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Pies for Annual Thanksgiving dinner for those in need

Each year, the day before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving Day, folks from all over the Oakland community gather to serve the homeless, elderly, and those in need at Lake Merritt U.M. Church in downtown Oakland.

We at Skyline have been asked, once again, to help provide pies! We are the pie experts! 

  • All pies are welcome – (we want a variety). They can be homemade, purchased frozen and cooked, purchased ready to serve, etc. (We can’t use frozen, uncooked pies as all the ovens are in use for preparing the rest of the dinner.)
  • The U.M. Church is hoping for 60 pies from Skyline (which we usually provide).
  • Paula will pick up pies on Wednesday,  the 27th, by 10:00 AM and take them to Lake Merritt. (note change from last year that she’s picking them up a day earlier)
  • Folks can leave them in the Friendship Room after church  (office hours are 9-3 T-F – contact Nancy M at 510-531-8212) or meet me at the church that morning.
  • If you don’t have time to bake, I will buy pies for you (make checks to Skyline UCC, mark pies in the memo field) 
  • There will be a sign-up sheet which I will have each Sunday beginning November  10th. Thank you so much for agreeing to aid this project!

Most food for this feast is donated: turkeys (no frozen ones the week of Thanksgiving), potatoes, beans, rolls, salad, and pies – some is purchased from the Alameda County Food Bank, the rest is either by donation of items or money. Last year they purchased $1300 worth of turkeys and served close to 800 meals, including take-home, and anticipate the need will be greater this year.

Volunteers are also welcomed – check with them or me about an age limit for children. They need to know ahead of time so they can monitor the flow and use of volunteers.  Anyone wishing to help cook the turkeys- that is done beginning at 7:30 a.m. On Wednesday, Nov. 27th, at the church.

Any questions, contact Paula by calling the office at 510-531-8212

Film Night: What is Democracy?  

Friday, Nov 15:  Potluck Dinner at 6:30 and Film at 7:30 

At a time of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted.

Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated theorists, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers—this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.

Join us for  potluck, film and conversation! 

Go here for the official trailer!

All are Welcome!

For more information:  Catherine Kessler (510)499-8114) cath.kessler@comcast.net., Nancy Taylor: (510-325-4957) ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com

Town Hall on Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan

Wednesday, November 13, 6-9 PM
The Green Team and Justice and Witness Team request your attention and action:

To Oakland Residents:
  You are invited to this Town Hall Meeting, to review and give your comments on
                        Oakland’s Draft 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan 
Visit this link to comment directly on the draft, and join us at a Town Hall to review and discuss the Plan as a community.

Wednesday, November 13
Location: Lincoln Square Recreation Center
250 10th Street, in Chinatown
Time: 6-9 pm (dinner at 5:30)
RSVP: https://climatejusticetownhall2.eventbrite.com 
At the Town Hall meetings, Oaklanders will come together to dive further into the ECAP and the draft Actions, and vote on what needs to be kept, improved, or eliminated. Food and childcare will be provided. Simultaneous interpretation will be available with advanced request. Both Town Halls will cover the same material.
For more information or if you need a ride, contact Catherine Kessler (510)499-8114) cath.kessler@comcast.net.

Protecting Ourselves & Pets from Hidden Health Hazards at Home

Skyline Community Church welcomes you to our first presentation in a series provided by our neighboring experts in the Bay Area as a free education service to improve the health and well-being of everyone. 

Speaker, Susan JunFish, MPH is retired from Cal/EPA, Founder of Parents for a Safer Environment, and an environmental health scientist & public health educator trained at UC Berkeley.  She will address the 10 toxic categories of environmental exposures, referred to as “oxidative stressors.”   Many everyday and unexpected hidden sources of toxic exposures have simple solutions.  Reduce your and your loved ones’ risk to cancer, autoimmune diseases, reproductive/developmental diseases, learning disability, and even conditions like sleep disorder and anxiety.

To view the flier, click here.

To register and let us know a little about your interests, click here.

Sunday, Nov 17, 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM at Skyline sanctuary.

