Common Ground - How We Respond

In an excerpt from the book “How To Be A Stoic” - a Vietnam war survivor, James Stockdale, organized his fellow prisoners inside a prison camp after being captured, creating and enforcing a code of conduct to regulate their behavior. He had this to say in an interview about who did not make it out of the camp:

“Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones that said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' and Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' and Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.  And they dies of a broken heart.... This is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Common Ground, along with the rest of the world is trying to figure out how to respond to the crisis at hand. What can we do to help in the moment and in the months after this crisis is over?  We could just rest on optimism and trust that the powers that be will do their work, and that the crisis will in fact be over on Easter... Or we can be realistic and realize that not only will this crisis continue, the repercussions will be disastrous without protections for the common good.

So what is Common Ground doing right now:

There are any not significant new protections for renters due to COVID-19. The Federal government has only prohibited eviction in a very small set of circumstances; after the federal government purchases a home at a foreclosure auction. The Governor's initial March 4th emergency declaration prohibits property owners from increasing rent over 10% what was charged before March 4. The Governor's March 17 order did not prohibit evictions; it merely allowed local jurisdictions to pass their own ordinances that would only stop landlords from evicting tenants whose income has been directly reduced by COVID-19. So far, Vallejo, Benicia, and Suisun City have enacted such ordinances. Other jurisdictions have prohibited evictions for any cause during the current outbreak. Please encourage tenants who have been laid off or had their hours reduced to apply for unemployment insurance immediately. Common Ground will be working with the city to expand the time limits/provisions for eviction moratoriums and discussing enhancing tenant protections, including no late payment fees, allowing renters to break their lease, and allowing late payments to not ding the tenants’ records.

We are also working with both the North Bay Regional and the Napa County Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) – to form a COAD for Solano County. We will be collecting resources and info of who can help in areas that are critical in times of disaster. The COAD will be formed with representatives from each area, i.e. healthcare, construction, housing, utilities, animal care, communications, volunteers, etc. Napa County ( has a great COAD that we are speaking with to get the process started here.

Now is the time to organize and confront these items head on, the consequences of not doing so are unthinkable.

Sustainable Solano

After worship recently, we had two people from Sustainable Solano present some ideas in the next steps of our partnership. Some of the topics covered included: Solano Gardens project, Permiculture, urban landscaping, using our site for educational workshops, planting drought resistant trees/plants, renewal/maintenance of our existing garden, and the possibility of new landscaping in the large grass areas in front of the Fellowship Hall.

All of us in attendance are very excited about working alongside them to make this happen.
So what is next?

Solano Gardens is a county funded agency that is a section of Sustainable Solano. Our partnership with them could include: more food production, using roof water & swales for irrigation, they can provide seeds, trees, plants & volunteers for installation, research, advice, and consultation. We make the design with their assistance, then they help us make it happen. And get this… It is free!! What a deal!

A collaboration contract has been drawn up and will be considered by the Admin Council. If approved, this project could begin in the design process as early as April. Should the Admin Council approve the contract, a committee should be formed to work directly with Sustainable Solano. If you are interested in this, please let Allison Mezzera know!

Worship Planning Retreat

On Saturday, March 21, from 11:00-3:00, we will have our next Worship Planning Retreat with our Sabbatical Minister “Trail Guides,” Bill and Mary Jacobs. This will be an opportunity for you to meet the Jacobs and to help envision and chart a course for our worship services during Pastor Christy's Sabbatical time (May 16-Aug. 16). Everyone is welcome! So, bring yourselves, your ideas, a lunch, and snacks to share.

Lent 2020

Our theme for Lent 2020 is Nothing Can Keep Light Out . . . “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. . . .” We will connect this theme with the stories of Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, the Man Born Blind, Lazarus, and the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We hope you will make plans to join us for worship each Sunday during Lent, as well as our special Maundy Thursday Service on April 9, and our Easter Breakfast and Egg Hunt on April 12!

A Different Kind of Politics

On January 21st, Common Ground held its first Action of 2020. Members of our church, along with 12 other organizations in Vallejo, Napa, and Fairfield gathered in the gym at St. Basils Church to use our voices, and to tell our stories. Many stories dealt with issues around housing like rentals and mobile homes; issues with education and schools; issues with vacant lots and trash on the road; issues with aging family members; issues with police relations and community safety. All of the stories were very personal, and all of them were heard by the community, City Council members including the Mayor, police officers, and county politicians.

