September 8, 2011

Montclair Presbyterian Church


Dear Friends,

After my letter in last week’s Contact, I heard from a few of you.  When I write something that I know is bound to stir up some feelings, I am always curious about those of you who stay silent.  Your silence may be one of several things:  maybe you didn’t read it, maybe you don’t have opinions on it one way or the other, maybe you don’t know how to express your thoughts on the matter or maybe you are upset and are not comfortable conveying that to me.  If the latter is the case and something I write upsets you, I want to continue to invite you to talk with me.  One of my goals while I am still here is to encourage you to express your frustration or anger or disagreement in a way that is healthy.  Having said that, I am not trying to frustrate or upset or anger you! 

In one of the responses I received, it was pointed out that I did not convey accurately the entire conversation that happened with the Celebration Committee.  When I read it, I realized the person was right and I apologized and said I would correct my mistake.  Last week I wrote, “The committee members said, in part, that they want to be able to choose whether they come to Celebration based on what is going to be happening.”  What I left out was some of the other part!  The other part is the value of anticipation – when particular music, topics or guests are included.  Some of the members said when we publish in advance what the texts are going to be, they try to meditate on them beforehand in preparation for the service.   One of the committee members said, “Also the church functions as a beacon – a porch light if you will – when there are situations locally or in the world that bring us together in a more special way than usual. 9/11 is an extreme example, but there have been many others in our lives together. Knowing in advance that something significant will be a focus of celebration helps us get through the week, understanding that our church family will be a place where this can be dealt with together.”  This part of the discussion was as important as the other part and demonstrates how much thought has actually gone into the request to publish Celebration information ahead of time.

One other clarification I would like to offer from last week is that my main intent was to raise the issue of the importance of preaching so we can generate conversation about it.  Remember, my job is to ask questions and to reflect back to you some of what I am seeing or noticing or experiencing.  If strong preaching is the number one priority here, it is my job to shine the light on that and ask whether that is indeed what you continue to desire.

The other issue that surfaced as a result of my letter last week is the issue of community and the expectations regarding what it means to “be community” and specifically what it means to be a part of this community.  I apologize if it sounded critical or if it seemed as if I was trying to impose my ideas regarding community.  Last week I wrote, “In other words, making a decision about whether or not to attend based on who is preaching or not preaching seems out of balance with what Celebration and what church community is all about at its heart.” My intent was to question the importance of preaching or the preacher in relationship to the experience of community. 

Just so you know, I do understand what it’s like to go to church and have to listen to a preacher or a sermon in which I am simply not interested.  There have been many times when I have thought, “Why did I bother coming today?”  As a preacher, though, I experience the other side of that most of the time.  Each time I prepare a sermon, I gather all of you around me in the preparation.  I see your faces, I hear your voices, I remember your stories, I feel your joy and your pain.  One of the reasons I choose to preach from the lectionary (passages that are selected in 3-year cycles to achieve a balance of the entire biblical story) is it allows me to do more exegesis (drawing from the passage) rather than eisegesis (putting things into the passage).  While I am far from perfect, I do my best to listen to where God leads me with a sermon.  In the end, I am always aware that it will probably speak to some of you more than to others of you.  Trust me when I say it’s hard to let go of wanting to prepare sermons that speak to every one of you every time.  You are a more diverse congregation theologically and spiritually than any other congregation with whom I have preached.  As a result, I have found sermon preparation to be more challenging. 

I have not heard from anyone yet that people have stopped coming because they don’t like the preaching or they have a problem with me.  In my ideal world, if that were the case for someone, that person would come and sit down with me and work through the issue or issues so that the community stays intact.  Likewise, if one member had issues with another, the same kind of working through would happen so the community stays intact.  There are times when a person outgrows a particular community or grows differently than a community.  Those are times when I think it makes sense for someone to leave a community and at those times all we can hope for is that the one leaving takes the time to say good-bye.  We all have different ideas about community and what it means specifically to be a part of this Montclair church community.  Let’s talk about what our hopes and expectations are for this community.

