Oakland church

Forgiveness and Mercy

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Dear Beloved Community, 

This week we continue in the all so human themes of love manifest in our capacity to forgive ourselves and one another.

I’d like to share some beautiful quotes on these themes with you: 

Henri J.M. Nouwen, 20th century
“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”

Anne Lamott, 21st century
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 20th century
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 20th century
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
 
Abraham Lincoln, 19th century
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

Traveling mercies this week! See you on Sunday! 

Blessing of the Animals, 10-1-17

9-27-15-bofa-dg-rhea-dog-pink-bow-owner-2 Come and celebrate the animal companions in our lives on Sunday, October 1 at 3:00 PM!

This is our 18th annual special ceremony to honor our animal companions and acknowledge the blessings they bring to our lives. Bring your pet(s) or a picture of your pet (or even a stuffed animal) – th

9-27-15-bofa-dg-nila-rhea-and-dog

is is a family event!  Refreshments provided for both pets & humans.

Afterwards, come and walk your pet through our unique labyrinth!

Watch a video from a previous blessing! And a previous year’s ABC News coverage!

All over the world lively and sacred ceremonies to bless our animal companions and honor the blessings they bring to our lives are held in the fall.  Churches of all denominations honor beloved pets around the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct 4) the patron saint of animals.

Reverend Laurie Manning and Rhea Babbit of Skyline Community Church, affiliated with United Church of Christ,  bless your dog, cat, goat, parakeet, fish, horse or whatever you bring (safely) with you.  You can also bring photos of beloved pets who cannot make the journey or have passed on to receive a blessing.

The ceremony is at 3:00 PM, with registration at 2:45, in the beautiful courtyard at:9-27-15-bofa-dg-laure-and-dog-owner-blue-dress

Skyline Community Church
 12540 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, Ca. 94619

(½ mile S. of Redwood)

Come one and all, with dogs, cats, hamsters, goats, parakeets, horses and more to celebrate and enjoy our animal companions.

Inquirers/New Members Class

 

 

 

We hope that you are enjoying Skyline’s welcome! Are you interested in putting down some spiritual roots at Skyline? Are you considering becoming a member or official friend of the church? The next Inquirers/New Members Class will be held Sunday, Sept 24th 2017 11:45- 1 pm.

Lunch and childcare will be provided. If you want to take the next step in your journey with Skyline, come enjoy lunch, conversation, and a presentation on who we are and how you might fit in.
 
Come learn more about the United Church of Christ, , Skyline,  and how to get involved. You will meet Pastor Laurie and others and have time to ask questions. Anyone interested in learning more about the church is encouraged to attend, whether or not you decide to join.

For more information, please contact Pastor Laurie @ revlauriemanning@gmail.com.

Joining Sunday will be in early October. You are also invited to a  dinner at Paula and Dave Byren’s house in early October.  Stay tuned for more information on the dinner.

Now’s the Time to Celebrate Love and Unity

Last weekend a contingent of us from Skyline gathered glorious Sunday morning to celebrate Oakland Pride. It was my first year actually participating in the parade, and I’m very grateful to Teresa Jenkins for preaching last Sunday. Truth be told, I was especially grateful after returning from a family reunion, and the harrowing experience of my father almost dying the night we arrived. I returned exhausted, physically and emotionally, and that combined with the state of the world, I would have preached about the apocalypse. Consider it all:  the total eclipse over the US last month, last week’s powerful earthquake in Mexico, the unprecedented destruction of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the raging fires in the West, the heartless proposed DACA deportations, the ever present threat of nuclear strikes from North Korea, and the precarious state of our democracy. Does it ever seem as if God is sending us many signs from the heavens that the world is coming to an end?
 
I don’t believe that God brings forth the violence that we’re experiencing, but I do believe that God uses the violence to wake us up and to bring us together.  I was grateful to celebrate Pride, and to celebrate love and unity. Below you’ll find some photos from the parade.
 
Join us this Sunday as we celebrate our reunion together at Skyline! The choir returns, we will enjoy some festivities after worship, and above all, we will celebrate love.

Advocate for Our Planet Home

© AFPPhotography | Dreamstime ID 98954561

I’ve returned from sharing precious time together with my family on the east coast where I grew up.  I’m grateful for the cooler weather out here, especially after the record setting temperatures last weekend!

Many of us have been stunned by the unprecedented climate events these past few weeks, with global heat records being surpassed, and hurricanes like Harvey and Irma becoming ever more devastating. Many of us are wondering how can we support the disaster relief efforts and how can we prevent such events from occurring in the future?
 
Here’s a word from the UCC and a way to donate to disaster relief in Houston, in response to Hurricane Harvey.
 
Charity Navigator  provides guidance to ensure that your donations maximize your contributions to relief efforts for Harvey and Irma victims.  

