Oakland church

Prayer and God

There is only one thing wrong with the traditional definition of prayer: it misrepresents God.  “Prayer,” the old teaching said, was “the raising of our hearts and minds to God.”  As if God were some regal, distant judge outside ourselves.  But science – with its new perception that matter and spirit are of a piece, sometimes particles, sometimes energy – suggests that God is not on a cloud somewhere, imperious and suspecting.  God is the very Energy that animates us.  God is not a white heterosexual male who lives in the US. God is the Spirit that leads us and drives us on.  God is the voice within us calling us to Life.  God is the Reality trying to come to fullness within us, both individually and together.  It is to that cosmic God, that personal inner, enkindling God, that we pray.

Join us this Sunday, as we explore prayer, contemplation, and meditation together, and have a conversation after worship about it.

Summer – a Time Outside of Time

 

 

 

 

Summer time…. a time outside of time, a time for resting in nature, reveling in the unique beauty of this place we call home, renewing our souls, and remembering Who’s we are. 

Did you notice the full moon grow ever brighter?  Did you watch the fog move slowly under the Golden Gate bridge and over the  Peninsula ridge, and move across the Bay? Did you see how the violet poppies open in the morning and close at dusk?  

In the quiet beauty of such noticing, I give thanks to the small still voice within each one of us, “that makes us lie down in green pastures, that leads us besides the pools of still water, and restores our souls”.

I wish many such moments for you!! 

A Lesson from God’s Creatures

What do you cherish?

What would it take for you to recognize it?

My epiphany came in the form of large, iridescent glossy black birds, ravens to be precise.

Over a year ago, a pair of ravens started visiting our back deck to snatch tidbits of food left for the jays. I called them Tristan and Isolde. I watched them, fascinated by their behavior. If one came, it waited for the other to arrive before eating. They spoke to each other in their corvid dialect and it wasn’t hard to see they were having a conversation as a couple. They seemed to cherish each other deeply.

Now most of you know we’ve had a tough time with my spouse’s cancer. Sometimes between all the medical visits, chemotherapy appointments, challenges and stresses the little things – like cherishing each other – get lost.

One afternoon I was helping my spouse get washed up, chatting with him, when I looked out the window. Tristan and Isolde sat on the branches of the redwood tree, snuggled close, chortling and whispering strange vocalization as they carefully preened each other. And it hit me: I could learn a lot about marital bliss from these birds.

I made a conscious effort to hug my spouse, to be kind and patient, to care for him like the birds did for each other. It has helped me to understand that in these days, every moment together is golden. Cherish those you love. Tell them you love them.

Post Note:

This past week Tristan and Isolde surprised us: they guided two fully-fledged raven chicks to our deck to visit. A family to cherish… and we have a whole new set of examples to follow. 

By David G.

Alternatives to Calling the Police:  TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE, 4th in series

The fourth in this series of Alternatives to Calling the Police workshops will offer a basic introduction to and overview of the core concepts of “transformative justice”.   It will be a space for participants to learn about transformative justice and how to begin thinking about community-based responses to violence. We will also cover the concept of “pods” from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC). This will be an educational event with a Q&A.

We ask for a donation of any amount to support the continued work of the Alternatives to Policing Coalition. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Sunday, July 21, 2-6 pm

First Congregational Church of Oakland

2501 Harrison St.., Oakland

Contact Nancy Taylor via the office (510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org) if you wish to carpool.

This is a two-year project (2019-2020), more than a year in the making, is being co-sponsored by Skyline UCC with other groups.

Some things to know about this project:
WHAT IT IS NOT:

  1. Anti-police.
  2. Participation in this project does NOT constitute a commitment to not call the police.

WHAT IT IS:

  1. A realization/acceptance that when black lives are involved, calling the police can be fatal.
  2. An exploration of alternatives that can be more effective than the police, such as groups that are trained in non-violent communications, de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention (in areas such as mental health, drug & alcohol abuse), self defense, conflict resolution, medical training, community disaster preparedness, etc.
  3. Internal work on the effects of White Supremacy on police violence, examining safety & security, interracial dynamics in the community, what internal fears make people rely on the police?  (Each community would tailor content of inner work to its own needs.)
  4. Ways to get to know our neighbors and to help us to know and trust each other via material resources, availability for prayer and conversation, etc.

