Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Thanksgiving for Downtown Oakland
Each year, the day before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving Day, folks from all over the Oakland community gather to serve the homeless, elderly, those in need, at Lake Merritt U.M. Church, located in downtown Oakland. On the day before, beginning at 7:00 a.m., volunteers arrive to prepare the turkeys for baking. Turkeys are usually in the ovens (first round) by 8:30 or earlier. All volunteers are welcome to help!
On Thanksgiving morning, volunteers start arriving around 8:30 a.m. to set the tables, help with food preparation, etc. Dinner service begins at 1:00 (if you want to help serve dinner, please try to arrive at 12:30 – there is an orientation session so you know what to do), and goes until 3:00 or 3:30, and “take home” boxes are given out, plus the bags of turkey carcasses at around 2:30 – 3:00. After the meal is done, all leftover food is taken to a Homeless Shelter in downtown Oakland (where it is greatly welcomed). The last group of volunteers cleans up, runs the dishwashers, mops the floors, puts tables away and is done around 5:00 p.m. If you are interested in volunteering, please see me – you are welcome to come for an hour or more – whatever suits your schedule.
Most food for this feast is donated: turkeys, potatoes, beans, rolls, salad, and pies – some is purchased from the Alameda County Food Bank, the rest is either by donation of items or money. Last year we served close to 700 meals, including take-home, and anticipate the need will be greater this year. We at Skyline have been asked to help provide pies! All pies are welcome – (hopefully not all pumpkin). They can be homemade, purchased frozen and cooked, purchased ready to serve, etc. (We can’t use frozen, uncooked pies as all the ovens are in use for preparing the rest of the dinner.) We need to furnish at least 35 pies (more would be better). I will deliver the pies around 10:00 on Thanksgiving Day – please see me to arrange when and where you want to bring your pies. There will be a sign-up sheet which I will have each Sunday beginning November16th. Thank you so much for agreeing to aid this project!
Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
This Christmas Eve, come experience the wonder of our candlelight service celebrating the birth of Jesus with carols, anthems, scripture lessons, and instrumental music. The service will be followed by delicious Christmas treats, hot apple cider, and fellowship.
This is a beautiful way to celebrate the season with your entire family. ALL are welcome!
December 24th at 7:00 pm
For more information please contact the office at 510.531.8212
Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Interfaith Solstice Service & Taize
TIME TO BE DETERMINED
Worship service of music, words, light and hope.
We are most keenly aware of the extended darkness when we struggle with grief, or loneliness, or weariness. It’s a challenge to keep our spirits up when the public mood is jolly! Welcome to a place where you can be yourself and feel however you really feel. The purpose of the service is to remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. We are here to remember that God is with us and to bring Light of the World into the longest night. Come experience this beautiful evening that will bring you hope. We encourage you to invite those you know will benefit from this experience.
Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
This weekend at Skyline, in our women’s retreat on Saturday and again in Sunday worship, we are re-examining the powerful mythology of creation, the story of Adam and Eve, and how it continues to shape our views of God and of ourselves.
I love the story of Nancy, a fourth grader whose Sunday school teacher asked her to draw a picture of something from the book of Genesis. Nancy drew a picture of a white stretch limousine. A middle-aged man drove the car and a scantily clad couple sat in the back of the limo. “Why Nancy”, exclaimed the Sunday school teacher, “I asked you to draw something from the book of Genesis!”
“But I did, I drew this limousine”, responded Nancy.
“To which passage can you possibly be referring to, Nancy?” asked the teacher. Nancy thumbed through the bible until she found the passage, Genesis 3: 24: “and God drove out Adam and Eve from the garden”.
Yes, God drove out Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, from paradise, and ever since, we have referred to that passage in Genesis as the “fall” or as “original sin”. The story implies that God is male and demands obedience, and that woman, since Eve, is the source of temptation and evil.
The story of our origins have a profound influence on how we see ourselves. For ½ of the human population, (i.e. women) this interpretation is unhealthy. Imagine, if as a parent you were to tell your daughter how bad and sinful and evil and rotten she is every day of her life, it would create a dysfunctional child. If as a parent, you were to tell your daughter how wonderful, incredible, and good she is, you would most likely create a healthy child.
How do we re-understand this powerful myth of our origins and of our relationship with God in more life giving ways? How do we re-understand Eve’s choice as the desire for knowledge of the difference between good and evil? How do we re-imagine God as other than and more than a male authority? How do we shake the foundation of patriarchy, which adapts theology to justify hierarchy and power over others?
