Contact: November 9, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church


Dear Friends,

When I first arrived here at MPC, part of what I was doing in those initial months was finding out what systems and policies we have in place.  I asked if we had a sexual misconduct or “safe church” policy and found out we do not have such a policy in place.  The Personnel Committee recognized the need to not only have a policy in place but to also implement a system so that all new employees go through a background check.  Members of the Personnel Committee have been doing a great deal of research to find out what other churches do, what the Presbytery recommends and what is possible for us.  What they discovered in some of the research is that some churches do nothing, some churches do a great deal and some churches do something in between.

Last summer when I was at the Transitional Pastor workshop I attended, I heard a heartbreaking story from one of the Transitional Pastors.  He had only been at the church for a couple of months when a man began attending and becoming friendly with people.  He eventually became one of the crowd and during a band practice for worship, the kids of the band members were running around unsupervised.  This guy was also there but no one thought anything of it because he had been attending for awhile.  They didn’t stop to wonder why he was there at a time when he had no responsibility or involvement.  He was able to get one of the girls alone and touched her inappropriately.  She told her parents and the family was devastated.  The Transitional Pastor had to do a great deal to make the church a safer place for children and he is working on beginning the healing process for all.  We were reminded how important it is to do preventive work rather than having to do healing work after a traumatic incident.

Last week the Session approved a background check policy which will ask current employees and volunteers to submit to background checks and will ensure that all future employees and volunteers are required to do so.  You may have seen the approval of that policy in Susanne Lea’s session notes in last week’s Contact and I wanted to be sure you had some context for why we felt the need for the policy.  Fortunately we are not in crisis mode and there have not been any recent incidents to our knowledge.  Everything we are doing is for prevention.  We will also be working on training various volunteers with children and youth on appropriate conduct related to creating safe spaces.  We want to honor the fact that we deeply value relationships with our children and youth while creating appropriate boundaries for everyone’s protection.  In addition, we hope to create a “safe church” policy in the coming months for session approval.  If you have any thoughts or questions about any of this, please contact someone on the Personnel Committee.  We have assumed for quite some time that our children are safe here and we would do well to pay careful attention to when they are running around unsupervised.  We love that they feel safe enough and comfortable enough and we want to ensure that they really are safe here.  We all need to use our eyes and ears and remember we are the village and we are responsible for “our” children and youth!  We are also going to include vulnerable adults in our policies so that those who are not as cognitively aware are protected from any who might want to take advantage in some manner (One of our bay area churches recently had a situation involving financially vulnerable older adults).

On a different note entirely, the Invitations in Celebration have gotten a little out of hand!  Let me review with you the requirements from the Celebration Committee for a verbal invitation in Celebration:

  1.  The request needs to be made to the pastor or the one preaching by Thursday (for that Sunday).
  2. The request needs to be made in writing with a copy of what will be said.
  3. The Invitation needs to be less than one minute unless special permission has been granted.
  4. The Invitation cannot be both spoken and written in the bulletin.  Choose one format or the other.
  5. Celebration is not the time to thank people for various activities that have just happened.  Let’s use Contact for thanking each other.
  6. The Invitation needs to apply to most of the gathered community or it should be written instead.
  7. Fundraising Invitations must be approved by Finance before being sent to the pastor.

Thank you for working with us to help Celebration stay focused and inclusive of all.

Next week I will be traveling to New Orleans for the National Clergy Gathering of PICO (People Involved in Community Organizations).  There are several interfaith clergy going from Oakland and I am looking forward to getting to know some Oakland colleagues better as well as learning from the community organizing model for how to find solutions to poverty.  My trip will be Monday-Thursday so I will not be in the office during those days but will have access to email.

Continuing to thank God for our work and ministry together,


CONGREGATIONAL MEETING: We will have a brief Called Congregational Meeting this Sunday, November 13th, right after Celebration and right before our Mission Study Team Congregational Gathering.  The purpose of the Called Congregational Meeting is to make a change to our By-Laws to allow for friends of the congregation (involved people who have not officially joined the church) to serve on the Nominating Committee of the church (the one that finds Elders to serve as well as to fill other positions).

