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A Worship Service Designed for Toddlers and Infants?

Aug 2010

I would love to have some feed back about a Sunday morning worship service for toddlers and babies (and their parents). Thanks a bunch!


We moved to the area while I was pregnant & we were lookikng for the same thing - a church community where our children will be embraced and get involved, and not relegated to the back row. We visited a number of churches & the one where my husband and I resoundingly agreed would be the best environment for our children, plus where we both felt most comfortable was Orinda Community Church. Although not the largest church, it has the strongest family-like community. Everyone in OCC(from the very old to the very young) knows my childrens names, interests, and talks to them with sincerety, and has shown genuine caring.

Children of all ages are invited to join parents in the service. They even provide crayons and coloring pages for the little ones in the sanctuary. I was initially afraid of afraid of my baby cooing or my toddler prattle during the service, but have come to realize that everyone is realistic and welcomes all ages - some churches make you feel like you would at a formal restaurant, nervous that they might be disruptive, but at OCC it feels more like being with friends and family. They often simply smile if toddlers exhibit some normal toddler behavior, or babies do what babies naturally do! Almost all have had their own children at some point and been there. I have even had occaision, when as a new mother in need of a little rest, respite, and spiritual renewal, had members of the church offer to hold and comfort a crying baby while I take a few minutes to re-charge my own batteries, so to speak. As they grew older, my daughters could not sit still during the music and enjoyed dancing in the aisles, which at first I was afraid would disturb the older church members, only to be told they found it such a joy to see them enjoying the service and the music in their own way.

Every service each week includes ''time for our children'' where all children are invited to come up and participate in a part of the service where they talk about the sermon for the day in childrens terms and involve some activity that makes it fun and meaningful for the kids. Children are then welcome to either stay in sanctuary for the reading and sermon with their parents or go to the Learning Center where they offer activities for all ages. Infants are nurtured and cared for. Toddlers play and continue to discuss the sermon for the day and do a craft related to it which they can bring home and remember it by. School age children have additiuonal discussions, activities, and sharing of joys and concerns with each other. They are involved in choosing a long term project which has meaning to them, and have raised money for Heifer, plant a fruit tree, fed sandwiches to the homeless, visited other churches, planned fun outings, etc..

Every year OCC plans a number of activities where all ages have fun, such as a family picnic in the summer, a Yosemite weekend in the spring, an Oktoberfest barbecue in the fall, a craft & carol night at the start of advent, etc.. OCC is so welcoming of kids and makes them feel such a part of the family - my preschoolers have begun to participate during announcements, and my young daughters feel comfortable to share their joys and concerns with the church - whether a grandma is ill, or a relative is coming to visit. OCC is a member of the United Church of Christ.

One of the other things we love is that they welcome everyone, wherever you are on life's journey, and provide a forum for discussion for those seeking spiritaul understanding. Members include people with a variety of backgrounds - from people raised in catholic church to agnostics. My husband, for example is half jewish and did not attend church or synagogue as a kid - he felt uncomfortable in a number of churches. However, he always felt comfortable at OCC. As children become teens and have more questions, the openess to question as part of their own seeking and understanding and development of their own personal faith is an important part. I look forward to being welcomed as my daughters reach that age. Jackie


Montclair Presbeterian has a wonderful program called Godly play where the kids handle little toys and feel out stories. Check it out. Reenie
I highly recommend Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley (1953 Hopkins Street) for anyone looking for a family-friendly, open-minded, diversity-loving church. Years ago, my husband and I visited several churches trying to find something we could both relate to... he grew up Baptist, and I grew up new-agey and questioning... and I still am. We wanted something that was traditional but not rigid, and ultra-inclusive without being bland. We could not find quite the right fit anywhere, and since it was hard to commit to Sunday mornings, we let it go for awhile. When the kids were born, we tried harder to find a church where we could raise them with a solid foundation that they could later build on and choose for themselves. Epworth has been the answer for us. The community is lovely, diverse in every way, welcoming and very active in the community. The pastor, Odette Lockwood-Stewart is smart, funny, interesting, accessible and basically amazing. Children are a priority for the church, and kids actively participate in the service. There is Sunday school for kids and youth of all ages, including nursery care for infants, and it doesn't matter if you come every week, or just once, all are always welcome.

