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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.

Easter Events 2018

Skyline Community Church, United Church of Christ Invites Oakland Community to Attend Easter Services

Come celebrate the Spirit of Easter where we welcome ALL of God’s people. Experience fabulous music and an inspiring message with a spectacular view of the Oakland Hills.

Good Friday Service: March 30, 7:00 PM:

Our Music Director, Benjamin Mertz, and Reverend Laurie Manning lead an empowering, spiritually expansive candlelight, meditation and music service.  All are welcome.

Easter Sunrise Service: April 1, 6:30 AM:

Rise and shine to the uplifting music of the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus! Experience sunrise from our Sanctuary which rests on the summit of the Oakland hills and has windows spanning 30 feet high! As you look out on a stunningly beautiful view listen to inspiring preaching, heavenly music and feel welcomed into the warmth of a loving progressive and inclusive faith community.

Rev. Laurie says, “The music in this service sings out about a God of love, of freedom, of liberation… and that the world is more wonderful with the great diversity of all of humanity. This is good news!”

Easter Sunday Traditional Service: April 1, 10 AM:

Skyline’s sanctuary windows overlook Redwood Park to Mt. Diablo Here we have a traditional Easter Service as a loving progressive and inclusive faith community. Rev. Laurie Manning , the choir and orchestra (directed by Puja Soto) and the people fill the sanctuary with joy, celebration and love. Today’s service will have drama, singing, prayer, and a special honor garden for loved ones. And to top it off, an Easter Egg Hunt (following service) for children of all ages: 11:30 AM.

Easter Egg Hunt: April 1, 11:30 AM:

Skyline’s traditional Easter Egg Hunt is happening RAIN or SHINE. We welcome our neighborhood families and all who would love to come to join us! Stay for refreshments and conversation following the hunt. We also welcome you to join our community Easter service at 10 AM before the hunt, if you wish. We offer a children’s program for your little ones.

Skyline Church UCC is a community faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the worth of all beings, regardless of ability, age, ancestry, family or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual path, cultural origin, or any other visible or invisible difference. We invite all who wish to enter our Sanctuary and the full life of our church family. Ours is a God of justice and compassion, and our church lives in covenant with God to do its utmost to pursue justice and compassion, as an Open and Affirming congregation.

For more information please contact our office at:

Skyline Community Church,
United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
510.531.8212

Email Skyline Office

Invitation to Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy’s Retreat at Skyline

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Collaborators,

Good afternoon!  I’m writing to invite you to join us for the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy’s annual retreat, scheduled for Thursday, March 1, 9am to 12noon at Skyline UCC (12540 Skyline Blvd in Oakland).

We welcome our extended family of faith leaders to this morning session, whose featured speakers will focus on where we stand a year into the present national crisis, and what lies ahead in our work for 2018 and beyond.

This session will also be an opportunity to learn about FAME’s work in collaboration with the national Poor Peoples’ Campaign (PPC) called for by Rev. Dr. William Barber, and how you and your communities can connect with the Campaign’s call for Forty Days of Direct Action beginning in May.

We also encourage you to bring colleagues, congregants and friends to this morning session, so that we can continue to share more broadly the crucial connections between our faith traditions and the call to economic and racial justice.

Please RSVP directly to me, David Brazil, so we can be sure and include you in the count for lunch!  And of course please let me know if you have any questions.

With blessings and best wishes — David

David Brazil,  Program Coordinator, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy

office : 510.893.7106, extension 315

cell: 510.508.7104

email: david@workingeastbay.org

 

Benefit Concert to Support Oakland’s Homeless

Featuring: Cantori, a an acclaimed after-school training choir for the Grammy Award winning Pacific Boychoir Academy Troubadours –http://www.pacificboychoir.org/choir.

 

Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 10 a.m. 

At Skyline Community Church, UCC

Come to listen to these young people’s beautiful music with a soaring view of the Oakland Hills to Mt. Diablo as a backdrop. The concert is in the midst of and following a special abbreviated service. Chocolate protein bars given to singers and the first 20 children in attendance. The first 80 adults receive a novelty mini-carnation.  

