateful climate that’s surfaced in our country. In the days between July 28 and August 4, 2019, thirty-two people were killed, and sixty people were wounded by gunfire from semi-automatic, assault style rifles in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. In 2019 there have been 255 mass shootings, resulting in 273 deaths in the United States of America.*
In response to this evil, statements of denunciation have been issued, assurances of concern have been delivered, prayers for grief and petitions for comfort have been offered and policy suggestions have been made. Still, the killings continue. Still, families are ripped apart. Still, communities are torn asunder. Still, prayers of grief are offered. Still, petitions for comfort are lifted. Still, hateful rhetoric flows from the seats of power. Still, powerful guns and the bullets that they fire are readily available for purchase.
We once again raise our voices in outrage and lament. We are outraged by the notion that nothing can be done. We are outraged by the hateful language directed toward immigrants, people of color and adherents of religions not our own. We are broken by the loss of the life. We grieve with those who grieve. The river of tears that flows touches at the deepest of levels.
Yet, we are hopeful. We are hopeful that in the name of faith, hope and justice people will come together. We are hopeful that words of hate will be rejected and refuted. We are hopeful that legislation intended to reduce the gun violence will be enacted. Specifically, we urge the United States Senate to immediately join the House of Representatives in passing the 2019 Background Check Act and the President to reenact the 1994 assault weapons ban that will remove military style, high capacity semi-automatic weapons from civilian use.
We stand ready to work for all who work for the common good. May our faith help us build the Beloved Community.
Please join me in signing these petitions, and join us this Sunday in worship, as we pray for strength and courage, and we respond with conscious action to transform the weapons of war, into instruments of peace.
Blessings, Pastor Laurie
*According to Gun Violence Archive as reported by the Huffpost, Aug. 5, 2019. (The GVA defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the shooter. This puts 2019 on pace to be the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one mass shooting a day. (CBS News, Aug. 5)
The Democratic majority in the House has sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell TWO gun reform bills to close loopholes and establish universal background checks. But McConnell has refused a vote on either.
Each year over 30,000 Americans are killed by guns. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
More U.S. citizens have died in the last 50 years by guns in our homes, streets and schools than have died in the history of all U.S. wars. (Congressional Research Service and CDC/National Center for Health Statistics)
Firearms are the second leading cause of death (after motor vehicle accidents) for young people age 19 and under in the U.S. (CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control)
8 American children and teens age 19 and under are killed by guns every day. (CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control)
A child/teen is killed or injured by a gun every 30 minutes (Children’s Defense Fund)
Newtown Happens Every Week in America. More children die every 3 days in America by a gun than died in the December 14, 2012 Newtown massacre. (Children’s Defense Fund)
Nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
More guns = more suicides. People in states with many guns have elevated rates of suicide, particularly firearm suicide. (Harvard School of Public Health Study)
For each time a gun in the home was used for a protective shooting, there were:
4 unintentional shootings
7 criminal assaults or homicides
11 suicides (Journal of Trauma, 1998)
60% of those who own a gun give personal safety/protection as top reason for ownership. (2013 Gallup Poll)
Gun violence costs the U.S. $229 billion annually. (Mother Jones and Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation)
There are more than 300 million guns in civilian hands in the United States today. (Congressional Research Service)
On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90% of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”
This week, we remember the events of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the decades since, the world has lived with the threat of nuclear annihilation and many have worked and struggled for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Join us as we pray to walk and live in the path of peace and justice.
I leave you with this prayer. Blessings, Pastor Laurie
O God, like a father who teaches his child to walk,
like a mother who feeds and heals her children,
You desire to nourish all people and rescue them from injustice.
You call us into this work of justice-making and care.
