Oakland church

Archive for Community

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!

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.

Inauguration Interfaith Vigil

Friday, Jan 20th 7 PM, Skyline Church

Lead by Pastor Laurie and Benjamin Mertz

Many of us are still reeling from the unimaginable reality of the Inauguration of Donald Trump as President, and the implications for ourselves, for this country, for this world, & for our climate,  especially for those most vulnerable.

Come and join us for an evening during which you are invited to experience your experience; feel your feelings and honor all of our inner strength, community, light and hope as we prepare for whats to come.

We will join together for an evening of candlelight, poetry, wisdom, and Taize music.

All are welcome.  Please invite friends and family to share in this time.

Contact Pastor Laurie (510) 531-8212, office@skylineucc.org.

“Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” MLK

Fifty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King preached one of his most prophetic sermons at Riverside Church in NYC (where I was ordained). The sermon is entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”   Below is a summary of excerpt from this sermon where he focuses on the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism. 

It is a great question for our times, as next Friday, Jan 20th, we inaugurate Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. We live in a time when we cannot take democracy or our deepest moral convictions for granted. 

We have so much to learn from the wisdom of those who worked tirelessly in the black civil rights movement in this country and from leaders like Dr King, who in turn, derived his wisdom from the teachings of Gandhi and Jesus.  

This Sunday, join us as we come together widening the circle of community, to gain strength for the journey together.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 


The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. To work against the Triple Evils, you must develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the “Six Principles of Nonviolence” and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the “Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change.”

Some contemporary examples of the Triple Evils are listed next to each item:

Poverty – unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, slums…

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it. The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty … The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.”

Racism – prejudice, apartheid, ethnic conflict, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, ageism, discrimination against disabled groups, stereotypes…

“Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of value and object of devotion, before which other races must kneel in submission. It is the absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of history and alone can assure the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual and physical homicide upon the out-group.”

Militarism – war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, human trafficking, media violence, drugs, child abuse, violent crime…

“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war- ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This way of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Source: “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Boston: Beacon Press, 1967. 

Annual Christmas Party Dec 11, 2016

Please join in the celebration of Christmas at Skyline’s annual potluck Christmas party on Sunday, December 11, 2016 from 11:45 AM to 2:00 PM in the sanctuary.  There will be plenty if you just found out about it, so please come – you are invited!

You’ll enjoy singing traditional carols and Christmas hymns.  The children (and the child in you) will be thrilled to hear the ho ho ho and feel the love love love of Santa.  We’ll share the Christmas story together.  And there will be delicious food and desserts, tea and partying!

If you have questions, would like to help out or have suggestions please contact Nancy Taylor at  ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com.  

Tragedy, Tears, Hope, Love

hands_picDear Beloved Community,

Last Saturday morning we awoke to the horrible news..

I know that many of us are still reeling from the unimaginable tragedy in Oakland at the ominously named Ghost Ship warehouse. 

On Wednesday night, Dec 7th, at 7 pm we gather for an interfaith candlelight Taize music and prayer vigil. We will take a few moments and connect with one another, because our connection is precious and life is so fragile.  

Our hearts are broken.. Once again we gather for a vigil,  but this time the deaths and destruction were brought about by fire, fire caused by negligence and human greed. Each senseless death, every act of negligence and human greed, seeks to diminish us, to drive us to despair, to divide us into an “us and them.” But this death, this destruction, this violence does not have the last word.

Love has the last word. Love wins. Every time.

This particular tragedy hits close to home. This place was a sanctuary for artists, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community, a sanctuary for the rising numbers of people who cannot afford housing here in the Bay Area. This Oakland warehouse tragedy opens a deep wound.

And yet, through the tears, I have hope.

There is hope. You are part of that hope. 

We must never give up the struggle to make this world a better place. Always believe that you can make a difference. Always seek to widen your circle of love and empathy. Always seek the good in people and call yourself to your highest good.

We stand on the shoulders of people who have given their lives for equality and justice in safe affordable housing & commercial structures, and systems that value the lives of all people, over the opportunity to make a profit, while endangering the lives of others. We do not have the luxury to be complacent. This Oakland fire brings into sharp relief the fundamental need for change in our nation at every level. The political rhetoric bouncing off the sound waves is just that-rhetoric. Find the good. Seek the right. Remember that every life is precious.

And tonight and in the days to come, remember that there are millions of people who share your hopes, your dreams, and your resolve. As progressive Christians, the radical teachings of Jesus propel us forward, forging a path that will lead to more love, more equality, more justice, more grace, and more peace.

Never let that go.

Peace, peace, and more peace,

Blessings, Pastor Laurie