Oakland church

Behold What is Beckoning Us this New Year

Those of us who are hikers know what a cairn is, right?  A cairn is a little pile of stones that we sometimes see along the trail — or maybe a marker of some sort — that marks a turning point, or a crossroads in the trail, a decision point.

If you’re a hiker you know that when you come to a cairn on the path it’s usually a good idea to let your pack down and sit down and maybe take a sip of water and eat some trail mix, take out your map and figure out where exactly you’ve come from and where it is that you’re going.  A time of reorientation, to make sure you’re still headed in the right direction.  That’s what New Year’s was for our ancestors, a kind of milestone, a reckoning point on life’s journey.
I can remember hiking in the high Sierras, where the stars are so bright that you can see our home (our galaxy-the Milky Way), gracefully revealing her light, which so often is obscured with our light pollution. In such moments, it is so important to stop, and behold, like the Magi long ago, to consider this journey, and what it is that is beckoning us, and what it is we are all a part of.
.
We, like the Magi, are walking toward you.
One foot in front of the other, we are walking
toward you. 

It is our very prayer to move your way. 
So if you can, oh God of love, leave the light on
and the front door unlocked. 

Leave a fire in the hearth and food on the stove. 
And when we start to get lost or doubt our dreams, 
Give us the will to persevere. 
We are walking toward you, O God. 
So like the parent that throws open the door, 
Open the door to us and welcome us in. 
Amen. Join us as we begin the new year together, this Sunday in worship! 
Peace, Pastor Laurie

May Our Souls Magnify God’s Love

Those of us who take the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally may wonder what Mary really said when the angel told her that she was about to become an unwed teenage mother.

This could not possibly have been good news for Mary, a poor peasant girl among an illiterate people who never heard of a thing called “virgin birth.”

“I’m what? Pregnant?”

“And you want me to tell people what?”

“You know that in the eyes of all my neighbors, he will always be regarded as a . . . you know what they will call my baby.”

And yet the truth of this text is profoundly present in Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, whose birth will so change the world that the years on earth will be measured as being before and after Jesus’ birth. And Mary’s prophecy in this text is still coming true. People of the light still believe and work for it to this day.

It is Mary who utters these radical words, who says this about God:
“He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”
Who says that God sides with the poor?

And we will still work for justice as God’s partners, until the poorest and most vulnerable on the earth realize God’s mercy as present “for those who fear God from generation to generation.” God’s strength has and will continue to bring down powerful despots on thrones; God will continue lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry on the earth, filling them with good things.

No matter what actually happened, I know this text is true.

God is still magnifying the souls of those who say, yes.

May our souls magnify this love.

Amen, Pastor Laurie

Enjoy these video replays from the Magnificat service and the Longest Night Vespers! (Passcode: 3Q+54v9P)  Simply click on the title to watch the video. “My Soul Magnifies the Light” starts at about 44 minutes into the Magnificat.

     
Magnificat    (video)              Longest Night Vespers  
 Passcode: 3Q+54v9P

Special thanks to our musicians: Ken Medema, Gabrielle Lochard, the choir ensemble. 

Join us for this Thursday evening’s Christmas Eve service!! Learn more at this link: https://skylineucc.org/christmas-eve/

With Love, Pastor Laurie

(421-2646)  revlauriemanning@aol.com

Image: “Magnificat,” by Thomas Mainardi (2018)

Care of Your Soul in these Trying Times

How ARE you? 
 
Increasingly we are all experiencing the fatigue not only of this emotional time of year, but of the pandemic. 
 
The SIP ( shelter in place) orders we’ve been living with have gotten more restrictive. It’s in our best health interests collectively to switch to more restrictive rules. And at the same time, the changing of the rules, the unknown future, and the general stress and worry of the pandemic is exhausting.
 
In the midst of the darkness, self-care is important. Diet and exercise are important. Paying attention to what you’re feeling is important. Finding a spiritual practice that feeds your soul is important.
 
One of the chronic ongoing impacts of the pandemic on mental health has been an increase in feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. If you’re feeling any of these, I know it can be really hard to reach out and ask for help. Still, I encourage you to do so. It is honestly the only way your family and friends can know that you need extra attention. It is the only way your pastor and your beloved community can know that you need some pastoral care.
 
