Local group marks World Interfaith Harmony Day with “Conversations and Concert of Love”

The Tri-City Interfaith Council (TCIC) will host the Tri-Cities’ fifth annual World Interfaith Harmony Day Celebration on Saturday, February 2, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Niles Discovery Church. The event is free and open to everyone.

In 2010 the United Nations General Council established World Interfaith Harmony Week “to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.”

“TCIC has sponsored events to create harmony, understanding, appreciation, and respect of all people from all faiths and no faiths for over 30 years,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, current president of TCIC and senior pastor of Niles Discovery Church. “This Harmony Day Celebration pulls together people from over 15 faith traditions and no faith to share powerful ways we’re each bringing love, peace, and justice into the world.”

“If you are curious about any faith tradition, or if you’re longing for more harmony, please attend and enjoy the Celebration,” he added.

This is the first year that a “Concert of Love” has been added to conclude the Harmony Celebration. Songs from the Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions will be taught to those who are interested by Jagmeet Kaur, Rosie Kasem, Rabbi Tsvi-Bar David with Rashid Patch, and Ofer dal Lal during the middle of the afternoon’s activities. At the same time, those who would rather talk than sing will be involved in interfaith “Conversations of Love.”

An interfaith discussion group from the 2018 Interfaith Harmony Day celebration

The “Concert of Love” that concludes the day’s Celebration will include highlights from the “Conversations of Love.” TCIC member Shamsa Rafay, who is Muslim, says, “I am always moved during the sharing at these events, because some people will say that they’ve never felt so loved by people from other faiths before.”

People will gather for the popular small group conversations – the “Conversations of Love” – either randomly or because they share an interest, such as visual arts, books, poetry, film, public speaking about faith, or delivering food to people.

TCIC chair of the planning committee, Cindy Sojourner said, “Our hope is the shared-interest groups will extend the harmony by continuing to meet in the future.”

“I’m excited that at least 5 artists from the Faith Trio Interfaith Art Exhibit in Oakland and Moina Shaiq, who does Meet a Muslim conversations, are joining us,” Sojourner added.

The Celebration begins with a half-hour of sharing refreshments and visiting information tables from over 10 faith traditions, including Judaism, Islam, Religious Science, Unitarian Universalist, Sikh, Moorish Science, Buddhist, Interfaith, and Christian. Then, after a greeting, people will move into their small groups for learning song and having conversations for 20 minutes. They will have an opportunity to gather for a second round of small group singing or conversation. Then everyone will gather for the “Concert of Love.”

This World Interfaith Harmony Celebration is sponsored by TCIC, the Alameda County Human Relations Commission, the Fremont Human Relations Commission, and the Union City Human Relations Commission. All people are welcome to attend all or any portion of the Celebration. Children will need to stay with their guardians. For more information about the Tri-City Interfaith Council, visit tcicouncil.weebly.com.

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Nursery coverage expands

The Ministry of Christian Education Team is now staffing the Nursery with two cleared workers* each Sunday morning, starting around 9:50 a.m. and continuing through the end of the worship service. This allows the parents of our youngest children to fully participate in this valuable time of worship, fellowship, and prayer.  Parents can bring their little ones to the nursery prior to the worship service and pick them up after the service. 

This means that we have three options for the parents of a nursery-aged child: you are welcome to keep them in the sanctuary throughout the worship service, keep them until Sunday Schools starts (after the “Time with the Children”), or bring them to the nursery before the worship service commences. 

*Cleared Workers have passed a thorough background check and have been cleared to work with vulnerable persons.

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Partners organizing “The March for Fossil Fuel Freedom”

The March for Fossil Fuel Freedom, to be held on March 16-18, 2019, is being organized by a coalition of faith communities, non-profit grassroots groups, and 350 Silicon Valley, to shine a spotlight on Wells Fargo’s role in financing the fossil fuel industry.

This 32-mile “pilgrimage” march from Palo Alto to San Francisco will draw attention to how Wells Fargo’s investment policies (including the funding of private prisons) have devastated our climate and our communities. At the same time, it will hold up the promise and possibility of reinvesting instead in climate solutions and of transitioning to a better, more just world.

