June 9, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,


One of my deepest joys as your Interim Pastor is being invited into your lives as we sit together and share parts of our stories.  After seeing you on Sundays or at various meetings, it is such a delight to be able to fill out the “picture” of you.  There are still many of you with whom I have not yet had a chance to sit down and I look forward to being able to do that with you.  Please don’t be shy about suggesting a date or time for us to go for a walk or have coffee or tea or just meet in my office.

Last Sunday as we celebrated those in our midst who are graduating this year, I pretended to give a graduation speech in my sermon.  When I was finished preaching, a few of you clapped!  Of course you clapped – you always clap at the end of a graduation speech!  I got such a kick out of it and only hope that we are always able to laugh together and even laugh at ourselves.

On a different note, George Somers asked me after church on Sunday if I had seen the ad in the Chronicle sponsored by the Presbyterian Layman.  He was disturbed by it and wasn’t quite sure exactly what to make of it.  He brought it to me on Monday and I was very disturbed by its contents.  It is a half page ad that has as its header in very large letters “Presbyterian?”  Under that are 5 bullet points that include the following:

~Why has a once great denomination lost more than half its members?

~Why does the PC(USA) no longer require its ordained leaders to limit their sexual activity to Christian marriage?

~Why has the PC(USA) abandoned Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian faith and moral teaching?

~How long can the PC(USA) claim to speak for you and other members who hold fast to Biblical beliefs?

~How long can a divided house stand?

The bottom half of the ad has in large letters “What can you do?”  The gist of what follows is that you can get your session to consider leaving the denomination and October 30, 2011 is the date by which they’d like to know the decision.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this was done in response to the passing of Amendment 10A by the majority of Presbyteries.  Amendment 10A removes the exclusive language in the Book of Order for ordination standards and allows for local governing bodies to decide whether or not to ordain gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender elders, deacons and pastors.

When I read the entire ad, I have to admit I was incensed.  Perhaps I should send them last week’s sermon on what it really means to be humble because the audacity and arrogance I hear in that ad is astounding.  The five bullet points under the first part of the ad are all accusations against people like US.  We are responsible for the loss of membership, we no longer require ordained leaders to limit sexual activity (what a presumption about every ordained minister being in a Christian marriage, by the way.  I know plenty of Presbyterian clergy who are married to Jewish, Buddhist, and Atheist spouses.  I don’t read anywhere in the Book of Order that a Presbyterian pastor has to be married to a Christian person…), we have abandoned Scripture and faith and moral teaching, etc…If I hear one more time that I have abandoned Scripture or faith or morality I think I might scream.

But do you want to know what really angers me?  They took a family fight and splashed it in the papers in such a way that they will surely discourage progressive folks from wanting to have anything to do with Presbyterians.  They could have sent this out to every church in the country.  They could have taken the ad out in all of the Presbyterian publications.  Instead, they made sure it was in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others.  Why would anyone in their right mind want to wade into that family fight?  Believe it or not, this is not simply a rant.  I think we need to respond in some way.  Session talked last night about having one of our Presbytery delegates speak up about it at the Presbytery meeting since there will no doubt be plenty of people there who will have contributed financially to this ad.  We could also write letters to the editors of the various papers.  Perhaps we should also consider whether or not to keep the name “Presbyterian” in our church name.  If the conservatives continue to make our family fight even more public than it is already, we could change our name!

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas and solutions regarding an ad that could potentially harm us and our ministry.

In gratitude for you,



  • Vacation: I will be away June 5 – 11.


  • Volunteers for Summer: Arts with the Children. In Godly Play every week, we have response time, which the children can use for their own “work:” anything from playing with a story set, to helping clean, to arts and crafts. During the summer, because we have smaller classes, we have “work” days every week – no story told, just arts and crafts (while still framed in the context of a Godly Play classroom). I am looking for volunteers: Artists, and Greeters. If you have never been a greeter before, we can give you a quick training in the Godly Play method. Please call or email talitha@mpcfamily.org and tell me your interest. Available dates are: July 10, 17, 24, 31; August 14, 21, 28.

SESSION NOTES FROM SUSANNE LEA, CLERK OF SESSION: Here are the highlights of the meeting:

1. Mission Study Team: Session approved the following slate for the Mission Study Team:  Earl Hamlin; Dave Miller; Janet Mulshine; Nancy Murr; Marge Nicholson; David Siegenthaler; Tom Davies [session representative]; Gretchen Garlinghouse, (alternate) and Debbie Fallehy [session alternate].  Thank you all for agreeing to serve in this important capacity!  Beth intends to meet with the team one time this month.

2. Conversation with New Member Sarah Steck:  Session members had a delightful and engaging conversation with Sarah Steck, who has been exploring membership with MPC.  Sarah grew up in a Presbyterian Church in New York.  Sarah and her boyfriend, Eric, have been living in Oakland for two years.  Sarah was drawn to our Montclair Church Family because of our inclusivity and our social justice emphasis.  Sarah will officially join the congregation this Sunday by reaffirmation of faith.  Welcome Sarah!