If you need something new to feed your soul, you might want to consider these:
  • Even though Advent has already started, it’s not too late to make a daily practice of sitting in reflection and prayer. You can download this free Advent Devotional for your personal use. It was written by members of the Sequoia Association of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.
  • Join us on Fridays at 1 pm for our prayer and care check ins. It’s a time to be present to our souls. 
And, please, remember that we have a special service on Monday, December 21, at 7 pm  This Longest Night Service” is simple, meditative, and healing. 
 
peace, Laurie 
 
 

Christmas Eve – Virtual Gathering

 

Join us on Christmas Eve, Thursday, Dec 24 at 6PM, for a traditional lesson and carols service, featuring music by the talented Gabrielle Lochard, Ken Medema, and our Skyline choir ensemble.   Led by Pastor Laurie.

Zoom Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467

Longest Night Vespers on the Solstice

Longest Night Vespers on the Solstice
Dec 21 7PM

Continuing our recent series of interfaith vespers services, join us for an evening of music, readings, and contemplation. If you are lonely, grieving, depressed and/or just want to give full attention to the shadow side of the season, join us.  We will meditate on the moment and center down on the longest night of the year. We will remember that God created light and dark, day and night, and said both were good. 

   

An evening of meditative songs & prayers.
In this present moment, on the eve of the Longest Night, rest in a time of slow, beautiful calm, and touch the center.

An hour of interfaith readings, prayers, music, and silence.

Featuring music by the talented Gabrielle Lochard and Ken Medema, with reflections from Pastor Laurie

   
 

Magnificat Sunday

Magnificat Sunday, Dec 20 10AM

Join us for Sunday worship on the 4th Sunday in Advent – Magnificat Sunday – Love, Magnifying the Light into the World as we explore Mary’s ecstatic and mystical expression of the divine, featuring a premier of “My Soul Magnifies the Light” by composer and vocalist Sarah Grace Graves. In this new setting of the Magnificat, commissioned and written for Skyline’s virtual choir, Sarah offers an interpretation of these words woven in meditative sonorities and ecstatic, expressive improvisations for the voice.

She writes, “I love the Magnificat. Mary’s words are so charged with feeling and energy. […] Mary’s song resonates with me at the time of my writing this because the world is, like it was then, completely upside down, and I don’t know what will happen. I can accept not knowing. […] But in moments like these, I want to hope, and the hope and awe of her words inspire me to face the future with courage and grace.”

Featuring music by the talented Gabrielle Lochard, Ken Medema, our Skyline choir ensemble, and our sermon from Pastor Laurie.

Zoom Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467

Virtual Christmas Party

Join us this Sunday, December 13, for our Virtual Christmas Party!

Sunday Service 10AM – 3rd Sunday in Advent – Joy, Young at Heart
Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25) 

Jane Medema guest preacher in worship

*Stay tuned – At 11:30AM after worship for our Virtual Christmas Party
with lunch, lessons, and carols. Bring your lunch, download the Carol Sing hymnal, and let’s join in singing. Feel free to share your own celebration ideas with Pastor Laurie & David Guerra! So far we have – the 12 days of Christmas, your earliest Christmas memories, your own experiences of being young at heart, brainstorming together about the good news about virtual Christmas parties!

Zoom Link:  https://zoom.us/j/716026467
Meeting ID: 716 026 467

Gifts For The Children

ANNOUNCEMENT:
December Gift Giving!
Gifts for the Unhoused Children of East Oakland Community Project

Once again, Skyline Church and Preschool have an opportunity for gift-giving to the homeless children of the East Oakland Community Project.

In 2019, Alameda County reported the biggest increase of 43% since its last tally in 2017, with a total of 8,022 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people counted during a single day.  Deaths in Alameda County’s unhoused communities increased 40% during the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. 

We are grateful for our planned generosity to EOCP.

This year, because of COVID, we will be signing up to give gift cards rather than wrapped presents. The Church is taking 27 names and the Preschool is taking 26 names of the total 53 children in the EOCP programs.

