Oakland church

Archive for Messages from the Pastor

Summer – a Time Outside of Time

 

 

 

 

Summer time…. a time outside of time, a time for resting in nature, reveling in the unique beauty of this place we call home, renewing our souls, and remembering Who’s we are. 

Did you notice the full moon grow ever brighter?  Did you watch the fog move slowly under the Golden Gate bridge and over the  Peninsula ridge, and move across the Bay? Did you see how the violet poppies open in the morning and close at dusk?  

In the quiet beauty of such noticing, I give thanks to the small still voice within each one of us, “that makes us lie down in green pastures, that leads us besides the pools of still water, and restores our souls”.

I wish many such moments for you!! 

Immigrant Rights and Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Call to Action

Hi Rev Deb, (and IM4HI)

I hope that you are doing well, what a time to be alive, and advocating for the rights of undocumented people!   As you are well aware, the ongoing plight of immigrants at the border, especially children is heartbreaking and sickening, and is growing worse.  Then there’s also the upcoming ICE raids planned in a few weeks. We want to do something, and wanting to pool together ideas, resources, and responses.  You’ve probably seen this: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/24/opinion/border-kids-immigration-help.html

 What’s the Center for Human Integrity’s response, and how can we be of support, locally?

 peace, Laurie 

********************************************************

(From Rev. Deb)

Hi Rev. Laurie, and Skyline,

Here is our eblast where we are trying to direct people to act.  It would be good for congregations to get together – hold an event – to discuss and learn more, watch a film.  What is happening is not new, but is being exploited to an all new level.  Good for people to think about what they can do longterm – like support housing needs, creatively in the parking lot or congregations, or congregation members homes.
 
Also Donations are needed locally- as we are constantly getting requests for new arrivals – and have our emergency housing fund.  Once they are able to move out of the terrible camps at the border. They are coming to cities like ours across the country with little or no help and infrastructure.
 
 
Also we need help with Sergio’s bond fundraiser so he can come home.  Follow this link to donate-https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-reunite-sergio-with-his-fa…
Sent by
Rev. Deborah Lee
Executive Director
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HumanIntegrity)
310 8th St. Suite 310
Oakland, CA  94607
o) 510 948-7899  
c) 415- 534-5620
 
 
All People are Sacred Across All Borders
Justice Not Jails
Compassion Has No Walls 
More on the border issue:
Dear Friends:  
 
We are all concerned about the deplorable detention of children, and the President’s threat of immigration raids. Once again, he has created a hostage crisis. Now threatening to resume immigration raids in two weeks unless Congress approves a spending bill of $4.5 billion that would worsen the crisis he has created. The harm is felt across our communities, so we invite you to breathe and remember the power and strength we’ve been building in the local community. This violence is not isolated only to immigrants, but it is also practiced on other communities by recent policies: Muslims, Jews, Women of Color, Transgendered folks, Indigenous, African American, and more.
 
We invite you to join us in acts that lift up our faith values:
  • We must practice collective responsibility by addressing the root causes of social problems.
  • We are interconnected and accountable for one another.
CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS
Congress is in the midst of negotiating the two versions of the spending bill. It is critical that you contact your U.S. Congressperson’s office immediately. Click here to find your congress representative.
 
They need to hear your faith values that upholds the sanctity of all!
  • No more funding for ICE, detention, and enforcement.
  • Divest from all programs that criminalize and incarcerate immigrants.
  • Release all those detained to their families and communities.
  • Invest in alternatives that focus on integration of immigrants.
  • End contracts with private corporations.
JOIN UPCOMING EVENTS at IM4H
In addition to participating in local actions to express outrage and concern; we invite you to join us over the next few weeks to strengthen your faith, deepen our connection to each other, and mend the past, in order to transform our future!
 