Homelessness in our County – EOCP Representatives at Skyline this Sunday

In recent years, journalists and advocates have tried to capture the scope of the Bay Area’s homelessness crisis — a problem that often feels unfathomable in its depth and complexity. This Sunday, we are pleased to have with us Terrance Thompson, Director of Transitional Housing at the Matilda Cleveland Clinic of the East Oakland Community Project (EOCP), along with several staff members and clients.  They will share a bit more about: 

Join us for worship and a discussion after the service with Terrance, the staff and clients, to learn more about our neighbors living just fifteen minutes from here.

Special thanks to Nancy Taylor for her many years of  support and advocacy for EOCP.  Mark your calendars for Tuesday, Dec 17, when, with Santa, we will bring gifts, sing carols, and share a meal with these young families.  

I’d also like to share with you, below, a story about the Genesis of a new model of providing urgently needed affordable housing in the Bay Area, that Skyline and I are instrumental in initiating.  This article is written by  the  Rev. Dr. Patrick G. Duggan, Executive Director of the United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund. Since 1995, Rev. Dr. Duggan has also served as senior pastor of the Congregational Church of South Hempstead in South Hempstead, New York.

 Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

This past August, the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF) did something that, to our knowledge, had never been done in the Fund’s 166-year history. The respective boards of the Church Building & Loan Fund and the UCC Cornerstone Fund voted to approve joint financing of a $3.6 million loan to Genesis Worship Center, a nondenominational church located in Oakland, California.

So, what is new about a loan approval at CB&LF after financing over 4000 church projects?

Was it the size of the loan or that it was a participation loan between the two United Church of Christ church loan funds?  No, neither of these were new nor unusual. Perhaps it was the fact that the loan was made to a church that is not a part of the United Church of Christ? No, CB&LF has always included, as a part of its mission, offering its products and services to all Christian churches regardless of denominational affiliation or lack thereof.

What was precedent-setting for the loan to Genesis Worship Center is that it was the first CB&LF loan to be used to transform an existing church fellowship hall into an affordable housing project. When construction is completed in the next 18-24 months, a building that had been used for Sunday fellowship hour, church meetings, wedding receptions, and birthday parties will be transformed into twelve brand new affordable apartments for low- and moderate-income families from the Bay Area.

It is not lost on this author that CB&LF’s first loan for a major repurposing project on church property, an affordable housing development, is for a church named “Genesis”. In addition to the name, however, there are several elements to this project that signaled to us that the Holy Spirit was affirming CB&LF’s renewed strategic vision to transform communities by helping the Church live into God’s economy.

Firstly, over 28,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area of Californiathe third-largest homeless population in the country. The region has the second-largest percentage of homeless people in the U.S. without temporary shelter: 67%.  San Francisco recently reported 1,794 people living in carsa 45% increase since 2017. Drive around any of the 101 cities in the nine Bay Area counties, and you will see families living in cars, in tent cities, on medians, dead-end streets, at railyards, under bridges and overpasses, in parks, and on downtown streets. Over 10% of the Bay Area homeless hold jobs, and some are college students.  A recent study reported that in the state of California, 19% of the state’s 2.1 million college students, over 400,000 people, have experienced homelessness in the past year. Some 60% of these students are housing insecure; half have experienced hunger.

The statistics affirm the biblical imperative for God’s people to act on behalf of the homeless and housing insecure. Bay Area congregations on their own and through organizations like the Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) have answered the call, working with local officials to offer immediate and short-term aid while developing long term solutions. It was partly through the efforts of ICAC Executive Committee member Pastor Laurie Manning of Skyline United Church of Christ that CB&LF was invited to present to the ICAC this past April to talk about the financing, consulting and transformational services CB&LF could bring to bear to meet this dire need.

Another sign of God’s hand was that CB&LF was sought out as a source of financing by New Way Homes, the developer for Genesis. New Way’s founder, a retired tech entrepreneur, formed the enterprise because he was moved by the urgency of the Bay Area housing crisis. New Way specializes in affordable housing development on urban church properties in the Bay Area. This talented boutique development firm understood that CB&LF offers low cost, flexible financing exclusively to churches and church organizations. They appreciated CB&LF’s mission and strategic vision to deploy its wealth toward ending poverty in America. They were amazed by CB&LF’s experience in helping churches to align the use of their real estate assets with ministry goals and community needs.

