The CNC retreat is a time when youth going through the confirmation program learn to set up their own worship spaces and experience God. The do reports on world religions to understand what others believe and what makes that different from Episcopalians. They even have a little fun playing board games.
In 2020 I lost my mom and I lost my husband, Jim. I still have my sweet Caramel, but she’s 17, and a dog cannot last forever. Put simply, pandemic or no pandemic, I don’t know where I would be without St. John’s – the love, the history, the vision, the community, and the place of engagement.
Have you ever felt this love for this place – for this community? Even briefly? Maybe you felt it and moved away. Maybe you felt it once and then decided it wasn’t real. Maybe you thought it was the people and not the church, the person not the community, the group not the faith. But this year I have learned that making these distinctions misses the mark – these are all aspects of community, and they all matter.
Ann Lamott tells the story of a Rabbi who shares with his students the importance of having God’s word on their hearts. And when a student asks, “But Rabbi, don’t you want us to have God’s words in our hearts?” the Rabbi replies, “Only God can put his words in your heart, but if I put God’s words on your heart, when your heart breaks, they will fall right in.”
Our world is on fire in one corner, and flooding in another; we are losing loved ones, we are grieving, we are aging; there is real fear – not just imagined – for the future of our planet and our country. Is your heart-breaking to see the world so? Mine is. But good things are happening, too - new family members, new friends, new missions and new challenges. Are we celebrating the love alongside mourning the loss?
Recently, I took a wonderful course on Climate Change and Activism from an organization whose mission statement is to create a socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually fulfilling human presence on planet Earth. And I asked myself – isn’t that what we strive for at St. John’s? Why am I looking at other organizations? What is missing at my home church? These questions haunted me.
So, when I was asked to chair the Stewardship campaign this year, I jumped at the chance because I know we’ve got something really special here, and we need to step up our commitment or we could lose this most precious, bighearted community. We could lose the power of God’s presence in a positive community. In this campaign we are asking you to examine our relevance. We want us, together, to re-view what St. John’s has been, what it is, what it could be and what we want it to be for all of us. What can we do together to bring the values we share to the forefront? How do we bring our commitment to God’s love as a gift and inspiration to love each other, our planet, our island home, and our community? I believe that when we look at this closely, we will say together, “Pandemic or no Pandemic, we can make the world a better place if we channel the potential right here, right now at St. John’s.”
Of the 8 Pillars of Joy, this year we choose to focus on these two: Gratitude and Generosity. I am grateful for so much, despite the losses in 2020. I know words of gratitude strengthen us, heal us and bring us joy. We hope you will use the enclosed 3 thank you cards and use them to exercise your gratitude muscles however you choose.
And as for Generosity, know that Jesus spoke well when he said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In gratitude and love,
St. John’s has arrived at a crucial moment in our history. I like to think of it as a rite of passage. Of course, every year is important, but there are times when the stars align and we are invited to consider radical change that also promises great opportunity. We are, without a doubt, in such a time.
The pandemic proved something once and for all. St. John’s is determined to not only survive but to thrive no matter what we face. We saw this determination before the pandemic when, after completing a strategic plan that inspired us to realign our staff, you all stepped up and funded this plan which included hiring a full time Associate for Congregational Development. We determined at that moment to not be part of the 90% of churches in decline, but rather, to invest and start acting like the 10% of churches that were growing. Vision inspires generosity and you all caught the vision and, Wow, were you generous. Giving increased by 20% for 2020. Together, we made a commitment to our future and completed the first step in our strategic plan.
Now, we have the opportunity to take the next step in our plan: to enhance and deliberately empower our ministry to children and youth. This is especially challenging as Kellor is retiring. But she has graciously offered to make sure the baton is firmly placed in the hand of the next runner. I am optimistic because we have hired Ministry Architects, a national consulting firm that has helped churches across the nation redesign their youth ministries to meet the challenges of future generations, and we have formed a dynamite team of young leaders in our parish to work with them as we renovate how we renew and restructure our ministries.
Our job in this transition is to make sure that the baton lands in the hands of the right person and that that person is properly supported by the infrastructure of our parish. What is clear to me is that we need to be in a position to do a national search process and attract a full-time youth and family director that will bring the talent we need to put our ministry renovation plan into action. Attracting new families to St. John’s is something we all want. Now we need to step up and fund this desire. What an amazing opportunity we have!
