Oakland church

“Every day you have less reason not to give yourself away.”

We may be tempted to think of this Wendell Berry poem as only for old people. But, I believe, that would be a mistake.
The poem is not first and foremost about aging and dying. It’s about generosity, one of the most life-giving of all virtues.
No Going Back     (The Sabbath Poems, 1993, I)
 
No, no, there is no going back.

Less and less you are

that possibility you were.

More and more you have become

those lives and deaths

that have belonged to you.

You have become a sort of grave

containing much that was

and is no more in time, beloved

then, now, and always.

And you have become a sort of tree

standing over a grave.

Now more than ever you can be

generous toward each day

that comes, young, to disappear

forever, and yet remain

unaging in the mind.

Every day you have less reason

not to give yourself away.
Generosity does not require material abundance. When I think back on the many people who have been so generous toward me, I rarely  think of money or “things.” Often, I think of how they gave me their presence, their assurance, support, and blessing — all gifts of “self” that any of us can give.


And where does generosity come from? Perhaps from gratitude. When I consider my gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given, I wonder “How can I keep these gifts alive?” What I’ve discovered is, “Become a giver yourself, pass your gifts along, and do it extravagantly!”  As Wendell Berry says, “Every day you have less reason/not to give yourself away.”
 
Join us, this Sunday, as we prepare ourselves for the season of Thanksgiving, 
 
peace, Pastor Laurie 

Climate Leadership and No-Coal-in-Oakland Presentation

After Service this Sunday, Nov 12, 11:30-12:30

Pastor Laurie will do a short slide presentation of what she learned at the Climate Reality Leadership Training last month with Al Gore.  Lora Jo Foo will give an update on the No-Coal-in-Oakland issues, especially about their campaign to get the coal interests to dismiss their lawsuit against Oakland. 

Ms. Foo is a retired labor organizer and attorney, nature photographer, author, and climate justice activist.  She devoted seven years to organizing workers in the garment and hotel industries, and litigated for 15 years representing unions and individual workers in sweatshop industries. Because the impact of climate change is greatest on people of color and low-income families, she has devoted the next decade to keeping our earth habitable for our children and their children.  She has worked towards bringing community choice energy for the East Bay, led a ballot measure campaign that successfully banned fracking in San Benito County, and in 2016 helped lead the successful campaign in her hometown of Oakland that stopped the building of what would have been the largest coal export terminal on the West Coast.

Wildfires – How Can I Help

From NCNCC Newsletter:  Please hold in your prayers all the churches, and wider communities impacted by the wildfires. Members, ministers, and many more have lost homes or have been evacuated.

Monetary donations can be sent, or collected and mailed to the Conference Offices designated, “Wildfire Relief”, to go directly to the impacted churches and communities.

The following congregations serving as resources for communities have requested help with monetary donations, VISA, Grocery, and general gift cards be sent by mail or brought to their address:

First Congregational Church of Santa Rosa UCC  
2000 Humboldt St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Wellspring UCC
1255 Fulton Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95401  
 
Geyserville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
21300 Geyserville Ave, Geyserville, CA 95441 
 
First Congregational Church of Sonoma UCC  
 252 W Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476 

Community Church of Sebastopol UCC  
1000 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol, CA 95472

Guns, Action, Vigil

Last Sunday while we were in worship, another horrible and senseless mass shooting was happening.  

It angers me that people are feeling vulnerable and scared about coming to their sacred space, their spiritual oasis, their refuge from the world.

It angers me that preschool parents worry about the safety of their children, because of our maniacal gun culture.

It angers me that so little has changed since the Las Vegas massacre, and since the Newtown massacre almost five years ago. 

The reason that we have such high rates of gun violence and so many mass shootings in this country is simple. We have too many guns. Please read this informative article from the NY Times

As Christians we are called to pray after the tragic shooting in Texas, but our prayers should also be accompanied by deep introspection about whether and how we are complicit in the evils we deplore.

In a statement, Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group representing more than 70 Episcopal bishops, stated,  

In the wake of the heartbreaking shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we find ourselves both calling people to prayer, and wishing that the word did not come so readily to the lips of elected leaders who are quick to speak, but take no action on behalf of public safety,” the bishops said. “Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them. In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episode of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

“One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.”

In response,  Skyline will host an Interfaith Vigil  in remembrance of all those killed and injured in all of the mass shootings in this country on the 5th anniversary since the Newtown,  Connecticut shootings.  It is on Saturday, Dec 9th at 4 pm. We will sing, pray, light candles, and walk the labyrinth, aligned with UCC’s national vigil.  It is an official ICAN (Interfaith Council of Alameda County) event. 