Thirdly, the timeframe from initial contact with Genesis to loan approval for the project was by comparison, extremely short.   Typically, churches are very slow to act on major building projects. For example, CB&LF will train or otherwise assist over 700 church leaders this year. Of that number, less than 5% of those leaders will influence their respective congregations to initiate a building project within the first 12 months after contact. Most congregations take two to three years to move from a decision to the start of a building project.

Genesis Pastor George Matthews, a gifted church leader who holds both MDiv and MBA degrees, was apparently among the 5% mentioned above. We visited Pastor Matthews and walked the Genesis Worship Center site in April 2019.  He worked with New Way Homes to submit a very strong loan application a few weeks later, and after review and underwriting by the Cornerstone Fund, the Genesis Worship Center loan application was approved by the CB&LF Board of Directors on July 26, 2019.

This past Saturday, Nov 1, these many partners, as well as Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff and District 4 Alameda County Board of Supervisor Nate Miley joined us for the groundbreaking ceremony. 

As Mayor Schaff puts it, “this church, this congregation, this partnership, this leadership, working with the countyYou are going to set a new model, support the leadership of the Interfaith council of Alameda County, we inspire each other – our values are aligned, inspiring the faith community to do more about our homelessness crisis. Government cannot do it alone. we don’t have all of the resources we want to meet the needs that we see, that we have been called as public servants to do, to reduce human suffering, to create human society that is more fair, clearly we have more work to do in both categories, but we clearly cannot do it alone, & your partnership, your leadership, your delivery of these incredible results, 12 homes, where people will go to bed at night, with a sense of safety, where they will build a sense of community, you are creating a model for future programs. I encourage us to be creative, to be in partnership, in creating home for all people in our city. Thank you for being such an important part of building the Oakland Community”

Genesis… New Way… If this was a tale and not a true account of a new thing at CB&LF, you could not come up with better names!


Rev. Jerri Handy Speaking on work with HIV/AIDS Hospice in Tijuana

Our very own member, Rev Jerri Handy, will be traveling in Tijuana Mexico next week as part of her work with UCC Global Ministries with Albergue Las Memorias. This is an HIV/AIDS Hospice Center currently serving 95+ residents. This particular center is unique in its mission to house, clothe, feed, and transport to medical appointments as needed for each resident. All of this is offered without cost to residents, all of whom are HIV positive. And it is more than this, as residents find hope and meaning in life as they live in an atmosphere of care and respect.

Jerri describes her work at this hospice center:   My whole life has been preparing me for serving at Las Memorias. I have a Marriage and Family Therapy degree from Christian Theological Seminary and an MDiv from Pacific School of Religion. These two degrees, together with my life experiences, have prepared me to work with individuals and families who are facing life decisions. Addictions work, family systems in a community setting and working with spiritual guidance all come together in this community.

She will return with stories from her travels, and share these as part of her sermon on Sunday, Oct 27.  Her sermon for Reformation Sunday  is entitled “Let it Go”, and will focus on our personal and collective courage to change what we can for the greater good.

Also, mark your calendars for Nov 3rd, as we will plan to celebrate the soulful and joyful music ministry of Benjamin Mertz, on his last Sunday with us.

I will be away this week at our UCC national offices for board meetings with the UCC Church Building and Loan Fund, and with our UCC climate justice ministry team.


Alternatives to Policing #6 – Self- and Community-Defense

Sunday, October 20, 2-6 pm

First Congregational Church of Oakland

2501 Harrison St., Oakland

Part of our ongoing series of workshops designed to reduce our reliance on an increasingly militarized police force, this offering from Community Ready Corps (CRC) will cover basic principles and practices to help us keep ourselves and our communities safe.

What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of a violent situation? How can you safely get yourself and others out of that situation?

We will be asking for a voluntary donation to support the vital work of Community Ready Corps. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.


CRC is a liberation organization that combats white supremacy and actively builds & supports self determination in disenfranchised communities. Their work focuses on nine areas:

Traditions & Ways
Self Defense

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:


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


  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.

