Contact: March 7, 2012

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

What a joy it was last Sunday to have so many visitors introduce themselves! If you haven’t been in church for a while, we seem to have several young families visiting and I have noticed how many of you have been intentional about welcoming them and talking with them. Some of them are finding us on the internet and some of them have moved into the neighborhood. We need to do some thinking about how we “welcome” visitors beyond just greeting them and talking with them. One of the areas that I spoke to Susan about last year was giving some serious thought to our nursery care. We decided to put the conversation on hold until after our new Coordinator for Children, Youth and Family Life was hired. For parents with young children, the nursery is often the deciding factor in whether to stay at a church or keep looking. When I first arrived here a year and a half ago, one of the gifts I was able to bring was being able to see the church and various programs and ways of being with fresh eyes. While Susan was here, I did not spend much time “looking” at the area of children and youth since that was her area.

One of the gifts Katie brings to us is being able to look at the areas of children, youth and family life with fresh eyes. We have an added bonus in that because she has a 2.5 year old daughter, Ellis Jane, she is also experiencing part of the program as any parent might. In partnership with Katie, the Children and Youth Committee will begin a series of conversations about all of our programs in their area, including the nursery. Our nursery operates from 9:45 to 11:15 am. One of the issues the committee will discuss is whether those hours work for parents with young children and if there might be a time frame that would work better. We rarely get out of church before 11:15 and if the nursery doesn’t open until 9:45, it can be stressful getting a child settled and getting to church on time (unlike seasoned church goers, newcomers do not like to be late!). In addition, Katie has a difficult time doing her job on Sunday mornings when the nursery doesn’t open until 9:45 am. Until the committee can discuss it and make plans, I have temporarily approved an extra 15 minutes of nursery time so the nursery can open at 9:30 am.

On a different note, last evening the Session had a potluck dinner to thank our outgoing Session members (Hal Davis, Tom Davies, Sari Kulberg, Linda Benson and Jean Roggenkamp) and to welcome our incoming Session members (Lee Aurich, Bill Neely, Karen Gibson, Jean Gregory and Susanne Lea). We had a wonderful time together and enjoyed saying what we have appreciated about those who are rotating off of the Session. Personally, this group has meant a great deal to me as 4 out of the 5 of them were on the Interim Pastor Search Committee. They “walked the talk” so to speak and jumped right in to support me and to support the work of the Session so that the church would thrive. What a gift!

Lastly, I wanted to say a quick word of follow up from last week. Some of you have emailed and expressed concern for me. Rest assured, I continue to enjoy you and to enjoy this work. My reason for addressing the issues so publicly is that I continue to try to model for you honest and direct communication. All of you have worked very hard to get the church family back to a place where seeds of distrust and discontent are not given any soil within which to grow. My disappointment was not that a few people are frustrated, my disappointment was that instead of coming to me, the comments were made to other people and to some extent were expressing distrust (the idea that I would purposefully slow down the mission study process for my own gain). If the comments had been made to me, I probably would not have said anything at all. My intention was not to shame anyone or point any fingers. My priority is to continue to encourage you and hold you to healthy communication with me and with each other. Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and move on together as we continue on this exciting journey!

May you find time to reflect during this Lenten season,

Dear MPC Family,

I am happy to be able to report that the youth group program seems to have made it over the bridge period, between Susan’s retirement and my coming on board. The turnout at our weekly Sunday evening meetings has been really positive and consistent, ranging between 16-19 youth per week. The energy in the room has felt exuberant, warm, welcoming, open, and playful. The group has the imprint of a program that has been consistently nurtured and invested in over time. What a joy it is to have the opportunity to enter in at this time and place and to be able to build on this kind of a solid foundation. It is my joy to be able to reflect back to you (the rest of the congregation) that your youth truly VALUE this ministry and many have come to count on it as a part of their weekly rhythm.

At last Sunday’s youth group gathering, after some great rounds of several different interactive games, I invited the youth to begin building a “youth group tree” visual that will be “growing” on the youth room wall. This will serve, in some ways, as our own internal, youth group mission study. Last Sunday, we began with working on the “seeds” and the “roots.” On little wooden circles (seeds), they were invited to write answers to two “seed” questions: “WHO or WHAT planted the seed for you to come to youth group and WHAT is something you appreciated about Susan’s leadership/way of being with the youth group?” You might be interested in having the chance to read some of their responses. In answer to who planted the seeds, youth wrote: My mom, mother, my sister, a current youth group member planted me, my older sister, my parents, sister, mom and uncle and bro, my mom, going to church, my mother, parents-picnic at Temescal, me, my brother, mom and older sister, my parents, everyone, family. It appears that among our current youth group members, family encouragement has been the biggest influence in youth group participation. (Big kudos to our families of youth!)

