Archive for the ‘world citizenship’ Category

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Loving Our World-Wide Neighbors

July 29, 2014

by First Church Senior Minister Patricia de Jong

“It was un-American; it was unbiblical; it was inhumane.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York wrote these words in response to the busloads of mothers and children in Murietta that were turned back  toward the border as protesters shouted to them, “Go home!” Cardinal Dolan grasps the sorrow and even shame many people of faith are experiencing these days as we confront the meaning of the Gospel imperative “to love our neighbor as ourselves” on the childrenatborderUS border and in Gaza and in the Middle East. Not only do we have difficulty with the political events of the past few weeks, but many of us have trouble making moral sense out of the way children are being treated in the hot spots around the globe.

In the past two weeks, we have stood silently as a body during worship in order to prayerfully protest the deportation of children who are fleeing violence in their own countries and have arrived at our borders with nothing more than hope for a chance at survival. We’ve prayed for peace in the Israel/Palestine and especially for the bombings to stop in the Gaza Strip. And we have received a free will offering for East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and the important work they are doing in the East Bay with refugees right now. It doesn’t seem like much when we imagine the enormity of human suffering that is occurring; but we also know that a stance of grace and compassion is vital to the process of moving forward to justice and healing.

Each small act of intention and attention is powerful. Through the simple act of prayer or writing a check or emailing our representatives, we are making a difference. We simply must not allow violence or division or ignoring the plight of children to become our new normal; as people of faith we have a calling to honor creation through the honoring of each other as God’s own beloved children.

In the coming days, pray for the children, our own and especially those at risk. If you feel like it and are able, write a check supporting an agency that helps children, here or anywhere in the world, but especially the troubled spots. Send an email to your representative reminding them of the importance of the welfare of children to the future well being of the planet. And pay attention to and be thankful for a child or a young person in your life; they are wise and wonderful and will remind you of our calling to care for all the children of the world.

More about First Church Berkeley…

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Young Ones Fleeing Central America

July 16, 2014

by Patricia de Jong, Senior Minister

migrantchildrenMany of us having been reading and hearing stories about the wave of children and youth from Central American who are crossing over the boarder into the southwest of the United States, many of them unaccompanied. But First Church member Jennifer Fisher has taken the next step—encouraging our congregation to take concrete action to address the needs of these young immigrants. And she will get in a truck full of supplies and drive if that is the right thing to do.

Jennifer’s desire to respond has been galvanizing and a meeting has been set up for Wednesday, July 16 at 7:00 pm in the Sunburst Room. Anyone who is interested in learning more about this challenging situation and to discern the best way for First Church to respond are invited to attend.

Although this surge has ignited much political debate, Jennifer has her eyes squarely on the human story:  “Everyone can argue both sides of the immigration issue, that does not matter. What matters is these kids have traveled hundreds and perhaps thousands of miles on a rough road to get here and many are victims of violence, upheaval and economic hardships in their country. People willing to make that kind of hazardous, unsafe, dusty, dry, and arduous trip are usually doing it to save their lives. ”

In testimony before Congress administration members described the situation this way: “We face an urgent situation in the Rio Grande Valley Last fiscal year, Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 24,000 unaccompanied children at the border. By mid-June of this fiscal year, that number has doubled to more than 52,000. Those from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras make up about three quarters of that migration…[T]his is a humanitarian issue as much as it is a matter of border security. We are talking about large numbers of children, without their parents, who have arrived at our border—hungry, thirsty, exhausted, scared and vulnerable. How we treat the children, in particular, is a reflection of our laws and our values.”

This wave of immigration has excited strong feelings. I heard on the radio that at one rally protesting the arrival of these children a woman held a sign that said “Not our children, Not our problem.” I must emphatically disagree. Jesus clearly calls us to care for the hungry and the thirsty. We are all neighbors and when our neighbors are in need, we are called to act.

