Dr. Rev. Laura Barnes included this poem in her ideas for her talk on Aug 9.  It’s one of my favorite poems, and I’m delighted to share it with you. As you read, consider a journey you are on – a change in relationship,  a new job, leaving home for the first time, choosing a spiritual path, etc. and see if Mary Oliver’s words inspire or reflect your experience.

“The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
 Mary Oliver

Dr. Rev. Laura Barnes and Rev. Nancy McKay will be preaching while Pastor Laurie is on vacation.

With Joy,

Nancy Montier, Office Manager

Since the Charleston shootings at least eight southern churches with mostly African-American congregations have burned – a wave of anti-black terrorism that’s been met with a confounding silence from mainstream media. But several Muslim groups, citing “our intertwined histories and convergent present”, have noticed and acted.  Arguing that “all houses of worship are sanctuaries” they have been fundraising to rebuild churches and “help our sisters and brothers in faith”.

I’d like to share with you this inspiring story about forgiveness, blessed rebuilding, and solidarity.

Peace, Pastor Laurie

pope francis and st francisSeveral weeks ago, Pope Francis published his encyclical, “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. This Sunday in worship we lift up the Wisdom of St. Francis and Pope Francis, and the universal wisdom about our sacred connection with all of life. Join us as we celebrate the great diversity of life and the beauty of music, and nature, and one another.

In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail”.  We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.

Here is Pope Francis’s Encyclical Faith Climate Action Kit from Interfaith Power and Light. 

Blessings, Pastor Laurie

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.

6-29-15 Walter Jones 6-29-15 new council 2
6-29-15 old council with certificatesSpecial 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/6-29-15  annual meeting slide 

Here’s the new Skyline Community Church Council and Service Team Chairs!

 6-29-15  counting votes

Dear Ones,

May our hearts be broken open with care and prayers the people of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Violence is a tragedy anywhere, but to have it happen within a church while people are gathered to pray and study the bible is horrifying. And to know that this historic African American church was targeted because of it’s racial composition should cause us all to fall to our knees and pray, God have mercy on our nation. We may not see ourselves as being actively responsible for such a crime, however we do have to acknowledge that we participate in a culture that has created a climate where racism, hatred and the means to do violence are everywhere present.

The apostle Paul describes the church as the Body of Christ. As a body we are connected. When one part suffers, we all suffer. Already grieved by the news of the nine who lost their lives, I later found out that one of the people who died is a relative of our UCC National Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership, Rev. Waltrina Middleton. Below is her letter to her UCC church family which includes us. Let us hold Rev. Middleton and her family and all the people who lost loves ones and are directly affected by this terrible tragedy in our love and in our prayers. And let us commit ourselves to doing our part to be the change we wish to see in the world.

A Letter from Rev. Waltrina Middleton  

18 June 2015  

Dear Sisters and Brothers: My heart experienced the unimaginable late last night as the sun began to set in some places, and before the moon could peak through weary cloud-cast skies in others.

The very thing I fight and organize against-a deeply masked and far reaching culture of violence in our society has descended upon the steps of my family and matriculated its way into the sanctuary of the church. Last night during bible study and prayer service, a gunman entered the historical Mother Emmanuel AME church of Charleston, SC and opened fire on the 11 persons gathered there. There were only two survivors. With deep sorrow, I write to share that my beloved first cousin was among the 9 fatalities. Her death was confirmed this morning and the unspeakable grief of this loss has knocked me and my family off kilter.  

C.S. Lewis wrote that “it is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box…” But suppose your life depended on that invisible rope that is your faith? Today, the weight of that invisible rope tugs at my trembling heart and such invisible faith is tested as we walk through the valleys of the shadows of death all around us. We are reassured to fear not evil, but to trust in the rod and the staff for comfort, protection, guidance and perhaps understanding when the morning comes. Please keep my family, Mother Emmanuel congregation, and all those impacted by this rampant culture of violence in the center of your prayers. Let us come together for such a time as this to the sacred clearing-no matter our faith or practice, and be on one accord in the spirit of love, hope, and healing to seek justice and peace for these and other victims of hatred and violence.

