Oakland church

The Sacredness of Water

Last week, we focused upon the miraculous sacredness and the growing scarcity of rich fertile soil.  In light of this perspective, Skyline’s Green team encourages your support in signing this petition:  for decades, oil and gas drilling has devastated Creation and harmed some of the most vulnerable communities in our state – polluting our air and water, and sickening thousands of people. We encourage you to sign this letter to tell Governor Brown it’s time to phase out oil and gas drilling in California. Many thanks, Skyline Green Team!!

Also, we celebrated our  20th Annual Blessing of the Animals, honoring the Feast of St Francis. Please enjoy the photos at the end of this letter! 

This week we focus on the sacredness and preciousness of water. Nobody thinks about water. Until there’s no more. Or, until-as is the case in the poor neighborhoods of Flint, Michigan-the tap water is poisoned. In that kind of crisis, we suddenly think a lot about water.

One of the deep spiritual truths that undergirds all of us is our connection with water. “Throughout human history, the quest for God has often been connected with a quest for fresh water,” Diana Butler Bass writes in her book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution.

 It’s a truth in all world faiths, Bass tells us, and especially for Jews and Christians:  The Bible begins with the deep, when God’s spirit sweeps over the waters. From wind and the seas comes all of creation. For Christians, the Bible also ends with water: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.” The final scene in the book of Revelation is the river of God, the water that heals and washes away all sorrow. … Water in the beginning, water at the end. God is the Alpha and Omega of the wells, rivers and seas.

What role does water play in your life? When you are seeking place of renewal , do you choose to go to a river or lake or stream or the ocean?  Can you think of a time when water might’ve played at healing role in your life?   For me, as a child of the Ocean State, as someone who grew up sailing on Narragansett Bay, as someone whose ancestors lived on the shores of Ireland, water is life. Being near the water is in my DNA, the waters sing to my soul.

Join us for a refreshing, life giving worship experience in which we honor the sacredness of water, and are reminded that, as we do, we are God’s beloved children: “I love you, I am well pleased in you”. Also, join us after worship for an extended conversation about the sermon and about the sacredness of water!

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

19th Annual Blessing of the Animals! 

Special thanks to Becky Taylor for her leadership in promoting, recruiting for, and supporting our 19th Annual Blessing of the Animals!  We were blessed with beautiful weather and wonderful visitors! Enjoy the photos!

The Sacredness of the Earth

Even as more and more people are beginning to see God, not only in the heavens, but right here on the earth, we are also discovering how fragile and endangered the Earth is. 

Just consider the latest reports from the UN. Or consider the increasingly dangerous fires, droughts, and hurricanes we’ve been experiencing.  The greatest need seems to be mobilizing the spiritual and political will to stop catastrophic climate disaster.  It is, among the greatest moral imperatives of our time, disproportionately affecting poor people of color, and future generations on this planet.  The U.N.’s climate panel tells world leaders the time for dithering on climate change is over.

  
For millennia, the ancients looked to the heavens, to the light of millions of stars above, to find God.  Although the stars still move us to wonder, contemporary people are learning that the soil beneath our feet is as mysterious, complex, and awe-inspiring as gazing into the night sky.  “I was stunned by what I learned about life in the soil,” says journalist Kristin Ohlson, “that when we stand on the surface of the Earth, we’re atop a vast underground kingdom of microorganisms without which life as we know it wouldn’t exist.  Trillions of microorganisms, even in my own smallish backyard, like a great dark sea swarming with tiny creatures.”
 
In fact, the soil is sacred.  Even the most secular writers understand that the ground calls forth an ethical, moral, and spiritual response.  We are powerfully connected to the ground, and the soil is intimately related to how we understand and celebrate God.  The late Irish Roman Catholic priest and philosopher, John O’Donohue, called the land “the firstborn of creation” and the “condition of the possibility of everything.”  The Earth itself, he insisted, holds the memory of the beginning of all things, the memory of God.  When feminist theologian Sallie McFague offers the metaphor of “body” to describe the relationship between God and the world, she is reminding us of both scientific truth and a sacred mystery.  “What if,” she asks, “we saw the Earth as part of the body of God, not as separate from God (who dwells elsewhere), but as the visible reality of the invisible God?

