Oakland church

Advent Bible Studies

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Spiritual Life Team invites you to join us for Bible Studies in honor of Advent.  And we’ll treat you to coffee, tea, and pastries.
We will meet  9-11am on the first three Saturdays of December.  On Dec. 1 and 8, gather with us at the home of Paula and David Byrens, 2359 Manzanita Drive, Oakland; then we will switch to the Fellowship Hall at church for the Dec. 15 session.

The studies will give us time to reflect on the reasons that the birth and life of Jesus reminded his first followers of Jewish stories and prophecies that they had loved first in Hebrew scripture.  The old and new embraced each other in the Christmas Story. If you want to get a head start on the readings, check out the three topics below. We will focus on the New Revised Standard Version for reading together. Several copies of NRSV and NIV Bibles (popular modern translations) will be available. Bring your other favorites if you would like—so that we can add their voices to the conversation.
MATTHEW 1:22-23

LUKE 1:5-25,  The barren one, the father, and the virgin
LUKE 2:6-38 Thomas Moore’s commentary has a beautiful translation

1 Kings 16:29- chapter 17
Malachi 4:1-5
Matthew 16:13-16, and 17:1-4, 10-13


Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

It has been a hard week, especially for children and those with respiratory conditions given the poor air quality in the aftermath of the worst fire in California history. Yet, the faithful remnant arrived to worship on Sunday, donning our  M95 masks, and focusing on gratitude and compassion. Special thanks to Tim Carter, David G. and Al Figeroid for their amazing Thanksgiving skit! (Please see photos and video below.)
We also  offered gifts to support the people of Butte County, especially in Paradise and have opportunities to share more (please see article below). 
We are reminded with every breath that we share the same air, and that we are more connected than we realize. May the breath, the Spirit of God, unite us together despite all that seeks to divide us. May we resolve to care more deeply for the earth, for one another, for future generations, and for poor people of color, globally and locally,  who live in disproportionally more polluted areas. 
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. 
Next Sunday join us for a conversation about becoming more conscious of our own white privilege, and a discussion after worship on Robin D’Angelo’s book, “White Fragility”. If you haven’t ordered the book, and don’t have time to read it, I encourage you to read this white paper
Blessings and safe and easy travels, to all of you who are traveling for Thanksgiving. 
I leave you with a quote written in Nov, 2016 about Thanksgiving by Dianna Butler Bass entitled, “Choose Gratitude”.

God, there are days we do not feel grateful. When we are anxious or angry. When we feel alone. When we do not understand what is happening in the world or with our neighbors. When the news is bleak, confusing. God, we struggle to feel grateful.

But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude.

We choose to accept life as a gift from you, and as a gift from the unfolding work of all creation.

We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that gives life; and for the air we all breathe.

We choose to thank our ancestors, those who came before us, grateful for their stories and struggles, and we receive their wisdom as a continuing gift for today.

We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating and accepting them for who they are. We are thankful for our homes, whether humble or grand.

We will be grateful for our neighbors, no matter how they voted, whatever our differences, or how much we feel hurt or misunderstood by them.

We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.

God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you.” We choose to see your sacred generosity, aware that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. That we all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will not let anything opposed to love take over this table. Instead, we choose grace, free and unmerited love, the giftedness of life everywhere. In this choosing, and in the making, we will pass gratitude onto the world.

Thus, with you, and with all those gathered at this table, we pledge to make thanks. We ask you to strengthen us in this resolve. Here, now, and into the future. Around our family table. Around the table of our nation. Around the table of the earth.

We choose thanks.


Celebration of Gratitude – Family Friendly Worship/Drama

Members Tim Carter and David Guerra will present a fun, creative puppet drama this Sunday. It features several Martians visiting planet earth trying to understand what Thanksgiving and gratitude are. They discover it includes not only “abundance,” “food,” “pumpkin pie,” “cranberry sauce”, “pilgrim,” and “Indian,” but also…“turkey!!!”
They encounter a very upset giant turkey (Mr Tim Turkey), who helps them understand the deeper meaning of giving thanks!
Join us as we explore the deeper meaning of gratitude and Thanksgiving as an inter-generational community.
Bring your children and friends and your appetite for fun!
Also, at the service we are collecting pies for the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and non-perishable food donations to Alameda County Community Food Bank, so please share whatever abundance you can. Thank you!

“We’re in this thing Together”

As Al Jarreau once sang it so beautifully, We’re in this thing together!

Last Sunday was a beautiful example of our togetherness, with SCC’s uniquely talented spiritual life team leading us in a worship service; revealing to us one body with many parts that makes us Skyline.

This prayer by Jane Medema, recently a new member, embodies the message of Sunday’s service:

You, Beloved God, you have gathered our separate hearts and minds, our different stories, and our surprising array of gifts, into one family. We once again offer our lives to you so that we may be strengthened for our daily journeys.” 

Jane’s a member of our spiritual life team.  Special thanks to each member of this team for their superhero gifts! 