In Summary: this is an invitation to participate in a program that can build toward the creation of a true Beloved Community that chooses to not collude with empire (in this case, the “prison-industrial complex”) in the name of safety, and that is willing to take the risk(s) necessary to explore an alternative first-responder network that provides interventions, when necessary, for the safety of all individuals and groups that are participating.   This is also a next step in examining our own internal mechanisms of White Supremacy/racism/white fragility.  ALL are invited to join in this opportunity for growth, and in this righteous (and scary!) adventure.  Contact Nancy Taylor via the office (510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org)

Sanctuary Support Needed for Asylum Seeker

From The Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring, pastor at Eden UCC:  We have a new asylum seeker in our midst. Her name is Rihana. She is a friend of the family we are supporting at Eden UCC in Hayward.

Rihana is a 21 year old transgender woman who is a native of Chinandega, Nicaragua. She came to the US on April 11, 2019 seeking asylum after having been the victim of a hate crime in her home country. Rihana was beaten by five men, her throat was slit with a broken bottle, and she was left for dead in a rural area. She was taken to a regional hospital where she remained in a coma for two days, and continued to be treated for another 7 days. (She has letters from a clinical psychologist and photos taken at a hospital in Nicaragua documenting her trauma.) After she recovered enough from her injuries to travel, Rihana made her way to the US. She crossed the border  into Arizona and was taken into custody by ICE on April 11, 2019. She appeared in immigration court in detention. The judge ruled that she has “a credible fear” and granted her humanitarian parole provided that she pay a $10,000 bond. We will seek legal aid to transfer her immigration case to the SF court. We were able to negotiate the bail down to $1500 and find a church in NYC (Park Avenue Christian Church) that would put up the bond money. Rihana was released 12 hours later at the PHX bus station, where two advocates who are friends of a friend of mine (a pastor who is also an asylee) picked her up, took her to an emergency shelter, and cared for her since early last Tuesday morning. A member of my church donated money to cover air fare for Rihanna. She is flying to Oakland tonight.

Collaborators: Pastor Arlene Nehring & Stephanie Spencer, and Pastor Marvin Lance Wiser & Yuliana Wiser Leon (EUCC, Hayward), Pastor Rhina Ramos (Ministerio Latinx, Oakland), Pastors Eric Sherlock and Todd Adkins-Whitley (Danville Congregational Church UCC), and Pastor Laura Rose (First Congregational Church Alameda.) 

Institutional Partners: Eden United Church of Christ, Hayward, Danville Congregational Church UCC, and First Congregational UCC Alameda. 

Immediate Needs:

  1. Hospitable housing in the Bay Area, i.e., use of a guest room with kitchen and bathroom privileges, or a room in a guest house. The host(s) need not be fluent Spanish speakers, but they do need to be LGBT friendly folks.
  2. Cash and/or in-kind help with food, clothing, telephone, transportation  
  3. Coaching to acquire healthcare benefits and services (Eden Church can provide coaching for new volunteers as needed)
  4. Legal aid (Pastor Rhina, Pastor Marvin, and Pastor Arlene have begun a search for legal representation). If pro bono counsel can be found, funds will be needed to cover various application fees. 
  5. Court accompaniment (Eden Church will take the lead, but we need bodies to pack the court when she is required to appear.)
  6. Cultural navigation support (We can train trainers.)

Immigration ministry is intense. None of us can do this alone. I recommend reflecting on what we CAN do, rather than what we can NOT do—always mindful that through God all things are possible.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss this invitation.

