Pastor’s Weekly Message: 01.28.16

Grace Waves


The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion.  It is wordless: Beyond words, beyond speech, and beyond concepts.  Not that we discover a new unity….no, we discover an older unity.  My dear sisters and brothers, we are already one – but we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity.  What we have to be is what we are.    —Thomas Merton, Monk

Our Recognition Ceremony for the performers in our UN 70th Anniversary Celebration will be this Sunday, January 31 at 6:30 pm.  A Slide Show of the event at Grace Cathedral and Mini- Concert will be included in this happy evening.  A reception follows.  Please come and honor the artists who paid tribute to the leadership and wisdom of Dag Hammarskjold.

New Friends of Peace Dinner precedes the Recognition Ceremony from 4:30 – 6:00 pm in our Gathering Hall  New friends (and old friends) are welcomed. Your RSVP helps.

Our Peace Survey was distributed initially this past Sunday.  Already 30+ surveys have been submitted.  It will be available the next 2 Sundays.  Or you can use this link to complete it online:

Our Youth Group met this past Sunday at the Schoening’s home – 8 families and 12 kids – a joy to be together.  Pr. Margareta taught a session on the practical elements of prayer.  It was well received because we discovered not only a variety of ways to pray but that we have all been living inside our prayers for a long time.  What a blessing the Spirit is stirring up through these happy family connections!

The Justice Advocacy group met last Saturday.  A dozen people gathered to reflect on our commitments and where we our faith is leading us.  There was a very fine energy and vitality experienced among us.  Future congregational updates about how to participate in justice activities will come to you on Sunday mornings through “A Pinch of Salt”!

Forum – Exploring Cultural Values:  Philippa Erlank will continue her teaching this Sunday on the shaping of cultural values – ours and other folks.  The dozen + folks who gathered last Sunday were engaged by the conversation and exercises.

Our Annual Congregational Meeting will be on February 7 following worship.  Your participation is valued.  (There will be no conflict with the Super Bowl!)  Our Peace Council will be present during the Hospitality Hour then to converse with members and friends of Peace about their areas of ministry.  An excellent opportunity to deepen your awareness and appreciation.  The 2015 Annual Report and the Budget for 2016 will be distributed this Sunday, January 31 so you can read them in advance our meeting.  Your 2015 Financial Statements are in the mail.  Our thanks to the Assembly Team who collated all of these materials for us!

Sabbath Class:  “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.” (Isaiah 30: 15)   The Lenten Season begins on February 10.  We will use The Sabbath book by Wayne Muller as our theme and guide during the Forums and Soup and Sacrament gatherings.  The book is filled with life changing and life saving exercises!

First Friday Films – American astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead and left behind on a Mars mission in 2035. Against all odds, he must find a way to survive and contact NASA scientists to rescue him. Join us and you will hone your ability to empathize and be rewarded with hope from unlikely sources. Rated PG-13, run time 141 minutes. Popcorn during, discussion after.  Friday, February 5 at 6:30 pm.

Have you seen this news item about the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and Pope Francis?  He is visiting Sweden this October to acknowledge the significance and the healing of the rift which began 499 years ago.  The link enclosed gets you to a fuller article.  Bishop Antje who is hosting the Pope is a good friend of Pr. Margareta’s.

2015 Christmas Giving Tree Summary and Global Partnership Update

This year there were three choices for Giving Tree before Christmas:

purchasing Christmas gifts for a family at the Mountain View shelter (run by Shelter, Inc.);

purchasing Safeway gift cards for the families at the shelter; or donating to our partners in Laurel Galan, Nicaragua, and/or,  Lwamondo Parish, Venda, South Africa.

 The response was amazing once again:

16 Peace families adopted 11 shelter families (15 adults and 29 children).

We had 21 Safeway gift cards which  Shelter staff distributed by size of family.

The three families who delivered the gifts and gift cards to the shelter in Concord were most impressed with the number of people managing to fit into the house which has been converted to a shelter.  When we arrived families were sitting around the tables in the common room and some of the children helped carry the gifts to their family.  It was a moving experience to meet these families.  We also know that there is high turn-over because shelter staff are constantly looking for more permanent housing for families and some of our families had moved in the few weeks since our list was created.

We sent $995 from Giving Tree to Lwamondo Parish in South Africa, which is a group of 10 large and small churches spread over several towns and villages in Venda state in northeast South Africa, and $1055 from Giving Tree to Laurel Galan in Nicaragua. Our Partners have traditionally used this gift to expand their loans to families with a small business, such growing a garden plot,  or raising chickens or pigs for sale, or even buying corn when the price is low for an all-year tortilla business.  The drought in Nicaragua caused the staff at Between Cultures, who work with our friends in Laurel Galan, to suggest that the money from last Giving Tree be spent to buy staple foods such as rice, beans and cooking oil.  This purchase was made early in the summer. Peace also sent an additional collection ($800) for food to Laurel Galan in early November as the drought continued and crops and livestock were dying. Lwamondo Parish has also experienced drought as well as high unemployment.  The churches in Lwamondo Parish have a very active social ministry to their members as well as many refugees from neighboring Zimbabwe and Mozambique who are also experiencing high unemployment.

Thanks to Maili for the delicious birthday cake!

