August 31, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

So far you have appreciated my honesty in these letters. Let me know if that changes at some point!
There are a few things whirling around in my head these days. A couple of weeks ago I met with the Celebration committee and we discussed an item we had discussed before but I had resisted. The committee expressed interest in having me publish in the Contact what is coming up for the next Sunday. They are interested in knowing who is preaching, what the theme is (if any) and whether there is special music or anything else out of the ordinary. Apparently, several members of the congregation have requested this information be published. Up until now I have refused. The committee members said, in part, that they want to be able to choose whether they come to Celebration based on what is going to be happening. To not have that choice (based on real information) feels disrespectful to them. During the discussion I found myself feeling a bit upset. While I understand wanting to be informed and having choice, I do not understand the emphasis on preaching/the preacher. As a congregation, you are a dichotomy in this regard. On the one hand, you have de-authorized the pastor in many ways and you say that you value lay leadership and lay participation as much as pastoral leadership. On the other hand, you have placed preaching on a pedestal that is quite high. The last survey that was taken asked about functions for the Senior Pastor and 78% of the respondents said preparing and preaching inspiring sermons should be a very high priority (compared to 31% of people who said directly involving laity in planning and leadership of church programs and events should be high priority). On the one hand we say we are very different from many other congregations and on the other hand we are very traditional in that our entire Celebration service seems to peak with the sermon/preaching. My feelings of frustration in the discussion with the Celebration committee stemmed, in part, from wanting people (not just the Celebration committee!) to be so committed to the community (which in so many ways appears to be the case) and life together that it doesn’t matter who is preaching or what the theme is on Sunday morning. In other words, making a decision about whether or not to attend based on who is preaching or not preaching seems out of balance with what Celebration and what church community is all about at its heart. You will notice I decided, finally, to give in to the request and publish what’s ahead. Perhaps we can have some conversation about the dichotomy described above related to preaching. My intention is not to pick on the Celebration committee in any way. They are the voice for many of you. I am simply hoping to create conversation around the whole idea.

Switching gears, the Personnel committee met last week to begin discussing what the plan will be once Susan has retired. There is not much to report at this point other than to let you know the issues are very complicated. Some of you have asked whether or not Talitha will take over Susan’s position. As much as we would all like that, it is not a done deal. You may or may not know that Talitha will be leaving on December 9th and returning the beginning of March in order to conduct a dance tour with Children of Uganda. The Personnel committee knew when we hired her for the half-time position she would be away during those months and, while not promising her anything beyond December, we were hoping she could re-enter the position when she returned in March. The Personnel committee will meet with the Children and Youth committee soon to discuss the various options and to discern how we can move in to Susan’s retirement and do what is best for our children and youth. If you are a parent of a child or youth, please encourage your children/youth by letting them know that we are not sure who will take over after Susan is gone but that they can be sure it will be someone fabulous. As soon as the Personnel committee or Session or Children and Youth know anything, we will be sure to keep you updated.

I continue to thank God for every day we walk together on this journey,

The Mission Study Team met again last evening and felt productive! We began by reading together 1 Corinthians 12 and encourage you to read it also. The image of community as a body is powerful. Since we last met, each one of us actually took the Hartford survey which is a survey we are considering using that has been used in past studies. Last night we talked about our experience of the survey and where/how it might be lacking. We established a small group from within the team to develop a hybrid survey to present to the group after each person in the group gives specific feedback about sections to include or eliminate as well as sections from other surveys to include. We also had as homework to do a SWOT (looking at current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis individually. We compiled our responses into one team document and discussed our findings. Our next step is to compare our team responses with Session’s responses. We will pick up the discussion next week. The last item we discussed was which questions we want to use as our foundational questions for the study. We were to look at 3 suggested questions and then decide if we wanted to change any of them or add any different questions. In the end, we decided upon 4 questions to frame the study. We will do more work on them next week and once we come to consensus about them, we will let you know the specific questions. Many of the exercises we will design for the study will flow from those questions.

Your participation will be CRITICAL to the success of this study. We have set aside one Sunday per month for congregational conversations/activities/exercises related to the Mission Study. We are requesting that no other groups or committees plan activities during those times so all are free to participate. Please mark them on your calendars NOW! The Sundays we have reserved are as follows: October 2, November 13, December 11, January 22, February 26, March 18, April 15, and May 6th. We may not need all of those dates but we wanted to reserve them just in case.

LABOR DAY WEEKEND: The church office will not be open on Friday as Sherrill will be on vacation.

Sunday, September 4: Rev. Mark Smith will be preaching. Celebration will be outside in the courtyard so wake up early enough to dress accordingly! Be sure to dress in layers. The Barrelhouse Jazz Band will lead us in music so wear your dancing shoes.

The Children will join us in Celebration for the next 2 Sundays. New classes will begin on Sept. 18.
Youth Group: We will begin the new year on Sept. 18. Our fall calendar will be mailed this week.
Youth Group Alumni: We had 43 adults and children that came together for a BBQ at Shelly and Seth Hamalians’ house this past Sunday. There were stories and memories shared, lives were updated, and children were introduced. What a great time it was being together. As I am in my 32nd year of youth ministry, I should not have been surprised that our oldest alum was approaching 50. We will plan another event this fall so that all those who could not attend this one can reconnect.







