Oakland church

Archive for Jesus

The Cathedral, Jesus, and the People

Like many of you this week, I watched along with the world as the footage of flames enveloping the Cathedral of Notre Dame went viral over the internet.  At first, the images of the grand spire collapsing echoed memories of 9/11.  I couldn’t help but ask why?  Why did this happen to this Cathedral, that so embodies the confluence of beauty, majesty, faith, art, history, and human expression?  Why, on the eve of Holy week? Was it a sign? 

On the one hand, it is so heartwarming to see the universal outpouring of support and money from the world, to rebuild this church. But on the other hand, it raises more questions: 

Where is the lament,  the media attention, and the universal outpouring of support to rebuild the communities of poor people of color in this world,  whose lives are on fire? Where is the outpouring of support for the millions of black and brown people living as refugees throughout the world?  And for the millions who are being held in detention centers and prisons in this country?  And right here in Oakland, for the thousands living in tents on the streets of our cities, here, in one of the wealthiest areas in the world.  

Would there be such an outpouring of sadness, if we were remembering a young man of color, in an orange jumpsuit,  arrested for being an insurrectionist, a disturber of the peace? Whose church was not a building, but the people whom he loved and healed and to whom he brought hope: the sick, the poor, the women and children, the people of color, the outcasts, and those in prison.   A man who’s church was the ecclesia, the people, who gathered to be inspired by the stories of the prophets.  Who was executed on death row, by the military, industrial, superpower of his time?

Because this is the story of Jesus, and the Spirit of justice. It’s helpful to me to remember who and what it was that so inspired people hundreds of years ago to build such a cathedral.

On the eve of Holy Week, we remember the brutal public execution of a Palestinian Rabbi, who so embodied such beauty, majesty, faith, love and compassion for the poor and marginalized that many believed that he was the son of God. We remember a man whose life and stories, a thousand years later, inspired people to build Notre Dame Cathedral. Whose stories,  two thousand years later,  give us hope now. 

What do we do, in the face of such unanswerable questions? We remember him. We join together, and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers, out in the streets, near the prisons, and in the homeless encampments  to pray, sing and support one another through the power of these Spirit inspired stories, to rebuild our lives and our world, bringing good news for all people. It’s what humans do, and have always done. It’s called the ecclesia, the gathered community of faith, the church. 

We invite the same Spirit that gave birth to Jesus,  inspired Jesus, and resurrected Jesus to inspire us now into the new life that God is bringing to us, and to all of Creation. Join us as we pray and sing together in this Holy Week, and as we open ourselves to the new life that God is inviting us to, even in the midst of destruction and death. 

I’m inspired that  #NotreDame has already raised almost $1 billion in pledges toward reconstruction.  I’m even more inspired to support churches  less equipped to rebuild, like the 3 Black Baptist churches destroyed by arson earlier this month.  Join me in making a donation to these congregations, today (if you haven’t already). They need to raise $1.9 million to rebuild, and so far they’ve reached just $70k.  Click here for their gofundme site. Thank you!

Easter at Skyline, 2019

Skyline Community Church, United Church of Christ
Invites Oakland Community to Attend Easter Services

Come celebrate the Spirit of Easter where we welcome ALL of God’s people. Experience fabulous music and an
inspiring message with a spectacular view of the Oakland Hills.

Good Friday Service: Friday, April 19, 7:00 PM

Our Music Director, Benjamin Mertz, and Reverend Laurie Manning lead an empowering, spiritually expansive candlelight, meditation and music service, in the Taize tradition.  During the service, we will listen to and join in singing Taize chants, a form of meditative chant and silence, to quiet the mind, open the heart and feed the soul… time of quiet and solitude in the presence of God. A few words sung over and over again reinforce the meditative quality of prayer.  All are welcome.

Easter Sunrise Service: April 21, 6:30 AM with OEBGMC

Rise and shine to the uplifting music of the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus! Experience sunrise from our Sanctuary which rests on the summit of the Oakland hills and has windows spanning 30 feet high! As you look out on a stunningly beautiful view listen to inspiring preaching, heavenly music and feel welcomed into the warmth of a loving progressive and inclusive faith community.

