June 15, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church


Dear Friends,

In my article last week, I suggested perhaps we should take the word “Presbyterian” out of our church name.  Many of you responded to that suggestion and some of you were in favor of the idea while others of you were strongly opposed!  What a surprise that we would have diversity of opinion on the subject!  Just so you know, I made the suggestion as a way to create thought and discussion.  As your Interim Pastor, part of my job is to invite you to think about how we are connected to or disconnected from the denomination.  How are we Presbyterian?  How are we NOT Presbyterian?  Rather than assume you know the ways in which you are or are not in keeping with Presbyterian polity, I have been trying to point out where you veer away from the Book of Order and where you adhere to it.  While some of you strongly identify with the Presbyterian denomination, many of you do not and you simply tolerate being in a Presbyterian church.  Part of why this is important is that when you eventually call a pastor, you will want to be clear about how strongly you want that person to adhere to Presbyterian polity.

Yesterday I attended the Presbytery meeting in Burlingame.  The meeting was 8 hours long and several important items were on the docket.  One of the most exciting agenda items was voting on whether or not to accept the Belhar Confession as the newest confession in our Book of Confessions.  If you have not yet done so, please do a search on the Internet for the confession.  It was published in 1986 by the Reformed Church in South Africa to address the issue of racial divide (the church was divided into black churches, white churches and colored churches).  We do not have a confession that is from the African continent nor do we have a confession that specifically addresses the issue of racial divide in the church.  The good news is that the SF Presbytery voted to add it to our Book of Confessions.  The bad news is that it was defeated by too many presbyteries in the denomination for it to be included.  What was most discouraging for me yesterday was listening to some conservatives speak against this confession.  Some of them are against it not because of the racial unity it proposes but because they are concerned that the justice of which it speaks will extend to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.  They are afraid the progressives will use it in furthering demands for justice and equality.  Not one of them was honest about the reason for being against it.  Instead, they said things like, “This is too much about unity and not enough about purity or peace.”  My heart was very heavy after listening to them argue against this confession that is so powerful.

Another important item on the docket was the approval of the position title and description for our new Executive Presbyter.  By only 4 votes, the Presbytery approved calling an elder or a pastor to be a Pastor to Pastors.  In addition, we approved a staff design that includes two associate positions and 3 full-time Administrative positions.  One of the speakers against the motion pointed out that if all of the churches who are considering leaving the denomination actually leave, we won’t come anywhere close to being able to afford that kind of staffing as a Presbytery.  The search committee will begin its work and no one knows yet whether we will be able to afford the other positions.  Many of us in the room were already feeling sorry for whoever accepts the call!

The last item on the docket was the revised “Gracious Dismissal Policy.”  The Revised policy proposed that instead of letting the conservative churches leave the denomination with all of their property, they should have to give a 10% tithe back to the Presbytery based on the worth of the property.  The issue here is that all Presbyterian church property belongs to the Presbytery and not to the individual congregation, including our property.  There are several large, conservative churches that are contemplating leaving the denomination (such as Menlo Park Presbyterian, Moraga Presbyterian, Walnut Creek Presbyterian, Centerville Presbyterian).  Their properties collectively total more than 50 million dollars.  They want to be able to leave with all of their property despite the fact that their properties are owned by the Presbytery.  Their argument is that because we are now going to legally consider ordaining gays and lesbians, the Presbytery has forsaken scripture and obedience to Jesus and therefore is forcing them to leave.  They believe that if they have to pay any amount for their property it means the Presbytery is being punitive – trying to punish them for leaving and therefore forcing them to stay.  After almost an hour and a half of discussion, the item was tabled until the September meeting.

