February 2, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

If you were not in church in Sunday, you missed a special time of Celebration!  We had the privilege of having the Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr with us as preacher and Mr. Michael Miller with us as musician.  Janie has been a friend of this congregation since the late 1970’s.  In fact, she thanked all of you for being one of the few churches that really stood by her in those days when she lost her job with the Oakland Council of Churches because she was an out lesbian.  Janie and her partner at that time were able to bring their children here to Montclair for church school.  Janie also thanked you as a congregation for calling me.  She said, “All we ask is that we (LGBTQ Pastors) are given the same opportunities to interview and be considered as other candidates.  If we are the best candidates, all we want is for you to call us.  You have done that with Beth.”  When Janie thanked you, my tears began streaming.  My gratitude to you and appreciation for you were absolutely overflowing.  What Janie was saying and what I have experienced with you is that you are one of only a handful of congregations across the country willing to live out your commitment to being inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to the point of calling an out pastor.  Janie spoke to how much that means to me, to her, and to so many of our LGBT friends across the country.  Thank you, again, for your courage.

One of the other highlights on Sunday was hearing Michael Miller sing an old spiritual and then play a couple of spirituals on his saxophone.  He has tremendous gifts and all of us gathered were moved by the depth of his music.  Michael has also been working with the San Francisco Presbytery with anti-racism training called “Building the Beloved Community.”  Perhaps we should consider inviting him and his wife Kathryn to come and do some of that work with us.

The moment I will never forget in celebration last Sunday happened during the children’s time.  Talitha had talked with the children the week before about prophets so I continued that discussion with them.  One of the things they said about prophets is “they are close to God and God is close to them and they know what God wants the people to do.”  After we reviewed what a prophet is, I challenged them to see if they could find any real life prophets in our congregation.  We talked about how they might know if someone is a prophet and the kinds of questions they could ask people to figure out whether they are or are not prophets.  At that point I introduced them to Janie and I told them that she is a real life prophet.  I asked for a volunteer to come and “interview” Janie and Nory volunteered.  She came over and they introduced themselves to each other and then I asked Nory if she could think of a question to ask Janie that would help us know whether Janie was a prophet.  Nory was quiet for a few seconds and I said, “Do you want me to help you with a question?”  Nory looked at me and said, “No, I’d like to think of one.”  She thought for a few more seconds and then looked Janie squarely in the eyes and said, “What does God want us to do?”  I wish you could have seen Janie and Nory looking at each other.  What a powerfully moving moment.  The wisdom, the hope, the love, the openness, the desire, and the Spirit were palpably present.  Janie replied to Nory by saying, “God wants us to love justice, to love each other and to love God.”

We sometimes forget that our children have different ways of looking at and experiencing the world and their questions are not always our questions and their answers are not always our answers.  As we continue conversations about the future church, how can we include our children?  They have a wisdom from which we could benefit.

The Session had an all day retreat on Saturday and we considered three aspects of our life together.  We talked about Vision, Identity and the Structure and Role of Session.  We enjoyed each other and began some really important conversation that will continue as we move forward.

See you on Sunday for Celebration and for our Congregational Meeting immediately following Celebration!


TALITHA’S TAKE: The youth group has been doing lots of great stuff other than our fun excursions for skating and mini-golf. We had two great programs focusing on issues of alcohol, drugs, and peer pressure. One week we role-played in skits about choices and consequences. This past Sunday we had guest speakers, a married couple – he an alcoholic, she a child of alcoholics – who told about their lives and shared their story of spiritual awakening in AA and Al-Anon. Everybody had a great time discussing and asking questions. Susan, Talitha, and our advisors are of course always available to talk about tough personal issues one-on-one as well.

SUSAN’S SCOOP: The youth group alumni met for pizza last Thursday night and what a reunion it was for all who attended! 22 alums, 2 spouses and I shared memories, caught up on each others’ lives and made plans for future meetings. One alum told me, “This group is so much a part of who I am now as an adult. I want us to be able to stay together.” Most were contacted through Facebook and email. Watch for future gatherings to be announced.

