February 23, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

Last evening I met with the Social Justice Steering Committee.  Once again, I was in awe of the long and deep history this congregation has with advocating and working for justice in so many ways.  In fact, it has taken me these four months to figure out all the different ways we are involved locally, nationally and internationally.

One of the reasons I am meeting with and talking with the Social Justice Steering Committee is to help them think of ways to address their concerns.  They are concerned about the dwindling numbers of people who are involved in social justice activities at MPC, they are concerned about how many of them are doing double and triple duty on several committees, they are concerned that the younger generations are not joining them in their efforts, they are concerned about what is perceived as a lack of support from the congregation, and they are concerned that in general the congregation does not seem to be aware of what is going on with social justice.

This whole area has been a curiosity for me.  The more I visit with and talk with all of you one-on-one, the more I hear from many of you how important social justice is to you.  At the Session retreat and at the technology working group committee meetings regarding the website makeover, it was clear that if there is one thing we all agree on, it’s that our social justice activities and involvement are the heart of who we are as a congregation.  So, we have a group of people currently involved in social justice who would like to see more people and a variety of ages getting involved and we have so many of you who are longing to be involved in making a difference in our world through social justice.  Instead of being drawn together, it’s as if you are magnets repelling each other.  Why is that the case?

Just to add to the mix, a couple of years ago the Session voted on adopting our “Global Vision Statement” and each one of the social justice committees took on one of the areas.  For example, Global Concerns is going to focus on the economy and economic justice in addition to all of the activities in which they are currently involved.  This is a tremendous amount of work and the people who are involved are feeling weary.

Part of my suggestion to the group last night was to take a step back and involve all of you as much as possible.  Instead of offering a forum on the economy and economic justice, I suggested they look at who in our midst might have experience, interest, or passion related to this area of social justice.  Once those people are identified, get them together and enlist their help in discerning how we can begin as a congregation to do education, advocacy and outreach related to economic justice.  The major shift is that instead of doing all of the work and then inviting people to a forum they think would interest everyone, they first find out where the interest is and then get help with planning.  It’s a subtle but important difference.

The five areas represented in the “Global Vision Statement” are economic well being, human rights, spirituality, religion and social change, peacemaking and non-violence, and energy and the environment. Where does your passion lie?  Which area most excites you?  This is a time of truth-telling for us.  Either we are a social justice church or we are not anymore.  If only 8 to 10 people are involved, we are not a social justice church.  Now is the time for you to speak up and get involved and help create the ways in which we are going to impact our world (near and far). I invite each of you to search your hearts and consider your passion.  Do not stop with the reflection.  Figure out how you can be involved and then let us know.

If you have something to say to me or to any of the social justice people currently involved about what is keeping you from getting involved, please say it in as helpful a way as you can muster.  We need to know.

I would like to end with a partial quote from a Hopi Elder:

“At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves – for the moment we do that our spiritual growth comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over.

Gather yourselves; banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

What a privilege to be walking this road with you,


SERMON NOTE: For those of you who were in church last Sunday and listened to the sermon, I inadvertently left out a very important part! Lest you think I have replaced God with Eugene Peterson, rest assured I have not.  The Greek word for “perfect” is teleios.  There are several meanings, none of which is about behaving perfectly.  The truest translation as far as I can tell is that of wholeness or completeness or full maturity.  So when I used Eugene Peterson’s translation of “Grow Up,” I did so because I think it captures the essence of the meaning of the word in Greek.  Be whole, be mature, be complete can be boiled down to “Grow up” and “live into your God-given identity.”  The translation of “be perfect” does not adequately express the meaning and in fact simply confuses us.  The text was Matthew 5:38-48.

TALITHA’S VIBE: Parents, don’t forget there is a Bible Study for you after church on March 6th in the Godly Play room (#4). This is a chance to dig a little deeper into the stories the children will be hearing during Lent, so you can have discussions (and “wondering”!) at home.

YOUTH GROUP THIS SUNDAY: Pasta Dinner. Senior highs work 3:30 – 7:30 and middle school youth are invited to come for dinner. Families invited too. No charge for youth for dinner.


