St. John's member fights wildfires
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.
St. John’s auction on Sunday, August 29th, gives the parish a fabulous opportunity to Gather together, share our talents with Gratitude, and showcase the Generosity of time and money that makes St. John’s an exceptional community. This biennial tradition has three main goals for 2021:
Bidding for Auction items August 28-30: Bidding and sign-up for auction events runs from August 28-30. You will register for the auction on zoom at no charge—a link will be provided for easy access.
Cocktails Celebrating Connection 4-5 pm August 29: Gather in your home with vaccinated friends for Cocktails Celebrating Connection from 4-5 p.m. People who buy the kit for two ($40 for alcohol, $25 for non-alcohol) will pick up (or have delivered if desired) an ‘English Tea’ box of appetizers, drinks, and treats. Then Carolyn George and professional mixologist Sean Van Straatum will host a Happy Hour over zoom that will inform, delight and entertain you and your guests….Consider inviting your friends, family and neighbors (who are vaccinated) to join you in your home to have a spectacular party
5-6 pm August 29 Live Auction with Jim McIlvaine and special program including a surprise from Rev. Scott!
Now is the time to start planning what you would like to donate to the auction. Think about the kinds of services, creative events, vacation getaways, tickets, or other gifts that parishioners and their friends will either need or enjoy. For example, popular items from past auctions in the Services category have included:
We are led by a super talented crew that is focused on fun ways to accomplish these goals. Contact any of them if you want to help on their committees.
Laurie Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org Chairperson
Jon Owens email@example.com Staff rep and communications
Pat Harden firstname.lastname@example.org Vestry rep and communications
Carolyn George email@example.com Cocktails Celebrating Connection
Judi Marr firstname.lastname@example.org Technology/database coordinator
By Bonnie Moran
Many, many thanks to the amazing volunteers who have contributed to the VISION (Volunteers in Support of Oakland’s Needs) program over the past year. It’s heart-warming to know that we are still going strong after 12 months of helping our less fortunate neighbors.
A few statistics from our first year:
None of this would be possible without the 45+ families who prepare and deliver the peanut butter/jelly sandwiches and hard boiled eggs that provide the foundation of our lunch bags.
And special thanks to the volunteers who show up at St. John’s every Wednesday and/or Thursday to assemble the donations into healthy meals for delivery to those in need. These saints also prepare sandwiches and eggs.
In June of 2020, when this operation started, it was impossible to imagine that so many volunteers would step up and so much would be accomplished. Let’s keep going until all Oaklander’s are housed and well-fed and there is no longer a need.
Dear St. John's Family,
It's time to step up for our youth and children! The vestry just took a huge step in supporting our strategic plan by hiring Ministry Architects www.ministryarchitects.com, a nationally acclaimed ministry consulting group, who will partner with us for 18 months to fully assess our youth and family programming and help us create a detailed plan for the future, informed by proven strategies that work. We are committed to building sustainable youth and children’s ministries that are going to have a deep impact and grow our church.
Ministry Architects will begin with a listening process that includes 8-10 affinity groups. This is where we need your help. You can help shape our future success. There is no registration for these groups and you are invited to just show up. If you wish to be part of this initial listening process, but are not available at the designated times, please let us know and we will see what we can do by emailing Scott at email@example.com. It is our prayer and hope that we will get as much participation as possible from everyone at St. John's no matter if you have children or not as it takes a village to support this program.
We hope to see participation in this initial stage from a broad spectrum of parents, volunteers, staff, leaders, youth, and people who just love our young people. We want your insights, frustrations, and dreams to be heard.
To ensure that this is an open and honest assessment, church staff will not be participating in the affinity groups, but will have their own conversations with our consultants. Each affinity group will have different targeted questions. You are invited to attend more than one if you have different roles in the church, but we hope you will find time to participate in at least one group as this is important to the future of St. John's growth.
2:30pm Church Staff
4:00pm Youth Director
7:00pm Parents (Choose just one of 3 available)
4:00pm Church Members
10:30am Children’s parents
12:00pm Children's/Youth Volunteers
Rev. Scott Denman
Rev. Jon Owens
Join ZOOM: St. John's CM-YM Listening Groups
Servant Leaders One of Best-kept Secrets of the Episcopal Church
They minister to the homeless. They distribute food to people who cannot afford to adequately feed their households. They provide supportive services for the mentally ill. They work as chaplains in hospitals. They also serve at the altar, proclaim the Gospel and preach sermons in church. They provide a bridge between the church and the needs of the world.
They are deacons, one of the best-kept secrets of the Diocese of California. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently called the diaconate a “sacred and core ministry of the Episcopal Church.”
The Venerable Hailey McKeefry Delmas has a keener insight than most people into what it means to serve in this ministry. A resident of Belmont, she was ordained as a deacon in 1999 and has served several parishes around the Diocese. She also served as a chaplain at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, was the first deacon to chair the Commission on Ministry, and has served as administrator of the School for Deacons for the past two years.
And to emphasize his recognition of the breadth of her knowledge and experience, Bishop Marc Andrus recently appointed Hailey as Archdeacon for the Diocese. She serves as one of two Archdeacons, along with the Ven. Nina Pickerell. How on earth did she end up doing this?
“When I was in high school, I felt a call,” she said. Mary Lou Taylor, who was a graduate of the School for Deacons in the Diocese of California, led a convalescent home ministry. Hailey went along with Mary Lou once to visit some patients in a nursing home, and Hailey’s path was set. “She gave me a list of patients and said, ‘These are your people.’ And from that day on, I felt a responsibility for my people.”
Hailey later married and moved to New York, where she again found herself active in parish work. “One of the priests there knew that I was trying to discern whether I should study for the ministry. He told me, ‘You can run but you cannot hide from God if you are being called.’ So I entered a program and came to the realization that my heart just was not into becoming a priest and running a church, but I was very interested in working directly with people.”
