Contact: February 22, 2012

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

Thank you for keeping JE and me and so many others in your prayers as we traveled to Texas for Janie Spahr’s final appeal to the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission. The schedule was fairly packed all weekend as we bore witness to three different Presbyterian churches in Texas. Janie feels strongly that when she is on trial, there is also a unique opportunity to reach out and love progressive congregations wherever the trial occurs! The highlight for JE and me was being able to worship on Sunday morning with Dr. Jim Rigby at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin. Jim is a personal friend of ours and is truly a modern day prophet. The service at St. Andrews was 1 hour and 45 minutes long (it didn’t feel that long at all!) and was packed full of open and expansive language, imagery and preaching that would have knocked your socks off. When it was over I realized I still have a ways to go in my own learning regarding language and imagery and hospitality.

One of the things that intrigued me about St. Andrews Presbyterian Church is that they are multi-cultural, multi-generational (with many children and young families as well as people who have been there for 50 years and everyone in between), and a balanced mixture of gay and straight. While you may not be very impressed by that, I was astounded because of where we were — Texas! How is it that a congregation in Texas has more diversity than our congregation here in the Bay Area? One answer might be that more people go to church in Texas. That would be a simple answer. I am interested in thinking deeply and learning from them about how they were able to cultivate such a diverse community. Aren’t you?

During Lent this year, we are going to look through the eyes of a church that has allowed itself to be transformed. Each Sunday we will look at a different faith practice that the church embodies and lives out. I am hoping it will take us deeper into our own journey as a congregation as we explore our own story and our future. Lent invites us to walk a virtual labyrinth – to go from the external to the internal and back to the external in a flow of energy and reflection and action. I hope you’ll join in for our Lenten journey.

May you know God’s presence during these weeks of introspection and reflection,

Youth Group is meeting Sunday, Feb. 26 from 7-9pm in the youth room. The youth advisors will be gathering together beforehand with Rev. Katie for dinner and a planning meeting. An on-going thank you to parents who have been encouraging wonderful turn-out over the past three weeks. Off to a great start! ~Katie

FROM THE MISSION STUDY TEAM: Our next congregational gathering is THIS Sunday, February 26. We will start promptly at 11:30 and end at 1:00. In January we had a fascinating discussion on three questions related to “Who Are We (MPC)?” (Identity). This month we again use a World Café format, but we will all be in the Family Room to probe deeply on one question, “What Is Our (MPC’s) Purpose?” A special treat: A professional World Café style “graphic recorder” will be present to capture our ideas on a wall mural using text and graphics to illustrate the key patterns of our conversations. The responses to our Purpose question will feed into a new mission statement. Food? Bring your own lunch, or do your own ordering and pick-up at the Thornhill Coffee Shop (510-339-8187) or at the 7-11. The MST will provide fruit, granola bars, and water/cups. IF YOUR FAMILY COULD USE CHILDCARE SUPPORT during the mission study gathering, Feb. 26 following worship, please call Katie Morrison (510)684-8800 to reserve a spot. Ellis Jane will be there!

2011 MPC SURVEY: Here are a handful of factoids from the 2011 MPC survey about us (members and friends of the family). While we are many things that these facts cannot describe, they do offer some insights.