I believe that we begin by asking such questions and listening for the still-speaking God within us and all around us; especially in the voices of women, as well as men, and all those who have been marginalized. And we remember from the first genesis story the vision that God created them, male and female, in the image of God, and then said, “It is very good”.
Marianne Williamson writes, about her own struggle to overcome fear and shame, in part brought forth by such marginalization. She writes, in her book, ”A return to Love”, about “Our deepest fear”..
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others”.
Poet and artist Judy Chicago writes, about re-imagining the mythology of Adam and Eve, in life giving ways, and new creation that will come forth, out of it, in her poem, entitled, “And Then”..
“And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another’s will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth’s abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life’s creatures
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.
Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
6th Annual Sierra Leone Benefit Bike Ride!
Saturday, October 12th, 2013 ~ 8:30 AM (Depart at 9:00 AM)
Skyline Community Church, 12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA
Last year, our fundraiser funded several school teachers and a college student for the entire year!
100% of your donation will go towards their education and supplies.
There will be different ride options for varying levels:
The shorter ride starts in Castro Valley (people will carpool from church) and goes out Cull Canyon Rd and back. This road is suitable for a family ride with kids as it is fairly gentle uphill on the way out with very little traffic. We hope to have a water/snack stop at Rancho de los Amigos on Cull Canyon Rd. 1st time and less experienced riders are encouraged to join in for that leg of the ride. Cull Canyon Rd is an easy slight grade uphill country road that goes out 5 miles and back is downhill all the way.
The longer ride goes to the end of Cull Canyon Rd, in total a 45 mile ride, which can be cut short at the Golf Course on Redwood Rd (26 miles) or Bort Meadow (18 miles). Please forward to your pals to come along for the fun!
Chili & Fritatta served after the ride at the church!
Suggested $10 donation for the ride. You can also sponsor a child in furthering their education to go to college *covering housing, tuition, books, and food for a year) for $1,000! Note on check in the memo section: “Sierra Leone” or “Sierra Leone College Fund.”
Contact: Marilyn Shaw (510) 531-3353 or by email
Click the link below to see a video of the children in Sierra Leone!
Thank You From the Children
Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Once upon a time, some Hasidim came to their teacher, the Maggid of Mezheritz, “Rebbe we’re puzzled. It says in Talmud, that we must thank God as much for bad days as for good. But how can that be? What would our gratitude mean if we gave it equally for the good and the bad?
The sage replied, “Go to Anapol, Reb Zusya will have an answer for you. They found him on the poorest street of the town, between two small, poor houses, living in a tiny shack, where they knocked”.
“Welcome strangers” said Zusya, who was sitting at a bare table, reading. ”Please pardon me for not getting up. I’ve hurt by leg. Would you like food? I have some bread! And there is water!”
“No, thank you. We have come only to ask a question. Our spiritual teacher, the Maggid of Mezheritz told us you might help us to understand. Why do our sages tell us to be grateful as much for bad days as for the good?”
Reb Zusya laughed. “Me? I have no idea why the great sage sent you here to me!” He shook his head in puzzlement. “You see, I have never really had a bad day. Every day God has given me has had with it some blessing or miracle. Like your coming here – so sit, and eat!”
I know: Too often the word “hospitality” conjures up images of social expectations set by Martha Stewart. But it is simpler than that. At root, it is one of the most basic and ancient of spiritual virtues. And it is therefore also profound and complex.
Come join us this Sunday as we explore the deeper meanings of radical hospitality.
Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Come and celebrate the animal companions in our lives!
This is our 14th annual special ceremony to honor our animal companions and acknowledge the blessings they bring to our lives. Bring your pet(s) or a picture of your pet (or even a stuffed animal) – this is a family event! Refreshments provided for both pets & humans. Afterwards, come and walk your pet through our unique labyrinth!
All over the world lively and sacred ceremonies to bless our animal companions and honor the blessings they bring to our lives are held in the fall. Churches of all denominations honor beloved pets around Oct 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
Reverend Laurie Manning and Rhea Babbit of Skyline Community Church, affiliated with United Church of Christ, bless your dog, cat, goat, parakeet, fish, horse or whatever you bring (safely) with you. You can also bring photos of beloved pets who cannot make the journey or have passed on to receive a blessing.
The ceremony is at 3:00 PM, with registration at 2:45, in the beautiful courtyard at:
Skyline Community Church
12540 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, Ca. 94619
(½ mile S. of Redwood)
Come one and all, with dogs, cats, hamsters, goats, parakeets, horses to celebrate and enjoy our animal companions.
Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I’d like to offer the following prayer of peace and self acceptance, written by an unknown, but very wise author.
I offer it to you in the context of Jesus’s great commandment, to love one another as you love yourself.
I accept myself completely.
I accept my strengths and my weaknesses,
my gifts and my shortcomings,
my good points and my faults.
I accept myself completely as a human being.
I accept that I am here to learn and grow,
and I accept that I am learning and growing.
I accept the personality I’ve developed, and
I accept my power to heal and change.
I accept myself without condition or reservation.
I accept that the core of my being is goodness
and that my essence is love,
and I accept that I sometimes forget that.
I accept myself completely, and in this acceptance
I find an ever-deepening inner strength.
From this place of strength, I accept my life fully and
I open to the lessons it offers me today.
I accept that within my mind are both fear and love,
and I accept my power to choose which I will experience as real.
I recognize that I experience only the results of my own choices.
I accept the times that I choose fear
as part of my learning and healing process, and
I accept that I have the potential and power
in any moment to choose love instead.
I accept mistakes as a part of growth,
so I am always willing to forgive myself and
give myself another chance.
I accept that my life is the expression of my thought,
and I commit myself to aligning my thoughts
more and more each day with the Thought of Love.
I accept that I am an expression of this Love.
Love’s hands and voice and heart on earth.
I accept my own life as a blessing and a gift.
My heart is open to receive, and I am deeply grateful.
May I always share the gifts that I receive
fully, freely, and with joy.
Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
The UCC’s taglines, “that they may all live as one” , and “no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here”, to me, speak of the essence of atonement. Atonement is about.. “at one ment”, radical hospitality and welcome. This Sunday we join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in marking Yom Kippur, a day of atonement and reconciliation.
Last Sunday morning, as I was driving up the church driveway, I was greeted with a banner that said, “Welcome back Pastor Laurie.” I felt warmly welcomed!
Before the service, I was greeted by many children, who came dashing across the courtyard, with outstretched arms, saying, “I missed you so much this summer Pastor Laurie!” My heart filled up with joy, as I crouched down to greet and hug each one of them – Olivia and Talia, Josh and Lucy, Nathan and Gabriel, Nina and Elijah and Aiden. In a few short months, Nathan and Joshua had either grown several inches, or that I had shrunk. I also noticed quite a few missing teeth in those smiles. And there are others… like Pablo and Diego, that I’m looking forward to getting to know better and McKenna and Kyle, whom I miss and hope to see soon!
After the service, these children rushed up again, so eager to “help me” cut the creamy welcome back cake during fellowship time. I was so proud of how they “helped me” by first serving our visitors before enjoying their own piece of that delicious cake. What beautiful ambassadors of radical hospitality and welcome!
Jesus wisely pointed out the wisdom of children. I encourage all of us to open our hearts with that same radical welcome and hospitality, not only on Sunday mornings, but to begin each day this way, welcoming and including everyone with this spirit of life.
But, it’s hard to always maintain this level of radical openness and hospitality, this sense of “at one ment” isn’t it?
Last Saturday morning, after finishing my peaceful centering meditation, in a quiet sun filled room, I was in my living room, standing up in my PJ’s before breakfast, ready to recite my reflections for Doris’ memorial service. I wanted to give myself enough time to take a shower and have breakfast, and also to pick up fresh batteries for the AV. I wanted to plug in the laptop for the PowerPoint presentation and test the sound before the service as well as check in with Rhea about Kay before going over to the church. And I also wanted to call my Aunt Estelle to wish her a happy 91st birthday. I wanted to arrive at church before Doris’s family to greet them and be fully present.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang… At my house it’s not the gentle, “harp- like” sound that I’ve set on my cell phone. It sounds more like a fire alarm. I was startled, embarrassed. Looking out of my window, I could see two women standing at the door, nicely dressed, and I thought to myself, “hmmmm….”
What would you do on a morning like this?
Guess what I did? I hid! I slipped out of sight from the window, and hid until they were gone.
As I walked out of the house that morning, I picked up the brochure they left on my porch, entitled, “Do you want to know the Truth?” I thought to myself.. truthfully? Not right now. The truth for me was that now was not the time for this conversation. I hoped that the two women didn’t take offense. I imagine that they must be prepared to face a lot of closed doors.
Skyline community church started off this way, 40 years ago. People, inspired by the good news and the ecumenical movement, walked door to door inviting people to come and join this new experiment in church. They were welcoming all, finding those who were lost in the search for a more inclusive faith community.