 
 
 
 
August 10th, 7pm, Faith Reflection on Reparations: Led by Kehilla Community Synagogue, Chochmat HaLev, and IM4HI. More details to come.
TURNING OUR ANGER AND FEAR INTO ACTION
With the announcement last week, that several major U.S. cities would be terrorized by the cruel machine known as ICE, our family was once again forced to imagine what it would be like if we were separated and what our plan of action would be if this actually happened.  READ FULL ARTICLE HERE
 
For resources about detention and deportation please click here

Let Your Light Shine!

In just a few weeks, our sanctuary will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony which happened on July 14th, 1969. Happy ground breaking anniversary, Skyline sanctuary! What a vision! 

But the vision and the movement began much earlier, as the young families living in the Oakland hills searched for a more progressive, non-doctrinal faith community. Founding Pastor, William McCormack, held worship services at Skyline High School while his wife played the portable organ.  Friends invited friends to come and experience this new happening.  Skyline’s first annual meeting took place Jan 4th, 1964, at the high school, and 300 members were enrolled at that time. It sounds like a story of Pentecost to me!

We are part of the UCC’s amazing legacy, the first national denomination to ordain an African American, a woman, an openly gay man, and now the first national denomination to support the Green New Deal.  Skyline has an amazing legacy as well. We are a progressive, spiritual, open and affirming, green, sanctuary congregation. Ours is a vision and a voice, that is vitally needed in these challenging times.

Here we are, 50 years later, living in a very different time. The Spirit is calling us to lift up our hearts , open our eyes, and respond to the new vision that God is calling us to in this time and place.  

Join us this Sunday for a wonderful worship service, including a baptism, to be followed by our annual meeting.  Child care and lunch are provided. We encourage you to log on to the website to review the budget and our slate of officers, prior to the meeting.   

You and I are called to be light. Jesus said so! As Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:14-16: 
 
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel basket do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous God in heaven.

Labor Day and Immigrant Rights Day as a Sanctuary Community

When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

May is here. May 1st marks, for many people of the world, International Workers Day, also known as Labor Day, a time of honoring and advocating for laborers and working class people.  Relatedly, May 6th is Immigrant Rights Day to champion the rights and contributions of immigrants as a vital part of our country, especially here in California and in Oakland.  

Celebrations on May 1 have long had two, seemingly contradictory meanings. On one hand, May Day is known for maypoles, flowers and welcoming the spring. On the other hand, it’s a day of worker solidarity and protest. Though the U.S. observes its official Labor Day in September, many countries will celebrate Labor Day on Wednesday.   I’d like to share with you an article that reflects on the bloody history of this day.
 
Come and learn more about how we can become better friends and advocates as a sanctuary congregation and a justice faith community.  For example, supporting the children of Guatemala and their families through the Nueva Esperanza preschool; advocating for those held in detention centers and for children separated from their parents at the borders; and advocating for living wages, affordable housing, education and healthcare for all people.
 
with love, Pastor Laurie 

Earth Day – “I come into the peace of wild things…”

It’s Monday, Earth Day, and it’s a glorious spring afternoon. I am sitting in the Garden of Eden which exists in my back yard; as the warm sun kisses my shoulders through the shade of graceful redwood and bay trees, and my senses are filled with the fragrance of roses and trees.

It was Wendell Berry who wrote: 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

All of us who know that all is not as it should be in the world, and it is easy for despair to grow-yet today, Earth Day, we remember our interconnection with Earth and with one another, while pledging to make a difference in how we live, work, and worship.

I give thanks that I am part of a faith community and a denomination that embraces God’s calling to us as active participants in caring for this Garden of Eden.

Join us this Sunday as we are blessed by the music of the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and learn more about how we are advocating for the Green New Deal!

Power of Love in the Midst of Destruction

The prophet Isaiah, thousands of years ago, described God’s creative power – bringing forth new life in the midst of destruction, within and all around us:

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:16-21 

Join us this Sunday, as we awaken to this power of love within, and all around us. 

