While looking over some materials relative to the maintenance of our buildings I came across an interesting bit of information: the Presbytery of San Francisco started doing ministry along the banks of Temescal Creek on Thornhill Drive in April of 1927, which means we may have let the church’s 90th birthday slip by us. I say we “may have” missed the church’s birthday because we weren’t constituted as an actual independent congregation of the Presbyterian Church until 1930 (which means we have three years to plan a 90th birthday party). Before 1930 we were an extension of First Presbyterian Church downtown, but still the 90th anniversary of Presbyterian ministry in this place seems like a significant occasion, and worthy of a moment’s reflection.
A lot has happened in the last 90 years. The church began and immediately had to survive the depression. Then there was a world war and a cold war, a civil rights movement and a war in Viet Nam. The church bore witness to the rise of feminism and the emergence of the Religious Right. We have provided sanctuary for pacifists during the Viet Nam era, and for those fleeing violence in Latin America (both in the 80’s and in the teens of the 21st century). We have protested wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Central Asia and Central America. We have endeavored to protect the earth from air pollution, acid rain, nuclear fallout, global warming and plastic in the oceans.
Since the Presbyterians moved into Montclair there have been sixteen presidents, thirteen Californian governors (fourteen if you count Jerry Brown twice) and fifteen Oakland mayors. We’ve supported one another through difficult times, and we’ve danced in times of sweet joy. We’ve sung a lot of hymns, prayed a lot of prayers. We’ve baptized several generations of Presbyterians, and we’ve experienced the intimate grace of holy communion. A lot has happened, and it has been good.
And there is more to come. I know that sometimes the present can feel overwhelming. Our president seems unfit for his job; the United States and North Korea are busy pointing nuclear weapons at each other. There is an unprecedented number of homeless folks living in Oakland. Too many Americans are incarcerated. Too many children are going to bed hungry each night.
As our church lives into our tenth decade together, my prayer is that Montclair Presbyterian Church will continue to be a place of action and activity, that we will be a place that nurtures a creative and faithful response to the world’s needs, that we will proclaim the Kingdom of God through acts of joyful witness to God’s grace and compassion, and that we will love one another and support one another on life’s journey.
May it be so!