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A Lesson from God’s Creatures

What do you cherish?

What would it take for you to recognize it?

My epiphany came in the form of large, iridescent glossy black birds, ravens to be precise.

Over a year ago, a pair of ravens started visiting our back deck to snatch tidbits of food left for the jays. I called them Tristan and Isolde. I watched them, fascinated by their behavior. If one came, it waited for the other to arrive before eating. They spoke to each other in their corvid dialect and it wasn’t hard to see they were having a conversation as a couple. They seemed to cherish each other deeply.

Now most of you know we’ve had a tough time with my spouse’s cancer. Sometimes between all the medical visits, chemotherapy appointments, challenges and stresses the little things – like cherishing each other – get lost.

One afternoon I was helping my spouse get washed up, chatting with him, when I looked out the window. Tristan and Isolde sat on the branches of the redwood tree, snuggled close, chortling and whispering strange vocalization as they carefully preened each other. And it hit me: I could learn a lot about marital bliss from these birds.

I made a conscious effort to hug my spouse, to be kind and patient, to care for him like the birds did for each other. It has helped me to understand that in these days, every moment together is golden. Cherish those you love. Tell them you love them.

Post Note:

This past week Tristan and Isolde surprised us: they guided two fully-fledged raven chicks to our deck to visit. A family to cherish… and we have a whole new set of examples to follow. 

By David G.

Alternatives to Calling the Police:  TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE, 4th in series

The fourth in this series of Alternatives to Calling the Police workshops will offer a basic introduction to and overview of the core concepts of “transformative justice”.   It will be a space for participants to learn about transformative justice and how to begin thinking about community-based responses to violence. We will also cover the concept of “pods” from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC). This will be an educational event with a Q&A.

We ask for a donation of any amount to support the continued work of the Alternatives to Policing Coalition. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Sunday, July 21, 2-6 pm

First Congregational Church of Oakland

2501 Harrison St.., Oakland

Contact Nancy Taylor via the office (510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org) if you wish to carpool.

This is a two-year project (2019-2020), more than a year in the making, is being co-sponsored by Skyline UCC with other groups.

Some things to know about this project:
WHAT IT IS NOT:

  1. Anti-police.
  2. Participation in this project does NOT constitute a commitment to not call the police.

WHAT IT IS:

  1. A realization/acceptance that when black lives are involved, calling the police can be fatal.
  2. An exploration of alternatives that can be more effective than the police, such as groups that are trained in non-violent communications, de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention (in areas such as mental health, drug & alcohol abuse), self defense, conflict resolution, medical training, community disaster preparedness, etc.
  3. Internal work on the effects of White Supremacy on police violence, examining safety & security, interracial dynamics in the community, what internal fears make people rely on the police?  (Each community would tailor content of inner work to its own needs.)
  4. Ways to get to know our neighbors and to help us to know and trust each other via material resources, availability for prayer and conversation, etc.

In Summary: this is an invitation to participate in a program that can build toward the creation of a true Beloved Community that chooses to not collude with empire (in this case, the “prison-industrial complex”) in the name of safety, and that is willing to take the risk(s) necessary to explore an alternative first-responder network that provides interventions, when necessary, for the safety of all individuals and groups that are participating.   This is also a next step in examining our own internal mechanisms of White Supremacy/racism/white fragility.  ALL are invited to join in this opportunity for growth, and in this righteous (and scary!) adventure.  Contact Nancy Taylor via the office (510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org)

Sanctuary Support Needed for Asylum Seeker

From The Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring, pastor at Eden UCC:  We have a new asylum seeker in our midst. Her name is Rihana. She is a friend of the family we are supporting at Eden UCC in Hayward.

