May 25, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church

Dear Friends,

After last Sunday’s service in which the choir used their gifts to the absolute fullest, I heard a great deal of gratitude being expressed. With Kim’s leadership and Marcia’s able support, the choir and some guest musicians led us on a complicated musical journey that left most of us wishing we had kneelers so we could kneel and bask in our gratitude to God for the incredible gift we received. If you missed it, you can hear it on our website at Thank you, again, to Kim, Marcia, the choir and our guest musicians.

When I was talking with a small group of church members on Monday, the subject of clapping in Celebration was mentioned. After the choir finished singing on Sunday there was a lengthy period of appreciative silence. The silence was broken by applause and then followed by a standing ovation. A lively discussion ensued as different people expressed their views on why people clap and why some people like to clap while others seem offended by it. One person expressed the idea that it’s appropriate to clap when the choir finishes performing. Another person countered by challenging that it’s not a performance but an offering. Someone else suggested that maybe people clap because culturally we are not very good at receiving gifts without immediately wanting to give a gift in return. When the choir sings we are given a gift of sorts and rather than receive it with gratitude, we feel the need to give a gift back so we clap or give a standing ovation in order to show our appreciation or thanks. The subject of clapping is of interest to me because it helps us further clarify what we are doing in Celebration. One of my professors at seminary challenged us all a great deal on what we think happens in the context of worship. He was working very hard to disabuse us of the idea that as preachers we are performers. He was adamant that when a congregation understands itself to be an audience, the demise of that congregation was nor far behind! He obviously felt very passionate about the issue. He believed and taught that God is the audience when it comes to worship since we are, after all, worshipping God. If God is the audience, the rest of us are the actors and actresses and we “perform” not for each other, but for God. While I found his ideas interesting, I did not agree with his premise.

My description of Celebration is a bit different. Celebration is more like a beautiful dance which includes all of us and God as partners. There are some steps we follow but even in the known steps, what counts is how we give of ourselves or put ourselves into it. Part of every Celebration is our not knowing how the “music” will move us and how that will affect our steps. Our job is to show up for the dance and be open and ready to be drawn into a dance that is at once both familiar and brand new. At the very least, we are required to hear the music and respond either internally or externally. At the most, we are led deeper into the dance and are required to free ourselves from whatever encumbers us. When we immerse ourselves fully in the dance, we are as close to Celebrating God as one gets in a group setting. The idea I am articulating is that we are all participants in Celebration, including God. There are no performers; rather, we all participate. We see, hear, feel, smell, and sometimes taste our way through the time together. At times we are viscerally aware of God’s movement and presence and at other times, we count on others to recognize God for us. If we are all participants, what would make the most sense when we want to express gratitude for gifts? When we clap, one concern is that we separate ourselves and set some up to be performers and others up to be audience. One suggestion I heard was that we all stand or sit with our palms turned up and open as a way to signify that we are receiving and treasuring the gift we have experienced. Those who have given the gift (like the choir) would know that those of us who are participating by listening and receiving have received and treasured the gift.

If you are a clapper who loves to clap and would be sorry to see us give it up in the context of Celebration, I would like to hear from you about what the clapping is about for you and why you want to see it continue. If you are someone who feels differently than I do about what is happening in Celebration, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Mine are certainly fluid and changing so I am open to other ideas or interpretations about what Celebration is and does in our life together. The Celebration committee will be having some conversations about clapping and other aspects of worship and we always welcome your thoughts.

Last week I moved an old desk drawer out of our garage. I found a brochure in the drawer for The Montclair Presbyterian Church Family. There is no date on it but I would guess it is at least 15 years old. You cannot imagine how many church brochures I have thrown away in the past 15 years! The Montclair brochure is the only one I kept. Isn’t it amazing how God works? I first felt called to you all those years ago and yet here we are together at just the right time! My gratitude for you continues to flow through my life.


P.S. In response to last week’s article, we received an anonymous gift for $5000 to help offset our budget deficit. Isn’t that incredible?! The gift is from one of our members who is able to give extra help at this time. Thank you to the member for the generous gift and thank you to all of you who have considered what you are able or not able to do this year. We trust that each of you are prayerfully considering how our Montclair Church Family fits in to your priorities and values for the coming year. You continue to amaze me!

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND: The church office will not be open on Friday. Sherrill will be on vacation and Rev. Beth will be available on her cell or by email.


  • Youth Group: We will meet this Sunday, in room 2, from 7-9 PM.  But first a SPECIAL EVENT you won’t want to miss. THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, May 27, a provocative play will be presented in our church sanctuary, produced by 2 Head Royce seniors. “The Children’s Hour” was written in the 1930’s with allusions to lesbianism which was unheard of at the time. Today it continues to remain relevant as it touches on the consequences of what we say about people, true or not, at school. Tickets are $8 for students. The proceeds will be donated to the “It Gets Better” Project, an LGBTQ organization that was created because of the number of suicides last year to provide teens and youth with hope. It begins at 7:30 but come early to be sure of a seat. Susan will be there. See article below for more info.


  • Memorial Day Sunday: Join MPC for a non-traditional service of prayer and contemplation at the Sunday, May 29th, Celebration. Our theme is honoring those who gave (and are giving) their lives in the struggle for peace. We chose the word “struggle” because it is not as simple as “fight” or as “work for.” The words “fighting for peace” remind us of the paradoxical futility of our efforts – but so do the words “working towards peace,” because too often all our best efforts are washed away and we find ourselves right back where we started. We honor and grieve those who have given their lives in the struggle for peace, whether in active combat, in nonviolent resistance, or in any other way. We also mourn the fact that peace is not yet realized, despite so many good efforts. At this service we will take some time to lay our grief before God, to receive God’s comfort, and to energize one another for the work of peacemaking.

STAFF EVALUATIONS: Each spring, the Personnel Committee, along with the Pastor, ask for feedback from the congregation about their experience with the MPC staff members. We value the thoughts and experiences of the congregation so we are asking people to send in comments about the staff’s performance over the past twelve months. Please be specific and give examples. (“She’s a wonderful person” isn’t as helpful as “She was courteous and efficient in organizing…”). It’s also important for you to tell us in what way you have interacted with the staff person you are discussing, as well as how you feel the staff person has contributed to the mission of MPC. Your name and your comments will be treated confidentially. We would like to have your feedback no later than June 1. Thank you for your valuable input. Please send it to

IT’S UP TO YOU: The official Stewardship due date has passed and we have not yet reached our targeted budget for pledging. In these hard economic times, almost every organization is in this situation. If you listen to NPR radio, you are familiar with the 60-second commercial. So here’s the MPC equivalent — we need to either hear from a few more of you who haven’t responded, or we need some of you long-time supporters to consider whether you are able to increase your pledge a little more. Can you do it? We would love to hear from you. Drop a note in the offering plate on Sunday or email or call one of the Stewardship Co-chairs: Sloan White, Jeanne Dunn or Barbara Vaughn. If you want to continue the same level of ministry that you love at MPC, we need to hear from you!

THE CHILDREN’S HOUR: Taylor and Alison, Seniors at Head Royce school, present: “The Children’s Hour”. For our senior project we wanted to produce a play that celebrated women and, at the same time, would make people stop and think. “The Children’s Hour” was written in the 1930’s with allusions to lesbianism which was unheard of at the time. It broke expectations and set new limits for what can be produced on the stage. Today, 80 years later, it continues to remain relevant, and its message still rings true; it is currently running in London starring Keira Knightly and Elizabeth Moss. This experience has been new and eye-opening for both of us and we invite you to come share it with us! Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and congregation members. All money made will be donated to the It Gets Better Project. It’s an LGBTQ organization that was created after the number of suicides last year to provide teens and youth with hope. Here’s the website: The play will start at 7:30 pm in the Sanctuary at MPC.