Yet we follow other paths; we make choices that lead to violence and destruction
There is only one thing wrong with the traditional definition of prayer: it misrepresents God. “Prayer,” the old teaching said, was “the raising of our hearts and minds to God.” As if God were some regal, distant judge outside ourselves. But science – with its new perception that matter and spirit are of a piece, sometimes particles, sometimes energy – suggests that God is not on a cloud somewhere, imperious and suspecting. God is the very Energy that animates us. God is not a white heterosexual male who lives in the US. God is the Spirit that leads us and drives us on. God is the voice within us calling us to Life. God is the Reality trying to come to fullness within us, both individually and together. It is to that cosmic God, that personal inner, enkindling God, that we pray.
Join us this Sunday, as we explore prayer, contemplation, and meditation together, and have a conversation after worship about it.
Summer time…. a time outside of time, a time for resting in nature, reveling in the unique beauty of this place we call home, renewing our souls, and remembering Who’s we are.
Did you notice the full moon grow ever brighter? Did you watch the fog move slowly under the Golden Gate bridge and over the Peninsula ridge, and move across the Bay? Did you see how the violet poppies open in the morning and close at dusk?
In the quiet beauty of such noticing, I give thanks to the small still voice within each one of us, “that makes us lie down in green pastures, that leads us besides the pools of still water, and restores our souls”.
My epiphany came in the form of large, iridescent glossy black birds, ravens to be precise.
Over a year ago, a pair of ravens started visiting our back deck to snatch tidbits of food left for the jays. I called them Tristan and Isolde. I watched them, fascinated by their behavior. If one came, it waited for the other to arrive before eating. They spoke to each other in their corvid dialect and it wasn’t hard to see they were having a conversation as a couple. They seemed to cherish each other deeply.
Now most of you know we’ve had a tough time with my spouse’s cancer. Sometimes between all the medical visits, chemotherapy appointments, challenges and stresses the little things – like cherishing each other – get lost.
One afternoon I was helping my spouse get washed up, chatting with him, when I looked out the window. Tristan and Isolde sat on the branches of the redwood tree, snuggled close, chortling and whispering strange vocalization as they carefully preened each other. And it hit me: I could learn a lot about marital bliss from these birds.
I made a conscious effort to hug my spouse, to be kind and patient, to care for him like the birds did for each other. It has helped me to understand that in these days, every moment together is golden. Cherish those you love. Tell them you love them.
This past week Tristan and Isolde surprised us: they guided two fully-fledged raven chicks to our deck to visit. A family to cherish… and we have a whole new set of examples to follow.
The fourth in this series of Alternatives to Calling the Police workshops will offer a basic introduction to and overview of the core concepts of “transformative justice”. It will be a space for participants to learn about transformative justice and how to begin thinking about community-based responses to violence. We will also cover the concept of “pods” from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC). This will be an educational event with a Q&A.
We ask for a donation of any amount to support the continued work of the Alternatives to Policing Coalition. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
This is a two-year project (2019-2020), more than a year in the making, is being co-sponsored by Skyline UCC with other groups.
Some things to know about this project: WHAT IT IS NOT:
Participation in this project does NOT constitute a commitment to not call the police.
WHAT IT IS:
A realization/acceptance that when black lives are involved, calling the police can be fatal.
An exploration of alternatives that can be more effective than the police, such as groups that are trained in non-violent communications, de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention (in areas such as mental health, drug & alcohol abuse), self defense, conflict resolution, medical training, community disaster preparedness, etc.
Internal work on the effects of White Supremacy on police violence, examining safety & security, interracial dynamics in the community, what internal fears make people rely on the police? (Each community would tailor content of inner work to its own needs.)
Ways to get to know our neighbors and to help us to know and trust each other via material resources, availability for prayer and conversation, etc.