 
In her book, Grounded, author and scholar of American religion and culture,Diana Butler Bass, writes, “Although I had observed wounded landscapes, it did not occur to me that dirt was threatened on a larger scale.  Soil was like air or water, a boundless gift of creation, always present. Yet soil is being lost at an alarming rate all over the planet.  During the last century and a half, the planet has lost half its topsoil.”  According to a Cornell University study, American soil is disappearing ten times faster than the rate at which it can be replenished; China and India are experiencing erosion rates thirty to forty times faster.  In the last forty years alone, about one-third of the world’s formerly productive soil has become unusable, and the planet continues to lose approximately twenty-five million acres a year to erosion.  This is an environmental crisis to be sure, but it is a moral and ethical one as well.
 
Something odd is happening, however, as this disaster is unfolding.  At the same time that the Earth is losing its soil, more people than ever are making their way back to the ground. Skyline’s Green team, and our Garden of God, is a great example. So are many of you! Urban gardens are cropping up throughout the world, and people are learning to respect and participate in the miraculous processes that are happening, literally beneath our feet. 
 
An atheist friend of mine is fond of saying, “I just don’t believe that God is an old man sitting on the throne in Heaven.”    Nor do the millions of people who still trust in God, yet reject this particular conception of God.  McFague calls it the “transcendent sky-God tradition.”  As Diana Butler Bass writes, “Instead of seeing God as distinct and distant from the world, we are acquiring a new awareness that the universe itself is God’s body, a complex and diverse interdependent organism, animated by God’s breath, the spirit of creation.  We are with God and God is with us because – and some people may find this shocking – we are in God and God is in us.  Maybe the far-off Heavenly Father is finally retiring, replaced by a far more down-to-earth presence, a presence named in Hebrew and Christian scriptures as both love and spirit.”  As Wendell Berry puts it “The idea of Heaven doesn’t take religion very far,” because the distance makes for too great an abstraction.  “Love,” as the very being of God, he continued, “has to wear a face.”  And that “face” is “our neighborhood, our neighbors and other creatures, the Earth and its inhabitants.
 
Join us this Sunday at 10 am  as we continue this revolutionary spiritual journey, drawing from the wisdom of Genesis, Jesus’s parable of the sower, Diana Butler Bass’s book, Grounded,  and Forrest Pritchard’s book, Gaining Ground.
 
After worship, food and fellowship, our conversation will continue from 11:45-12;30. All are welcome! Childcare is provided!
 
peace, Laurie . 

“Won’t you be my Neighbor?”

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?   Mr. Rogers

This Sunday at 10 am, come and experience the Parable of the Good Samaritan, not only in a sermon but also in a fabulous children’s skit based on the gospel according to Fred Rogers! 

The skit is written and performed by our talented,  Emmy award winning, Tim Carter who is a former Senior Producer with Sesame Street  http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Tim_Carter, and David Guerra, an artist and award winning costumer who is creating special props and puppets.  Join us for a wonderful day in the neighborhood, filled with inspiring music, delicious food, wonderful people, child-friendly programs, and an interesting discussion about our local and global neighbors.

It’s also a time to join us later in the afternoon as we celebrate the end of the ICE contract with the West County Detention Facility, and as we continue to support undocumented men, women, and children, as our neighbors. We will also be receiving a special collection for the UCC’s justice ministries supporting our local and global neighbors in need. 

Come join us, neighbors!!   

Blessing of the Animals Oct 14, 2018

Come and celebrate the animal companions in our lives on Sunday, October 14 at 3:00-4 PM!

This is our 19th 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).

This 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! 

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 Rev. Sheryl Johnson 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.

Here’s a blessing of the animals flyer to share with your vet or pet store, if you wish – thanks!

From Detention fo Freedom: Celebrating 7 Years of Prayer Vigil at WC Detention Facility

Staying Grounded while Living on the Fault Line

SERMON SERIES: STAYING GROUNDED WHILE LIVING ON THE FAULT LINE

Dear Friends,

I’m back from sabbatical! 

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!

I invite you to join me in the spiritual revolution!

This spiritual revolution rests upon a simple insight: God is the ground, the grounding, that which grounds us. We experience this when we understand that the soil is holy, water gives life, the sky opens the imagination, my roots matter, home is a divine place, and our lives are linked with our neighbors and with those around the globe. This world, not heaven, is the sacred stage of our times. (from “Grounded”, By Diana Butler Bass)

Have your views of God evolved over time? Mine have!  I “believe” less, but have more faith. I bet I’m not alone.

Do you find yourself seeking to stay grounded, while living on the fault line? Literally, as well as spiritually? Me too!

This fall, come believing as you do.  Find God, not in a far- away heaven, but here and now, within, between, and everywhere, more present than you ever imagined. 

