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Archive for August 2016


Given the state of the country and the suffering of so many of our neighbors, we cannot view Labor Day as just a day off from work. With tens of millions employed in low-wage, dead-end jobs, this Labor Day let us resolve to join the struggles of low-wage workers for improved jobs and living wages.

The reality for too many workers is grim. Over one in every four jobs (28%) pays poverty-level wages, so low that even a full-time worker cannot support a family above poverty.

Over 8 in 10 low-wage workers do not have a single paid sick day. If they get sick and cannot work, or if they must stay home with a sick child, they are not paid. And if they are gone too long they may be laid off.

Every week over half of all low-wage workers are cheated – by their unscrupulous employers – out of some of their wages.

Over one-quarter (27%) of low-wage workers do not have health insurance, either from their own job or through a family member, and, whether insured or not, nearly two-thirds of low-wage workers say it is difficult to pay for needed health care.

Many low-wage workers have unpredictable work schedules that vary week to week and day to day. Many are required to be continually on call, available at all times to come in to work or risk being penalized with reduced hours or even layoffs. They may be sent home during scheduled shifts if business is slow. Such scheduling makes workers’ incomes uncertain and variable. It also makes a second job, schooling, or scheduled child care nearly impossible.

But along with all the bad news there is good news. Workers and their allies across the country are standing up and pushing back. In just the last few months, workers have surprised employers with one-day strikes at Wal-Mart, fast food outlets including Taco Bell and McDonalds, and at sites – like McDonald’s and Subway – run by federal government contractors operating in Washington, D.C. Workers are seeking living wages, more consistent hours, and respect from their employers.

Across the country, over 225 worker centers have sprung up to serve low-wage and immigrant clients. They are making a difference. The Workers Defense Project, a worker center in Austin, TX, has restored to workers over $1 million in stolen pay.

Traditional unions are also scoring victories. Just last month, after a long struggle that included a global boycott, hotel housekeepers – members of the union Unite Here – reached an agreement with the Hyatt Hotels Corporation that gives them higher pay and more freedom to form unions.

Across the country, workers are mobilizing and making gains. But they still have a very long way to go. They need our help. This Labor Day, let’s resolve to join these struggles. Let’s resolve that all jobs will also be good jobs with good pay, good benefits, and good working conditions. That would truly be something to celebrate on Labor Day, a fine reason to take the day off.

~ Edith Rasell

Minister for Economic Justice

Witness for Justice #648

The United Church of Christ has more than 5,300 churches throughout the United States.  Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC  congregation.  UCC members and churches are free to differ on  important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.



Today’s Newsletter HERE

labor day worker tool


Any human enterprise can succeed or fail. Silicon Valley startups, marriages, mall stores, schools, and churches — there are no guarantees, no reliable formulas, no ideal preparation.

The recipe for failure tends to be predictable. Conditions change, but for reasons ranging from sloth to distraction to inadequate resources, leaders don’t change with them. Early success teaches the wrong lessons. Leaders dread failure more than they want to learn from it. Worthy ideas implode from lack of support, while bad ideas develop loyal followings.

It can be maddening. It can leave many wondering why they try.  I promote best practices as the key to leading a church. I have named those best practices and led church folks in learning and deploying them. But still success seems elusive. The unexpected happens, the reliable leader loses heart, a sizable cadre prove uninterested in success, especially if success means change.  Here is what I have learned:

First, the paradigm is the wilderness wandering. It is scary out there living freely and following God. It seems safer to go back to bondage. Even when God feeds and leads, discomfort and uncertainty drive many church leaders to lose heart. Going forward, however, is the only reasonable and faithful choice. Sometimes it takes a heavy/handed Moses to drive the sheep onward. I think we should be less afraid of strong leaders. Lay leaders should focus less energy on keeping clergy in line.

Second, the wise leader tends to be nimble. He or she can see an opportunity and move swiftly to embrace it, or see an obstacle and react to it. Churches take far too long to change direction.

Third, the rich and powerful shouldn’t be in charge. They tend to worry too much about saving face and avoiding failure. They mistake the church as theirs, rather than God’s. They cater to their own kind and fail to imagine others as having different needs or even validity. They don’t want to hear the Gospel, because its message to the rich and powerful is painful to hear. So they muzzle preachers and extol less-than-Godly attributes like tradition and facilities.

Fourth, failing churches misapply their energies. They tend to pour their energies into what they do best and find most enjoyable, rather than pouring energy into what God wants done and into what people outside their walls need. Thus, they focus on Sunday worship, when more and more people want community. They do mission as charity — noblesse oblige — when more and more people want deep commitment of life. They worry about gender and sexuality, when more and more have moved on to other concerns like income inequality, global climate change, and work-life balance.

Fifth, healthy and promising church communities show consistent attributes. They tend to be playful, irreverent, willing to try new things, tolerant of diversity, patient with their leaders, and not overly concerned with tradition or with money. Those are healthy attributes for any person and any community, of course. Maybe that is the point. Healthy leaders enable healthy enterprises. Churches, like any enterprise, should spend more energy on recruiting healthy leaders, training them in best practices, and protecting them from the crazies.

About the Author  Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal

priest based in New York. He is the publisher of Fresh Day online

magazine, author of On a Journey and two national newspaper columns.

