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Guns, Action, Vigil

Last Sunday while we were in worship, another horrible and senseless mass shooting was happening.  

It angers me that people are feeling vulnerable and scared about coming to their sacred space, their spiritual oasis, their refuge from the world.

It angers me that preschool parents worry about the safety of their children, because of our maniacal gun culture.

It angers me that so little has changed since the Las Vegas massacre, and since the Newtown massacre almost five years ago. 

The reason that we have such high rates of gun violence and so many mass shootings in this country is simple. We have too many guns. Please read this informative article from the NY Times

As Christians we are called to pray after the tragic shooting in Texas, but our prayers should also be accompanied by deep introspection about whether and how we are complicit in the evils we deplore.

In a statement, Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group representing more than 70 Episcopal bishops, stated,  

In the wake of the heartbreaking shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we find ourselves both calling people to prayer, and wishing that the word did not come so readily to the lips of elected leaders who are quick to speak, but take no action on behalf of public safety,” the bishops said. “Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them. In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episode of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

“One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.”

In response,  Skyline will host an Interfaith Vigil  in remembrance of all those killed and injured in all of the mass shootings in this country on the 5th anniversary since the Newtown,  Connecticut shootings.  It is on Saturday, Dec 9th at 4 pm. We will sing, pray, light candles, and walk the labyrinth, aligned with UCC’s national vigil.  It is an official ICAN (Interfaith Council of Alameda County) event. 

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. Therefore, in addition, we offer these resources and invite you to join us in advocating for sensible gun reform:

Stop Handgun Violence

the Brady Campaign

the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,

the film, Making a Killing

UCC on Gun Violence

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.

Coming Out Sunday

This Sunday, Oct 15, we celebrate “Coming Out Day”, which is really an invitation to all of us to let our own uniquely brilliant light shine.  And, in doing so, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Please join us this Sunday as guest preacher, Nichola Torbett, shares her reflections on this theme. I will be away on the east coast visiting family, and then attending the Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership conference. I am with you in Spirit!

     With love, Pastor Laurie

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

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 

To Oakland Fire Responders – Thank You

Yesterday the rising temperatures and the Santa Ana winds ignited a grass fire in the Oakland Hills, just below Campus Drive. Here we are, a church and a preschool with 34 children, perched on the crest of Skyline ridge, adjacent to EBRP.  Yet at first we were unaware because the winds and the smoke were blowing west, in the opposite direction from us.
 
However, we were protected because the firefighters, police officers, and park services were on their mission. Within minutes I received a text message from my friend Janet, a Park ranger, and I notified our preschool director, church members, friends and homeowners associations. They, in turn, spread the word and shared the live update links. 
 
Just as quickly as the wildfire spread, so too, did the alerts to the wider community; not only through twitter feeds from Oakland fire and police, but through citizens like you and me, through Nextdoor postings, text messages, and tweets.  Warnings spread almost as quickly as the fire!
 
Thank you firefighters, police, and park services, for keeping us safe.
 
Thank you concerned citizens, for spreading the word.
 
Thank you technology, for serving the greater good.
 
Thank you, our common humanity, reminding us of how interconnected we are.

Peace, Pastor Laurie

Advocate for Our Planet Home

© AFPPhotography | Dreamstime ID 98954561

I’ve returned from sharing precious time together with my family on the east coast where I grew up.  I’m grateful for the cooler weather out here, especially after the record setting temperatures last weekend!

Many of us have been stunned by the unprecedented climate events these past few weeks, with global heat records being surpassed, and hurricanes like Harvey and Irma becoming ever more devastating. Many of us are wondering how can we support the disaster relief efforts and how can we prevent such events from occurring in the future?
 
Here’s a word from the UCC and a way to donate to disaster relief in Houston, in response to Hurricane Harvey.
 
Charity Navigator  provides guidance to ensure that your donations maximize your contributions to relief efforts for Harvey and Irma victims.  

In the long term, we need to embrace God’s calling to us to love and to protect this precious planet, not only for ourselves but for future generations and for those most vulnerable. We must continue to embrace the science that points to the underlying influences of human induced climate change and continue to advocate for our planet. In an effort to do both, and as our NCNCUCC Climate Justice Rep, I have applied for and have received a scholarship to attend Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Conference in October. I look forward to sharing this learning with you, as partners in this ministry.
   
Peace in these times and prayers for all who need help and safety,

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

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events

Starting Sun, Jan 15 through Jan 21

The Justice and Witness Team and Pastor Laurie invite you to attend these and other events to be announced later in honor of MLK and Black History Month.  Please contact Nancy Taylor: (510-530-0814) ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com to RSVP or find out more.

 
Sun, January 15 – Annual MLK Jr. Day Church Service:  readers theater, great music; upcoming inauguration.

We will honor the memory of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., his sense of God’s calling in his life, and the larger civil rights movement to which he gave his life.  We will also take seriously our call to participate in the civil rights movement of our times for greater economic justice, particularly within our country.  Together, one day, we shall overcome!

Please bring with you friends who would be drawn to this celebration.  Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss ways that you’d like to take part at revlauriemanning@aol.com.

Sun, January 15 – 7pm – IN THE NAME OF LOVE: 15TH Annual Musical Tribute honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Marvin Gaye, What’s Going on?”  Oakland Scottish Rite Center.  Let Nancy know if you’d like to go.  http://www.livingjazz.org/mlk-about for tickets.

Sunday, January 15th from 3:00 – 6:30 pm  Swing Yo Thing Pho Martin Luther King!
2501 Harrison Street, First Congregational Church of Oakland
$15 Admission
Join Us!
3:00 – 4:00 East Coast Swing Dance Lesson
4:00 – 6:30 Lavay Smith & the Red Hot Skillet Lickers
There will be a Lindy hop performance during intermission!
Wheelchair accessible
(A)Rise In Power is a gathering for Christians and other Jesus followers who are committed to the Movement for Black Lives and interested in exploring how liturgical direct action can best serve that movement.  Nancy Taylor: (510-530-0814) ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com

Mon, January 16, 9:00AM to 12:30PM MLK Day of Service  MLK Day of Service 2017 – Oakland – Shepherd Canyon Park
*Transforming a Former Dump into a Place of Natural Beauty
*Meet at the Escher Gate, 5881 Escher Drive, (In Meadows above Soccer Field in Shepherd Canyon Park) *We will be planting and sowing seeds for CA Native bunch grasses and wildflowers, trail improvements, Creating Monarch Butterfly Habitat! Great event for adults, students and families (Kids need to be accompanied by parents).

Skyline doesn’t have a coordinated team attending but it’s always a valuable community contribution, so we invite you to go!

Mon, January 16: African American Museum & Library at Oakland MLK Film Festival

Please join the African American Museum & Library at Oakland in honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Film Festival. The museum will host a film screening of four films documenting African Americans’ struggle for civil rights: Black Americans Since MLK: And Still I Rise, The African American: Many Rivers to Cross, The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil RIghts, and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.
The film screening will begin in the museum gallery at 11:00 A.M. on Monday, January 16, 2017.
Nancy Taylor and the J&W team invite Skyline folks to attend the screenings beginning in mid-afternoon and then go to dinner at a restaurant nearby at 6:00.  Exact times to be determined as the day comes closer.  Contact Nancy Taylor (510-530-0814) ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com to RSVP or find out more!