Contact: April 18, 2012

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

By now you should have received your stewardship letter in the mail. Many of you have commented on it and I appreciate your attentive reading of it. Stewardship here at MPC happens differently than in the other churches I have served. First, we do it at a different time of year because of our budget cycle. Many churches do their fiscal year according to the tax years so they run from January to December. For those churches, the stewardship season is usually in the fall, between October and December. Our fiscal year is July to June so our stewardship season is April through June. Second, at MPC we do a very low key stewardship drive. The explanation I have heard since I have been here is that we do not want people to feel pressured in any way. We do not try to guilt people into giving more money. What a concept! Aside from the stewardship letter that goes out (which in itself is fairly low key in the sense that it doesn’t ask for much more than that people consider what they can give and then give without asking for specific percentages or amounts, etc…), the other two aspects of the stewardship effort is an announcement or two in church (Bill Neely started us off last week with a “pledge break”) and then follow up phone calls to people who have not pledged to ask whether they received the letter or if they have any questions.

Last year after we had received all of the pledges, I met with a small group of people made up of finance, personnel and session members to reconcile the proposed budget with the pledges received. Honestly, it was a painful process. After cutting most of the budget areas by some amount and not giving raises to staff, we were still $15,000 short of the amount we needed. We made the decision to use money from the Associate Pastor fund to fill in the shortfall. Fortunately, as I mentioned in one of my earlier letters, due to some unexpected facility rental money and the generous donations of art to raise money from George Somers, we have been able to make it through this year by not using the $15,000 from reserves.

Part of what we do differently here at Montclair is that we do not prepare a budget first and then ask people to pledge accordingly. In other churches in which I have served there is a much more direct correlation between the budget and pledging. People are presented with the proposed budget and then asked to pledge so that when they are pledging, they know exactly for what they are contributing. As much as I respect the “low-key” stewardship approach here, I am concerned that we are missing a key aspect of inviting people to pledge. Let me give you a very real example. In the past two years, we have lost $32,000 in pledges because of people who have died or moved. Did you know that? How would you have known that? If you knew that, and if you had been asked to contribute more in order to fill in the gaps, might you have increased your pledge in order to continue the ministry of this community?

We are at an exciting and critical point in our ministry. We are getting very close to beginning the Pastor Search, we have had Katie with us now for 3 months and the children and youth programs are thriving, we have had more visitors in the past few months than in the previous year and there is energy and enthusiasm in the air. The difficulty we have with stewardship is that it is hard to make a direct connection to what is happening in the church and what level of pledging is needed to support all that we do. In many churches, there is an annual meeting in which every committee does a lengthy report so people know what has happened and what is coming in the future. It’s like a state of the union and then everyone knows what their pledges are supporting. Ironically, public schools are now asking much more specifically and directly for a certain amount of money from each family and yet we still think we should not do so.

I am not going to give you a “pressure plea” related to stewardship because I respect that is not how it has been done here. What I hope I have given you is more information. Depending upon how our pledging comes in this year, we will have 3 options: 1. We can maintain at exactly the level we are at now with no new programs (despite the fact that we will have 12 sixth graders next year with potentially nowhere to go on Sunday morning or Sunday evening and despite the fact that we have not budgeted any money for outreach into the community which we know is a necessity). 2. We have to cut back on programs and/or staff. 3. We can fund our programs at the desired levels.

What is your desire for our church? What do you hope will happen in the next year? What do you need to do to be a part of making it all happen? Though this particular letter is geared toward finances, you know that stewardship is also about our time and energy and that is equally important. If you would like to explore ways you can give more of your time and energy, please let me know and I can direct you to the right person.

Thanks for your openness,
Beth

FROM THE MISSION STUDY TEAM: Our next Congregational Gathering is Sunday, May 6, 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. Building on the momentum of prior framework questions, we now consider the questions, “Who is God calling us to be?” and “What is God calling us to do?” Session’s stewardship letter this spring challenged us “to ask and live the right questions,” “to practice sustainability,” “to discover where God is active in the world and to join in that activity.” Using a discernment exercise led by Pastor Beth, we will envision the kind of church we want to be in coming years. Bring your own lunch. The MST will provide fruit, granola bars, and beverages. Let Katie Morrison know by Wednesday, May 2 if you need childcare.

