Contact: December 1, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday after Celebration, the Session met to discuss what we wanted to do with the Amendment to the by-laws that was discussed at the last Congregational meeting.  Before I tell you what was decided, I think it is worth letting you know that almost everyone was present (with just 2 weeks notice AND the holiday weekend) and the conversation was thoughtful, comprehensive, compassionate and prudent.  You may get tired of hearing me say this, but I continue to feel privileged moderating a session that is as enjoyable and as thoughtful as the session you have elected.

After the last congregational meeting when we discussed the amendment to the by-laws, I wrote a letter in Contact describing the various perspectives.  Following that letter, I received some emails, had some conversations with people and the Session received a letter from a member of the congregation wishing to express an opinion.  In addition, we heard from some Friends of the Family who have served on the nominating committee over the years.  What Session realized, albeit a bit late, is that MPC has, from time to time over the years, had the practice of electing Friends of the Family to the nominating committee and just never made a big deal of it.  What Session also realized is that our by-laws have not been updated since 1976 and we are long overdue for revisiting them in their entirety, particularly in light of the new possibilities for church government reflected in the new Form of Government (nFOG) provisions of the Book of Order, effective July of this year.  As a result of both of those conversations, the Session voted to withdraw the amendment to the by-laws regarding the nominating committee and to continue on as MPC has done in the past with allowing Friends of the Family to serve on the nominating committee.  The Session also discussed the merit of engaging with the congregation in a comprehensive overhaul of our by-laws.  In the early part of next year, Systems and Procedures would like to establish a task force to work on updating the by-laws.  If you would like to volunteer to be a part of that task force, please talk to Susanne Lea, Tom Davies or me.  Getting the by-laws to reflect who we are today is an important job!

We will not have a Called Congregational meeting on December 4th since the Session has withdrawn the amendment.  Can I hear an “amen” or a “hallelujah!”  Instead, we can all revel in the music our choirs will bring to us that morning.

Changing subjects rather abruptly, let me just acknowledge that December will be a bittersweet month for us.  On the one hand it is Advent and Christmas and we experience the joy those seasons bring.  On the other hand, we are saying good-bye to two treasured staff people and to two treasured member couples.  Talitha’s last day in Celebration will be December 4th, though we will see her again on January 15th with the Children of Uganda Tour of Light.  Susan’s last day in Celebration will be December 11th (after her retirement party on December 10th!).  On December 18th, we will say good-bye to Mark and Jan Smith and to Suzanne Johnson and Kathy Foster.  Mark will be stationed in San Diego beginning the first of the year and Jan has decided to stay married to him J and Suzanne and Kathy are moving to Grass Valley where they have purchased a home and some property.  There are many people in this world who do not enjoy saying good-bye and in fact try to avoid it at all costs.  If you are one of those people, I want to invite you to grow in this area.  Let’s do our best to thank each one for the gifts they have brought to our community, to assure them of our love and care as they go, and to wish them well in their new endeavors.  Saying good-bye can be an opportunity to affirm and appreciate those who have become such an integral part of the community.  Remember, too, that when we experience loss of one kind it often brings up our feelings about other losses we have experienced.  Saying good-bye to Susan, for example, may rekindle the loss many of you feel related to Karen’s departure.  Be gentle with yourselves and let’s do our best to care for one another in this season of both joy and loss.

Every day I give thanks to God for you,

The Mission Study Congregational Gathering scheduled for Sunday, December 11, has been cancelled.  While we are committed to moving our Mission Study along at a good pace, we also heard from many of you about the concern that there is just too much going on in December between Susan’s retirement party and the various holiday concerts and our global marketplace during Family Hour.  Please be sure to mark January 22nd on your calendar for our next Mission Study Congregational Gathering.  We will engage in a group process called “World Café” to look at the question of “Who Are We?”  We will count on your involvement!  Rest assured, we are continuing our work despite not having a gathering on Dec. 11.

THANK YOU: The Celebration Committee sends its heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped decorate last weekend.  Thanks to all of you, it looks a lot like Christmas at MPC.

Sunday, December 4th: The Adult and Children’s choirs will be leading us in their major work.  The Children’s Christmas Party will follow the Celebration service.
Sunday, December 11th: Rev. Beth will be preaching as we celebrate Susan Hunn’s retirement and send her off surrounded by her MPC community and by her family.  Music will include a Bach Aria and Baroque Chamber music.
Sunday, December 18th: Rev. Beth will be preaching (perhaps with a twist!)  The Adult Choir will sing.
Saturday, December 24th: Family Service at 5:30 pm with both choirs singing and Meditative Service at 7:30 pm with a small ensemble.