So, as you prayerfully consider your pledge for 2022, I ask you to do two things:
Vision is the bedrock of generosity and generosity leads to gratitude which leads to more generosity. Now is a time like no other in our history. My prayer is that you will continue to be inspired by the vision so that together, we each can do what we can to assure that St. John’s meets the future with great faith and joy!
The Rev. Scott Denman+
CELEBRATING CONNECTION – STEWARDSHIP
Prepare to be entertained and challenged
Are you ready to gather for some truly lively conversation?
in person in the Vestry Room or by Zoom?
The 2022 Stewardship Committee is inviting You
Come to any of 10 Gatherings scheduled between October 2 – 13 and share what you think about the past, present and future of St. John’s – but through a different lens. We want people to talk about what they love and what is inspiring at our spiritual home, but we also want to have people brainstorm about what is missing, what keeps people away, what disappoints, and what discourages people from being loud and proud about St. John’s - what we can do more of and what we can do better.
Help St. John’s create the new normal!
Each session will seek to explore a unique aspect of our mission. Each team will take notes and the notes will be visible to the next groups and ALL the thoughts will be brought together on November 14, to discuss how we can all invest in and inspire the FUTURE of St. John’s.
If you are a facilitator, scribe or a host, please do not fill out a doodle for your session.
To attend in person click here.
To attend online click here.
An email will be sent for online zoom links prior to your session.
Thanks to our technology investment, these will be hybrid gatherings to ensure everyone feels welcomed and safe - attendance is limited to 8 in the Vestry Room and 8 online for the same date. We need your voice to be part of the conversation so sign up NOW.
It was a fun week of bidding and getting together on Zoom for St. John’s auction. Hosts Jim MacIlvaine and Laurie Bennett showcased people in eight ministries through videos and stories during the live portion on August 29th. If you didn’t see it, you can still view it on St. John’s YouTube channel by clicking this link. And if you didn’t pledge that day, you still have an opportunity: send or leave a check at St. John's by September 20 or pay online through the St. John's website. https://onrealm.org/StJohnsOakland/-/give/now and choose" 2021 Auction" on the right side drop down menu.
The online auction ended on August 30th. Sixty-six bidders from all over the country were reminded via email, “You’ve been outbid!”, and this reminder generated spirited bidding right up until the 5 p.m. closing.
At this date, the auction has totaled over $35,000 in gross proceeds. This money will be distributed between the specific funds highlighted in the live auction and put to good use for the general operations of St. John’s.
But none of this was possible without a huge cast of talented volunteers. Planning began in March when Deacon Jon reported to leadership groups about the possible live streaming options that would allow St. John’s to meet in person and continue an online worship experience. The biennial auction was the right vehicle to broadcast this need and the Auction Committee was in action soon. MANY THANKS and ADMIRATION go to this amazing core group.
Laurie Bennett – chair
Judi Marr – auction database coordinator
Sylvia Ahern – database analyst and video creator
Jim MacIlvaine – auction host and script writer
Scott Denman – Da Rector Productions for videos and showcase creation
Jon Owens – Zoom technician extraordinaire and Communications
Carolyn George – Celebrating Connection Happy Hour planner and chef
Ken Fuller – Donation coordinator and Happy Hour
Pat Harden – Communications
Kathy Araugo – mailings, forms, office support
This is the cast of workers for whom my gratitude is boundless: Lisa Cadwalader, Jerry and Bonnie Moran, Silvia Sykes, Anne Meyer, Sean Van Straatum, Greg Slatoff, Alex Slatoff, Molly Marion, Michelle Ziegmann, Laura Kroger, Katie Kroger, Ben Riggs, Abby Smith, Kellor Smith, Sarah Jones.
And the event would not have been successful without the wonderful donations from our parishioners: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you,
Our own Audrey Byrne, working with the CCC (California Conservation Corps). this year, (she started July 1) deployed at the Dixie fire, taking care of evacuee livestock at the Quincy fairgrounds. She is there doing logistical support for the fire fighting effort.
By Ian Storrar
On July 2nd, the news broke that UK Olympian Alice Dearing would not be allowed to wear the swim cap of her choice. This wasn't some dispute over fashion, as you may have first assumed. Instead, it was about racism. Systemic racism built into institutions like the International Swimming Federation.