  • CHILDREN will continue learning music with Kim during class this Sunday, Feb. 27, to sing in celebration on Sunday, Mar. 6. Parents on March 6th please have your children at church at 9:30 AM to practice.
  • EVERYONE IS INVITED TO THE YOUTH-SPONSORED PASTA DINNER THIS SUNDAY, served buffet style from 5:30-6:30. This is a way to get to know others in the church family, including our youth and some of our youth group alumni and their families. This is one of their annual Mission Trip fundraisers. You are asked to donate any amount to the trip in exchange for your meal. This year’s Mission Trip will be to Portland where they will volunteer with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, which oversees urban, sustainable farming and feeding programs as well as other ministries.
  • SPIRITUAL RETREAT TO CANADA, May 6-14. A week of spiritual reflection led by Rev.Therese DesCamp, in the beautiful British Columbia mountains. There will be times for meditation, reflection, recreation, free time and fellowship. As Therese says: “We will work to find that place where we can slow down and experience the Holy in the dailiness of life; the joy of being in the present. The food will be great, the rooms comfy, and the companionship lovely!” We still have a few spaces. For more information please contact Susan Hunn, who will lead the excursion, soon.

ADULT ED AEROBICS CLASS: Ruth Fassett is ready to start her lively aerobics class again on Thursday, March 3. It will be every Tuesday and Thursday, from 9:30 am to 10:30 am in the Family Room. Bring mat or towel. Last class is on April 14. Fee: $30 for 13 classes or $3 per class. Contact Ruth at 531-3837 or at rwfassett@aol.com or the church at 339-1131 or at office@mpcfamily.org.

STORYTELLERS’ EVENT: Everyone is invited to our March 6th OPEN MIC BRUNCH. Hear or share original stories, poems, vignettes or opinion pieces (under 6 minutes). If you would like it to be included in our Anthology 2011, bring a camera-ready copy on 8 ½ x 11 white paper. Any questions, call Margaret Irvin, 510-243-1114.

FOOD BASKET NEEDS YOU: We need 64 brown paper and 64 plastic grocery bags each week to be able to pack and deliver the food to the children in West Oakland. Please save and bring your grocery bags to the Food Basket Table on Sundays. For those of you who wish to contribute monetarily $19 will buy the food for one child for a month. If you would be interested in volunteering to help one day per month as a food packer or driver please contact Jan Stites, 339-3454 or Ruthann Taylor, 527-0673.

HOME CAREGIVER: Aydah Kazni is a home caregiver who was very kind and helpful for Doris Herrick. Aydah accepts occasional private clients and can be reached at 510-287-6598.

ISLAM AND AUTHORS: The Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California will be having an event on stage at the center on February 26th at 6 pm. Zahra Billoo and Hamza van Boom will be in conversation onstage with Stephan Salisbury, author of Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland.  Tickets are $10 general and $5 students. You can visit their website or call (510) 832-7600 to RSVP.

CCC RECOMMENDATION: The Community Connection Committee invites you to read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander about mass incarceration in the US.  It is a highly provocative, disturbing account of official racism.  We will be hosting a discussion on the book on Sat., March 12th, at 2 PM, at Virginia Abascal’s home.  If you are interested in attending the discussion, and/or if you want to order the book, contact Jean Gregory, (510) 635-8838 or jeancgreg@gmail.com.

RESULTS FROM SILENT AUCTION: Meta McAuley was the only bidder; she and her partner returned before the memorial service and loaded it up. Her bid was $50 for the desk, $10.00 for the file cabinet, and if no one else has bid on the cabinet, she said she would purchase that too. Thank you Meta!

LABOR OF LOVE: A big thank you to Barbara Peters for such a wonderful job in organizing the many MPC volunteers in bringing dinners to Ken and Doris, then finally just Ken. Barbara also kept many us updated on Doris’ condition until we were added to Ken’s email list. After Doris passed away, it was Barbara who said she would be “honored” to get the MPC people organized to help with an appetizer/dessert reception after Doris’ service. (The reception turned out just lovely!) What a wonderful job Barbara did throughout the entire four months. It might have been a labor of love for Barbara, but it was time and energy consuming nonetheless!

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

Ajit Abraham: International Partner in Residence