His website is Church Wellness – Morning Walk Media.


Today’s Newsletterhands making cross


Sunday, August 28

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Here at First Church, Redwood City

Learn about the whole house approach

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A weekly commentary from the United Church of Christ

I have to check my privilege quite a bit these days. I am constantly observing my actions, words, and behaviors while processing what my being white has done to affect certain responses and outcomes. The same is true of observing how others interact with me. How does my being white affect what they say and do to me, and how they behave around me?

It is an important part of my commitment to actively dismantle the white skin privilege that persists in America today. While I remain much invested in the ongoing work of deconstructing institutional injustice and systemic racism, I am also committed to being hyper-aware of and hyper-sensitive to how I am manifesting and/or receiving privilege. I believe justice requires both. I also believe I can’t condition myself to see or to rebel against institutional privilege if I can’t first see them in myself.

I don’t pretend to be able to notice or catch all of my privileged behavior, and recognize that this is going to have to be a lifetime commitment. Getting it right today doesn’t end my investment in whiteness; nor does it guarantee that whatever getting it right today gained won’t be lost when I forget tomorrow to repeat those behaviors.

In this ongoing discourse with myself and with others, I can’t help but notice a division that is emerging between privileged whites and traumatized black leaders. Specifically, I refer to reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement, which itself is a response to an increasingly militarized police force whose proclivity for racial profiling is costing black and brown lives.

Privilege is the divide that distinguishes the responses of one community from the other. On the white side of the divide, community leaders not only conditioned by but also rewarded for their white privilege operate with a foundational assumption that police are there to protect us, and that we should not jump to conclusions – even in the face of overwhelming evidence – about a police officer’s criminality. Palpable grief and concomitant rage erupt in the black community as one life after another is snuffed out under circumstances that do not seem to occur when the law officer and the suspect are both white.

Privilege doesn’t engender that kind of rage and grief in white leaders. It inoculates whites from feeling the kind of trauma that has black and brown parents fearing for their children’s lives. At best, white leaders mobilize as advocates not from the gut punch that rage produces, but from a commitment to live in a better, more just world. Their participation in the Black Lives Matter movement is important, it may even be necessary – but it comes from a very different place.

As America is forced to come face to face once again with its ongoing investment in whiteness, I hope and pray that white leaders everywhere watch, listen, and conform to the needs of those whose stake in this are far higher than their own – and do so with awareness that it will compromise their privileged status.

~ John C. Dorhauer

General Minister and President

of the United Church of Christ



Today’s Newsletter

racism is


~ Ron Buford

I thank my God every time I remember you.

Philippians 1:3-11

phil 1,3 colors

When those close to us die, simple things remind us of them—a smell, a song, a flower, the gathering of family and friends.  And we remember…

Sometimes the memory breaks in on us like an intruder, without ample time for us to prepare and brace ourselves.  And so, we cry.  We miss them.  At other times we laugh.  Either way, it is a good thing to not hold back.  Experience your range of emotions but do not stop there.  Give God thanks for having had them in your life.  Acknowledge their presence as a gift from God this will always put your heart in the right place.

Sometimes we are like children who want more ice cream.  “We did not have them long enough,” we say.  And that is always true of those we love most dearly—especially those who had, from our perspectives, untimely deaths.  Let us instead give thanks that we had them, remembering, we have them still.  They were never our possessions.  They were companions God placed into our life’s journey…for a while.  Best of all, they surround us now, so many as to be like the stars of the Milky Way, a cloud, all witnesses to love, to faithfulness, to the hope and mystery that we shall see them…again.

PRAYER:  Gracious God, Sometimes I miss someone so much I cannot seem to bear it.  Still, I thank you for placing such a great person in my life.  I remember her perfume, his crazy laugh, the way eh looked at me that let me know I was loved, for the great things she accomplished, for the things we saw together.  Thank you for these special lives and times, and for ways they helped shape me to be the person I am today.  Give them blessed rest and peace and confidence in knowing they left us well and continuing on with life until we meet them again.  Amen.

Ron Buford is the former coordinator 
of the UCC’s “God is Still Speaking” campaign.  
He consults with UCC churches across the nation 
and is currently the pastor of 
our neighboring UCC church in Sunnyvale.
This reflection was written for the 
God is Still Speaking 365 Daily Devotionals.


Today’s Newsletter HERE

phil 1,3 flowers


bobby jo valentineFREE CONCERT

Sunday, August 7 ~ 4 pm

Reception and food to follow

College Heights Church

1150 West Hillsdale Blvd 

San Mateo, CA 94403



Yup, this is a concert at a church. But this isn’t your father’s church music. Progressive churches around the nation frequently invite Bobby to offer stories and songs that inspire us to question our beliefs, challenge easy answers, and move closer to love.

Bobby has been recognized far and wide. He’s twice been named songwriter of the year by the West Coast Songwriter’s Association. LA Weekly praised his “witty wordplay” and called him “the nicest guy to ever pick up an acoustic guitar.”
Learn more about Bobby and see videos at—and please join us for this special evening of music and community.

PS: A lot of great congregations are co-sponsoring this concert, including us!

PPS:  If you are interested in ride sharing, contact the First Church Office.