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World Refugee Day: Do more than Post to Facebook

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Wednesday, June 20th, is World Refugee Day, a day to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war. According to the UN, today more than 68 million people around the world are refugees or internally displaced as a result of conflict or persecution. That is equivalent to the population of the world’s 20th largest country.

There’s been so much news about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separating children from their parents and raiding homes, schools, and businesses. 

The UCC is urging all of it’s congregations to take action now, by contacting our representatives and providing funds to keep families together. Please read on and please sign on! 

I recently read a story of Taina Smalls, an African-American woman confronting ICE agents on a Greyhound bus near Las Vegas. Agents boarded the bus and demanded to see people’s identification papers. The Hispanic woman beside her was horrified until this woman stood up and shouted at the ICE agents, “This isn’t Nazi Germany, and you don’t have to show these gestapo agents anything. They don’t have a search warrant, and we are more than 100 miles from the border, so they have no authority here.”  

Her words were more choice than that, but the agents backed down and said, “Obviously, with that mouth you are an American.”  Then they got off the bus. An informed patriot resisted what this country has become and is becoming. She’s an ordinary citizen who performed and extraordinary service. She is a woman and a person of color, and I have no doubt she has encountered oppression because of both these things. Despite her salty language, however, she clearly was the most moral and American person on the bus that day. She stood up to injustice, named it, and encouraged others to resist it.

What would you have done? Do you have the courage to resist injustice with more than a Facebook post or a tweet? Are you willing to confront the malignant bigotry that starts with the White House and removes the thin veil over the anger and hatred of our neighbors and kin? Failing to do more than we are makes us collaborators, just like those who, in apathy, stood and watched as their Jewish neighbors were dragged away by the Gestapo. 

Do we believe those collaborators somehow were worse people than we are? Do we think that our apathy toward the treatment of immigrants seeking asylum is somehow more justified than that which enabled the Nazis? I’m sorry, but we are no different if we remain silent or scream about it only to our “friends” and followers online. We must do more. We must call our representatives relentlessly until they fear for their jobs and understand what it means to be a REAL American

Blessings and thanks, Pastor Laurie 

The UCC, Skyline, and Social Justice

Last Sunday, Teresa Jenkins lifted up her passion for the UCC and our historic and ongoing prophetic witness for justice. 

As I mentioned, last Friday in Oakland there was a rally seeking to challenge the purposeful separation of families at the US border. Here’s a UCC article about how people across the country have been speaking up, and what we can do.  In addition, I’d like to share with you an article from Mirtha. 

From Mirtha:

Last Sunday, Pastor Laurie shared a story about PJ, a young man from Cambodia seeking asylum in the US who is awaiting deportation.  We are seeking a pardon from the Governor. If you’d like to learn more, please go to bringpjhomenow.
Other ideas about accompanying immigrants: 
1.  Letter writing to people in detention. Past detained person gave testimony of how alone and isolated they felt in detention facility and how much it meant to receive letters.  
2. Also sponsoring someone who needs a sponsor before release is allowed. Some people take a person into their home with the support of the accompaniment teams.

Here’s a link to a publication entitled UCC in the News. It highlights weekly themes about our denomination. 


The Way of Grace

In her book, Traveling Mercies, Ann Lamott says, “Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there. “

I like to say, far less poetically, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If at first you do succeed, try not to look so surprised.” Grace is the gift of God empowering us to become more, do more, discover more, help more, give more, heal more than we are capable of under on our own power, wisdom, or strength. Maybe it is just that I’ve gotten older, but almost daily I have this moment when I realize that I know something I don’t remember learning or have a wisdom that is beyond my own capacity. Perhaps it is a glimpse of God’s grace as I begin to trust more and more a light that I have not known. 

Once upon a time, I understood God could explain eternity, and would teach the entire Bible with confidence. With the passing of time, however, I’ve discovered how appallingly ignorant, illiterate, and incompetent I am. Making peace with those limits is excruciatingly difficult, but failing to do so is spiritually terminal.

The great theologian Jurgen Moltmann said: Our disappointments, our loneliness and our defeats do not separate us from Christ; they draw us more deeply into communion with him. And with the final unanswered cry, “Why, my God, why?” we join in [Christ’s] death cry and await with [Christ] the resurrection. This is what faith really is: believing, not with the head or the lips or out of habit, but believing with one’s whole life. It means seeking community with the human Christ in every situation in life, and in every situation experiencing Christ’s own history.

Trusting something, no, Someone, other than ourselves is the Way of Grace. Perhaps it the way to Life itself.