Also, there are lots and lots of ways to be involved, if you want to be, without any pressure if you choose not to. Services begin at 10am and go for about an hour (sometimes less), with optional refreshments (and good coffee) afterward. For more info., you can go to the website: www.epworthberkeley.org, or call the church office at 510- 524-2921. Going on 10 years as an Epworth Family


The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley (actually in the hills of Kensington) is starting this fall a religious education class for toddlers and preschoolers. Until now, most young children stayed in service for the first 15 minutes or so, then left for the childcare program after the story. We are now integrating into the childcare program a 15-20 minute toddler-friendly ''class'' based on the theme of the month. The class will include songs, a ''chalice lighting'' (fabric flames), and a story or activity. After the class, the children will just play in the childcare until the end of service. Children are also free to remain with their families during service if they wish.

We also have weekly Thursday night suppers that are catered by a church member. Typically, children eat with the group, then go off to play supervised by a childcare person. Parents are free to attend a small worship service. Last night we started the first of our first-Thursday family nights where the worship is specifically geared towards children.

For more information, call the minister of religious education, Chris Holton- Jablonski at (510) 525-0302 ext. 304. UU mama


Seeking welcoming church with inspiring minister

Feb 2010

Our family recently moved to Berkeley. We are looking for a church community with an active, inspiring minister who also counsels parishioners. We are interested in many different social, environmental, and community projects including international work. Programs designed to interest teens would be a big plus. It also would be wonderful if the congregation valued music as part of its worship services. We would appreciate a church community that is not too doctrinaire and that welcomes meditation and other meaningful teachings from other religions. Thank you. Diana


Sounds like you'd be right at home at the Northbrae Community Church in North Berkeley Just above Solano Ave. Nothbrae has served the Berkeley community for over a hundred years, and over the years has developed a form of Judeo-Christian spirituality that incorporates many insights from other faiths and practices. You can see the influence in the stained glass windows in our beautiful chapel--they include people we call Torchbearers: Isaiah, Buddha, Lao Tsu and Muhammad (in a respectful representation of brotherhood, not the prophet) as well as Jesus and Paul. You can also find torchbearers like Emerson, Florence Nightengale, Gandhi, and Albert Einstein. They are a reminder that we can all live a life that lights the dark.

Our Pastor is inspiring, often bringing insights from other faiths and corners of the world. We have a Biblical Scholar who regularly looks at the week's readings from a scholarly as well as emotional vantage point. And I am the Storyteller, regularly telling myths and legends from around the world for the children's sermon. Add to this a fabulous music program, and you have some excellent Sunday services.

We have a children's program that is growing stronger every year. Most of our children are younger than teens, although we do have a teen program (when they come to church). We also are renewing our rite-of-passage program for pre-teens that is worth finding out about.

The Northbrae facility is a large, friendly, open place where a number of community programs gather. You can find meditation classes, yoga, 12-step programs, and other more secular groups gathering in the gracious buildings.

I hope you'll drop by some Sunday soon and say hello. We'd love to meet you and your family! Carolyn


If you are looking for a welcoming church, please take a look at St Alban's Episcopal Church in Albany at the coner of Washington and Curtis Streets. It's a friendly parish, with active programs for children and teens. There is someone teaching QiGong in the parish hall at least one evening a week, and a number of early music groups present concerts there. For more information, check out thier website at http://www.st-albans-albany.org/ or call the paish at 510-525-1716. There is a regular Sunday choir, and the church has an organ. Jennifer
You might want to try our church, Epworth United Methodist Church. It is much like you describe and a wonderful community. Laura

Family friendly church for Uk transplants

Nov 2009

I was bought up in a gently christian household, and though not a regular 'church-goer' feel that I'd like to at least share some of those values and experiences with my kids, 3 and 1. We're looking for a family friendly church, where we can maybe help answer some of our adult questions about faith and spirituality, and also share some of that with the boys, especially since we find ourselves far from home this Christmas and not able to tap into what we know and love at home in the Uk. Any recommendations much appreciated (we live in Rockridge, but don't mind a drive for the right place). Christmas is coming!


