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Archive for Church in the World

Skyline and Taking Action on Climate Change

While Laurie is at the Climate Leadership Conference hosted by Al Gore, I looked through our website for blog posts about Skyline’s action towards climate health.  Here are just a few excerpts, and they speak loudly for the environmental justice stand of Skyline. 

Also, check out Laurie’s Gofundme page for her travel expenses to the Leadership Conference.   Thanks!
Blessings,  Nancy Montier, Office Manager.

Posted July 5, 2017:  The United Church of Christ General Synod 2017 has just overwhelmingly approved the Climate Resolution calling on clergy and congregations across the denomination to take action to protect the environment, and churches are lining up to stand behind it publicly. 

Posted April 25, 2017:  Join the Skyline contingent going to the Oakland March under the People’s Climate March on Saturday, 4/29 (100 days into the Trump administration).  We will meet at Lincoln Square in front of the liquor store at 10:00 am and carpool

Posted June 30, 2016: From Laurie’s speech at the June 25 No Coal Rally:  “I feel so much hope today, here with you, and here representing the voices of so many Oakland faith communities, including the dozens that are part of CIPL & the Sierra Club, in saying no to coal in Oakland ….  Tonight, our City Council will vote a/ bringing coal into W. Oakland from Utah to export to Asia. I think if they asked us,  we’d tell them right away – NO! no more coal dust, no more asthma, no more cancer, no more climate change!”

Posted Feb 17, 2016:  Statement by Rev. Laurie Manning at the no-coal-in-Oakland press conference outside City Hall Tues, Feb 16, 2016:  “We’re all familiar with “the Golden Rule.” It’s a universal principal, an ethic of reciprocity that teaches: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It teaches us to care about our neighbors.  Who doesn’t care about the kid down the street, or down the hill breathing dirty air?”

Posted Sept 22, 2015:  This week, millions across our nation will witness the words and vision of a man [Pope Francis] who has revolutionized a church and reinvigorated a 2,000-year-old gospel…. What’s revolutionary about Pope Francis is how he lives out his Christian faith through selfless good deeds, prophetic words to world leaders, and compassionate pastoral care. …We invite you to join us in praying for a transformative week for the US,…particularly with respect to climate change. …Skyline’s Green team is partnering … to host two prayer vigils on Wed Sept 23rd, at 6:30 am and 6:30 pm here at Skyline. 

Posted Aug 31, 2015:  As Pope Francis prepares to speak to the US Congress …about climate change, interfaith vigils are being held across the country. Skyline United Church of Christ, joined by members of other East Bay congregations concerned about the climate crisis, will host two interfaith prayer services for the climate – one in the morning and one in the evening.  WHEN:   SUNRISE at 6:30 a.m. &  SUNSET at 6:30 p.m 

Posted April 29, 2015:  THE WISDOM TO SURVIVE (a film) accepts the consensus of scientists that climate change has already arrived, and asks, what is keeping us from action? The film explores how unlimited growth and greed are destroying the life support system of the planet, the social fabric of society, and the lives of billions of people.The film features thought leaders and activists in the realms of science, economics and spirituality discussing how we can evolve and take action in the face of climate disruption.

Skyline’s commitment to a green, healthy world for all is clear in our actions.  What’s next?

Gun Violence and Las Vegas Attack

I am deeply saddened to write to you in the wake of another major national tragedy: the mass shooting at a Las Vegas outdoor concert that has already claimed nearly sixty lives, with five hundred more people injured.  

Though we will not forget the lives at risk from ongoing flooding, infrastructure damage, and insufficient government assistance across the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas, our hearts are broken whenever any individual unleashes such terrible violence. And, “whenever” is far too frequent in our country. Painful as it is, we keep all the victims of this violence in our hearts and pray for solace for the Las Vegas community.

In response,  Skyline will host a vigil in remembrance of all those killed and injured in Las Vegas here in our sanctuary on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7pm. We will sing, pray, light candles, and walk the labyrinth.