Thank you, 

Arlene

The Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring

Senior Minister

Eden United Church of Christ  510-582-9533 

Immigrant Rights and Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity Call to Action

Hi Rev Deb, (and IM4HI)

I hope that you are doing well, what a time to be alive, and advocating for the rights of undocumented people!   As you are well aware, the ongoing plight of immigrants at the border, especially children is heartbreaking and sickening, and is growing worse.  Then there’s also the upcoming ICE raids planned in a few weeks. We want to do something, and wanting to pool together ideas, resources, and responses.  You’ve probably seen this: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/24/opinion/border-kids-immigration-help.html

 What’s the Center for Human Integrity’s response, and how can we be of support, locally?

 peace, Laurie 

********************************************************

(From Rev. Deb)

Hi Rev. Laurie, and Skyline,

Here is our eblast where we are trying to direct people to act.  It would be good for congregations to get together – hold an event – to discuss and learn more, watch a film.  What is happening is not new, but is being exploited to an all new level.  Good for people to think about what they can do longterm – like support housing needs, creatively in the parking lot or congregations, or congregation members homes.
 
Also Donations are needed locally- as we are constantly getting requests for new arrivals – and have our emergency housing fund.  Once they are able to move out of the terrible camps at the border. They are coming to cities like ours across the country with little or no help and infrastructure.
 
 
Also we need help with Sergio’s bond fundraiser so he can come home.  Follow this link to donate-https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-reunite-sergio-with-his-fa…
Sent by
Rev. Deborah Lee
Executive Director
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HumanIntegrity)
310 8th St. Suite 310
Oakland, CA  94607
o) 510 948-7899  
c) 415- 534-5620
 
 
All People are Sacred Across All Borders
Justice Not Jails
Compassion Has No Walls 
More on the border issue:
Dear Friends:  
 
We are all concerned about the deplorable detention of children, and the President’s threat of immigration raids. Once again, he has created a hostage crisis. Now threatening to resume immigration raids in two weeks unless Congress approves a spending bill of $4.5 billion that would worsen the crisis he has created. The harm is felt across our communities, so we invite you to breathe and remember the power and strength we’ve been building in the local community. This violence is not isolated only to immigrants, but it is also practiced on other communities by recent policies: Muslims, Jews, Women of Color, Transgendered folks, Indigenous, African American, and more.
 
We invite you to join us in acts that lift up our faith values:
  • We must practice collective responsibility by addressing the root causes of social problems.
  • We are interconnected and accountable for one another.
CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS
Congress is in the midst of negotiating the two versions of the spending bill. It is critical that you contact your U.S. Congressperson’s office immediately. Click here to find your congress representative.
 
They need to hear your faith values that upholds the sanctity of all!
  • No more funding for ICE, detention, and enforcement.
  • Divest from all programs that criminalize and incarcerate immigrants.
  • Release all those detained to their families and communities.
  • Invest in alternatives that focus on integration of immigrants.
  • End contracts with private corporations.
JOIN UPCOMING EVENTS at IM4H
In addition to participating in local actions to express outrage and concern; we invite you to join us over the next few weeks to strengthen your faith, deepen our connection to each other, and mend the past, in order to transform our future!
 
 
 
 
 
August 10th, 7pm, Faith Reflection on Reparations: Led by Kehilla Community Synagogue, Chochmat HaLev, and IM4HI. More details to come.
TURNING OUR ANGER AND FEAR INTO ACTION
With the announcement last week, that several major U.S. cities would be terrorized by the cruel machine known as ICE, our family was once again forced to imagine what it would be like if we were separated and what our plan of action would be if this actually happened.  READ FULL ARTICLE HERE
 
For resources about detention and deportation please click here

Let Your Light Shine!

In just a few weeks, our sanctuary will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony which happened on July 14th, 1969. Happy ground breaking anniversary, Skyline sanctuary! What a vision! 

But the vision and the movement began much earlier, as the young families living in the Oakland hills searched for a more progressive, non-doctrinal faith community. Founding Pastor, William McCormack, held worship services at Skyline High School while his wife played the portable organ.  Friends invited friends to come and experience this new happening.  Skyline’s first annual meeting took place Jan 4th, 1964, at the high school, and 300 members were enrolled at that time. It sounds like a story of Pentecost to me!

We are part of the UCC’s amazing legacy, the first national denomination to ordain an African American, a woman, an openly gay man, and now the first national denomination to support the Green New Deal.  Skyline has an amazing legacy as well. We are a progressive, spiritual, open and affirming, green, sanctuary congregation. Ours is a vision and a voice, that is vitally needed in these challenging times.