Join Jennifer and I on Wednesday night and be prepared to respond to a special call for funds to provide relief for at least some of these children.

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Here are some online resources about the wave of young immigrants coming to the US from Central America:

•   A comprehensive article called “Life Ended There” by Susan Terrio, professor of anthropology at Georgetown University, author of Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody: http://tinyurl.com/lifeendedthere

•   An article about how social service agencies that work with the immigration community in San Francisco are being stretched by this situation: http://tinyurl.com/agenciesstretched

•   Transcript of testimony by administration officials at a hearing titled “Challenges at the Border”: http://tinyurl.com/challengesattheborder

•   A clear picture of the increase in this sort of immigration based on data from Customs and Border Protection: www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children

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More about First Church Berkeley…

 

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Climate Change

February 4, 2014

by Phil Porter, Minister of Art & Communication

The weather in the Bay Area is deceptively mild.

This part of the country has managed to avoid the dramatic “in your face” weather events that other areas are experiencing—events that are being linked to climate change and the use of fossil fuels. Our challenges are more subtle but no less important—a drought that is being described as the most serious since 1850.

hot earthIn Australia, however, climate reality is uncomfortably obvious. Last year in Sydney there was one day when the temperature was over 110 degrees. It was not figuratively, but literally, like a sauna.

This year while I was in Sydney, the weather in Adelaide (where I would be going next) was hitting record highs. At one point Adelaide was the hottest city in the world. I joked that I had sent off my advance team to cool things down before I arrived. It was cooler when I got there, but on the day I left to return home, you could once again begin to feel the oppressiveness of the heat. I escaped just in time. Or is there really an escape?

As President Obama proclaimed in his 2014 State of the Union message “…the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

Is there any more fundamental issue facing us today than to address the global threat of climate change? And as progressive Christians, given our deep commitment to the common good and the stewardship of the earth, can we stand by wringing our hands rather than taking to the streets both literally and figuratively?

Fossil fuels are limited and will run out. There is no future in oil. While in the US, the market seems to be turning away from coal (though probably not fast enough), tons of coal is being mined in Australia and sent to China. But the science tells us that if the path we take is to keep extracting and burning the remaining fossil fuels—releasing carbon into the atmosphere—the result will be a significant increase in the global temperatures which would take thousands of years to reverse. We must leave the carbon in the ground. This is a hard reality for the carbon-addicted.

Without my faith, I would be tempted to despair. The situation seems dire and critical. In this country, when we need leadership at the highest level to address this problem, our political system seems shockingly inadequate to the task. Will reason prevail? Will we speak truth to power and reverse damaging trends?

I am still hopeful that this is possible, but only with the help of God. I guess this is taking the authority question to the next level.

On February 16, First Church will participate in a National Preach-In on Climate Change organized by Interfaith Power and Light. Senior Minister Patricia de Jong will address the issue at 9 am and First Church scientist and theologian Rev. Dr. Robert Russell will preach at 11 am. A related Learning Hour will be held at 10 am in the Large Assembly. More about events on February 16…

Come. Pray. Hope.

More about First Church Berkeley, United Church of Christ

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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 Axis of Friendship

September 14, 2011

Kevin Omi at the Axis of Friendship eventThese words were spoken by First Church member Kevin Omi at an Axis of Friendship event held at the time of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The event honored relations between people of the United States and Iran and celebrated connections with people of all cultures and nations.

I am a member of First Congregational Church of Berkeley, a progressive Christian congregation serving the East Bay. In church this morning, Dr. Rahim Nobahar, the new Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, was our special guest for our 9 am service. Amir Soltani who has visited with us several times, read poetry in our 11 am services.

More about the various ways First Church commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11…

Two years ago our congregation in conjunction with churches and Conferences throughout the country brought a resolution called the Axis of Friendship to our denominational meeting in Grand Rapids, MI. I am proud to say that our denomination agreed to:

• stood in solidarity with the people of Iran as they expressed their will toward self-government;

• promote and work for friendship between the people of Iran and the United States of America,

• call for an end to the violence, repression, and bloodshed, against peaceful Iranian demonstrators, media, and others

This July our denomination declared its support for our neighbors in the Muslim community, both in the United States and around the world, who feel the impact of anti-Islamic rhetoric and action.  We agreed to denounce actions against Islam or Muslims based on ignorance or fear; and to learn more about Islam and to build relationships with Muslims and peoples of all faiths.

I am also a Japanese American, the proud son of soldier in the 442nd regimental combat team.  The 442nd was the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces. My father fought in some of the most brutal battles of WW-II while the rest of his family, along with 110,000 other Japanese Americans were stripped of their belongings, property, and dignity.  Some were forced to sleep in horse corrals in Tanforan before they were sent on trains to the most desolate parts of the county. They lived in concentration camps surrounded by barbed wire, in tar paper shacks, during brutally hot summers and freezing winters; because of wartime hysteria and a long history of racism against persons of color.

Japanese Americans have been among the most vocal and passionate supporters of embattled Muslims. When we heard talk of “rounding up Muslims”, we immediately saw the potential parallel with our own history. We have folded thousands of paper cranes, which are a symbol of peace and decorated the windows in an Islamic school in Sacramento. We have rallied public support against hate crimes at mosques, signed on to legal briefs opposing the government’s indefinite detention of Muslims, organized cross-cultural trips to the Manzanar internment camp memorial, and held “Bridging Communities” workshops in Islamic schools and on college campuses.

As a member of the United Church of Christ, I believe that God is still speaking and urges us on to work with people of all faiths for the causes of peace, justice, and love.  As a Japanese American, I stand in solidarity with Muslims and all persons who are the object of suspicion, ignorance and fear.  Thanks be to the God that unites and sustains us.

More about First Congregational Church of Berkeley…

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I Choose Love

September 13, 2011

Vickie Crebbin, Olivia Beattie and Greg Beattie singing "I Choose Love"On Sunday, September 11, First Church musicians Vickie Crebbin, Greg Beattie and Olivia Beattie sang one of their original compositions “I Choose Love” for the church’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11. They sang in both services, blending beautiful three-part harmonies with these powerful lyrics.

I Choose Love

Sound and fury, drums of war
In the name of a God with a different face
In the midst of hatred and despair
God of us all, give me grace
To choose love, love

May the seeds of love spread like prairie fire
With wild abandon catch a passing breeze
Scatter far, fill the divide
reaching heaven, rooting deep
I choose love, love

When I stumble, when my heart falters
should thoughts of kindness fade
Lead me to still water
Help me find a way to choose love

To choose love, love

© Victoria Crebbin Blythe and Greg Beattie 2008
835 Sibert Court Lafayette, CA 94549
925 284-3250 beatman@sbcglobal.net

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The 10th Anniversary of 9/11

August 27, 2011

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, First Church will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 in a variety of ways.

These events have changed the landscape of our country and the world. We stand with those who still grieve their losses, with those who were shocked and traumatized by these events. We also grieve the loss of life and limb that has occurred in the wars that have been fought since then in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9/11 MemorialAs people of peace, we must lift up the futility of war and the seeking of vengeance. We also stand against the demonization of individuals, groups and countries. Even as we claim our loyalty and love for our country, we also claim our global citizenship. All of us are brothers and sisters, even as we sit across the divide of nationality, religion, or conflict.

One of the outcomes of the events of 9/11 and the ensuing political and social turmoil, is that we have reached out hands of friendship to people of other faiths and are richer for these new connections and new understandings.

On this special Sunday, we will commemorate 9/11 in both worships services, welcoming guests from the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, a mass choir will sing Verdi’s Requiem at 3 pm in the Sanctuary, and in the evening we will take part in an Axis of Friendship event at the Oakland Peace Center.

Read more…