Rihana is a 21 year old transgender woman who is a native of Chinandega, Nicaragua. She came to the US on April 11, 2019 seeking asylum after having been the victim of a hate crime in her home country. Rihana was beaten by five men, her throat was slit with a broken bottle, and she was left for dead in a rural area. She was taken to a regional hospital where she remained in a coma for two days, and continued to be treated for another 7 days. (She has letters from a clinical psychologist and photos taken at a hospital in Nicaragua documenting her trauma.) After she recovered enough from her injuries to travel, Rihana made her way to the US. She crossed the border  into Arizona and was taken into custody by ICE on April 11, 2019. She appeared in immigration court in detention. The judge ruled that she has “a credible fear” and granted her humanitarian parole provided that she pay a $10,000 bond. We will seek legal aid to transfer her immigration case to the SF court. We were able to negotiate the bail down to $1500 and find a church in NYC (Park Avenue Christian Church) that would put up the bond money. Rihana was released 12 hours later at the PHX bus station, where two advocates who are friends of a friend of mine (a pastor who is also an asylee) picked her up, took her to an emergency shelter, and cared for her since early last Tuesday morning. A member of my church donated money to cover air fare for Rihanna. She is flying to Oakland tonight.

Collaborators: Pastor Arlene Nehring & Stephanie Spencer, and Pastor Marvin Lance Wiser & Yuliana Wiser Leon (EUCC, Hayward), Pastor Rhina Ramos (Ministerio Latinx, Oakland), Pastors Eric Sherlock and Todd Adkins-Whitley (Danville Congregational Church UCC), and Pastor Laura Rose (First Congregational Church Alameda.) 

Institutional Partners: Eden United Church of Christ, Hayward, Danville Congregational Church UCC, and First Congregational UCC Alameda. 

Immediate Needs:

  1. Hospitable housing in the Bay Area, i.e., use of a guest room with kitchen and bathroom privileges, or a room in a guest house. The host(s) need not be fluent Spanish speakers, but they do need to be LGBT friendly folks.
  2. Cash and/or in-kind help with food, clothing, telephone, transportation  
  3. Coaching to acquire healthcare benefits and services (Eden Church can provide coaching for new volunteers as needed)
  4. Legal aid (Pastor Rhina, Pastor Marvin, and Pastor Arlene have begun a search for legal representation). If pro bono counsel can be found, funds will be needed to cover various application fees. 
  5. Court accompaniment (Eden Church will take the lead, but we need bodies to pack the court when she is required to appear.)
  6. Cultural navigation support (We can train trainers.)

Immigration ministry is intense. None of us can do this alone. I recommend reflecting on what we CAN do, rather than what we can NOT do—always mindful that through God all things are possible.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss this invitation.

Thank you, 

Arlene

The Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring

Senior Minister

Eden United Church of Christ  510-582-9533 

Unity within our Diversity

Last Sunday after the service, I was having a wonderful conversation with a lovely young couple who were visiting with their parents from San Francisco,  who’d joined us for worship.  The whole family seemed to be having a great time, and in fact, one of the parents serenaded us during fellowship time on the piano!
 
I wasn’t quite sure, but I suspected that they were checking out the facility to see if they’d like to get married here.    Sure enough, they told me that they are getting married here, June 2020, and after a great conversation, the young man turned to me and said, “I don’t know how to ask you this, but will you marry us?”    What a proposal!  Not just to be married within this beautiful sanctuary, but to be married within this beautiful progressive faith that we share!     Of course I accepted and told them,  I would love to work with both of you,  in preparing for your marriage as well as your wedding! 
 
Over the years, I have presided and co-presided at many weddings, both ecumenical and interfaith, including  a Taoist Christian wedding, coming up next month!   And through the years, these relationships continue.  Next Sunday afternoon I will baptize baby Lucy, who’s parents, Catherine and Auggie, I married seven years ago.  Their older son, Jack, now attends Skyline preschool. The week after that, in worship, we will be baptizing baby Josiah (who played baby Jesus in our Christmas pageant)  and I had the pleasure and honor of marrying his parents Amie and Justin,  two years ago! 
 
This Sunday we are fortunate to have, Charlie Holmes, offering a reflection entitled, “Felt Traits of One Who Tried to Help”, focusing upon the evolution of Bobby Kennedy, and upon the wisdom of Lao Tzu, the mystic philosopher from ancient China.  He writes, “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
 
Thank you Skyline community, for being the warm and welcoming, diverse and evolving community that we are. 
 
Blessings upon your week! 

