Contact: March 1, 2012

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

Sometimes it’s good to stop and feel and acknowledge joy. Last Sunday in Celebration I felt joy when Katie led the children’s time and had the kids make a circle while asking, “Is everyone in the circle?” She and the kids then invited all of us in the congregation to join in the circle while asking, “Is everyone in the circle?” The kids pointed out that people outside the church doors weren’t in the circle yet. She then talked about making circles of community while always leaving room for more to enter into the circle. After Celebration I felt joy in being able to have quick conversations with a few people to check in with them and hear how they are doing. After a brief time for family hour, we gathered people together for another Congregational Gathering, this time focusing on the question, “What is our Purpose?” The Mission Study Team hired a graphic recorder named Karen Stratvert to capture what was being said and her beautiful work of art is now hanging in the Family Room and will be hanging there for a few weeks. If you were not able to attend, please have someone who was there talk you through what you see on the mural.

As I walked around the room during the three rounds of discussion, I felt deep joy as I watched people interacting and encouraging each other’s ideas and thoughts. Someone said afterward how much they appreciate the opportunity to talk with people they don’t know about things that are so important. Those who attended were engaged, they seemed open and more than willing to join in the World Cafe process which encourages the wisdom of the group. Thank you to those of you who spent the time and energy engaging in the process. We missed those of who you had other plans.

Part of what I found so exciting and encouraging was when we “harvested” what had happened at the various tables. We were able to identify some purposes and when you look at the mural you will see what looks like 20 different purposes but in reality there are a few purposes with many connecting ideas and thoughts and aspects. One of the participants pointed out that it is different than what it would have looked like 20 years ago and that person was saying how encouraged they are by that fact. The words “spiritual” and “spirituality” are in multiple places on the mural and someone observed that was probably due to the 1992-1994 Mission Study process. It was exciting to think about how the work that was done last Sunday will have that same kind of impact 20 years from now!

The only discouraging part of the gathering for me was hearing that there are a few people who continue to be upset about the pace of the Mission Study process and the length of my interim. Part of what is always true in community is that there will never be a time when 100% of the people involved are happy or agree with everything going on. It doesn’t make it any easier sometimes to hear the frustration or anger or disappointment or disagreement. As I have done from the beginning of my time here, I would like to address a couple of issues openly and honestly. The first issue is the pace of the Mission Study process. I was here for 8 months before the Mission Study team was formed and met. That is slightly unusual in that normally an Interim would begin the Mission Study process within the first 3-6 months. The reason we did not begin right away was that there were a few fires to put out, Session needed to look at the committee structure as there were some things that were not functioning or working well, there were numerous pastoral care issues and we had staffing changes. Honestly, my goal was to reduce the anxiety that was palpable when I arrived so that when we began the Mission Study, you could engage with good energy. What I would like to offer as a reminder is that the last two Mission Studies each took two years to complete. Your current Mission Study team has set a very ambitious goal to complete the study and the writing by August of this year which would mean 14 months from start to finish (if you count the two months they spent reading the numerous resources in preparation for weekly meetings). What are you doing to encourage them in their ambitious endeavor? Are you participating? Are you offering to help? Are you cheering them on? The amount of work they are each doing and have been doing since last August is beyond admirable.

The second issue I want to address is the length of my interim. I have heard whisperings that I am purposefully slowing down the Mission Study process so that I can be with you for a longer period of time, stretching out my interim for as long as possible. With a smile on my face I will be the first to tell you that I adore you. You are a delightful congregation with which to serve. Without a smile on my face and in all seriousness, I told you from the very start that my job with you is to get you to do the work you need to do (from my objective perspective) in order to move into a successful relationship with your next pastor. Part of that means doing a thorough mission study so that you can let go of what needs to be let go of and embrace what needs to be embraced for your future. In no way am I intentionally slowing down the Mission Study process in order to extend my time here. That would not be in your best interest or in my best interest, nor would it be ethical or responsible.

Your Mission Study team could use some encouragement and some cheering on as they enter miles 16, 17, and 18 in this marathon. I hope you will offer your support.