Rev. Laurie says, “The music in this service sings out about a God of love, of freedom, of liberation… and that the world is more wonderful with the great diversity of all of humanity. This is good news!”

Easter Sunday Traditional Service: April 21, 10 AM

Skyline’s sanctuary windows overlook Redwood Park to Mt. Diablo Here we have a traditional Easter Service as a loving progressive and inclusive faith community. Rev. Laurie Manning , the choir and orchestra (directed by Benjamin Mertz) and the people fill the sanctuary with joy, celebration and love. Today’s service will have drama, singing, prayer, and a special honor garden for loved ones. And to top it off, all are welcome (especially families) to a family service that includes an Easter egg hunt for children of all ages: 12:00 noon.

Family Easter Egg Hunt: April 1, 12:00PM

Join families from our church and the neighborhood for a fun hour of learning and celebrating! Families of all configurations (we are an LGBTQ+ affirming church!) are invited!

We’ll gather at noon in the sanctuary to sing Easter songs, learn a bit about the Easter story (and how eggs are connected to it!), do some art, and participate in a service project for Nueva Esperanza, a preschool for immigrant children that our church helps to support.

Kids will also be invited (by age group) to participate in a (small) Easter egg hunt. Please bring your own basket/bag!

We also welcome you to join our community Easter service at 10 AM before the hunt, if you wish. We offer a children’s program for your little ones.

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Skyline Church UCC is a community faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the worth of all beings, regardless of ability, age, ancestry, family or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual path, cultural origin, or any other visible or invisible difference. We invite all who wish to enter our Sanctuary and the full life of our church family. Ours is a God of justice and compassion, and our church lives in covenant with God to do its utmost to pursue justice and compassion, as an Open and Affirming congregation.

For more information please contact our office at:

Skyline Community Church,
United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
510.531.8212

Email Skyline Office

Everyone has a Place at the Table

Lately, I hear myself thinking, “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”, especially when I read some of the insights from the Poor People’s campaign, a revival of Dr King’s vision, from 50 years ago:  https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/demands/.  (The Justice and Witness Team shares this event – A Poor People’s Hearing – contact Nancy Taylor about going),

Did you know that while the U.S. economy has grown 18-fold in the past 50 years, wealth inequality has expanded, the costs of living have increased, and social programs have been restructured and cut dramatically?  It’s tempting to think that’s the way things are doomed to be. 

 I take comfort in our sacred scriptures that remind us of the way that God wants things to be,  and why God gave ancient Israel laws about how the poor are to be treated: “These rights and obligations are also rooted in the goodness and justice of the created order”.

Well, we look around, and things often don’t resemble that beautiful created order much at all. 

We are called to participate in the co-creation of a heavenly banquet, where everyone has a place at the table;  where everyone has a roof over their head, to live more fully, more intentionally, in the “already” part of “already but not yet” nature of the Reign of God.  “The shape of God’s future must shape our present.”

Here at Skyline, we’re involved in both charity and justice to bring good news to the poor.  To learn more, just click on our website: https://skylineucc.org/justice-witness/.

In a beautiful reflection on Jesus’s upside down kingdom, Frederick Buechner writes this:

“The world says, ‘Mind your own business,’

and Jesus says, ‘There is no such thing as your own business.’

The world says, ‘Follow the wisest course and be a success,’

and Jesus says, ‘Follow me and be crucified.’

The world says, ‘Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own’ —

and Jesus says, ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’

The world says, ‘Law and order,’

and Jesus says, ‘Love.’

The world says, ‘Get’

and Jesus says, ‘Give.’ 