Let Justice Roll Down: Skyline and NCNC bringing Green New Deal Resolution to Conference

Hi dear ones,

Was it hot enough for you earlier this week? Yikes! 98 degrees here in San Leandro as I type this!    Inevitably we’re all talking about the weather this week.    On Monday I had a chance to sit outside in the 95 degree heat with my friend Matthew Hobbie, visiting from Alaska, who proclaimed, “This Alaska snowman is melting”. We discussed the heat and global warming, and how the evidence of climate change is indisputable in Alaska, even with the heavy influence of the petrol industry! 

I shared stories about our recent trip to Paradise, and what a terrifying experience it was to see this beautiful town still reeling from the Camp Fire devastation from last year.  Global warming is real, and our denomination is taking a bold stance to support the Green New Deal (GND) this week at our annual conference meeting. 

Thank you Skyline for voting to endorse this resolution! 

LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN — DECLARING SUPPORT FOR THE GREEN NEW DEAL AND AFFIRMING THE INTERSECTIONALITY OF CLIMATE JUSTICE WITH ALL JUSTICE ISSUES

Thanks to Rev Jim Antol, recently retired conference minister from MA who serves as special advisor on climate justice to GM and is President of UCC, who wrote this UCC resolution.  It certainly gets the award for the longest title of any resolution passed by the UCC!  It’s been submitted by 4 conferences within UCC:  Vermont, Pacific Northwest, New York, and New Haven Association of Connecticut.  Other conferences like ours are seeking to endorse this.  Before we get into the UCC resolution – I want to clarify what the GND, HR 109 is and is not.

What the congressional GND isn’t:

  • It is not legislation – it’s a resolution, but people tend to mix those up
  • It is not a proposal for laws to be passed

What the congressional GND is:

  • It marks the 1st time that Congress has been presented with an opportunity to act on climate change by taking a vote that recognizes the scope of the challenge , the urgency of the crisis,  the intersectionality of the numerous justice issues that are amplified by climate change
  • It is the opportunity to act on climate in a way that also addresses racial injustice, economic injustice,  and the need to create clean healthful, and family supporting jobs that our planet needs,
  • It is the opportunity to deploy solutions that address all of these moral challenges
  • Again, just be clear while the green deal resolution is a declaration of aspirational equipment it’s not legislation.

Here are 3 reasons why the UCC should endorse the GND.

  1. GND addresses the most important justice issues that the UCC has been committed to for decades. It demands that the federal government address injustice of climate change in a way that also tackles the systemic injustices that disproportionately affect vulnerable and front-line communities including racial injustice, economic injustice and the need to create clean helpful and family supporting jobs that our planet needs.  
  2. The second reason is that the GND acknowledges the necessity of assuming moral responsibility for intergenerational harm caused by the failure to act on climate change and the urgency of acting on a comprehensive scale to reduce the catastrophic future that the next generations will inherit.
  3.  GND offers tangible hope in the face of threats that are becoming more and more real to more people in the US and throughout the world.  Or, to put it another way, it’s up to us to transform these threats into opportunities; to create fair paying jobs, secure clean air and water, redress manifestations of environmental racism, and pursue a just transition to clean and renewable energy. And we can do this!

So how will the UCC act on this enforcement? Here I’m essentially explicating what are the “be it resolved” portions of resolution.  The resolution declares that the whole of the church accepts the moral responsibility that comes with living at such time as this, and we accept that moral responsibility by undertaking the following actions:

  1. standing up for science and continuing to learn from new science
  2. discussing climate change with increasing frequency at church, home and in social encounters
  3. telling others that we already have all the technology we need to achieve the goals of the GND
  4. incorporating into our worship life and community leadership an awareness of climate change, its consequences especially for vulnerable and front-line communities, and make the changes science says we must and technology says we can
  5. helping our communities to be more prepared for extreme weather events and to become a resource
  6. lifting up the reality of millions of people, regardless of their political affiliation or resolve to support the GND
  7. paying attention and engaging federal state and local agencies as advocates for policies and legislation that advance the goals of green new deal including its commitment to address systemic injustice, that disproportionately affects front-line vulnerable communities.
  8. and finally advocating for a just transition for all those workers and communities most dependent on fossil fuel energy so that they also have opportunities for clean, healthful, family supporting jobs that heal our planet.

If this resolution passes the UCC will be the first national denomination to endorse the GND.  In this way, this vote would become yet another example of our UC C motto, that many of us like to remind people of, “we’re not radical, we’re just early”.

