Outreach Committee 2020: Relief, Reimagining, Rebirth

By Outreach Committee

Background: Over the last couple years the Outreach Committee has begun the practice of drafting a vision document to highlight the work of our congregation in the world. Part of our role as a committee is to take a step back and notice all of these efforts and hold them up for others to see. This year our vision document is titled “Relief, Reimagining, Rebirth” as we look at the ways our congregation has been responding to the multiple crises we have faced and are facing. 

If you are interested to see our past documents, which are connected the FMCSF Core Values and Practices, you can find them here:

Outreach Committee 2017: Strategies and Tactics

Outreach Committee 2018: Mennofesto

Relief, Reimagining and Rebirth resonate with the Outreach committee as we examine the work of FMCSF in the world during this time. 

At present we know that so many people are hungry, scared they will lose their homes, and terrified for the health of their loved ones, due to covid, air quality or ongoing social isolation. Many people, within our congregation and beyond it, need immediate relief to buy food, pay rent, get medical care, or experience human connection. 

Also during this time, we are having to learn new ways of being. Teachers, children and young adults are reimagining the foundations of education in their schools and universities. All of us who are isolated, but especially vulnerable populations, will need to reimagine our social connections during physical distancing.

Reimagining our existence during this pandemic is scary because it is a recognition that we are living in a new reality. And at the same time, reimagining in this new reality also presents us with many hopeful, creative and transformative possibilities. 

Like our new zoom church services, we need to reimagine every part of our lives as we live them now, for however long that will be. We need to reimagine housing in an equitable way (especially for those on the streets), an economic system that values the most vulnerable (including creation), how we work together, and even right now, how we endure the reality of wildfires and lack of fresh air.

What we hope for most as a faith community is rebirth from this societal upheaval. We hope that during this time of deep need, these months of contemplation and isolation, each of us — and our community of faith collectively — are building the capacity to dream of and work towards a different world than the one we left. We want a rebirth of our economy and society that removes the faultlines and divisions laid bare by the crisis. We want a rebirth that awakens everyone to the interconnectedness of all people. We want a rebirth into the beloved community.

Our work at this time must encompass all stages. Relief, reimagining, and rebirth are all happening simultaneously and are all of equal value to our present moment and our future existence. Below is a non-comprehensive list of what our community is already doing in these three stages. We invite you to contemplate where you are drawn to put your energy at this moment.

Relief: 

Maria Elena Fund

Sharing Fund

Go Fund Me for Ross

Providing meals

Sojourner Truth Deacon’s Fund

Funds for undocumented people

Making masks

Prayer

Working to get out the vote and end voter suppression

Seeking economic justice through saying Yes to Prop 15 and No to Prop 22

Reimagining: 

Making masks for every occasion!

Neighborhood Care Groups

Virtual Church Life (which has included increased accessibility, among other things)

Reparations Procession

Supporting rent strikes

Demanding hotels be made available to people on the streets

Questioning housing as a commodity and advocating to keep seniors in their homes

Rebirth: 

Giving reparations 

Advocating for mental health response professionals as an alternative to policing

Supporting efforts to defund the police (presence at George Floyd rallies, etc.)

Claiming democracy and preparing to stop a coup if necessary 

Winning housing subsidies for seniors in SF

We celebrate all these efforts of relief, reimagining and rebirth among us! We recognize that we’re not all drawn to the same actions or efforts, and that is the beauty of being part of the community. Know that any work that gives relief to those in need now, reimagines how we live during this pandemic, or lays the groundwork for the rebirth of our society is valuable at this moment, right now. The idea that we will return fully to the world before, can and should be put to rest because it is not possible or desirable. We want a new world, a world closer to God’s kingdom, to replace that old world. And now is the best time to start building it.

Sermon: On being a good guest

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk and Pat Plude

Luke 14:15-24

I want to bring your attention to our prayer of confession, written for this series. Especially the second and third lines: We offer what we can at our welcome table. We become guests at the welcome table of others.

So far in the series we’ve been talking about our welcome table and its limits. Today I’m going to focus on why it’s important to be guests at the welcome table of others and how that relates to power. 