The news (link to Guardian article) reporting explained of the gear in question that "the caps did not fit “the natural form of the head.” In case you haven't figured it out or read the article, Alice Dearing is black. She's "the first black female swimmer to represent Team GB at the Olympics." You see, swim caps are designed for hair like mine - white people hair. The article does a great job explaining why this is a problem and why it's racist. I'll move on.
Sticking to the British, we heard this week about two-time Paralympic world champion sprinter Olivia Breen who was told by an official that her shorts were too short. The Washington Post covers the story here. This story is about sexism, at least. To state the obvious, we've heard no stories of male sprinters being told by officials their shorts are too tight.
On the same day (July 20th - just yesterday), US Paralympian swimmer Becca Meyers' regretfully pulled out of the Olympics because the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee hadn't allowed for her Personal Care Assistant to go with her, even though she is deaf and blind and has been traumatized before by being left alone without adequate support to find food.
These stories are examples of how institutions and those in power can do great harm to individuals and persist ongoing forms of racism, sexism, ableism, and other oppressive structures in society. In some of these instances, it's unlikely that anyone intends to be part of this pattern and are simply being obtuse.
Nevertheless, I believe we need to call these situations out, as Christians and as members of our society (never mind sitting in a CRT master's seminar) and do something. So, while you may feel the need to contact the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (please do), I invite you to take action in a couple of local, direct ways that can help to change the patterns of injustice we are surrounded by:
*Join us on Thursday July 22nd, because sometimes we just need to elevate youth voices, especially from underrepresented communities, in voicing their needs (rather than assuming we know what's "normal").
**As I write this, we need just 10 more signatures to hit the next milestone. Help us over the top and beyond. Who knows, maybe one of the people needing this service will be in the Paralympics one day - but actually that shouldn't and doesn't matter.
Everyone has a right to adequate public transit regardless of ability or whether they will be in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Let's start in Oakland and Alameda County and hope we don't have these stories 3 years from now.
By Kellor Smith
With Covid cancelling the Mission Trip to the Texas/Mexico border in 2020 and 2021, this June the Youth Group decided to change gears. They became a cleaning crew for the Chapel at the Bishop’s Ranch near the Russian River and St. Andrew’s Church near Guerneville, both struggling with diminished help because of the pandemic.It wasn’t easy. The to-do lists were long. But they decided who was doing what and got to work. Here is one of three pages of the list for St. Andrews.
Left uncleaned for more than 15 months, cobwebs, dust, dirt and candle wax were everywhere. Here is Molly cleaning dust from rug.
It was on the hymnals, walls, rugs, and alters. Worship spaces have been unused and there was dust all around including on the prayer books and hymnals.
Comments ranged from “Ew, I am not touching that!” “OMG, what just fell on my head?” to “Sorry spider, but it is time for you to move on.”
But getting these places clean was satisfying. Here is a photo of their happy dance as they closed the door on a clean, polished chapel at The Bishop’s Ranch
At St. Andrew’s they were asked to fix the organ, definitely beyond their pay grade. But once they untangled all the cords, they realized that the wrong cord was plugged in, solving the problem.
There was plenty of anxiety about leaving their homes. Being in the big world after months of sheltering in place was a huge step. To help with the anxiety, they walked the Labyrinth, had group talks and prayed each day. And they had some fun, playing Scattergories and kayaking on the Russian River the last day.
Next year’s mission trip: After being cancelled twice, plans are now in place for the Mission Trip to the Texas/Mexico border next year, summer 2022. Mark your calendars and think about friends who might want to join. Third time’s a charm.
It’s Juneteenth. For many of us, like me, in St. John’s this is likely the first year, maybe the second or third, we’ve really been aware of the holiday, let alone its significance in U.S. history and the life of black Americans for the last 156 years. June Nineteenth is now an official Federal day off, but I suspect its coincidence with the Father’s Day weekend will mean most of us are spending today looking for the perfect socks or down at the butcher’s counter looking for a steak or some juicy sausages for Dad. I confess, my weekend includes more of that kind of activity than of marking the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in this country.
