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Archive for Church in the World

Memorial Day, Equality, Love, and Non-violence

On this Memorial Day, as people of faith we come to mourn the ways in which all religions, including Christianity, have been “literalized”, nationalized, and taken out of context to justify wars, division, and violence in our words and actions throughout human history. May the still speaking God move us to liberate the timeless messages of love, peace and righteousness; and prevent us from being coopted by empires for military, political and economic interests.

May we remember the courage, love and power of Jesus who taught another way of achieving this birth of freedom: the ideal where all people are created equal. 

May we recognize our interdependence with everyone.

May we take courage challenging unjust laws, and exercising non violent civil disobedience in our words and actions.

May we remember the power of princes of peace like Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., to mobilize and inspire millions to change the world for the better through non violence. 

Join us this Sunday as we celebrate the feast of the ascension and Memorial Day. 

with love, Pastor Laurie 

Sanctuary Church Vote April 2

Subject:     Informational Resource to Prepare

Members to Vote on April 2, 2017

On the Resolution to Become a Sanctuary Church

Dear Friends,

Your Skyline UCC Council has resolved that on Sunday, April 2, 2017, immediately following our 10:00 service, we hold a special meeting to vote on the Resolution below:

Proposed Resolution

That the Skyline Community Church declare itself a Sanctuary Church committed to protecting, supporting and advocating for those being targeted by the current administration such as immigrants, refugees, Muslims, women, Black Lives Matter activists, Native Americans and the LGBTQ community.

As such, we share the goals of the current Sanctuary Movement:

  1. Make Visible the Invisible – giving a voice to those who have no voice – and revealing the unjust suffering of millions of families (bearing the image of God) at the hands of the immigration system.
  2. Inspire members of congregations to raise their voices to call for public policy to address the needs of these families.
  3. Heal the trauma experienced by families facing the wave of anti-­immigrant sentiment.  We will support and/or actively engage in one or more of the following activities:

Physical Sanctuary for someone facing Final Deportation:

  • Discern if your congregation would be willing to offer Sanctuary for a person facing final deportation orders in a humanitarian emergency. Most often, these are people who have been long term residents, already have children, family and community ties to the area and have exhausted all other legal options to remain with their family here in the United States.
  • By offering Sanctuary, your congregation is willing to offer physical sanctuary on religious property, as a way to protect them from the reach of ICE.  Your congregation would be supported by other congregations and community groups committing to be part of a local network of Sanctuary by assisting with hospitality, protection, and advocacy.

Accompaniment of Immigrant Families or Youth: 

Individuals and congregations can immediately help accompany immigrants in urgent situations and need of accompaniment.  This can include newly arrived migrant families, unaccompanied minors, people facing deportation crisis, those just released from detention centers.  Trained volunteers can help to provide courtroom accompaniment, access to services, and concrete and emotional support and/or transitional housing to help those in a period of crisis.

Advocacy:

  • Advocate at the Local, State and National level for policies which protect the due process of immigrants and promote their full dignity and integration into our local communities.
  • Advocating for policies which help to prevent mass deportation and fear by creating clear separation between ICE and local law enforcement and civic institutions, for example strong sanctuary city and county policies.
  • Engage in local public actions and activities to shift public discourse towards immigrants, Muslims, and refugees, and bring attention to our responsibility to address root causes.

Networks of Protection & Rapid Response

  • Join a Rapid Response Network to respond to ICE workplace raids, home raids or other enforcement activity.
  • Connect with targeted communities to help develop relationship and networks of protection.

Note:   It is not necessary to commit to or perform all of the four actions described above to fulfill the Sanctuary objectives.

In depth information has been identified by our Champions for Justice – Nancy Taylor and Mirtha Ninayahuar.   The links to this information are as follows:

This meeting is not intended to be “informational” and, therefore we are assuming that the congregation will have taken advantage of the various informational resources made available the two weeks preceding the meeting.  We will, of course, answer any lingering questions you might have.

We need to personally discern the admonition to act with compassion.

What does the Lord require of you?  But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to work humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8).

We prayerfully look forward to the April 2, 2017 Resolution Action Meeting.