You should definitely try All Souls Episcopal Church in Berkeley on the corner of Cedar and Spruce. It is a wonderful place for families. We have been there since my older child was 2... she is now 9 and we have a 7 year-old son as well. For both of them, All Souls has provided a gentle, supportive place to explore some difficult questions. More importantly, it is a community where they experience love and joy. I hope you will check us out! Christmas is a particularly fun time to be there - we have a children's service and pageant at 5:30 on Christmas Eve. Caroline
I'm not a churchgoer, but have attended and enjoyed several services at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. It's a warm, welcoming place that really embraces everyone. Check it out! http://www.labcoakland.org/ Lara
You are welcome to come visit Church Without Walls in Berkeley. We are a multi-ethnic congregation, and have ~45 kids ranging from babies, toddlers, to school age and have wonderful teachers for our children's church. We meet on Sundays at 5pm, near University Ave/Acton St. Here is the link to our website for more information: http://www.nowalls.org/index.php
Pauline
I highly recommend checking out our church - First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley (corner of Dana & Channing). We are a vibrant community with something for everyone - children to adults. Come to our Hanging of the Greens concert Sunday, Dec. 6 at 7 pm for a joyful start to the Advent Season. Check out our website at www.fpcberkeley.org for more information on our many programs. First Pres Family
I invite you to check out my church, the Orinda Community Church. (www.orindachurch.org). Just off the highway in Orinda, it is progressive, welcoming to all, has a great children's program, and services feature amazing music. The congregation is friendly and we have members from all around the East Bay. The church also organizes excellent speakers and workshops, and has a new group learning about global warming and what we can do as individuals. It is part of the United Church of Christ. Anne
We are members at Christ Church Berkeley, and love the community there. Lots of families and young people. Very accessible to those who are exploring faith, and a safe place to ask tough questions for those who are already Christians. This is the first church community I have really felt OK saying that I don't have my ''act'' together. (My main issues with churches in the past is that I felt they were not ''real''...everyone seemed to go around acting like they were happy and fine.) This is a place where you can admit your faults, struggles, and doubts, and hear the gospel that Jesus has paid the penalty for all of that and accepts you fully just as you are. The website is christchurchberkeley.org if you'd like to check it out. (There is also a night service at 5pm on Sundays in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland.) -Laura

Church for non-attender to take 4-yr-old?

Oct 2009

My 4- (almost 5)- year old daughter has been asking recently about wanting to go to church, and is curious about God. I do not practice any particular religion (though I love Christmas carol services, have attended Friends meetings in the way past, and have an affinity for Buddhist thinking - open to many paths). Our family does not practice any specific religion, more a humanist treating-others-well perspective. I have told her many people think many different things about who/what God is, and (in essence) that churches are places people can go to think and talk about ways to live well and kindly and love others.

Is there a church anyone can recommend whose congregants would be OK with our going so she can see what one version of the experience is like? I don't want to offend anyone by seeming to be practicing ''church as tourist attraction'' but I want to honor her curiosity. Seems it would need to be kid-friendly or kid-focused as her attention span is unlikely to last a long time. Kate


A few ideas: Try the Unitarian church near the top of Moser, above the Arlington. First Unitarian Church of Berkeley in Kensington.

There is a nice young children's program at the very liberal Catholic parish at Dwight and Collge in Berkeley. Mass is at 9:30. It is the Newman Hall- Holy Spirit Parish. Very welcoming and low key and no need to join up.

Also, Epworth Church on Hopkins in north Berkeley, between the tunnel and the library is also a well-loved church. I', sure they have a great children's program. anonymous


