Oakland church

Fourth of July: What is Liberty?

Like many of us, as a child I have memories of a shining holiday, filled with family, friends, food, and fireworks, celebrating the 4th of July. I even remember on one family trip to New York city, seeing the fireworks over NY City harbor, bursting into  spectrum of glorious light, like a halo behind the Statue of Liberty. I fell in love with the words of the that beautiful woman, that beacon of welcome, The New Colossus.

Like many of us, and especially now, I am more conscious of all that make that shining holiday less shiny. What is liberty? In the words of James Baldwin, “for black Americans in this country, the Statue of Liberty is simply, a bitter joke”. Our monuments, including the Statue of Liberty, are representations of myth, not fact. We must remember the history behind them, and all those for whom the promise of liberty has not been fulfilled.

I am more conscious of all that we didn’t learn in our “American history classes”:

  • All those who left their former countries to escape religious persecution, only to persecute others.
  • All those who felt justified to take the land of the Indigenous people, in the name of God,
  • All those who captured Africans and sold them into slavery in the name of God.

I am more conscious of all that we didn’t learn about our Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence,  and all those who they did not have in mind when they wrote the document:

  • All those who didn’t have in mind setting folks like African Americans and Indigenous people free.
  • All those women, and people of color, who comprised the majority of  the population who were excluded from the vote.

This Sunday we lift up courageous prophetic voices of the resistance, including Fredrick Douglas. Douglas was invited to give a talk in 1862 to a group of wealthy white republican woman on July 4th, and he refused. Instead he chose July 5th, and what he delivered was a  blistering critique of this holiday, entitled, What to the Slave is the 4th of July? He berated pastors who refused to stand against the powers and principalities of that time. 

  peace, Pastor Laurie 

“The Condor and the Eagle” film on climate

Sunday, June 28, 3 PM

An exciting new award-winning film, The Condor and the Eagle is available for viewing online on Sunday, June 28 as part of Interfaith Power & Light’s summer film series!  

This fascinating film highlights the work of Indigenous and Hispanic environmental leaders in the Americas as they battle to safeguard their communities from the impact of fossil fuel development. Their courage and determination in the face of nearly insurmountable odds will inspire you to action.
Click here to view a preview and sign up to take part in this one time event.
Catherine Kessler  and Green Team sponsoring.

“COVID 1619” – Racism, the 400 Year Old Virus

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The slow, brutal public execution of George Floyd has ignited international outrage.  White people are becoming more conscious of what black people have known for centuries about the deep, violent, pervasive, structural, systemic racism within this country.  I’ve been wondering, is this movement sustainable, and what can we do to sustain it?

Related to this desire, and as we consider our priorities as a church for this fall,  I would like to share with you this week’s E-Letter reflection from our Conference Minister Diane Weible:   (copied below)

 

Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

Let’s Talk: About 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds

By Conference Minister Diane Weible

Each morning I spend 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence. My thoughts go in many directions and over the next many weeks I hope to share some of those reflections here. Today I want to share two things that came up for me and one leads into the other.

I want to ask our churches in this Conference to seriously consider waiting until 2021 to return to their sanctuaries for worship. I am not making this ask just because I believe that the unknowns of COVID-19 makes it unsafe to consider returning too early. I am also not asking this just because it pains me to think that our communities of faith will be divided or members will feel excluded because they cannot safely return yet.

I ask this because I believe making a decision now to not consider returning to our sanctuaries until 2021 will free up precious time for us to focus on the other virus that we are dealing—that we have been dealing with for 400 years—COVID 1619. Instead of spending time every month debating if now is the time and what safety measures still need to be put into place, we can engage in the hard work of addressing white privilege, dismantling white supremacy and racism, working for equity and justice and co-creating the new ministry that God has revealed to us through these months of sheltering in place and the movement for racial justice that has reached all of us in new and profound ways the past couple of weeks.

And that brings me to the other thing that came up for me that I lift up as an example of the kind of work I am doing in my own life so I can better show up with all of you in this sacred work. The other day during my 8 minute and 46 second time of silence, I started thinking about the concept of “whiteness.” When we say someone is black or brown, we are referring to their skin color. Very few of us who check the “white” box on ethnicity forms would call our skin color white.

A couple of years ago I was at the PAAM Convocation and a dear friend said, “Well, peach people like you…” I looked at her for a moment, confused. And, then I burst out laughing. She was right. In the crayon-box of life, my skin is a lot closer to peach color then it will ever be to white.

