Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Books of Jonah and Ruth -- NEW Scripture Discussion

Please join us as we begin a NEW Discussion of the Books of Jonah and Ruth in April.

We will read aloud from Jonah and Ruth, share our responses with the group, and discuss application to our community following a guided study (Kerygma Program - ).

Our meetings are twice per month on Tuesday evenings. Interested in joining the discussions? Wish to know more about the discussion group? By Monday March 2, please contact Ken Bencala < > or 650-776-4984.

Lessons for Our Fractured World

A comedy, a romance, both with Old Testament lessons for today!

Jonah shows the original readers of the book, as well as us, what a picture of their bigotry and hatred of foreigners and enemies looks like to God.

Ruth shows what life lived in performing deeds of hesed looks like to us and to God.

The book of Jonah uses the character of an outrageous excuse of a prophet to show the leaders and people of Judah just how foolish they looked with their insistence on isolationism and the exclusion of "the other." It asks the question, "If God loves the outsider, shouldn't we?"

4 Sessions

  • What Kind of Bible Story is This?
  • The Adventures of Jonah
  • Nineveh at Last!
  • God Instructs God's People

The book of Ruth is an idealized story of what life would look like if God's people treated each other with His loving-kindness—insiders and outsiders alike. A key understanding in Ruth is that God uses these acts of the loving-kindness of people to demonstrate that which God gives to all, whether they realize it or not.

5 Sessions
  • Gathering Our Tools
  • From Famine to Barley Harvest
  • Coming Alive!
  • Naomi has a plan!
  • The Happy Ending!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Diocese of California General Convention

This is a summary of the 165th Convention of the Diocese of California. For a more detailed account, please see the DioCal website:

St. Mark’s was well represented at the convention. The Rev. Salying Wong served as chair of the Committee on Dispatch of Business, and also addressed the convention on the theme of the Asian American experience in the Diocese of California. Carla Bliss and Lorna Paisley staffed an informational table for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Carla also served as a delegate, substituting in place of Kaye Crawford.

The theme of Asian experience comes from a progression of several years of exploring the concept of the Beloved Community. The history of Asian involvement goes back to early days in the Diocese of California, and includes times where cultural insensitivity caused misunderstanding and sorrow to Asian members. Thus, the convention theme sought to create a setting for conversation and reconciliation.

Key features of each annual convention are the resolutions passed each year. In addition to routine resolutions, the convention managed to consider and vote on eight resolutions. Several of these are to be forwarded to the national Episcopal Church (where they may be altered and combined with resolutions of other dioceses) for consideration by the 78th General Convention, to be held in Salt Lake City in 2015. With one exception, the following resolutions passed.

1. “Proposition 47: Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014” is an endorsement of the California voter initiative.

2. “Laying the groundwork for an Episcopal state policy network in California” seeks to give the Episcopal church a presence in public policy discussions, as many other denominations already have.

3. “Liturgical marriage equality” is a resolution for the 78th General Convention to authorize liturgy for use in same-sex marriages. It remains the individual cleric’s discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage.

4. “Socially Responsible Investing in the Episcopal Diocese of California” is a follow-on to a previous directive that investments of the diocesan endowment fund should reflect the values of the church. While there is broad agreement that “SRI” is a worthy goal, how to achieve it remains a complicated discussion.

5. “Climate change” considers climate change as both an environmental and a social justice issue, to be submitted for the 78th General Convention. Since the people most adversely affected are often the poorest, the resolution calls for divestment from energy companies that supply environmentally damaging fuels, and a move to sustainable energy companies.

6. “Benefits cost-sharing” was a response to the rising cost of benefits, though historically, Episcopal employees in California have had excellent benefits because salaries are well below those in the private sector, compounded by the high cost of living here. One debater shared a concern about harming clergy wellness (and by inference, congregational wellness). This resolution was rejected by the convention.

7. “Promoting justice and peace in Israel/Palestine” is a resolution for the 78th General Convention to divest from corporations that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Israeli companies that operate out of those places. Delegates on both sides of the question made impassioned statements. In the end, the resolution carried.

8. “Statement on General Theological Seminary.” Over the years that I have attended the DioCal convention, this was first time a resolution was submitted from the floor of the convention, rather than months in advance. The event that drove it was also most unusual, the irregular firing of eight (of ten) faculty members from the seminary in New York. Unlike other Episcopal seminaries, there is a direct line between the Episcopal Church and the institution, thus the perceived call to action for the Diocese of California. At the time of this writing, there appears to be a path opening for reinstatement and reconciliation.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thoughts on Stewardship From Parishioners Like You

From Brent Welch and the Vestry

The Vestry met earlier this year and discussed our goals for the next year. During our meeting, we discussed the book Growing an Engaged Church by Albert Winseman. We focused on a theme that explains why people like to belong to a wonderful place like St Marks. Winseman and Gallup surveys offer a “Get-Give-Belong-Grow” summary that reminds us that engagement, that is, a deeper connection with others, is a crucial part of a deeper connection to God and one’s faith. Hence people find friendship, spiritual support, fellowship, and a welcome respite from the daily grind in a healthy faith community. As a result they are willing to give of their talents, time and treasure.This engagement and sense of belonging leads to deeper spiritual growth. St. Mark’s, at its best, is such a community and as your Vestry we believe it can be a better and stronger faith community by increasing opportunities for engagement.

The focus on Get-Give-Belong-Grow highlights the following crucial questions (used in surveys) for members of the community:

 “What do I Get?”

Do I know what is expected of me?
Are my spiritual needs being met?

“What do I Give?”

Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best?
Have I received recognition or praise for what I do?
Do the community leaders care about me as a person?
Is someone checking in/encouraging my spiritual growth?

“Do I Belong?”

Do my opinions count?
Does the mission and purpose of the community make me feel my participation is important?
Are other members of the community committed to spiritual growth?
Aside from my family do I have a friend in the community?

“How can I Grow?”

Has someone checked in (during the last 6 months) on my spiritual growth?
Do I have opportunities to learn and grow?

We think this is a great theme for St. Mark’s because too often “membership” seems to get distilled down to just the Give, and we forget why people seek to Belong. By putting Get first, we acknowledge how important it is that St Marks continue to provide, with hopeful expectation, opportunities for faithful spiritual growth for its members. Our wonderful campus with its new landscape and meeting spaces, the deep and talented pastors, our sacred worship, the music, the good work of commissions and ministry teams and the many programs, are all wonderful gifts that we share with our members  With this perspective, Give almost goes without saying. Members are more than willing to give to our community.  Spiritual Growth and giving go together. It is so easy in this rich world we live in to forget the spiritual aspects of humanity. Without it we are doomed to an unsatisfying life, no matter our riches. Finally, when we create a community like St Marks, it is easy for people to want to Belong to it. Our growing membership is a testimony to the way that our community benefits from the many great things we provide.

The Get-Give-Belong-Grow theme can be applied to all of our different ministries, missions and groups. How does it apply to your ministry?

As we do our planning for the next year, let’s be intentional in deepening both our faith and our community with this focus as a unifying theme. Let’s grow in faith together and make a difference in our homes, our workplaces and in the wider world.