Archive for Community – Page 2

Voting for America Through the Eyes of Love

 

Voting is our most precious right.  Please vote November 3 through the Eyes of Love.

Video created by Rev. Laurie Manning and Ken Medema

After the Debate – We Are in this Together

Image by beate bachmann from Pixabay

After the Presidential debate this week, Ivan, Oliver (my cat) and I sat outside on the porch, under the stars. I listened to the crickets, breathed in the fresh air, and listened,  for comfort, strength, wisdom, vision. I found it there,  reminded of, and finding comfort in the One Who made the world. 

And I thought about the sharp contrasting visions of our time, and what to do with our one wild and precious life.  

As we grieve the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I gain strength from her enduring dedication to the vision that all people are created equal; her advocacy for gender equality; and her respect, honor and dignity for all people, especially with those with whom she disagreed.

At the same time, once again last night we heard our nation’s president say  that he will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he was not elected. Journalist Thomas Friedman reflected in an interview, “I think what happened in the last few days is a six-alarm fire. The President of the United States has told us ‘Either I win the election, or I de-legitimize the election.’ Those are your choices.” Readying a strategy that forces the decision to the Supreme Court, he is pushing through a nominee who will know going in that her job will be to rule in favor of the President staying in office.

It has left me thinking, “How did we get here?”

These are the times when I am grateful to be a person of faith. I gain strength from the wisdom of all of the world’s religions, especially Judeo-Christianity, and especially Jesus. 

Most of scripture was written to people being ruled by oppressive governments and corrupt leaders.

  • Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The journey taught them about trusting that God was with them, and they were more resilient than they knew. 
  • In Jesus’s, the Roman Empire used violence to keep people in line. The people learned to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” It led to the fall of the Roman Empire.

We are stronger than we know. We care for one another and are offended in the face of cruelty. Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility. We are made of resilience, bravery, and courage, in every act of love.

Today, we face into a moment that requires every bit of our best. We have been here before. We are stronger together than divided. We are all God’s children. 

Let us vote, with our words and especially in our actions with faith, voting for the poor, for the vulnerable, for children, for people of color, for our planet, for life itself.

We are in this together.   

State and Local Ballot Initiatives

Skyline church believes in voting – and to help you make sense of the ballot initiatives, here is a grid of the 2020 propositions from Kehilla Synagogue State Proposition Endorsements and how various organizations recommend that we vote.  We are not endorsing any candidates.

Here is a larger format version of the same – 2020 propositions from Kehilla Synagogue.xlsx – State Proposition Endorsements – Large version.

Finally, here’s 2020 recommendations from the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry.  

Stay tuned- we expect to post more local measures.

Annual Blessing of the Animals – Virtual

Sunday, October 4, 3:00 PM PST  

Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/716026467

Meeting ID: 716 026 467  or call: 510 421 2646 

On this day, Sunday Oct 4th,  we come together to acknowledge the sacred importance of all living creatures, honoring the wisdom of St Francis. 

Come and celebrate with us LIVE ON ZOOM, the animal companions in our lives with internationally renowned musician Ken Medema and Pastor Laurie Manning in a spirited, creative, joyous and spiritual ceremony.  

Especially now, as we are sheltering in place, this is a time to honor and give thanks for these beloved companions who are part of our families, that are a blessing to us all. This is an event for the entire family, so please bring not only your children, but also brother dog and sister cat, as well as your beloved gerbils, geckos, goats, hamsters, mice, rabbits, parrots, turtles, mini-horses, etc. All are welcome! 

Together we will:  

  • Honor the wisdom of St Francis, as well as indigenous traditions, Buddhism, and other faiths. 
  • Meet each other’s extended families!
  • Celebrate your pets -so bring them if you can on zoom, or bring your photos, and be ready to share your stories! 
  • Remember our beloved pets who have died, so bring your photos and your stories!
  • Sing and enjoy with Ken’s magical, gifted, improvisations!

Here’s an article by Oakland North from a few years ago when they covered our ceremony a few years ago:  “Dogs, mini-horses and a leopard gecko received blessings at Skyline Community Church [at the annual blessing ceremony], along with a cat, goat and photos of animals ‘with us in spirit.’ On a hot, summery afternoon, pastor Laurie Manning and church member Rhea Babbitt kneeled before some 40 furry, four-legged creatures and their owners, and blessed them. …Churches worldwide honor animals on the first Sunday of October, the feast day for the patron saint of animals St. Francis of Assisi….In the back were two mini-horses, their eyes like baseballs, their summer coats shedding. Some dogs sat on their owners’ laps while others lazed on the cool floor, perhaps tired from sniffing and circling other dogs before the service. One church member said he would have brought his cat, if not for his arm being in a sling, and his cat’s grumpiness that morning. Babbitt, who organized the ceremony, led the congregation in a reading. ‘On this day we come together to acknowledge,” they read aloud, “the sacred importance of all living creatures…. ‘”

And another article from even earlier!

