Posts Tagged ‘family’

h1

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…

h1

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.

h1

President Obama and Marriage Equality

May 10, 2012

First Congregational Church of Berkeley celebrates the personal stand that President Obama has taken on marriage equality. First Church has been an “Open & Affirming” congregation (welcoming all people including those of different sexual orientations) in the United Church of Christ for over 15 years and has taken public positions in favor of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

First Church celebrates marriage equalitySenior Minister Patricia de Jong adds, “Marriage equality is more than an issue of legal rights, as important as those are. It is also about love, commitment, deep caring and human dignity. I was moved by the lines of people who wanted to get married in California during the brief time it was legal. I have performed same-sex marriages for over 28 years. We recognize the importance that the support of a faith community can have in marriage and family life.”

First Church took a clear stand against Prop 8’s ban on gay marriage and worked to defeat it. The hope of the church is that the personal positions of elected officials will translate into policies and laws that protect the rights of all people.

First Church includes members who are directly affected by the lack of marriage equality.  In a service during the anti-Prop 8 campaign, the church celebrated and affirmed the same-gender relationships among its members and friends. Rachel Bauman, who has just recently been called as First Church’s Minister of Community Life says, “One of the reasons that I was so interested in being part of the First Church community is that it so clearly welcomes families of all shapes and sizes. I think it is crucial that faith communities support loving relationships in a world that is full of challenges.”

h1

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.

h1

What Feeds Us?

August 3, 2011

Meredith Jackson used the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 as the basis of her sermon on Sunday, July 31. She asked a few people to share some of the things that fed them personally. This was what Bonnie Hester shared in the service:

 “I am sustained by a deep sense of God’s presence in my life, embodied in ordinary daily interactions I have with people—friends, family and people I don’t know. God is in the experience of a friend calling to check in or a neighbor sharing his freshly baked bread with me. The joy I feel as I see the world through the eyes of my 5-year-old grandson and the twinkle in the eye of his grandfather is sacred. It is even there in the impulse I feel to hold my irritation in check while driving or let someone go before me at Trader Joes. I feel a sacred presence as well as surprise when I am somehow better than myself. Every interaction is an opportunity for me to notice God’s presence. Through countless small nourishing exchanges imbued with holiness, my life is enriched and I am sustained.”