Thank you to those of you who gave me feedback or joined in conversation after the Contact letter last week.  I appreciated hearing your thoughts. 

Continuing to give God thanks for each and every day we walk together on this Transitional journey,


We started the meeting with a reading from Revelation 3:1-3, as suggested by the Lake Erie Presbytery’s Mission Study Guide (part of our wide-ranging reading).  The apostle John writes to seven churches from his exile on the island of Patmos, encouraging them to thrive and serve God, even though persecution was very real for them.  Our first topic was reviewing our combined analyses of various kinds of church member surveys.  A subcommittee will provide a first draft for a custom MPC survey within the next two weeks.  We then reviewed our comparison of Team SWOT (Congregational Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) response with Session’s SWOT responses.  We broke into two groups to work on Strengths and Weaknesses; we re-convened and shared the results.  This helps us envision the process we need to take with larger groups, such as committees or the congregation.  We will complete the Opportunities and Threats portions next week.  We closed with a prayer for our tasks and for Beth’s well-being.  – Janet Mulshine, Co-Chair

SPECIAL CELEBRATION SERVICE THIS WEEK AT 10:00 AM:  The Faith Trio is happy to support a Memorial Service of Interfaith Friendship, Trust and Solidarity on the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center’s collapse.  This service will be jointly led by our Interim Pastor Beth Buckingham-Brown, Rabbi David Cooper of Kehilla Community Synagogue, and Imam Rahim Nobahar of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California.  A reception following the service will be held in the Family Room.  Please come to extend a warm welcome to the two other congregations.  And bring a friend to MPC to introduce them to our interfaith outreach.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:  Due to our Faith Trio Commemoration Service on 9/11, the only verbal invitations that will be allowed on Sunday are invitations related to Faith Trio activities or events.

Youth Group:  I saw that one of our teenagers had posted on Facebook this past week: “I can’t wait for Youth Group to begin.”  How exciting that we have this time, as summer is winding down, to look forward to resuming favorite activities, renewing friendships, and even trying new things.  We will begin the New Year on Sept. 18. If you did not receive a fall calendar, please call the church office for one.
Children: The Children will join us in Celebration again this Sunday. New classes begin Sept. 18.

ALOHA!  This year’s MPC “New Year Celebration” is scheduled for Sunday, Sept 18th, after the Celebration.  It will be a Hawaiian themed pot-luck luncheon and everyone is asked to bring a Hawaiian inspired salad or luncheon main dish.  We will gather in “Hawaiian Tribes” – well actually your Beacon pods – & enjoy games & conversation.

GEORGE’S ART SHOW:  George Somers has generously offered to donate his artwork to raise money for MPC!  The church will receive 100% of the proceeds to help meet our budget shortfall.  The art will be displayed in the Family Room on September 11, 18 and 25.  It will be sold by silent auction with the last bids taken at 11:45 a.m. on September 25.  Bids start at $100 and can be increased in increments of $20.  You don’t have to be present on September 25 to win the bid, but you do have to be the highest bidder.  This is a wonderful opportunity to own a George Somers original and help MPC.  (Sponsored by Stewardship Committee)

HOLIDAY SHOPPING:  Craft items made in Thailand will be on sale during the Family Hour on September 11 and 18.  Funds from the sale of these items and the Entertainment Books will go to assist Rev. Sirirat’s Orphanage in Thailand.  Come and shop early for some unique Holiday Gifts.

BILL McKIBBEN, LEADING ENVIRONMENTALIST, TO SPEAK:  Join a group from MPC to hear Bill McKibben of, one of the leading strategists in the world for mobilizing public opinion about climate change.  Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center, 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, Saturday, September 10th, at 11:00 AM.  Go to for more information.  To join a carpool leaving from the church parking lot at 10:00 AM, contact Barbara Peters, or 510-654-9677, to buy tickets ahead ($15.00), go to Brown Paper Tickets