If they can no longer stay in a denomination that has intentionally decided to become more welcoming and hospitable, I think they should leave.  I suggested last night that they don’t have to pay for a small part (10%) of their property but that could instead leave their property behind and go and nest in another church.  Honestly, I no longer believe it is healthy for our denomination to have them stay.  One of the reasons I wanted to be ordained as Presbyterian 20 years ago was because we valued diversity and we agreed to disagree.  Instead of agreeing to disagree, they see themselves as the possessors of truth and the rest of us as apostates.  Unless they are willing to entertain the possibility that those of us who disagree with them are also doing our best to interpret scripture faithfully and listen to the voice of God, then I do not see how we can co-exist together any longer.  While it is a sad time for our denomination, I believe it is an opportunity for God to transform us in exciting ways.  Stay tuned!

Please pray for those of us who will be at Family Camp and we will pray for you!



  • Youth Group: Our Summer Calendar will be mailed this week. The First event will be Ice Cream at Fenton’s on June 29, from 7 – 8:30 pm.
  • Children: The children will join us in celebration this Sunday.


  • MPC on facebook: You can get easy access to all our blogs, event announcements, sermon podcasts, and other fun stuff – by “liking” MPC on facebook! We only have 59 followers on facebook. But nearly 300 of you subscribe to Contact electronically. So I know there are about 240 of you lurkers out there, connected on email but not on facebook. Of course it’s hard for someone like me, having been online since I was a teenager, to imagine not WANTING to use Facebook. I’m sure some of you non-facebook-users have your reasons. But, if you have a facebook account, what are you waiting for? Click on over and “like” us today! http://www.facebook.com/mcpfamily **(deepest apologies for the misspell… the kind folks at facebook say I can never correct or change it)

Rev. Beth and Susan will be out of the office, June 18-25, at Family Camp. Rev. Beth will be back in time to celebrate our More Light Sunday on June 26th!

LET’S GO CAMPING!: If you registered for MPC Family Camp, we’ll see you there this weekend! Co-Deans: Debbie Fallehy & Carrie McKiernan – Registrar: Cindy Gullikson

DIRECTORY UPDATES DEADLINE: This is the last chance to get your information in the directory updated. Please send any changes to Sherrill in the office. You can email her at office@mpcfamily.org, stop by the office or call her with any updates. The deadline for all changes to be submitted to her is June 20th. Pictures will updated in the Fall.

CAMPSITE FOR SALE: Susan ten Bosch Paull is hoping to get a “buyer” to take her campsite at Family Camp for either the whole week or for as many days as you’d like to go. If you are interested please call Susan on her cell at 925-451-9067. Thank you!

FROM PFLAG(Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays): June is all about pride! On June 26 and 27, San Francisco will celebrate the 41st Annual PRIDE weekend. The Civic Center Plaza becomes the gathering place for a two day fabulous festival! The Pride Parade on Sunday is still the biggest parade in the City and PFLAG chapters from all over California come and march to celebrate our families. We (Oakland-East Bay PFLAG) are one of the biggest contingencies! Once we have the information, we will let you know where to meet (we are assigned a specific staging spot) and what time to meet on Sunday morning. We will have our Oakland-East Bay PFLAG banner and will walk down Market Street to overwhelming applause!!! It is really moving; there are still folks whose families do not support them and they yell and hoot and holler for PFLAG!

We need volunteers in two areas:

*The PFLAG Booth needs volunteer staff on both Saturday and Sunday. Please contact Julia Thoron by email: pflagsf@aol.com or phone 415 921 8850 and let her know you are from Oakland-East Bay PFLAG and she will gladly work with you to find a time that works.

*Parade Monitors. The parade has some City Police support, but in order to defray expenses, each contingency provides Parade Monitors to walk with their group. There is a one hour mandatory training to certify Monitors! The Contingent Monitor and Safety Training will be on Thurs., June 16, at 11:00-1: 00PM (you get to leave at noon.) at SF LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market St. SF. There is also this training on Saturday & Sunday, June 18 & 19, from 11:00-1:00 PM (you get to leave at Noon) at Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Library at 100 Larkin St. SF. These trainings are lots of FUN! I have been to three of them and you really have a hilarious time!

