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Ash Wednesday Taize Service

Music, Prayer, Meditation, Candlelight, Silence, and Labyrinth Walking

Wednesday,  March 6, 7 – 8 pm

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent for many in the Christian church. The forty days begins with the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful. For many, it is deeply moving to reclaim this powerful ancient ceremony.

During the service, we will listen to and join in singing Taize chants, a form of meditative chant and silence, to quiet the mind, open the heart and feed the soul… time of quiet and solitude in the presence of God. A few words sung over and over again reinforce the meditative quality of prayer.

Leaders for the Evening:

Rev Laurie Manning and Music Director Benjamin Mertz

You are welcome, whoever you are and wherever you are on your life’s journey

Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse Story by Steve Beck 

First, that was a wonderful Black Moon Eclipse gathering on Sunday evening at Church.
Bless you Catherine and Michael for bringing the delicious Rustica pizza and fine wines.
To go with my cup cakes!
 
While the skies looked dismal at first, it was cold and raining and cloudy, we waited patiently.
And eventually our patience and faith paid off big time!
 
We first gathered in the Fellowship Hall, watching the live video stream of the Moon from the Griffith Planetarium and Observatory in Los Angeles.
High up on Mulholland Drive – they had a great moon camera view….we had clouds and rain at Church at that time!
But that didn’t last for long……..
 
Then we viewed together the moving and powerful “I Have a Dream” poetic, emotional speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Still so very relevant today as it was in March of 1963 when he gave it on the Mall in Washington DC.
It was great, specially after Pastor Laurie’s children’s time. 
She taught me how he came to have the name Martin Luther, among other things.
 
Then the clouds began to part, I was out doing Moon Watch patrol at the labyrinth.
First a few bright stars appeared, and then Ms. Moon!
We saw her gradually become covered from the bottom edge by Mother Earth’s shadow.
Clouds kept coming and going, making for a most dramatic viewing experience.
 
Pastor Laurie arrived and a few others, and we got to see totality begin!
I had to play some of my Black Moon Etudes on the Sanctuary piano – that seemed to encourage the clouds to part again.
We had all moved into the Sanctuary in almost complete darkness – it was awesome.
But then we moved back to the Labyrinth together.
Chilly it was, but worth it!
 
Then a large stratus cloud layer moved in, and it appeared that we were done seeing much after that.
So most everyone departed, but I stayed.
And then the stratus clouds vanished to the east.
And a totally clear sky was there for all of the totality phase.
Many major constellations became crystal clear.
The Pleades, Taurus the Bull with Aldebaran his bright orange eye.
Orion in all his glory, with his trusty hunting dog Canis Major!
His nose, eyes, and ears were so clearly visible, with the brightest star Sirius glowing pure white!
Over to Gemini with the twin stars Castor and Pollux super clear.
Even Cassiopea on her throne was revealed, along with the Big Dipper and Polaris, the north star.
It was one of the best 10 clear view nights I ever saw around this large urban area of Oakland/Berkeley.
 
It was totally dark at the Church, but then a voice called out around 10 PM – it was Mimi Chan from HEIA!
She is the Board Chair for HEIA.
I had set up my 90mm Meade telescope so we got some great views of Ms. Moon in totality.
By 10:30 totality had cleared and the light edge of the Moon was coming in from the left side, not the bottom!
So I decided to pack up my gear and head to home, 1/2 mile away.
Could view the Moon there because now she was high enough in the sky.
But then it started to rain again! HAH!
It was very nice and quiet and dark up on Skyline at that late, wet hour of a Sunday night.
 
Pastor Laurie texted me from her home about how clear the skies had become!
She was viewing Ms. Moon there – Thanks!
And I replied that I was still up at Church.
She replied “All alone?”
I replied “Not Really alone, here with The Goddess and it’s beautiful. She’s Divine”
 
So to those who came (Carolyn, Rod, Mirtha and Johann, Nancy, my wife Candice, Pastor Laurie, Jim Schubert & family) it was very special to share this unique and blessed experience together with you.
And it worked out great to see so much of the eclipse from such a special location and together!
 
 
I may well host other “Astro Nights” in the coming months at Skyline Community Church when special events occur.
Meteor showers, more full moons rising in the east, star and constellation tours – stay tuned!
Or if there is just plain great “seeing” nights – dry, clear, crisp skies – but it’s often on the chilly side for that.
 
Cheers, peace, blessings, Steve Beck
(C)Copyright 2019 Steve Beck

“You are the Light of the World, Let Your Light Shine”

Altar


My heart is full of gratitude for the greening of the earth, and for the timeless stories of hope and justice that live on in our time in the countless acts of courage and love.
 
