Oakland church

God’s Economy vs Caesar’s

UCC CBLF Team Zoom Meeting


Here’s the reflection that I shared with our national  UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF)  group this week for  this Just Peace Sunday

On February 18, 1965  at the University of Cambridge, in a debate (the motion of the debate was that the American dream was at the expense of black Americans) between William F. Buckley Jr. and the brilliant author, James Baldwin, Baldwin responded: 

“The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” picked the cotton, and I carried it to the market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing,” he said, his voice rising with the cadences of the pulpit. “For nothing.”

In his 2012 book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future,  by Nobel Prize economist  Joseph E. Stiglitz, he writes,

“There are two visions of America a half century from now. One is of a society more divided between the haves and the have-nots, a country in which the rich live in gated communities, send their children to expensive schools, and have access to first-rate medical care. Meanwhile, the rest live in a world marked by insecurity, at best mediocre education, and in effect rationed health care―they hope and pray they don’t get seriously sick. At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know. It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”

Stiglitz continues, saying,

The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs… clean air, water, healthcare, education..  The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security.”

He adds,

“The protesters have called into question whether there is a real democracy. Real democracy is more than the right to vote once every two or four years. The choices have to be meaningful. But increasingly, and especially in the US, it seems that the political system is more akin to “one dollar one vote” than to “one person one vote”. Rather than correcting the market failures, the political system was reinforcing them.”

And now, the apocalyptic times have come. The perfect storm of  Covid 19, 1619, and the terrifying fires and hurricanes, all of which are disproportionately killing the poorest people of color.

As Nelson Mandela once wrote,

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

This Sunday’s gospel from Matthew reveals the great tension between God’s economy and Ceaser’s.  Just before today’s story, the disciples ask, Who will be the greatest among us?  (Aren’t we supposed to be first?) In typical fashion, in answering a question,  Jesus told a parable, about a generous landowner who promises the first workers a fair days wage, and the others, who are unemployed,  who came later – even just an hour before the end of the day, “whatever is fair.” 

In the end, each laborer received a fair day’s wage. 

And those who were first in line, complained.

The need is urgent, the time is now, and the place is here to bring forth God’s generous economy. Here in the US, the world’s wealthiest nation, where the top 3 billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50%, while at the same time 48% of the US population lives at or below the poverty line; while 20% of children and 1 in 9 seniors are food insecure, and are disproportionately poor people of color.   

I am grateful to be part of the CB&LF, doing our part, to transform the economy of Caesar into God’s economy, to reach out and to welcome those most vulnerable, into God’s generous vision for all people.   May God inspire us to do so together.  

“Belong Circle” – Friday Film Night and Discussion

Friday Ministry Team Film Night and Discussion

Friday, September 18th, 7 pm  
Join us!  We’ll be viewing the final episode of #bringtheheat’s Belong Circle,  an excellent presentation, a faith-based look at “defund the police” and “abolition” presented by Revs. Ben and Michael McBride, each distinguished Oakland and Berkeley pastors in their own right, Black Lives Matter activists, and much more! 
Zoom link:  https://zoom.us/j/901784352
Meeting ID: 901 784 352 One tap mobile
Dial in by phone 1-669-900-9128
Dial in by phone: 1-346-248-7799
Nancy Taylor, contact via office@skylineucc.org

Orange Sky in the Morning is a Call to Support the Green New Deal

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On Wednesday morning, here in the Bay Area, we awoke to the strangest shared experience.  Even our cats were wondering… what’s going on? Why is the sky as orange as a pumpkin? Why is it getting darker rather than lighter? Why can’t I smell smoke? Will it get worse?   When will the locusts come?   As Marvin Gaye once sung it, “What’s going on?”
 
By now, many of you have read about what’s going on.
 
What’s really going on? Human induced climate change. Let’s do what we can in this upcoming election to support the Green New Deal! Thank you to our denomination, the UCC for being the first Christian body to endorse the Green New Deal!  Thank you to Skyline Church for initiating the resolution at our 2019 NCNC Annual Meeting, as it made it’s way up to the National UCC body.
 
Here are excerpts from my presentation at last year’s NCNCUCC Annual Meeting. I’d be happy to share more from my presentation, or from my climate change talk at Annual meeting.
 
