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Pastoral Blog

Blog postings by our pastor Rev. Ben Daniel.

After Cloven Tongues of Fire

Friends, For this week’s Contact entry, I would like to introduce you to a book I currently am reading, After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), by David Hollinger, a now-retired, former chair of the history department at UC Berkeley. The book studies the impact progressive Protestantism has had in the shaping of American…

Springtime of life

Friends, It has been a long and wet winter, and because the rain we’ve had in the last six months has brought the worst drought in living memory to a close, I feel somewhat guilty when I say that I am so happy to see the sun and to smell the flowers and hear the birds sing. Leaves are starting to eek…

Taking a break and giving things up during Lent

Friends, Our congregation has entered into a season of giving things up. This being Lent, a lot of Christians are taking a break from various practices as a spiritual discipline until Easter, but at Montclair Presbyterian Church we may be having to say “goodbye” to our bridge (which has rotten support beams) and during Lent we’re saying “see you later” to our…

Being grateful

Friends, I’ll be away most of this week, attending to a family emergency, but before I drive North, I’d like to say how grateful I am for the following things. I’m grateful to be part of a congregation willing to dance in the sanctuary on a Saturday afternoon, which you did when a few us played “Brown Eyed Girl” at the end…

Congregational Life and Congregational Meetings

Dear Friends, I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon, and already the work of preparing for Saturday’s talent show and auction is seriously underway. Our family room is festooned with festive lights. Artwork is being displayed. Music is being rehearsed (in fact, on Monday I found myself in possession of a loaner electric guitar so I can sit in with the house band).…

Faith Trio Statement on banning Muslims and Refugees

Friends, In lieu of a Contact  article this week, I want to share a statement on the Trump Administration’s ban on Muslim refugees and immigrants. Our friends at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California generated this statement a couple of weeks ago and the Faith Trio adopted as well. In these difficult and confusing times, I am happy to be part…

Truth telling as an act of resistance

Friends, If, as the early 20th century California politician Hiram Johnson once noted[1], truth is the first casualty in war, then the first step in working for peace must surely be telling the truth, especially at the beginning when war is just a distant rumble and a whispered rumor, for that is the season when the powers of institutionalized violence start sniping…

Inspiration from “The Mad Farmer”

Wendell Berry is a farmer, lay theologian, essayist, environmentalist, and poet from Kentucky; for years I have turned to Berry’s writing while trying to understand the world around me, and in the last couple of weeks, as the nation seems to become unhinged, I’ve found myself reflecting on what probably is Berry’s shortest published poem, “The Mad Farmer’s Love Song”, which, in…

Can We Afford to Stop Saving Water?

Friends, After enduring California’s worst drought in 500 years, I find myself a little surprised to be longing for sunshine, reciting under my breath a certain child’s rhyme about sending precipitation to the Iberian peninsula, but who knows? Maybe after so many years without meaningful rainfall, we all have earned the right to grouse about the weather, just a little. What I…

Come in from the Cold

Friends, I want very much to thank you for braving the cold in our Sanctuary first on Sunday and then, the next day, at Marge Nicholson’s memorial service. For those of you who may not know what I’m talking about, we detected a leak in one of our gas lines last Thursday and we had to shut off the gas, which meant…