I am reminded of our closing ritual in our Christmas Eve service, that in lighting one candle and passing it on, together, our light shines in the darkness. I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John’s gospel, reminding us, “You are the light of the world, let your light shine”.  Even during the brief neighborhood power outage, the light and the music shined on!
 
I am grateful for the light which shines so brightly in each one of you!
  • The inspired vision of Sunday’s Christmas Pageant, the Bethlehemian Rhapsody, through our very own Tim Carter and David Guerra, our resident Rogers and Hammerstein! Special thanks to our Holy family (Amie, Justin, & Josiah), Angel (Anna), Herod (Boyd), and our choir!
  • The soulful, joyous music from Monday’s Christmas eve service, featuring so many songs from black spirituals, like Rise up Shepherds and Follow, Mary Had a Baby, Ain’t that a Rockin, songs that emerged from the sufferings of slavery, that lift up the timeless scriptures, and inspire God’s timeless vision of freedom and liberation, and good news for all people. Special thanks to Benjamin Mertz and the choir!!
  • Our kitchen angels: led by the wonderful Marcella Hardy, supported by Paula & Dave Byrens, Becky Taylor, Philippia Pegram, and all of you who donated treats!
  • The recent generosity to support the children of East Oakland Community Project, the largest transitional homeless center in Alameda County. Special thanks to Nancy Taylor, chair of our justice & witness teams!
  • The Green team for their recent community sing, to support for the Camp Fire victims, to their consistent dedication in maintaining our beautiful campus, especially in this Christmas season! Special thanks to Catherine Kessler, and Michael Armijo!
  • Our spiritual life team in offering the well -received Saturday morning advent bible study
  • The joy of welcoming those of you who have been away, the pleasure of welcoming those of you who are new, and the love that unites us all, across time and space.
I encourage you to enjoy the photos (see below) and the videos (see links below) from our worship together!
 
My heart and prayers are with all of those for whom this season carries grief and sadness. You are part of the circle of light. You are part of this family of love. May you experience God’s healing light, bringing comfort and peace to you and to those you love.  
 
Video Links

Advent Bible Studies

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Spiritual Life Team invites you to join us for Bible Studies in honor of Advent.  And we’ll treat you to coffee, tea, and pastries.
We will meet  9-11am on the first three Saturdays of December.  On Dec. 1 and 8, gather with us at the home of Paula and David Byrens, 2359 Manzanita Drive, Oakland; then we will switch to the Fellowship Hall at church for the Dec. 15 session.

The studies will give us time to reflect on the reasons that the birth and life of Jesus reminded his first followers of Jewish stories and prophecies that they had loved first in Hebrew scripture.  The old and new embraced each other in the Christmas Story. If you want to get a head start on the readings, check out the three topics below. We will focus on the New Revised Standard Version for reading together. Several copies of NRSV and NIV Bibles (popular modern translations) will be available. Bring your other favorites if you would like—so that we can add their voices to the conversation.
     
Dec. 1…IMMANUEL IS THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION
ISAIAH 7-9
MATTHEW 1:22-23

Dec. 8…MRS. M AND THE CLOUD OF SMOKE
JUDGES 13  A WOMAN’S WOMB AND THE STATE OF THE NATION
LUKE 1:5-25,  The barren one, the father, and the virgin
LUKE 2:6-38 Thomas Moore’s commentary has a beautiful translation

Dec. 15…ELIJAH AND ELIJAH RETURNING
1 Kings 16:29- chapter 17
Malachi 4:1-5
Matthew 16:13-16, and 17:1-4, 10-13

Celebration of Gratitude – Family Friendly Worship/Drama

Members Tim Carter and David Guerra will present a fun, creative puppet drama this Sunday. It features several Martians visiting planet earth trying to understand what Thanksgiving and gratitude are. They discover it includes not only “abundance,” “food,” “pumpkin pie,” “cranberry sauce”, “pilgrim,” and “Indian,” but also…“turkey!!!”
 
They encounter a very upset giant turkey (Mr Tim Turkey), who helps them understand the deeper meaning of giving thanks!
 
Join us as we explore the deeper meaning of gratitude and Thanksgiving as an inter-generational community.
 
Bring your children and friends and your appetite for fun!
 
Also, at the service we are collecting pies for the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and non-perishable food donations to Alameda County Community Food Bank, so please share whatever abundance you can. Thank you!

