Orientation Coffee Hour on new program: Sacred Ground
Following the 10am service January 17th
Grab a cup of coffee after church, and hop back on Zoom to learn more about Sacred Ground. It is a film and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. Small groups are invited to walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity.
The 10-part series is built around a powerful online curriculum of documentary films and readings that focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories. Classes are every few weeks, not weekly.
Sacred Ground is part of Becoming Beloved Community, The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society. This series is open to all, and especially designed to help white people talk with other white people. Participants are invited to peel away the layers that have contributed to the challenges and divides of the present day – all while grounded in our call to faith, hope and love.
Come learn more about this series and decide if it is right for you. This is a series and requires registration to attend. Participants must be willing to commit to the entire series. Learn more by attending the orientation on ZOOM after the service!
Santa (my daughter) dropped off cookie kits to all the youth. We had set a date to decorate them together for a youth group meeting.
We gathered, shared our rose and thorns for the season. When we talked, we shared the positives and negatives of how we would be celebrating Christmas in 2020. Each of them enjoyed sharing their decorated cookies, as you can see in the photos.
During our gathering there were times of chatter and times of silence. When I asked, “if they enjoyed the silence?”
One of the kids said, "my head does not often have a chance for inner and outer silence these days. It is nice. Decorating the cookies is like a prayer. We are not trying to answer a school question. You are letting us be together with smiles on our faces and I can't wait to fill my smile with these cookies!"
I shared that as we are in a community and breaking "cookies " together, it was like communion. So, we said a prayer together. We all wished we had a glass of milk to share too. We all prayed for a vaccine and that we would be able to decorate cookies together in 2021.
Director of Youth and Families
As we enter Advent, we begin thinking of new ways to engage and prepare for the coming of Christ. Things are going to be a little different than we are used to this year, but that means we have an opportunity to do something new!
I am very excited to see how our Christmas Drive Through is shaping up. From December 18th to 29th from 5-9 PM St. John’s will host a quarantine-friendly drive through Nativity complete with lights, music, Wise Men and, of course, the Holy Family. Be sure to drive through and tell your friends and family to come by! Great way to celebrate from the safety of your own car.
This year we also figured out ways that will help us engage in our community, by having a drive through where our neighbors can attend from the safe distance in their cars. We created postcards so you can share a ZOOM worship experience with friends and family on the east coast or anywhere in the world. This is a chance to share the good news with people about a story of hope, love, and joy.
It is amazing how global we have become - last Sunday we had some visitors from Idaho, and at our Harriet Tubman Bible Study, people from New York and Calgary, Canada joined us. This is what sharing the Good News looks like. We continue to find new ways to engage.
Last month when I preached, you might remember I asked people to take an ornament from our maple tree and “say their names”. We in fact had 30 people interested in doing this sort of prayer work. As our VISION ministry expands during winter not only to provide food but needed warm clothing, St John’s members have stepped up and will continue to step up this month. Even though this year is different, I am excited about this season, and I’m looking forward in anticipation of the Christ Child coming. There are so many ways to greet our Lord and Savior!
Throughout 2020 I have been amazed at how this year has invited us deeper into the stories of our faith. When the pandemic arrived, forcing us to isolate, I sadly, but somewhat jokingly, wrote to you, saying, “I bet you never thought you would give up church for Lent.” We all felt this dread that we were being thrown out of orbit from the planet of our faith, never to return. That fear has proven vastly unfounded.
Giving up church for Lent became more like giving up ways of doing church that we were comfortable with. That has not been a bad exercise, quite the contrary. Learning new ways of being church has not closed down our sense of possibility but, instead, opened our minds to new ways of being open and more inclusive as a church.
More profoundly, we did not lose our faith, but were introduced to it in a new way. I for one, found it easier to preach an Easter sermon, because we were closer to the experience of the disciples who, as the story goes, were also surrounded by political turmoil, filled with fear and practicing a lock down of their own. The stories of our faith actually came alive because we were all living in a context that had significant similarities with the original story. And now as we enter Advent, a season of waiting and longing, don’t we also know more clearly the things we long for, and what it’s like to practice the patience we need to wait for solutions to arrive?
In a way, the story of Christmas can be seen as the ultimate story to meet everything 2020 has thrown at us. It is a story of a frightened couple whose lives have been disrupted, seeking a safe place to call home. It is a story about shepherds, the essential workers of that day, being filled with fear as angelic messengers interrupt their lives with a challenge to embrace hope. It is a story about wise thought leaders seeking a new narrative, even crossing borders to find a new beginning with people of different cultures and ethnicities.