What is it:

The Green New Deal (GND) 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; 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; and the opportunity to deploy solutions that address all of these moral challenges.

Here’s why it’s important: 

1. The GND addresses the most important justice issues that the UCC has been committed to for decades. It demands that the federal govt. 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, healthful, and family supporting jobs that our planet needs. 

2. 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 generations will inherit.

3. The GND offers tangible hope in the face of threats that are becoming more and more real – in the US & world-wide- or to put it another way it’s up to us to transform these threats into opportunities. To create fair paying secure jobs,  secure clean air and water, redress manifestations of environmental racism, and pursue a just transition to clean and renewable energy.  

Here’s what we can do locally: 
 
1. standup for science & continuing to learn from new science

2. discuss climate change more often – at church, home & in social encounters

3. tell others that we already have all the tech. we need to achieve the goals of the GND

4. incorporate into our worship  & community leadership an awareness of climate change, its conseq. esp. for vulnerable & front-line communities, & make the changes science says we must & technology says we can

5.  help our communities prepare for extreme weather events & to become a resource

6. lift up this reality of millions of people, regardless of their political affiliation or resolve to support the GND

7. engaging federal state & local agencies as advocates for policies & legislation that advance the goals of GND including its commitment to address systemic injustice, that disproportionately affects front-line invulnerable communities.

8.  advocate for a just transition for all those workers & communities most dependent on fossil fuel energy so that they also have opportunities for clean healthful &: family supporting jobs that heal our planet. 

And here’s a resource from UCC – 10 Ways to Mobilize.

Our Story: We Are in this Together

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay


Can you believe it? This weekend is Labor Day! Where has the summer gone? Where has 2020 gone? I imagine far fewer of us are “getting away” for Labor Day weekend, so perhaps you’ll have time to remember the unique origins of how and why the US decided to change Labor day from May 1st, ’International Worker Day, from the rest of the world, to a sleepy weekend at the end of the summer. 
 
As is so often with history, there is a political battle for who gets to tell the story. In fact, it often is HIS story (a white wealthy, male landowner) telling the story.  Far too often, history is  told by the winners, while the voices of the marginalized and the oppressed are hidden. We are wise to learn from these hidden histories, so as not to repeat it. 
 
Related to our stories, and the importance of hearing everyone’s perspectives about OUR stories, I want to share with you a beautiful quote that Nancy Taylor lifted up  in our bible study today. The context was that we were lamenting about how hard it is to connect with people, including beloved friends and family members, because we are so far apart on issues, (especially when our stories and the media perpetuate the belief that we are separate).  We were discussing what is at stake when we fail to remember that we are all in this together.  The quote is by Michael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology (follow the link or see text below). 
 
Last week in our McLaren discussion I challenged each one of us, as hard as it might be,  to seek to connect with someone with whom we are are far apart on issues, and seek to empathically connect with them. I look forward to our continued conversation about this!
 
May we be moved to go out to the margins and the edges of life, and in doing so, find each other. 
 
with love, Pastor Laurie 

“There’s an old Irish myth about how when the center falls apart, when there is no big unifying story that can be told in public so that everyone remembers, yes, we all are in this together, when that happens, when the center cannot hold, the old story says then it’s time for each person to go to the margins and the edges of life. Because the center when it’s missing does not completely disappear. Rather, the elements of the center are then found at the margins and edges of life. And so it becomes a time for each person to go to the edge that attracts them and at the same time causes them to be fearful.

And the old story says that if each person goes in the direction that is both attractive and fearful to them, they will find that at the edge of their life a thread, and if each person would then pick up that thread and begin to pull it back towards the center, then the unifying center can be remade from the weaving together of many individual threads of life. In the greater myth that serves life, not death, no one has to be heroic and do it all or claim that they are the only one who can do it. Each person is just responsible to find their thread and find a way to weave it back into life. And the key to this narrative of the great way is that no one can be excluded for any reason, not because of their age, or their origin, or their race, or their economic disposition. Because each person has a life thread that has vitality and meaning and creativity in it.