Because we don’t have the list of children’s names yet, we ask that you sign up anyhow – with a name to be assigned later.

We’re recommending that you purchase a gift card with a value of $30 from either Target or Walmart, and place the card inside an envelope with a Christmas card, with the child’s name on the outside of the envelope (if we get names by 12/15), signed with your name(s) on the inside.  Please do not seal the envelope.  We haven’t received a date to deliver the cards yet; but please plan on dropping these off at the Preschool, no later than December 15.  A box will be provided at the bottom of the stairs during school hours for this purpose. As an alternative, feel free to drop at Nancy Taylor’s: 4207 Knoll Ave., Oakland 94619.  Finally, if you are unable to go out and purchase a gift card, you may write a check made out to Skyline Church with “EOCP” in the note field, mail it to the church.  Nancy T will use the funds to purchase gift cards and Christmas cards and sign for you.

To sign up, please email Nancy Montier 510-531-8212  office@skylineucc.org

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

Leveling the Uneven Ground

What does it mean to pave a way for God through a planet groaning from exploitation, through societies plagued by inequity, and through religious and political systems corrupted by power and privilege? 

How does the wisdom of the prophets speak to these questions?

The prophet Isaiah, 40:1-11 lifts up these words:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s h& double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 
 
If paying attention to the prophets aligns our dreams with the dreams of God and drives us to prophetic action, then the cries of Isaiah today are a reminder that sometimes this means getting in the demolition businessSometimes this means flattening the mountains of privilege and power, clearing away the obstructions of legalism, and leveling the uneven ground of racial, economic, and religious inequity. 
 
Join us, this Sunday, in God’s work in the world, preparing the way, in the work of leveling the uneven ground.
Love,
Pastor Laurie   

From Gratitude to Service

Our guest preacher last Sunday, Mr. Benjamin Mertz, lifted up some powerful challenges to us, on the eve of this 400th anniversary of the first “Thanksgiving”, shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanaugs.

He asked,
What do we do with this fantasy story of this Thanksgiving of the big meal, shared among people who are different getting together? How do we square it with the rest of the story?

What do we do instead? All of these gifts, given to us justly, or taken through the spoils of conquest & slavery? What do the prophets say? They are calling us, to agape love, to loving our neighbors, to loving those as the parable of the Good Samaritan taught us, those we view as enemy, as other. To love them, not as an intellectual exercise –but as active, alive, agape love, in service to others. .
  
Let us remember, on this 400th anniversary of that feast shared between Pilgrims and the Wampanaugs that this is not our land. Let us remember, that for many of us, too much of our money is in the bank, not much has gone to our neighbors right here, from the Ohlone tribe.

 


 
Here is another great piece for us to reflect upon this Thanksgiving:
 
Yes we are in the middle of a pandemic, yes, Corona has taken so much away from us., and many of us are mourning. But, despite it all, we are so blessed, there is so much abundance, food, housing, clothing, bank accounts, internet.
 
Let us transform Thanksgiving into a day of justice,
Let us transform Thanksgiving into a day of agape love
That doesn’t mean just sitting around the table with our families & friends, it means being active in the community, lifting up the oppressed & the poor.
Let us transform the fantasy of Pilgrims and Indians from the past ..  into the dream & strategy for the future of racial and economic of justice for all.
 
Let us transform the fantasy of giving thanks into giving help.
Let us transform the gratitude of what we’ve been given into service of others.


 
Here are some opportunities to do so, safely, even now, in this pandemic:

1.    Donating to land reparations to the Ohlone people in the Bay Area:
 
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/31/native-american-land-taxes-reparations
https://sogoreate-landtrust.org/shuumi-land-tax/
 
2.    Offering support for the children and families of East Oakland Community Project, the largest transitional homeless shelter in Alameda County. Our chair of justice and Witness,  Nancy Taylor, encourages you to reach out and contact her, if you are interested and able to help provide a meal (boxed food or gift card) for families who have found permanent shelter from East Oakland Community Project (homeless shelter). 

Together, may we transform the gratitude of what we’ve been given into service of others.