Would you let a friend know about this?

Free will offering to support the homeless in Oakland, including St Vincent de Paul & St Mary’s.

Co- sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC)

If you can help by donating food or money, please contact the office (510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org)

See you there and bring a friend!

Donors:  Trader Joe’s,  Skyline Church UCC

Ash Wednesday Service: Create in Me a Clean Heart

Dust and Ashes 

Create in me, a clean heart, that I may live, aware of the gift.

Feb 14th at 7 – 7:30 pm @skylineucc.org

A brief service with Pastor Laurie and Music Director Benjamin Mertz.

 

 

 

 The Gift of Mortality

   

 

 

 

 

Meditation, Taize music, prayers, ashes, candlelight

 

Black History Month Events 2018

Sun, 2/11: Discussion/Conversation with Pastor Laurie:  Dr. King’s Last Sermon
In the sanctuary from 11:30 – 12 noon  Join Pastor Laurie for a discussion after worship about Dr King’s last sermon the night before he was assassinated.  Did he know? How did he provide comfort and vision and reassurance for the movement? Where do we go from here, 50 years later? 

Sun, 2/11: Where Do We Go From Here: Dr. Barber & the Poor Peoples Campaign,  Sunday, February 11, 4:30 to 6:30 at City of Refuge UCC.  Following Rev. Dr. William Barber’s visit to the Bay Area, join us for a community conversation on local struggles for racial and economic justice!  All are welcome to this FREE event. The Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy is honored to co-present this event with City of Refuge UCC.  RSVP: david@workingeastbay.org.  

Sat, 2/17:  Skyline folks will be going to AAMLO (African American Museum and Library) on Saturday, February 17, 2 pm, to hear a presentation by a National Park Service Ranger on the subject of “Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio.”   This is in keeping with the Black History Month theme this year of “African Americans in Times of War.”  This is a chance to see one of the more beautiful historic buildings of Oakland, as well as an interesting and informative presentation.  If timing is right, we can go together for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. Contact Nancy T.

Sun, 2/18:  Rev Robert Wilkins preaching 10 AM; see bio below. 

Fri, 2/23, Time to Be Determined:  Black Panther Movie:  Join us on Friday night, February 23rd at Grand Lake Theatre for evening showing of “Black Panther” the Marvel superhero action movie.  Contact Nancy Taylor.  Black Panther touches on black identity and the fantasy of a people unburdened.  There is an interesting argument with Blaxploitation films. The movies, predominantly made during the 1970s, are usually characterized by having a predominantly African-American cast, with the lead character having to deal with some endemic problem affecting their community, while also having to fight “The Man,” who’s in the form of corrupt cops, corrupt city officials, corrupt business officials, or any other aspect of society associated with white assholes…..”  Read More of this review.

Here are a few reviews: “Black Panther Poised to Shatter Hollywood Myth“;      “‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe”

Review: ‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe

Sun, 2/25:  Join Nancy Taylor to carpool to City of Refuge UCC after church to attend their 1 pm service.  

See the display on bulletin board in Friendship Room 

Rev Robert Wilkins:  Rev. Wilkins is the Managing Director of Encounter Alliance, a consulting firm which advises churches and faith-inspired organizations on all aspects of organizational development and mission fulfillment. Wilkins serves a host of community and professional organizations including the One Pacific Coast Foundation (Board of Directors), the Lake Merritt Uptown District Association (Corporate Secretary), the California YMCA State Alliance (Public Policy Committee), American Baptist Seminary of the West (Trustee) and the Graduate Theological Union (Trustee, Library Committee Chair) among others.  

Rev. Wilkins is a graduate of the University of Southern California (Religion – Biblical Studies) and earned Master of Divinity degrees from both Fuller Theological Seminary and American Baptist Seminary of the West. He has completed class studies in the Doctor of Ministry program at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Rev. Wilkins is a graduate of the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and is an alumnus Fellow at the Center for Social Innovation (also at Stanford). Wilkins holds a Certificate in Strategic Marketing from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Celebrate and Say Farewell to Chris and Lee Rutter

Sunday, March 11, 11 AM – 2 PM

Featuring: Chris & Lee who will be moving to Redding California to begin a new life! 