May it be so with us. Blessings upon your week, with love, Pastor Laurie 

Our Calling and Vocation to Love

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


This week, our adventures continue as we explore our calling and vocation to love. Jesus calls his first disciples, who are fisherman, to cast their nets out into the deep where they will find abundance; and re-defines them as fishers of men. It reminds me of this beautiful quote by the French novelist, author of Le Petit Prince,  Antoine de Saint-Exupery: 
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
It helps to keep the big picture in mind.
  1. Notice where you have settled for a small life, for a life that is shallow, or wasted on trivial things.
  2. Plunge into the deep. Take up the practice of contemplative prayer, or selfless service, or whatever helps you to relinquish your small self and to discover again that the deep

    Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


    ground of your being is love –  Ephesians 3:17. When our consciousness is open to the divine Presence in which we are submerged, then we can return to our ordinary tasks with fresh energy and a new perspective.
  3.  And finally, listen for your call. God has a mission for you! When you know that you are loved; when you know that your deep self, your real self, is in God and that you are made for union with God; then God will send you back out into the world to speak and act fearlessly for peace,  healing, and reconciling and setting free. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says to Simon, and to us, as well. The outcome of our efforts is in the hands of God, and we trust that God will work through us, and that, in a way we cannot possibly  imagine, our lives will bear abundant fruit. God is whispering in our hearts, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, and we dare to reply, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 )
Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

Easter Events 2018

Skyline Community Church, United Church of Christ Invites Oakland Community to Attend Easter Services

Come celebrate the Spirit of Easter where we welcome ALL of God’s people. Experience fabulous music and an inspiring message with a spectacular view of the Oakland Hills.

Good Friday Service: March 30, 7:00 PM:

Our Music Director, Benjamin Mertz, and Reverend Laurie Manning lead an empowering, spiritually expansive candlelight, meditation and music service.  All are welcome.

Easter Sunrise Service: April 1, 6:30 AM:

Rise and shine to the uplifting music of the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus! Experience sunrise from our Sanctuary which rests on the summit of the Oakland hills and has windows spanning 30 feet high! As you look out on a stunningly beautiful view listen to inspiring preaching, heavenly music and feel welcomed into the warmth of a loving progressive and inclusive faith community.

Rev. Laurie says, “The music in this service sings out about a God of love, of freedom, of liberation… and that the world is more wonderful with the great diversity of all of humanity. This is good news!”

Easter Sunday Traditional Service: April 1, 10 AM:

Skyline’s sanctuary windows overlook Redwood Park to Mt. Diablo Here we have a traditional Easter Service as a loving progressive and inclusive faith community. Rev. Laurie Manning , the choir and orchestra (directed by Puja Soto) and the people fill the sanctuary with joy, celebration and love. Today’s service will have drama, singing, prayer, and a special honor garden for loved ones. And to top it off, an Easter Egg Hunt (following service) for children of all ages: 11:30 AM.

Easter Egg Hunt: April 1, 11:30 AM:

Skyline’s traditional Easter Egg Hunt is happening RAIN or SHINE. We welcome our neighborhood families and all who would love to come to join us! Stay for refreshments and conversation following the hunt. We also welcome you to join our community Easter service at 10 AM before the hunt, if you wish. We offer a children’s program for your little ones.

Skyline Church UCC is a community faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the worth of all beings, regardless of ability, age, ancestry, family or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual path, cultural origin, or any other visible or invisible difference. We invite all who wish to enter our Sanctuary and the full life of our church family. Ours is a God of justice and compassion, and our church lives in covenant with God to do its utmost to pursue justice and compassion, as an Open and Affirming congregation.

For more information please contact our office at:

Skyline Community Church,
United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
510.531.8212

Email Skyline Office

Put on those Crash Helmets

The scene of Jesus cleansing the temple has always been more than a little bit scary for me. I think the reason is that my “turn the other cheek” version of Jesus doesn’t allow for this kind of radical behavior. This is over-the-top and scary Jesus sort of stuff. Angry Jesus, the one who turns over tables and scatters sheep or who curses fig trees,  is an unpredictable and fearsome Lord,  one who will not be tampered with, placated, or pandered to.

This is the Lord author Annie Dillard images, saying, “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

She’s right!

Just in case you think this week’s gospel reading has nothing to do with us in 21st century western Christendom,  consider what moneychangers exist in our modern congregational edifices. Consider what  currency must be exchanged in order to “rightly” worship and enter the community today. We may not have doves, sheep, and cattle in the sanctuary, but what about the worship battles between organ and piano lovers, or competing capital improvement project plans that so many faith communities struggle with?  We are still at risk of falling into the trap of a currency exchange of faith.