By the end of the evening, Common Ground got commitments from the Mayor, the new Police Chief, two current County Supervisors, and two people running for the seat, to meet with them to discuss these issues and work toward solving them.

This is the different kind of politics Common Ground wants. They want to be at the forefront of the issues, and have a seat at the table with the people who hold the power to change it. They do not want a few making all the decisions for the many.

Community organizing isn’t glamorous or flashy. It is hard work that takes dedication and time. Of course we all wish that change could happen overnight, but in reality, sustainable lasting change takes a long time. You need to do research, talk to people with knowledge, and speak with the community which is impacted, so you can create plans that are grounded in reality and will stick.

On February 11th from 6:30pm to 8:00pm Common Ground will have its first Leader Meeting since the Action, hosted by our church in the Fellowship Hall. They will talk about the Action and about where to go from here. If you would like to have a seat at the table, you are all encouraged to attend.

Worship Planning Retreat

On Saturday, January 18, from 10:00-2:00, we will have our next Worship Planning Retreat, which will be an opportunity for anyone—and everyone—to come together to help envision and chart a course for our worship services over the next 3 months, including Lent and Easter. We will read scripture together and brainstorm themes, songs, poems, prayers, art, and ways we might structure our worship time. Everyone is welcome! So, bring yourselves, your ideas, a lunch, and snacks to share. We will share a refreshing and life-giving time together, while doing the work of the church—it is a retreat, after all! I look forward to seeing you there!

Common Ground 2020 Kickoff Action

Exciting things are happening in Common Ground and we want you to join us! After the new year we will hold our Kick-off Action for 2020 "A Different Kind of Politics". The event will take place in the gymnasium at St. Basil the Great Catholic Church on 1/21/20 from 6:30 to 8.

Common Ground members and members of our community will be represented, as well as several power people in the Vallejo City Council, candidates for County Supervisor, and members of the City of Vallejo staff. We are also expecting the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, Jaime Soto, to visit and listen and support our community.

We will have Common Ground members telling their stories to the people who hold the power, and asking for their support in moving forward with two main issues affecting our city – the Vacant Lot Ordinance and the Housing/Rental Crisis. We also want you to share your story and your concerns about this community face to face with city and county officials and staff.

We are expecting over 200 participants from the community and Common Ground member groups. Our community is changing, and together, through organizing, we can have a seat at decision making tables.

A Special Blue Christmas Service

The holidays are always full of heightened emotions and expectations. Our culture readily celebrates the excitement, joy, and consumption of Christmas, but many of us also experience difficult feelings during this time of year. It is easy to get lost in the demands, activities, lights, shopping; the holidays can be quite stressful.

At our Blue Christmas Service, we create a quiet, peaceful, and supportive place where you are invited to slow down and recognize whatever emotions you may hold—including anxiety, stress, sadness, loneliness, depression, overwhelm, frustration, grief, loss, addiction, uncertainty. We will provide a space for anyone having a difficult time during the holidays—anyone needing to acknowledge some pain or loss they are carrying—and anyone simply needing to take a long, deep breath and slow down—in the midst of this season. 

All are welcome to join in this beautiful and contemplative candlelight service, which will be held in our sanctuary on Saturday, December 21, at 7:00 p.m., the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. 

Join Us For Advent!

After all of the wonderful activities of November, Advent begins on December 1. We celebrate Advent for the four Sundays before Christmas by preparing our hearts once again for Christ to be born into the world. During this time, we will light special candles, read inspirational scripture, sing powerful songs, and decorate our worship space with beauty and anticipation. This year’s Advent theme is “Prepare the Way. . . .” And together, we will once again prepare the way for Christ to be born and transform our world. 
Throughout Advent , we have several special events going on:
On Dec. 8, 15, and 22, we will collect new socks and underwear, as well as gently-used coats, sweaters, and blankets for people in need.  
On Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 5:00-6:00 p.m., you are invited to a Full Moon Labyrinth Walk at the Earthrise Retreat Center with Pastor Christy Newton. Earthrise Retreat Center is located at 101 San Antonio Road, Petaluma, CA 94952. We will meet and carpool from the church at 3:45 p.m. For more information and to register, visit The event is free.
On the evening of Saturday, Dec. 21, at 7:00 p.m., we will hold our Blue Christmas Service to make space for the complexity of emotions arising during this time of year.
We hope you join us and participate throughout the Advent season!