The Christmas story even happened during a census, a sign of political turmoil in that day. Christmas is the story of God becoming one of us, choosing to be right in the middle of our lives. The stories of faith did not float away into obscurity during 2020, they came alive, finding their way to the center of own story. So here we are, in the darkest time of the year, waiting and hoping for things to change. Welcome to Advent. May we all continue to discover that the stories of our faith are actually stories about our own lives. Both
Advent and Christmas are Whose Story Is It? about embracing a very old story as a very new story, discovering that their message continues to be birthed every moment of every day as we journey into the future. These stories are our stories. So, let us journey with a renewed sense of God’s love and presence in our lives, for unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given.
An Opinion Piece by Carol Brown
Our community has changed dramatically in a very short time. Has anyone ever been to NOBE – the area of land that was once redlined including north Oakland, south Berkeley, and parts of Emeryville? The houses there sell for $800,000 plus and the school nearby has dramatically changed its profile in just a few years to one of the best in Oakland.
Trying to understand our neighborhood and the Bay Area, I ran across an article on Vox on the internet. At the end of last year, they reported on a study by the Brookings Institute, which said that since 2005, 90 percent of the growth in high-tech jobs -- (defined as top science, technology, engineering and math industries) in the United States happened in just 5 metro areas, two of them – San Francisco and San Jose – in the Bay Area. This resulted in wealth, high paying jobs and faster wage growth being concentrated in these areas, as well as a lot of secondary work – jobs created to help serve those workers. They do come with costs: worsening traffic, ballooning housing prices and wage growth so high that smaller firms can’t compete. So, it looks like our neighborhood consists of many people in tech jobs or people who serve people who work in tech jobs. (According to the Diocese only 22% of the population in our focus area are people over 65 years old.)
What does that mean for St. John’s? Can we find deep hungers near us that meet our deep gladness and grow our church community? What needs can we find in these new neighbors that give us good “whys?” A few thoughts about where to look for the needs and whys: in the fall of 2018 Christopher Ategeka gave an adult education program at St. John’s about the unintended consequences of technology. He actually has a non-profit dealing with this. Perhaps we should talk to him about the needs of these “new” neighbors. Can we be the neighborhood, the community for them to feel a part of? Can we mentor young adults when there is little time for anything but technology, like the ballot parties Genesis sponsored? And there are the children. How can we help households that have two hard-working adults raise their children?
One St. John’s parent I called to invite them to a cottage meeting declined very nicely, saying, “We are slammed with homeschooling and working, so are unable to join. Appreciate the outreach.” Maybe we need to talk to parents of slightly older children (secondary school) who are familiar with the situation, but not overwhelmed by it. We have a number of members as well as alumni who fit that bill. And if we want to get a sense of the needs of neighboring schools, why not talk to the parent-teacher association? Seems to me that they would know at least as much, if not more, more than the staff. Of course, as we grow our community, embracing this new group of people, I believe that we will also grow our outreach programs to the neediest outside our immediate community.
by Carol Brown
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
So, how do we get there?
Two year ago, the long-range planning committee reported that St. John’s had lost members in a pattern similar to most Episcopal and mainstream Protestant churches. St. John’s rallied with a record-breaking stewardship campaign last year, new programs and renewed vitality. But our membership hasn’t grown. We might have an idea about where our “deep gladnesses” are. But do we know them all? And what about the “world’s deep hunger,” especially in our immediate neighborhood?” We know there are a lot of needs outside our mediate community.
But what about the needs nearby? How do these two ideas of expanding our membership and meeting the world’s deep hunger mesh? What things that we feel moved to do at St. John’s are meaningful and interesting to our local community? To help us get a better sense of our immediate community, Rev. Jon Owens put together a meeting on Monday, October 19, between the Vestry, the Ministry Catalysts and Abbott Bailey, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of California.
The goal was to get a better view of strategic planning and the work we have been doing, and to see how the work the Diocese has done might assist us. Canon Bailey’s particular focus is congregational vitality. To this end, the Diocese has collected data about who lives in our immediate neighborhood. As she pointed out, the data doesn’t drive mission. The mission drives the data. It allows us to complement the mission, to ask better questions about what it is we are doing and why we are doing it.
Here is a summary of the meeting.
After prayer, Abbott Bailey asked us to introduce ourselves and answer the question, in one word, “Why St. John’s?” Here’s what people said: St. John’s is inclusive, an active community, friendly, innovative, committed to action, involved, community, connection, reflection, welcoming, family, adventurous, open to new things.