  • Let’s celebrate them with food, drinks, stories, songs, poetry, and love!
  • You will have opportunities to share your affirmations in writing or in person with Chris and Lee 

To help food planning, please RSVP to Catherine – via the office at 510-531-8212; office@skylineucc.org.  But if you forget, please come – we want you there!

Planning team:

Catherine Kessler , Nancy Taylor, Tom Manley, Carolyn Noble, Pastor Laurie 

Skyline Votes on Becoming a Sanctuary Church

Congregational Meeting to Consider Sanctuary Movement Vote

Sun, Jan 21 • 11:30 am

When an immigrant resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the immigrant. The immigrant who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the immigrant as yourself, for you were an immigrant in the land of Egypt. (Jewish and Christian Tradition, Leviticus 19:33-34)

Dear Ones, 

The Church Council has called a meeting of the congregation on Sunday, Jan 21 at 11:30 am to formally establish Skyline Church, United Church of Christ as a Sanctuary Congregation.

I want to extend my deepest thanks to the leadership and dedication of Mirtha Ninayahuar, and Nancy Taylor. 

The meeting will take place in the Sanctuary immediately following the 10 am service. During the past year, the council and the congregation heard from members of the Planning Team for the Sanctuary Movement about what declaring itself as a “Sanctuary Congregation” would mean for Skyline. 
 
Evolving Definition of Sanctuary 

The Sanctuary Movement, which began in the 1980s, is experiencing a resurgence. But today it has a slightly different meaning. Originally it was a movement of churches and political activists to shelter Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict and trying to avoid deportation. It has since expanded to “a broader range of thinking by faith communities as to how they can be helpful to communities of undocumented persons.” See this description below, which includes the 4 categories of being a sanctuary.  Here are sanctuary activities Skyline is already involved in.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/irjfoqt6ing7n9o/Revised%20final%20resolution%20July%202017%202%20after%20edits.doc?dl=0

 Some churches are part of the movement by offering resources, such as food and supplies, while others will provide education and advocacy and accompaniment, and still others, rapid response, and still others, housing for undocumented persons. Any one or more of these 4 categories constitutes being a sanctuary church. We are involved in all areas except providing physical housing. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Would we be breaking the law? “There is a law against bringing in and harboring persons not authorized to be in the U.S. (INA Sec.274). Some courts have interpreted harboring to require concealment of a person, when we declare Sanctuary for an individual we are bringing them into the light of the community, not concealing them in the dark of secrecy (U.S. V Costello, 66 F.3d 1040, 7th Cir. 2012). Other courts have interpreted harboring to be simple sheltering (U.S. V Acosta de Evans, 531 F.2d 428 (9th Cir. 1976)… To date no one has ever been arrested for offering Sanctuary.” – From the New Sanctuary Toolkit 
  2. What prevents ICE from entering a church to execute a deportation order? There is nothing that categorically prevents ICE from entering a church, however there is an existing Memo (https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf) that advises officers and agents to avoid “sensitive locations” including schools, hospitals, churches, and the site of a public demonstration. 
  3. Why not just keep on doing service, why bother voting?   Voting offers political strength to the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, as well as to the state of California that have voted to become sanctuary. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-sanctuary-state_us_59ce7423e4b05f005d341453  Voting represents another form of spiritual courage and resistance to laws which punish hardworking civic minded people who are contributing to our cities and states. 
  4. Who are the members of the Sanctuary Movement Planning Team?
    Contact Mirtha Ninayahuar, Nancy Taylor, Rev Laurie Manning 
  5. What other faith congregations in the Bay area are sanctuary?  http://www.im4humanintegrity.org/sanctuary-map-northern-california/
  6. Other Resources?
    1. Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
    2. United Church of Christ Resources on Sanctuary
    3. National Sanctuary website and toolkit

 We look forward to your attendance at this important milestone in Skyline’s history on January 21 at 11:15 AM

Thank you,

Pastor Laurie