Niles Discovery Church has been invited to participate in the planning and in the march itself.

Oily Wells

So far, organizers plan to make 12 “stagecoach stops” that include teach-ins, music, and theater (featuring an out-sized “Oily Wells” character). Marches will disseminate a re-branded logo as they visit some bank branches along the way. The culmination of the march will be a rally at Wells Fargo’s headquarters, with some marchers planning a non-violent civil disobedience ‘sit in.’

Ralph King, one of the march organizers, noted that only the marchers who “receive prior direct action training and support” will be allowed to participate in the acts of civil disobedience. He also said that people will be “welcome to march for as far and as long as they like – ‘day-trippers’ will be welcome.”

“Our goal is to attract hundreds of marchers,” King said, “so we are reaching out to a number of climate justice, social justice, and faith groups around the Bay Area, including 350 Bay Area, Idle No More, the Sunflower Alliance, and the Sierra Club, among others.” He noted that Niles Discovery Church was one group they specifically want to include. “We would be honored to march with you!” he said.

The next organizational meeting will be on Sunday, January 6, 3:00-5:00 p.m., at First Congregational Church, 1985 Louis St., Palo Alto, 94303. There will be a call-in option for those who can’t attend in person.

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Leave Peace Not Chaos – end of life planning series

News coverage of a well-known celebrity dying without a will points out the resulting difficulties. A family’s crisis over critical medical decisions dominates a news cycle. This news may inspire action, but we find both contemplating our own death and initiating a family discussion difficult. Who do we want to act for us if we become incapacitated? Could our financial affairs be resolved with ease? What are our wishes for our final days? Do we need to reevaluate our established plans and documents?

The Ministry of Social Concerns (MSC) Team believes that talking about these and other questions will move us toward new understandings and a sense of peace; therefore, they are sponsoring a series of conversations to spark thought and action on end of life planning.

Four conversations are scheduled for the fourth Sunday of January through April. A light lunch will be served at noon in the fellowship hall with the presentations and discussion from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. The topics for each session are listed below:

  • January 27 – Wills and Trusts, other useful documents
  • February 24 – Advanced Directives
  • March 24 – Hospice
  • April 28 – California End of Life Legislation

For more information, contact Judy Zlatnik or other MSC members. Invite interested friends and family to attend, too.

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Fellowship Groups News – January 2019

Here’s some news from a few of our fellowship groups.

Daytime Fellowship Group

The Daytime Fellowship meets on the third Monday of the month (which is Martin Luther King day, January 21 this month), September to June, at 11:30 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall. One of our pastors leads a Bible study (typically looking at a scripture for the coming Sunday’s worship service). This is followed by a time for visiting with each other as we eat our brown bag lunches and a provided dessert. Sometimes there is a little bit of business that needs to be taken care of. The gathering typically ends around 1:00. Everyone is welcome.

Lap Robe Tying Group

The Lap Robe Tying Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month, January through October, (and this year was able to add a gathering in November, thanks to when Thanksgiving fell), from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. The next meeting will be January 23, 2019. Let Judy Molander know if you plan to attend as lunch is provided.

During 2018 the group made 78 lap robes. Several lap robes were displayed in the main hall for everyone who came into our building to see. This year, 8 lap robes were given to members and friends of our congregation, 6 to Hillside Senior Care, 6 to Abode Services, 6 to Meals on Wheels, 3 to hospice care, 12 to the Veterans Hospice, 10 to Paradise Fire Victims, 9 to the Brown Road Homeless Shelter, and 7 to LOV. Hillside Senior Care reports they are especially helpful when transporting their clients from the care facility to medical appointments. Others have said they are useful when you want “a little extra” for warmth on cool evenings. More are available if anyone wants one.

Wild Women of the West gathering announced

The dates for the 2020 Wild Women of the West Inter-Regional have been announced. They are June 12-14, 2020, in Las Vegas. You might want to put this on your calendar now.

First Christian Church of Las Vegas will host. The theme is “Seeking Grace in the Desert” and one keynote speaker has been confirmed: Rev. Lori Tapia. Other leadership for this event is being secured.

