Oakland church

Six Tips for More Meaningful, Healthy Holiday Conversations

Special note from Pastor Laurie and the Wellness team:  
 
Among the discussions we’ve been having about integrative wellness we’ve been talking about how challenging the upcoming holidays can be, as we search for more effective ways to communicate; especially about our differences with others and with loved ones during stressful times. 
 
Here’s a helpful communication guide  on using the principals of Non Violent Communications,  for surviving the holidays: 
 
For many spending time with relatives over the holidays may be challenging. In addition to the love and care we may feel, family gatherings can bring up old hurts or expose painful differences. How many family meals have been marred by tense silence or devolved into harsh argument? For me, to find balance, authenticity and care in my conversations with family members and friends was a key turning point in my communication practice. Instead of dreading the holiday meal, gritting your teeth and sweating it out, here are six tips for more meaningful, healthy conversations during the holidays. 

How to Survive the Holidays: 6 Communication Tips With Oren Jay Sofer 

  1. Set intentions-One of the most transformative ingredients in a conversation is intention, the inclination or motivation that impels us to speak or act. When we come from healthy intentions like patience, kindness, or curiosity, we’re more likely to respond in a helpful way rather than react impulsively. Take some time reflect on your intentions before you get together with family or friends. How do you want to engage? How strongly are you committed to those values? Can you feel the strength of that in your body? 
  2. Stay grounded – Being mindful is a prerequisite for effective conversations. Without awareness, we’re just running on automatic! One way to stay mindful during conversation, and especially in challenging moments, is to feel the weight of your body. Sense your feet on the floor, the warmth in your hands, or the contact with the chair. Feeling the heaviness of our body and its contact with the floor can help us to stay grounded when things get heated.
  3. Practice key phrases – How many times have you thought of the perfect thing to say hours (or days) after an argument or tense moment? Instead of freezing or falling back on old habits when something challenging arises, practice a few key phrases ahead of time. Based on past experience, consider where you might get stuck and then write down some phrases you can use if something similar happens. For example: To buy more time: “Let me take a moment to think about that…” To decline to comment: “That’s important, and I’d prefer to talk about it some other time. How about we…?” To pause a conversation: “This feel pretty intense. Let’s take a break on this topic for a little while.” To change the subject: “I’d love to focus on enjoying one another’s company tonight. Let’s talk about…”
  4. Listen for what matters – Another key way to ease tensions and turn a conversation around is to get curious. Instead of focusing on the things you disagree with, try to get interested. NVC (and many forms of psychology and social science) teaches that at the core all humans share the same basic, fundamental needs. We all want to be happy, to be understood, to have meaning. Conflict happens at the level of our strategies—our ideas about how to meet our needs. When we identify what really matters, our commonalities outweigh our differences and we find shared humanity. Practice listening for this deeper layer of human meaning and experience. Underneath the views and opinions, what’s important to this person? Genuinely listening for another’s values can go a long way to bridging the gap.
  5. Set limits with care  – Keeping the peace has value, and it’s important to know your limits. Sometimes, speaking up is what’s most authentic or needed. We can call out ideas we believe to be dangerous, harsh speech or harmful actions without degrading anyone. Instead of blaming, diagnosing or labeling someone, speak from your heart about what matters to you. “I feel so upset by what you’re saying. Those kinds of generalizations can lead to terrible violence, and I want everyone to be seen for who they rather than be defined by their … (nationality, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, ability…).” By stating with your own feelings and needs, you can minimize conflict when it arises.
  6. Keep your aims modest – Last, let go of the outcome. There can be great value in critical conversation, but consider if this family gathering is the right time and place for a meaningful exchange! What’s more, trying to change the other person’s mind rarely supports real dialogue. Instead, focus on how you’re having the conversation. Are you embodying your values regardless of the other person’s behavior? While you’re unlikely to solve the world’s pressing issues over dinner, you might deepen your relationship with a relative if you can find a way to really listen and share ideas. When it comes down to it, our ability to engage with care and respect is often more effective than finding the right words. 

What are you waiting for?

The words “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are used interchangeably to remind us that God is always coming to us.  Become aware of your breath. Notice how breathing more deeply calms you. Notice how long you can hold your breath to remember how essential it is for your life. The Living God, or the God of Life, seeks to come to dwell within us and to give new life to us and through us. 