Now, before you stop reading, please, let me invite you to also reflect and, crucially, act. Don’t worry, you will still get to celebrate tomorrow, as you had planned. If you’re one of my fellow Americans that has been led to believe they are white,* please read on.
The last year has been tough, even brutal, for everyone to varying degrees. The COVID-19 pandemic, the election, the murders of George Floyd and scores of other black and brown men and women, the hate-filled attacks and murder of our Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors, and so many other tragic and stressful streams of activity in our society have been a lot to pay attention to, absorb, talk about, just respond to, or maybe even do something about.
This weekend is the first weekend since COVID-19 restrictions in California have been lifted. 70+% of Californian adults are at least partially vaccinated and many of them are spending this weekend with loved ones for the first time in 18 months. Schools and offices are reopening. It feels good. Really good. But as we enjoy this change of pace and tone in our lives, I urge you to think about what hasn’t really changed and what we have become more aware of in the past year, on days like today and every day.
While many of us are regaining a sense of normality, there are others for whom very little has changed. Criminal justice and policing still overwhelmingly discriminates, often with deadly effect, against people of color. Access to education, including the resources to navigate the world of Zoom school, hybrid-learning, after-school care, and other things like books and supplies, is limited. People of color with intellectual or developmental disabilities and differences receive less than half the assistance from government services that their white counterparts receive. The list goes on.
These are some of the issues that St. John’s helps to address through its membership in Genesis. Last fall, I went through organizer training with Genesis’ parent-organization Gamaliel. I am long overdue in making this request. In the meantime, these issues have not gone away, by some miracle. It falls on me and you to act if we want the world to be different.
So, however, whatever, and whomever you are celebrating this weekend, I call on you to consider 3 ways to take action to address the ongoing injustice in our society even as we pull out of the depth of the pandemic into what will be a fairly normal summer for most of us:
1. Please join me and the Action & Justice Ministry at St. John’s in our ongoing conversations about these issues.
2. Please join the St. John’s delegation of 2 to 3 people to serve on the Genesis leadership council. This is a vital role that we have not been as active in playing as we should have, despite being a founding member of the organization. We are looking for two or more volunteers to help. Email me to discuss.
3. Take some time to reflect. Please reflect on Juneteenth by a. learning more about what it means and b. why it took more than 150 years for most of us to even know it existed.
Thanks and Happy Juneteenth - Ian Storrar
*Paraphrasing Ta Nehisi Coates, author and journalist known for works including his reporting in The Atlantic and his books like Between the World and Me.
Last month, the Vestry agreed to sign a three-year contract with LocalLive, to live-stream our 10:00 worship services beginning in September. This is exciting news, as it will allow us to continue to reach the various members of our congregation who will sometimes prefer online worship, or who will need this option due to scheduling challenges, immobility and/or distance.
Keeping our doors open in this new way fits in with St. Johns’ strategic plan goal to build up our membership, which has been declining over the past decade. We know this must be done if we are to survive and thrive as a worship community.
I’d like to provide some additional background supporting this decision.
We also discovered new people were participating on Sundays from as nearby as Oakland but as far away as England, and various points in between. Some were friends or relatives of parishioners, and some came to us through online channels. We hope they will stay with us, either online or in person in September. We need to provide an online option for these folks.
I’ve heard that some in the congregation are wondering why we can’t continue with zoom services. This is mainly a staffing issue. The zoom services are very labor intensive to produce. When you think about it , they are unique, “mini- productions” produced each week that involve the time of many – clergy, staff, lay volunteers, music personnel, and Jon Owens, who has been assembling the elements and running zoom on Sundays. Once we start with two in-person services on Sunday this fall, it won’t be sustainable to continue with zoom church.
I hope everyone will be open-minded about introducing the live-streaming option. In the view of the Vestry, there seems to be no strong downside to giving this modality a try. I’m sure that many of you would agree that if we are to grow and remain relevant, we need to be open about trying new things – particularly those that we know are working at other institutions.
Please feel free to reach out to Ruben or me with any questions about this initiative. We are here for you, and always happy to discuss what’s on your mind. These are exciting times at St. John’s as we begin to move out of the pandemic and into a new world of growth and discovery. We welcome good conversation along the way.
The Mouse is the long-running news source for St. John's. With decades of history, our blog now features the same great news about what's happening at St. John's with a more frequent publication cycle.