We must take care of our emotional and spiritual health after a tragedy like this, but we cannot be complacent and believe we are powerless to end gun violence. Therefore, in addition, we offer these resources and invite you to join us in advocating for sensible gun reform:

Stop Handgun Violence

the Brady Campaign

the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,

the film, Making a Killing

UCC on Gun Violence

As members of the UCC, we are committed to the ethical principles affirming that every person has inherent worth and dignity and that we must work together for a world community of peace, liberty, and justice for all. We will pray for all those impacted by gun violence, and we will work to be peacemakers locally and nationally.

Reflections from Laurie’s Father on Death

Greetings from Rhode Island,  the ocean state where I grew up.
 
I am gathered with extended family and friends, to gain strength, following my father’s funeral mass.

I wanted to share with you two reflections selected by my father that were shared during the reception.  Both reflections offer words of comfort to those who are dying, to their caregivers, and to all who love them.

Blessings and love, and see you on Sunday,
Pastor Laurie

Death is Nothing at All by Henry Scott Holland

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, 
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight? 

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ. 

Beattitudes for Caregivers

Blessed are those who care and who are not afraid to show it — they will let people know they are loved.

Blessed are those who are gentle and patient — they will help people to grow as the sun helps the buds to open and blossom.

Blessed are those who have the ability to listen — they will lighten many a burden.

Blessed are those who know how and when to let go — they will have the joy of seeing people find themselves.

Blessed are those who, when nothing can be done or said, do not walk away, but remain to provide a comforting and supportive presence — they will help the sufferer to bear the unbearable.

Blessed are those who recognize their own need to receive, and who receive with graciousness — they will be able to give all the better.

Blessed are those who give without hope of return — they will give people an experience of God. Amen

Skyline and Taking Action on Climate Change

While Laurie is at the Climate Leadership Conference hosted by Al Gore, I looked through our website for blog posts about Skyline’s action towards climate health.  Here are just a few excerpts, and they speak loudly for the environmental justice stand of Skyline. 

Also, check out Laurie’s Gofundme page for her travel expenses to the Leadership Conference.   Thanks!
Blessings,  Nancy Montier, Office Manager.

Posted July 5, 2017:  The United Church of Christ General Synod 2017 has just overwhelmingly approved the Climate Resolution calling on clergy and congregations across the denomination to take action to protect the environment, and churches are lining up to stand behind it publicly. 

Posted April 25, 2017:  Join the Skyline contingent going to the Oakland March under the People’s Climate March on Saturday, 4/29 (100 days into the Trump administration).  We will meet at Lincoln Square in front of the liquor store at 10:00 am and carpool

Posted June 30, 2016: From Laurie’s speech at the June 25 No Coal Rally:  “I feel so much hope today, here with you, and here representing the voices of so many Oakland faith communities, including the dozens that are part of CIPL & the Sierra Club, in saying no to coal in Oakland ….  Tonight, our City Council will vote a/ bringing coal into W. Oakland from Utah to export to Asia. I think if they asked us,  we’d tell them right away – NO! no more coal dust, no more asthma, no more cancer, no more climate change!”

Posted Feb 17, 2016:  Statement by Rev. Laurie Manning at the no-coal-in-Oakland press conference outside City Hall Tues, Feb 16, 2016:  “We’re all familiar with “the Golden Rule.” It’s a universal principal, an ethic of reciprocity that teaches: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It teaches us to care about our neighbors.  Who doesn’t care about the kid down the street, or down the hill breathing dirty air?”

Posted Sept 22, 2015:  This week, millions across our nation will witness the words and vision of a man [Pope Francis] who has revolutionized a church and reinvigorated a 2,000-year-old gospel…. What’s revolutionary about Pope Francis is how he lives out his Christian faith through selfless good deeds, prophetic words to world leaders, and compassionate pastoral care. …We invite you to join us in praying for a transformative week for the US,…particularly with respect to climate change. …Skyline’s Green team is partnering … to host two prayer vigils on Wed Sept 23rd, at 6:30 am and 6:30 pm here at Skyline. 

Posted Aug 31, 2015:  As Pope Francis prepares to speak to the US Congress …about climate change, interfaith vigils are being held across the country. Skyline United Church of Christ, joined by members of other East Bay congregations concerned about the climate crisis, will host two interfaith prayer services for the climate – one in the morning and one in the evening.  WHEN:   SUNRISE at 6:30 a.m. &  SUNSET at 6:30 p.m 

Posted April 29, 2015:  THE WISDOM TO SURVIVE (a film) accepts the consensus of scientists that climate change has already arrived, and asks, what is keeping us from action? The film explores how unlimited growth and greed are destroying the life support system of the planet, the social fabric of society, and the lives of billions of people.The film features thought leaders and activists in the realms of science, economics and spirituality discussing how we can evolve and take action in the face of climate disruption.