Youth Group is meeting March 4 from 7-9 pm in the youth room. We welcome all 7th through 12th graders… those who have been seriously committed regulars and those who haven’t tried it out in awhile. Please know that our leadership team will warmly welcome you, knowing it can be hard to enter in anew. We welcome the chance to get to know you and to draw the circle wider! Parents, please keep up the great work of supporting great youth attendance. Keep watch… March calendars will go out into the mail today. ~Katie

2011 MPC Survey: More Interesting Questions.
In November we asked you to answer 180 questions. That’s a lot of questions, don’t you think? But like most research, sometimes the answers to the questions raise other questions. A couple of these are below. If you have a point of view about the answers, either contact me (Dave Miller or someone else on the Mission Study Team. Or do whatever you normally do when you have a burning point of view about the church that you wish to express. Just keep in mind that the MST is charged with trying to do something about the needs of MPCers and we can’t do something if we don’t know what you think.

1. The survey shows that more than a quarter of us want help in discovering our ‘gifts for ministry.’ What exactly does that mean to you?
2. It astounds me that there are daily opportunities for MPCers to get together. Yet the survey shows that a bunch of us want the church to create even more fellowship opportunities. Are we insatiable, or is this a real need? What kind of fellowship opportunities would be the best?
3. 71% of us claim that it is easy to summarize for visitors how we differ from other congregations in the area. I dare someone to try to do that in 100 words or less. English, please.

Let me know.

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.

MONTHLY FILM SALON: The Art Gang sponsors a movie in Thornhill Room this Saturday, March 3 at 6 PM sharp! All are welcome to join watching the chosen movie which is Age of Consent with James Mason and Helen Mirren. Rated PG. Bring finger snacks or beverage. We will select a movie for the April Film Salon. Info: Jeanne Dunn 510.834.7559.

ATTENTION, MPC THINKERS! This coming Sunday begins 4 meetings in which to learn about the most read book in the bible – The Psalms, 8:30 – 9:45 am, in Room 10, with Professor of Old Testament Norman Gottwald.

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.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBIT RECEPTION: The Art Gang invites you to the closing reception for Lee Aurich’s images from 2010 this Sunday, March 4th, after Celebration in Room 10.

END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD! Jeff Clements, author of the new book, Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You and What You Can Do About It, is speaking at our church this Sunday, March 4, at 4:00 PM in the sanctuary. 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 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.

MARIA IS BACK FROM VACATION! I would like to thank Debbie Fallehy, Jan Stites, Helga Mok, Sloan White, Bill Neeley, Rev. Beth, Rev. Katie and any else who helped during this time. I appreciate your willingness to come and help with locking, unlocking, turning on heat, lights, etc. while Maria was on vacation. Sherrill

HELP HUNGRY KIDS: The Food Basket program serves over 2,000 meals to Oakland children who might have little or no food on weekends. This is the eleventh year of the program, and we need more volunteers. You could come help pack once a month or help bring food from the Alameda County food bank that we can put in bags to take to the schools. We also still need additional financial support to keep the program going. Donate at the Sunday Food Basket table or send checks to the church. If you wish to volunteer, contact Janet Mulshine at or 658-9183 or Ruthann Taylor at or 527-0673.

CLOSE TO HOME PRESENTS A TALK AND SLIDE SHOW: Monday, March 5, 2012 at 7:30 P.M. in the Family Room. Variety and Spice: The East Bay Parklands with Stu Selland. 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:

IMPORTANT WOMEN’S RETREAT INFO: Just a reminder that our retreat is Saturday, March 10 at First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. Check-in begins at 9:00 a.m. and the program will start promptly at 9:30. Please try to arrive near 9 to have time for coffee, tea, and conversation.. If you are driving and/or carpooling, please note that parking costs $9. You can pay with cash – make it exact because if you put in a $10 bill, you will NOT receive change. You can also pay with credit card. The parking ticket machine is near the elevator in the garage. The retreat will be in the CALVIN ROOM of the main building on the first floor. IF YOU CAN HELP WITH CLEAN-UP; please email Gretchen at or Jan at Thanks and we’re looking forward to seeing you all there! Gretchen & Jan

ALL AGES TOGETHER: Keeping in Touch with our College Students. Here’s an intergenerational 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 5:15-6:30 pm 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.

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!

• The General Assembly in Pittsburgh, PA, this summer that has several important decisions to discuss and discern.
• Jean Gregory as she continues to experience turmoil regarding her grandson Ethan’s move to Louisiana.
• Dave Elder’s uncle who is in the hospital (Dave is a visitor who is here in Oakland temporarily to be with his uncle during this health crisis).
• Families who are in desperate need of services and not receiving them due to drastic cuts.
• Brad Hestir, Jean Norris and Jay Gregory as well as those with whom they have joined in the Joining Hands Against Hunger delegation to Bolivia.
• 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.

• Sarah Clark who has just begun her dream job after being unemployed for five months.
• The connectivity we experience in the world and here in this community.

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