In the long term, we need to embrace God’s calling to us to love and to protect this precious planet, not only for ourselves but for future generations and for those most vulnerable. We must continue to embrace the science that points to the underlying influences of human induced climate change and continue to advocate for our planet. In an effort to do both, and as our NCNCUCC Climate Justice Rep, I have applied for and have received a scholarship to attend Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Conference in October. I look forward to sharing this learning with you, as partners in this ministry.
   
Peace in these times and prayers for all who need help and safety,

Pastor Laurie

Coming Out Sunday – Oct 15, 2017

God is still speaking,

On Oct 15 at 10 AM we are celebrating “Coming Out Sunday”.  As part of the service members of our congregation will share stories about their experience of coming out and the liberating power of love and the support of their faith communities in supporting them on the journey.  This is a warm, intimate, beautiful place of love for our community.  You are invited if you are looking for a place of spiritual belonging.

Skyline Church voted several years ago to become an open and affirming congregation.  Here’s what our national website says about this choice.

We hope to see you here to see if this is what you’re looking for.

We’ll be in the Oakland Pride parade! 2017

We’re celebrating unity with and for the LGBTQ community! It’s our annual Pride event!  Suzie will drive her great little convertible once again, decked out in style and carrying Skyline’s own “Queen Rhea”!  We have many members and friends taking part, so come visit!  The excitement is starting to build!  Here’s a map of the parade route!

Parade –  begins 10:30 AM at Broadway & 14th Street and goes to Broadway & 20th.  

Enter Festival  (see map) at these locations:  (we’re not having a booth this year)

Main Entrance: Broadway & 20th Street (exit 19th St BART Station)

Webster Entrance: Webster & 21st Street

There is almost NO PARKING at the event. It is recommended that you take BART in. You may drive (carpooling is good, too) to Rockridge BART or another BART station,  park your car there, and BART to the 19th ST. BART station the festival is right there as you exit BART.  BART back out when you leave.  BART parking is free on weekends.   Most lines go through the 19th St. station. Check a map if you’re not sure which train to take to get you to 19th St. BART station: http://www.bart.gov/tickets/calculator

Invitation to you:  On October 15, 2017 we’ll be having our annual Coming Out Sunday at our 10 AM church service.  We are an open and affirming church, and welcome you if you are looking for a place of spiritual belonging.  

Offer Love’s Response to White Supremacy’s Hatred

I am sickened by the latest incidence of violence, this time  in Charlottesville, Virginia. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died on their way to help. I pray for the family of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed by a 20-year-old white supremacist, a terrorist whose name I will not speak, who turned his car into a weapon against non-violent protesters. Heather was killed, and 19 other people were struck down by malice, hatred and racism.

They were struck down by what has stricken our nation since its founding: the horrible lie that is white supremacy. This lie was formed in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who had a suspicion that the Africans who had been enslaved by the freedom-seeking colonists were inferior to their white owners. This horrible lie was fanned into pseudo-science about racial hierarchy. This lie spits in the face of the truth: there is only one race, and that race is called human.

We who know the truth must be set free from apathy and boldly challenge the falsehood of white supremacy every time and everywhere we see it. We who are people of faith must not pretend that what happened in Charlottesville was violence and hatred on “many sides.” We must say the truth out loud.

This is the truth: White supremacists organized themselves and descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a symbol of hatred and racism. They will keep organizing and use every tool in their power to make America racist, again and again.

And we who believe in freedom, we who believe in the power of revolutionary love must keep organizing as well, and use every tool in our power to fight this hatred, to renounce this bigotry, and to call our leaders into account. This is NOT the America for us. This rising ugly tide of white supremacy, if unchecked, will become a tsunami that will drown the liberties espoused by our constitution, and will end more and more innocent lives.

Hatred kills.

We must recognize that all of these movements (black lives matter, women’s march, immigration reform, LGBTQ Pride, affordable housing, education, and healthcare, prison reform, climate justice, etc) are all part of the human rights movement. We must join together to stand on the side of love. Here are some things we can all do now in response to white supremacy:

  1. Tweet the president or retweet a prayer that @POTUS joins us to name and fight #WhiteSupremacy and the #terrorism that accompanies it.
  2. Read “UCC Pastoral Letter condemns racist violence in Charlottesville, demands equality for all”
  3. Read these articles and learn more about what’s happening here in the Bay area, Aug 26-27 weekend:
    1. Message from Mayor of Berkeley – The Aug 27 Rally does not have a permit
    2. Nancy Pelosi asks if White House had a hand in approving the permit for Aug 26    
    3. Don’t give the haters any bragging rights 
  4. Sign this petition from Faith in Public Life that calls on the @POTUS to behave like a president. It calls “on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility.” And it asks “President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose.”
  5. Join us for an interfaith worship service on Sat Aug 26th, in which our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz, will be performing; stay tuned for more as plans unfold. 
  6. Join us for a conversation immediately following worship this Sunday about our own personal discernment in response. 