Let us put our faith to action and be more than empty drums that have long lost their melodies or arrangements. Let us remove our instruments from the poplar trees and call the people, the public officials, and yes, the church to action to address the festering sores of racism, classism and militarism-as they intersect this culture of violence. How can we begin to eradicate this evil without acknowledging the realities of racialized policing, hate crimes, and the disproportionate acts of violence against Black and Brown bodies?   

Alas, it is morning and tear filled dew drops fall fresh upon my face, with eyes watching God and a soulful lament. Our hearts are troubled, but our faith remains steadfast, trusting and believing in the reconciling power of God for the brokenhearted and the oppressed.

Yours in faith & justice,

Rev. Waltrina Middleton, United Church of Christ National Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership   

I would also like to share the following prayer lifted up from the National Office of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio:

Dear God of many Names, we come to you in our time of grief.  Help us dear God to understand how such tragedy occurs in the midst of your beloved family.  Because you have made us One Body, help us dear God to reach across the lines which divide us.  At this time, we ask for special prayers for our beloved family in Charleston, South Carolina and all who connect to them in life and spirit.  Keep them close to your heart dear One and protect them with power of your Holy Spirit.  We pray all this in the blessed name of Jesus the Christ, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen

Many Blessings,

Pastor Laurie

Last weekend I joined with over 350 UCC church delegates from Northern California and Nevada to take part in our UCC Conference Annual Meeting, held at Sonoma State University.

The highlights for me included:

  • Welcoming  our new conference minister, Diane Weible, who most recently served with Skyline’s very own  Rev Charles Buck in the Hawaii Conference, and prior to that in Japan with her husband as a missionary.
  • Being inspired by the keynote address from the  Pacific School of Religion’s new president, David Velaquez- Levy,  on the theme of living as immigrants, a theme of particular relevance to faith communities  especially in the Bay Area.
  • Enjoying Taiko women drummers and Samoan dancers in worship.
  • Sharing the weekend with some of my favorite clergy friends.
  • Leading two workshops.
  • Passing the resolution to become a Jubilee Conference and join a bi-partisan, interfaith, global alliance to reduce the global debt crisis particularly in the world’s poorest nations.

For more information about the annual meeting, please click here:



For more information on Jubilee, and our latest letter writing campaign, to support debt relief for Nepal, please click here:



© Kutt Niinepuu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Father’s Day and the summer solstice are upon us. 

In thinking of both Father’s Day and  the great diversity and beauty of creation, I am reminded of the poem, “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

You might be wondering, what exactly is “Pied Beauty?”… is it an altered state of consciousness, brought about by gazing at your favorite homemade pie? 

“Pied”, in fact, means that which is odd, quirky, unique, eccentric, different. 

The poem celebrates God, the creator of all, and in particular all that is uniquely beautiful… which includes you and me! 

I leave you with these words from the poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins: 

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Photo:© Kutt Niinepuu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The latest volunteer schedule:

2015-08-21 Sunday Volunteer Sheet

Thank you for your time and talents!

We’re in the season of graduation, but not just for high school graduates venturing forth to college, but for all of us in this lifelong process of growth, evolution, and change. 

Throughout our lives we search for meaning, our vocation, and our life’s purpose.   

David Brooks, NY TImes journalist, writes:

So I’ve been thinking about the difference between the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the ones you put on your résumé, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace.The eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned in the eulogy, which are deeper: who are you, in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consistent? And most of us, including me, would say that the eulogy virtues are the more important of the virtues. But at least in my case, are they the ones that I think about the most? And the answer is no.”  Click here for his Ted Talk

Reinhold Niebuhr summed up the confrontation:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by that final form of love, which is forgiveness.

Come and join us after the service for a conversation about how to live in this world, but not of this world, connected deeply with our deepest values. 

    Blessings, Laurie 

Pentecost is upon us.. a celebration of the life giving power of the Spirit, a gift from God promised to us all, not just once upon a time thousands of years ago, but now.

May we be all be kindled in the fire of  Divine love.

I leave you with a poem from the poet William Blake:

Unless the eye catch fire,
The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
The God will not be known.

William Blake (1757-1827) from Pentecost

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Skyline UCC
A United Church of Christ
12540 Skyline Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 531-8212

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