MISSION STUDY TEAM CONGREGATIONAL GATHERING COMING UP!  Don’t forget that this Sunday, November 13th, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, the Mission Study Team will lead the congregation in another meaningful discussion about our church.  Our focus for this gathering will be a look at the past as we tell stories and construct a timeline.  Our commitment to you is that we will begin and end on time, we will provide an opportunity for you to connect with people you know and don’t know, we will have some fun, we will encourage you to share what you know, and we will communicate the results.  For the results of our last gathering, you can go to and see all of your responses.

NOTE:  We will be providing childcare for children of adults who would like to participate in the gathering and we will provide heavier snacks than last time so you won’t go hungry!  Each table will have heavy snacks on it so we can work and eat.

Please join us for this important gathering even if you are new to the congregation or haven’t been here very long.  We hope to have everyone involved!

2011 MISSION STUDY SURVEY: The Mission Study Team mailed/emailed the 2011 Mission Study Survey.  If you get Contact by mail or email, you should have already received your invitation to complete a survey.  If not, you can go to and get started.  The team put together a thorough survey which will enable MPC to better articulate to a prospective pastor who we are and where we want to go.  The survey is not short–it’ll take you about an hour.  But, it’s a great way to let your MPC community know where you stand and what’s important to you.

Sunday, November 13th:  Rev. Beth will be creating a dramatic presentation on issues of justice and healing.  Celebration will be followed by a Mission Study Team Congregational Gathering.
Sunday, November 20th:  Rev. Duke will be preaching on a topic covered in his new book and taking orders for his new book in the Family Room after the service.
Sunday, November 27th:  Rev. Beth will be preaching as we enter the Advent season.
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 and we will formally thank and say good-bye to Susan Hunn in Celebration.  Celebration will be followed by a Mission Study Team Congregational Gathering.









Fall Retreat: Last weekend’s Youth Group fall retreat had many memorable highlights: a program based around a spirited simulation game with a focus on poverty, football in the light rain, hot chocolate around the large fireplace, beautiful fall colors in a wooded setting, secret pal gifts, improv games led by youth Stacy, and a closing celebration talking about compassion. With the lodge packed to capacity with our 25 attendees, we managed well living together for 2 days. I have always loved these weekends with more time together as a community.  It is a time for youth to relax, play creatively, laugh, and talk about serious issues together both formally and informally.

TALITHA’S TAKE: I will be working slightly different hours next week: Monday-Wednesday, 10-4, plus the Taizé service on Wednesday night. Hope to see many of you there!

JOB OPPORTUNITY!  Opportunity to work with semi-skilled audio geeks, occasional foray into video.  Little to no pay; bBig boss frowns on it.  Special occasions negotiable.  Need good people skills as we interface with diverse group who make liberal use of white cards.  Should be reasonably open to suggestions, depending on form of input.  Good hearing helpful.  Need to be flexible to ever-changing conditions that occur with little or no warning.  We’re mostly amateurs on Sunday…See Allen Todd/ Lori Kendall for intro lesson on sound system. 

PRIME TIME: Where is the Economy Headed? How might it get there? Earl Hamlin is a long time member of MPC and has been involved in many aspects of the MPC Community including budget and financial affairs.  He also studies and keeps abreast of the country’s economical ups and downs. Earl will be speaking to us and answering questions on Wednesday, November 16th, from 10 – 11:30 am in the Thornhill Room. Join us for conversation and coffee.

INFO FOR OAKLAND 11/15 SPECIAL ELECTION: The League of Women Voters of Oakland has prepared unbiased PROS & CONS of the 3 measures on the ballot for the November 15 Special All-Mail-Ballot Election in Oakland. Copies of this document will be available during Family Hour this Sunday and next, and may also be read on the League’s web site:   and on the Smart Voter web site: This is a reminder to all Oakland voters, your ballots must be received by the Registrar of Voters by 8 PM on Tuesday, November 15.

GROWTHBUSTERS: The new documentary GrowthBusters addresses the root cause of our most critical crises. At 7 billion people, it’s evident the scale of the human enterprise has outgrown our planet. Yet we continue our obsessive pursuit of economic growth and ambivalence toward overpopulation. GrowthBusters investigates why. The film will be shown at the David Brower Center in Berkeley at 2150 Allston Way. It will be on Tues, 11/15, at 5 and at 8 PM.