White is a construct. It was created to define who holds the power and privilege in a dominating society. It was created for bonded labor that came to the United States and had to work to get out of debt. The white construct allowed these labors to feel superior to newly arrived slaves from Africa. The owners were worried about an uprising if the laborers and the slaves, both desperate for basic human rights and dignities joined forces. If bonded laborers received benefits for being “white” they would feel superior to slaves and the owners could better control all of them.

I am white by a definition that was created to protect the wealthy and powerful in a dominating society that holds a single narrative as the only reality that counts. Anything that happens that doesn’t fit with what we expect from that narrative must be discredited, claimed as untrue, not believed. The cost to me as a person who shares many of the aspects of that single narrative is that my authentic and beautiful story and history is not told or shared because the culture I grew up in encouraged me to focus on how similar we are all—how connected we all are. It allowed me to call a story or reality I don’t understand as “weird” or “different.” It taught me that it’s ok to be so absorbed in my own story, my own reality, that I should expect that everyone shares the same reality as I do and if they don’t, the problem must be with their story, not mine.

People who do not share in the single narrative of society have to navigate both their own authentic story with the story that the dominating society has deemed THE narrative. The white construct is as fragile as a house of cards. If we begin to truly listen to someone else’s story and learn the truth and reality of what we have for four hundred years ignored, our house of cards will topple.

My hope and prayer is that this is what is happening today. The house of cards is falling. As people of faith, we have an important role to make sure that happens. We are learning that we are not white. Instead, we are infected with a virus that is not new but is also deadly. As a peach person, I have been infected with the COVID-1619 virus for four hundred years. There is a vaccine, but unfortunately, it takes a lot more work than just getting a shot.

  • It requires one (or many) conversations with a Person of Color to hear their story; to hear of their experiences in our society and world.
    • It requires reading books by Authors of Color. It requires watching movies like “The Hate You Give.”
    • It requires reading about the deaths of Black people for doing things that those of us with privilege take for granted. (https://demcastusa.com/2020/05/29/i-have-privilege-as-a-white-person-because-i-can-do-all-of-these-things-without-thinking-twice/ ).
    • It requires that we read White Fragility, not because we think we already understand privilege and fragility but because there is always something more we need to understand about our privilege and what will be required to dismantle white privilege and white supremacy.
    • It requires that we show up for protests now and we commit to showing up for protests and events that will happen in the future.
    • It requires not just showing up for protests but that we show up in relationships. Silence in the face of bigotry and racism is equally brutal.
    • It requires expanding your circle of relationships beyond those who share the same story or skin color. Who are your neighbors? Who are the people you call friends and why? Do you know their story? How has their story shaped your view of the world?

The time is now. Many of us understand a lot with our heads. We are being invited to embody that knowledge throughout our entire being so we can understand it in a new way. I envision a Conference-wide commitment to conversations within our churches and among all of us in the wider church. These conversations and commitment to action has the potential for transformation and co-creation. I pray you will join me.

 

“Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance”

We are living at an inflection point in the history of our country, and in the history of this planet. 

Michelle Alexander; a writer, civil rights advocate,  visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, and author of The New Jim Crow; writes in the NY Times:

“Our democracy hangs in the balance. This is not an overstatement.

As protests, riots, and police violence roiled the nation last week, the president vowed to send the military to quell persistent rebellions and looting, whether governors wanted a military occupation or not. “

Is this the beginning or the end? Where lies our hope? Where do we begin? We must face our racial history and our racial present. We must re-imagine justice.

Michelle Alexander continues:

My hope lies in the movement that brings together people of all  ethnicities, genders and backgrounds as they rise up together, standing in solidarity for justice, protesting, marching and singing together, even as SWAT teams and tanks roll in.  — a reflection of the best of who we are and what we can become. It is a glimpse,  of a beautiful, courageous nation struggling to be born.

Let us, as people of faith, be inspired by this Spirit.  

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Take Action:

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He has recently recorded and posted two video messages about the killings of African Americans that have been fueled by white supremacy. I hope you will make, over the next couple days, the forty minutes it will take to watch and listen to them both.

The Trinity UCC YouTube channel suggests watching “When Is Someday?” first.  The other video to watch, whatever order you watch them in, is “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.” 

May these two messages to awaken your spirit, open your hearts, and inspire you to action.

P.S. The petition Dr. Moss refers to in “When Is Someday?” can be found here.