Reverend Laurie Manning is available to bless your dog, cat, goat, parakeet, fish, horse or whatever your and your camera can bring to Zoom!  You can also bring photos of beloved pets who cannot handle a Zoom meeting (can you blame them?)  or have passed on to receive a blessing.

About Ken Medema – For four decades, Ken Medema has inspired people through storytelling and music. Though blind from birth, Ken sees and hears with heart and mind.  His ability to capture spirit in word and song is unparalleled. One of the most creative and authentic artists performing today, Ken custom designs every musical moment of his performance with brilliant improvisation that defies description. With an ever-growing circle of friends around the world, Ken’s vocal and piano artistry and imagination have reached audiences of 50 to 50,000 people in 49 United States and in more than 15 countries on four continents.

About Pastor Laurie – The Reverend Laurie J. Manning joined Skyline Church in 2006. She holds respective Master’s degrees from Union Theological Seminary (Columbia U), Harvard University, and the University of Michigan. Prior to becoming a minister Laurie worked in various management capacities for Hewlett Packard  and then as a consultant with high technology and medical clients. Laurie brings a solid understanding of the psychological and organizational complexities of living as a Christian in today’s pluralistic and scientific world.  She has a passion for the spiritual well-being of people, for social and environmental justice, and lives life with gusto!

God’s Economy vs Caesar’s

UCC CBLF Team Zoom Meeting


Here’s the reflection that I shared with our national  UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF)  group this week for  this Just Peace Sunday

On February 18, 1965  at the University of Cambridge, in a debate (the motion of the debate was that the American dream was at the expense of black Americans) between William F. Buckley Jr. and the brilliant author, James Baldwin, Baldwin responded: 

“The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” picked the cotton, and I carried it to the market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing,” he said, his voice rising with the cadences of the pulpit. “For nothing.”

In his 2012 book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future,  by Nobel Prize economist  Joseph E. Stiglitz, he writes,

“There are two visions of America a half century from now. One is of a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots, a country in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools, and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education, and in effect rationed health care―they hope and pray they don’t get seriously sick. At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know. It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”

Stiglitz continues, saying,

The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs… clean air, water, healthcare, education..  The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security.”

He adds,

“The protesters have called into question whether there is a real democracy. Real democracy is more than the right to vote once every two or four years. The choices have to be meaningful. But increasingly, and especially in the US, it seems that the political system is more akin to “one dollar one vote” than to “one person one vote”. Rather than correcting the market failures, the political system was reinforcing them.”

And now, the apocalyptic times have come. The perfect storm of  Covid 19, 1619, and the terrifying fires and hurricanes, all of which are disproportionately killing the poorest people of color.

As Nelson Mandela once wrote,

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

This Sunday’s gospel from Matthew reveals the great tension between God’s economy and Ceaser’s.  Just before today’s story, the disciples ask, Who will be the greatest among us?  (Aren’t we supposed to be first?) In typical fashion, in answering a question,  Jesus told a parable, about a generous landowner who promises the first workers a fair days wage, and the others, who are unemployed,  who came later – even just an hour before the end of the day, “whatever is fair.” 

In the end, each laborer received a fair day’s wage. 

And those who were first in line, complained.

The need is urgent, the time is now, and the place is here to bring forth God’s generous economy. Here in the US, the world’s wealthiest nation, where the top 3 billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50%, while at the same time 48% of the US population lives at or below the poverty line; while 20% of children and 1 in 9 seniors are food insecure, and are disproportionately poor people of color.   

I am grateful to be part of the CB&LF, doing our part, to transform the economy of Caesar into God’s economy, to reach out and to welcome those most vulnerable, into God’s generous vision for all people.   May God inspire us to do so together.  

Our Story: We Are in this Together

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay


Can you believe it? This weekend is Labor Day! Where has the summer gone? Where has 2020 gone? I imagine far fewer of us are “getting away” for Labor Day weekend, so perhaps you’ll have time to remember the unique origins of how and why the US decided to change Labor day from May 1st, ’International Worker Day, from the rest of the world, to a sleepy weekend at the end of the summer. 
 
As is so often with history, there is a political battle for who gets to tell the story. In fact, it often is HIS story (a white wealthy, male landowner) telling the story.  Far too often, history is  told by the winners, while the voices of the marginalized and the oppressed are hidden. We are wise to learn from these hidden histories, so as not to repeat it. 
 