As part of the service, we joyfully welcomed three amazing superhero new members, Tim, Jerri and Shaun, whom I encourage you to get to know! Please read more about them below!

This Sunday the superhero gifts continue as Tim Carter -our brand new member, David Guerra, and others  join together in creating a fabulous family friendly worship service.  It features several Martians visiting planet earth trying to understand what Thanksgiving and gratitude are.  They encounter a very upset giant turkey (Mr Tim Turkey).  Join us as we explore the deeper meaning of gratitude and Thanksgiving as an intergenerational community, and bring your friends and your appetite for fun! Also, please bring your pies for the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless (see Paula Byrens) and your donations to ACCFB!

See you Sunday!

Whoever and Wherever You are, You are Welcome

Nearly every week, at some point in the service, Pastor Laurie tells us, “Whoever you are, and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Sometimes, I let the sentiment fly by, but sometimes, it hits pretty hard.  That’s a profound statement.

Whoever you are… we’re all different; different backgrounds, experiences, tastes, foibles, flaws, and gifts.

Wherever you are on your life’s journey… since we’re all different; how could our journeys be the same? We come from different places, walked different roads, taken different wrong turns, and scaled different mountains.

I hope you will join me and the Spiritual Life Team this Sunday at Skyline as we explore what it means to be a pilgrim on that road and as we welcome new members who’ve decided to join Skyline to walk that road with us.

Article by Tom Manley, Spiritual Life Team

Saint Oscar Romero, Faith, and Voting Nov 6

On the eve of All Saints day and the week before an important upcoming election,  I find myself thinking of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the fourth Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador, who was recently declared a saint. During his beatification ceremony in 2015 the Pope said, “His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.” We must remember and bear witness to his faith, especially now.  

Romero was born on August 15, 1917. He began pursuing a life of ministry at age 13 and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1942. Although he started out as a conservative priest and theologian and member of the wealthy elite, his faith deepened over the years and took a radical turn in response to the anguish of the Salvadoran people. The question that burned in his heart and eventually turned his life around was “How do we speak of God in the midst of unjust suffering?”

Over 60,000 people died in the civil war which raged in El Salvador during the 1980s. The right-wing government, with financial aid from the United States, carried out a vicious campaign against leftist guerrillas, and many civilians were caught in the crossfire. Romero, then the Archbishop of San Salvador, tried to prevent this by speaking truth to those in power, calling them to conversion and a change of their ways. He was assassinated while celebrating mass in a hospital chapel.

As we think about the role of our faith in our lives and in the political realm, let us lift up the values of this saint who was transformed through love as his heart opened ever wider to love the poorest, most vulnerable people in his country, who spoke truth to power, and who was assassinated for his convictions.
Let us remember the ideals of this saint this week as we remember all those we love who have died; and as we strive to embody them in our lives and in our civic commitment in voting on Tuesday Nov 6th.
I leave you with a few quotes from this amazing man:  

The Purpose of Our Life

“The purpose of our life is God’s glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.”

On the Poor

“I am glad, brothers and sisters, that our church is persecuted precisely for its preferential option for the poor and for trying to become incarnate on behalf of the poor. And I want to say to all the people, to rulers, to the rich and powerful: If you do not become poor, if you do not concern yourselves for the poverty of our people, as though they were your own family, you will not be able to save society.”

The Struggle for Justice

“Everyone who struggles for justice, everyone who makes just claims in unjust surroundings is working for God’s reign, even though not a Christian. The church does not comprise all of God’s reign; God’s reign goes beyond the church’s boundaries.”


“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.

Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.

Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.

It is right and it is duty.”


“I have often received death threats. I must tell you that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.

Reformation Sunday

What a beautiful worship service last Sunday, lifting up the sacredness and preciousness of water in our bodies and on this planet, our deep interdependence upon it, and the infinite lessons it teaches us about movement and change and going with the flow in our lives.

Speaking of change and movement, this week our focus turns to the theme of the Reformation. Rev Sheryl Johnson will be preaching, drawing from her life experiences and her studies in her PHD program at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The Protestant Reformation was a major 16th century European movement aimed initially at reforming the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Its religious aspects were supplemented by ambitious political rulers who wanted to extend their power and control at the expense of the Church. To learn more about the UCC’s reformation roots, read here. 

Rather than consider the reformation a one- time dramatic event that took place hundreds of years ago, we within the UCC perceive the reformation as an ongoing, life-giving process, one that Jesus was committed to, and one that we are committed to as well. God is still speaking!

I’d like to share with you a timely prayer, adapted from the Prayers of Martin Luther:

Waken our hearts, O Lord, our God;

make them ever watchful to serve You and Your purposes.

Trouble us with the smallness of our vision and work.

Trouble us with the greatness of Your command to make disciples of all nations.

Trouble us with Your great love for sinners and our own slowness to make You our greatest love.

Trouble us with the brevity of our lives and time, talent, and treasure not invested in eternity.

Comfort us by drawing us to Yourself with the cords of Your
unfailing mercy.

