Oakland church

Oakland’s Draft 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan – Town Halls

The Green Team and Justice and Witness Team request your attention and action:
 

To Oakland Residents:
  You are invited to either of these 2 TownHall Meetings, to review and give your comments on
                        Oakland’s Draft 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan 
Visit this link to comment directly on the draft, and join us at a Town Hall to review and discuss the Plan as a community.
Town Hall 1: Saturday, November 2
Location: Rainbow Recreation Center
5800 International Blvd.
Time: 1-4 pm (lunch at 12pm)
RSVP: https://climatejusticetownhall1.eventbrite.com

Town Hall 2: Wednesday, November 13
Location: Lincoln Square Recreation Center
250 10th Street, in Chinatown
Time: 6-9 pm (dinner at 5:30)
RSVP: https://climatejusticetownhall2.eventbrite.com 

At the Town Hall meetings, Oaklanders will come together to dive further into the ECAP and the draft Actions, and vote on what needs to be kept, improved, or eliminated. Food and childcare will be provided. Simultaneous interpretation will be available with advanced request. Both Town Halls will cover the same material.
For more information or if you need a ride, contact Catherine Kessler via the office at 510-531-8212   office@skylineucc.org.

Courage to Face the Diablo Winds of the World

As a child, I loved October as the fall foliage in New England transformed from tender green to fiery crimson and gold.

But seasons change and so do we.

Two years ago, on Oct 24th, my father died, letting go, like a leaf, falling gently to the earth.  In his memory, I had planned to attend a retreat, starting the evening of Oct 24th, in Geyserville.  That very same morning, Oct 24th, a PG&E transformer ignited a fire, during the deadliest of the Diablo winds. The epicenter, of all places, was in Geyserville. Had it been a day later, we would have been among the evacuees. The child within me asks, “was Dad watching over me?”

This time we were spared, while others were not. The Kincade fire is only 5% contained at the time of this writing, while others have started… and the Diablo winds continue, with more to come.

  • Evacuees… 180,000 people and rising,
  • Power outages for millions,
  • California is in a state of emergency.

It feels as if we are living in a war zone.  We try to carry on… as best we can… yet we are living with a sense of foreboding… because the Diablo winds will get worse. They say  this is becoming the new normal for us.

We are glued to the news… or trying to limit our intake of it.. worried that the fires may ignite here, haunted by memories of ever closer encounters with fires… 

I find myself haunted by the recurring dream that our beautiful Skyline church has burned down…that we are standing at the foundation in prayer, grateful for our lives,  looking out over a charred East Bay Regional Parks,  sharing photographs of this once beautiful place, filled with so many happy memories, where so many couples have come to get married and preschool children once played, and people once worshipped. Haunted by the reality that our beautiful sanctuary looks out at Mt Diablo.. We must face it… the Diablos..

God of life, we come again to this terrifying season of fires..
We pray for those who have lost their homes and businesses,
We pray for the people evacuated and those who shelter them,
We pray for those whose power has been cut off,
For those in nursing homes, and children with school cancelled, and life disrupted.
We pray for the firefighters.
We pray for ourselves,
to have the courage to face the diablos of the world,
the forces behind the winds of war, violence and destruction.
Give us the courage to do our part.
Inspire us, with the breath of life, to transform these diablos
into the winds of healing and peace.
Inspire us to transform this world into a place
where all people are safe from harm,
now and forever
       amen.

Rev. Jerri Handy Speaking on work with HIV/AIDS Hospice in Tijuana

Our very own member, Rev Jerri Handy, will be traveling in Tijuana Mexico next week as part of her work with UCC Global Ministries with Albergue Las Memorias. This is an HIV/AIDS Hospice Center currently serving 95+ residents. This particular center is unique in its mission to house, clothe, feed, and transport to medical appointments as needed for each resident. All of this is offered without cost to residents, all of whom are HIV positive. And it is more than this, as residents find hope and meaning in life as they live in an atmosphere of care and respect.