I am grateful for your openness to your child's curiosity about religion and spirituality. I would hope that all faith communities should welcome newcomers and visitors, regardless of whether or not they'll become members. Come visit us at New Spirit Community Church in Berkeley - we are a unique community affiliated with Christian denominations and blessed with interfaith families. We plan our worship with visitors in mind and are very kid-friendly. If your child would like to take a ''tour'' after church and ask questions, we'd be happy to spend time with your family. You can learn all about us & get more info at www.newspiritchurch.org -Pastoral Associate @ NSCC
Try the Alameda Spiritual Living Center services, my 5 yo son loves them... they have a kid's program, music, and it's interfaith. http://www.alamedaslc.org/ Jennifer
Try going to First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. There is a wonderful program for children where your daughter could join other kids her age in wondering about God. (http://www.fpcberkeley.org/godlyplay.asp) If you would like to do something with her, there are several service times with slightly different styles. I might suggest going to the one on Sundays at 11:27am, welcoming, relaxed and not too quiet for a child :) . My daughter of similar age loves the music there. a church member with questioning kids
Definitely go to Glide in San Francisco! www.glide.org As they themselves say: they accept everyone - the reverend's wife was apparently an atheist when they started the church :) There is always a sermon, but it's mostly a lot of singing - very celebratory. I took my son when he was only 3 months old & he loved it.

As a side note: hurrah to you for honoring your son's request. I spent the summer that I was 9 with my Christian relatives in Virginia & came home asking my Buddhist mom if we could go to church (I think I mostly wanted the singing & the community), and, bless her heart, we went every Sunday for a few years...and then I grew out of it/found other ways to fulfill those needs... Best, KC


Open-minded Christian Church

Nov 2008

I am ''church shopping'' and have tried various services in the East Bay. I am very moved by a good choir, but the churches that have these seem to be heavy on the salvation message. I still question the Bible, but have a desire to persue Christianity. Does such a denomination exist?? I am seeking a church with an inquiring view of Biblical texts, not a literal interpretation. Gail


Check out Oakland's First Presbyterian Church at 27th and Broadway. It's a beautiful building and the musical director is great. It has an amazing organ that people travel to come see. It's in transition now, as the church is looking for a new minister and about to appoint an interim, but I just joined and I've been very happy with the community and with the open-mindedness of the church. I, too, am uncomfortable with ''salvation-heavy'' messages, as well as with a literal interpretation of the Bible, and found first pres to be a good fit. Service is Sunday at 10 AM. happy churchgoer
I attend a very open-minded, progressive church with a seeking, intellectual pastor who really opens up biblical texts in unexpected ways. She is a real gem. We have a small but often very good choir and a positive relationship with music generally. We're an interracial congregation with a good number of LGBT members and all kinds of families. It's Epworth United Methodist Church in North Berkeley. We have a warm and welcoming community of people on various stages and paths of spiritual journeys. You would be most welcome. not a fundamentalist
i invite you to visit first presbyterian church of oakland. our website is www.firstchurchoakland.org. we are diverse in many ways. while the presbyterian church is old and traditional, our congregation is fairly liberal and usually welcomes differences and questioning. church-goer but not evangelistic

Seeking liberal Alameda church

Oct 2008

We've recently moved to Alameda and are looking for a liberally minded congregation. Our background is Unitarian Universalist (which we don't seem to find in Alameda) but we are willing to attend other denominations. We would like to find a church that is fairly open-minded and spiritually tolerant. We're not interested in churches that teach that the bible is the be-all-end-all and that everyone else is wrong. Also important to us are the presence of young families and (cross fingers) childcare during services. Are we asking too much? Have any recommendations? We'd love to hear them! Not interested in Hell and Brimstones


Although I don't attend either of these churches in Alameda, I have nothing but good things about them First: There is the ''Home of Truth'' on Grand street. They are a liberal, I believe non-demoninational church that caters to all types of people and beliefs. Second: There is Immanuel Lutheran. The pastor there (Roger Bauer)is FABULOUS, he is a wonderful musician and motorcycle driver with an open mind and spirit. Hope this helps. Mas2luv
Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda has an excellent youth program and there are lots of parents with kids. The congregation is predominantly liberal and Episcopalians are fine about asking questions about the bible. The church does have a traditional liturgy including a confession and recitation of the Nicene Creed. However, there is a monthly alternative service and the next one is Oct. 26 at 10:15 a.m. Personally, I love the music and the food at the coffee hour is great. Here's their website. http://christchurchalameda.org/ Nancy
There are many Alameda residents who are members or attend First Unitarian Church of Oakland. Its at 14th and Castro, not far from the Webster St. tube. Check it out at www.uuoakland.org. I hope you join us! Debbie
I have two recommendations for you. We attend Trinity Lutheran Church, but don't let the ''Lutheran'' name thow you off. It's an excellant church, very liberal, and the Pastor there is incredible. His sermons feel like stories but yet you walk away from there feeling like you've learned something pretty substantial. There are families with young children there, and yes, they do have chilcare during the 10:30 service. They have 2 services on Sunday mornings- the 8am service is shorter and doesn't inlcude much singing. The 10:30 service has more singing (several hmyns and a Choir anthem and organist) and childcare is provided during that service. There is a Sunday School time for kids 3 and older that starts at 9am. There is also an Adult Forum at that same time, but parents who bring their kids for Sunday School certainly do not have to stay for that. It's a great little church..located at 1323 Central Avenue (corner of Central and Morton Street) You can check them out on the Web at www.trinityalameda.org or call 522-5220 for more info.