What are we to do?  I believe that it’s about falling wholly in love,  being swept off our feet by the risen Christ and fully focused on following him.

Branding, innovating, reframing, and reimagining church is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is necessary to measure how we’re doing in communicating the good news and equipping God’s people, but being church is not so much about marketing and metrics as it is about faithful discipleship. You can bet your last goat or turtledove that when we do get sidetracked, the all-consuming Jesus will start turning over a few tables and discomforting the comfortable.

Be ready. Be prepared. Put on those crash helmets and expect a miracle. 

Memorial Day, Equality, Love, and Non-violence

On this Memorial Day, as people of faith we come to mourn the ways in which all religions, including Christianity, have been “literalized”, nationalized, and taken out of context to justify wars, division, and violence in our words and actions throughout human history. May the still speaking God move us to liberate the timeless messages of love, peace and righteousness; and prevent us from being coopted by empires for military, political and economic interests.

May we remember the courage, love and power of Jesus who taught another way of achieving this birth of freedom: the ideal where all people are created equal. 

May we recognize our interdependence with everyone.

May we take courage challenging unjust laws, and exercising non violent civil disobedience in our words and actions.

May we remember the power of princes of peace like Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., to mobilize and inspire millions to change the world for the better through non violence. 

Join us this Sunday as we celebrate the feast of the ascension and Memorial Day. 

with love, Pastor Laurie 

Jesus: the “New Moses” and the Suffering Servant

The Jewish Passover and the Christian celebration of Holy Week that evolved from it, begin this week.   During this sacred time let us remember Jesus, whom Matthew saw as the fulfillment of the Hebrew prophets – the new Moses, the Prince of Peace, and yes, the suffering servant. 

This week, we remember a man.  A man…
who had dreams,
who had those dreams shattered,
who needed time to think and pray,
who knew he was likely to die for what he believed…

A man of extraordinary religious insight.  A man who did die – a cruel death.

This week,  we look at the cross, and we remember…
the betrayal of friendship and its consequences,
the casual cruelty of Roman authority and execution,
and how unreliable others proved to be in a crisis. 

This week, may we also remember that religious bigotry, cruelty and unreliability are still a part of our everyday lives.

This week then, may we learn some new precepts for living…
do not avoid contact with suffering, or close your eyes before suffering;
do not maintain anger or hatred;
do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest, or to impress people;
do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature…

This week we remember, as we journey through death into new life.

See you on Easter Sunday! Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Isaiah: The Promise of His Life

The book of Isaiah, complex as it is, is framed by poetry. The poems of Isaiah envision the future God will yet give.

In this season, as the days grows shorter and chillier, hear these timeless words of hope for us (below):

Also, I encourage you to consider the many opportunities we are offering this month for prayer and reflection, for worship, for justice, and for fellowship. My deepest thanks to all of you in creating this beloved community and welcoming the wider community to take part.

isaiah-11A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

At Jesus’s Table All Are Welcome

As Thanksgiving approaches consider that we are not, after all, only what we eat. We are also with whom we eat.  In Jesus’s kingdom and at his table everyone, especially all those considered “the least of these”,  is welcome. This social healing was as profound and transformative as any medical miracle Jesus was said to have performed. It challenged the prevailing social order then and now. The gentle shepherd, the Prince of Peace, it turns out, was and still is a troublemaker and a revolutionary. He is working through us to bring forth the new kingdom, the heavenly realm here on earth.  He is working through us when we realize that Caesar is not our Lord, that Pharaoh is not our father, that CEOs and military leaders are not our ultimate guide. God is passionately in love with us, with all of us, and more than anything is yearning for us to live as sisters and brothers, united in love.  

This Sunday, we welcome everyone to the table! Join us as we welcome our newest members, as we share from our abundance with the local food pantries of ACCFB, and we honor Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Here’s UCC’s Pastoral Letter to a United Church in a Divided Country.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie