March 16, 2011

                                                                                                                                     Montclair Presbyterian Church


Dear Friends,

In my article last week I wrote about several things that had happened. The session discussion regarding the Interim period is worth sharing with you in greater detail. At the February session meeting one of the elders raised a concern about my scope and timing as an Interim Pastor. My approach since I began was to assess the areas that were currently functioning well and to attend to areas that were not functioning well. A concern was raised about what kinds of decisions would be made while I am here in the Interim role. In response to the concern raised, I suggested we gather a small group from the session to look at the issues surrounding the Interim period and then present them at the March session meeting. The small group presented the session with 2 models.

One model would be to keep things together with minimal changes, to move ahead as quickly as possible on the mission study and the formation of a pastor nominating committee and to defer most changes and decisions to when a new pastor arrives. This would include beginning the mission study as soon as possible. A second model would be to take the time necessary to identify congregational and program needs and to put in place new or strengthened ways to meet the needs, to get things working more optimally with the idea that we are building a firm foundation on which the new pastor can build, to look at the session structure and how it can better connect to program ministries and to make any necessary changes sooner rather than later with the idea that we are setting the stage for the new pastor’s arrival. This would include beginning the mission study in late summer or fall of 2011.

In wonderful MPC fashion, the session worked out a third option! The third option is to do what is in the second model above but to aim for assembling the mission study team by late May. The timing that was mentioned by the small group for the interim period is anywhere from two years to three and a half years depending on how long the mission study and then the search actually take to be completed. It was explained to everyone that the last time MPC had an interim (Rev. Karl Shadley), the mission study had already been completed so the major task at that point was the pastoral search. The interim period was only 17 months because the mission study process had already been done before the arrival of the interim. That particular mission study took 2 years to complete (1992-1994). 

There has been some question about why we can’t just “dust off” the mission study that was completed under Karen’s guidance. There are several reasons why that might not be in your best interest. First, the charge of that particular mission study team was somewhat limited in scope. Their charge was to: Describe, rather than define, the current status and functioning of MPC; Reflect upon the Mission Study Report of 1992-1994, and describe the current status of MPC in view of the findings and recommendations brought forward in that particular study process; Identify areas of strength and opportunity and use these to describe future directions, mission, and vision for the near future of MPC. Second, the world and the Presbyterian denomination have changed drastically in the past 10 years and many of those changes are not reflected in that mission study. Third, the mission study was completed while Karen was pastor and had no plans of leaving any time soon which would have impacted various aspects of the study. Fourth, the renovation on the building had not been completed and the conflict that arose as a result of the building as well as some staff changes had not yet been experienced fully. When a congregation experiences open conflict, it impacts the congregational identity, either directly or indirectly. There are additional reasons as well for starting over with a new mission study. The mission study is an incredible opportunity for self-reflection as well as for self-definition and vision. While I understand the frustration of not being able to move quickly to calling a new pastor, I am committed to helping you do the work that needs to be done in order to prepare well for the next pastor so that relationship will be long and mutually enjoyable. At the same time, I am committed to moving the processes along in a timely way so we all feel the forward momentum.

As I mentioned at the Congregational meeting in early February, my tasks as an Interim Pastor (taken directly from my Interim Pastor Training manual) are as follows: 



  1. Coming to terms with history.
  2. Discovering a new identity.
  3. Shifting leadership and power.
  4. Renewing denominational linkages.
  5. Committing to new leadership and a new future.


  1. Joining the system.
  2. Analyzing the organization as a system.
  3. Connecting with the denomination.
  4. Focusing and assuming responsibility.
  5. Exiting and evaluating.


  1. Preaching.
  2. Pastoral Care.
  3. Leadership development.
  4. Administrative duties.
  5. Working with Session and committees.

If at any time during my call here as Interim Head of Staff, you have questions or concerns regarding what I am doing or how I am doing it, please do not hesitate to come and talk with me. There is a small group of session and congregation members who are working on a realistic interim timeline that we can use as a guide knowing that we cannot dictate how long a mission study will take or how long a pastoral search will last. In addition, this group is exploring how we can use the vast information and learning that has occurred with each group that has contributed over the years (past mission study teams and pastor nominating committees). When we have finished that work, we will share with you the results.

We are in the wilderness of transition together and my prayer is that we will discover tremendous beauty along the way.




  • Fish Boxes: This last Sunday in Godly Play children received their fish boxes, in which to collect coins for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. We join with many others in this nation-wide and ecumenical offering; the funds we collect specifically go to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Self-Development of Peoples, and the Presbyterian Hunger Program. With the fish boxes we also handed out green sheets of paper which will help children and adults alike to focus on the meaning for the offering, and interpret it for children to understand why we do this. The pages have a thought and activity for each day of the week, and you can repeat them every week until Easter when we will finally collect the offering. There are a lot of extra fish boxes, so grown-ups are welcome to take them as well. They will be in a basket in the entryway each Sunday.