David Byrens

Skyline UCC Moderator

Immigration, Health Care, and Born Again

One of my favorite quotes is from Alexis de Tocqueville,  America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.  I believe that we are called to make America great, by making America good, by imagining what it would be like to be born again, as the most vulnerable in this world and in this country.

In religious circles there’s an overused phrase called being “born again.”   I believe that it’s time to reclaim it. I believe it’s time to ask ourselves, what would it would be like if I were born in Syria, or born in Honduras, or born into poverty in this country? What would it be like to be living in this country, as a Muslim? As an undocumented person? As a transgendered person? As a poor child of color, who’s family cannot afford health insurance or must choose between housing and education and health insurance?  

Over 65 million people are living displaced on this planet we call home; men, women and children fleeing from war, persecution, and poverty. What if we were born into such unimaginable realities?

Here in this country, the world’s wealthiest nation, prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act 47 million people were uninsured. With ACA, 20 million additional people were covered. What if we could not afford health insurance because of the circumstances we were born into? 

I am grateful to our denomination for taking an early stand in joining the ecumenical movement to safeguard the lives of immigrants and refugees. I am certain in the weeks and months to come our denomination will take a stand for affordable healthcare as well. 

I am also grateful to the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro for declaring themselves sanctuary cities; and to this congregation for entering a time of discernment about our call to advocate for those most vulnerable.

Join us this Thursday, at 7 pm at the Justice and Witness meeting to learn more about where we are in the process with the sanctuary movement.

Finally, here are a few articles about the UCC’s efforts to safeguard immigrants and refugees. 

UCC Joins Ecumenical Effort to Safeguard Immigrants and Refugees

UCC Leaders Condemn Revised White House Travel Ban

Righteous Indignation to Resist Injustice

Among the most eloquent chroniclers of racial discord in the United States was James Baldwin. I was first introduced to his writings while attending seminary and studying with Professor James Cone.

Though Baldwin died in 1987 his observations from 50 yrs ago still ring powerfully, and depressingly, true as evidenced by the trailer to the new documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

 It is a timely memoir, meditation, and study  of the lives of three slain civil-rights leaders—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., based on the writings of James Baldwin.

 The documentary provides an exploration of many issues including race in America, what this country stands for, and the topic of righteous indignation to resist injustice and to bring forth greater equality.  

I’d like to share with you a preview of the film (follow the link and scroll down the page for the trailer). Be forewarned.. This piece includes quotes from James Baldwin in which he uses a racial slur.

“If any white man in the world says, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ (Patrick Henrys words) the entire white world applauds,” Baldwin tells talk show host Dick Cavett, in a scene from the documentary. “When a black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.”

The film has received rave reviews from the NY Times, A. O. Scott, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Join us this Sunday as we explore constructive uses of anger that have not only fueled liberation movements throughout time, but have also improved the quality of our most intimate relationships. 

Blessings, Pastor Laurie

Immigration: Who Is My Neighbor?

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord,
“My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

 In light of President Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries, we are once again confronted with the question: who is my neighbor?

Join us this Sunday as we explore the ethics and biblical teachings about sanctuary. Joining us to share his experiences with the sanctuary movement is Bob Lane. In addition to working with the justice task forces in his home church, the Mt. Diablo, UU Church, Bob is an active member of the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME).  FAME is a coalition of clergy, lay leaders and congregations that works in solidarity with marginalized groups toward the Beloved Community where all persons have their basic needs met, where every person’s worth is recognized and affirmed, and where the dignity of labor and of all those who perform it is honored.  FAME is currently a part of the New Sanctuary Movement providing accompaniment and protection for those targeted for displacement and dispossession.

This Sunday we will also be collecting donations, food & clothing for those most vulnerable here in Oakland, including undocumented families. (please read the announcement about “Souperbowl Sunday“) 

Also, speaking about sanctuary is our very own Mirtha Ninayahuar, who’s advocacy work over the past few years has been life-changing, not only for the families she has supported, but also for her.

According to a Jan 31st  New York Times article, the children around the world who most need emergency international assistance come mainly from the countries singled out in President Trump’s order barring entry to the US, according to a United Nations assessment. 