CCC RECOMMENDED EVENT: On Friday, May 27, 2011 at 7PM, at St. Paul AME Church, 2024 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, there will be a powerful, eye-opening lecture and book signing by Michelle Alexander, Civil Rights Activist and National Best Selling Author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. A group of CCC members read and discussed this book earlier this year and highly recommend this FREE event. More information and to register: Questions and/or car pooling? Call Betsy – 510-268-8488

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING MPC?: If you or anyone you know is interested in joining our Montclair Church Family, there will be a Prospective Member gathering on Sunday, June 5th, from 1 to 3 pm in the Thornhill Room led by Rev. Beth. We will focus on what it means to be Presbyterian as well as what it means to be a member here at Montclair. Each participant will have the opportunity to share their own church or religious background as well as ask questions and express concerns. Please contact Beth if you are interested and if you are able to attend the gathering. If you are interested and unable to attend on June 5th, please contact Beth for an alternate time.

PENTECOST IS COMING: On Sunday, June 12, we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday! Pentecost is considered the “birthday of the church” as it’s the first large gathering of Jesus’ followers following his death and resurrection. It is also the day when the wild activity of the Holy Spirit is celebrated! In Celebration mode, we invite you all to wear one of the Pentecost colors to church. The colors are Red, Orange and Yellow. If you don’t have any of those colors, wear the closest color to them. If you do have those colors, please wear them! Our theme for the day will be “Powerful Passions.”

CHILDREN’S FOOD BASKET: We would like to acknowledge and thank the many volunteers who raised money, shopped, bagged and delivered 2300 meals to students at Futures and Community United schools in east Oakland this past year. The volunteers are: Brenda Vallenas, Carol Ekberg, Debbie Fallehy, Hal Davis, Helga Mok, Hope Boije, Jan Stites, Burt Rogers, Kathy Sawyer, Larry and Sharon Yale, Laura Carlson, Margaretha Derasary, Mary Ellen McKey, Nancy Singer, Pauline Johnson, Sari Kulberg, Tinka Larsen, Louise Greer and Kurtz Gilligan. A very special thank you to Russ Bruno who shopped at Costco every week or two to keep our cupboards stocked. Janet Mulshine and Ruthann Taylor, Co-chairs.

BOOK DEPOT NEWS: We have a treasure trove of books that will be available for $4.00 apiece, or possibly less if you buy several. There are about 5 boxes of books that Karen Stokes had to leave behind when she moved. Since Beth and the next permanent pastor have their own libraries, we are offering these books to our congregation. They will be in boxes in front of the Book Depot table for a month or two to give everyone interested a chance to obtain some. Come check them out.

JUMP IN, THE WATER IS COOL: How Presbyterian can you be? Walk your talk! “Here I am, God!” Three wonderful, exciting, interactive opportunities to connect, discover, engage, travel, reflect, learn, create, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God, yes to be Easter people in a Good Friday world!

1. Participate in the International Photo-Journalism Contest and Exhibition “Poverty, Pollution, and Solutions”: (for details contact

A. enter the contest (open to those 14-30 years old in teams or as individuals);

B. find people (individuals, teams, or mentors) to enter contest;

C. find media to publicize event and publish winning photos;

D. help print, frame, and display winning photos;

E. find venues for exhibition of winning photos.

2. Join a delegation going to Bolivia!

A. Fall 2011:     Fantastic!

B. Feb. 2012:    Amazing!

3. Attend Joining Hands Committee meetings the fourth Monday of the month to discuss root causes of poverty and pollution and to work on solutions in partnership with grass roots organizations (UMAVIDA) in Bolivia and Cascades Presbytery in Oregon:

Thrilling! Willing? Contact Jean Gregory, or 510-635-8838.

THIS SUNDAY IS THE DEADLINE: Want to go to MPC Family Camp & haven’t registered yet? This Sunday is the deadline to register and reserve your campsite. Come & join us for our 34th Annual Family Camp experience at the Richardson Resort in the beautiful South Lake Tahoe area. An exciting intergenerational program is being planned by our own Rev. Beth & Rev. Katie Morrison. Afternoons are open so you can plan your own adventures or just sit back & enjoy nature.


Theron Hampton (Sheryl Neely’s father who is entering Hospice Care)

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

Arnie Brown  – recovering from surgery

Dot Cudaback who broke her pelvis and is home

Lisa Larges who is still waiting to hear whether she will finally be examined for ordination by the San Francisco Presbytery

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

MPC as we seek discernment about life in Post-Amendment 10A PC (USA)

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: 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