YOUTH GROUP: We will meet this Saturday, February 5th, for miniature golf at Golden Tee in Castro Valley. Meet at the church lot at 2 pm and we will return at 4:15 pm. The cost is $8.50 for golf plus any money for drinks or video games. There will be no Sunday evening meeting.

ADULT EDUCATION NOTES: Beth’s class is full. The Aerobics and Dancing classes have been postponed.

If you missed the signups, PLEASE call or write the convener (see the website) or write to Margaretha at mderasary@sbcglobal.net.

If all else fails, come to the class!

Starting soon:







CLOSE TO HOME PRESENTS: A Trip along the Coast Range with artist Jack Laws

Monday, February 7th, at 7:30pm in the Family Room. In this illustrated lecture, John Muir Laws will lead us on a virtual walk across the Coast Range of California, exploring delightful relationships between plants and animals as we go. We will explore a three step process you can use to help you see more and think like a naturalist. He will also discuss some of the conservation challenges in the region and what stewards of nature are doing to confront them. For more info: http://www.close-to-home.org/flyer.htm

ART GANG EVENT OPEN TO ALL: A display called, “Pulp Fashion,” consisting of elaborate, realistic costumes from the Medicis to Coco Chanel made only of painted, folded paper will be at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Carpool from MPC lot 9 a.m. sharp. Members free; nonmembers pay admission. Lunch will be at the museum. If you’re going, please call Carol Wolleson, 658-6655.

DONALDINA CAMERON HOUSE PRESENTS SOUL & ELEGANCE 2011 – “CELEBRATING THE LUNAR NEW YEAR”: Please join with Cameron House on Saturday, February 12 for a great evening of food, dancing, renewing friendships, and honoring important contributors to the

Community. For more details and to register on-line, go to: http://www.cameronhouse.org/alumni/SE2011Detail.html

FROM OUR GARDNER: MPC’s silk tassel tree (Garya Elliptica) is the envy of the neighborhood. This elderly Garya is in full bloom right now on Thornhill Road; only it has these unique tassels instead of flowers. Garya Elliptica is one of MPC’s many native plants. It’s surviving here on the company of its redwood companion without any water. Garya is one of the first natives to bloom at the end of winter.

CHRISTMAS GENEROSITY: Despite the difficult economy, or perhaps because of it, MPC family members were extraordinarily generous with their alternative gifts through Giving to the World in December. Such giving surely gave great satisfaction to the givers, those honored by their gifts, and the organizations that benefited. Thank you to all who participated! Below is the breakdown.

Alameda County Food Bank                              $1,035

Joining Hands Against Hunger                           $265

Amnesty International                                         $230

Thai Orphanage                                                 $1,150

Berkeley Mission Homes                                  $160

Presby. Disaster Assistance                              $580

Children’s Food Basket                                     $2,594

Presby. For Earth Care                                      $85

El Porvenir                                                        $475

S.F. Network Ministries                                      $275

East Bay Habitat for Humanity                             $880

That All May Freely Serve                                  $125

Heifer International                                             $997

Westminster House                                           $120

DEADLINES: To submit announcements for the bulletin and Contact, please send them to office@mpcfamily.org.  The deadline for Contact is Tuesdays at 3 pm and the deadline for the bulletin is Wednesdays at 12 pm. This is a change for all of us, so let’s try to remind each other!

MPC Calendar:





Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00am-3:30pm

Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown, Office hours Monday-Wednesday, 10:00-3:00 pm

Susan Hunn, Associate for Children & Youth: Office hours, Tuesday-Thursday, 9:30-2:30 pm

Sherrill Figuera: Administrative Assistant: Office hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9:00-3:30 pm

Talitha Phillips: Coordinator for Children and Youth

Kim Rankin: Associate in Music

Marcia Roy: Organist

Gil & Maria Chiguila: Caretakers

Rev. John Hadsell: Theologian in Residence

Rev. Kathy Ray: Parish Associate