I want to begin with a story that takes place a few years back. The setting is a capoeira weekend conference/festival I attended with my dear friend, Sarah. Sarah had been practicing capoeira for a couple years and she was eager for me to get to know that community too. 

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Black Lives Matter: Three Week Challenge from Youth Group (Part Three)

By FMCSF Youth Group

Hey Congregation!

Third and final week. We decided to create this challenge as a way for you all to incorporate small practices of staying informed and educated, taking part in actions, and supporting local Black owned businesses in your daily lives. This last week is a fun one and we encourage you all to take part, even if you have not been as involved in the past weeks.

We did not receive quite the number of participants in last week’s challenge that we were hoping for but we really appreciate those of you who did take the time to send an email. We would still like to hear from you if you do decide to write an email this week for the Anti Police Terror Project. If you would prefer to write a physical letter you can bring up concerns from the link and address the letter to the Oakland Mayor’s office at:
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza #3, Oakland, CA 94612
Or San Francisco’s mayor’s office at:

1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl #200, San Francisco, CA 94102

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Sermon: Hoping for the unseen

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Romans 8:12-25

The last couple weeks I’ve been reading Vincent Harding’s book, “There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America.” I chose the book’s cover as our bulletin illustration this morning. I’ve had it on my shelf for years. In the midst of the uprisings and the surging Black Lives Matter movement, I decided now was time to read it.

What I’ve found in its pages is one the most compelling narratives I’ve ever read. I think part of the reason I hadn’t picked up the book until now was because I was afraid it would be too heavy. I remembered talking with Vincent Harding’s niece, Gloria, soon after he died. She reflected that when he was working on “There is a River” in the late 70s that there were days when he would cry unconsolably. She had been there with him as his typist while he worked.

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Black Lives Matter: Three Week Challenge from Youth Group (Part Two)

By FMCSF Youth Group

What’s Up Congregation!
 

We are now beginning our second week of the youth group’s three-week Black Lives Matter challenge. This week is a little more hands-on, as we are inviting you to write emails in collaboration with the Anti Police-Terror Project. APTP has been a part of the movement to defund the Oakland Police Department for the last five years. 

Steps to taking action: 
  1. Click on the category labeled “News” near the top of the page 
  2. A dropdown menu should now show a category titled “Current Campaigns” for you to click on
  3. There should be a big red button for you to click on that says “Learn More” 
  4. Now click on the option to “Take Action! Email the Mayor And City Council Now” 
  5. IF YOU’RE NOT FROM OAKLAND, follow this link and then scroll down until you find the list of cities and states and click on your city or the city nearest you. (If an Oakland email pops up, you can close it out and then find your own location.)
  6. From this website, there should be an option to “Send email” 
  7. Now you can begin to write your email! We strongly encourage you to modify the generic email already provided for you with your own words.

Once you have sent the email, please contact us so we can get a final tally of community participation. You can contact Twyla or Patrick.

As an addition to last week’s challenge, we are adding a link with resources for movies and books by and about Black Queer people, recognizing their centrality to the Black Lives Matter movement and in struggles for justice in the past.

We greatly appreciate your participation and please remember to let us know when you have finished. These emails really do make a difference but only when we all work together.
Stay safe,

Patrick, Twyla, and the youth group

Menno Youth 4 Black Lives

Black Lives Matter: Three Week Challenge from Youth Group (Part One)

By FMCSF Youth Group

The youth group is inviting you all to take part in a three week challenge based around the Black Lives Matter movement. Each week we will send out an email with a new theme and a small activity for everyone to participate in. These activities will be safe and accessible for people to do at home or with minimal contact, as we are mindful of people’s concerns through these times.

Menno Youth 4 Black Lives

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Sermon: Pride Sunday 2020

By Stefan Baumgartner

John 2:13-22

Spirit who connects every being, move in our midst this day.

Welcome to Pride Sunday!  I’m so happy to be with you today.

My name is Stefan Baumgartner. My pronouns are he/him.

I want to begin my reflection with a quote by Marsha P. Johnson,

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

As a gay, white, cisgender man,

I am indebted to trans folks and queer women of color. 

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Call to Action: Juneteenth 2020

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

These words were prepared for Faith in Action Bay Area’s Latinx-led Juneteenth solidarity action, “Black Lives Matter: Praying and Working to Create Healthy and Stable Communities,” held in Daly City, CA on June 19, 2020.