In Summary: this is an invitation to participate in a program that can build toward the creation of a true Beloved Community that chooses to not collude with empire (in this case, the “prison-industrial complex”) in the name of safety, and that is willing to take the risk(s) necessary to explore an alternative first-responder network that provides interventions, when necessary, for the safety of all individuals and groups that are participating. This is also a next step in examining our own internal mechanisms of White Supremacy/racism/white fragility. ALL are invited to join in this opportunity for growth, and in this righteous (and scary!) adventure. Contact Nancy Taylor via the office (510-531-8212 email@example.com)
From The Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring, pastor at Eden UCC: We have a new asylum seeker in our midst. Her name is Rihana. She is a friend of the family we are supporting at Eden UCC in Hayward.
Rihana is a 21 year old transgender woman who is a native of Chinandega, Nicaragua. She came to the US on April 11, 2019 seeking asylum after having been the victim of a hate crime in her home country. Rihana was beaten by five men, her throat was slit with a broken bottle, and she was left for dead in a rural area. She was taken to a regional hospital where she remained in a coma for two days, and continued to be treated for another 7 days. (She has letters from a clinical psychologist and photos taken at a hospital in Nicaragua documenting her trauma.) After she recovered enough from her injuries to travel, Rihana made her way to the US. She crossed the borderinto Arizona and was taken into custody by ICE on April 11, 2019. She appeared in immigration court in detention. The judge ruled that she has “a credible fear” and granted her humanitarian parole provided that she pay a $10,000 bond. We will seek legal aid to transfer her immigration case to the SF court. We were able to negotiate the bail down to $1500 and find a church in NYC (Park Avenue Christian Church) that would put up the bond money. Rihana was released 12 hours later at the PHX bus station, where two advocates who are friends of a friend of mine (a pastor who is also an asylee) picked her up, took her to an emergency shelter, and cared for her since early last Tuesday morning. A member of my church donated money to cover air fare for Rihanna. She is flying to Oakland tonight.
Collaborators: Pastor Arlene Nehring & Stephanie Spencer, and Pastor Marvin Lance Wiser & Yuliana Wiser Leon (EUCC, Hayward), Pastor Rhina Ramos (Ministerio Latinx, Oakland), Pastors Eric Sherlock and Todd Adkins-Whitley (Danville Congregational Church UCC), and Pastor Laura Rose (First Congregational Church Alameda.)
Institutional Partners: Eden United Church of Christ, Hayward, Danville Congregational Church UCC, and First Congregational UCC Alameda.
Hospitable housing in the Bay Area, i.e., use of a guest room with kitchen and bathroom privileges, or a room in a guest house. The host(s) need not be fluent Spanish speakers, but they do need to be LGBT friendly folks.
Cash and/or in-kind help with food, clothing, telephone, transportation
Coaching to acquire healthcare benefits and services (Eden Church can provide coaching for new volunteers as needed)
Legal aid (Pastor Rhina, Pastor Marvin, and Pastor Arlene have begun a search for legal representation). If pro bono counsel can be found, funds will be needed to cover various application fees.
Court accompaniment (Eden Church will take the lead, but we need bodies to pack the court when she is required to appear.)
Cultural navigation support (We can train trainers.)
Immigration ministry is intense. None of us can do this alone. I recommend reflecting on what we CAN do, rather than what we can NOT do—always mindful that through God all things are possible.
Please let me know if you would like to discuss this invitation.
I hope that you are doing well, what a time to be alive, and advocating for the rights of undocumented people! As you are well aware, the ongoing plight of immigrants at the border, especially children is heartbreaking and sickening, and is growing worse. Then there’s also the upcoming ICE raids planned in a few weeks. We want to do something, and wanting to pool together ideas, resources, and responses. You’ve probably seen this: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/24/opinion/border-kids-immigration-help.html
What’s the Center for Human Integrity’s response, and how can we be of support, locally?
Here is our eblast where we are trying to direct people to act. It would be good for congregations to get together – hold an event – to discuss and learn more, watch a film. What is happening is not new, but is being exploited to an all new level. Good for people to think about what they can do longterm – like support housing needs, creatively in the parking lot or congregations, or congregation members homes.