And the point isn’t to indulge in some kind of magical thinking that would say that no one is going to die on this troubled path that we all share at this point. And certainly, the point cannot be that we’re all going to go back to life and business as usual. The understanding of the bigger myth right now is the world as we knew it is already gone. The point now is to be inhabiting a bigger, unifying living myth in which the words that we are all in this together have genuine, heartfelt meaning. We are in a time of radical change throughout the world, where life and death are struggling on a daily basis. And that requires each of us to change and come out of the crisis as greater souls not smaller people.”

– Michael Meade

 
 

Plant of the Month at Skyline – August

Buckeye butterfly

Checkerspot butterfly

Red monkeyflower

Orange monkeyflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticky Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus, formerly Mimulus aurantiacus)

This perennial shrub, the monkeyflower, is a mainstay native of the East Bay Hills , with it’s orange trumpet-shaped flowers and sticky, aromatic, bright green leaves; growing on dry rocky slopes or in shady areas. Look closely to see the “monkey face” of the flower, and touch the leaves to feel the stickiness.  Medicinal, drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, it provides food for hummingbirds, bees, and for larval  buckeye and checkerspot butterflies.  At Skyline Church, we have orange and red- flowered Monkeyflowers in the Labyrinth, at the head of the Redwood trail, and near the Gazebo.

The Miwok people (Marin and Contra Costa counties) used the plant to treat minor ailments such as sores, burns, diarrhea, and eye irritation. They used the colorful flowers for decorative purposes. 

In the Name of Love, It’s Time to Change the Story

I recently posted this on my Facebook page:  In a sense, this is a “burning bush” moment for us, as a country, especially here in California. Can we see the signs? Do we have the patience and faith to embrace it, understand it, and be inspired to come together to liberate all people, all life, and our very planet from this captivity? Your thoughts?

The responses ranged from “climate hoax” to NY times articles explaining the causes, and critiques of NY Times articles, to the importance of prayers, to the need to do so much more than pray.  WE are living in a country with radically different visions for our country and our world.

So it is in within our political parties. the Democratic and Republican National Conventions offer us radically different visions for these “United” States, and the world.

Today, our unity is fractured. Our shared story as a country is breaking down. It needs to break down. For too long our story has excluded the voices of minority voices, interests and values, it is crumbling from a lack of integrity. The Story that is emerging around the world requires us to include those we have ignored in the past, on the democratic left and the republican right. We are being called out for our bias and hoarding of power. It’s scary for the privileged and vital for those without.

Author and futurist, David Korten, writes in his book, Change the Story, Change the Future:   “Choice-making beings of many possibilities, we humans live by shared cultural stories. They are the lens through which we view reality. They shape what we most value as a society and the institutions by which we structure power.

When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong.

We are in terminal crisis because we have our defining story badly wrong. Seduced by a fabricated Sacred Money and Markets story, we live in indentured service to money-seeking corporate robots and relate to Earth as if it was a dead rock for sale.

Communications technologies now give us the capacity as a species to choose our common story with conscious intention. This is a moment of unprecedented opportunity to create a future consistent with our true nature and possibility as living beings born of a Living Earth, born of a Living Universe”

Change the story, change the future”

Here are a book review and David Korten’s website on the book.

Yesterday Jacob Blake, an unarmed African American man, was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin in front of his three children. He is now paralyzed from the waist down.  We add his name to a long list of black women and men shot by police that should not exist.

The prophets of old and the prophets of this day shout God’s timeless message: In the name of Love, it’s time to change the story.

Abolition and Liberation – Connections Between the Prison Industrial Complex and Freeing Palestine

On Thursday August 28, 10-11:30am Pacific time, The Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity is co-hosting an international discussion of the connections between Black Lives Matter calls for abolishing the prison industrial complex, and Palestinian calls for tearing down all apartheid walls and freeing Palestine. 
 
Our speakers bring years of on-the-ground experience and strategic thinking to the conversation.
  • Angela Davis is an international activist and scholar, whose legacy dates back to the 1960s. Her 2003 book Are Prisons Obsolete?  laid the strategic groundwork for the current abolition movement.
  • Jamal Juma’, a leading grassroots organizer since Palestine’s First Intifada in 1987, and currently the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots :Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign” and “Stop the Wall”.
  • Kristian Davis Bailey, a co-founder of “Black for Palestine” and a co-author of the 2015 Black Solidarity with Palestine Statement signed by more than 1,000 Black activists. Kristian currently works at Palestine Legal and is a member of “LeftRoots”. 
There has never been a more critical time for this thought-provoking and inspiring conversation. Please join us as we sharpen our understanding of these critical issues and build our capacity for effective resistance!
 