“This shows who the ban really impacts: the world’s most vulnerable, women and children who are fleeing terror,” said Jennifer Sime, a senior vice president at the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization focused on refugees. “America is turning away from its leadership role on refugee resettlement, and it is refugees who are paying the price.”

 Blessings and peace, Pastor Laurie

A Call for Sanctuary & Immigrant Justice – My Response and Invitation 

by Mirtha Ninayahuar

The news of unaccompanied minors fleeing their countries due to poverty, violence, and displacement from their land had saddened me but it wasn’t until Pastor Laurie showed me a brochure with a picture of a little boy caught by a Border Patrol Officer that I was moved to act. Pastor Laurie has been working with Reverend Deborah Lee, Director of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI) over the years on the sanctuary movement, and felt called to invite her to come and preach at Skyline, in light of the heartbreaking deportation experiences happening throughout this country and the call, as people of faith, to welcome the stranger, to love one another, to remember that we were once aliens in a foreign land. When Reverend Deborah Lee spoke at our church a few years ago, she inspired me to get involved with the Sanctuary Movement & Immigrant Justice. Included below is an IM4HI information page with links to sites explaining the Sanctuary Movement and what Sanctuary means today. The link to the short video is an excellent history of the movement. The link to the handout “Sanctuary Today” explains four ways Congregations are demonstrating their commitment to Sanctuary. There are also opportunities to volunteer, and national resources.  I hope this information will inspire you to heed the call for a commitment to Sanctuary & Immigrant Justice. I’m very grateful for Skyline Church ‘s support of the immigrants with ongoing food, clothing and toy donations. The following are some of my experiences with Sanctuary work. All the work is done with the support of many unnamed angelic souls.

Part of Sanctuary is the accompaniment of an immigrant family or youth. After receiving accompaniment training, I was paired with young Guatemalan mother and 6-year old daughter. We’ve been together for almost 2 years. Building a relationship of trust was very slow. After sharing some of the hardships in getting special dental care for her daughter, we became close. Our relationship has helped me in ways that are difficult to explain. I get a lump in my throat just trying to find the right words. To see their resilience, strength and hard work gives me strength. The child’s progress in school and upbeat attitude gives me so much joy. Our relationship has nourished me immensely.

Sometimes the accompaniment work seems to be divinely supported. For example, a few weeks ago friends of Skyline Church sent an email asking if anyone at our Church could use a free bed. I forwarded that email to three different contacts serving immigrants/refugees and surprisingly none of them responded. Last week the child’s school teacher asked me to assist in translating during a home visit. The mother and child had recently moved, they have had to move 4 times since we’ve met, and when I arrived for the visit with the teacher, I saw their room had no bed. Their blankets were spread out on the floor. That evening I found out that the bed from the Skyline friends was still available. I worried about the bed fitting in our car. It turned out only the headboard needed to be tied to our car’s roof rack and the mattress with all the rest fit inside the car. The donating family also included bed sheets. Johan and I easily picked up the bed and delivered it. Mom and daughter are very thankful. Everything fell into place so easily and timely. Now I feel the bed was meant for that mother and child all along. Thank you, God! 

Something similar happened a year ago when a call went out from the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant looking for youth beds. My neighborhood email group posted a free twin bed almost at the same time. My daughter and I were getting ready to walk to the address posted to look at the bed when she yelled out “Mom, look out the window, the bed is in the neighbor’s driveway!” That bed almost literally fell at our feet.

I also volunteer at Sunday preschool at the Guatemalan Church in the Fruitvale area.  The First Congregational Church of Berkeley established the preschool and we are always looking for volunteers. The Oakland Public Library has supported the preschool by donating books and allowing me to use their story time materials. These kids amaze me because they are learning English as a third language, Mam, a Mayan language being their first and Spanish their second. Here is more preschool information.

I attend East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition (EBIIC) meetings on the second Wednesdays of every month from 9:00 -10:30 at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley.  EBIIC is a group of faith leaders working for humane immigration reform. 

The EBIIC’s purpose is:

  • to seize the critical moment for national immigration reform
  • to raise the religious voice and deliver a message of specific values and issues 
  • to specifically engage in legislative action, accompaniment of persons facing deportation, education of congregations and community, and relationship building among agencies and churches in the East Bay. 