KATIE’S CORNER:

Youth Spring Retreat a Success!!! Fourteen of us traveled to the Zephyr Point Conference Center at Lake Tahoe this past weekend. Snow was falling during the drive up and we arrived to a magical, winter wonderland. The only fighting that took place all weekend was with snowballs! And, what a time we had… playing in the snow, taking in the gorgeous surroundings, playing and laughing, and growing together as a group. We explored the theme of “Big Love,” tuning in and being attentive to our senses in the world and between one another. It’s amazing what energy can be generated just by having your hand near another’s hand, not even touching. We talked about that energy as being a mystical life force greater than our own… the Big Love. We practiced attentiveness through a “senses solo nature walk,” through an art reflection, in conversation, and listening to our bodies and the natural world around us. There was much to explore and take in. Between program segments, participants were focused on creating surprise notes and treat packages for their secret pals. By the end of the weekend, the Lakeview Lodge was decorated from head to toe with happy notes of love, encouragement, affirmation, and playfulness. It was a fully positive weekend with equally positive leadership. I give thanks to my teammates Debbie Fallehy, David McEwan, Jeremy Calhoun, and Kevin Fallehy for helping to make this year’s Spring Retreat such a success. Looking forward to our next trip together… ~ Katie Morrison, Coordinator of Children, Youth, and Family Life

The Annual Pasta Dinner Youth Mission Trip FUNDRAISER will be on Sunday, April 29 from 5:30-7:00 pm. This is an excellent event to invite family and friends who might be interested in learning more about our youth ministry program, to hear about the mission trip destination in greater detail (there will be a presentation from 6-6:30), or simply dining in fellowship with good neighbors and happy youth servers. Mark your calendars, make your plans… and we thank you in advance for your generous support of this life-transforming trip. Diane Bessette will be serving as our chief parent volunteer. Yeah Diane! ~Rev. Katie

P.S. to Parents & Youth: All youth, regardless of whether they are able to attend the trip, are invited (and encouraged) to participate in this youth group event. Youth will be working from 4-8pm. Thank you!

LOOKING AHEAD AT CELEBRATION:
Sunday, April 22:
Earth Day Celebration with Rev. Beth preaching on Mark 4, The Parable of the Sower, and we will hear a brief presentation by Solar Mosaics. The Choir will sing an earth day anthem!
Sunday, April 29: One of the after-school performance groups from destiny Arts will help us celebrate! Rev. Beth will be preaching a shorter sermon (hope is alive!) on 1 John 3 (the same text the performance will be based on).
Sunday, May 6: Rev. Beth will be preaching on Mark 1:14-15. We will celebrate a baptism and communion.
Sunday, May 13: Rev. Beth will be preaching on Mark 3:31-35, focusing on the redefinition of family. This will be a Sunday for Family Choir, which means all ages are invited to sing the special music.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION COMMITTEE: The Community Connection Committee will be gathering signatures for the new compromise initiative, “The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012″ this Sunday, April 22nd. This initiative is the result of a compromise between the Governor’s tax initiative and the backers of the Millionaire’s Tax. Raising between $7-$9 billion a year in new revenue, it will replenish the state’s general fund restoring educational and social programs and services that have been cut. This is part of a local effort by OCO (Oakland Community Organizations) to contribute 3000 signatures to the state wide campaign. Come to our table in the Thornhill Room following Sunday service for more information.

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY AT THE OAKLAND ZOO: The SPLASH Team invites you and your family to celebrate Earth Day at the Oakland Zoo. Between 10 AM to 1 PM on Saturday, April 21st, you can help clean up Arroyo Viejo Creek. Afterwards, go to the zoo, see Maggie the three month old giraffe, ride the Outback Safari train, visit the Children’s Zoo, have a picnic, and enjoy being outside. Questions & info contact Jean Gregory, (510) 635-8838 or jeancgreg@gmail.com or contact the Conservation Director, Amy Gotliffe, (510) 632-9525, Ext. 122. I hope to see you and yours there!

KMPC PLEDGE BREAK: We interrupt your regular programming to talk about MPC’s ANNUAL PLEDGE DRIVE that happens every year about this time! If you’re an old hand at this, we urge you to take a fresh look and think anew about your financial support of MPC. Are you wondering what is Stewardship? Would you like to know more about how pledging works at MPC? (Or would you just like a treat?) Please come by the Stewardship table in the Family Room after Celebration this Sunday to talk with Stewardship and Finance committee members. Members and Friends should have received a letter from Rev. Beth, Session members, and your Stewardship committee, along with a pamphlet of Guidelines for Pledging, and a pledge form. If you didn’t receive the mailing, notify the office and it will be sent to you. If personal reasons prevent you from pledging this year, please return the form indicating that, so we can establish a realistic budget for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1. We are asking you to return the pledge forms by April 29. Questions? Contact Barbara Vaughn, Jeanne Dunn or Sloan White.

MPC FAMILY CAMP: MPC Family Camp at the Richardson Resort in South Lake Tahoe is tradition for many of our families, singles and couples. If you haven’t gone before, we’d love to have you join us. All are welcome. This year marks the 35th year. Dates are June 17 (16) until June 23. RESERVATIONS BEGIN THIS SUNDAY, April 22nd, during Family Hour. The best cabins & campsites go quickly, so don’t miss out. Reserve early. Deans: The Alter Family – Registrar: Cindy Gullikson

WHAT IS IN YOUR FOOD? Would you like to know if it contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)? Hope and Sari will be available at a table this Sunday for you to sign a petition to give the citizens of California a chance to weigh in on this important issue. Sponsored by SPLASH Committee.

SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE INVITES NEW MEMBERS: If you would like to help plan and evaluate MPC’s social justice programs and activities or if you’re just interested in learning more about our programs, you are invited to attend our Social Justice Committee meetings. The chairs of the S.J. committees (Community Connection, SPLASH, Global Concerns, Spiritual Activists & Peacemakers) have been meeting as a steering committee for about 2 years, but we would love to broaden our group! Our meetings are normally on the 4th Tuesday and our next meeting is on Tuesday, April 24, at 7:00 PM in the Thornhill Room. Please contact Barbara Peters, chair, if you’re interested in attending: barbxpeters@gmail.com or 510-654-9677.

JOIN US FOR THE STORYTELLERS SPRING OPEN MIC BRUNCH: The Storytellers Spring Open-Mic Brunch will be on Sunday, April 29 at 11:30 in the Thornhill Room. Read, tell or listen to original works on the theme of new beginnings – or any other topic that strikes your fancy. Eat well, laugh and be moved by lively, funny and sometimes poignant pieces. Don’t miss this delightful, free gathering.

ADULT ED:
HELLO AGAIN, MPC LEARNERS:
Here’s a description of the upcoming Adult Ed course in May (Sundays, May 6 and 13; 8:30 am to 9:45 am; Room #10): “The Enigmas of the Fourth Gospel in the New Testament. Known as the ‘Gospel of John,’ it is actually an anonymous document written sometime toward the end of the first century AD. Led by Professor Eugene Park of San Francisco Theological Seminary, participants will hear about and discuss the possible identity of the unknown author of this gospel and review a brief history of the community that produced the document.” Sign on for the course during the Family Hour the next two Sundays.

CHILDREN’S FOOD BASKET NEEDS YOUR HELP! Each week MPC’s Food Basket program provides bags of food for 64 children at two Oakland public schools who otherwise would have nothing to eat over the weekend. In order to continue the program, we need volunteers to help bring food from the Food Bank where we do our main shopping, a co-chair to help run the program, and continued financial support since we didn’t receive funds from External Giving this year. Contribute at the Food Basket table in the Family Room on Sundays or through the office. Please contact Janet Mulshine or Ruthann Taylor if you are able to assist. And thank you for your help.

DRAMA DISCUSSION: ANATOL:   Now playing at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley, Anatol, by Arthur Schnitzler, is a romantic and comedic tale of a turn-of the (last) century Don Juan and the society of Vienna. Dunbar Ogden, a long-time professor of Dramatic Art at U.C. Berkeley is our guide through this romp. At Montclair Presbyterian Church, Professor Ogden has led popular workshops on Sophocles and Shakespeare. Dates: Tuesday May 8, Discussion and Scene Readings 7:00 – 9:00, Thornhill Room at MPC. Sunday May 13 – Matinee performance at Aurora Theater, Berkeley 2 PM; followed by dinner at a local restaurant with the group. Cost: Tickets – $38.00, $3.50 for workshop materials. Hurry – tickets moving quickly!

ECO-ALERT: The Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is Sunday, May 6, this year. Go to http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/ to learn more and register.

PLANNING & CARING FOR AGING LOVED ONES: Join Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson for the Planning & CARING FORUM at North Oakland Senior Center on Saturday, April 28th, from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm. If interested or for more information go to www.planningandcaringIoaklandeventbrite.com.

WE PRAY FOR:
• Jean Gregory’s continued healing.
• Those impacted by the sinking of the Titanic – 100 years ago.
• Tinka and Richard Larsen who are on a road trip to see distant relatives.
• Shelley Kelly’s sister-in-law who was recently diagnosed with cancer and for their 3 children.
• The friend of one of our visitors who is experiencing a wilderness time in her life.

WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR:
• Birth of Abigail Allardice, granddaughter of Jim and Anita Allardice.
• The Celebration of Marjorie’s life.
• Improvement of Marsha, Sari Kulberg’s friend who had a stroke.
• Ability to do things.
• Parents who care for families.
• “Little Farm,” baby goats and lambs.
• The Dr. friend of Tom Debley’s who has worked tirelessly for public health.

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

MPC Calendar:
http://www.mpcfamily.org/getting-involved/calendar/
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MONTCLAIR PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland, California 94611, (510)339-1131
Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm
Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown, Office hours Monday-Wednesday, 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Sherrill Figuera: Administrative Assistant, Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-4:30 pm
Rev. Katie Morrison: Coordinator for Children, Youth, & Family Life, Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Kim Rankin: Music Director
Marcia Roy: Organist
Gil & Maria Chiguila: Caretakers
Rev. John Hadsell: Theologian in Residence
Rev. Kathy Ray: Parish Associate
George Somers, Artist in Residence
Allen Todd & Lori Kendall, Sound Technicians