May 11, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

In my sermon last Sunday I talked a bit about the difference between seeing ourselves as victims when life hurls us in a direction we didn’t want to go and seeing ourselves as cause (not in the sense of “I caused this tragedy or violence or disease). Seeing ourselves as cause means taking RESPONSIBILITY for how we respond to what comes our way in life. Instead of lying, justifying, blaming someone else or making excuses, this is about owning up to what we are doing or not doing in our lives.

Here is a cycle I have observed with people over and over again. When we feel victimized, we feel powerless. When we feel powerless, we often act out in ways that further harm us. When we see ourselves as cause and realize that we have choice in our response, we take back some of our power and then are usually able to make decisions that are healthier for us.

In a community setting like here at Montclair, when someone in the community begins acting out, it is often in response to a feeling of powerlessness (a different decision is made than what I wanted or I am not selected for a particular job or group or I am not getting what I want in some way). None of us are great at identifying and then articulating feelings of powerlessness, particularly in group settings. If we could get to the point of identifying and articulating feelings of powerlessness, we would be able to change the way we get our needs met. What can be confusing in a church community is that someone can be feeling powerless in their job situation and then act out at church. No one understands the behavior because the person seems to be doing fine at church.

The same is true in family relationships. If you pay attention when someone in the family is acting out or resorting to a power struggle of some sort, it is often because of feelings of powerlessness and not even necessarily related to the family. A teenager could feel powerless at school, for example, and then act out at home in order to feel more in control or powerful again. There might be a better word for what I am describing than power. The point is that what we are trying to create in our community here in the Montclair Church family is similar to what we are trying to create in our own families – a place where each one is heard, valued, given appropriate boundaries and able and encouraged to use individual gifts and abilities. What a worthwhile journey!

COMPLETELY CHANGING SUBJECTS…The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted yesterday to do away with the language in the Book of Order that has excluded gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members from being ordained to leadership in the church. Amendment 10A (which I wrote about in early April) was passed yesterday by the 87th presbytery (87 was the number of affirmative votes needed for the amendment to pass). In many ways this is a historic time for the church. In other ways, it is as if we are climbing in the Alps and while we just scaled one mountain, we have many others to scale. There is rejoicing all across the denomination today by those of us who have been working hard for justice. The deep divide still exists so now we will have to be about the work of reconciliation which is never easy. This has potentially big implications for me and many other clergy and candidates who are “out” and have had a difficult time finding calls due to the legal implications. I hope you will join me in praying for Lisa Larges (who is still waiting to be ordained after more than 20 years of being in the process and continually hearing “no”) and for Scott Clark who was here in October and preached for us. Scott is actively seeking a call. Let us rejoice and give thanks for the opportunity to fling open the doors of our church!

Lastly, if you are someone who has skill or experience in evaluating or writing grants, please contact me via email or the office phone.

Thanks be to God for all of you who are a wonderful experience of Sanctuary for me!



After much debate and thought, the Celebration Committee has come up with a policy related to announcements, which we are calling “Invitations.”  In order to keep the flow and tone of Celebration, we request that anyone who would like to issue an invitation do the following:

  1. Contact Beth by Wednesday before the Sunday and send her a copy of what you will be saying in your invitation. Please keep it to under one minute in length.
  2. If it is something that can be written just as easily as spoken, please send it to Sherrill to put in the bulletin. Each week we will be encouraged to read the invitations in the bulletin.
  3. If you submit something in writing for the bulletin, please do not also ask to speak it. People tend to get very annoyed if you have given them something to read and then read it for them out loud.
  4. Please consider how inclusive it is of everyone. If it is an invitation for a very small group of people (ie a committee or members only or youth only), please write it instead of speaking it and direct the written invitation to that particular group.

Invitations may not seem like a big deal but it’s amazing how easily we can exclude visitors without even realizing it by what we are saying. Thanks for working with us on keeping invitations as a part of Celebration and being more intentional about how they contribute to our Celebration.


  • I am away on the Spiritual Retreat in Canada this week.


  • Youth Group: The youth group had a great meeting on Sunday. After some interesting discussion of the links between poverty, pollution, and hunger, Jay Gregory talked about the photo contest in which we will be participating (see Photo Contest below).
  • Memorial Day Service Planning: I’m holding a meeting on Wednesday, May 18th at 10 AM to discuss planning for the Memorial Day Sunday Celebration. EVERYONE IS INVITED especially if you have ideas for the service. I’ll repeat my query from last week – I want to know who you think we should honor, celebrate, or mourn at this service. Email or call if you can’t come to the meeting, but want to share your input!

MUSIC NOTES FROM KIM: For the next two weeks, Sunday Celebration will be enlivened by the virtuosic, joyous music of the High Baroque. This coming Sunday, trumpeters Rob Wilkins and Tom Dambly (who met while playing the Handel “Jubilate Deo” here last spring) will perform Vivaldi’s sparkling Concerto in C for Two Trumpets. On May 22, the choir will be joined by a Baroque chamber orchestra, playing authentic period instruments, for J. S. Bach’s Mass in G. As I have been practicing, studying, conducting, and living with this piece over the last few months, it has filled me with a deep spiritual joy. This is music that truly speaks to the soul. I hope you will come to church on the 22nd and bring a friend!

MEASURE Y BRUNCH, MAY 15, 11:30 AM: The MPC Community Connections Committee invites you to the Measure Y Brunch after church this Sunday. We will both celebrate the passage of the ballot measure that modified Measure Y last November and learn about the success and expansion of one Measure Y-funded program, “Lifelines to Opportunity.” This Oakland program focuses on intervening directly in the lives of youth caught up in cycles of violence through street outreach workers, “call-in” sessions, and by directly engaging the community. We celebrate because MPC, through the October Forum and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), played an important role in the passage of the ballot measure. Come hear an update about this violence reduction program from the City of Oakland directors and testimonials from a Call-In participant and outreach workers on May 15! If you have any questions, call Betsy King 510-268-8488.

PLASTIC RECYCLE AT THE CHURCH: Many people don’t realize that Oakland does not recycle plastic bags, plastic items other than bottles and tubs, or Styrofoam. The Men’s Team picks up such items for recycle, except for Styrofoam, on the third Sunday of each month (next pickup is May 15). Leave them in plastic bags on the walk just east of the Church (next to the gas station).

POLLY’S NEW WRITING GROUP: There are two different days and times being offered for this new writing group. They are Sundays, 4-5:30 pm and Tuesdays, 1-2:30 pm. Please select which one (day and time) works best for you and email me at or call the church at 510-339-1131. Thank you, Polly.

WOMEN’S RETREAT: The questionnaires regarding The Women’s Retreat will continue to be available this Sunday. We have distributed more than 40 and are eagerly awaiting their return. Please stop by our table during Family Hour and pick up your copy and/or return your completed one. Your input is very important to the vitality of our Women’s Retreat. For questions please contact Francie Chan 925-899-5667 or Gretchen Garlinghouse 510-482-1157.

DO YOU ENJOY BEING OUTDOORS? MPC Family Camp at the Richardson Resort in South Lake Tahoe, is tradition for many of our families, singles and couples. If you haven’t gone before, we’d love to have you come. All are welcome. This year marks the 34th year. Dates are June 18 (19) until June 25. Rev. Beth & Rev. Katie Morrison lead an intergenerational morning program. There will be more information available during the Sunday morning Family hour or check out the MPC website.

FAIR TRADE TOUR: Two Fair Trade artisans from Peru are traveling to the United States and will be in California, Oregon and Washington May 11-25 to share how Fair Trade has impacted their lives. The artisans are Sonia Anahue Uscamayta from the Munay Rumi jewelry cooperative in Lima, and Yody Gladys Moran Trillo from the El Mercurio knitting cooperative in Huancavelica. Several Presbyterian congregations are hosting Sonia and Yody’s presentations. Nearby events (see for details) are being held on Friday, May 13th, at 6 PM: Hub Berkeley and Saturday, May 14th, at 12:30 PM: Global Exchange in Berkeley.

PHOTO CONTEST: An international photo-journalism contest comes to MPC! And you are invited to participate with this special Joining Hands project with Bolivia. The theme is “Poverty, Pollution, and Solutions” and the deadline for entries is August 1st. The Grand Prize is a trip to Bolivia in Jan. of 2012 to attend the International Youth Environmental Congress. Contact Jay Gregory for details, (510) 746-6815 or There are several options for you to choose from to participate. One of the options is to enter the contest either as an individual or with a team (if you are between 14 and 30 years old). The other options are: 1) promote the contest, help us find youth to enter, 2) help us find venues to exhibit the joint set of winning photos from here and Bolivia, 3) help us find media to cover the exhibit and publish the winning photos, and 4) help us print, frame, and display the winning photos. Our own MPC Youth Group will be among the contest entrants as they explore urban gardens on their summer mission trip to Oregon. Also, you are invited to attend the next Joining Hands Committee meeting on Monday, May 23, at 7:30 PM at High St. Presbyterian Church, 1945 High St., Oakland. We’d be delighted to see you there!

HOPE, OUR REASON TO RELAY: Come join the MPC Team! There is going to be a “Relay for Life” event at Skyline High School on August 13th & 14th. This is a 24–hour relay walkathon which raises money to fight cancer. We are looking for at least 8-12 people who love to have fun & make a difference. Join us by contacting Sherrill in the church office, (510)339-1131.


Dot Cudaback who broke her pelvis on Tuesday and is in Alta Bates Hospital

High School students who are in the middle of Advanced Placement testing

College students who are finishing their semesters and will be traveling home soon

The group from MPC in Canada on a spiritual retreat who will return on Saturday

Arnie Brown who is scheduled for surgery on May 24th for an aortic aneurism

The family of Shelley Kelly’s brother who died in April

For those recovering from natural disasters

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

For those who are grieving

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:




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: 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