For more information about the PRIDE CELEBRATION, go to the website: www.sfpride.org There are events all weekend. Each year there is more to celebrate!!!! This year we have “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” behind us! Let’s show up and CELEBRATE! We still have some hills and mountains to climb! Hope to see you at PRIDE and at our June meeting. We can share all of our experiences!

Fondly, Katherine Lewis and Helen Laird, Co-Chairs, Oakland-East Bay PFLAG.

PRIME TIME: Art and Soul. Tom Debley is in retirement but he actively pursues his avocation – photography. He finds in it an art form, a spiritual path, that helps him to explore the mystery that is the universe by taking time to embrace moments of simple grace. “Photography is a spiritual journey.” Tom is past president of N. California Council of Camera Clubs and the Alameda Photographic Society. He has earned numerous honors and his work has been exhibited in various venues including the Commonwealth Club of California. Tom is also Co-Chair of the Art Gang and has had some of his work exhibited in Room 10. Join us for this stimulating and thoughtful presentation. Ask questions and have coffee with friends. Wednesday, July 20, from 10 am – 11:30 am in the Thornhill Room.

CONGREGATIONS AGAINST TORTURE: As members of National Religious Campaign against Torture, we join other congregations nationwide to make June “Torture Awareness Month.” We aim to eliminate U.S. sponsored torture worldwide. This June we are calling for full transparency and for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to report openly on their inquiry into past interrogation practices. Standing in our faith traditions, such injustice cannot be tolerated. On June 26 we will have petitions to sign addressing this issue.

FAITH TRIO FALL ART EXHIBITION: The Faith Trio enthusiastically invites all artists among MPC’s members and friends to contribute to a fall exhibition sponsored by our three congregations. The theme is “Diverse Visions of Harmony.” Artworks should express our joint commitment to interfaith understanding, co-existence, peace and cultural exchange. Multiple genres are welcome, painting, drawing, calligraphy, photography, sculpture, ceramics, glass, textile, and mixed media. The deadline for submissions is July 25, 2011. The exhibit will take place during this September and October at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison Street, Oakland, 94612. On Saturday, September 17, 6 to 9 p.m. a reception will be held at the ICCNA to which the artists, members of all three congregations and the general public are warmly invited. For detailed questions, contact Greg Schwinn (gschwinn@earthlink.net), MPC’s Art Gang co-chair and its coordinator for the exhibit; for general ones, contact Jean Mudge (Jeanmudge@comcast.net), MPC’s Faith Trio chair. Click here for submission information, http://www.iccnc.org/articlePage.php?Call-To-Artists-Interfaith-Art-Exhibit-Diverse-Visions-of-Harmony-158.

GODLY PLAY: Children who missed last Sunday’s Godly Play may submit their drawings or writings for this year’s Anthology to Margaret Irvin (510-243-1114). Copies should be on white paper, 8 ½” x 11”, written with pencil or black pen, and signed. Deadline is Sunday, August 28.

WANT TO TEACH ENGLISH IN THAILAND?: Reverend Sirirat is looking for people who would be interested in teaching English in the school near the orphanage in north Thailand. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in knowing more about this opportunity please contact Ruthann Taylor at 527-0673 or by email at clydetaylr@att.net.


Course title: “Four Provocative Plays on Ethical Dilemmas”

Time and Place: Four Sundays in July: 10, 17, 24, 31;

8:30 am to 9:45; Room #10.

Number of Participants: 15-25.

Course description: Each Sunday a short – and unfinished – play will be read aloud, followed by discussion of the ethical dilemmas the two characters find themselves in. For example, in “Why Knot” the two actors – a man and a woman in their seventies – carry on a conversation about whether to get married or not, as they live together. The plays are drawn from a book entitled “Nine Plays in Search of an Ending,” by Rabbi Millton Matz, a resident in Rossmoor (published by iUniverse, 2007).