TIME HAS COME FOR MPC WOMEN TO RETREAT TO THE HILLS OF THE EAST BAY!  Registration continues this Sunday, September 11th, for the Fall Women’s Retreat.
Where: Family Room following morning service.
Cost: $180.28 due at time of registration. There are some scholarship possibilities.
Details: This year our retreat falls on Halloween Weekend, aptly our focus will be The Masks Women Wear, led by Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown. Our gathering begins Friday evening, October 28th for dinner and continues through breakfast and celebration Sunday, October 30thWe are asking all participants to commit to full time attendance to experience the fellowship and support of this retreat community.
Possibilities: This is a time out from the hurry of our lives, a time for reflection, singing, sharing, laughing and community. The art muses will encourage us to get our hands dirty with clay, design meditation beads and our resident scribe will tickle our imaginations.
Registration Questions: 
Cynthia Blumgart 510-339-2240 or Susan ten Bosch 925-254-0743
Retreat Questions:
Francie Chan 925-899-5667 or Gretchen Garlinghouse 510-482-1157

ADULT ED:  Sign-ups for Adult Ed will be on Sunday, September 18 and 25, during the Coffee Hour.

DON’T FORGET:  Timeskid, our Works in Progress program for 2011, is coming very soon.  There will be two performances, Friday, September 23, 7:30 pm or Sunday, September 25, at 1:00 pm.  This program will feature the poetry of Margaret Irwin.  She weaves a web of provocative, perceptive, poetry that provides the frame for the stories, ideas, and poetry of all participants dealing with our ideas and experience of aging, change, and loss in our lives.  Get your tickets in the family room this Sunday, the following Sunday or call Sharon Noteboom to make reservations, 925-943-5685.  Don’t miss this show.  There will be much to think about, and a rich hour of entertainment.

JUSTICE BEGINS WITH SEEDS:  On September 16 & 17, the California Biosafety Alliance is sponsoring an important conference about the future of seeds.  Speakers include Vandana Shiva and our Friend from the Oakland Institute, Annuradha Mittal.  For information see:  If you are interested in the conference and would like to be part of an MPC group attending, contact Brad Hestir after celebration or at home to coordinate.

BOOK DEPOT NEWS:  If you are going to want us to order books for a class or discussion in the next month or so, please give us the information as soon as possible.  Gretchen will be out of town much of October, but with advance notice she can usually get books for when you need them.  Call Gretchen Hayes at (510) 530-3557 or email  Thank you.

THANK YOU FOR THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY BLESSING:  We deeply appreciate the warmth and support expressed at the Blessing of our 50 years of marriage.  It was wonderful to share this momentous occasion with the whole MPC Family.  Special thanks to Beth for the idea, and the inspiring prayer, to Marcia for coaching our grandchildren who sang Amazing Grace, to Steve McKiernan for setting up the web page about it and to Debbie Fallehy for overseeing the reception in the Family Room. Sincerely, Wayne and Mary Smith.











Front Row, left to right: Elsa Wollenweber, Donna Robles, Lee Ann Smith, Kathy Sawyer, Bonnie McNamara, Marina Tate.
Back Row, left to right: Stan Stevens, Francie Chan, Chuck Dormann, Lori Kendall, and Suzanne Jones.


  • Debbie Dille who is recovering at home from shoulder surgery.
  • Susan ten Bosch and family who are grieving the death of her 100-year old father.
  • Members and friends of MPC who are grieving the deaths of loved ones.
  • Teachers and students who are going back to school.
  • Lindsey Parrott and John Spencer who are beginning college.
  • Continued healing for Kini York.
  • Continued healing for Tracy Livezey.
  • Wisdom & guidance for the Mission Study Team.

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 noon.

MPC Calendar:



5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland, California 94611, (510)339-1131
Office Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm
Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown, Office hours Monday-Wednesday, 10:00-4:00 pm
Susan Hunn, Associate for Education: Office hours, Tuesday-Thursday, 9:30-2:30 pm
Sherrill Figuera: Administrative Assistant, Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30 pm
Talitha Phillips: Associate for Care and Congregational Life
Kim Rankin: Music Director
Marcia Roy: Organist
Gil & Maria Chiguila: Caretakers
Rev. John Hadsell: Theologian in Residence
Rev. Kathy Ray: Parish Associate