• Is MPC a habit or an addiction? 80% of us have attended MPC for 10 years or more. Fifty percent have come for 20 years or more.
• 80% of us are members and 20% are friends of the family. That hasn’t changed since the last survey in 2004.
• 71% of us come for Sunday Celebration and get involved in at least one committee or group at church.
• 85% of us are involved in a committee or group outside of (unrelated to) MPC.
• Overall, we’re very comfortable with MPC’s ‘Identity.’ But 35% of us feel that we did not get any instruction about MPC’s mission.
• 28% of us say that our participation in the church has decreased in the last few years. In 2011, ‘Health Problems’ were cited as the reason for the decline 29% of the time, while in 2004, ‘Health’ was cited only 5% of the time.
• 91% of us feel that the Bible is a valuable text to learn about God and moral precept. Yet only 29% of us believe that it is essential that the next pastor believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
• 94% of us grew up in a church. While about ½ of us were exposed to Presbyterianism growing up, the rest of us were raised in 1 of 13 other churches/religions.
• 70% have post graduate degrees or have done post graduate work. 95% graduated from college. That compares to 30% in CA or 51% in SF.
• We earn on average $88K per year per household—that’s $20K more than average in Alameda county and $38K more than average in Oakland.
• 69% of us are female. That’s up from 62% in 2004.
• 28% are over the age of seventy-five years. And as a group, we are significantly older than we were in 2004. (That’s sort of a good news/bad news statistic.)
• While we were all originally attracted to MPC for the Pastor and the Celebration, if you’re under the age of 54, the #1 reason you stay is for the child and youth programs (70%).
• Compared to the congregation as a whole, MPCers who have been here fewer than 10 years are less likely to have close friends at the church, are more likely to invite people to church, and are significantly more likely to say that it is ‘Essential’ that our next pastor believe in God.
• In 2004, 29% of the congregation thought that it was necessary to increase or improve its efforts at evangelism to either ‘some’ or a ‘great extent.’
• In 2011, 96% of MPCers give either ‘high’ or ‘moderate priority’ to increasing our efforts to invite others to join our church.

Sunday, February 26th:
The first Sunday of Lent and Rev. Beth will be preaching. The choir will be singing.
Sunday, March 4th: Family Sunday with communion and Rev. Beth will be preaching. The choir will be singing.
Sunday, March 11th: The third Sunday of Lent and Rev. Beth will be preaching. There will be a small ensemble.
Sunday, March 18th: Destiny Arts will be performing and Rev. Beth will be preaching.

TWO SPACES LEFT FOR THE WOMEN’S RETREAT: This Sunday, February 26 will be the last chance to sign up for the Spring woman’s retreat (March 10). There are a couple of spaces left. The registration table will be open for a brief time before the Congregational Meeting. Registrants, if you haven’t done so yet, PLEASE PICK UP YOUR PURPLE INFORMATION SHEET – it has all the information you will need about the event!

END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD! Are you concerned about the unprecedented spending in our elections, much of it channeled through unaccountable Super PACs and other independent entities? Jeff Clements, author of the new book, Corporations Are Not People with a foreword by Bill Moyers, is speaking at our church. Mark your calendar for Sunday, March 4 at 4:00 PM in the sanctuary and invite friends to join you! The Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending to influence elections at all levels of government, but there is a growing movement to amend the Constitution. Clements is the co-founder of Free Speech for People, a national non-partisan campaign to end corporate personhood. This event, which is open to the community, is co-sponsored by our Social Justice Committees and Free Speech for People. There is no admission charge. A reception and book signing will follow in the Thornhill Room. For more information contact Barbara Peters, or (510) 654-9677.

TASK FORCE: Bylaws Task Force will meet for the first time on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Thornhill Room. If you have questions or would like to participate, please contact Susanne Lea or Tom Davies.

Variety and Spice: The East Bay Parklands with Stu Selland. Monday, March 5, 2012 7:30 P.M.
It’s fitting for our closing talk of the season that we have Stu Selland share his reflections on the East Bay Parklands and open spaces. For 30 years, he rarely took a photograph outside his studio. Now Nature has become his experimental lab – a changing-every-moment environment – to enhance his creativity, find wonder moments, learn from experts, and have great fun too!! Stu will share some stories of the past few years of investigating some common East Bay locations and some hidden treasures as well. For more info:

ALL AGES TOGETHER: Keeping in Touch with our College Students. Here’s an intergeneration opportunity for us to come together in prayerful support of our MPC college students. All are welcome to join our 7th-12th graders in a meal, followed by assembling care packages for our young adults away at college. This event is Sunday, March 11 from 5:15-6:30pm in the family room. Please RSVP to Peggy Alter (510) 524-8313 or Rev. Katie Morrison (510) 339-1131 by March 9th so we can plan for enough food for all. You are invited to donate boxes (large shoe-box size), non-perishable goodies and treats, a copy of an inspirational poem, or any other gift ideas for 12 packages. We will create artwork and notes of support together as a part of the evening program.