Skyline’s commitment to a green, healthy world for all is clear in our actions.  What’s next?

Coming Out Sunday

This Sunday, Oct 15, we celebrate “Coming Out Day”, which is really an invitation to all of us to let our own uniquely brilliant light shine.  And, in doing so, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. Please join us this Sunday as guest preacher, Nichola Torbett, shares her reflections on this theme. I will be away on the east coast visiting family, and then attending the Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership conference. I am with you in Spirit!

     With love, Pastor Laurie

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Gun Violence and Las Vegas Attack

I am deeply saddened to write to you in the wake of another major national tragedy: the mass shooting at a Las Vegas outdoor concert that has already claimed nearly sixty lives, with five hundred more people injured.  

Though we will not forget the lives at risk from ongoing flooding, infrastructure damage, and insufficient government assistance across the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas, our hearts are broken whenever any individual unleashes such terrible violence. And, “whenever” is far too frequent in our country. Painful as it is, we keep all the victims of this violence in our hearts and pray for solace for the Las Vegas community.

In response,  Skyline will host a vigil in remembrance of all those killed and injured in Las Vegas here in our sanctuary on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7pm. We will sing, pray, light candles, and walk the labyrinth.

We must take care of our emotional and spiritual health after a tragedy like this, but we cannot be complacent and believe we are powerless to end gun violence. United Church of Christ Andover-Newton graduate, Casey Guet, wrote this in righteous anger about our national ambivalence toward gun violence:

Why do guns grow from the ground, oh Lord?
Why did you make something, which kills so quickly?

Why do you allow these killing machines to be plucked
From our gardens?
And sold in our gun markets?

We will not take any responsibility. 
We never do.
In the beginning, God created the gun and the bullet.

There is nothing we can do, nothing to stop these tragedies.
Perhaps, if we created guns with our own hands,
Perhaps, if we could use our system of laws,

But there is nothing we can do.
The guns will keep cropping up.
The guns will keep growing.

I wonder, is there a way to destroy these flowers of death?
But cash crops are so hard to burn.

It’s true, “cash crops” like the gun industry are hard to burn — yet, we must not succumb to despair, we must keep trying. Here are a few resources:

As members of the UCC, we are committed to the ethical principles affirming that every person has inherent worth and dignity and that we must work together for a world community of peace, liberty, and justice for all. We will pray for all those impacted by gun violence, and we will work to be peacemakers locally and nationally.

 Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Candlelight Vigil for Las Vegas at Skyline

Thursday, Oct 5th at 7:00 pm

Skyline church, 12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland CA

When gun violence and hate crimes destroy innocent lives, when homophobia, racism, and islamophobia plague our world, we are reminded to come together, to grieve, and to re-dedicate ourselves to love, inclusivity, non-violence and peace.

Skyline Community Church invites you to gather in response to the tragedy that took place at the concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday evening at a music festival to honor the lives that have been sacrificed, to mourn and share our grief, and to stand together in solace, solidarity, and strength.

Join us for a service of candlelight, labyrinth walking, music, prayers, community, sharing and healing.

With love,

Pastor Laurie

To Oakland Fire Responders – Thank You

Yesterday the rising temperatures and the Santa Ana winds ignited a grass fire in the Oakland Hills, just below Campus Drive. Here we are, a church and a preschool with 34 children, perched on the crest of Skyline ridge, adjacent to EBRP.  Yet at first we were unaware because the winds and the smoke were blowing west, in the opposite direction from us.
 
However, we were protected because the firefighters, police officers, and park services were on their mission. Within minutes I received a text message from my friend Janet, a Park ranger, and I notified our preschool director, church members, friends and homeowners associations. They, in turn, spread the word and shared the live update links. 
 
Just as quickly as the wildfire spread, so too, did the alerts to the wider community; not only through twitter feeds from Oakland fire and police, but through citizens like you and me, through Nextdoor postings, text messages, and tweets.  Warnings spread almost as quickly as the fire!
 
Thank you firefighters, police, and park services, for keeping us safe.
 
Thank you concerned citizens, for spreading the word.
 
Thank you technology, for serving the greater good.
 
Thank you, our common humanity, reminding us of how interconnected we are.

Peace, Pastor Laurie