Together, let’s open to the spirit of love and justice that shines within & around our sanctuary and radiates out into the world. Together, let’s co-create new things– new ways of talking about God, new ways of worshipping, new ways of connecting. 

Come, be inspired, be uplifted, and share your inspiration with others. Your presence matters. Being together matters.

Peace,

Laurie

P.S. It’s Homecoming Sunday– time to reconnect, and enjoy a celebration lunch after the service!

An Unending Symphony- Farewell from Pastor Ruth

Wow!  What great weekends we had on the 8th, 9th and 16th with the Climate March, Pride Parade, and Pride Sunday.  But why am I surprised?  Skyline Community Church not only talks the talk about justice issues but also walks the walk, often literally!  My not being free to take part in the Pride Parade reminds me once again that it is impossible – for humans, anyway! – to be in more than one place at a time.
 
I’m sure you have all had the feeling that there is so much work to be done to help heal God’s world.  Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, and sometimes it feels like you’ll never finish.  I received some good advice today (Thank you, Nancy M.!),  Instead of being overwhelmed by all the injustice, prejudice,  and poverty that calls for a response, we should think like members of an orchestra.  Just pick up YOUR instrument and start playing!  When we each do that, when we each do what we can, our combined efforts can create some beautiful music.
 
However, we are playing an unending symphony.  Life is an unfinished business.  I am very aware of the unfinished business that I leave with you at the end of this month.  For instance, a conversation that began in response to the defacing  of our Black Lives Matter sign must continue.  Hopefully, those of you who have been reading the book “White Fragility” will share with each other what you have gleaned from your reading.  And hopefully you will be joined by others who wish to work together, looking inward as well as outward to strengthen your effectiveness in righting the wrong of prejudice wherever its ugliness appears.
 
As I get ready to pass the baton back to Pastor Laurie on Sept 26, I want to thank you all for your kindness, your passion, and your faith.  I have no doubt that the path you are taking as a congregation is leading toward the vision which God inspires in you: a world that more fully experiences the love that God has for all God has created.

 

Skyline UCC is Supporting the Rise for Climate, Justice and Jobs March Sept 8

Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

We will meet at Skyline Church, 12540 Skyline Blvd. at 9:30am and car-pool to Bart. 

The Climate, Justice and Jobs March is our voice for action before the Global Climate Summit in San Francisco, Sept.12 to 14th, led by Governor Jerry Brown.

We are marching with other East Bay UCC groups, starting at 11am in the Embarcadero Plaza to the Civic Center in San Francisco. Please wear bright yellow, red or orange. Signs will be provided that say, “Climate: the Moral Issue of Our Time”   Bring water and food, dress for cool to warm weather. No signs are allowed that have wooden sticks.

Why Is Global Warming An Issue Of Faith?

People of faith realize that global warming and climate change are issues of environmental justice. For humans, those who are poor or unable to adjust will lose their homes to rising seas and be unable to grow food for their families.

For plants and animals, global warming means that many will not adjust in time and will become extinct, thus reducing the diversity and beauty of God’s natural creation, as well as causing permanent damage to the ecology of the earth.

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am not sure that Dr.King was speaking about climate change, but the words from the great moral leader of our time are so relevant to our situation.   If we are people who strive to follow the words and actions of Jesus we must act now to turn this around.  How can we possibly justify not taking action?  What would we say to future generations that could possibly justify our inaction?   There are no good answers to that question.

The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.  The Paris Climate Agreement hoped to restrict warming to two degrees.  The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are 1 in 20. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.”  Long-term disaster is now the best -case scenario.  [1]

The scientific predictions are that as ice melts on Antarctica and Greenland, sea levels will rise as much as four feet, thus displacing millions of persons who live and work and grow food near the coasts. Low-lying countries such as Bangladesh will lose most of their land mass, islands in the Pacific will disappear, and coastal marshes such as The Everglades in South Florida will be under sea water.  The number of refugees will multiply rapidly.

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash

Our Earth home is a finite and fragile planet like no other.   Are we doing our best to be stewards of our Earth or are we the destroyers of our home? We are both.  We need to be leaders in this struggle, as caring loving people of faith, and be truly stewards.

Catherine Kessler, Skyline Church Green Team Chair.           