WATER – 1.1 billion people in the world do not have safe drinking water. They have to use dirty water from streams and lakes, and sometimes this makes them very sick. Some of the One Great Hour of Sharing money goes to build wells and find safe water. Think about the water and the drinks you had today. Give one coin for every glass of water you drank. (extra: What about your bathtub or the other ways you use water? Think about what other things you are grateful for, and give one coin for each of them as well).


EDUCATION – Education can break the cycle of poverty. But in many places school is not free, and poorer children do not get to go to school. In sub-Saharan Africa, 46 million children are not going to school. Some of the One Great Hour of Sharing money goes to support schools where people cannot afford to go. Give one coin for everyone in your family who goes to school (you can include your cousins. Extra: talk about what school helps you do. Ask your parents what they learned in school that helped them the most).


SANITATION – About 2.5 billion people around the world do not have adequate sanitation facilities. In developing countries, 1 in 4 people do not have any plumbing. Some of the One Great Hour of Sharing money goes to build new sanitation facilities, especially after disasters like earthquakes and floods where they have been destroyed. Give one coin for each bathroom in your house. (Extra: how many bathrooms are there at school? At work? At church? Count them…)


HUNGER – In Chicago, 400,000 people live in “food desert” areas where there are no grocery stores. They end up buying junk food at convenience stores, and children get sick with obesity and type II diabetes. Some of the One Great Hour of Sharing money goes toward food banks and to bringing farmers markets into these neighborhoods.  Look around your neighborhood, or look at a map. Give one coin for each place you can get healthy food. (Extra: where would you get food if all the grocery stores closed? Give one coin for every friend, relative, or neighbor who has a garden).


EMERGENCIES – last year, the earthquake in Haiti left more than a million people in need of shelter. Some of them still do not have homes. Some of the One Great Hour of Sharing money goes toward building new houses and helping people recover from the disaster. Give one coin for every house you and/or your extended family have lived in.


HEALTH – Poor nutrition and calorie deficiency cause nearly 1 in 3 people, around the world, to die early or to have disabilities. Some of the One Great Hour of Sharing money goes toward helping people develop better farming methods, have more varied diets, see doctors, and learn how to be healthy.  Give one coin for every vegetable or fruit you ate today (or this week).


JOY – “Rejoice in God always, again I say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). When the One Great Hour of Sharing money is spent, it brings joy to the people who need it the most. Give one coin for each thing that made you smile or laugh today.



  • Youth Group: We will meet this Sunday in room 2, 7-9 PM. 



LET’S CELEBRATE OUR OUTGOING ELDERS! This Sunday, March 20th, during Celebration, we will thank Art Paull, Marge Nicholson, Shelley Kelly, Liam Gray and Frank Dauby, for their completed terms on Session. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their service.


ART GANG REMINDER: “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll” at the Oakland Art Museum? O yes! SUNDAY, MARCH 20th, Marge Nicholson & Jane Vander Veer will lead a docent tour with juicy California art and historical information. We will carpool from the church parking lot at 11:40. Then there will be lunch at 12:00 noon at the Museum Café. The Tour will be at 1 pm. Box lunches will be ready for those who pre-ordered and paid for them. (Or you can bring your own lunch or buy a la carte.) The museum entrance fee is $12.00, $9.00 for seniors, but we will have a number of guest passes available. If you are an Oakland Museum member, please bring any extra passes you have to share. Parking is $1/hr in the garage (validated) or free on the street on Sundays. Please RSVP to Jane Vander Veer if you can join this Art Gang excursion. 510-482-0505.


JOIN OCO ACTION TO STAND UP TO BIG BANKS: Oakland Community Organizations is organizing a rally on Saturday, March 19th, 10:00 a.m. to noon at St. Louis Bertrand Church, 1410 100th Ave., that will present local officials and state legislators with demands that banks be held accountable for their actions and that require them to treat people fairly who are facing foreclosures. If you haven’t been to an OCO rally, come and see what you’ve been missing – while serious, it will be festive and spirited! Community Connection Committee members will attend this event. For more information, contact Jean Gregory, or (510) 635-8838.


