Thank you so much, everyone, for celebrating our 10 years together; with me in all my Laurie Manning-ness, serving as your pastor here at Skyline. I must confess that I had some trepidation about this celebration, imagining that it would be a roast since you certainly have a lot of material to draw from! My sisters also offered to provide additional information for the roast, but I assured them that you had more than enough stories to draw from.
Instead, I was showered with love, affirmation, celebration, and even a mayoral decree – that Oct 23rd 2016, is “Rev Laurie J Manning Day, in the City of Oakland. I now have one helluva feast day! I share it with James of Jerusalem. Not bad!
Special thanks to the organizers of this celebration – Marilyn Shaw, Susie Harris, Nancy Taylor, Becky Taylor (not sisters), and our office manager, Nancy Montier!
Thank you each & everyone of you, because without you, & without your love, I couldn’t do this!
10 years…our diamond anniversary. As you know, diamonds begin as rough ugly pieces of coal forged by heat & pressure deep within the earth. We’ve been through a lot of heat & pressure together: the challenges of the great recession, and the wind & fire of the ever reforming Great Holy Spirit to name just a couple! And what is emerging is a uniquely precious & brilliant gem, Skyline, that radiates such beautiful color & light.
I’m remembering so well the lofty language of our covenant together when you called me as your pastor…
“We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, inspired to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, guided by the Holy Spirit… You called me as your pastor and teacher, in this covenantal relationship, in a mutual ministry, to serve with diligence, faithfulness, & courage…”
Together we ran, through the many challenges of ministry:
- Together we solved the great mysteries… mysteries like why ARE we losing so much water here at Skyline? Together, guided by the keen analysis of our green team, we discovered, one Friday evening, that hose draped over the preschool fence, that led down, down, down, into the ravine, & over to a stream, & deeper into the forest to the pot farm, watering 1800 thirsty marijuana plants!
- Together we performed miracles, surviving 10 Christmas & Easter services, with an organ that had been put on the Do Not Resuscitate list many years ago.
I have so many memories with you:
- Of very challenging times: Doing all we could to keep our little boat afloat in the great recession
- Of sad & painful times: Memories of loved ones who have moved, & memories of loved ones who have died, & who are forever with us in spirit.
Just after I had finished the solemn Passion Sunday service, finishing in silence with the words, “and they laid him in his tomb, and rolled the stone in front of the tomb”..
.. ever so quietly I carried the Christ candle out of the sanctuary.. leaving the congregation in utter silence, inviting the congregation to meditate on these words in the sanctuary of their hearts and minds.. … when suddenly, as I stepped outside, & looked into the courtyard, there I spotted Steve, the dove guy, who had recently suffered a concussion, with his many cages with 20 squawking homing pigeons, there a week early, ready to release them for Easter Sunday. .. but it’s Passion week..
Over the mike, the congregation overhead my voice… ..
OMG… what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here.. Quick.. hide.. before anyone sees you! come on … hurry up! We want this to be a surprise!
Immediately, several choir members, come running out, saying, “Pastor Laurie, shut off your mike”.. and I look down, still holding the Christ candle, and a lock of my long hair, touches the flame, & is set ablaze by the Christ candle.. and I exclaimed a few words to Jesus that I’m glad that no one heard over the PA system!
But above all, I remember and cherish the love and respect & positive difference we make, in so many ways, in the world.
Happy anniversary, to my dear sisters and brothers on the journey. I love you.
We’re a love puddle.. a small but mighty love puddle…The countless, daily miracles of love….from the banquet of delicious food prepared each Sunday by one of us, to visits to those who are in grief or recovering from surgeries, to being part of saving 33 yr old mother, Elizabeth Hobbie’s life.
A love puddle.. a small but mighty love puddle… that pours out beyond the walls of our sanctuary into Oakland.. Much like the parable of the multiplication of the loaves & fishes, we transformed a generous gift from the Jim Manley/Bruce Kahn fund, into a corporate matching challenge, w/ACCFB, amassing $75K for the food bank, & with their purchasing power, provided over $500K in fresh healthy food for local families in need.
A love puddle.. seeking to save our precious planet.. a powerful voice in seeking to end climate change, from embodying best practices here at Skyline in our grounds management, to our leadership in banning fracking and keeping coal out of the port of Oakland.
A love puddle in partnerships: partnering in fellowship & justice with our preschool families, we sing carols to elderly seniors, & bring gifts to homeless children at EOCP. And partnering with OEBGMC to rise & shine each Easter sunrise.
Our little love puddle has stood as powerful voice for LGBTQ people through Prop 8, through Marriage equality, & more recently, through our fabulous Parade contingent as part of Oakland Pride, through Coming out Sunday, and through a vigil for the victims of the Orlando massacre.
Our little love puddle has spanned the oceans… Rebuilding hope in the hometown village of Sentho Kilgore, in Makrommray, Sierra Leone, after the destruction as a result of the civil war in that country. We built a school and a library, and every year we helped to fund 5-6 school teachers for over 400 children through our yearly bike fundraisers led by Marilyn Shaw.
Co-leading the movement w/in our denomination’s NCNCUCC conference to become a Jubilee conference to fight for global debt relief for the world’s poorest countries, and to reform unjust banking and tax laws.
How we have loved one another, in this love puddle, called Skyline Community Church, where all are welcome, ALL God’s creatures.. right Rhea??
- I give thanks to God for each one of you.. your diligence, faithfulness and courage
- Your sense of humor for all that we have learned together
- For the positive difference we have made in the world.
So let us go forth, yes, in this time and place, & open ourselves to the transforming power of heavenly love, that we may continue to let our light shine brightly..
Happy anniversary, to my dear sisters and brothers on the journey.. I love you.
Blessings, Pastor Laurie