Jerri describes her work at this hospice center:   My whole life has been preparing me for serving at Las Memorias. I have a Marriage and Family Therapy degree from Christian Theological Seminary and an MDiv from Pacific School of Religion. These two degrees, together with my life experiences, have prepared me to work with individuals and families who are facing life decisions. Addictions work, family systems in a community setting and working with spiritual guidance all come together in this community.

She will return with stories from her travels, and share these as part of her sermon on Sunday, Oct 27.  Her sermon for Reformation Sunday  is entitled “Let it Go”, and will focus on our personal and collective courage to change what we can for the greater good.

Also, mark your calendars for Nov 3rd, as we will plan to celebrate the soulful and joyful music ministry of Benjamin Mertz, on his last Sunday with us.

I will be away this week at our UCC national offices for board meetings with the UCC Church Building and Loan Fund, and with our UCC climate justice ministry team.

 

Alternatives to Policing #6 – Self- and Community-Defense

Sunday, October 20, 2-6 pm

First Congregational Church of Oakland

2501 Harrison St., Oakland

Part of our ongoing series of workshops designed to reduce our reliance on an increasingly militarized police force, this offering from Community Ready Corps (CRC) will cover basic principles and practices to help us keep ourselves and our communities safe.

What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of a violent situation? How can you safely get yourself and others out of that situation?

We will be asking for a voluntary donation to support the vital work of Community Ready Corps. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

CRC is a liberation organization that combats white supremacy and actively builds & supports self determination in disenfranchised communities. Their work focuses on nine areas:

Politics
Economics
Family
Health
Education
Art
Media
Traditions & Ways
Self Defense

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.

UCC & Skyline Church – Climate Justice 

Pastor Laurie will meet with the UCC national offices where she serves as the Northern California Nevada Conference Rep for Climate Justice, https://www.ucc.org/environmental-ministries
and most recently was part of the grassroots movement for the UCC to endorse the Green New Deal. 

The UCC’s 32nd General Synod meeting in Milwaukee has approved three resolutions to help combat the climate crisis, including one in support of the “Green New Deal”. 

The Green New Deal resolution, approved by a vast majority,  makes the UCC the first Christian body in the country to endorse the far-reaching climate plan.  The Green New Deal, introduced in Congress earlier this year by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), attempts to transform the US economy in order to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; it proposes investing in infrastructure and industry to encourage use of renewables, creating millions of high-wage jobs in the process.

Skyline church, early on, urged on by our Green team and by Pastor Laurie, endorsed the GND. Then Pastor Laurie presented the emergency resolution  at the June Northern California Nevada  Conference of the United Church of Christ, and presented a workshop. The resolution http://ncnc.dreamhosters.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Green-New-Deal-Resolution-2.pdf, was unanimously endorsed in advance of the synod.  

In addition, the UCC  had also approved,  urging all people of faith to reduce their use of plastic foam—specifically, styrofoam.  Styrofoam does not decompose in landfills and is a known pollutant and suspected carcinogen.

A third resolution—in favor of the US congressional bill HR 763, which sets a price on carbon, was approved by the UCC.

Much of the progress of the UCC in environmental justice, is brought forth through this grassroots, representative group. 

Prayers for the Kurds and Leadership in this Country

This past Sunday we lifted up prayers for the Kurds in Northern Syria. Let us also pray for our personal and collective moral leadership in this country.  Who would dare to be a US ally, when the betrayal of allies has become our  hallmark? Our President has betrayed the Kurds in the most cynical way, giving a “green-light” to Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria and thus betraying the Kurds who have been our allies in fighting ISIS.  

Why did he do this?  I’d like to share with you reflections from Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite  who is President and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. 

It is an abrupt reversal of years of U.S. policy. Israel, a key ally in the region, is said to be particularly shaken by this sudden move, about which they apparently had no notice. Headlines from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz tell the tale: “Trump’s Kurdish Treachery” and “Trump Roundly Slammed.”