Blessings,  Pr. Steve



Pastor’s Weekly Message: 01.19.16

Grace Waves


It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends.  But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion.  The other is mere business.

Family Service:  Endless gratitude to Pr. Margareta, Gary, our Sunday School Staff – Charlene, Pat and Arlene, along with Drew Cremisio and the Salvation Army Singing Johnson Company and Deacon Monica for our lovely Family Service this past Sunday.  So many elements to savor:  parents rocking their infants, the kids coloring spirit doves, the music and the free form expressions of childhood in, around and under the altar!  God is good!  The next Family Services will be on February 14/Valentine’s Day and March 6.

 The Youth Group meets this Sunday, January 24 from 6 – 7:30 pm at the Schoening’s home.

Forums January 24 and 31 – “Exploring Cultural Values”  with Philippa Erlank:  The goal of the forums is to increase our awareness of different cultural values which shape the myriad ways in which people perceive and interpret their lives here and around the world.  This is the first of periodic forums on this topic which the Education Committee will offer throughout 2016.  This will be valuable for those who live in the San Ramon Valley, work with our Global Partners, care about multiculturalism and interfaith work or those who want to examine the lens through which we see the world.  Philippa brings professional skills to this field and we are blessed to enjoy her leadership.  11:30 in the Youth Room this Sunday.

The Justice Advocacy group meets this Saturday, January 23 at 12:30 at the Elsdon’s home.  The members and friends of Peace are invited.

Hidden in Plain Sight – Human Trafficking in the Bay Area:  At the Vets Hall in Danville this Thursday, Jan. 21, 7 – 8:30 pm.  Linda and Pamela are attending, perhaps additional people now.  To register contact Carla Gabert at:  [email protected].

Peace Survey:  The Council invites you to share your views on a Survey that will be introduced this Sunday and made available the following 2 Sundays.  Or you can use this link and fill it out online:  Thanks for your participation.

We host a New Friends of Peace Dinner here on Sunday, January 31 from 4:30 – 6:00 pm.  All new friends are invited!  Check with me if you have any questions in advance.

Special Celebration honoring the choirs and young people who participated in our United Nations 70th Anniversary Celebration last June will be held at Peace on Sunday, January 31 at 6:30.  This festive event will include music from The Pacific Choi, Coelis Vocal Ensemble and hopefully the Sycamore Strings Academy, officially recognize the contributions from many disparate groups and enjoy a delicious reception afterwards.  Please join in and honor the 70+ young people who performed as singers and musicians!

Our Annual Congregational Meeting will be on Sunday, February 7 immediately following worship.  Have no fear – you will easily be home in time for the Super Bowl.

Epiphany Blessings,  Pr. Steve

Pastor’s Weekly Message: 01.07.16

Grace Waves


I do not want to foresee the future.  I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.  —Gandhi

Second Friday Films — Jan. 8, 6:30 pm in the Youth RoomThe Way Way Back  is a 2013 film about a stifled teen who finds his voice with encouragement from the manager of a local water park. He takes a summer job to escape his unbearable home life with his neglectful mom and her overbearing boyfriend. As a humor-challenged teen, he begins to participate in life at the water park and shrugs off the manipulations of his mother’s boyfriend. Run time 103 minutes; PG-13. Brought to you by the studio that produced Little Miss Sunshine and Juno. Join us for popcorn and light refreshments.

Our next Family Service is January 17.  Pr. Margareta, Gary and Drew and special guests are preparing another wonderful celebration for our children and all of us!  Here’s a fun one:  4 generations of the Johansson Family will be attending.  Anyone else bringing 4 generations?

Dance for Joy – Dance for the New Year! Our next World Music Dance Night is this Saturday from 6:30 – 8:30 at Peace with DJ Kaleo Ching!  Last year Peace hosted over 80 people dancing!  Move and groove for the joy of it!  Kids are welcome, of course – you and they are guaranteed to have a blast!

Dancing is a form of prayer – and what you have danced can never be taken from you!

New Friends of Peace Dinner is scheduled for Sunday, January 31 from 4:-30 – 6:30 pm at Peace.  Details to come.

An Early Communion Class is scheduled to begin on Sunday afternoon on January 17 if we have 3 or more families.  Please let me know if you have a 2nd – 5th Grader who would like to be a part of this class.  There are 5 sessions and one parent is asked to participate in each class.  Contact me if you have questions or wish to be involved.

Welcoming the Stranger – I-SRV Refugees:  We were pleased to have Kalal with us at our Pure Delight Concert.  He and his brother Jamal are the 2 Afghani brothers now residing at San Damiano.  Volunteers are needed to provide them with transportation to attend their daily English classes at Acalanes Community Center from Monday to Thursday (9 – Noon).  If you want to assist or learn more please contact the church office.  Our thanks to Philippa who serves as our point person connecting us with the interfaith Refugee Support Committee.

I will be attending the Ohalah Rabbinic Conference in Colorado next week.  Rabbi Dan and I will be leading a workshop together as well as an interfaith service for the whole gathering of rabbis from around the country.  Please keep us in your prayers.

This Sunday we will celebrate Epiphany – the arrival of the Wise Ones.  Come join all the wise people at Peace in our worship which will be lead by Pr. Elizabeth.

Epiphany Blessings,  Pr. Steve