Archive for January 2013
So many of you have expressed your deep concern about the recent gun violence in our country. Many different stakeholders have given input to the Gun Violence Task Force. The President has proposed a plan to address these issues. The momentum on this issue is growing, as people of faith join other citizens in demanding change. The following is a statement by the United Church of Christ, with some suggested steps for us to take. I hope you will read it and give prayerful consideration to the actions you can take on this issue. If our faith asks nothing else of us, it asks this: that we make sure the children in our midst are safe and cared for. May we join all together to make the changes necessary for this new reality.
* * *
Despite the unrelenting and terrible toll taken by gun violence year after year in the United States, Congress has done distressingly little to address what has become a major public health threat. While tragic incidents of gun violence like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin draw national headlines, in many communities across the country, the impact of gun violence is a day-to-day reality.
The public dialogue about gun violence can quickly become divisive. However, as several prominent leaders from both major political parties have noted, the complex and emotional dynamics that underlie gun violence cannot be an excuse for inaction. The cost of gun violence, which is seen in lives lost and forever altered; in the medical and criminal justice expenses; in ever increasing security requirements; and in quality of life diminished by fear of gun violence, is too high. Our nation must begin to take concrete steps to address it.
Long before the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, members of the faith community have steadfastly advocated for sensible, responsible policies to end gun violence. In 1995, The UCC 20th General Synod passed a resolution entitled “Violence in Our Society and World,” in which it recognized the complicated and interwoven layers at the root of violence.
That same General Synod also passed a resolution entitled “Guns and Violence,” inviting UCC members and congregations to advocate for legislation to strengthen licensing and registration of gun sales, strengthen regulations of gun dealers and ban semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.
The faith community has come together many times in the aftermath of gun tragedies to urge lawmakers to pass laws that prevent gun violence. Tested by our grief, resolute in our faith we remain committed to continuing this drumbeat.
Take Action – Send a letter or join an interfaith call-in day on February 4th!
It will take a multilayered approach to address the prevalence of gun violence, but we can begin now. Although no one piece of legislation will provide a solution, meaningful legislative steps can help reduce the toll of gun violence. You can ensure that the voice of faithful Americans rings throughout the halls of Congress. On February 4th, call your members of Congress and insist that they act to prevent gun violence. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to be connected to your legislators.
Urge members of Congress to:
Reinstate the expired assault weapons ban
(bills were recently introduced in both the House and Senate);
Institute universal background checks;
Ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.
It’s time to turn our shared grief into collective action.
If you prefer to write a letter:
Go to this article on the on the UCC website to submit a letter,Or write to: Senator Barbara Boxer 312 North Spring Street #1748 Los Angeles, CA 90012 and/or Senator Dianne Feinstein 331 Hart Senate Office Building U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510
It’s winter in California. Which means that we have no idea what the weather will be like when we get out of bed in the morning. Here in the Bay Area, we’re pretty sure there won’t be any snow drifts at our doors, but really, just about anything else is possible. Biting cold rain? Sure. Warm blue skies? Sometimes. How about the creep of fog coming over the hills, reminding us of the ocean just out of sight? Ah, yes. We are in the middle of the season of pruning away dead branches, of early nightfall and frosty morning lawns. It’s winter, and even here we notice it, as our landscape loses its lushness, at least for a time.
Every season has within it a facet of the spiritual life to be explored. For many of us, winter is the most difficult to embrace. God’s presence is easy to see in blooming flowers, abundant vegetable gardens, and colored leaves — but winter has a cool and solitary light. Yet it is in the challenge of winter that we find its great gift: Trust. We trust, though we cannot see it, that the Force of Life is still flowing, because we have experienced it over and over again. As Barbara Winkler writes: “Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle…a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”
We will be taking another Prayer Walk next Monday morning. The details of the where and the when are on page 7, but the why of our walk is rooted in this basic belief that the natural world can help us go deeper in our lives and in our faith. Rachel Carson, the naturalist, says: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbol, as well as actual beauty, in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Winter is our assurance that God’s work is still going on below the surface of our lives. Winter is an invitation to a quieter steadiness, a more patient waiting. And winter reminds us that even when we feel cut off from God, even when the colors of our life feel muted, God still accompanies us on our walk, warming us when we need it most, and creating us anew.
I hope you will join us as we spend a morning together savoring the gifts of our winter landscape. We have experienced many losses this winter, as we say goodbye to beloved friends and hold the struggles of the world in our hearts. Join us for a simple walking prayer, and be reminded that there is more Life to come and more than enough Grace to surround us all. Come and walk with us as we let God’s world speak to us again of God’s Love. In every season.
3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
This coming Monday, January 21, we will come together as a nation to commemorate two important events: the annual commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. This is the first time a presidential inauguration has fallen on Dr. King’s day, and the relationship between these two events is significant.