Then we delved into some of the data about who lives in our neighborhood, including a surrounding circle with a radius around the church of 3.5 miles. This essentially includes Montclair, Piedmont, Rockridge, Oakmore, Glenview and Redwood Heights. Questions were asked by Canon Bailey, and we were invited to answer them. We thought we had the
answers – turns out many times we did not! Here is some of
the data we discussed:
1. What percentage of the people volunteered for a charity in last 12 months? National average is 16%. In our area it is 27%.
2. Diversity index. What is the statistical likelihood that two people selected randomly will be of a different race? Nationally, it is 65%. Here in our area it is 53%.
3. What percentage of the population is 36-64? 41%
4. What percentage of the households live in poverty? Nationally the average is 13%. Our area it is 3%.
5. What is the unemployment rate? The national average is 13%. (This is probably post-Covid). 10.8% in our area.
6. What percentage of people exercise at a club 2 or more times/week? The national average 14%. It is 23% in our area.
7. Percentage of our housing is owner occupied. National average 64%. Here it is 85%.
8. Population in each age group: under 18: 23%. 18-35: 13%. 36-64: 41%. (predominantly families) over age 65: 22%.
Ian commented, “Everyone moving into the neighborhood are couples with school-aged children or a child on the way.”
9. Overwhelming: “upscale avenues and affluent estates.” 98% of the population.
This information raised questions and comments from members in the group about how we are insulated from and don’t live near people who are struggling. Questions were raised about whether there is a ministry that can break down some of these divisions.
Canon Bailey then shared slides showing redlining on a map of Oakland in 1940. These were areas where lenders refused to lend money to homebuyers at that time. She suggested that this
history was how our catchment area got the statistics it has. It was pointed out that many of the areas redlined at that time large parts of Alameda, downtown Oakland, Fruitvale, the area around Lake Merritt, parts of Rockridge, Temescal, West Oakland, NOBE, around Mills College are now gentrified, suggesting that the statistics in those areas have changed significantly.
Another group member talked about putting affordable housing in our immediate neighborhood as a way to counteract this legacy. To mitigate the legacies of redlining that have benefited
us. How much push back would there be?
Canon Abbott then talked about the “why” of our different ministries. We have worked to develop North Oakland village. Why? We have talked about programs with Thornhill School.
How does that work with our faith? “If you have a strong ‘why,’ data can help. You can then think about the how to’s,” she said.
Canon Abbot said that the Diocese wants to make this data much more available to parishes. She pointed out some other St. John’s statistics: St. John’s “generational predominance” is
baby boomers, generation Z and 3 to 20-year-olds. Our congregational vitality is moderate, but attendance is low.
Rev. Jon Owens then remarked that our community needs assessment. What do we see in the neighborhood? Is after school care full? Do we need to open another one? What are the actual, immediate needs within the radius of our church? How can we get people to plug into our church?
St. John's is a founding member of Genesis. Please join us in investing in the vital organizing work we are doing with Genesis, and enjoy an evening of music.
Music for Justice Fundraiser:
November 14, 2020, 7:00 pm
Did you know that Genesis is close to achieving our goal of doubling our budget in 2021 so that we can hire a field organizer?
Grassroots fundraising is the way that we create diverse funding so that we can have the resources to invest in leadership (especially youth!) and seek justice.
We are also giving part of the proceeds to First Congregational Church of Oakland to help them support their ministries and maintain their beautiful organ!
Here are some ways to invest in us ahead of Saturday:
We are so blessed to have been gifted the talents of Ken Herman from Justice Overcoming Boundaries (San Diego) and Dr. Bill Richardson (NW Missouri State, Maryville, MO) who have collaborated to create this spirit-filled event with other musicians.
Register via Eventbrite for this free event, which will benefit our virtual youth intern program and the First Congregational Church of Oakland.
Note that Eventbrite will send you the Zoom Link several times before November 14. Text our Youth Intern (Cesar~925-818-4723) at least 60 minutes before the event if you need tech support.
As we start November and the upcoming Thanksgiving season, I have been looking at my own gratitude for this congregation. I can finally say my stuff has arrived, and I am now a homeowner in the Bay Area after 11 months. I never imagined my transition would take so long. St. John’s has been super supportive in my transition, and the people who have hosted me in their homes has been so helpful. I want to thank Laurie Bennett, Cynthia O’Malley, Ruben Simpliciano & David Coe and Cathy Crocker, who all have been gracious hosts.
As I reflect on our common life together, I think about the creative things we have done with stewardship - delivering the poppies, delivering the bread and wine for communion, the VISION program for feeding the hungry in our city and many other ways we have been staying connected. We had an interesting Vestry meeting last month where we looked over our strategic plan to see if we are still going in a direction that makes sense. We also had a joint meeting between the Vestry and Ministry Catalysts to see if St. John’s is looking at our neighborhood and asking if we are engaging with their needs.
