Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2016
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.
And I have some hysterically funny memories. of what can happen when a Pastor forgets to turn off the microphone before the end of a service… as happened to me one fateful Sunday:
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
Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Nov 15th… “Welcoming Our Conference Minister”
This Sunday our new Conference Minister, Rev. Diane Weible, will be visiting our church as our guest preacher. I look forward to this chance for all of us to connect with our wider faith community and beyond. Diane is interested in sharing stories – stories from the people who make up the churches of our Northern California and Nevada Conference.
Following the service all are welcome to a time of fellowship and conversation about building deeper connections within the conference.
Rev. Diane is also interested in facilitating deeper connections between people and between church communities, both through face to face contact as well as through social media.
Not only will her visit be a great opportunity for us to tell her our stories but it will also be an opportunity to listen to her stories about what is going on in our Conference as well as her hopes and vision for our future. Here’s a glimpse of what’s happened recently, and what’s planned.
If you’d like to sign up for the weekly NCNC newsletter, please click here.
In addition, on Nov 15th we honor Jubilee Sunday, with the theme, “Let There be Light”, urging transparency in our financial institutions, and the IMF in particular.
Blessings, Pastor Laurie
Posted: Tuesday, September 15, 2015
It’s Homecoming Sunday! Our choir begins, worship will be wonderful, and afterwards we’re joining together for a BBQ featuring a Bounce House for the children and young at heart! Bring your friends, your family, and your appetites!
In addition, our contingent who proudly represented Skyline at Oakland’s Pride Parade this past Sunday, will be bringing the parade home to us this week in songs, stories, and pictures including more like the ones in this email!
Those of you with a passion for the planet, please mark your calendars for:
* Wednesday, Sept 23, 6:30 am & 6:30 pm for our interfaith climate change vigils, on the eve of the Pope’s historic visit to the US Congress, and on the eve of Yom Kippur, a time to atone for our injury of the earth, and to join together in its healing. Our Green team is sponsoring this special event in partnership with California Interfaith Power and Light and the newly formed Alameda County Interfaith action group who spent the summer reading the Pope’s encyclical. If you’d like to learn more, or get involved, join us for our planning session this Wednesday at 7 pm or contact Pastor Laurie.
* Sunday, Sept 27th 3 pm Blessing of the Animals, featuring talks from Oakland Zoo giraffe specialist and Veterinarian Dr Jenny Taylor. If you’d like to learn more, or get involved, please review the attached press release, and contact Pastor Laurie.
Those of you with a passion for Skyline, and want to learn more: * Mark your calendars for Sunday Sept 27th from 11:30 – 12:30 for our Inquirer’s Session. A chance to meet with pastor Laurie and others to explore who we are, and what we’re seeking on our spiritual journeys.
In addition, I encourage you to read on about these urgent justice issues.
Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015
We had an inspiring annual meeting last Sunday, June 28. We thanked last year’s officers, celebrated our many accomplishments, and covenanted with this year’s newly elected council members and officers.
Special thanks to our dedicated council members for their many contributions, and let’s welcome our new officers!
Our next council meeting is Thursday, July 16th at 7 pm, and all are welcome!
For more information about annual meeting, please click here: http://w ww.skylineucc.org/community/church-members/
Here’s the new Skyline Community Church Council and Service Team Chairs!
Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Find out more at our Annual Meeting! Sunday, June 28th
Each year on the last Sunday in June Skyline Community Church holds its Annual Meeting. The community gathers for worship at 10 am and then has lunch afterwards. Officers and committee members are elected, accomplishments and goals are highlighted, the budget is voted upon, and we celebrate the transition of leadership and changes in the congregation.
Prior to the meeting, we encourage you to come prepared by reviewing our proposed budget, our narrative budget and our slideshow. They provide a good orientation to the church and gives a wide view of the activities of the church. This information is available on our members section of the website. http://www.skylineucc.org/community/church-members/ (password is in the newsletter or contact Pastor Laurie or the Office (510-531-8212))
In the United Church of Christ (UCC), congregations have a high degree of authority to make basic decisions about that way they run themselves. This is referred to as “congregational polity.” Congregations manage their own financial affairs and hire clergy and other staff. Congregations are in “covenantal” relationships with the other settings of church organization. The church is part of an “association” (in Skyline’s case, the Bay Association), which when combined together are “conferences”(Northern California Nevada Conference). The national setting of the UCC is located primarily in Cleveland, Ohio.
The relationships between Skyline Church and the other settings of the denomination are cooperative and mutually beneficial. While our church gets to choose our ministerial staff, it is the association that has the power to ordain clergy, and the conference partners with local churches in the process of supporting and developing church leadership.
The national setting of the church provides leadership and services and organizes a national meeting called General Synod every two years, where church members from throughout the denomination gather for worship, education, debate and action.
The church supports the conference and the national setting financially as well.
The church, like many organizations is governed under a set of bylaws, which are available on the members page of our website. http://www.skylineucc.org/community/church-members/.
Skyline has an elected Church Council who serve on the council along with the church officers (Moderator, Vice Moderator, Treasurer and Scribe) and At-Large members. Several members of staff, including our Pastor, meet with the Council with voice without vote. Members of the Council are raised up by the Nominating Committee of Involvement and elected by the congregation at the Annual Meeting in June. For details about last year’s council and this year’s proposed council, please see the powerpoint slides listed in the members page of our website. http://www.skylineucc.org/community/church-members/
See you this Sunday!
Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2015
In the spirit true congregationalism, from Thursday the 11th- Sunday the 14th , I will be meeting with over 300 delegates at our UCC Northern California Nevada Conference Annual Meeting in Sonoma.
Among the highlights, in addition to being in wine country, we will hear from PSR’s new president, David Vasquez-Levy, and Diane Weible, our new conference minister.
In addition, we will vote upon resolutions to be considered by our national denomination next month.
Among the topics we will be addressing are justice issues, and I will be presenting a resolution to strengthen our relationship with Jubilee USA.
To learn more, please see UCC’s justice programs and Jubilee USA.
Blessings and Peace, and see you next week!
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2015
A Christian evangelical social research company recently surveyed young adult non-Christians on their attitudes toward Christianity.
- 91% said Christians are anti-gay
- 87 % said Christians are judgmental
- 85%, said they’re hypocritical
- 78 % said they’re old fashioned
- 72% said they’re out of touch with reality
- 70% said they’re insensitive to others
- 75% said Christians are too involved in politics, but the politics they’re talking about are not the politics of peacemaking or justice-making. They’re talking about the anti-politics: anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights, anti-science.
No wonder people are spiritual but not religious!
Presbyterian pastor and social worker N. Graham Standish observes that the spiritual but not religious—he calls them SBNR for short—share several attributes:
- they are “skeptical of hard and fast theological constructs about God.” …they “tend to be post-modern, and thus are extremely suspicious of any ultimate truth claims.”
- the SBNR are willing to listen to all sides . . . “they want to consider religious and theological beliefs from a variety of perspectives.”
- they want to experience what’s true rather than be told what is true. . . . “they want to learn truth by touching it, smelling it, and tasting it.”
- “SBNR folks tend to be sensitive to any form of hypocrisy, especially moralizing hypocrisy. When they see priest or pastor scandals in the face of the church’s obsession with homosexuality, they get turned off.”
- they are cautious about being identified too much with a religion. They see the “practice of religion as inhibiting the pursuit of the spiritual . . . .”
Do you know anybody who fits this SBNR description? Sounds like us! Come join us, as the power of the Holy Spirit continues transforming us in the ways of life!
Also, Sunday June 7th – we celebrate our grads of all ages, including a procession to pomp and circumstance! Let us know who you are!
Anyone up for a summer barbecue and family picnic on an upcoming Sunday after church? Let me know!!
Peace, Pastor Laurie
Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015
This Sunday we honor the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us, to fill us with vision, and to transform our fear into love.
We also honor the power of the Holy Spirit which calls forth our unique gifts and our desire to use them for the greater good.
I leave you with this reflection:
Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
One of my favorite reflections is from the great theologian and philosopher St Augustine of Hippo who embraced doubt and questions as a part of a growing and evolving faith.
As Augustine put it, “Our questions are our faith seeking understanding.”
Here’s another favorite of mine from author Anne Lamott: “I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
May we all have enough courage to notice the mess, the emptiness and the discomfort,
as we wait in hope for the light that will return!
Blessings upon your week,
Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014
Blessings to you in this season of darkness, where we light candles and are reminded once more:
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Yes, we live in a broken world.
At the same time, through us all I experience the in -breaking of God’s love right here in our community. I experience it in the wonder of children taking part in our Christmas pageant. I experience it in the outpouring of love from this community to the homeless shelter in East Oakland; to feeding the hungry here in Alameda County; to supporting the education of 400 children of Makomray, Sierra Leone; and to caring for the immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
We experience it when we see the face of Christ, in everyone!
Come and celebrate the wonder of God’s love on Christmas Eve with us, Wed Dec 24th at 7 pm!
Bring your friends! We have childcare! It’s a short – all ages friendly service!
I wish to share a photo of a mom and dad with their three month old son, Air; one of the many families with children that we visited earlier this week. His parents named him Air because he is as precious as every breath we take and is filled with the Spirit of life. I cannot help but be reminded of that Holy family thousands of years ago who sought shelter as refugees, who’s precious child was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. (The family gave me permission to share with friends and members of Skyline)
I leave you with this poem by Howard Thurman about the ongoing healing of the world that we are called to bring forth in our lives.
Candles for Christmas
I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.