Now is the time for our denomination to add to the long list of UCC firsts by signaling to the world, that:

  • the earth is God’s-it’s not ours to wreck.  
  • the urgency of this crisis demands immediate action
  • the scope of this challenge requires us to transform our economy on a scale with no historic precedent
  • that we can only solve the climate crisis if we also address racial justice, economic injustice and the need to create clean healthful and family supporting jobs that heal our planet.
  •  that we already have at our disposal all solutions we need to address all of these moral challenges

Yes, the GND is aspirational but who among us does not share the aspirations of our children and grandchildren to extinguish the fire that is now consuming the world into which we were born. We can do this and we will !

                                    Blessings, Laurie 

“Unless the heart catch fire…”

This Sunday we are celebrating Pentecost!  Early on in the service, to honor the diversity of people from all over the world, I will invite people to greet each other, speaking  in various “tongues” besides English.  Please, come and open us to new ways of saying, “Good morning!” “How are you?”  In anticipation of the power of this Sunday, I am reminded of the words of William Blake: 

Unless the eye catch fire, God will not be seen.

Unless the ear catch fire, God will not be heard.

 Unless the tongue catch fire, God will not be named.

 Unless the heart catch fire, God will not be loved.

 Unless the mind catch fire, God will not be known.

May we all be kindled in the fire of God’s love!  with love, Pastor Lauri

Fold Yourself into the Dough that is Skyline with your Stewardship

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

What a busy week at Skyline! It was full of life! 

On Saturday, our Preschool held the Annual Spring Fling to raise funds for scholarships for families; and one of the highlights was “Magic Dan” (check out his video). 

https://vimeo.com/337400196

On Sunday, we honored and celebrated our children’s program director, Rev Sheryl, on her last Sunday with us, and then a group of us attended the 20th anniversary of the Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus, which includes several of our beloved members.

 (check out the videos)  

https://vimeo.com/337396238

https://vimeo.com/337395463

https://vimeo.com/337396023

I give thanks for each one of you, and what happens with our synergy, our collective efforts, which God expands, exponentially. 

These are difficult times that we are living in – difficult for the world, for our country, and for many progressive faith communities, and the best time to give is during such times.  

I give thanks for our leaders, particularly our church council members, who are chosen by us, from among us to lead the church. 

I give thanks for what happens in Sunday worship: 

  • Will is still filling the candlestick holders
  • Sheila cuts our communion loaf
  • David Guerra adorns the communion table for the theme for worship
  • Benjamin and the choir practices
  • Greeters, like Paula, open the doors and welcome us
  • Ushers,  take up the collection and others, distribute communion
  • Karl take photos
  • Someone hosts
  • Someone volunteers to teach church school with the children 

As our moderator Steve Kilgore mentioned last Sunday, that as a congregational church we are self-governing.  This means we decide who we (as a church) want to be and what we want to do.  There is no hierarchy outside of this congregation telling us how to manifest God’s love.  We have the freedom to:

  • Reach out to the extended community with an annual  Blessing of the Animals, visits to nearby homeless shelters, bike ride fundraisers, vigils to advocate for human rights 
  • Welcome those who have been marginalized by organized religion by holding an annual LGBTQ Pride service 
  • Help those in need by supporting the Nueva Esperanza Preschool or by donating money to the local food bank
  • Advocate to keep coal out of Oakland, and fossil fuels in the ground. 

In this church, every one of us has the freedom to put forth ideas about how this church should be and proceed.  But with freedom comes responsibility.  Just as there is no authoritative power defining us, there is no benefactor supporting us. It is up to us to pay the utility bills, maintain our church property, promote our church, and help our light shine.

Ruby Bridges, civil rights leader, once said, “Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and start a trail.”

  • Over the next few weeks,  as you consider the stewardship you can offer this congregation, think about the trails we have cut, and those we should start together.
  • Some of us are trailblazers, others help shore up the trail. Both are needed.
  • Some of us have money,  some of us have skills, some of us have time. All are needed.
  • Especially in this year, as we honor our 50th anniversary, think about who and what YOU want this church to be, and then fold yourself in to the dough that is Skyline Community Church.
  • Your contribution is the yeast and fiber that defines this church.