SENIOR MOMENTUM (Coots): The Senior Momentum, aka Coots, will meet Wednesday, November 16th, at 1 pm in the Thornhill Room.

NEXT TAIZE MEDITATION SERVICE: Save 7:00-8:00 p.m. November 16 in the sanctuary for the 3rd in the fall series of Taizé meditation services consisting of music, Scripture reading, prayer, and silence. The theme will be gratitude, in keeping with the season. Characterized by their simplicity and beauty, Taizé songs achieve a meditative nature through repetition, allowing their meaning to sink in deeply. Taizé is an antidote to the stress of daily life, especially beneficial if you think you’re too busy! For child care (available upon request), contact Talitha Phillips,, by November 11.  Sponsored by the Spiritual Activists Committee.

DUKE ON DYING AND DEATH ON BEHALF OF LIFE: Duke Robinson, pastor of this church family from 1968-1996, returns for the celebration on Sunday, November 20th to tell us about a new book of his to be published in the next few weeks. He will speak from its major themes, noting steps each of us must take to live our best possible life.  The book addresses adults of all ages, and (imagine this) he thinks it makes a great gift for older adults to give their adult children.  The original plan was to have copies for sale at the family hour, but …his publisher now says there’s no chance of books being available by that date. He will have one copy for us to see, and orders will be taken after the celebration at the Book Depot ($17 cash or check made out to the church). Duke will be at the Depot to greet us and answer questions on the book. He fully expects to have copies in the week or two after that, when he’ll return for a family hour signing session.  

His first book: TOO NICE FOR YOUR OWN GOOD: How to Stop Making 9 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes remains available through and bookstores. He is willing on the 20th to sign any copies people bring to the Family Hour.

Yes, the name of the new book: CREATE YOUR BEST LIFE–KILL THE GRIM REAPER: How to Live Fully Knowing One Day You Will Die.

1. On November 20, 2011 Duke Robinson will be at our church talking about his new book, CREATE YOUR BEST LIFE, (see previous announcement above).
2. For Christmas, keep us in mind.  We still have some really good bargains that are on sale, and we order new books constantly.  If you have a specific request, contact Gretchen Hayes at (510) 530-3557 or

EXTRA ROOM AT THANKSGIVING DINNER? Family Life committee would like to remind everyone that Thanksgiving is coming up… and it’s a great time to remember that we at MPC want to be family to one another. If you are hosting a dinner, think about whether there is room to invite a few more. If you don’t have a big family, think about combining with another family for the holiday. If you have no plans yet, and want to join someone else, talk to Pastor Beth who will be fielding such requests. Also speak to her if you’re willing to invite more people but don’t know whom to invite.

YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN MPC & FRUITVALE: Fruitvale Presbyterian is once again hosting a big Thanksgiving meal for the homeless and hungry. MPC adults and families who volunteered last year are enthusiastic about helping again. This year the event will be on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at 6 PM. There will be a full-day kids’ program (MPC children are also invited); where the kids will both have fun and cook some of the dishes for the meal. Parents with questions can talk to Talitha or contact Pastor Abby directly at (510) 530-0915.

Fruitvale Presbyterian is looking for MPC volunteers to:
*cook TURKEYS (~15 lbs),
*clean-up, and
*help with the kids’ program.
Turkeys need to be cooked and carved ahead of time and delivered to the church at 2735 MacArthur Boulevard (x Coolidge Ave) on Tuesday between 4:30 and 5:30 PM. The dinner is served at 6 PM.
Volunteer sign-ups started last Sunday (12 people already) and will continue next Sunday, Nov. 13. Betsy King will be contacting the volunteers with more specific details as needed.  Sponsored by Community Connections Committee (CCC).

THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY OFFICE SCHEDULE: The church office will be closed on Friday, November 25, 2011.  The deadline for Contact and the bulletin will be on Monday, November 21, at 3 pm. This will ensure that we are able to get Contact out and the bulletin done for Sunday Celebration. Please call Sherrill with any questions, 510-339-1131.  Rev. Beth will be available on her cell.