Advocacy work has lead me to engage in public actions such as vigils at West Contra Costa County Detention Center, San Francisco Immigration Building, Santa Rita Jail, San Francisco City Hall, and Alameda County Courthouse, with the purpose of showing support for the immigrants and refugees, as well as educating the public of the unjust policies  and root causes of people fleeing their countries.

Recently Nancy Taylor and I have joined a Network of Protection & Rapid Response now called Bay Resistance to respond to immigration workplace raids,  and any other mass action needed to support sectors targeted by the new administration.  

Please feel free to ask me about any of the above. Thank you for your support.

Souper Bowl Sunday

Sun, Feb 5, During Service

Along with a collection of financial donations, we are requesting donations of rice, beans and oil for the Central American immigrant families in Oakland with scant resources.  Please bring these on Sunday the 5th and Mirtha and team will see that they get delivered.

The collection of money will go to “FOG”, (Food of God for the People of God), a program of Alameda County Community Food Bank.  Skyline has a FOG team that prepares a meal and serves it to homeless people in Oakland the first Thursday of each month.

Contact Mirtha Langewis-Ninayahuar – 510-531-8212; office@skylineucc.org.

“Lord, Who Can Be Trusted with Power?”

Last Friday, inauguration day, was a long and painful day for many of us in the Bay area.

But then Saturday came, with the women’s marches happening on every continent on this planet; millions of women and men, of every race and religion, of every age from babies to women in their 90s, all over the globe marched, including an estimated 100,000 people right here in Oakland. An empowering movement is happening now that so many of us are drawn to, and it gives me hope.

Today’s gospel is a story for our times.  It’s the age old story of the ongoing grass roots movement of the people inspired by leaders who, throughout time, believed in the people and loved them, and had compassion and hope for them.  Leaders who also had the courage to challenge systems that did not value all of the people equally, so before long the masses of people began to follow them.  And they learned not only to follow, but also to lead.

I leave you with these words from Psalm 15 that remind us of the nature of true leadership:

 

Psalms 15      A Book of Psalms, translations by Stephen Mitchell)

Lord, who can be trusted with power,

and who may act in your place?

Those with a passion for justice,

who speak the truth from their hearts;

who have let go of selfish interests

and grown beyond their own lives;

who see the wretched as their family

and the poor as their flesh and blood.

They alone are impartial

and worthy of the people’s trust.

Their compassion lights up the whole earth,

and their kindness endures forever.

Blessings, pastor Laurie

Stop Shivering Sunday

On Sunday, January 29, bring your lightly used clothes (especially warm coats) to the church or to the office by Jan 27 to be donated to local agencies, (like East Bay Switchboard and also to support immigrant families) – contact Mirtha or Nancy Taylor: (510-531-8212) office@skylineucc.org.

“I Vote the Future”

 On the day of this historic election I would like to share with you a reflection from UCC minister, Maren Tirabassi:

dreamstime_xs_50612988

Photo credit: © Bridgephotography | Dreamstime.com 

I vote the future

I vote my grandchild’s education

and my grandchild’s grandchild’s earth.

I vote the future.

I vote my faith in the gifts

to this country

of a child who is today 

running from the wars of Syria,

eating frijoles con arroz in Guatemala.

I vote the future.

I vote for water protectors

in the cold winds of North Dakota,

and Racists Anonymous

meeting in a church basement

to take the first step 

in recovery of the heart.

I vote the future.

I vote the memory of the gifts

of veterans and poets,

of the framers of constitution

and the people who walk 

a long afternoon knocking

with a knob hanger in their hands

for even the slammed door.

I vote the future.

With my debate-tired ears

and my email petition red eyes

I choose one candidate and another,

a President of the United States,

a Sheriff and a City Clerk.

I say yes or no on a change

for my state or my town.

I buy a cookie 

at the election day bake sale.

It doesn’t look glamorous.

It doesn’t feel brave,

I don’t expect the news media

of all the world

to watch my small act of faith.

But, for the sake 

of my grandchild’s grandchild,

I vote the future.