Instructors: John Hadsell, our Theologian-in-Residence, and Virginia Abascal, a member of MPC who is a professional dramatist.

Fee: $20.

Convener: Phil Reagan, preagan@mindspring.com, 510-842-8191.

Course title: “Native Gardens:  History and Uses for Local Plants”

Time and Place: Two Saturdays in August: 6 & 13.

10-12 am; Thornhill Room.

Number of participants: 10-20.

Course description: This class begins with California native plants. We will discuss local ecosystems and how urban gardens can be extensions of our native land. Plants to nurture wildlife will be included, as well as medicinal species and their uses. We will also discuss other ethno botanical aspects of the flora, including food, fiber, tools, etc. Beginners welcome. Participants will be encouraged to create and assess garden designs.

Instructor: Molly Bolt is a licensed arborist and horticulturist. She has a local practice consulting and pruning, and she volunteers at the UC Botanical Garden as a docent. Her monthly tour, a stroller-friendly walk, aims to get young families into the fresh air. She has also worked as the lab instructor for Soils and Plant Nutrition at Merritt College and as the native plant nursery manager for Friends of Sausal Creek. She is usually busy herding two children and two dairy goats at her home in Oakland.

Fee: $20.

Convener: Paula Moseley, baxterblanco@gmail.com, 510-339-8570.

Course title: Computers, Digital Photos, and The Internet for Everyone

Time and Place: Six Tuesdays in August: 16, 23, 30, and September 6, 13, 20.

2:30 to 4:00 pm; Thornhill Room.

Number of Participants: 6 to15.

Course description: Similar to past classes, but enhanced with emailed and on-line notes and step-by-step cheat sheets. In the first two sessions: computer essentials and finding and accessing information on the Internet including our Church website (MPCfamily.org). Example topics from the next four sessions: email attachments, Google, security, backup, Facebook, writing and drawing on a computer, and more. We will also show you easy ways to get your photos from the camera, edit them, print them, create slideshows, e-mail them and more. Bring your questions; we will answer them all.

Instructor: Phil has been working with personal computers for 35 years and has been teaching computer classes for nearly as long. He has been involved with MPC since the mid-1970s.

Fee: $4 per session or $20 for all 6 sessions

Convener: Phil at preagan@mindspring.com


PIANO FOR SALE: This is an upright made by Story & Clark with a walnut finish, selling for a low price, best offer. Please contact Margaret Irvin at 510-243-1114

NOTES FROM THE GARDENER: The good looking native this month is Sticky Monkey Flower. Its fancy name is Mimulus aurantiacus. It is easily the best bloom of all the natives and very content to grow without water for a month or more. Sticky Monkey has trouble adapting to tame gardens and does best in difficult situations. Its bright orange flowers make a sharp contrast to California Sagebrush. This combination can be seen on the cliffs leading into Tilden Park. Montclair Presbyterian’s Sticky Monkeys are growing right along the sidewalk on Thornhill Road. There are many hybrid versions of Mimulus aurantiacus available, but the eerie orange one is the true native.


Those who are grieving family members who have died

The External Giving Committee as they begin the grant selection process

Virginia Hadsell who is lacking in energy and appetite and is recovering from an outpatient procedure

Anders Jepson who is recovering from surgery after an in-line skating accident

Sheryl Neely’s family as they grieve the death of her father

13 yr old Tal Brown (Ann Fisher’s Grand-nephew) recovering from cancer

Arnie Brown – who is in Manor Care for rehabilitation

Dot Cudaback who is working on getting stronger after her fall

For peace in the Middle East

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:





5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland, California 94611, (510)339-1131

Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00am-4:30pm

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: Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30 pm

Talitha Phillips: Coordinator for Children and Youth

Kim Rankin: Music Director

Marcia Roy: Organist

Gil & Maria Chiguila: Caretakers

Rev. John Hadsell: Theologian in Residence

Rev. Kathy Ray: Parish Associate

Ajit Abraham: International Partner in Residence