Youth Group: We will meet this Sunday in room 2, 7-9 PM.
Children: The children’s choir rehearsal will be from 9:30 – 11 AM this Saturday with the adult choir and orchestra.  On Sunday children will begin rehearsing at 9 AM. Dress for the performance: nice, holiday clothes.
Children’s Christmas Party This Sunday: Children and parents come and join us in room 10 after celebration for refreshments and for a chance to meet other parents. Children are again asked to bring a gift to wrap which will go to children whose parents are in the county hospital at Christmas. Sponsored by our Education Committee for Children and Youth.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and support as I get ready to leave MPC. It has been such a pleasure working with all of you and your many gifts and talents. I will hold you all in my heart as I take off for Uganda! I have a whirlwind of things to do during these last days. Here are some that may be of interest to you:

1) Publicity: we’ve found that the banner and postcards we made to advertise Taizé services were quite successful. There are plenty of people “out there” interested in coming to church, who just need an invitation! Look out for a big banner that will go up soon to advertise Christmas Eve services (thanks to Bud Sisson & Men’s Team for helping install it!). I also hope to have postcards available as early as this Sunday. Feel free to take a handful and give them out. You may know a friend who wouldn’t come to church regularly, but would like to join us on Christmas. Or you may have a neighborhood bulletin board or local business that would post a few for us. Look at it as an opportunity to practice hospitality by inviting others into our joyful community space for Christmas.

2) Children of Uganda: if you would like to spend extra time with these wonderful children and young adults, let me know SOON! You can help out by sharing a meal, bringing snacks, or in many other ways large and small. They arrive Jan 8th and the MPC performance is on Jan. 15th, at 7 pm.

SERIN EGGLING: Beautiful mom is comfortable, seems peaceful, sleeping most of the day/night. She occasionally wakes to grace us with a smile or a soft hello. She is aware of the angelic song from choir friends, and most gentle conversations around her. For visits, please call the house to arrange. For meals and additional ways to help, please contact Carol Wolleson, who is generously managing a helping hands calendar. Endless gratitude for the love, support, prayers, and friendship from MPC. You are my mom’s cherished family. Vanessa Hammack.

INCREASE THE PEACE: OCO Faith and Community Leaders will hold a public community action to demand leadership and accountability to the implementation of a comprehensive safety plan that reduces the gun violence in our communities. Mayor Jean Quan, Interim Chief of Police Howard Jordan and Chief of Probation David Muhammad are confirmed to attend. Please join MPC’s Community Connection Committee members and come to the action:
OCO Violence Reduction Public Community Action
Friday, December 9, 2011
5:00 PM – Opening Ceremony and Peace Walk from 65th and International Blvd.
6:00 – 7:30 PM – Greenleaf Elementary School, 6328 E. 17th St., Oakland.
CCC Coordinator Betsy King will have flyers and more information during Family Hour, Sunday Dec. 4. Questions? Please contact Betsy,

CHILDREN’S FOOD BASKET: We asked the Community United and Futures schools in East Oakland, where we donate food bags each week, to give us some feedback. Last week we received dozens of letters from several classrooms.  These letters are creative not only in their words, but in their art work.  Here is one of them:
“Dear Montclair Presbyterian Church,
Thank you very much for providing food bags.  We appreciate it a lot.  The food tasted good and it helped my family.  I appreciated the healthy food.  Thank you for your kindness,
Sincerely, Jennifer Martinez.”
A number of other letters are posted on the bulletin board behind the Food Basket table in the Family Room, together with pictures taken of some of the children at the end of the last school year.  Please take some time to browse through these thank-you notes.  Your contributions to the program have helped us meet this commitment.  Additional donations may be made any Sunday.  Thank you, Ruthann Taylor and Janet Mulshine, Co-Chairs.

FRUITVALE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH THANKSGIVING DINNER FOR THE HOMELESS AND HUNGRY. On Tuesday, Nov 22, only two days before Thanksgiving, a group of 20 hard-working volunteers from MPC cooked turkeys and green beans and brought them to the Fruitvale Church. They then set up the kitchen, dished up plates of food for over 150 people, AND cleaned up afterwards. It was a wonderful show of love and care for our less fortunate neighbors in Oakland. One of our members commented on how moved he was to serve the hungry and to see two homeless men bedding down for the night in the foyer. It is humbling, and he felt he received more than he gave. The pastor at Fruitvale Presbyterian was immensely grateful for our work as their membership is too small now to continue this tradition alone. Thank you to all of our amazing volunteers: Anita and Jim Allardice, Cynthia Blumgart, Saralinda Jackson, May Lee Tong, Sandy Ponce, Virginia Poulton, Bob Faulkner, Pat Schwinn, Sari Kulberg, Gretchen Garlinghouse, Zack Garlinghouse, Bonnie and Earl Hamlin, Betsy and Cliff King, Barbara and Al Peters, JE Buckingham, Carol Ekberg, and Jean and Brad Norris. ~ Betsy King, CCC Coordinator

CONGRATULATIONS JULIA! Youth Group member and Nursery staffer Julia Gullikson placed 8th (of 175 runners) in her division in the California State Cross Country Championships in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 26 (5K course).  Julia is a senior at Holy Names High School and looks forward to running track this spring.