If There Was Ever a Time to Conspire Together in Love, it is NOW

Lighting, Fires, blackouts, a heat wave, a pandemic, economic recession, and the poorest people of color are suffering.

We are living in apocalyptic times . Early Sunday morning, lightning bolts lit up the Bay area sky.  Within days, fast moving fires ignited across Northern California. We wake up each day: check the news, check our cell phones for area alerts about everything from air quality, PG&E rolling blackout alerts, & Covid updates, and then reach out to our loved ones, as the raging fires double in size. We wonder, what’s ahead this fall?

All this in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession that has resulted in 170,000 deaths in the US, unemployment rate at 10% and another enormous transfer of wealth to billionaires.

I am worried about us, especially those most vulnerable. Where is our hope? Could it be in the very midst of this apocalypse? The word itself, Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις, apokálypsis) is a Greek word meaning “revelation“, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”.

In fact, we are in the midst of apocalypse. It is a time of great unveiling, things not previously known are being revealed, if we have the eyes to not only see it, to hear it, to be transformed by it, and to take action, together,  to participate in our collective salvation. Who will save us? If there were ever a time for a great spiritual migration, it is NOW. If there was ever a time to participate, to conspire together, in love, it is NOW.

Who would have ever imagined that the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, born right here in Oakland during the civil rights movement, would give her acceptance speech as the first woman of color on a major party ticket?  She urged us to perceive the times and to take collective action together for justice for all people. Former President Barack Obama issued a grim warning about the durability of American democracy, and our role in participating in democracy as informed, engaged, voters.

A short time remains before the US elections on November 3.  While churches can take no partisan stands, we can pray and work for a just common life as a natural extension of our faith.

Resources to assist with this are available at Our Faith Our Votehttps://www.ucc.org/ourfaithourvote)

 Thank you my friends, for our leadership and migration together. 

                                         Love, Pastor Laurie

This Sunday:  

I am so pleased to have as our guest preacher this Sunday, our very own Teresa Jenkins!.

After the service, we continue on our journey, continuing our book discussion of Brian McLaren’s the Great Spiritual Migration, facilitated by Tom Manley! (please review the article below for details)

 

A Benefit Plant Sale to support PLANTING JUSTICE

Saturday & Sunday, August 15th & 16th  9 am – 3 PM
404 Cornell Ave. Albany

There will be many beautiful plants, some pretty garden/landscape greeting cards, jars of local honey, a representative from Planting Justice who will speak about the organization. All proceeds go to Planting Justice, and the sponsors are setting it up to be a careful as we can around social distancing. Masks required. It’s an outdoor event.

Planting Justice is a grassroots organization with a mission to empower people impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities, with the skills and resources to cultivate food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing.

Since 2009 Planting Justice has built over 450 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area, worked with five high-schools to develop food justice curricula and created 40 green jobs in the food justice movement for folks transitioning from prison

Nurseries & Greenhouses, Non-Profit Organization, at 319 105th Ave, Oakland, CA · (510) 756-6965.
https://plantingjustice.org/

 

World Without Walls – Black Lives Matter and Palestinian Rights

Friday, August 28, 10 AM Pacific time – online

The Skyline Church Justice and Witness Team invites you to the August 28th Bay Area World Without Walls event—A conversation with Angela Davis and Jamal Juma’ moderated by Kristian Davis Bailey. The conversation will be an international discussion of the connections between Black Lives Matter calls to defund the police and abolish the prison industrial complex, and Palestinian calls to tear down all apartheid walls and work for Palestinian human rights. Join these iconic grassroots organizers for an important reflection on the nature of global struggle in this precarious moment of history.

  • For more details and for webinar registration, please go to the Facebook event page HERE.
  • If you don’t use Facebook, register for Zoom event HERE.
 
Nancy Taylor, 510-325-4957, ngtaylor94619@yahoo.com