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Archive for Corona Virus

Debt Relief – Jubilee Weekend 2020

Our UCC conference, and our church, voted in 2015 to become Jubilee conferences, which honors the biblical concept of debt relief for the poorest. I encourage you to read these addresses from Eric LaCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, addressing  the UN conference on Covid 19 crisis recovery and debt relief. 
 
This year’s Jubilee Weekend 2020: Curing Poverty, Inequality and the Coronavirus , will be held October 16th – 18th, the same weekend as the major IMF and World Bank meetings this year. We lift up our voices in defense of the world’s most vulnerable during this critical time, to help  expand debt relief for the 73 poorest countries and move forward more aid for developing countries.

This year is really important. The United Nations estimates that 265 million more people are facing famine due to the coronavirus crisis. The International Labor Organization says 400 million jobs will be wiped out and the IMF asserts the current economic crisis rivals the Great Depression.

During Jubilee Weekend 2020: Curing Poverty, Inequality and the Coronavirus, the IMF and World Bank will make decisions that will determine whether or not tens of millions of people will enter extreme poverty or if hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world can exit poverty. As coronavirus wreaks havoc around the globe and induces a global economic crisis on par with the Great Depression, we need to make a strong call for debt cancellation, relief and increased aid to address the crisis in developing countries.

I close with this prayer of Jubilee:
 
O Great G-d of all creation, hear our plea
We pray for an end to broken systems, in a world beset by the ravages of poverty and debt
We pray for rightness, fairness, justice and grace
We pray for your light to guide us as we seek your will.
Bless us with an economy that is whole and right, where all can live in dignity and hope and your light shines brightly in every land
G-d Most High, Bless us with your Jubilee
 
 
 
 

“COVID 1619” – Racism, the 400 Year Old Virus

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The slow, brutal public execution of George Floyd has ignited international outrage.  White people are becoming more conscious of what black people have known for centuries about the deep, violent, pervasive, structural, systemic racism within this country.  I’ve been wondering, is this movement sustainable, and what can we do to sustain it?

Related to this desire, and as we consider our priorities as a church for this fall,  I would like to share with you this week’s E-Letter reflection from our Conference Minister Diane Weible:   (copied below)

 

Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

Let’s Talk: About 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds

By Conference Minister Diane Weible

Each morning I spend 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence. My thoughts go in many directions and over the next many weeks I hope to share some of those reflections here. Today I want to share two things that came up for me and one leads into the other.

I want to ask our churches in this Conference to seriously consider waiting until 2021 to return to their sanctuaries for worship. I am not making this ask just because I believe that the unknowns of COVID-19 makes it unsafe to consider returning too early. I am also not asking this just because it pains me to think that our communities of faith will be divided or members will feel excluded because they cannot safely return yet.

I ask this because I believe making a decision now to not consider returning to our sanctuaries until 2021 will free up precious time for us to focus on the other virus that we are dealing—that we have been dealing with for 400 years—COVID 1619. Instead of spending time every month debating if now is the time and what safety measures still need to be put into place, we can engage in the hard work of addressing white privilege, dismantling white supremacy and racism, working for equity and justice and co-creating the new ministry that God has revealed to us through these months of sheltering in place and the movement for racial justice that has reached all of us in new and profound ways the past couple of weeks.

And that brings me to the other thing that came up for me that I lift up as an example of the kind of work I am doing in my own life so I can better show up with all of you in this sacred work. The other day during my 8 minute and 46 second time of silence, I started thinking about the concept of “whiteness.” When we say someone is black or brown, we are referring to their skin color. Very few of us who check the “white” box on ethnicity forms would call our skin color white.

A couple of years ago I was at the PAAM Convocation and a dear friend said, “Well, peach people like you…” I looked at her for a moment, confused. And, then I burst out laughing. She was right. In the crayon-box of life, my skin is a lot closer to peach color then it will ever be to white.

White is a construct. It was created to define who holds the power and privilege in a dominating society. It was created for bonded labor that came to the United States and had to work to get out of debt. The white construct allowed these labors to feel superior to newly arrived slaves from Africa. The owners were worried about an uprising if the laborers and the slaves, both desperate for basic human rights and dignities joined forces. If bonded laborers received benefits for being “white” they would feel superior to slaves and the owners could better control all of them.