CHRISTMAS POINSETTIAS: You may purchase a poinsettia to honor a special person, to recognize a birthday, an anniversary, an important occasion, or simply to add to the holiday splendor in the Sanctuary during this joyous time of year.  To purchase a poinsettia, return the form with your check to the Sunday offering plate or to the Montclair Presbyterian Church office no later than Sunday, December 11.  Poinsettias are $17.00 each.  Recognition for those you’ve honored or the special occasions of your life will be printed in the Bulletin on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18, 2011).  Order forms are available in the bulletin and at the office. Please call Sherrill at the office with any questions, (510)339-1131.

REMINDER: The Party to honor Susan Hunn’s 32 year ministry at Montclair Presbyterian Church will be held on Saturday, December 10th from 5 to 9 pm in the Family Room. A buffet dinner will be served at 6 pm. The deadline for cash donations for food and gifts to honor Susan is Friday, December 2nd.  Please send your tax-deductible gift via check to the church office and mark Susan Hunn’s Gift in the memo line. 
At the party, there will be affirmation cards for you to write for Susan’s Memory Box.  If you are unable to attend or wish to provide a longer written affirmation, please send your message to the church office by Wednesday, December 7. There will time for brief spoken affirmations at the party.  If you would like to help with the party set-up or clean-up please contact Debbie Fallehy.  If you have any questions contact Linda Spencer, Bill Neely, Tamara Lett, or Rev Beth.

YULE FEAST COMETH: Hear Ye!  Hear Ye!  The Yule Feast cometh Jan. 7th.  Along with our feast and entertainment also cometh the silent auction.  This is thy opportunity to donate thine fine items or special events to help MPC keep the candles burning.  Drop thou donation in the office.  Thank ye lords and ladies.

CHRISTMAS CAROL SING-ALONG: Everyone is invited to a Christmas carol sing-along on Wednesday, December 7.  Join us at 6:00 p.m. in the Family Room for a soup and salad dinner.  Then we will proceed to the sanctuary at 7:00 p.m., to sing carols.  Contact Sloan White at (510) 339-8728 if you have any questions.

THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS CAROLS?? Singing Christmas carols is a favorite activity of Christmas.  But do we ever think about them? Here’s a chance to do so: an Adult Ed class on the carols…musing and talking about – and singing – such carols as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” The class will be led by (the Rev. Dr.) Carol Miles (how about that name!!) on two Sundays: December 4 in the Family Room and December 11 in Room 10, 8:30 to 9:45 am.

HANDMADE TREASURES AVAILABLE! There are cell phone carriers, purses, vests, tablecloths, and bedspreads.  These beautiful handicrafts from Thailand will be on sale Sundays in December in the Family Room. All of the proceeds will go to support the orphanage and projects of Rev. Sirirat Prachakittisuk, our MPC friend.

PALESTINIAN OLIVE OIL & CERAMICS FOR SALE: Lovely Palestinian ceramics and tasty Palestinian olive oil will be available for purchase during Family Hour in the month of December. Profits from the sale of these goods go to KEEP HOPE ALIVE, a joint advocacy initiative of the YMCA branches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Olive tree farmers and the ceramic industry are the ultimate beneficiaries.  From the Peacemakers Committee.

“LIVES IN PROGRESS 2011”: The storytellers’ 12th anthology of original writings continues on sale this Sunday in the Family Room.  Twenty-three contributors, including four Godly Play children, tell their stories in prose and poetry.  Don’t miss this inspiring collection.  This would make a great gift for friends and relatives. Please call Margaret Irvin, 510-243-1114, with any questions.

GIVING TO THE WORLD IS BACK: On Sundays starting November 27th through December 18th, you will be able to shop at Giving to the World table in the Family Room for alternative gifts. Tired of malls? Annoyed that it’s so difficult to find a truly unique present for that special someone?  Eager to save gas with one-stop shopping at MPC? Wishing you could honor your boss with a donation to Presbyterian Disaster Relief? Giving to the World is the solution to all of your concerns.


  • Ray Ponce as he recovers from surgery.
  • Susan Hunn as she transitions into retirement.
  • Talitha as she finishes preparations for her trip to Uganda.
  • Ruthann and family as they grieve the death of Clyde Taylor.
  • Tom Debley’s older sisters who are both struggling with health issues.
  • Those who are lonely and alone.
  • All those working for peace and justice in Egypt.
  • Safety for all people who put their bodies on the line while protesting injustice.
  • Serin Eggling and her daughter Vanessa as Serin declines.
  • All those who are grieving due to loss of lives, relationships, meaning, employment, housing, abilities and health.
  • All those who are caring for aging parents.
  • The concerns of our hearts that don’t always get shared aloud.

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