Photo by ardito-ryan-harrisna-1194309-unsplash

“Even there your hand shall lead me” Psalm 139

Psalm 139 is a breathtakingly beautiful testament to God’s constant, intimate presence in our lives. “If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”
 
God is with us even in our darkness, even when we plunge into an abyss of doubt or depression or despair, even when we do wrong. Even our darkest darkness is as light with God. God turns our darkness into light. God turns our messy, wounded, flawed selves into healed and redeemed lives, and then God’s light shines through our stained glass into the world as pure love.
 
The Psalm ends with a plea to God. “See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” It is a plea to save us from unbelief, to help us believe the beautiful promise that God is with us always and forever.  The transfiguration story in Luke is also about the ability to believe.  Join us, this Sunday, as we worship together, praying to God to strengthen our belief so that we may see the truth of this beautiful vision unfolding around us…

Everyone has a Place at the Table

Lately, I hear myself thinking, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”, especially when I read some of the insights from the Poor People’s campaign, a revival of Dr King’s vision, from 50 years ago:  https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/demands/.  (The Justice and Witness Team shares this event – A Poor People’s Hearing – contact Nancy Taylor about going),

Did you know that while the U.S. economy has grown 18-fold in the past 50 years, wealth inequality has expanded, the costs of living have increased, and social programs have been restructured and cut dramatically?  It’s tempting to think that’s the way things are doomed to be. 

 I take comfort in our sacred scriptures that remind us of the way that God wants things to be,  and why God gave ancient Israel laws about how the poor are to be treated: “These rights and obligations are also rooted in the goodness and justice of the created order”.

Well, we look around, and things often don’t resemble that beautiful created order much at all. 

We are called to participate in the co-creation of a heavenly banquet, where everyone has a place at the table;  where everyone has a roof over their head, to live more fully, more intentionally, in the “already” part of “already but not yet” nature of the Reign of God.  “The shape of God’s future must shape our present.”

Here at Skyline, we’re involved in both charity and justice to bring good news to the poor.  To learn more, just click on our website: https://skylineucc.org/justice-witness/.

In a beautiful reflection on Jesus’s upside down kingdom, Frederick Buechner writes this:

“The world says, ‘Mind your own business,’

and Jesus says, ‘There is no such thing as your own business.’

The world says, ‘Follow the wisest course and be a success,’

and Jesus says, ‘Follow me and be crucified.’

The world says, ‘Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own’ —

and Jesus says, ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’

The world says, ‘Law and order,’

and Jesus says, ‘Love.’

The world says, ‘Get’

and Jesus says, ‘Give.’ 

May it be so with us. Blessings upon your week, with love, Pastor Laurie 

Our Calling and Vocation to Love

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


This week, our adventures continue as we explore our calling and vocation to love. Jesus calls his first disciples, who are fisherman, to cast their nets out into the deep where they will find abundance; and re-defines them as fishers of men. It reminds me of this beautiful quote by the French novelist, author of Le Petit Prince,  Antoine de Saint-Exupery: 
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
It helps to keep the big picture in mind.
  1. Notice where you have settled for a small life, for a life that is shallow, or wasted on trivial things.
  2. Plunge into the deep. Take up the practice of contemplative prayer, or selfless service, or whatever helps you to relinquish your small self and to discover again that the deep

    Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


    ground of your being is love –  Ephesians 3:17. When our consciousness is open to the divine Presence in which we are submerged, then we can return to our ordinary tasks with fresh energy and a new perspective.
  3.  And finally, listen for your call. God has a mission for you! When you know that you are loved; when you know that your deep self, your real self, is in God and that you are made for union with God; then God will send you back out into the world to speak and act fearlessly for peace,  healing, and reconciling and setting free. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says to Simon, and to us, as well. The outcome of our efforts is in the hands of God, and we trust that God will work through us, and that, in a way we cannot possibly  imagine, our lives will bear abundant fruit. God is whispering in our hearts, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, and we dare to reply, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 )
Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

“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