I am white by a definition that was created to protect the wealthy and powerful in a dominating society that holds a single narrative as the only reality that counts. Anything that happens that doesn’t fit with what we expect from that narrative must be discredited, claimed as untrue, not believed. The cost to me as a person who shares many of the aspects of that single narrative is that my authentic and beautiful story and history is not told or shared because the culture I grew up in encouraged me to focus on how similar we are all—how connected we all are. It allowed me to call a story or reality I don’t understand as “weird” or “different.” It taught me that it’s ok to be so absorbed in my own story, my own reality, that I should expect that everyone shares the same reality as I do and if they don’t, the problem must be with their story, not mine.

People who do not share in the single narrative of society have to navigate both their own authentic story with the story that the dominating society has deemed THE narrative. The white construct is as fragile as a house of cards. If we begin to truly listen to someone else’s story and learn the truth and reality of what we have for four hundred years ignored, our house of cards will topple.

My hope and prayer is that this is what is happening today. The house of cards is falling. As people of faith, we have an important role to make sure that happens. We are learning that we are not white. Instead, we are infected with a virus that is not new but is also deadly. As a peach person, I have been infected with the COVID-1619 virus for four hundred years. There is a vaccine, but unfortunately, it takes a lot more work than just getting a shot.

  • It requires one (or many) conversations with a Person of Color to hear their story; to hear of their experiences in our society and world.
    • It requires reading books by Authors of Color. It requires watching movies like “The Hate You Give.”
    • It requires reading about the deaths of Black people for doing things that those of us with privilege take for granted. (https://demcastusa.com/2020/05/29/i-have-privilege-as-a-white-person-because-i-can-do-all-of-these-things-without-thinking-twice/ ).
    • It requires that we read White Fragility, not because we think we already understand privilege and fragility but because there is always something more we need to understand about our privilege and what will be required to dismantle white privilege and white supremacy.
    • It requires that we show up for protests now and we commit to showing up for protests and events that will happen in the future.
    • It requires not just showing up for protests but that we show up in relationships. Silence in the face of bigotry and racism is equally brutal.
    • It requires expanding your circle of relationships beyond those who share the same story or skin color. Who are your neighbors? Who are the people you call friends and why? Do you know their story? How has their story shaped your view of the world?

The time is now. Many of us understand a lot with our heads. We are being invited to embody that knowledge throughout our entire being so we can understand it in a new way. I envision a Conference-wide commitment to conversations within our churches and among all of us in the wider church. These conversations and commitment to action has the potential for transformation and co-creation. I pray you will join me.

 

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.

 

Ways to Support for Our Immigrant Communities

Dear Skyline Family,

The immigrant communities are facing an especially hard time during the pandemic but there are many community organizations coming together to help. As Skyline Church is a Sanctuary Church, the Justice and Witness team would like to offer ways to support the communities that we have been accompanying. Thank you for sharing with those among us who are in so much need.

The Maya Mam in Oakland organization is helping coordinate food distribution to the Mam community, including the Nueva Esperanza Preschool families. The Mandela Partners and the Alameda Food Bank have been providing food for distribution at Iglesia de Dios, Mam Church at 4500 International Blvd. Henry Sales, organizer, says they haven’t been able to get fruits, chicken, rice, beans, eggs, and milk. He’s working to partner with other organizations, as well  as getting a nonprofit designation. Monetary donations will be used to buy food for distribution and  materials (masks, gloves, and sanitizer) for volunteers. On-line donations can be made HERE.

If you prefer to write a check, please contact Mirtha through the church office, office@skylineucc.org.

The Centro Legal de La Raza, along with six community partners, created the Oakland Undocumented Relief Fund for Oakland immigrant workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Donations can be by check or online HERE.

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity has set up a Migrant Emergency Fund which helps recently arrived immigrants, formerly detained and incarcerated folks, and other immigrants encountering urgent survival needs due to the severe economic impact of COVID-1.   

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant continues to support clients by phone, providing up-to-date information about their legal cases and social services. Action items to support the immigrant population are listed on their website.  

Save the date for a zoom discussion on Monday, May 18th at 7 pm with Pastor Laurie,  Nancy Taylor and myself! More details to follow!

Join Zoom Meetinghttps://zoom.us/j/241524878  Meeting ID: 241 524 878, or call 510 421 2646

Thank you! Mirtha N., co-chair, Justice & Witness