Here we are, 50 years later, living in a very different time. The Spirit is calling us to lift up our hearts , open our eyes, and respond to the new vision that God is calling us to in this time and place.  

Join us this Sunday for a wonderful worship service, including a baptism, to be followed by our annual meeting.  Child care and lunch are provided. We encourage you to log on to the website to review the budget and our slate of officers, prior to the meeting.   

You and I are called to be light. Jesus said so! As Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:14-16: 
 
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel basket do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous God in heaven.

Unity within our Diversity

Last Sunday after the service, I was having a wonderful conversation with a lovely young couple who were visiting with their parents from San Francisco,  who’d joined us for worship.  The whole family seemed to be having a great time, and in fact, one of the parents serenaded us during fellowship time on the piano!
 
I wasn’t quite sure, but I suspected that they were checking out the facility to see if they’d like to get married here.    Sure enough, they told me that they are getting married here, June 2020, and after a great conversation, the young man turned to me and said, “I don’t know how to ask you this, but will you marry us?”    What a proposal!  Not just to be married within this beautiful sanctuary, but to be married within this beautiful progressive faith that we share!     Of course I accepted and told them,  I would love to work with both of you,  in preparing for your marriage as well as your wedding! 
 
Over the years, I have presided and co-presided at many weddings, both ecumenical and interfaith, including  a Taoist Christian wedding, coming up next month!   And through the years, these relationships continue.  Next Sunday afternoon I will baptize baby Lucy, who’s parents, Catherine and Auggie, I married seven years ago.  Their older son, Jack, now attends Skyline preschool. The week after that, in worship, we will be baptizing baby Josiah (who played baby Jesus in our Christmas pageant)  and I had the pleasure and honor of marrying his parents Amie and Justin,  two years ago! 
 
This Sunday we are fortunate to have, Charlie Holmes, offering a reflection entitled, “Felt Traits of One Who Tried to Help”, focusing upon the evolution of Bobby Kennedy, and upon the wisdom of Lao Tzu, the mystic philosopher from ancient China.  He writes, “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
 
Thank you Skyline community, for being the warm and welcoming, diverse and evolving community that we are. 
 
Blessings upon your week! 

Let Justice Roll Down: Skyline and NCNC bringing Green New Deal Resolution to Conference

Hi dear ones,

Was it hot enough for you earlier this week? Yikes! 98 degrees here in San Leandro as I type this!    Inevitably we’re all talking about the weather this week.    On Monday I had a chance to sit outside in the 95 degree heat with my friend Matthew Hobbie, visiting from Alaska, who proclaimed, “This Alaska snowman is melting”. We discussed the heat and global warming, and how the evidence of climate change is indisputable in Alaska, even with the heavy influence of the petrol industry! 

I shared stories about our recent trip to Paradise, and what a terrifying experience it was to see this beautiful town still reeling from the Camp Fire devastation from last year.  Global warming is real, and our denomination is taking a bold stance to support the Green New Deal (GND) this week at our annual conference meeting. 

Thank you Skyline for voting to endorse this resolution! 

LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN — DECLARING SUPPORT FOR THE GREEN NEW DEAL AND AFFIRMING THE INTERSECTIONALITY OF CLIMATE JUSTICE WITH ALL JUSTICE ISSUES

Thanks to Rev Jim Antol, recently retired conference minister from MA who serves as special advisor on climate justice to GM and is President of UCC, who wrote this UCC resolution.  It certainly gets the award for the longest title of any resolution passed by the UCC!  It’s been submitted by 4 conferences within UCC:  Vermont, Pacific Northwest, New York, and New Haven Association of Connecticut.  Other conferences like ours are seeking to endorse this.  Before we get into the UCC resolution – I want to clarify what the GND, HR 109 is and is not.