Also Donations are needed locally- as we are constantly getting requests for new arrivals – and have our emergency housing fund. Once they are able to move out of the terrible camps at the border. They are coming to cities like ours across the country with little or no help and infrastructure.
We are all concerned about the deplorable detention of children, and the President’s threat of immigration raids. Once again, he has created a hostage crisis. Now threatening to resume immigration raids in two weeks unless Congress approves a spending bill of $4.5 billion that would worsen the crisis he has created. The harm is felt across our communities, so we invite you to breathe and remember the power and strength we’ve been building in the local community. This violence is not isolated only to immigrants, but it is also practiced on other communities by recent policies: Muslims, Jews, Women of Color, Transgendered folks, Indigenous, African American, and more.
We invite you to join us in acts that lift up our faith values:
We must practice collective responsibility by addressing the root causes of social problems.
We are interconnected and accountable for one another.
CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS
Congress is in the midst of negotiating the two versions of the spending bill. It is critical that you contact your U.S. Congressperson’s office immediately. Click here to find your congress representative.
They need to hear your faith values that upholds the sanctity of all!
No more funding for ICE, detention, and enforcement.
Divest from all programs that criminalize and incarcerate immigrants.
Release all those detained to their families and communities.
Invest in alternatives that focus on integration of immigrants.
End contracts with private corporations.
JOIN UPCOMING EVENTS at IM4H
In addition to participating in local actions to express outrage and concern; we invite you to join us over the next few weeks to strengthen your faith, deepen our connection to each other, and mend the past, in order to transform our future!
August 10th, 7pm, Faith Reflection on Reparations: Led by Kehilla Community Synagogue, Chochmat HaLev, and IM4HI. More details to come.
TURNING OUR ANGER AND FEAR INTO ACTION
With the announcement last week, that several major U.S. cities would be terrorized by the cruel machine known as ICE, our family was once again forced to imagine what it would be like if we were separated and what our plan of action would be if this actually happened. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE
For resources about detention and deportation please click here
In just a few weeks, our sanctuary will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony which happened on July 14th, 1969. Happy ground breaking anniversary, Skyline sanctuary! What a vision!
But the vision and the movement began much earlier, as the young families living in the Oakland hills searched for a more progressive, non-doctrinal faith community. Founding Pastor, William McCormack, held worship services at Skyline High School while his wife played the portable organ. Friends invited friends to come and experience this new happening. Skyline’s first annual meeting took place Jan 4th, 1964, at the high school, and 300 members were enrolled at that time. It sounds like a story of Pentecost to me!
We are part of the UCC’s amazing legacy, the first national denomination to ordain an African American, a woman, an openly gay man, and now the first national denomination to support the Green New Deal. Skyline has an amazing legacy as well. We are a progressive, spiritual, open and affirming, green, sanctuary congregation. Ours is a vision and a voice, that is vitally needed in these challenging times.
Here we are, 50 years later, living in a very different time. The Spirit is calling us to lift up our hearts , open our eyes, and respond to the new vision that God is calling us to in this time and place.
Join us this Sunday for a wonderful worship service, including a baptism, to be followed by our annual meeting. Child care and lunch are provided. We encourage you to log on to the website to review the budget and our slate of officers, prior to the meeting.
You and I are called to be light. Jesus said so! As Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:14-16: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel basket do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous God in heaven.
At Skyline, we’re committed to nurturing the spiritual development of children and youth by equipping them with the tools they need to discover faith-filled answers… for themselves.
God has no hands but your hands, no feet but your feet, no face but your face. Join us in cultivating a more just and compassionate world, working together to understand and meet the real needs of our local community (Food Bank) and beyond (Sierra Leone School).
At Skyline, we’re committed to nurturing the spiritual development of children and youth by equipping them with the tools they need to discover faith-filled answers… for themselves.
We recognize the fragility of the earth and our own capacity to do harm. It is urgent that, as earth’s stewards, we make a commitment to our children and future generations to minimize our impact on the earth. We are working locally and globally in these efforts.