NOAH’S ARK REVISITED: The storyteller’s committee is attempting to gather “animal stories”
from our friends and family. In September, we would like to have a “Noah’s Ark” performance for our Works in Progress. Do you have a bazaar, strange, outrageous story of an encounter with animals that you would like to share? A heartwarming, touching story will be welcome too. Please forward your story to Sharon Noteboom. The stories should be collected by the end of March. If you have questions, please call Sharon at (925)943-5685.

NEWS FROM THE YOUTH GROUP GARDEN: Everyone who has adopted a plot in the youth group garden has harvested the crops and made three deliveries of lettuces, kales, chards, radishes, and broccoli to St. Martin de Porres Elementary School in West Oakland (by way of Phat Beets Produce ( The vegetables have been provided to low income children and families and are the subject of good nutrition and wellness education for the parents and students of the school. Our last harvest was completed and we have planted a cover crop of winter wheat. This will keep the weeds down and add nutrients to the soil in preparation for our early spring planting. The recipients of our vegetables referred to them as “vibrant” and “delicious!” Pretty cool, huh? We look forward to continued church member involvement and abundant summer harvests. More news to come when we are ready to replant.

KNITTERS ALERT! Some of you who are relatively new to MPC may not be familiar with Knitting Pals by the Bay Chemo Cap Program. Originating in San Francisco in 2001, it has grown to include much of the Bay Area & several states. Chemo caps are distributed to hospitals, medical centers & cancer centers. MPC knitters have contributed hundreds of these caps over the years, and our church office is one of the main drop-off points in the area. Several of us are still at it after a decade, enjoying this simple means of extending a bit of care and good will to patients of all ages. For more information, go to, and/or call Polly Johnson at 428-0869. It’s easy!

ANNE LAMOTT BOOK TALK – VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Author Anne Lamott, along with her son Sam, will be coming to MPC on the evening of April 4th to discuss their new book “Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son”. Steve McKiernan is the MPC contact for the event, and he needs a couple of volunteers to help that evening: maybe acting as greeters, helping set up the post-talk coffee in the Family Room, that sort of thing. Can you join Team Lamott? If so, please contact Steve McKiernan at Thanks!

THANK YOU FROM DUKE ROBINSON: Just a note to express my appreciation to the Church Family for buying nearly 100 copies of my new book, CREATE YOUR BEST LIFE–KILL THE GRIM REAPER. Your response has been a great shot in the arm to my early sales endeavors. I also am grateful for the support of Gretchen and fellow workers in the Book Depot, Sherrill in the office, and your gracious leader Beth–they’ve all been very helpful. Thanks also to those of you who’ve taken the time to tell me you’ve found the book valuable and enjoyable, and to those of you who bought copies for your adult children.

It must be obvious to you that I believe in this book. In the battle for exposure, of course, I fight a major opponent–the widespread dislike people have for the thinking about dying. As I try to get the word out, I am aware of how important is “word of mouth” (both e-mail and the regular kind). I will be grateful for anything any of you can do along these lines.

With, where my main effort now will be, I am increasingly impressed by the extraordinary import of “Customer Reviews.” I’ve never before asked anyone for such a review. Having said that … If you have read the book and can commend it, writing even the briefest of reviews would be a great help to me in this battle (Pat Schwinn, from the Church Family, wrote one, and a Rossmoor neighbor remarked that her words are what peaked his interest).

If is foreign country to you, simply click on this link, and then put my name in the browser. My page will come up, showing the book, along with TOO NICE FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. Click on the new book title, scroll down to below the “Customer Reviews” and click on the “create your own review” button. It might even be fun. If that doesn’t work and you’d like help to navigate, feel free to e-mail me at

• The General Assembly in Pittsburgh, PA, this summer that has an important overture regarding Israel.
• Kent and Debbie Hughes and their family as they grieve the death of Kent’s brother Mark.
• Marilyn Ehrenreich’s nephew, Kevin, who has 2 children and is unemployed.
• Jean Gregory as she continues to experience turmoil regarding her grandson Ethan’s move to Louisiana.
• Jean Norris, Brad Hestir, Jay Gregory and the rest of the Joining Hands Against Hunger delegation to Bolivia.
• Ann Fisher who is recovering at home after another procedure.

• Katie’s ministry with us.

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, 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