Blessing of the Animals Oct 14, 2018

Come and celebrate the animal companions in our lives on Sunday, October 14 at 3:00-4 PM!

This is our 19th annual special ceremony to honor our animal companions and acknowledge the blessings they bring to our lives. Bring your pet(s) or a picture of your pet (or even a stuffed animal).

This is is a family event!  Refreshments provided for both pets & humans.

Afterwards, come and walk your pet through our unique labyrinth!

Watch a video from a previous blessing! 

All over the world lively and sacred ceremonies to bless our animal companions and honor the blessings they bring to our lives are held in the fall.  Churches of all denominations honor beloved pets around the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct 4) the patron saint of animals.

Reverend Laurie Manning and Rev. Sheryl Johnson of Skyline Community Church, affiliated with United Church of Christ,  bless your dog, cat, goat, parakeet, fish, horse or whatever you bring (safely) with you.  You can also bring photos of beloved pets who cannot make the journey or have passed on to receive a blessing.

The ceremony is at 3:00 PM, with registration at 2:45, in the beautiful courtyard at:9-27-15-bofa-dg-laure-and-dog-owner-blue-dress

Skyline Community Church
 12540 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, Ca. 94619

(½ mile S. of Redwood)

Come one and all, with dogs, cats, hamsters, goats, parakeets, horses and more to celebrate and enjoy our animal companions.

Here’s a blessing of the animals flyer to share with your vet or pet store, if you wish – thanks!

Pride at Skyline: Parade and Sunday Service

Lift Your Spirits with Us at Pride 2018

Oakland Pride March, Sunday, September 9, 2018, 10:00 am:  March Line-Up:  14th Street and Clay Street, Downtown Oakland

Pride Service, Sunday September 16, 2018, 10:00 am, Church Sanctuary, 12540 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland 

Many of us have felt discouraged and uneasy due to the words and actions of the current White House Administration.  Those of us in the LGBTQ communities, along with our allies, have particularly experienced concern about the increasingly divisive, bigoted, partisan rhetoric we hear on a daily basis. 

The Pride season offers up an opportunity to feel connected, supported, energized and uplifted. 

On September 9th, join us at 14th Street and Clay in Downtown Oakland, as we unite with our friends from the various United Church of Christ congregations in the Bay Area, for the 2018 Oakland Pride March.  Families, children, pets, those of differing abilities, races, religions and statuses…. all are encouraged and welcome at this event.

On September 16th, make your way up the hill to our sanctuary at 12540 Skyline Boulevard for our annual Pride Sunday Service.  We will celebrate the history of the resilient rainbow spirit and the unique gifts of the LGBTQ community and beyond, with special music and artistry from throughout our community. 

All are appreciated and welcome!

I See You – Passion Project for Oakland’s Homeless

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world [or Oakland].  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead 

Several months ago, challenged by the question, what more can Skyline church do about homelessness crisis in Oakland, we hosted the Pacific Boys Academy in a worship service/concert to benefit the homeless here in Oakland. We raised over $1300, and split the proceeds between St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mary’s. But even more, we raised awareness! Far more than we imagined!

One of the choir members, William, who’s also a 6th grader at Bentley school, was hugely inspired by this service. In particular, he was moved by  the video I created,   based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and set to the song, “What if God was One of Us?” William asked me that day to be his mentor on a Passion project for the homeless entitled, I See You.  I said yes. So, the following Saturday, a group of us made sandwiches, visited the encampment at 12th and E 23rd and had conversations with some of the folks living there.

I remember one conversation in particular.  We met a woman in her 60‘s, in a wheel chair because of her debilitating arthritis. She shared her story with us.  She was a cancer survivor, had a daughter, who was a drug user, with four kids.  With all the rains this past winter she came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized at Highland Hospital. She had been living in a tent with her husband for about a year. She and her husband became recipients of the first TuffShed on that encampment that very day.

Here’s what William is doing with his talents to help us to see this woman, and so many other men, women & children, here in Oakland.

He would like to have our support in investing wisely to support these families and in coordinating future visits to the encampment. Let me know if you’re interested in getting involved. 

Thank you to  William and his family, to the Bentley school, to Pacific Boy’s Academy, to Charlie and Aiden, and to Skyline,  for recognizing our common humanity. 

                                    with love, Pastor Laurie 

Here’s his email to me, which includes his Passion Project, video concert and request for support. 

Hi Reverend Manning!
I wanted to let you know that my Passion Project for the homeless, “I See You!” is complete and went very well. Although I did not spend as much time as I wanted with you (totally my fault), you had a VERY BIG impact on my project. Seeing your presentation, sharing your videos and research with me, making sandwiches, and going to the homeless camp were all things that helped shape my project.
 