UCC & Skyline Church – Climate Justice 

Pastor Laurie will meet with the UCC national offices where she serves as the Northern California Nevada Conference Rep for Climate Justice, https://www.ucc.org/environmental-ministries
and most recently was part of the grassroots movement for the UCC to endorse the Green New Deal. 

The UCC’s 32nd General Synod meeting in Milwaukee has approved three resolutions to help combat the climate crisis, including one in support of the “Green New Deal”. 

The Green New Deal resolution, approved by a vast majority,  makes the UCC the first Christian body in the country to endorse the far-reaching climate plan.  The Green New Deal, introduced in Congress earlier this year by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), attempts to transform the US economy in order to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; it proposes investing in infrastructure and industry to encourage use of renewables, creating millions of high-wage jobs in the process.

Skyline church, early on, urged on by our Green team and by Pastor Laurie, endorsed the GND. Then Pastor Laurie presented the emergency resolution  at the June Northern California Nevada  Conference of the United Church of Christ, and presented a workshop. The resolution http://ncnc.dreamhosters.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Green-New-Deal-Resolution-2.pdf, was unanimously endorsed in advance of the synod.  

In addition, the UCC  had also approved,  urging all people of faith to reduce their use of plastic foam—specifically, styrofoam.  Styrofoam does not decompose in landfills and is a known pollutant and suspected carcinogen.

A third resolution—in favor of the US congressional bill HR 763, which sets a price on carbon, was approved by the UCC.

Much of the progress of the UCC in environmental justice, is brought forth through this grassroots, representative group. 

Children’s Sabbath – “Unity Hearts and Voices to End Child Poverty”

This Sunday, we will take part in the 2019 National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths, “Uniting Hearts and Voices to End Child Poverty.” 

Across our nation over the next few weeks, people of every religion will reflect on and respond to the sacred texts, teachings, and traditions that call us to end poverty and act with love and justice to ensure all children have what they need not only to survive but thrive and realize their God given potential. 

Join us for an interfaith service, followed by a discussion to hear anew those religious teachings and commit to faithful responses. 

 I’d like to share with you two videos, lifting up the voices of young people who are impacted by childhood poverty, and also our need to keep moving forward to alleviate it. 



Blessing of the Animals, 

    Special thanks to all of you who helped to carry the torch, inspired by Rhea and Kay, to continue our beloved tradition of the Blessing of the Animals. 

Kay and Rhea’s spirit was present with us, as we welcomed about 30 visitors, and dozens of dogs, a cat and one bunny, and shared joys, prayers for healing, and tears of grief for those 

beloved pets who are forever a part of our hearts and families. Special thanks to Becky Taylor, Hunter Green, Becky Sheldon, Jenny Taylor, Michael Armijo and Catherine Kessler! 

Also special thanks to Sunsan Junfish who offered to provide a talk about caring for the health and safety not only of ourselves, but our beloved pets. 

Peace, Pastor Laurie 

Belonging, True Belonging

In her 2018 book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging & the Courage to Stand Alone, researcher and storyteller Dr Brene Brown invites us to consider a basic confusion that can arise when we show up in different places. She learned it from talking to middle school students who said simple but profound things to her like:  “Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something. Belonging is when others want you.” She learned from them that the most painful thing is when we feel like we don’t belong at home.  “Belonging,” Brown learned from these children, “Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” The house of God, in an ideal sense, invites us all to grow into the understanding of who we truly are, of who God made us to be, to be a community into which we can step deeper into those true selves.

As we celebrate the glorious diversity of human life, and of all creation, on this weekend of honoring St Francis and world communion, you are invited to join us in this house of belonging. I leave you with the words of poet David Whyte, The House of Belonging.


I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close-grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte

Special thanks: to all of you who helped to make our celebration of Rhea Babbitt’s life so beautiful! Notes to Rhea’s nephew may be sent toSteve Estes and Sallie Suydam, 1181 East Ave, Chico, CA 95926-1018, b7sestes@aol.com

The Spirit of Kay & Rhea lives on – join us as we continue celebrating the Feast of St Francis at our Annual Blessing of the Animals, this Sunday at 3 pm. We will be giving away lots of Kay and Rhea’s books on caring for dogs, cats, and even goats.