3. Beacon Program:  Session reaffirmed its commitment to the Beacon Ministry Program, to be comprised of 15 commissioned lay persons or Beacons whose function is to minister to the care needs of family and friends of this church community.  The name “Beacons” was chosen for persons serving in this ministry because they will be lights or guides for the congregation.  The traditional term “Deacons” refers to an ordained position, while our Beacons will be commissioned so that both members and non-members can serve.  Each Beacon will be responsible for 20 households from the church, initially based on geographical proximity.  The nominating committee will select the Beacons, and individuals can self-nominate or nominate someone else.  The goal is to kick off a fully functioning program in the Fall of this year.  The moderators of our Beacons will be elders Carrie McKiernan and Don Alter.

4. Social Justice Report: The Social Justice Cluster is retooling its mission statement into something that is one sentence or fewer and assessing how the various committees within the cluster align with the agreed-on mission emphases.

5. Budget:  Session approved a proposed 2011-12 budget reflecting $386,650 in projected income and $401,650 in projected expenses. The $15,000 shortfall will be funded out of a $46,000 reserve established in prior years to fund associate pastor activities. In addition, to achieve a balanced budget Session had to reduce budget requests by $24,150 and pledge to raise $1,950 in a fundraiser later this year.

THE UNVEILING OF THE FAMILY CAMP THEME: The long awaited for theme is “Lord of the Rings – Montclair Church Family in Middle Earth”! Led by Rev. Beth as Rev. Katie Morrison (who was supposed to co-lead) had a church emergency that will prevent her from attending. If you are a fan of the “Lord of the Rings” and wish you had signed up for Family Camp to participate, fear not! You can still join in the fun by stopping by the Family Camp table or by contacting Carrie McKiernan, Debbie Fallehy or Cindy Gullickson. The Quest begins on June 19th

DON’T FORGET YOUR FAMILY CAMP PACKET: MPC Family Camp information packets for registered participants will be available at the Family Camp table during the Sunday morning Family Hour after church.  All fees should be paid before arriving at Family Camp. Co-Deans: Debbie Fallehy & Carrie McKiernan – Registrar: Cindy Gullikson

THANK YOU!: There is no way I can truly express the love and warmth I felt from your many cards, phone calls, visits and offerings while I nursed my broken pelvis. I am so blessed to be a part of this church community. I am sure that my bones are healing faster because of you. Thank you. Dot Cudaback.

Back Row, from left: Charlie Kapsiak, Barbara Peters, Cindy Gullikson, Diane Bessette, Bill Neely, Julia Gullikson.

Middle Row, from left: Mary Smith, Brenda Vallenas, Marilee Bailey, Marge Nicholson.

Front Row, from left: Hannah McKiernan, Sloan White, Ella Romero, May Lee Tong.

GLOBAL CONCERNS BRUNCH: You are invited to a Global Concerns Brunch featuring Ajit Abraham on June 12, at 11:30 am in the Thornhill Room. Ajit Abraham, our International Presence for the past few months, has submitted his dissertation! Please come see him off and hear two vital messages. First, his dissertation brings new light to the role of church activism in support of marginalized communities impacted by neoliberal policies and globalization. Second, does his next endeavor, Volunteers in Global Service, involve you? A main dish will be available. Please bring a side, salad or dessert, or put a little in the expense basket. Contact Jean Norris at (510) 535-0498 or blujeans2@sbcglobal.net.

FATHER’S DAY IS APPROACHING!!! Come to the Book Depot for possible Father’s Day’s gifts. You will find some interesting selections.

BOOK DEPOT NEWS: For those of you who expressed an interest in the KAIROS or the STEADFAST HOPE books about Palestine, they are now at the Book Depot. Due to a one time fluke the STEADFAST HOPE books will sell for only $4.00, which will never be available at this cost again. The KAIROS books will remain at $2.50. If you indicated that you wanted a copy of either book, we pretty much count on you to purchase it, since your interest determined the number of books we ordered. Thank you!


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.

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 Rossmore (published by iUniverse, 2007). Instructors: John Hadsell, our Theologian-in-Residence, and Virginia Abascal, a member of MPC who is a professional dramatist.

Fee: $15

Signups will be June 27 and July 3 or contact:

Convener: Phil Reagan, 510-842-8191


WOULD YOU LIKE TO HOST AN EXCHANGE STUDENT?: They would like for us to host exchange students, the Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI). We do not know this organization. Please check it out thoroughly before committing to be a host family. Click on the link, http://www.cci-exchange.com/usprograms/host.aspx, or contact Karen Frock by phone on: 510-593-4335 or by email at summerxchangecci@gmail.com.


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 has moved to Manor Care for rehabilitation

Dot Cudaback who is working on getting stronger after her fall

For peace to invade every corner where war and violence are being waged

For those who are grieving those who have died

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