The youth were then offered big popsicle sticks as “roots.” Our root questions were, “WHAT do you VALUE about youth group?” Wonderful answers were offered up: A place to relax, friendships and discussions, people-games-and discussions, that I can be myself and have intelligent non-school related conversations, we get time away from home, the ideas that people bring, the variety of people who come here, we can have in-depth discussions and play fun games and hang out with friends, learn new opinions, a place to play, and freedom of expression. Finally, they were asked, “WHAT is something UNIQUE about THIS group that you can’t get or do with any other group?” The youth responded with: Opportunities to travel to fun places, that we are a family-we accept you for who you are and what you think, it’s more youth run than many things, the people, I can only receive the unconditioned feelings and thoughts of the members here, these friends are different than anywhere else, the amount of fun we have here, our leaders, somewhere where everyone knows each other and can help you when you need help or need something, youth group is a place where you can hang out and let your worries stay at home, togetherness, new friends (with smiley face), be myself, I love games and fun, the games and how everyone gets, how open everyone is with each other, the space is not about achieving but acceptance, I value the acceptance of youth group and a safe place to bring friends who are minimal on religion, the sharing, everyone is nice, youth group is so friendly and nice, having a place where I am inspired to love myself and others unconditionally, and time with friends.

I hope you receive this sharing from our youth about the youth program as a HUGE affirmation of every ounce of support, commitment, and investment you have made in their direction. They may seem largely invisible (especially as a group) on Sunday mornings, but the church’s investment in them seems visible to them and in their lives and in their values. They are a loving, committed crew and we look forward to working toward better visibility and expanded participation in other areas of our congregational life together.

One step in this direction is our joint all church event coming up this Sunday evening where we will all have the opportunity to share a meal together, followed by assembling care packages for MPC graduates who are away at college. Jim Allardice and Bill Neely are teaming up to provide a yummy spaghetti, garlic bread, and fresh green salad dinner for us. Come, and be a part of this adult and youth partnership program.

‘Tis a gift to be serving with you,
Katie Morrison
Coordinator or Children, Youth, and Family Life

Our church’s youth group from last Sunday’s program. We’ll be making copies of this photo to include in the care packages so graduates of the program can see what the current group looks like.

YOUTH AND ADULTS TOGETHER: Keeping in Touch with our College Students. Here’s an 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. You are invited to donate non-perishable goodies and treats, a copy of an inspirational poem, or any other gift ideas for 16 packages. We will create artwork and notes of support together as a part of the evening program.
YOUTH GROUP: The youth group will continue to meet from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the youth room.

Save the Date! Our next congregational gathering – on Sunday, March 18, 11:30 to 1:00 – is different from prior ones. The question for the day is “Who is our Neighbor?” Based on the work of a couple of our MST task forces, we will look closely at our very own neighborhood of Montclair. We will hear from principals of local schools about their challenges and needs, take a look at the Village business association, and consider the needs of the elderly. We will learn how the demographics of Montclair have changed over the last ten years. There will be time for Q&A and reflections from those present. What does it mean for us as a church community to be rooted in our Montclair neighborhood? Bring your own lunch. The MST will provide fruit, granola bars, and water.

The Way We Were Are: The Mission Study Team has been very happy to see so many of you taking a deep interest in the mission study process. Through the survey and the congregational meetings, together we’re teasing out who we are, what’s important to us, and what we want to do together as a church family. This is all critical to recruiting and selecting a pastor who will help us get where we want to go.

The MST wants to share with you some more of the survey data that keeps us thinking. There is more than one way to interpret the data that follows, but what we can mostly agree on is that we don’t hold the same opinions that we did seven years ago when we last filled out a Congregational Survey. Here are some of the things that caught our eye.

1. In responding to statements about MPC’s Identity, we responded:

All respondents Strongly Agree with the statement that:
2011   2004    PR Diff

I feel comfortable with MPC’s identity              46%    63%     -17

It’s easy to tell my friends about what is unique
about MPC 34% 71% -37

I have a clear understanding of what MPC stands
for 25% 59% -34

2. In responding to statements about MPC’s Mission, we responded:

All respondents Strongly Agree or Agree with the statement that:
2011 2004 PT Diff

An effective effort has been made to instruct
me in MPC’s mission 66% 83% -17

3. And last, the format of the questions regarding MPC’s outreach efforts have substantially changed since 2004. In 2004, outreach questions were phrased as ‘Evangelism’ while in 2011 we introduced this as “Sustainability’. That said, we think that it is worth looking at some of our responses to questions asking us to rate our priorities regarding actively inviting others to share the MPC experience. Respondents to these questions below ranked these issues as a High or Moderate Priority.

All respondents rated their priority as High or Moderate to the question of: 2011 2004 PT Diff

2011: Overall to what extent do you think MPC needs to increase
efforts to invite others to join church?
96 29 67
2004: Overall to what extent did members thing the congregation
needs to Increase or improve efforts at evangelism?

2011: To what extent would you personally be willing to get involved
in inviting others to join the church? (These efforts might involve
advertising, PR, website development, inviting friends and neighbors
to attend Celebration, outreach to inactive members, and other forms
of local community outreach.)
61 9 52
2004: To what extent would individual members personally be willing
to get involved in evangelistic efforts of the congregation

No one responded to last week’s MST challenge to “summarize for visitors how we differ from other congregations in the area” in 100 words or less. Maybe that’s not as easy as 71% of us thought it would be! We will still accept your response!