We must take care of our emotional and spiritual health after a tragedy like this, but we cannot be complacent and believe we are powerless to end gun violence. United Church of Christ Andover-Newton graduate, Casey Guet, wrote this in righteous anger about our national ambivalence toward gun violence:

Why do guns grow from the ground, oh Lord?
Why did you make something, which kills so quickly?

Why do you allow these killing machines to be plucked
From our gardens?
And sold in our gun markets?

We will not take any responsibility. 
We never do.
In the beginning, God created the gun and the bullet.

There is nothing we can do, nothing to stop these tragedies.
Perhaps, if we created guns with our own hands,
Perhaps, if we could use our system of laws,

But there is nothing we can do.
The guns will keep cropping up.
The guns will keep growing.

I wonder, is there a way to destroy these flowers of death?
But cash crops are so hard to burn.

It’s true, “cash crops” like the gun industry are hard to burn — yet, we must not succumb to despair, we must keep trying. Here are a few resources:

As members of the UCC, we are committed to the ethical principles affirming that every person has inherent worth and dignity and that we must work together for a world community of peace, liberty, and justice for all. We will pray for all those impacted by gun violence, and we will work to be peacemakers locally and nationally.

 Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Offer Love’s Response to White Supremacy’s Hatred

I am sickened by the latest incidence of violence, this time  in Charlottesville, Virginia. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died on their way to help. I pray for the family of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed by a 20-year-old white supremacist, a terrorist whose name I will not speak, who turned his car into a weapon against non-violent protesters. Heather was killed, and 19 other people were struck down by malice, hatred and racism.

They were struck down by what has stricken our nation since its founding: the horrible lie that is white supremacy. This lie was formed in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who had a suspicion that the Africans who had been enslaved by the freedom-seeking colonists were inferior to their white owners. This horrible lie was fanned into pseudo-science about racial hierarchy. This lie spits in the face of the truth: there is only one race, and that race is called human.

We who know the truth must be set free from apathy and boldly challenge the falsehood of white supremacy every time and everywhere we see it. We who are people of faith must not pretend that what happened in Charlottesville was violence and hatred on “many sides.” We must say the truth out loud.

This is the truth: White supremacists organized themselves and descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a symbol of hatred and racism. They will keep organizing and use every tool in their power to make America racist, again and again.

And we who believe in freedom, we who believe in the power of revolutionary love must keep organizing as well, and use every tool in our power to fight this hatred, to renounce this bigotry, and to call our leaders into account. This is NOT the America for us. This rising ugly tide of white supremacy, if unchecked, will become a tsunami that will drown the liberties espoused by our constitution, and will end more and more innocent lives.

Hatred kills.

We must recognize that all of these movements (black lives matter, women’s march, immigration reform, LGBTQ Pride, affordable housing, education, and healthcare, prison reform, climate justice, etc) are all part of the human rights movement. We must join together to stand on the side of love. Here are some things we can all do now in response to white supremacy:

  1. Tweet the president or retweet a prayer that @POTUS joins us to name and fight #WhiteSupremacy and the #terrorism that accompanies it.
  2. Read “UCC Pastoral Letter condemns racist violence in Charlottesville, demands equality for all”
  3. Read these articles and learn more about what’s happening here in the Bay area, Aug 26-27 weekend:
    1. Message from Mayor of Berkeley – The Aug 27 Rally does not have a permit
    2. Nancy Pelosi asks if White House had a hand in approving the permit for Aug 26    
    3. Don’t give the haters any bragging rights 
  4. Sign this petition from Faith in Public Life that calls on the @POTUS to behave like a president. It calls “on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility.” And it asks “President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose.”
  5. Join us for an interfaith worship service on Sat Aug 26th, in which our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz, will be performing; stay tuned for more as plans unfold. 
  6. Join us for a conversation immediately following worship this Sunday about our own personal discernment in response. 

And never forget that when we take these actions, we are praying with our hands and our feet. We are mourning, and we are organizing against white supremacy with revolutionary love,  until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I leave you with the prophetic words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: 

Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that. 
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
A time to end the Silence. 

History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

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.