Poor People’s Campaign Town Hall: In the context of the uprisings across the country against police killings of Black people and the devastation of COVID-19, people will come together across movements at a virtual town hall entitled “Poor People’s Campaign 1968-2020: Everybody’s Got A Right to Live! We Won’t Be Silent Anymore,” which will be held on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time). Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will be the keynote speaker. RSVP to join the online town hall on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Being Grateful in Difficult Times:  Theologian and historian Diana Butler Bass  is offering an online class on “Being Grateful in Difficult Times.” It includes mini-lectures, suggested practices, and conversations with other writers (including some surprise guests whose books you probably love!). It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. The course goes live on June 22 and only costs $59 if you register by June 20. Learn more and register here.

Advocacy: For those of us who can’t take to the streets, we need to take to our phones and computers to make our opinions known to the politicians. Here are two ways you can do that:

  1. Sign up to be part of the Poor People’s Campaign.
  2. Become part of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Peace Action Network.

Care for the Earth at Home: Undertake some (or all) of the environmental activities that can be done at home listed here. The list maker says they are activities kids can do; adults can do them, too.

Status quo or Justice, Equality, and Humanity?

On Monday evening, the POTUS stood before our grieving country. Viruses are killing us (COVID, racism, militarism, materialism, environmental degradation), people are demanding justice, and grief is wracking us. What he gave us was a blustering speech on “law and order” and a blasphemous photoshoot where he held a bible upside down, without even a prayer, or a word of hope. Moments earlier he had ordered security officers to deploy teargas on peaceful protestors to clear them away.

If this is the image of Christianity that we worship, then I am not a Christian.

While we have made meaningful progress in our past toward freedom and equality

for all, we have taken that progress for granted and are losing ground.

Pastor and activist, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis reminded us recently that since lots of white people seem eager to invoke Dr. King’s legacy to condemn ongoing protests, it’s worth revisiting what he actually said in his speech called “The Other America” given on April 4, 1967:

It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. 

We have much work to do to embody the beloved community that Dr. King spoke of. Today we repeat a cycle of pain and grief that we’ve known before and must learn once more. White supremacy is a sin that will not stand.

We have no “status quo” or middle ground here: you are either anti-racist, or you are racist. You are either actively working against racism, or you are complicit in upholding it. Being polite or “not political” is not an option. Either you believe we were all made in God’s image, beloved by our Creator, and meant to see God in the face of one another (Genesis 1:27), or you believe whiteness is better than the rest. Remember,  that Jesus was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew.

Thank you to so many of you, for sharing resources about how we can transform the system of police violence, learn more about our own implicit bias as “white people”, support young protestors of color, through prayer vigils, learn more about the poor people’s campaign, support Nueva Esperanza and Iglesia de Presbyteria with badly needed food, and support the efforts of the NAACP to ensure that people, particularly people of color,  are not arbitrarily removed from voting rolls in swing states.

   With love, and see you on Sunday! Pastor Laurie

Prayer:

Wake me up, Lord, so that the evil of racism finds no home within me. Keep watch over my heart, Lord, and remove from me any barriers that may oppress and offend my fellow humans. Fill my spirit, Lord, so that I may build your kin-dom of justice and peace. Clear my mind, Lord, and use it for your glory. Remind me, Lord, that you said, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Amen.   ~ adapted from a prayer in For the Love of One Another

These next two weeks, our talented music director, Gabrielle Lochard,  is taking a few weeks of well deserved rest. We are blessed to have with us, our member Ken Medema, leading us in music.

 

A Requieum for Ahmaud Arbery

The Cross and the Lynching Tree
A Requieum for Ahmaud Arbery – Webinar 

Sunday, May 31, 3PM

Hi Visitors and Members,

I thought you’d be especially interested in this upcoming webinar on dismantling racism, in light of the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. The reflections are based upon the writings of late great
American theologian, specializing in black liberation theology, Dr James Cone, from Union Theological seminary. In his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone draws connections between the means of execution of the innocent Jesus 2,000 years ago and the ongoing executions of innocent black men in this country.  Please share widely!!   I’ve registered! I loved  Dr Cone, and loved his courses in Black Liberation  and womanist theology. 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Join a national conversation sponsored by the United Church of Christ about how Christians can be actively involved in dismantling racism. Learn more about the webinar HERE.  Register for the webinar here.
Peace to you,
Pastor Laurie 

Strengthen the Church Offering

Strengthen the Church Offering

Ongoing starting now through Sunday, June 7

The Strengthen the Church offering supports the UCC in fulfilling its commitment to create a just world for all by investing in new ministries and practices that meet the emerging needs of local communities. As God calls our congregations to be the church in new ways, your generosity will plant new churches, awaken new ideas in existing churches and develop the spiritual life in our youth and young adults. Our congregation will receive the Strengthen the Church offering on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020. See this video for more information.   or read more here
 

Ways to donate to Skyline and to the
Strengthen the Church Campaign:

  1. Write a check and mail it to the office at 12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, 94619 (they are deposited weekly)  If the check is for Strengthen the Church write that in the memo field
  2. Use the Quiks smartphone app for a secure ACH transfer and low fees (read more below about security).  After the initial setup, you can easily make donations with a click or two, or set it up for repeat donations. To get started donating, click here!  Read more about online giving here/. You can donate to Strengthen the Church here, too.
  3. Use your own bill pay system through your bank. Contact the office manager for the routing and account numbers.