We are living through a long overdue nationwide awakening to the reality of state sponsored white supremacist violence against Black and Brown bodies. White supremacy, embodied in racist institutions, policies, and cultural ideals, is an original sin of our country. African-Americans suffer from discrimination and unequal access to employment, housing, education, and health care. This systemic injustice is clear in San Francisco where only 3% of the population is Black, but 37% of those living on the street are Black. 

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Litany for Pentecost 2020

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

We now come to a time of sharing communion together. Communion is about affirming our connection to the body, within the Christian tradition, we talk about the body of Christ and being that body together. We recognize that our collective body is in pain. We want to lift up that prayer of pain and lament as we prepare our hearts and spirits for Communion.

This is a prayer that I wrote with help from Pat and Sheri and my friend Mark Van Steenwyk who lives in Minneapolis. Other churches across the country are also praying this prayer with us today.

God of the enslaved and God of the crucified, meet us in our anger, our despair and our grief at another Black life suffocated by the enduring violence of white supremacy in this country.

Meet us with the fire of your Holy Spirit sent to renew the world. May this fire refine our vision, separating truth from lie, separating an uprising born of enduring oppression from state-sponsored, white supremacist violence.

Meet us with your justice embodied by Yeshua and the prophets, who overturned tables, disrupted the status quo, and unflinchingly spoke truth to power. Amplify our cries for justice as we say the names of precious lives lost: 

(bell tolls after each name)

George Floyd 

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor

Mario Woods

Michael Brown

Eric Garner

Philando Castile

Sandra Bland

Stephon Clark

Trayvon Martin

Oscar Grant

May the fire of the Holy Spirit ignite transformation and healing. We pray for a righteous revolution—a society that no longer oppresses Black bodies. Where Black struggle isn’t exploited for white prosperity. Where the powerful are torn from their thrones and the people can live in beloved community.

This is the message of Pentecost: that God is birthing a new world.

Come Holy Spirit, birth the new world in the shell of the old.

AMEN.

Sermon: Mutual Aid: Reclaiming what’s natural

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

Acts 2:42-47

Preaching a sermon on mutual aid to a Mennonite church is like teaching a class on video games to kids who have PS4s. What exactly is there to say? We know this stuff already. We have an innate sense that mutual aid is important and we’ve been doing it, so we’re good, right? And this is supposed to be a short service, so why even preach a sermon at all?

I have asked these questions while thinking about this sermon, and here’s my conclusion. One reason it’s important to intentionally reflect on mutual aid in these times, is so that it becomes an articulated central practice of our lives together, and not just an idea we feel good about.

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Sermon: God in the Darkness

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This is the fifth sermon in our Lenten series on “Spirit and Power.”

During this season of Lent, we are on a journey into the unknown, where much has been stripped away from us. It’s a journey that’s lonely, as we are isolated from others, and the path forward is dimly lit, at best. It’s a time when there are possibilities for justice to break through oppression and possibilities that inequality will become even more death dealing than it already is.

Fifty two years ago yesterday Dr. King was assassinated and one year earlier in his powerful Beyond Vietnam speech he called for a radical restructuring of society. This is a radical restructuring we need now more than ever, as 1,000s of people are forced to live on the street in San Francisco and 10s of 1,000s across this state, in the midst of a global pandemic. Their vulnerability illustrates the death dealing nature of our economic system, and the callousness of political calculations, weighing their lives against a budget’s bottom line.

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Sermon: A Time to Grow Our Souls

By Joanna Lawrence Shenk

This is the fourth sermon in our Lenten series on “Spirit and Power.”

John 15:1-17

Over the last week elders have been on my mind. Elders who are made vulnerable by the spread of COVID-19. Elders in San Francisco who Faith in Action is organizing people to call. Elders in my family and in the families of friends. I’ve also been thinking of elders who have passed on and what wisdom they would have for us right now.

The title of the sermon today comes from a quote by the late Grace Lee Boggs, who was an elder and visionary movement leader from Detroit. In the midst of challenges and insurmountable odds she would say, “This is the time to grow our souls.” I feel that and I know I need that.

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