Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

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Mother’s Day

May 6, 2014

by Senior Minister Patricia de Jong

As Mother’s Day approaches, I walk by the card aisle at the drugstore and contemplate the card I will not buy this year. Since my own mother has been dead for many years, I am tempted to skip this day altogether, but there are many women in this community and in my life who embody the best of what I believe it means to be a mother, sister, daughter and woman and friend. I am thankful for them all.

Mother’s Day has become for me, a time of quiet celebration of what it means to be a good and courageous human being in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves. The original idea for Mother’s Day emerged out of the Civil War, with a group of grieving mothers resolving to work together to abolish war. The idea of a day for mothers was in response to the heavy toll that war had extracted from their lives. Later, as it became more commercial, people lost sight of the desire for peace and justice that originally grounded a day for mothers.

The origins of this day were centered around the need of women to create a better world for their children rather than becoming the focus of attention and adulation. Perhaps we can reclaim an important aspect of the legacy of those brave women who came before us by intentionally lifting up peace and justice this Mother’s Day.

redcarnationI’d rather not give this day away to Hallmark or Flowers.com or even a great place to have brunch. Instead, I’d like to lift up a prayer for the mothers and fathers of those 270 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school three weeks ago. They still don’t know what happened to the girls or if they will see their children again. And not so far from us, in the Ukraine, the madness of war has once again threatened to destroy the lives of children and families and a whole nation. And our own Mother Earth is ravaged by our lack of conscious attention to the ways we have ignored and abused her.

Every time I baptize a baby, child or adult, I say “Mother of us all,” to remind us that we are held by a powerful and gentle God who broods and frets over us like a mother hen. Yet she also calls forth from us the best of what is means to be a child of God—courage, steadiness of commitment to the common good, lovingkindness and a willingness to act for justice and peace.

However you celebrate this day, may the Mother of Us All shine in you and give you courage and strength for your life work.

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Families of All Shapes & Sizes

June 15, 2012

by Rachel Bauman, First Church’s Minister of Community Life

What is family? Who comes to mind when you hear that word?

There was a time in U.S. popular culture when family was always portrayed like that famous Norman Rockwell image in the Saturday Evening Post: mom, dad, children and grandparents happily enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner. The First Church family gathers at Camp CazaderoWhen it was printed in the 1940’s, this was the prevailing assumption among many about just who made up the American family.

But now most of us have a more expansive, or at least more complicated, view of what constitutes family: blended families, single-parent or same-sex headed households; families created through open adoption; transracial and transnational families; middle-aged adults making tough decisions in caring for aging parents; couples with no kids, former couples faithfully navigating the hard work of co-parenting; grandparents raising grand kids; and families of choice created because one’s family of origin may be far away, passed on, or are perhaps emotionally estranged and unavailable. So we become aunties and uncles, sisters and brothers, children or parents to those with whom we have no biological ties but feel deeply accountable and connected to them just the same.

At First Church Berkeley we celebrate and honor all types and possibilities of family. This is one of the reasons I am so happy to be serving as your Minister of Community Life. This community understands that family matters.  It matters to have a place where we are seen, supported and loved fully for who we are.

This unconditional love is the fertile soil from which we grow into who we are created to be. Belonging to a community that reminds us that our identity and value comes from our relationship to a living, loving God is the bedrock upon which we are each able to withstand the inevitable ups and downs of life.  Some of us are blessed to have this type of family surrounding us in our daily life and for others this type of family is hard come by. But the beauty and the challenge of Christian community is the opportunity to be that family for each other.

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The Tragic Death of Trayvon Martin

March 29, 2012

by Phil Porter
Minister of Art & Communication

Trayvon MartinLast Sunday, a photograph of Trayvon Martin and a “hoodie” were placed on the communion tables at both services at First Church. Trayvon was a 17-year-old African American who was shot by a neighborhood watch captain in Florida. The man who shot Trayvon was not arrested based on his claim that he fired in self-defense. Public attention and outrage has grown steadily in the month since the shooting.

This case has touched a nerve for many, inviting us to look not only at instances, but at patterns. This situation is not just about the tragic death of one young man. It is about perceptions of young African American men. Though some may see the murder as out of the ordinary, many are seeing it as something that could easily happen to them or someone they love. Thousands upon thousands of parents are now even more concerned and apprehensive about the safety of their sons.

Philadelphia AP writer Jesse Washington talks about having to give his 12-year-old son the talk about the “black male code.” He gave his son this advice:

“Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.

Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.”

(Read Jesse Washington’s full article “Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code”.)

Trayvon is both a victim and a symbol. The tragedy of his death stands alone, but as we mourn him, we are also mourning many lives lost. We have an opportunity to stop and call ourselves and our culture to account for the ways that young lives are cut short or derailed because of race or class.

One of the things that church can offer is a place where the family is extended. In so many ways, teenagers and their parents need the support of the wider community. We can help hold the lives of our young people during a period that is often fraught with challenge. Perhaps Trayvon’s death can spur us to take even more seriously our opportunity to spread our collective wings over our young ones—those right next to us, those we pass on the street and those we only hear about through the news.

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Weaving Together Motherhood and Ministry

August 8, 2011

Shelly Dieterle, Minister of Campus Life, recently returned to work at the church from maternity leave after giving birth to twins. She is shown below with Mirabelle, Ethan and Sebastian.

It was exactly one year ago that I received astonishing news of two lives growing within me—news that dramatically changed my life and vision for 2010-11 and beyond, personally and professionally. The immediate plans for campus life were impacted by my impending absence in the Spring Semester. My vision for family life was swept away and spewed back in new form. In short, this last year was full of change, blessing, and new ways of doing things.

Shelly Dieterle with Mirabelle, Ethan and SebastianIn January and February I ministered from my home, and frequently from a hospital bed, as I withstood early labor.  In March, I counted the hours until those two little ones gave out their first yelp.  And for the past four and a half months, I have surrendered to the cycles of new life, new life that knows no daily rhythm, no difference between night and day, no moment but the present, no need except for food, sleep, a clean diaper and love.  I have also readily accepted every helping hand, meal, hug, story and inspirational word…many from the First Church community. There has been little time for thank yous, for catching up, or for giving back. And now, my soul longs to engage with the community that has buoyed me with support throughout this journey. My expectant spirit awaits the curious engagement of students’ hearts, minds and lives.

Still, the demands of motherhood will shift the way I minister – exact impact unknown in this moment. I will be more bound by the needs and demands of family life. And yet I believe my spirit will be more present, fresh, and creative (and more efficient) by what my children teach me each day. I am more aware of the intricate balancing act, not only families work out each day, but students as well, who seem to manage more demands than any mother does!