           From the UCC Website, here is a list of practices for individual action:

  • Calculate the carbon footprint of your family and your congregation to determine a baseline for energy savings.
  • Home: turn the thermostat down in winter and up in summer, insulate, get only the appliances you need and make them energy efficient, buy a smaller home or rent a smaller apartment, shade your windows, dry your clothes on the line.
  • Transportation: ride a bike or walk more and drive less, purchase fuel-efficient and smaller vehicles, commute by public transportation, limit flying.
  • Food: grow a garden for vegetables and herbs, support your local farmers through a CSA, limit packaging and waste, start a compost pile.  Eat less meat (it takes 15 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat)
  • Yard: plant native perennials rather than grass to limit mowing, buy an electric mower if you need to cut grass, recycle leaves and yard waste, plant trees for shade and heat reduction, start a worm farm, compost for soil enrichment.
  • Education: explore websites and community resources for more ways to save energy and cut your carbon footprint, join our congregational “Green Team” to plan for action.
  • Advocacy: write or call your elected officials at every level to inform them that global warming is an issue of faith and justice and that public policy decisions to address global warming are essential.

Links and Resources

[1] NYTimes Magazine,Losing Earth:The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, by Nathaniel Rich,August 1,2018.

Grant Awarded for Nueva Esperanza Preschool

Nueva Esperanza Preschool works to prepare immigrant and refugee children from the indigenous Guatemalan Mam culture, ages 3-5, to enter U.S. schools at the Kindergarten/First Grade level with at least average levels of expected knowledge that will enable them to receive and benefit from the curriculum in kindergarten.  The school was awarded one of sixteen grants for $1000 each, sponsored by the UCC Humanitarian & Development Ministries (One Great Hour of Sharing) and the UCC Keep Families Together Campaign.  

Mirtha Ninayahuar:Thank you very much for awarding the grant for our Nueva Esperanza Sunday Preschool. It’s such a blessing to receive the grant. Here (at left) are some of our preschool students with their Easter bags that Skyline Church assembled for them.  With the grant, the preschool volunteers will work with the children on the English language, early literacy concepts, early math concepts, and names of colors and shapes. Funds are used for healthful snacks, writing/coloring paper, toothbrush kits, books and book bags, and backpacks with school supplies for graduating children.  The funds will also purchase learning toys such as playdough and puzzles, and project materials such as folders. Also as volunteers are always needed, we are considering a small stipend for church teens to help during the 2 hour class.”

Founding of the preschool: In 2015 the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Rev. Deborah Lee, Skyline Co-chair of Justice & Witness Mirtha Ninayahuar, First Congregational Church of Berkley (FCCB) member Dr. Victoria Purcell- Gates, and Iglesia de Dios Pastor Adolfo Gomez started the preschool with a grant from the Rainin Foundation.

Volunteers come from the three establishing entities and the secular community. Currently the preschool has $947 available from FCCB Justice & Service Ministry grant. Volunteers sometimes donate snacks and class materials. Currently we have 5 volunteers who come at least twice/month and about 5 who come less regularly.

Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, Team Leader,UCC Humanitarian & Development Ministries:
 “Thank you so much for submitting the application for a UCC Keep Families Together grant.  We are pleased to award this and are grateful that the wider church can have at least a small role in your vital ministries with the Nueva Esperanza Sunday Preschool.   It sounds like you are engaged in ways that help children know they are loved and welcomed and that also provide leadership opportunities for your church teens. Thank you again for your important work.”

Pride at Skyline: Parade and Sunday Service

Lift Your Spirits with Us at Pride 2018

Oakland Pride March, Sunday, September 9, 2018, 10:00 am:  March Line-Up:  14th Street and Clay Street, Downtown Oakland

Pride Service, Sunday September 16, 2018, 10:00 am, Church Sanctuary, 12540 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland 

Many of us have felt discouraged and uneasy due to the words and actions of the current White House Administration.  Those of us in the LGBTQ communities, along with our allies, have particularly experienced concern about the increasingly divisive, bigoted, partisan rhetoric we hear on a daily basis. 

The Pride season offers up an opportunity to feel connected, supported, energized and uplifted. 

On September 9th, join us at 14th Street and Clay in Downtown Oakland, as we unite with our friends from the various United Church of Christ congregations in the Bay Area, for the 2018 Oakland Pride March.  Families, children, pets, those of differing abilities, races, religions and statuses…. all are encouraged and welcome at this event.

On September 16th, make your way up the hill to our sanctuary at 12540 Skyline Boulevard for our annual Pride Sunday Service.  We will celebrate the history of the resilient rainbow spirit and the unique gifts of the LGBTQ community and beyond, with special music and artistry from throughout our community. 

All are appreciated and welcome!