Here’s the link to Skyline’s stewardship opportunities this year!  

 

 

Graduation Sunday 2019

May and June are the seasons for graduation, and so this Sunday we honor our graduates including our Children’s program director Sheryl on her last Sunday with us. 
 
It’s a day of sending forth, a day of mixed emotions, of joy and sadness, of holding on & letting go. A  day of recognizing, as in the beautiful words of Kahlil Gibran,   “your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughter’s of life’s longing for itself.”  http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html
 
At the same time, it’s a recognition of the tremendous pressures on children these days, in our culture, and how it truly takes a village to raise our children.   https://rightforeducation.org/2016/07/it-takes-a-whole-village/
 
I give thanks to this faith community, for sharing in making these dreams a reality. 
 
Join us this Sunday, as we celebrate honor and support our graduates, of all ages, from our preschoolers, to our PHD students!  Bring your graduates! 
 
peace, Pastor Laurie 

Spring Fling Preschool Dinner and Fundraiser 2019

The Skyline Preschool Fundraiser is this coming Saturday, May 18th. There are so many great prizes this year that we are raffling off to raise funds for the school’s scholarship fund as well as general improvements to the school. Below is a listing of the prizes we have so far. 
 
Grand Prize # 1: Seven(7) Nights in Hawaii ($10 Blue Tickets):
Grand Prize # 2: $3,500 Disney Gift Card ($10 Red Tickets):
Grand Prize # 3: Weekend Stay in Sea Ranch ($10 Green Tickets):
 
In addition to the grand prize drawings, there will be several other raffle ticket items ($5 Yellow Tickets):
  • Dinner for a party of six (6) at MarketBar in San Francisco ($350 Value)
  • Dinner for a part of four (4) at Florio Bar & Cafe in San Francisco ($250 Value)
  • Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary “Cedar Enzyme Bath for Two” Gift Certificate ($178 Value)
  • Gilroy Gardens – Two (2) Single Day Admissions ($116 value)
  • Viscera Private Shopping Appointment & $100 Gift Card
  • Tutu School – One (1) Month of Classes ($100 Value)
  • AMC Movie Theater $100 Gift Card
  • Family Day Pass to the Oakland Zoo ($98 Value)
  • Trader Joes Bag of Nut-Free Snacks ($50 Value)
  • Custom Encaustic Painting by Jenn Leighton Parker ($ Value TBD)
  • Hipline Dance Classes ($ Value TBD)
  • Leather Suspenders ($ Value TBD)
  • Essential Oils Gift Basket ($ Value TBD)
  • Knudsen’s Ice Creamery $20 Gift Card
  • MOD Pizza $50 Gift Card

You’ve Been Like a Mother to Me

One of the most memorable Mother’s Day cards I’ve ever seen was one that my brother Steve gave to my mother, when he was in his early teens.  The card had a beautiful rose on the outside, and on the inside was printed these words,   “You’ve been like a mother to me”. We all laughed, especially my mother, saying, “well that’s good to know Steven, because I AM your mother”.. It’s easy to retell this story as an example of the confused thinking of a young teenager,  but I think that Steve was on to something profound..

You’ve been like a mother to me.  In other words, you’ve made space and time for me, you carry me in your heart, and you have never abandoned me. I believe in you. I trust in your love. 

Mother’s Day is complicated for so many reasons. We’ve all had, and have, such uniquely different experiences of our own mothers. And, women have all had such uniquely different experiences of being a mother, or not being a mother. Times have changed so much with respect to the roles of women, and also with respect to the understanding of what it means to “be fruitful and multiply”. Mother’s Day has become so commercialized.  And we lose sight of the amazing, life changing processes in nature that bring forth new life.  Processes  that so many of the world’s religions draw upon as a metaphor when trying to describe the experience of God creating new life within all of us. 

So this Sunday we will honor “You’ve Been Like a Mother to Me” Day.  We will seek to honor the life giving love that we’ve all experienced, and God’s creative loving energies working within all of us. 

Ee cummings writes a poem about this love, which I interpret as God’s love poem to each one of us:  

Ee cummings..  [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/i-carry-your-heart-with-me-by-ee-cummings