Click for a little bit more about Quiks

Thank you for investing in our community!  If you have questions about Quiks, contact Nancy Montier, 510-531-8212, office@skylineucc.org.

Thank you for your donations, and the extra steps it takes to mail it in or learn a new application.  We are blessed by your love and presence.

Using Zoom

Join us on Zoom at 10:00 AM

  1. Click on the zoom link –  https://zoom.us/j/716026467  (this one is for Sunday service at 10 AM)
  2. You’ll be taken to zoom.us, and a dialogue appears, usually at the top of your screen. Click on the button labeled “Open URL:Zoom Launcher”.
  3. You’ll either get a box that says Wait for Host to Start the Meeting, or a box that says Join with Video / Join Without Video?  Once the host starts the meeting, click either button to join the meeting – preferably with video so we can see you! 
  4. With your cursor on the zoom screen, once you are in the meeting, you can click on the microphone icon and the camera icon (lower left corner) to turn audio and video on and off.  Keep audio off unless asked to turn on your audio.

Need help with zoom? Click here for a tutorial.

Zoom link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467
Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128

New:  Access the Sunday Bulletin Here  (at the time of sending this email, the bulletin is incomplete.  It will be done by Friday evening, so come back anytime after that for the final bulletin!) 

11:15 am  Virtual Coffee Hour: 
Zoom link  https://zoom.us/j/716026467

Update Zoom

Update Zoom Before Sunday! 

If you’re not running the latest version of Zoom, you won’t be able to come to worship on Pentecost this Sunday. There are three ways to update the Zoom app on your computer. This one-minute video  shows those three ways. If they can show you all three ways in one minute, you know it’s going to be simple.

Also, here are written instructions adapted from the zoom website.  You must do this update before Sunday.  It may look detailed but there are only 4 simple steps.

Zoom Desktop Client (PC, Mac, or Linux)

Zoom provides a pop-up notification when there is a new mandatory or optional update within 24 hours of logging in.

You can also manually download the latest version by:

  1. Go to the zoom website at https://zoom.us/download.  If that link doesn’t work, try – https://zoom.us
    1st Photo below shows what zoom.us/download website looks like.
  2. Under Zoom Client for Meetings click on the blue Download button and the zoominstaller will be downloaded to your computer. – see the 1st photo below to see the download button.
  3. At the bottom of your screen in the lower left you’ll get a little grey box with zoominstaller.exe written in it.  (it’s shown in the 1st photo below, but a little hard to see).  Click on it.  
  4. A popup (see second photo below) asking permission comes up.  Click on the button labeled Run.   The installation will begin.When complete (less than 30 seconds usually) you’ll get a little blue zoom camera icon in your bar that shows your running applications.

That’s all!

This is the website to go to to  find the new zoom. 
It also shows the zoominstaller.exe button in the lower left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the box that opens when you click on the zoominstaller.exe button. Choose Run!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you already have the Zoom desktop client installed, you can check for updates:

  1. Sign in to Zoom desktop client.
  2. Click your profile picture then click Check for Updates and the new version will be installed if you don’t already have it..

See you Sunday morning!  If you need some help, contact Nancy  during office hours Thursday and Friday between 9 AM and 3:30 PM – office@skylineucc.org,  510-531-8212.

 

Pentecost – the Power and Mystery of the Holy Spirit

This Sunday we celebrate the power and Mystery of the Holy Spirit! 

She is that powerful, moving,  invisible yet real presence, blowing into our lives as gently as each breath, or as powerfully as a hurricane. She is that energy heating up our lives as gently as a candle, or with the awesome power of a  wildfire. Which version of the Spirit do you prefer? 

 This Sunday, we honor the moment when the disciples experienced the Holy Spirit and realized that they no longer needed the physical presence of Jesus. Each of them had his own inner conduit to God. So do we, if we dare to seek her. 

Here’s how Luke (Acts 2:1-6) describes the moment, in the Message

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

The Pentecost spirit is captured in a powerful poem by William Blake:

Unless the eye catch fire,
The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
The God will not be known.

Dare we catch fire? 
 
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday!