This past Sunday we had a very inspirational service celebrating the life changing power of walking in the universal ways of Jesus. Following the service, we had a lively discussion about who we are, (the state of our union in a sense) and about God’s unfolding and life giving vision for us, as Progressive Christians, living in this exciting and changing era of Post Christendom. 

Join us this Sunday as we explore and discuss the unconventional wisdom of the Beatitudes, and celebrate a different kind of “Souper” Bowl, to share our food with those in need in Alameda County!

As a wisdom teacher, Jesus taught his disciples with puzzling parables, pithy aphorisms, and challenging questions, inviting them to discover a new way of living by engaging his many questions. When the young lawyer asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus did not recite the law, but answered Semitic-style with yet another question, and proceeded to lead the lawyer through more questioning into his story of the Good Samaritan. The story turned upside-down the conventional wisdom of the day about the limits of neighbor love, inviting the lawyer and all of us listeners ever since to expand our own capacity for compassion.

Conventional wisdom also gets turned upside-down in the beatitudes by Jesus daring to name the poor, the meek, and the mournful as the blessed ones. What could be blessed about poverty or grief? Is this simply the promise of a better day by-and-by, when we die? Do the beatitudes describe some future reward for suffering now?  If blessing is a good thing, it would seem that common sense, and the economic and political norms of first-century Palestine (and twenty-first-century America) tell us that the wealthy bear the signs of blessing, and the powerful, not the meek, own the earth today and will keep it tomorrow. So what kind of blessing is there, and who are the poor in spirit? What is Jesus talking about? Let’s talk about it this Sunday!  

Thanks for making this a happening, welcoming and vibrant place!




This week we honor the prophetic witness of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and his profound influence upon this country and the world.

About fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and delivered his prophetic and patriotic speech, “I have a Dream.”

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

Just a few months later, president John F Kennedy was assassinated, and Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the new president. Influenced by King’s prophetic witness, LBJ began the New Year,  declaring the “War on Poverty.”

It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.

Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the State and the local level and must be supported and directed by State and local efforts.

For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.

Fifty years later, the war on poverty, racism and violence continues, and so must the dream. It must live on, in us.

Join us, as we consider how we are called manifest that beloved community that MLK spoke of, the kingdom of heaven that Jesus manifested, and that we are called to embody!


Yesterday the rain drenched heavens and earth could not dampen the hope of the tens of thousands of people in Johannesburg, South Africa, or the hundreds of millions throughout the world who paused to honor the life of Nelson Mandela.

Not only did Mandela lead the world in his vision of race reconciliation but he also worked tirelessly to fight AIDS, bring peace to warring nations, and promote respect for LGBT rights (South Africa became the 5th country in the world to legalize gay marriage).

So, yes, a mighty figure may have died at the age of 95. But travel around Africa & the world, and you see his imprint, his legacy, and his spirit. Mandela lives… kindled by the eternal flame..the light.. that so inspired Isaiah, inspired John, inspired Jesus, and inspires us now. Inspired by his vision and his perseverance and his capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation, even through the 27 long years in prison, may we never lose hope for what is possible in our lives, or in the world. May it begin with each one of us.

I close with Mandela’s words from his inauguration that speak to our greatest needs today.

“Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.

The time for the healing of the wounds has come.

The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.

The time to build is upon us.

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.

We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.

We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.

Let there be justice for all.

Let there be peace for all.

Let there be work, bread, water & salt for all.

Let each know that for each the body, the mind & the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

Let freedom reign. God bless us all. Amen”.

While spending the past week in Carlsbad, CA, Susan and I discovered that the city’s Cultural Arts Office sponsors a “TGIF Jazz in the Parks” concert series.  On Friday evenings from late June through mid-August, people attend these free concerts featuring musicians from all over the world who present a variety of jazz styles.

In the “it’s a small world category” the concert the Friday night we were in Carlsbad featured Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars.  Here’s what the pre-concert publicity said about them.  “The Refugee All-Stars are uplifting, inspiring, ebullient and exuberant, a group of consummate musicians whose improbable success story shows the power of song and spirit. Their infectious Afro-pop optimism in the face of loss and sorrow hoisted them out of the border camps of Guinea and onto the international stage.”

After a 2005 documentary about the band’s post-war journey skyrocketed them to a global platform, their story and music was soon inspiring fans worldwide.  They’ve appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, opened for Aerosmith, contributed to the Blood Diamond film soundtrack, and participated in the U2 tribute album In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2. They have built a loyal fan base with extensive touring and festival performances both in this country and abroad.  From the ashes of war, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have risen like a phoenix to become one of the most lauded African bands in the world.

It was wonderful as concert-goers gathered in various groupings sharing food and drink and relaxing together on a warm summer evening.  The Refugee All Stars helped immensely in contributing to the fun.  Their traditional West African sounds blended with vintage reggae and American soul to produce wonderfully rhythmic music that had people up and dancing or at the very least swaying to the beat.

Being there reminded me of the power of music to overcome almost any catastrophe, personal or communal.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that, “Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you,” and U2’s Bono reminds us that “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

I felt changed that night and have since then through the internet been listening to more of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars wonderful music.  Check out their website where you can read their story and listen to some of their music.  You can also access their music using

Happy listening!

Drew Nettinga

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Skyline UCC
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Oakland, CA 94619
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