Archive for the ‘women’ 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.

Find out more about First Church Berkeley…

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Human Trafficking: Ten Ways to Respond

October 2, 2012

On Sunday, September 30, 2012, Shelly Dieterle, Young Adult Minister at First Church Berkeley, preached a sermon at the 9 am service that included an exploration of the US and global issue of human trafficking. It was part of a series of sermons under the theme “Caring for Each Other, Caring for the Earth.” The subject for the morning was “Seeking Justice and Reconciliation.”

In the sermon, Shelly offered 10 different ways one might respond to this troubling issue:

  1. Learn more at slaveryfootprint.org and talk with others about what you learn
  2. Speak up and insist that the clothes you wear, the food you eat and the products you buy are made free of forced labor
  3. Shop responsibly. Learn what companies to avoid and which ones are moving toward economic, social, and environmental responsibility
  4. Become a pen pal to the girls in Mark Pham’s Bocochiem Project, emchi.org, in Southern Vietnam. Mark is the nephew of Louise Halsey and visited with us that Sunday. The Em Chi Initiative prevents young girls in rural southern Vietnam from exploitation.
  5. Openly and actively endorse Proposition 35, A Ban on Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery, and work towards its passage in November
  6. Support Mark’s Bocochiem Project, EmChi, through FCCBs Alternative Gifts catalog this Christmas
  7. Pray for the girls, the women and the boys and men who are held captive in bonded labor throughout the world, and for their oppressors
  8. Join the Not for Sale campaign e-distribution
  9. Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister
  10. Review, support and circulate petitions on change.org

Watch a video of Shelly’s sermon…

First Church member Barbara Grady-Ayer has also written a series of articles on the local aspects of human trafficking right here in the East Bay that appears on the Oakland Local website.

More about First Church Berkeley, United Church of Christ

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The Rights of Women

March 16, 2012

by Patricia de Jong
Senior Minister, First Church Berkeley, UCC

Senior Minister Patricia de JongThe Women of the World Summit in New York City this week celebrated the gifts of women and girls throughout the world. Keynote speaker Hillary Clinton spoke about the responsibility of the US as a role model for women around the world by standing up for women’s rights here and throughout the world. She reminded the audience that women should always have the right to make their own choices about what they wear, how they worship, the causes they support and, finally, “the right to control the decisions we make about our own health and our own bodies.”

Her message reemphasized the importance of our nation’s role in the rest of the world, especially with regards to how governments treat women.

At the halfway mark in this extraordinary season of Lent, it is good to remember that Jesus took a similar stand when it came to the role and rights of women in his time. He publicly included women as his disciples, infuriating religious leaders. He healed women as readily and powerfully as he healed men and he even took on the issue of divorce, announcing that men and women had the right to divorce the other.

Walter Wink asserts that Jesus violated the mores of his time in just about every encounter with women that are recorded in all four of the Gospels. Do you remember who was standing at the foot of the cross on Good Friday? And to whom Jesus first appeared after the crucifixion? The Gospels present us with a prophet who turned the expectations of the world as it was upside down, pointing toward liberation for all people, especially the poor, who were often women.

Our Lent journey touches on matters of life and death, not just for ourselves, but for the difficult issues confronting our world and the people who live in it. For women and girls in this country and in all countries, the respect, care and right to make our own decisions about our health and our bodies is fundamental, not only for individuals, but to the life and livelihood of the world.