 Advent calls us to pay attention and to anticipate what “the God who comes to us” wants to do within us and through us. So, we wait in hope of what yet may be.  This process of waiting in hope, is active, not passive. 

 
Join us this Sunday as we continue to awaken to the new life full of hope, peace, joy, and love that God is calling each one of us, by name, into. 
 
What are you waiting for? 

Blessings,  Pastor Laurie 

 

Thanksgiving – Message from the Pastor

Last Sunday we focused on the theme of gratitude as a conscious practice, particularly living in an age of disillusionment, divisiveness, and dissatisfaction. 

Among the many people that I am grateful for are our creative members Tim Carter, David Guerra and Allegra Figeroid.   I want to share with you a beautiful memory from last Thanksgiving offered by them:  A special thank you to Tim Turkey and the Martians!!

May we remember, especially on this Thanksgiving, the heroism of Squanto who showed unconditional love to the Pilgrims despite his entrapment and enslavement by white skinned people; to those he could have easily seen as the enemy. May we remember that this sacred land that we live on was first their land.  May we remember the wisdom of the Native Americans who recognized their deep connection with this precious planet. 

Blessings and safe and easy travels, to all of you who are traveling for Thanksgiving.  

Annual Holiday Dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, December 8, 5:30 PM

Skyline invites you and your family and friends to join in our annual holiday celebration!

  • Enjoy a delicious meal (contact Bee for what to bring!)
  • Sing traditional Christmas carols and hymns
  • Special musical performances and guest Master of Ceremonies
  • And more!

Please RSVP to Bee no later than Dec 4 to select what you’ll bring to share with our community.  Contact Bee Franks-Walker via the office at 510-531-8212, office@skylineucc.org.  Coordinated by the Fun Team – Bee, Paula, & Walter

 

Greening of the Sanctuary – ALL Hands on Deck! Join us in Decking the Halls!!

Sunday, December 1, 12:00 to 3:00 after the service

Work off some of that extra Thanksgiving feast and join in the spirit of advent by helping us Green the sanctuary. Something for people of all ages. Please bring cut greens, industrial staple guns, gardening gloves and  garden cutting tools. Join your Skyline friends for a few hours of making wreaths, putting up and decorating trees, and bringing the holiday spirit here to Skyline. Wear or bring work clothes to church. 

HERE’S A LINK to let us know what you can do before Dec 1st and on Dec 1.  Thanks for filling it out!

 Green Team, Spiritual Life & Pastor Laurie

Advent Bible Studies

Sundays, Dec 1, 8, 15, 11:30 AM to 12:15 PM, after service and fellowship, in the sanctuary

Pastor Laurie invites you to take part in a progressive bible study as we take the journey of Advent together.  Together we will engage in conversation with the text, our ancestors in faith, time (theirs and ours) and God. We seek to find ourselves in these sacred stories and to make them our own. We engage in a conversation in which every voice counts! Together, we live with the questions and continually evolve in our living experience of God.  All are Welcome.
Contact Pastor Laurie via the office at 510-531-8212, office@skylineucc.org

Annual Food Drive for Alameda County Community Food Bank

Sunday. November 3 – Sunday, December 2

Join our annual food drive to over-fill a barrel for the Alameda County Community Food Bank!  The preschool participates as well and builds awareness with the children.  The barrel will be in the sanctuary.  Please share your abundance!

Here’s a letter from Allison Pratt, Chief Partnership and Strategy Officer at the ACCFB about food insecurity in the bay area.

This week, hunger in Alameda County made front page news and was the topic of hot discussion on the radio.

One in five county neighbors is experiencing or at risk of hunger. Compared to national and statewide averages, households struggling here are younger, more likely to have children, and make too much to receive government assistance. And, hunger is growing in suburban areas – an increasing effect of the high cost of living on local food insecurity.

These findings come from a groundbreaking new study conducted by the Urban Institute — a social and economic think tank — and was at the heart of features by the SF Chronicle and on KQED’s Forum radio show.
When you have a moment, please read more about this research. This is one of the most in-depth studies ever conducted on hunger at the local level — and is already informing our programming to reach more people.