Lastly, the Anti-Racism committee has been moving forward, looking at adult education, liturgy and many other aspects of our church to create a new framework and lens for looking at truly building a culture that acknowledges our privilege and welcomes all people. I also had the opportunity to spend a week in Baton Rouge, LA, visiting my friend The Rev. Tommy Dillion, who used to serve in San Francisco. It was exciting to get a taste of two different church communities, see where they are with COVID regathering and also learn how their congregations are changing. St. Margaret’s in Baton Rouge is one of the 10% of growing congregations there. I made notes of ideas we may want to try at St. John’s.
This month I am excited about a visit to our church by Harriet Tubman who will be schooling us on Faith and Servant Leadership. Author Karol Brown is a colleague of mine from the Robert K Green Leaf Center for Servant Leadership. When I learned of her unique dedication to educating people about the life of Harriet Tubman through reenactments, I thought, “We have to get this person to St. John’s.!” I hope you will join us for her presentation on Nov. 21st at 11am. I pledge to send everyone who attends a Harriet Tubman Bookmark in the mail! My prayer this November is that you take time to reflect on all of God’s goodness in your life. Although these are trying times, there is so much we can be thankful for.
Article from fromThe Mouse Newsletter 11/2/20
Article from The Mouse Newsletter 11/2/20
As I write this there are a lot of things we do not know. We do not know how long this pandemic will continue. We do not know if there will be an effective vaccine. We do not know what America will become as we face our racial narratives. We do not know who will be our next President. On a smaller scale we do not yet know how St. John’s will do Christmas this year or how we will meet a future which is constantly changing. That’s a lot of unknowing.
Here is the good news. Knowing is not necessary for us to live lives filled with love, hope and joy. In fact, such gifts may only emerge in times of unknowing. Such times require faith which is the conviction of things unseen (Hebrews 1:11). It is that faith that is the key to the purpose of life and the abundance of gifts that come from hope.
An anonymous work of Christian mysticism, from the 14th century, was entitled The Cloud of Unknowing. Written in Middle English this tome was a contemplative prayer guide
that taught that the way to know God was to abandon our desire to define God and, instead, to courageously surrender our mind and ego to the realm of unknowing. Such openness
would allow one to truly get a glimpse of the nature of God. This tradition inspired generations of mystics like Nicholas of Cusa, St. John of the Cross and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
It is perhaps appropriate, and somewhat comical, that we don’t know who wrote the cloud of unknowing. So there you go. And there we go as well. Maybe these crazy times can be a
gift to us, helping us. As that famous prayer challenges us we should let go of the things we cannot change and act on the things that we can and trust that, with God’s help, we will be
able to know the difference.
It is said that life happens when you are busy making plans. In the challenges of these times may we remember that one of our greatest gifts is that even if we are only beginning to
know God, this God who knit us together in our mother’s womb, already knows us, loves us and will continue to guide us today and in the days to come. If we know that, the great cloud of unknowing we find ourselves in will not deter us from our true purpose.
Nov. 21st @ 11am-12:30pm
Join us for an exciting Bible Study with Harriet Tubman (Author Karol Brown) Karol does reenactments of Harriet Tubman and is a scholar on her life. To get ready for this one-time event, you will need two things:
1) You will need to bring a Bible.
2) Purchase Karol Brown's Book. We recommend the companion
workbook, but it is not required.
In our Bible Study Karol will be talking about Harriet and Faith and Servant Leadership. This event will take place on St. John's ZOOM. To get the zoom link you will need to subscribe to our "Friday emails" at the bottom of the screen.
About the author: Karol Brown, a historical storyteller uses the voice of 92-year-old Aunt Harriet, in her portrayal of Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was born a slave in 1821. She is known best as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and for freeing herself, and 300 others from slavery. When Harriet Tubman told her stories in her simple language, people learned how God guided her, how she found support from friends and family and how she changed her future by taking action. Her stories tell about life growing up as a slave, service as a spy, scout, and nurse in the Civil War and more. She helped women start businesses, supported schools, civil rights, and established a home for sick and homeless people. Harriet Tubman spent 29 years in slavery, she suffered abuse, poverty and was uneducated, yet she became known as the Woman called Moses, and as a great leader in American history. How did she overcome the disadvantages in life she experienced? It was by her strong faith, love, and leadership. Harriet Tubman left a legacy of love, compassion, faith, and commitment that is an inspiration to all. She is a model whose life demonstrates that anyone can step-up and step-out, to make a difference in his or her own life and the lives of others.
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.