Justice & Witness Team sponsors  Sanctuary Events

Sanctuary Orientation for Skyline Church: May 24th from 5- 7 pm

In early Jan 2018, Skyline Community church declared itself to be a sanctuary congregation. The greatest community  “sanctuary” needs in Alameda County are for accompaniment teams.  Members do not need to be Spanish speaking and the commitment is only a few hours a month.

If you’d like to learn more, come and join us.  We will hear reflections from Miriam Noriega, a staff member of the Interfaith Movemeht for Human Integrity.  Miriam is a first generation immigrant, and an MDiv student at the Jesuit School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union.   Also sharing is Mirtha Ninayauer, co chair of  SCC’s justice and witness team and co-founder of the Nueva Esperanza Preschool. 

5- 6 pm will be a presentation
6-7 pm will be a potluck dinner 

Contact  Mirtha Langewis-Ninayahuar – 510-339-0115 mirthan@sbcglobal.net, Nancy Taylor: (510-530-0814) ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com,  

2. June 1-2, Sanctuary Convening, -Friday, June 1 & Saturday, June 2. Both days 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM

-Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (1433 Madison St, Oakland, CA)

-Breakfast and Lunch served both days

-Registration Deadline: May 21, 2018

Sanctuary: Caminando Hacia la Libertad is a 2-day convening that serves to strengthen and organize people of faith in our sanctuary work across California to respond in an increasingly dangerous climate for immigrant communities in 2018. Join us to learn tools and best practices to create a more prophetic path towards liberation, caminando hacia la libertad, where all can live with dignity and wholeness.

Learn more and register here.


Earth Month Movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel”  and Potluck

Friday, April 27, 7 – 9 PM,

Our Green Team is hosting Al Gore’s sequel about climate change for Earth Month events.  Bring a dish to share and watch and discuss this documentary as part of your earth week experience.  See you here!

Synopsis: A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought the climate crisis into the heart of popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy.Cameras follow him behind the scenes — in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion. Catherine Kessler (510) 531-8212, office@skylineucc.org




Pastor Laurie’s Sabbatical June 25- Sept 25, 2018

What is a sabbatical? 

The concept of a “sabbatical” is derived from the idea of Shabbat or “Sabbath” – the seventh day as a day of rest, grounded in the Genesis creation story, in which God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day. The biblical idea of Sabbath is a profound and still revolutionary understanding of the necessity of rest for the sustainability of creation at every level, including human life. In the biblical view, a sabbatical is not a luxury – it is a necessity.

The Bible mandates a sabbatical year for not only for workers (Ex. 21.2), but even for the land itself (Ex. 23.10), recognizing that all life demands rest for the renewal of creativity. In honoring this tradition for its pastor, our church witnesses to this deep truth. Needless to say, our society needs this witness. Organizations and corporations ignore this fundamental need at their peril. Burnout is widespread as the result, and burnout is costly.

There is some evidence that the idea is gaining traction: for example, today, some families, not necessarily religious ones, are instituting a “digital Sabbath” in their family life – i.e., one day a week during which all devices will be put away and the family will enjoy being together without the distraction of cell phones, etc.!

When is Pastor Laurie’s 2018 Sabbatical?

This will be the 2nd sabbatical Laurie has taken in the 12 years she has served the church. UCC guidelines recommend a sabbatical every 5 years and Skyline leaders have been committed to providing this refreshment for her and for the congregation. It is a time of rejuvenation for everyone, with Rev Ruth Sandberg providing pastoral care and weekly worship service, and selected lay leaders filling the pulpit throughout the summer. We hope you will join the congregation at the service on June 24th to wish her well.

The first week of July she will attend a clergy retreat, led by the Center for Courage & Renewal, then she will be enrolled in classes at the GTU & PSR in creative worship leadership. She hopes to gain inspiration and some information to help direct her for a summer of meditation, reflection and writing.

In mid-July, she will take part in a retreat at the New Camaldoli Hermitage is a rural Camaldolese Benedictine hermitage in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur, California, The Camaldolese branch of the Benedictine family was founded in the late 10th century. She has received a scholarship to attend for the purpose of hanging out with the Holy Spirit. 

In mid-August, she will be traveling to New England for time with family and friends.

In late August – early September, she will be taking courses in drama, and world religions, and traveling.

In mid September she will return to the retreat at the New Camaldoli Hermitage.

Who’s our sabbatical Pastor? 

During this time Rev Ruth Sandberg will be filling in for Rev Laurie on a part-time basis, working closely in partnership with our music director Benjamin, and our office manager Nancy, and the lay leaders of Skyline.  