The Middle East is a delicate web of international alliances and histories. The one thing this region hates is sudden moves without consulting allies. As The Washington Post reported: “The abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and subsequent Turkish attacks on Kurdish fighters have badly rattled Israel’s national security experts, who decried President Trump’s action as a betrayal of loyal allies and evidence that Israel’s most vital supporter is a fickle friend at best.”

But maybe, as in many Trump actions, it has nothing very much to do with the interests of allies in the Middle East such as Israel, or even the best security interests of the people of the United States, and a lot to do with the interests of Donald Trump.

In 2015, Trump gave a radio interview in which he said, “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul … It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”

As it turns out, it’s more than a little conflict of interest. Trump doesn’t own these towers, he leases his name. And it’s been very lucrative, per reporting from Mother Jones: “According to personal financial disclosures filed by Trump, since he launched his bid for the presidency, he has earned somewhere between $3.2 million and $17 million in royalties from the deal. (The amounts are given in ranges; the precise figures are unclear.)” 

So Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his current supporter, Aydin Dogan, the wealthy owner of these glass towers with Trump’s name on them, have quite a hold on Donald Trump. Erdogan has actually threatened to remove Trump’s name from the towers in the past when he has done something Erdogan doesn’t like.

Maybe this betrayal of the Kurds is just as simple and terrible as keeping Trump’s name on two towers in Istanbul, and the security interests of the world be damned. Literally.

The world’s religions reserve a special scorn for those who betray their friends, especially for financial gain. In the Christian scriptures, Judas is said to have agreed to betray Jesus for “thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26: 14-16)

In the climactic scene from the movie “A Man for All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More is betrayed by Richard Rich, who has been bribed to do it by being made attorney general of Wales. More tries one last time to get his former friend to repent, and he quotes Jesus of Nazareth on what it does to a person to betray another for money. “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world (Matthew 16:26). But for Wales?”

Betrayal of a friend for a real estate deal, even one as big as the whole world, profits you nothing, Jesus argues. Thus, we might paraphrase Jesus words as follows:

“Donald, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for your name on two glass towers?”   

Let us pray, as a nation, for the restoration of our souls. 

 blessings, pastor Laurie 

Children’s Sabbath – “Unity Hearts and Voices to End Child Poverty”

This Sunday, we will take part in the 2019 National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths, “Uniting Hearts and Voices to End Child Poverty.” 

Across our nation over the next few weeks, people of every religion will reflect on and respond to the sacred texts, teachings, and traditions that call us to end poverty and act with love and justice to ensure all children have what they need not only to survive but thrive and realize their God given potential. 

Join us for an interfaith service, followed by a discussion to hear anew those religious teachings and commit to faithful responses. 

 I’d like to share with you two videos, lifting up the voices of young people who are impacted by childhood poverty, and also our need to keep moving forward to alleviate it. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLrTZ5IG_Eg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0e-2-ENOYs

Blessing of the Animals, 

    Special thanks to all of you who helped to carry the torch, inspired by Rhea and Kay, to continue our beloved tradition of the Blessing of the Animals. 

Kay and Rhea’s spirit was present with us, as we welcomed about 30 visitors, and dozens of dogs, a cat and one bunny, and shared joys, prayers for healing, and tears of grief for those 

beloved pets who are forever a part of our hearts and families. Special thanks to Becky Taylor, Hunter Green, Becky Sheldon, Jenny Taylor, Michael Armijo and Catherine Kessler! 

Also special thanks to Sunsan Junfish who offered to provide a talk about caring for the health and safety not only of ourselves, but our beloved pets. 