Left to Right: Kristin Stone, Kerry Parker, Ilana Halperin, Mark Alexander and Rob Wilkins.

MPC EXTERNAL GIVING GRANTS, 2011-12: As we announced in the August 10 Contact, the External Giving Committee selected six projects, each of which will receive a $5,000 grant from the MPC External Giving component of our MPC budget. Below is a brief description of two of those projects with the remainder to be described in subsequent Contacts:

* Oakland Solar Mosaic – Ella Baker Center. This grant will fund the purchase of 50 solar tiles for the Oakland Solar Mosaic Project. For each tile in the Oakland Solar Mosaic:
o Over 50 watts of clean solar power will be installed in one of seven Oakland public service buildings.
o An Oakland non-profit, school, or community center will save over $125 per month on its utility bills over the lifespan of the installation.
o Another $150 of community solar will be purchased with project proceeds, fueling the cycle of solar funding.
o Meanwhile a ton of coal will be left in the ground where it belongs.
* Children of Uganda, 2012 Tour of Light.
o This performance tour — coming to MPC in 2012! — shares Uganda music and dance while raising awareness of the global face of AIDS today. The troupe, comprised of orphans and vulnerable children from COU’s Program in Uganda, should provide a stirring performance. All proceeds from the tour support over 400 children in Uganda. MPC’s participation will take many forms, including especially the purchase of passports and visas for the members of the troupe.

PANCAKE BREAKFAST: We, Charlie and Hope Boije, are having a pancake breakfast at our house on Labor Day, Monday, Sept 5. All are invited, come any time between 8:30 am and noon. The address is 6751 Longwalk Drive, Oakland.

BILL McKIBBEN, LEADING ENVIRONMENTALIST, TO SPEAK: Join a group from MPC to hear Bill McKibben, one of the leading strategists in the world for mobilizing public opinion about climate change and achieving results. He is speaking at the Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, 94596 on Saturday, September 10th, at 11 AM. McKibben’s non-profit group has organized thousands of rallies and creative actions all over the world which have helped convince many political leaders to adopt a common call to action: cutting carbon 80% by 2050. McKibben is the author of a dozen books on the environment and his latest one, “Eaarth”, will be for sale. Pick up a flyer at the SPLASH table at Family Hour this Sunday or go to or 925-933-7850 for more information. To join a carpool from the church parking lot at 10:00 am, contact Barbara Peters, or 510-654-9677. If you would like to buy tickets ahead ($15.00), go to Brown Paper Tickets

CLOSE TO HOME PRESENTS: Shellmounds of SF Bay: What Can Remnants of Millions of Meals Tell Us? Monday Sept 12 at 7:30pm. Native peoples who once lived around the bay created impressive mounds of shell, dirt, rocks, and other materials that reached as high as 60 feet and 350 feet in diameter. One of the largest sites was on the shore in Emeryville, occupied from 2800 years ago to 400 years ago. Other large sites were found in the East Bay, including the Ellis Landing Site, and the West Berkeley Site. Dr. Kent Lightfoot’s talk will present a brief overview of local shellmounds, based on archeological excavation, including the salient characteristics of the mounds, their chronology, and various interpretations about them. He will also discuss recent findings from ongoing investigations.
For more info:

BOOK DEPOT NEWS: We have a new publication, recommended by John Hadsell, called PRESBYTERIANS TODAY – Welcome to the Presbyterian Church. For now we are able to offer it for only $1.50. Come to the Book Depot and check it out.
George Somers has many VCR’s that he’s donating to the church. Various films, etc. will be available for the modest fee of $1.00 apiece. He’ll be bringing them in a dozen at a time most Sundays. You might be in for a bargain.

50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION: Steve McKiernan set up a page on for the Wayne & Mary Smith 50th Anniversary celebration from this past Sunday. The page contains a link to their commentary and to the Amazing Grace performance. Here ’tis:

• Susan ten Bosch and family who are grieving the death of her 100 year old father.
• Members and friends of MPC who are grieving the deaths of loved ones.
• Teachers and students who are going back to school.
• Lindsey Parrott and John Spencer who are beginning college.
• Continued healing for Kini York.
• Continued healing for Tracy Livezey.
• Wisdom & guidance for the Mission Study Team.

DEADLINES: To submit announcements for the bulletin and Contact, please send them to The deadline for Contact is Tuesdays at 3 pm, and the deadline for the bulletin is Wednesdays at 12 noon.

MPC Calendar:

5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland, California 94611, (510)339-1131
Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm
Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown, Office hours Monday-Wednesday, 10:00-4:00 pm
Susan Hunn, Associate for Education: Office hours, Tuesday-Thursday, 9:30-2:30 pm
Sherrill Figuera: Administrative Assistant, Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30 pm
Talitha Phillips: Associate for Care and Congregational Life
Kim Rankin: Music Director
Marcia Roy: Organist
Gil & Maria Chiguila: Caretakers
Rev. John Hadsell: Theologian in Residence
Rev. Kathy Ray: Parish Associate