Thank you for your support and partnership as we pursue a hunger-free Alameda County.
Contact Pastor Laurie (421-2646) revlauriemanning@aol.com 

Thanksgiving – Whatever our Race or Religion, We are One Family

When you hear the word “Thanksgiving,” what comes to mind?  As a child,  the word immediately brought to my mind’s eye a huge turkey, roasted golden brown. I saw potatoes, stuffing, peas and onions, gravy, and of course pumpkin pie.  I saw children and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles happily gathered around the table. I was unaware that everyone was white, just like the famous Norman Rockwell painting.  
 
But then I learned more about the Pilgrims and Wampanoags gathered around the table at the first Thanksgiving feast, and that fleeting moment of peace, friendship and mutual gratitude..But through the years, new images come to mind: 
  • Native Americans amassing in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for a National Day of Mourning—mourning for their ancestors and the theft of their lands. 
  • Undocumented children being separated from their parents at the border of this country. 
  • Trans women, fleeing the violence of their countries, seeking safety in this country, only to be brutalized and left to die in detention camps.  
  • The faces of so many others in our times, who like the Pilgrims,  come to this land seeking freedom from violence and oppression, shelter, a new home, and a new life. 
Today, I want to lift up gratitude for this congregation for choosing, in our words and actions, to become a sanctuary congregation.
 
Whatever our nation or race or religion or language we are all one family, and we have to help one another. 
 
Join us this Sunday, as we lift up the theme of gratitude.   

Healing, Wellness and Jesus’s Ways of Love

This Sunday, Nov 17, during worship we will focus on the themes of healing and wellness in the context of following in the ways of love, embodied by Jesus.  

The gospels are full of stories about Jesus healing. These healing stories are some of the most moving accounts in Scripture. They represent so many different things to different people:

  • the miracle stories used to convince the world that Jesus was the Son of God during the 1st 5 centuries ad.
  • the stories that “ higher level biblical criticism” challenged as being literally true.
  • the stories that have inspired generations of Christian healers.

No wonder scientists have wrestled with healing in a religious context. What we often dismiss as “faith healing” is contrary to almost everything that we usually place a lot of stock in: science, reason, and self-reliance. Most of us are willing to put ourselves in the hands of doctors and pharmacists when we are ill. Most of us have mostly good experience with the medical model of healing. We take whatever pills we are told to take and we see the doctor in the morning. Most of the time we feel better. Or we accept the surgery, and we see a whole lot of doctors for many mornings. Most of the time, we feel better.

But around the edges of our lives we are aware of the disease that doesn’t respond, the injury that won’t get better, the illness that can’t be cured. Whether it is AIDS or cancer, whether it is schizophrenia or depression, whether it is stroke or Alzheimer’s, we are aware of the limits of medicine. For some of us, the edges become the center, when disease or injury takes over our lives and leaves us with no hope for a cure. Finally, no matter if the edges ever move to the center, we remember at last that there is one condition we are absolutely sure will never be cured, and that is life itself. We are mortal. Our death is inevitable. Medicine may win a lot of battles, but it will always lose the war.

How, then, shall we be healed? What does it mean for us as religious liberals to talk of healing in a religious context? What does it mean to talk of healing in a world where illness and disease are understood more clearly than ever before, but where adequate health care for most of the world’s people remains inaccessible? What does it mean to talk of healing when medical and spiritual models of wellness don’t speak much to each other? What does it mean to talk of healing when all too often the best we can do with all our knowledge and power and technology is not enough? How shall we be healed?  Join us as we explore this topic. 

This Sunday, After fellowship time, from 11:30 – 12:30, we are offering what will become an ongoing series on wholistic wellness, reconnecting mind/body/spirit as part of wellness.  

We have a wealth of expertise within this faith community, and within the wider community. Sunday we begin this series with Susan Junfish, who is retired from Cal/EPA, Founder of Parents for a Safer Environment, and an environmental health scientist and public health educator trained at UC Berkeley.

Please join us for Susan’s talk after the fellowship time, entitled, Protecting Ourselves & Pets from Hidden Health Hazards at Home.  Share your specific topics of interest, like us on Facebook, and  invite others, thank you!

 Together, in this series we explore how our faith connects with and inspires wholistic health, wellness, and healing.  Please share it!

peace, Laurie 

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