She returned to the Bay Area six months after being ordained in the Diocese of Long Island. She was placed at Church of the Epiphany in San Carlos. Three years ago she began splitting her time between Epiphany and Church of the Transfiguration in San Mateo, facilitating a growing collaboration between the two congregations.
Over the years her ministry spread to include California Clubhouse, which provides support services for people diagnosed with mental illness. She now serves on the board for California Clubhouse.
So what exactly does a deacon do? Most worshipers in the Diocese probably have little or no exposure to deacons other than seeing them assist at the altar when the Bishop makes a visitation. They prepare the wafers for communion, proclaim the Gospel before the sermon, and give a shouted Hallelujah at the end of the service. But what else?
“I’ve always thought that every baptized Christian, in response to their faith, needs to find a place to use the gifts they have been given,” Hailey said. “My job as a deacon is to get to know people and what’s going on in the world around them, and point them in the direction where they can do the things they promised in their baptismal vows.”
She said there has been a renewal in the mission of the diaconate in the past 30 years. “Deacons are almost like translators. The church often does not speak in worldly terms, and the world in turn does not speak in churchy terms.” Deacons act as the bridge.
No single job description could ever illustrate the work they do. “We are like part-time secret agents out to change the world. But every deacon does it differently, and that’s why there’s so much confusion. You’ll find deacons helping the elderly, helping the homeless, advocating for change through various organizations… there are as many ministries as there are deacons. Deacons are the reminder that what we all believe has to be translated to how we all act in the world.”
Hailey and fellow Archdeacon Nina hold Zoom meetings with the rest of the deacons every two weeks. “We have 65 deacons residing in the Diocese, including those who are retired. Of those 65, 40 are working deacons while the rest are retired but often still actively helping.”
One leads worship and a feeding program called Open Cathedral in the San Francisco Civic Center every Sunday; another is a military chaplain; one provides ministry at San Quentin; some serve as hospital chaplains; another works with the Braid Ministry for youth; some help administer food pantries or housing for the poor.
There has been a complaint in years past that, because most deacons receive little or no pay, only the wealthy can afford to pursue the ministry.
“It used to be an elite ministry, skewed toward older, retired people who were well-off enough to have the time,” Hailey agreed. “But that has changed. When I was ordained in 1999, most deacons were more than 60 years old. But we have many younger people now, and they are very good at letting us know what’s needed in the world outside the church.”
Hailey sees her role as administrator at the School for Deacons as an extension of her ministry. “It (the curriculum at the school) provides an opportunity for postulants to get exposed to and involved with many types of ministry, and then we push them out the door. We equip people to recognize the gifts that God has given them and to decide how they want to use them.”
If a member of the church seems to be hearing a call to ministry, what should she or he do? Speak to your priest, Hailey suggests. If, after discussion, the idea still feels right, there is a process for discernment.
The Holy Spirit will lead the way. But if one would like to first talk it over with Hailey, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://scatteredrevelations.com/. The website for the School for Deacons is at https://schoolfordeacons.org/, and the page on discernment is at Seeing the Deacon in our Midst — School for deacons.
By Ruben Simpliciano
When I’m running errands with my 7-month-old daughter, I no longer take the most convenient parking space. Instead, I look for one that affords us the most security – a space with the greatest visibility in all directions so I can more readily see an approaching attacker.
Dealing with a baby in a car seat requires being in an extremely vulnerable position – hunched over, back exposed, head and eyes down, with hands fumbling with straps and buckles. And probably most critical of all: your attention is distracted, compromising your ability to see or hear someone approaching.
Sadly, this is my family’s new reality amid the recent spate of vicious, hate-filled attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Many others of Asian descent have had to make similar adjustments to their lives. Some have changed where they shop and at what time of day. Others refuse to venture out unless accompanied by another person. Some have stopped doing certain activities altogether. I am saddened when our Asian American parishioners tell me they’ve stopped taking the daily walks they once enjoyed because they no longer feel safe.
Let that sink in: Your friends and neighbors are afraid to go outside. They’ve been robbed of feeling safe. Think about if you have ever been afraid to step outside your house.
As a child and as an adult, I have felt the sting of racial discrimination and the pain of marginalization, but never in my life have I felt that my physical safety was in jeopardy because of my race. Until now.
Nowadays, I am far more aware of people around me – those who are standing near me and those who are walking toward me. I make sure my body is turned so I’m facing others. All of this is even more acute when I’m with my baby daughter. I am most fearful of an attack when she is with me.
In response to the wave of violence, some people will march, some will donate money, some will volunteer their time. Others will take bystander intervention training, and yet others will share resources on social media. Some will sign collective statements of support, while others will write to their elected officials. Some people will do nothing.
Whichever response you feel most comfortable doing, I ask for only one thing from you: Don’t become numb to the violence. Because the physical attacks, threatening assaults and racial slurs occur frequently, it is easy to become desensitized.
Don’t become numb to the appalling images of Asian Americans being stabbed, being struck on the face with a cinder block, being bashed in the head with a hammer, being kicked in the stomach then stomped on, being slapped in the face and then set on fire, being slashed in the face with a box cutter, being fatally shoved to the ground, being shot and killed. (Yes, all these attacks have happened to our Asian sisters and brothers. There have been many more incidents, and they continue to happen.)
Don’t allow these vile acts of hate to become ordinary. Don’t just feel shocked, disgusted and outraged, stay shocked, disgusted and outraged and do something about it.
As a society and as a congregation, we are most effective in bringing about change when we feel – and remain – uncomfortable.
There is no single solution. We can all make a contribution toward change in many different ways. Do what your heart tells you but don’t allow these heinous acts to become the new normal.
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.