When Will We Be Back In Church?

That’s something probably all of you have wondered over the last few weeks. We get mixed messages: Sacramento says churches can meet in person (with restrictions), local health departments add criteria, the reopening of workplaces and shops has begun and the number of Covid-19 cases is rising. In the face of all the uncertainty, the Administrative Council voted to keep the church building closed through August to all building users. That doesn’t necessarily mean that in-person worship will resume in September; Admin will be reviewing the risks and benefits of reopening at their August meeting. Some churches have already resumed in-person worship; we hope to learn from them what a successful reopening will look like and what steps we need to take to keep everyone in our congregation safe. In the meantime, we are taking this opportunity to replace the well-worn carpet in the Sanctuary, parlor and stairs. When we get back together, it will be in a (finally!) completely refurbished Sanctuary.

Just because we won’t be in the building doesn’t mean we can’t meet, however. The Elders are planning a gathering in the courtyard. While it may not be a full-blown worship service, it will be an opportunity to connect, to pray together, to feed our spirits with much-needed community. Stay tuned for more information. Until then, see you on Zoom.

Sustainable Solano Update

On April 21 a group of us met with representatives from Sustainable Solano to continue talks for the refurbishment of the Johnson Garden. We spoke of some changes to make in the garden in order to have more food growth, and to bring in pollinators to help the environment. This includes a new irrigation drip system, planting 2-3 more fruit trees, and vine growing fruit & veggies that can fill the fence line. The next steps will include a design made by the professional landscaper on the SS staff. Once we have approved the design he will get to work.

Part of this project originally had our congregation and the community volunteering to install the new plants. Unfortunately during this time of crisis, that is no longer an option. So the SS landscaper will be performing the work. Down the line, maybe in a few months, there will be opportunities for us to help and to get the community involved as well. For now, we will try to document all of the happenings as best as we can in order to keep our community involved.

We will keep you posted as we get more information!

Common Ground Update

In reaction to the crisis we are all in, on Thursday April 23rd, Common Ground held a Countywide Conversation Zoom conference. With over 50 participants, we heard stories - stories that impact our families, our friends, and our communities. There were several people on the line from across the county who have not attended a Common Ground meeting before. From the League of Women Voters to Solano Volunteers, it ran the full spectrum of organizations. We hope that out of this we will find more allies and people to work with us on the ground working with and/or connecting services and resources in our city & county. So far we’ve got a Food Distribution Team, a Renter Issues Team, and a Spanish-Speaking Team. And we’re working on getting a COAD (Communities Organizing Action in Disasters) for Solano County up and running.

We also discussed Support for Solano County Emergency Renter Protection Ordinance. The ordinance has 3 main objectives: no late fees for missed rent payments, a 12 month grace period for renters to pay back what they owe, and a hotline for tenants and landlords who have questions regarding all the changes. On Tuesday April 28 the County will be voting and we ask that you call and/or email your County Supervisors and ask them to vote YES on the Ordinance.

Worship Planning Retreat

On Saturday, May 9, from 10:00-12:00, 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. We will read scripture together and brainstorm themes, songs, poems, prayers, and ways we might structure our worship time. Everyone is welcome! So, bring yourselves and any ideas you have. We will share a refreshing and life-giving time together, while doing the work of the church. We look forward to seeing you there!

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 (http://napavalleycoad.org/) 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.