Related to our stories, and the importance of hearing everyone’s perspectives about OUR stories, I want to share with you a beautiful quote that Nancy Taylor lifted up  in our bible study today. The context was that we were lamenting about how hard it is to connect with people, including beloved friends and family members, because we are so far apart on issues, (especially when our stories and the media perpetuate the belief that we are separate).  We were discussing what is at stake when we fail to remember that we are all in this together.  The quote is by Michael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology (follow the link or see text below). 
 
Last week in our McLaren discussion I challenged each one of us, as hard as it might be,  to seek to connect with someone with whom we are are far apart on issues, and seek to empathically connect with them. I look forward to our continued conversation about this!
 
May we be moved to go out to the margins and the edges of life, and in doing so, find each other. 
 
with love, Pastor Laurie 

“There’s an old Irish myth about how when the center falls apart, when there is no big unifying story that can be told in public so that everyone remembers, yes, we all are in this together, when that happens, when the center cannot hold, the old story says then it’s time for each person to go to the margins and the edges of life. Because the center when it’s missing does not completely disappear. Rather, the elements of the center are then found at the margins and edges of life. And so it becomes a time for each person to go to the edge that attracts them and at the same time causes them to be fearful.

And the old story says that if each person goes in the direction that is both attractive and fearful to them, they will find that at the edge of their life a thread, and if each person would then pick up that thread and begin to pull it back towards the center, then the unifying center can be remade from the weaving together of many individual threads of life. In the greater myth that serves life, not death, no one has to be heroic and do it all or claim that they are the only one who can do it. Each person is just responsible to find their thread and find a way to weave it back into life. And the key to this narrative of the great way is that no one can be excluded for any reason, not because of their age, or their origin, or their race, or their economic disposition. Because each person has a life thread that has vitality and meaning and creativity in it.

And the point isn’t to indulge in some kind of magical thinking that would say that no one is going to die on this troubled path that we all share at this point. And certainly, the point cannot be that we’re all going to go back to life and business as usual. The understanding of the bigger myth right now is the world as we knew it is already gone. The point now is to be inhabiting a bigger, unifying living myth in which the words that we are all in this together have genuine, heartfelt meaning. We are in a time of radical change throughout the world, where life and death are struggling on a daily basis. And that requires each of us to change and come out of the crisis as greater souls not smaller people.”

– Michael Meade

 
 

If There Was Ever a Time to Conspire Together in Love, it is NOW

Lighting, Fires, blackouts, a heat wave, a pandemic, economic recession, and the poorest people of color are suffering.

We are living in apocalyptic times . Early Sunday morning, lightning bolts lit up the Bay area sky.  Within days, fast moving fires ignited across Northern California. We wake up each day: check the news, check our cell phones for area alerts about everything from air quality, PG&E rolling blackout alerts, & Covid updates, and then reach out to our loved ones, as the raging fires double in size. We wonder, what’s ahead this fall?

All this in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession that has resulted in 170,000 deaths in the US, unemployment rate at 10% and another enormous transfer of wealth to billionaires.

I am worried about us, especially those most vulnerable. Where is our hope? Could it be in the very midst of this apocalypse? The word itself, Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις, apokálypsis) is a Greek word meaning “revelation“, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”.

In fact, we are in the midst of apocalypse. It is a time of great unveiling, things not previously known are being revealed, if we have the eyes to not only see it, to hear it, to be transformed by it, and to take action, together,  to participate in our collective salvation. Who will save us? If there were ever a time for a great spiritual migration, it is NOW. If there was ever a time to participate, to conspire together, in love, it is NOW.

Who would have ever imagined that the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, born right here in Oakland during the civil rights movement, would give her acceptance speech as the first woman of color on a major party ticket?  She urged us to perceive the times and to take collective action together for justice for all people. Former President Barack Obama issued a grim warning about the durability of American democracy, and our role in participating in democracy as informed, engaged, voters.

A short time remains before the US elections on November 3.  While churches can take no partisan stands, we can pray and work for a just common life as a natural extension of our faith.

Resources to assist with this are available at Our Faith Our Votehttps://www.ucc.org/ourfaithourvote)

 Thank you my friends, for our leadership and migration together. 

                                         Love, Pastor Laurie

This Sunday:  

I am so pleased to have as our guest preacher this Sunday, our very own Teresa Jenkins!.

After the service, we continue on our journey, continuing our book discussion of Brian McLaren’s the Great Spiritual Migration, facilitated by Tom Manley! (please review the article below for details)

 

Zoom with the Justice and Witness Team: Racial Justice

Thursday, August 13th, 7:00 pm
 
As we experience heightened awareness of racism and White Supremacy in our country – and in our community – especially since the killing of George Floyd; and as we consider how we can become involved with one another in this movement for racial justice, our first meeting in a series will start from the the desire that we connect more deeply with one another.  To that end, we will share our “stories” – who we are, our beginnings, what are the things in our lives that have shaped our world views.  All are invited!  Please join us!  