Comfort us, O Lord, with the assurance of our salvation and
unending glory with You when we suffer and are afflicted.

Rekindle in us a renewed desire

for the coming of Your glorious kingdom

when all wrongs will be made right,

when everything that is broken will be made whole,

and when we will trade a cross for a crown.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Pastor Laurie will be away at a spirituality intensive retreat and returning on Monday.  



Alameda County Community Food Bank Drive 2018

Sunday, October 21 – Sunday, Nov 18

The ACCFB barrels are in the church sanctuary and in the preschool from till 11/18.  Please donate non-perishable, healthy food such as:

  • Canned Tuna                              Canned Chicken            Quinoa
  • Natural Peanut Butter              Nuts and Beans              Brown Rice
  • Canned Soup (low-sodium)    Whole Grain Cereal       Oatmeal

The food bank serves 1 in 5 residents in Alameda County.  Thank you for making this happen!  Contact Pastor Laurie through the office, 510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org.

New Members / Inquires Class

Sun, Nov 4 • 11:45 am

Interested in putting down some spiritual roots at Skyline? Are you considering becoming a member or official friend of the church?

The next New Members/Inquirers Class will be held Sunday, Nov 4, 2018, in the Sanctuary after the 10 am service. Come learn more about the United Church of Christ , Skyline and how to get involved. Rev. Laurie will lead and there will be time to ask questions. Anyone interested in learning more about the church is encouraged to attend, whether or not you decide to join.  Childcare is available if you let us know in advance.

Joining Sunday will be Sunday, November 11 during the 10 am service.

For more information, please contact Pastor Laurie at the office – 510-531-8212, office@skylineucc.org.

Letter Writing Campaign for Men Facing Deportation or Re-Detainment

Please continue to write letters of support, sign petitions, or fundraise for those facing deportation who are currently detained or at risk of re-detainment. Each individual and their families have chosen to go public with their stories below. Contact information is at the end of each story.
1) Raul Lopez
“My husband Raul Lopez is from Guatemala and has been in the US since 1989. He is a loving husband and a wonderful father to four children, two of whom I am the mother of, Denis and Alexa Lopez. Raul works very hard to provide for his family and he is very driven to always do better. Unfortunately, Raul has now been sitting in detention at West County Detention Center since March 22nd, 2017 and our family is desperate to be reunited with him. While his case is being appealed at the 9th Circuit Court, on June 21, 2018 Raul got transferred to another detention center without notice to our family or his lawyer. We need to bring him home because we need our family complete again. I have been doing all that is at my reach to provide for my family, but I am at my wits end and need Raul back, so we can fight together.” – Dianeth, wife of Raul
October Update – We received news from Raul’s attorney, that an Immigration Judge has denied Raul a bond hearing, so Raul’s attorney will be moving Raul’s case to a Habeas hearing at the 9th circuit court.
Write a note to Raul –  tinyurl.com/NotetoRaul
Donate to Raul – bit.ly/donate2raul
Sign petition to Free Raul – ciyja.org/freeraul


2) Alexey Kharis:
On August 2017, Alexey Kharis went to DHS in San Francisco hoping for a favorable verdict on his appeal for political asylum. Instead, he was arrested and thrown into the West County Detention Facility. Like many entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, 43-year-old Alexey Kharis had big dreams for a startup business venture. Unlike his entrepreneurial peers, however, Kharis is a political refugee from Russia. In 2014, together with his wife, Anna, and two children, Kharis fled to the U.S. on a valid visa. Kharis was determined to start a new life in the U.S. – he petitioned for political asylum in 2016, and fall 2017 he was about to start his program at the Stanford Business School. However, after being denied asylum at his court hearing, Alexey was immediately detained and denied bond as well. For over 10 months now, Alexey’s wife, Anna has had to work full time, raising her two children, ages 7 and 8, on her own. She can’t bear to tell the kids that Alexey is in detention: “We didn’t tell our kids that he was in jail. We said he went on a business trip. And he calls every night to tell them that everything is ok.”
Write a note to Alexey: bit.ly/NoteToAlexey
Donate to Alexey: www.gofundme.com/free-alexey. This month, Anna received an invoice of $40,000 in attorney fees. Although Anna is starting a new job, donate to help their family recover these fees.


3) Misael Quezada Flores:
Misael is a loving father and husband who has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years. He was one of the community members transferred to Colorado after the end of the ICE contract at West County Detention Facility.  His wife, Fatima, is 7 months pregnant and has suffered physical stress because of Misael’s detention and her doctor has told her that because of the high risk pregnancy, she will have to be induced in the next couple of weeks. Fatima asks for community presence at this important hearing.
  • See call script in the Faith and Immigration Calendar of Events and Actions

4) Letters of Support for PJ, Danny, and Joaquin

PJ, Danny, and Joaquin are volunteers with IM4HI who have lead us toward a more visionary practice of sanctuary where we support immigrant community members with former convictions. Each community member are at risk of re-detainment and deportation and are collecting letters of support.
Photos:  Joaquin and his children;                   Danny and PJ