Peace, Pastor Laurie 

Belonging, True Belonging

In her 2018 book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging & the Courage to Stand Alone, researcher and storyteller Dr Brene Brown invites us to consider a basic confusion that can arise when we show up in different places. She learned it from talking to middle school students who said simple but profound things to her like:  “Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something. Belonging is when others want you.” She learned from them that the most painful thing is when we feel like we don’t belong at home.  “Belonging,” Brown learned from these children, “Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” The house of God, in an ideal sense, invites us all to grow into the understanding of who we truly are, of who God made us to be, to be a community into which we can step deeper into those true selves.

As we celebrate the glorious diversity of human life, and of all creation, on this weekend of honoring St Francis and world communion, you are invited to join us in this house of belonging. I leave you with the words of poet David Whyte, The House of Belonging.

THE HOUSE OF BELONGING

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close-grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

– David Whyte
©1996

Special thanks: to all of you who helped to make our celebration of Rhea Babbitt’s life so beautiful! Notes to Rhea’s nephew may be sent toSteve Estes and Sallie Suydam, 1181 East Ave, Chico, CA 95926-1018, b7sestes@aol.com

The Spirit of Kay & Rhea lives on – join us as we continue celebrating the Feast of St Francis at our Annual Blessing of the Animals, this Sunday at 3 pm. We will be giving away lots of Kay and Rhea’s books on caring for dogs, cats, and even goats.

Climate – a Global Grassroots Movement for Life

Days after global protests calling for climate change action, the United Nations held a special climate summit where world leaders and other officials gathered to hammer out specific pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.N. made science very visible in advance of this meeting.  https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/fiery-calls-to-action-at-un-climate-summit-dont-win-pledges-from-worst-emitters

Recently, the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, measured the percentage of people in the US who believe that climate change is a threat to the well-being of the planet. The results were more telling than even I expected.  94% of liberal democrats believe it is a threat, but only 19% of conservative republicans do. Perhaps even more frightening is that only 57%  of all people in the US do. 

In Europe, the very question would illicit incredulity because they KNOW climate change is a threat, just like they know the earth is round and the sun is hot. How this became a matter of opinion in this country is a frightening tribute to politicians’ ability to use the media and the bible to manipulate our trust in the most basic science-based facts. 
 
Relatedly, if we can be made to doubt something so obvious, what other things have we been made to believe that simply aren’t so? Well, a good portion of people in this country believe that tax cuts for the rich will help the poor and middle-class. Many people believe we went to war with Iraq because of 9/11.  Apparently, many people still believe that capital punishment deters crime and that guns make us a safer nation. 
 
I have been so moved by the clarity of Greta Thunberg, the voice of a young prophet of our times, challenging insatiable greed, at the expense of life itself.
 
I give thanks to Skyline for being a part of the movement, to reform our understanding and our ways of what it means to be good stewards of this precious planet, and embodying inclusive love of all people, especially the most vulnerable. I give thanks for advocating for the Green New Deal, as part of this global grass roots movement for life.  

Join us this Sunday as we deepen our connection to this global grass roots movement for life. We look forward to celebrating Yom Kippur with Rabbi David Cooper, a passionate advocate for social and environmental justice, and  founding rabbi of Kehilla synagogue in Oakland. Here’s some info about David

Love and Listen Deeply

This Sunday we gather to celebrate love, including a family friendly picnic with lots of games and activities for all ages, an encore performance of the “Parable of the Dancing Queen”  and a beautiful worship service! 
 
A friend of mine is getting married, and she and her fiancé recently asked if I would marry them. Of course, I said, yes. Here’s a poem she shared with me today, which in turn, I would love to share with you! 
 
God is still speaking! Let us create the time and space within our hours,  to listen deeply. 
 

Why am I reaching again for the brushes
When I paint your portrait, God,
nothing happens.

But I can choose to feel you.

At my senses’ horizon
you appear hesitantly,
like scattered islands.

Yet standing here, peering out,
I’m all the time seen by you.

The choruses of angels use up all of heaven.
There’s no more room for you
in all that glory. You’re living
in your very last house.

All creation holds its breath, listening within me,
because, to hear you, I keep silent.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~

(Rilke’s Book of Hours:Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)