SFTS – THE VIRGIN BIRTH: San Francisco Theological Seminary invites pastors and lay people to a free workshop entitled “The Virgin Birth: Truths and Myths” on Wednesday, Nov. 30, from 7-10 p.m.
Every Christmas we hear or preach about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Why is this idea so important in the gospels of Luke and Matthew? What ideas are connected with it in history and what can we do with it today?
Four professors from San Francisco Theological Seminary invite lay people and pastors to a workshop to explore exegetical, historical and theological perspectives on what is true and false about the virgin birth. The panelists include experts in African-American Christian experiences, Church History, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
What: Workshop will explore historical and theological perspectives of the Virgin Birth.
When: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 7-10 p.m.
Where: Scott Hall, room 101

CHRISTMAS REVELS:  Last call to purchase Christmas Revels tickets at Family Hour to see the December 10, 1:00 PM, matinee performance with a big MPC group! Enjoy a theatrical celebration of the winter solstice as told through music, drama and dance. This year’s theme features the legendary King Arthur and his court. In these turbulent times, the Revels magic cultivates and celebrates our common bonds. Good seats at $27, $20 for seniors (60 & over) & children under 18. Scottish Rite Theater on Lake Merritt at 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland.  Parking will be available at the ALCO parking Garage, 1220 Jackson Street. $5 flat fee.  Questions? Contact Barbara & Al Peters, 510-654-9677 or

FAITH TRIO HARVEST DINNER: The Faith Trio Harvest Dinner was a huge success.  Thanks to the many volunteers.  101 people attended the annual Harvest Dinner hosted by MPC last Saturday. They came from MPC, Kehilla Synagogue, and the Islamic Cultural Center. The Family Room rang with conversation and laughter, and was leavened with prayers from each faith.  At least 21 MPCers helped put on the Dinner: Talitha Phillips, Virginia Abascal, Debbie Fallehy, Jean Norris, Brad Hestir, Phil Reagan, Jean Gregory, Donna Carruth, Don and Peggy Alter, Dot Cudaback, Sarah Clark, Bunny Stevens, Rich Larsen, Charlie and Hope Boije, Betsy King, Francie Chan, Al and Barbara Peters, Allen Todd, and George Somers.  Too numerous to mention, but some examples: Virginia and Debbie led off by preparing Debbie’s wonderful Turkish Casserole.  Jean Norris presided over heating and serving the casserole; Brad was constantly on the move setting tables, moving chairs, making coffee.  Talitha acted as host with Greetings, prayers, and sample discussion questions.  Dot offered clay and help for enthusiastic children. Donna did a large part of the cleanup and was the last to leave.  Many, many thanks to all who attended and especially to the many volunteers! Virginia and Phil, Harvest Dinner Co-Chairman

FOOD BARRELS: Smiles has placed 2 barrels in our Ed Building for donations to the Alameda County Food bank. This is an easy way for you to contribute in this holiday season.

DR. PAUL PEACOCK: Carol Peacock’s former husband died recently after a long illness. He operated the High-MacArthur Veterinarian Hospital for 20 years.

GARDEN APARTMENT STILL AVAILABLE FOR RENT: I have a small one room unfurnished garden apartment in Montclair.  The rent is reasonable and you must like cats.  If interested call Dot Cudaback, (510) 531-0757.









Front Row, from left:  Margaretha Derasary, Linda Benson, Sari Kulberg and Wayne Smith.
Back Row, from left:  Sarah Clark, Margaret Irvin, Jeanne Dunn and Linda Spencer.


  •  Kathy Horn who is now home recovering from having her appendix removed.
  •  George Somers and his partner, Bill, who are facing great challenges in an emotionally stressful situation surrounding the estate of a dear friend who has just passed.
  • Ron, Jan Stites’ brother who is recovering from by-pass surgery.
  • Serin Eggling and her daughter Vanessa as they adjust to rapidly changing realities.
  • Continued healing for Tracy Livezey and wisdom for her doctors.
  • For the Occupy Oakland movement for safety and non-violence.
  • For all those who are grieving due to loss of lives, relationships, meaning, employment, housing, abilities and health.
  • For all those who are caring for aging parents.
  • For 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