For questions, contact Nancy Taylor via the office at 510-531-8212, [email protected]. (during shelter in place email is best)

Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/901784352 Meeting ID: 901 784 352 One tap mobile +16699009128,,901784352# US (San Jose) +13462487799,,901784352# US (Houston)

 

“Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance”

We are living at an inflection point in the history of our country, and in the history of this planet. 

Michelle Alexander; a writer, civil rights advocate,  visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, and author of The New Jim Crow; writes in the NY Times:

“Our democracy hangs in the balance. This is not an overstatement.

As protests, riots, and police violence roiled the nation last week, the president vowed to send the military to quell persistent rebellions and looting, whether governors wanted a military occupation or not. “

Is this the beginning or the end? Where lies our hope? Where do we begin? We must face our racial history and our racial present. We must re-imagine justice.

Michelle Alexander continues:

My hope lies in the movement that brings together people of all  ethnicities, genders and backgrounds as they rise up together, standing in solidarity for justice, protesting, marching and singing together, even as SWAT teams and tanks roll in.  — a reflection of the best of who we are and what we can become. It is a glimpse,  of a beautiful, courageous nation struggling to be born.

Let us, as people of faith, be inspired by this Spirit.  

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Take Action:

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He has recently recorded and posted two video messages about the killings of African Americans that have been fueled by white supremacy. I hope you will make, over the next couple days, the forty minutes it will take to watch and listen to them both.

The Trinity UCC YouTube channel suggests watching “When Is Someday?” first.  The other video to watch, whatever order you watch them in, is “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.” 

May these two messages to awaken your spirit, open your hearts, and inspire you to action.

P.S. The petition Dr. Moss refers to in “When Is Someday?” can be found here.

Poor People’s Campaign Town Hall: In the context of the uprisings across the country against police killings of Black people and the devastation of COVID-19, people will come together across movements at a virtual town hall entitled “Poor People’s Campaign 1968-2020: Everybody’s Got A Right to Live! We Won’t Be Silent Anymore,” which will be held on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time). Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will be the keynote speaker. RSVP to join the online town hall on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Being Grateful in Difficult Times:  Theologian and historian Diana Butler Bass  is offering an online class on “Being Grateful in Difficult Times.” It includes mini-lectures, suggested practices, and conversations with other writers (including some surprise guests whose books you probably love!). It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. The course goes live on June 22 and only costs $59 if you register by June 20. Learn more and register here.

Advocacy: For those of us who can’t take to the streets, we need to take to our phones and computers to make our opinions known to the politicians. Here are two ways you can do that:

  1. Sign up to be part of the Poor People’s Campaign.
  2. Become part of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Peace Action Network.

Care for the Earth at Home: Undertake some (or all) of the environmental activities that can be done at home listed here. The list maker says they are activities kids can do; adults can do them, too.

Re-Opening Skyline – Safely and Inclusively

Can you believe it? It’s week 8 of SIP here in Alameda County.

So many of us in this country are engaged in the question, when will we open up again? How will we do so in a way that keeps us all safe?  As states begin to open again and restaurants welcome patrons, offices reopen, and churches begin holding in-person activities, the question we face is: Who will we leave behind?

COVID-19 is with us until we have a vaccine or cure. Some of us are more vulnerable to being killed by this virus if we contract it. As a nation, we are caught between the tension of restarting our economy and risking the spread of COVID 19, that has already killed over 80,000 people in our country, disproportionately poor people of color. How do we re-open in a way that keeps all of us safe and leaves no one behind?

It’s a particularly challenging question for Skyline as a faith community. The Skyline community, like many protestant churches, is older and most at risk. How do we open the church and carry on knowing that our oldest members, already struggling to engage new technology, will be left out of important moments of being a community together? Who will we leave behind? I’m reminded of how often Jesus promised: I will not abandon you, whether you’re a lost sheep, or an orphan. Let’s not leave anyone behind!

It’s also a particularly challenging question for Skyline as a small church, that also owns a preschool and offers our venue for rentals and weddings. The challenges of maintaining social distancing and sanitary conditions will be formidable in such gatherings. How do we plan to open up in a way that maximizes the safety of us all, and balance this with our economic reality that most of our revenues come from our preschool and weddings?

I don’t have an easy answer for us, as a country or as Skyline. We are continually monitoring the guidelines from the CDC and local Alameda County health department for both church and preschool openings.

But I do have faith that we can do this if we engage in this process together. You’re invited to consider the gifts that you have in this important conversation. Get involved!

As we begin reopening, let us do so with deep compassion and measured patience. We have much to learn about how to be together right now. Let’s make sure we discern the way forward together.