The costs are anticipated to be between $150 and $200 for registration, and housing/hotels should be significantly cheaper than in Scottsdale (the location of the 2018 gathering). At a recent meeting in Vegas, one of the planning team members stayed at a no-frills hotel near this church for $23 a night.

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Jeff’s Jottings – January 2019


Pastor Jeff

“Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” That is a message I get on my smartphone five times a day.

I know it sounds crazy, but I actually purchased an app to remind me of my mortality. The app, “WeCroak,” not only sends these alerts at random times, it invites me to open the app to read one of 600 quotes loaded on the app. As far as I can tell, the quotes are picked randomly as well. So far, I’ve found the simple reminder of my mortality more impactful than the quotes. But the quotes do slow me down a little, which is good.

Because I’m not a early riser, this reminder of reality is sometime there to greet me when I first look at my phone. I was at a lunch with a colleague recently when my phone buzzed. I looked my friend right in the eye and said, “Remember, you’re going to die,” not quite quoting the app. He looked at me quizzically, wondering what prompted my non sequitur. I shared a little info about the app and he said he might download it, hoping it might form a spiritual discipline in preparation for Lent. I downloaded it in preparation for a four-part educational series the Ministry of Social Concerns Team is holding starting this month, “Leave Peace Not Chaos” and the documentary we’re showing on January 12.

WeCroak is based on a Bhutanese aphorism: “To find happiness, contemplate death five times a day.” I’ve found it to be not so much an invitation to contemplate my death as it is an invitation to pray. Something a little Muslim about that, which makes me smile.

Writing about the app in The Christian Century magazine, United Church of Christ pastor Matt Fitzgerald says, “Five times a day sound excessive, almost gleeful, like a dog rolling in rotting fish. But if you’ve been refusing the reality of death for years, an occasional reminder is easy to bat down. And those of us who encounter death regularly might be the best at defending ourselves. It’s a skill we’ve honed.”

He’s right that clergy encounter death more frequently than most people. Most medical professionals and first responders probably encounter it more than clergy, and certainly undertakers do, but other than those professions, us clergy types may need the reminder, the chipping away at our defenses, more than most.

Perhaps I haven’t had the app long enough to have experienced the “cumulative wallop” Fitzgerald says it “inflicts.” “It will force you to cinder the grave personally. It doesn’t happen immediately. The app’s effect unfolds like a slow-motion bomb, wrecking whatever defenses you’ve erected to protect yourself from death’s sting. The bizarre thing is, WeCroak made me happy as it blew me apart.”

I wonder what will happen to me.

My favorite story Fitzgerald tells in his article is of how he was trying to get his teenaged son to wash the dishes. Fitzgerald asked; the teen ignored him. Fitzgerald insisted; the teen refused. Fitzgerald was getting ready to explode, and his phone buzzed. “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.”

“I inhaled sharply,” Fitzgerald writes. “My eyes watered. Death’s scent and sting stopped me. I stood silently as if I had just discovered something. I had just discovered something. I don’t want my rage lodged in my child’s psyche. I spoke softly to my son. I was happy.”

I’m not suggesting you download WeCroak. I am suggesting you don’t let denial of the reality of your mortality keep you from participating in our January documentary or in the “Leave Peace Not Chaos” series over the next four months.

Pastor Jeff

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Special Offerings – January 2019

January’s special offering is for Tri-City Volunteers. Tri-City Volunteers runs the largest food bank in southern Alameda County. They grew out of the organizing work of two members of our predecessor congregations and we continue to have a strong partnership with them, most recently as the congregation TCV turned to launch the mobile food pantry program.

The offering will be formally received on Sunday, January 13. As with all our special offerings, you are welcome to give at any time (always make checks payable to Niles Discovery Church). You can also give online: go to our church webpage and click the “donate” button at the top of the page.

Niles Discovery Church receives a special offering each month. With that many possibilities for special giving, you may need to choose which ones are most important to you. You can see the schedule of special offerings at bit.ly/specofferings or call the church office we will mail you one.

Thanks to your generosity, the December Special Offering raised $2,322 for Puente de la Costa Sur.

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