Many of you will remember Ruth as our last interim minister. Ruth and her late husband, David, also partnered together in leading several leadership retreats for us.

Ruth brings with her 40 yrs. of experience, serving as interim minister, here in the Bay area, Hawaii, and.

B.S. – Music, Oberlin Conservatory of Music

M.A. – music, University of Illinois

Master of Divinity Degree Pacific School of Religion

Her office hours are TBD, and she will be available for pastoral calls. We will also invite her to attend Council and other committee meetings as a way of having her get to know us and we, her. Her compassion, energy and progressive theology should provide the church with great leadership.


Poor People’s Campaign Mass Meeting

Poor People’s Campaign Mass Meeting
Saturday, April 21, 5-7 PM

As the new Poor People’s Campaign spreads across the country, we invite you and your networks to the Poor People’s Campaign’s East Bay Mass Meeting! The Poor People’s Campaign is dedicated to ending systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality, and is co-chaired by Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. 

Join us for the East Bay Mass Meeting at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church (1188 12th Street, Oakland)  We will…
  • LEARN from our neighbors affected by unjust policies
  • GEAR UP for 40 Days of Action
  • CONNECT with other activists, people of faith, and all those who care about justice
Pastor Eddie Anderson, McCarty Memorial Christian Church, will deliver the keynote. The Rev. Lynice Pinkard will emcee.
We hope to see you there! You may RSVP on Eventbrite: www.bit.ly/ppc-eastbay or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1739363892807808
In peace,
Erin Burns (Pacific School of Religion) and David Brazil (Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy)

Resurrection “comes in a million different ways…”

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

We continue in the season of spring time and in the spirit of Easter, celebrating the promise of new lives for ourselves and for all of creation. This coming Sunday we continue with resurrection and explore the experience of resurrection in our own lives.

Death is universal. We recognize it immediately because it looks the same for all of us.  When it’s over, it’s over.  When a body breathes its last.  When a door closes for good.  When the choice can’t be unmade and the marriage can’t be salvaged and the words can’t be unsaid.  When a home is burned to the ground and the machines are turned off and the pastor sprinkles the dirt over the casket, ashes to ashes. Done. Gone. Finished.   

Death feels heavy, cold and final, 

it tastes like salty tears, 

and sounds like wailing, or the emptiness of a silent house. 

Death is unmistakable. Death is universal.


But resurrection? That’s personal.  

And it comes a million different ways and looks like a million different things because it happens for all of us differently.  The way we each need it.

Resurrection is your story now, and mine.  

~Kara Root~

Remembering Dr. King, 50 Years Later

Let Freedom Ring from the Hills of Oakland!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 5:30 pm
Skyline Community Church, 12540 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland CA

A time of song, readings, a brief reflection, and bell ringing, led by Pastor Laurie & Music Director Benjamin Mertz.

6:01 PM Bell Toll – Bells ring 39 times at Skyline church, joining together with places of worship, college campuses and institutions across the nation to honor the number of years Dr. King dwelled on this earth and to pay homage to his legacy.

Laurie’s Message after Easter & MLK Event

What a beautiful experience of Holy Week we created together, from the journey of Palm/Passion Sunday, through Good Friday, and rising at sunrise with the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus, continuing on with our glorious 10 am service, and finishing up with an “egg-stravagant” Easter egg hunt! Thank you to every single one of you for sharing your gifts as musicians, artists, readers, dramatists, chefs, greeters, ushers, and organizers to create such a radically inclusive welcome to the wider community! Please enjoy the photos below!!
Today, Wednesday April 4th, we flash backwards in time to a Good Friday of sorts, remembering the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in the hope of uniting together to keep the dream alive in our time. 
It’s tempting to stay stuck in “Good Friday”, back to life as usual, one week after Easter. Back to our personal challenges, layered on top of the challenges facing our city, our country, and the world.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed and afraid, and want to hide from the world.  Which is why we take consolation in these timeless stories, and in sharing them together.
Join us on Sunday as we explore the timeless story of Doubting Thomas, and specifically how our doubt, our questions, and our seeking understanding is not a lack of faith, but an integral part of faith. Explore with us the wisdom of Thomas from the Gnostic gospels.  
After worship, you are invited to join us for a conversation about Sarah Miles’ bestseller, “Take this Bread”, https://www.npr.org/books/titles/138296674/take-this-bread-a-radical-conversion and an experience of communion together.
           Blessings, Pastor Laurie