LABYRINTH WALK FOR PEACE AND COMFORT ON THE SPRING EQUINOX: We welcome all as we walk with an intention of sending Peace to a world in a changing paradigm and Comfort to those suffering from natural disasters. Prayer in itself is a cross, an intersection of limitations and possibilities. When we come to the labyrinth with prayers of Peace and Comfort we integrate our feelings of powerlessness with our hopes and dreams of a better world. We release our fears and receive inspiration and renewal of our own energy to move back into the world to do what we can do with our one solitary life as an individual and as one community of faith. In doing this on the day of the Spring Equinox we honor the balance of light and dark and also recognize our oneness with the earth. All welcome. Dress warmly. Carpool if possible.

CCC – Community Congregational Church

Sunday March 20, 2011 – 6-7 p.m.

145 Rock Hill Drive, Tiburon, CA. 94920

Further information: 415-435-9108 or


IT’S BASEBALL SEASON! Join members of the MPC Men’s Team for a night of National League Baseball. The traditional preseason game, Oakland A’s vs San Francisco Giants, is Tuesday March 29 / 7:05pm – Oakland Coliseum. Reduced price, field level tickets are $17.65. Ladies welcome. Contact Phil Reagan or 510-842-8191


CANDLELIT TAIZÉ PRAYER SERVICE, MARCH 30: If you seek a Lenten experience of peace and tranquility, come to a Candlelit Prayer Service featuring Taizé Songs the evening of March 30 in the sanctuary. The service’s theme will be “Wilderness Journey.” At 7:00 p.m., an informative meeting about the Taizé community and aspects of the service will be held in the Thornhill Room, followed by the service itself from 7:30-8:30 pm. The ecumenical monastery in the village of Taizé, France, receives more than 100,000 visitors a year from all over the world. Refreshments will be available after the service. For child care (available upon request), contact Talitha Phillips,, by March 23. The evening is sponsored by the Spiritual Activists Committee.


SPLASH TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: TIMELY — The City of Oakland Watershed and Stormwater Management RAIN BARREL PROGRAM is a three-year initiative to provide rain barrels at a significantly reduced cost in an effort to reduce urban stormwater impacts. Use rain barrels to capture roof runoff so that it can be released safely and slowly into the landscape to prevent high flows and erosion on Oakland’s hill slopes and in creeks. Only OAKLAND HOMEOWNERS are invited to purchase the rain barrels! Visit to read about the program and place your order online. Step 1: Select size of rain barrel. (65 gallon barrels are $45.41–limit 6 per household. 200 gallon barrels are $115.90–limit 2 per household).Step 2: Sign user agreement (read carefully). Step 3: Order and pay. Step 4: Pick up your purchase on SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011, 9 AM to 1 PM, TEMESCAL FARMERS MARKET, 490 Cavour Street, Oakland, 94618.


INTRODUCTION TO THE KORAN CLASS REMINDER: Come join this class on introduction to the Qur’an for non-Muslims, especially those who have a background in Christianity. No prior knowledge of Islam or the Qur’an is required. It will start on Sunday, April 3, at 8:30 am in Room 10. CONVENER: David Siegenthaler, 510-482-9311 FEE: $15


PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN, PC(USA) RESPOND TO JAPANESE TSUNAMI TRAGEDY: Please join national Presbyterian Women in praying for our sisters and brothers affected by the devastating earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011,  at 12:46 am est. (2:46 pm local time), and those in other areas lost or suffering because of the resulting tsunami. We also have posted on both the PW and Horizons Facebook pages, asking for prayers, guiding folks to the PC(USA) site for Presbyterian disaster relief information, and asking folks to consider making hygiene kits for Church World Services relief efforts (learn more at For more information about Presbyterian Women and its advocacy work, visit


HART COMMITTEE: “I believe the paradigm shift of rapid change constitutes a rich opportunity for the church. God has set the door open to the future. But the new day is as perplexing as it is promising.” — Peter Steinke

If you are feeling perplexed in any way, please feel free to talk with our Interim Pastor, Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown, or to any member of the Health and Reconciliation Team (HART), a warm and welcoming group whose mission is to listen and address concerns, anxieties, or issues between people. HART members are Peggy Alter, Eloise Gilland, Carrie McKiernan, Burt Rodgers, and Stan Stevens. You may also leave a message for Stan (chair of HART) by calling the church office at 510-339-1131.


LET’S GET PHYSICAL: Aerobics with Ruth Fassett is a good way to feel more energetic and lighter. Try it on Tuesday or Thursday at 9:30 or 10:30 in the Family Room. Please do come.


REMEMBER KEN WITZER IN PRAYER: Ken Witser’s mother, Sharon Witser, passed away on March 7 at the age of 77. Cards or notes to Ken at 6601 Liggett Dr., Oakland 94611, or, or calls to 510-339-0958 would be appreciated.


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 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