How do we, in this day and age, in this context here in Oakland, (with the highest incidences of burglary per capita in the country) reach out to each other and build community? How do we welcome the stranger, and practice radical hospitality?
How have we built up barriers between us? We’ve built not only with physical fences and gates but emotional and psychic ones based on our fear of differences.. of race, class, age, gender, etc.
How do we break down these barriers… to restore the beloved community?
This is the essence of Rabbi J’s parable about the lost coin and the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-10). Come and join us this Sunday as we explore the parable’s deeper wisdom and healing for us.
Blessings, Pastor Laurie
Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2013
Maybe it’s just me, or have the last few evening sunsets been breathtakingly beautiful?
On Labor Day, I was driving over to Kay and Rhea’s house, at sunset. A high ceiling of deep orange and sapphire clouds, clumped together like cottage cheese glowed above us, and below it, to the west, blue sky, clear to the horizon, a window for the sun, perched low in west over Mt Tam, to pour forth its golden sunlight across the purple waters of the bay, to illuminate a rose- colored shimmering veil of clouds in the east, with bands of rainbows, showering down in columns.
I thought for a moment, is this real? Would anyone believe it? The description sounded as fantastic and other- worldly as something out of the Book of Revelations, or a drug induced high. But it was real! I actually took a photo while driving up the hill, and called Kay and Rhea to see it as I was driving and of course, they were watching it at the same time.
Climbing higher up Redwood road, I arrived at their mountaintop, window to the world. The rainbow colors filled the sky… it was heavenly.. extraordinary.. breathtaking.. it reduced us to awe and silence. We were, in that moment together, so aware of its preciousness.
Over the past few days, people have been asking me, how was your sabbatical? What’s it like returning?
I must admit, I had some preconceived ideas. Several weeks ago, while upgrading my IPhone at the AT&T store, I ran into a colleague from Oakland Community Organizing, Rev Jim Hopkins. Among many topics, we talked about sabbatical experiences, and he reminisced with me about his sabbatical experiences several years earlier.
As wonderful as the experience had been for him, he said his greatest fears were about “re-entry.”
Being a child of the 60’s, it brought back memories for me of the Apollo missions, and the silent, star- lit, wondrous voyage to the moon, followed by the precarious re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.. Hoping that the heat shields will withstand the intense temperatures of re-entry, praying that the parachutes will release to slow the descent, hoping to land in the gentle arms of the ocean, and not the sharp edges of a skyscraper!
Prior to returning, I had various expectations about how returning was supposed to be, ranging from utterly stressful to extremely relaxing, inspired, full of new ideas, plans and visions… for a time of new beginnings.
I have since let go of the “supposed to” expectations. And what’s left is what IS… right here; right now… here we are, in this precious time, this time of change, a time of endings & of beginnings.
So let us begin. . Let us be.here & NOW
Over these past few months, in my daily morning meditation, I have held Skyline in prayer, to continue to hear God’s unique calling in each of our lives, and to share our distinctive gifts as leaders.
I am moved by Skyline’s collective response to the Spirit’s calling – from the Green Team’s passion for eco-justice, to our ongoing commitment to support hundreds of children in Sierra Leone, to learning about the despair and hope in Colombia, to creating inspiring worship services each Sunday, to joining for weekly bible studies, to reaching out with tender care and support to those in need and in grief, to taking part in plans for welcoming new families to Skyline preschool, to supporting couples beginning their married lives together, and yes, to balancing budgets, and washing windows at workdays!
Kudos to all who helped to plan each of these events and grateful thanks to all who participated!
Over these past three months, I have been doing three things primarily: (1) visiting with family and friends from the east coast; (2) seeking spiritual refreshment and renewal and (3) gaining skills in progressive church leadership and growth.
Throughout the summer, I have been hiking in beauty of Northern California, taking time in silent retreat, and reading lots of books, practicing yoga and meditation.
In addition, I have visited vital progressive faith communities, and have talked with their staffs. I have also completed courses in congregational growth and renewal at the Graduate Theological Union, through the Center for Progressive Christianity.
Over the next few months, I will be sharing highlights of these experiences with you in sermons and in an upcoming retreat that the council and I are planning for October.
I am grateful to the Spirit, which affirms, reinvigorates and rededicates us all to the work of ministry and mission, here and beyond.
My deepest thanks and appreciation to this faith community, to our dedicated and capable church council members, to our highly capable and faithful sabbatical pastor, Rev. Drew Nettinga, to our talented and dedicated staff, and to you for this sabbatical time of study, reflection, refreshment and renewal.