Sunday, March 11th: The third Sunday of Lent and Rev. Beth will be preaching. There will be a small ensemble.
Sunday, March 18th: We will hear about Destiny Arts and Rev. Beth will be preaching.
Sunday, March 25th: Guest Preacher.
Sunday, April 1st: Palm Sunday.

DON’T FORGET TO CHANGE YOUR CLOCK(S): This Saturday, March 10th, we turn our clocks ahead one hour. This is also a great time to check and replace the batteries in all of your smoke alarms. Mark your calendars or you could end up being an hour late for Celebration.

INTERGENERATIONAL EASTER CHOIR: All children and youth are warmly invited to sing with the adult choir on Easter Sunday. “O Sifuni Mungu” is a high-energy, rhythmic, joyful piece of music that appeals to all ages. On March 11, March 25, and April 1, Godly Play will be extended until 11:30am so the children can learn the music together. (There will be no practice on March 18 due to the congregational meeting.) Children will meet in the Thornhill Room from 11-11:30am beginning this Sunday (March 11). If you have any questions, please contact Kim:

Item 1: Our Muslim partner, the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC), has just won a grant to plan an interfaith food program in the Oakland/Berkeley area with us and Kehilla. The grantors are a consortium of non-profits, including the San Francisco Foundation and the Silicon Valley Foundation. Their purpose is to promote understanding and assimilation of Muslims in the larger community while also serving the hungry. The Faith Trio is the perfect arm to initiate this job. Please watch for further developments as we ourselves learn more.
Item 2: The Anti-Death Penalty Initiative, promoted at MPC by Beth Weinberger of Kehilla, has received the required number of signatures to be on November’s ballot. Beth is setting up an Office of Education at Kehilla with a Web site, and will want volunteers from all the Faith Trio’s congregations to help spread the word re the virtues of ending the death penalty. Watch for more news about this important development, too. Jean Mudge for the Faith Trio.

MPC DAY AT THE OAKLAND A’S: TIME TO GET TICKETS! Baseball fans, it’s time to gather with other MPC’ers and cheer on Your Oakland Athletics. The game is Friday, May 11th at 7:05pm, the opponent is the Detroit Tigers, and tickets are $26 each. Even better, ticket sales benefit Thornhill Elementary School, the kind folks who let us use their parking lot. Interested in joining us? Contact Steve McKiernan at — and please do so soon, because we need to finalize our order form by Sunday, April 1st. Go A’s!

OPPORTUNITY: Time with Rich Ufford-Chase, former Moderator of the PC(USA). He will be speaking on “Jesus and Empire: Then and Now” from Mark 5 at the Davis Community Church on Friday, March 9 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 412 C Street in Davis. This is being putting on by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Folk.

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.

A WONDERFUL EVENT! We felt honored to have Jeff Clements at our church last Sunday to speak about the enormous influence corporations have on our government. (Jeff was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers on NPR.) His talk was insightful and energizing. We had a great turnout from the larger community and many people bought his book, Corporations are Not People. Special thanks to Allen Todd for doing sound, Hope Boije for the lovely flower arrangement and to others who helped: Anita Bowers, Sue & Tom Davies, Jean Gregory, Al Peters, Betsy King, Sari Kulberg & Rev. Beth. –Barbara Peters, co-coordinator with Ellen Augustine

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The Chancel Choir of St. John’s Episcopal Church (just off Thornhill at 1707 Gouldin Road) again presents a concert on Palm Sunday, April 1, at 4PM. With soprano Shawnette Sulker and baritone Jere Torkelsen, under the direction of Ernest Fredric Knell, the choir will perform Gabriel Faure’s poignant and beloved Requiem (Opus 48) and his Cantique de Jean Racine (Opus 48), both with orchestra. Francis Poulenc’s Four Motets for Lent, performed by the Motet Group, will round out the program. Suggested donation to benefit the music fund: $20 ($15 youth/seniors), with a reception following the concert.

EASTER AZALEAS: You may purchase an Easter Azalea to honor a special person, to recognize a birthday, an anniversary, an important occasion, or simply to add to the Easter splendor in the Sanctuary. To purchase an azalea, return the order form that will be in this week’s bulletin with your check to the Sunday offering plate or to the Church Office no later than Friday, March 30th. You may also mail them to MPC. Plants are $15.00 each. Recognition for those you’ve honored or the special occasions of your life will be printed in the Bulletin on Easter Sunday, April 8th. If you would prefer not to purchase an azalea, you are welcome to bring flowers or plants to the sanctuary, Saturday, April 7th at 10:00 a.m.

Front row, from left: Claire Kelly, Jean Gregory, Kenna Klop-Packel, Marilynn Moore.
Back row, from left: Jean Smart, Charlie Boije, Megan McKiernan.

• Vern and Gloria Alexander as Vern recovers from surgery.
• Dave Earle’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.
• 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.
• The Women’s Retreat on Saturday, March 10th.

• 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.
• Our outgoing elders – Jean Roggenkamp, Hal Davis, Tom Davies, Linda Benson and Sari Kulberg.
• Sloan White who has capably served as chair of Celebration Committee for more than 6 years!

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