Attached is the actual PowerPoint presentation I gave to an audience of 100 people (I was very nervous!). Below is the “virtual concert” email I used to solicit funds for my project.  I raised over $1,300 in cash and another $285 in gift cards to buy food and supplies for the homeless!
 
I promised those who gave me money that I would spend every dollar raised on food and supplies for the homeless.  Can you help me identify/confirm a date and organize a delivery of food to the place we went before?  I don’t think I can just show up with food 🤔. I also don’t think I can spend all of the money on one meal, so do you know of other homeless places that need food or supplies, or can I go back a few times?  
 
Thank you so much again!  I really appreciate your help and look forward to seeing you at church soon.  We are coming back. When we were doing research to make my PowerPoint presentation, my Mom saw that you used to be at Riverside Church in New York.  That is her old church and she is pretty sure she remembers your time there. That made her very happy 😊. 
 
From,
William
Here’s his fundraiser: 
Dear Friends and Family,
I am working on a passion project entitled, “I SEE YOU”. As part of our middle school curriculum, we are encouraged to explore issues that we are passionate about, and brainstorm ways that we can make a difference.  I am passionate about music, and I care about the homeless. Even as a kindergartener, when visiting places with my parents, I wanted to stop and talk to the people I would see laying on the street or sitting outside of restaurants with their children or pets.  When I did this, they would smile. 
 
Sometimes a problem seems so big that we can’t imagine we can do anything about it. But we can.  There is one thing that every person can do, and it doesn’t cost anything. If you don’t have a dollar to give, or food and clothes to donate, or time to volunteer, you can do the one thing that is completely within your power, but is so often overlooked. You can refuse to let homeless people be invisible to you. 
 
Homeless people have become so commonplace that we don’t even see them. Every day people walk by them without even acknowledging their existence. To not acknowledge another human being is inhumane. We need to be reminded that the homeless are like us—human—and could even be us. Maybe they lost their job, had serious medical bills they couldn’t pay, experienced stress or mental illness as a veteran — all things that could happen in our families. Sometimes what they need most is the very thing we have to give; a warm smile, a hello, a greeting, a gesture that says, “I SEE YOU!”
 
I am using my love of music to raise funds, via a virtual concert, for two purposes:
 
1) To donate a meal to the homeless camp at 12th and 24th in Oakland that I identified with the help of my mentor, Reverend Laurie Manning;
 
2) To purchase the “I See You” bands that I created and will share freely with my friends and family to remind us all to be kind to the homeless people we see on the streets. 
 
I do not have a “not for profit,” (hopefully one day I will!) so your donation is NOT tax deductible, but 100% of the proceeds will go to the meal for the homeless (the more money, the more food!) and the “I SEE YOU” bands.  
 
If you would like to view my online concert, please click here.
 
 
If you like it and wish to make a donation to “I SEE YOU”, please click here.
 
Please share my email with others you think will support my cause.
 
Gratefully,
William S.
Bentley School
6th Grade

Easter Renewal

After last week’s rain drenched, cloudy days it’s been a joy to hike in the Oakland hills; breathing in the fragrances of pine and eucalyptus, and to behold the vibrant orange California poppies contrasted with the fresh green grassy fields. We enter the season of celebrating fertility, new life, and hope that follows the season of darkness and death. May we hold onto the paradox of this season, and enter into the beauty of its mysteries. 

Join us for a beautiful Good Friday service this Friday at 7 pm, of candlelight, music, and readings, drawing parallels between the seven last words of Jesus and those of the Rev. Dr. MLK Junior, honoring the 50th anniversary of the assassination of this great prophet of our times. 

Join us also to celebrate Easter at 6:30 am for a sunrise service with the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus.  Or come to our 10 am Easter service with drama and our amazing choir, guest percussionist and alto sax player.  Right afterwards is our annual Easter egg hunt.

Enjoy this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, entitled Mysteries, Yes.

love, Pastor Laurie 

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds

will never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Sandwich Making for Oakland Homeless

Sunday, March 25, 12-1 PM: Sandwich making for homeless people in Oakland.  Join Pastor Laurie, Shaun Bernhardt, music director Benjamin & his boys here at Skyline in the preschool classroom area for sandwich making for people who are hungry.  A group of us will deliver these to a local encampment from 1 – 2 pm. All ages & all are welcome to join us for one or both activities. Bring your sandwich making supplies!  Contact Pastor Laurie.