President Obama has chosen to be sworn in using two bibles this time: the traveling bible that once belonged to Martin Luther King Jr. will rest on top of the bible used by President Abraham Lincoln. That Barack Obama could not today be president without the work and sacrifice of President Lincoln is undeniable; perhaps equally so is the role Dr. King played in making possible the election of America’s first African-American president. And so it is right and fitting that the birthday of the one man coincide with the swearing in of the other, and that his bible stand alongside Lincoln’s.
The United Church of Christ has made available the following prayer, made up of images and words from some of Dr. King’s writings. It is appropriate for remembering his legacy, and it is also a wonderful way to lift up our hopes for the next four years as a country.
Wherever you are on Monday, I invite you to take some time apart and read through these words. Let them unite you with God and with the greater community of believers who, no matter which party we belong to, fervently want the best for our country. Even as Martin Luther King, Jr., lighted the path for so many who came before us, may his words gather us in now and give us courage for the days to come. Before we pick up, once again, the on-going work required of all citizens, let us stop for a moment and remember that God is with us, and through God all things are possible.
Let us pray.O God, all people are your Beloved, across races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations and all the ways we are distinctive from one another. We are all manifestations of your image. We are bound together in an inescapable network of mutuality and tied to a single garment of destiny. You call us into your unending work of justice, peace and love. Let us know your presence among us now: Let us delight in our diversity that offers glimpses of the mosaic of your beauty. Strengthen us with your steadfast love and transform our despairing fatigue into hope-filled action. Under the shadow of your wings in this hour may we find rest and strength, renewal and hope. We ask this, inspired by the example of your disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr., and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward, shall be free.”
Written 150 years ago, these words are the heart of the Emancipation Proclamation, drafted and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. On the evening of Dec. 31, 1862, African-American Christians in every part of the country met together to pray that these words might truly become law in the new year. Freed Black Christians met in their churches; enslaved Christians knelt with their friends and families. They were united by a common purpose and a common prayer: freedom for all. Their vigil became known as “Watch Night,” the night when they waited and watched, as Martin Luther King, Jr., would later say, for the “arc of history to bend toward justice.”
This year, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, there were Watch Night gatherings held all around the country. As part of those commemorations, we remembered the witness of those who struggled to end slavery and the faith that undergirded their work. Their beliefs about God and human beings, about Jesus’ example and teachings, shaped their actions and changed the world. These were people who believed that their experience of God’s love must have consequences for the way they lived their lives, and so they risked everything.
150 years ago, a small group of Congregationalists started the community that would later become First Congregational Church of Redwood City. California was not directly involved in the Civil War, and the territory did not allow slavery, but our founders were certainly aware of what was happening, and as Congregationalists, probably had friends and relatives involved in the Abolitionist movement. They would’ve read the text of the Emancipation Proclamation in the paper, and perhaps they even read it aloud in church. They lived during a profound moment of history, and during their lifetimes saw the eradication of slavery from the United States.
Slavery was the biggest moral dilemma of their day. It is hard to imagine, now, that there was ever any question about the morality of holding people in bondage, but indeed there was. How the people of the day negotiated their prejudices and fears, their aspirations and their core beliefs, is now history. But for them it was immediate and unresolved, and required a courageous and audacious faith.
I wonder: what are the questions that require of us that same kind of commitment and faith? In 150 years, what will our descendants say about the challenges we faced and the choices we made?
*What will we do about the extreme gun violence in this country?
*How will we treat the poor and the elderly as we go forward?
*Will all families, regardless of sexual orientation, finally be accepted and affirmed, or will we allow discrimination to remain embedded in our national law?
*What will we do to stop the destruction of the earth?– will we allow ourselves to be slowed down by false science and a corporate reluctance to enact change, or will we do what needs to be done to save our planet, and our descendants?
These are our questions, and we are the shapers of history this time. It can feel overwhelming. But when it gets confusing and murky, as it always does, we have a deep well from which to draw. We can look to the cloud of witnesses that surround us and remember what they did. They found their clarity and their courage in their faith, and they modeled their actions on the radical love of Jesus. When they were unsure, they knelt together in prayer, and when they felt too weak to go it alone, they joined together to act. That’s what Christian community is all about. It may not seem like much, but it has been known to change the world.
Thanks be to God.
Hi! My name is Angie . I’m so excited about meeting all of you this Sunday ~ check out page 7 for details…
There are many things written to help us greet a new year. They offer us opportunities for reflection and renewal, as we look ahead the unwritten pages of 2013. My favorite this year is a short prayer written by Rabbi David Wolpe. It is a simple blessing that sums up my hopes and prayers for myself, our community and our world. May it usher us into a year in which we grow ever more aware of God’s Presence radiating in and through our lives.
Happy New Year!
For the New Year:
May we believe deeply without despising difference;
hope extravagantly without being crushed by failure;
take our shortcomings seriously without being
discouraged by them;
do good for others without calculation.
And may we love: love without fear, love without
narrowness, love without limits.
Dear God, help our world to heal
and our hearts to grow.
Redwood City, CA
(Shared driveway with Smart & Final ~
We are at the far end of the second parking lot)
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