And never forget that when we take these actions, we are praying with our hands and our feet. We are mourning, and we are organizing against white supremacy with revolutionary love,  until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I leave you with the prophetic words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: 

Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that. 
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
A time to end the Silence. 

History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

The Investigation

© Nikolai Sorokin  ID 4033093

By David Guerra

I love a mystery.  

One came my way a week ago Tuesday in the form of a frightened nanny and her young charge.  She came tapping on my door just after my first cup of java.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said.  “But I didn’t know who else to tell.  I found something at the stop sign and I think it’s a crime scene.”

Intrigued, I followed her to the corner of our street.  There in a neat pile was a stack of photographs, financial documents, home-burned CDs, a gym membership card and an expensive-looking leather wallet, empty.  I recognized the items as something I’d seen the day before scattered on the other side of the road.  

“Looks like someone dumped it out of a car window,” I said.  “It happens all the time up here.  Thieves steal mail or parcels and then toss out what they don’t want.”

“But these are someone’s photos,” she said.  “I didn’t want to touch them, in case… well, you know.”

I picked through the pile, saturated from the neighbor’s sprinkler.  “I’ll take these home and see if I can find the owner,” I said, scooping them up.  

Soon, the hodge-podge of belongings were laid out on newspapers on my livingroom floor.  I looked at each, piecing together my investigation.  

Photographs of family members, grandpa with a grandchild.  A trip to the Sierras with teenage friends.  Records of rent collection for a property in Berkeley.  Banking statements from Wells Fargo, but no name.  

The only clue to identity was a membership to a gym franchise.  It was a long shot, but I googled the name on the card.  There was a Facebook account, with a man of color like many of the photos.  He owned a local business, so I googled that.  After bouncing around the internet for a while, I found a number his company.  I reached an answering machine.

“My name is David.  I’m trying to find Don.  This is going to sound crazy but I found a bunch of photos and a wallet which may be his on the side of the road.  I want to get them to the rightful owner.  If you know Don, please have him contact me.”

Al came into the room and examined the drying photographs. “Why is someone’s life on our living room floor?  These are analog photos.”

“I know.  They are important to someone.  They were on the side of the road.  I’m trying to find the owner.”

Three hours later, Don stood on my front deck, looking at the collection of dried photos.  He told me his sad tale.

His business van had been stolen, along with his tablet and a bunch of personal belongings.  He’d been trying to work with the police to find the van, but to no avail.  He’d lost hope of ever retrieving any of his belongings, especially the photos.  I asked him about them.

He told me the story of the teen trip to Mono Lake with his mentor, the picture of his best friend from childhood, the special car a family member purchased, over a decade ago.  He wiped his eyes and hugged me.  He showed his girlfriend the pictures.  He was especially touched that a stranger would pick up the pile, dry them and then go through the effort to find the owner.

“You’re a guardian angel,” he said as he gave me another hug.

“You had three guardian angels,” I said.  “One who collected your things and put them by the corner.  The nanny who found them and got me.  And me, who found you.”  

Mystery solved.  And to a man named Don, that was an act of kindness that he will remember for a long time.  

  

How Does the Holy Show Up in Our Lives?

How you know when God is present? When the danger has been avoided? When your heart stops pounding & you know you can breathe normally again?  When you aren’t afraid anymore? It’s an appealing idea, but unfortunately the Bible will not back it up. In that richly disturbing book, much of God’s best work takes place in total chaos, with people terrified!

This Sunday we wrestle with our faith and our understanding of how the Holy shows up in our lives. Join us as we  dive into the timeless and universal story of Jacob, who, fearing for his life, and wrestling with an angel in the darkness, gains his new life. It is a story that has captured the imaginations of artists from the great painters, Marc Chagall to Rembrandt to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. May we open ourselves to the cloud of unknowing, and discover the light within the dark clouds and the painful experiences of our lives. 

Blessings upon your week!

Pastor Laurie 

The Man Watching  

By Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after 
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes 
that a storm is coming, 
and I hear the far-off fields say things 
I can’t bear without a friend, 
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on  
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
 
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,  
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!  
What fights with us is so great.  
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm, 
 
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,  
and the triumph itself makes us small.  
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us. 
 
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: 
when the wrestlers’ sinews  
grew long like metal strings,  
he felt them under his fingers 
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel  
(who often simply declined the fight)  
went away proud and strengthened 
and great from that harsh hand,  
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.  
Winning does not tempt that man.  
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,  
by constantly greater beings.

                –Translated by Robert Bly