What the congressional GND isn’t:

  • It is not legislation – it’s a resolution, but people tend to mix those up
  • It is not a proposal for laws to be passed

What the congressional GND is:

  • It marks the 1st time that Congress has been presented with an opportunity to act on climate change by taking a vote that recognizes the scope of the challenge , the urgency of the crisis,  the intersectionality of the numerous justice issues that are amplified by climate change
  • It is the opportunity to act on climate in a way that also addresses racial injustice, economic injustice,  and the need to create clean healthful, and family supporting jobs that our planet needs,
  • It is the opportunity to deploy solutions that address all of these moral challenges
  • Again, just be clear while the green deal resolution is a declaration of aspirational equipment it’s not legislation.

Here are 3 reasons why the UCC should endorse the GND.

  1. GND addresses the most important justice issues that the UCC has been committed to for decades. It demands that the federal government address injustice of climate change in a way that also tackles the systemic injustices that disproportionately affect vulnerable and front-line communities including racial injustice, economic injustice and the need to create clean helpful and family supporting jobs that our planet needs.  
  2. The second reason is that the GND acknowledges the necessity of assuming moral responsibility for intergenerational harm caused by the failure to act on climate change and the urgency of acting on a comprehensive scale to reduce the catastrophic future that the next generations will inherit.
  3.  GND offers tangible hope in the face of threats that are becoming more and more real to more people in the US and throughout the world.  Or, to put it another way, it’s up to us to transform these threats into opportunities; to create fair paying jobs, secure clean air and water, redress manifestations of environmental racism, and pursue a just transition to clean and renewable energy. And we can do this!

So how will the UCC act on this enforcement? Here I’m essentially explicating what are the “be it resolved” portions of resolution.  The resolution declares that the whole of the church accepts the moral responsibility that comes with living at such time as this, and we accept that moral responsibility by undertaking the following actions:

  1. standing up for science and continuing to learn from new science
  2. discussing climate change with increasing frequency at church, home and in social encounters
  3. telling others that we already have all the technology we need to achieve the goals of the GND
  4. incorporating into our worship life and community leadership an awareness of climate change, its consequences especially for vulnerable and front-line communities, and make the changes science says we must and technology says we can
  5. helping our communities to be more prepared for extreme weather events and to become a resource
  6. lifting up the reality of millions of people, regardless of their political affiliation or resolve to support the GND
  7. paying attention and engaging federal state and local agencies as advocates for policies and legislation that advance the goals of green new deal including its commitment to address systemic injustice, that disproportionately affects front-line vulnerable communities.
  8. and finally advocating for a just transition for all those workers and communities most dependent on fossil fuel energy so that they also have opportunities for clean, healthful, family supporting jobs that heal our planet.

If this resolution passes the UCC will be the first national denomination to endorse the GND.  In this way, this vote would become yet another example of our UC C motto, that many of us like to remind people of, “we’re not radical, we’re just early”.

Now is the time for our denomination to add to the long list of UCC firsts by signaling to the world, that:

  • the earth is God’s-it’s not ours to wreck.  
  • the urgency of this crisis demands immediate action
  • the scope of this challenge requires us to transform our economy on a scale with no historic precedent
  • that we can only solve the climate crisis if we also address racial justice, economic injustice and the need to create clean healthful and family supporting jobs that heal our planet.
  •  that we already have at our disposal all solutions we need to address all of these moral challenges

Yes, the GND is aspirational but who among us does not share the aspirations of our children and grandchildren to extinguish the fire that is now consuming the world into which we were born. We can do this and we will !

                                    Blessings, Laurie 

“Unless the heart catch fire…”

This Sunday we are celebrating Pentecost!  Early on in the service, to honor the diversity of people from all over the world, I will invite people to greet each other, speaking  in various “tongues” besides English.  Please, come and open us to new ways of saying, “Good morning!” “How are you?”  In anticipation of the power of this Sunday, I am reminded of the words of William Blake: 

Unless the eye catch fire, God will not be seen.

Unless the ear catch fire, God will not be heard.

 Unless the tongue catch fire, God will not be named.

 Unless the heart catch fire, God will not be loved.

 Unless the mind catch fire, God will not be known.

May we all be kindled in the fire of God’s love!  with love, Pastor Lauri