I also provide evening childcare for the choir practice at the First Congregational Church in ALameda. they are a great church also, very liberal. They are located on the corner of Chestnut St. and Central Ave. I'm not sure what their Sunday service times are or if they have child care during their services, but they are a very welcoming church. Good luck in your search! Jessica


Try Alameda Spiritual Living Center at here at Rhythmix http://www.alamedaslc.org/ They have kid's activities - and they join the service at the end, have a different musician each week, reception with food afterwards, and a really great vibe. It's interfaith/new thought (like east bay church of religious science, or Agape in LA) and very inclusive. My kid loves it. jennifer
I invite you to try the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, which is not all that far from Alameda. A number of families who live in Almeda are active here. And, there are LOTS of kids. Depending on the age of your children, our Children's Chapel service at 10:45 might be great for them. Our more traditional services are held at 9:30am and 11:30am. Childcare/religious education is offered during worship for younger children. Check out our website at www.uuoakland.org. You would be very welcomed here. B Avalon

Seeking a spiritual home

Sept 2008

Hello, I'm currently looking for a church that will truly be a spiritual home. I'm interested in a community that is strong, positive, diverse (meaning a significant population of color, not just a sprinkle), and has plenty of positive role models for both me and my son. What I really don't want is anything that preaches about the devil/satan in any way. I've had enough of that indoctrination. Thank you. Anon


I recommend checking out the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. They have a growing community and are very committed to diversity. Their website is http://www.uuoakland.org My husband and I have been going there for six years now, and our daughter has happily been participating in the young learner's program for two years (since she was born!). anon
I am a member of New Spirit Community Church, and I'd like to invite you (as well as the person who posted for a nondenominational church) to come for a visit! The church is 8-years-old, and after a two-year transition, Rev. Jim Mitulski has just started as our new settled pastor. Services are held in the chapel of the Pacific School of Religion (1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley). There are two services: Sundays at 11:00 am and Wednesdays at 7:30 pm. The Sunday service sermons range from congregants sharing a personal experience to discussion and celebration of spiritual practices of all faiths (today the service was about Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe, the music was traditional Hebrew, and service ended with dancing in the aisles). Wednesday evening is a meditative Taize Service, with candles and contemplative music. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions! lori
To those seeking churches, we also recently moved here and did the church shop thing. We LOVE our church - it is St. Gregory's of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Yes, it's in the city, but it's only about 15 mins to drive there on Sunday morning (plus then you can enjoy the city, since you've paid the toll anyway). It is a very warm, friendly, inclusive, diverse, socially active, spiritually fascinating community. Very open minded and creative with the way that they worship. Everybody participates as we ''create the liturgy together'' (kids are especially honored members of the congregation). It is an Episcopal Church but it's not your Grandma's Episcopal church! Lots of East Bay people attend and it's easy to park or take BART. We'd love to find some people to carpool with from Berkeley! Stasi

Liberal, inclusive Church with strong social interest

Sept 2008

My family is relatively new to the North Berkeley area, and we are looking for a local church (preferably Christian/ non-denominational type) to join and have our two children baptized at. My husband was raised Catholic and I Lutheran, but it is most important that we find a congregation that has a liberal, inclusive philosophy and strong social interest. We would appreciate any recommendations you may have! Amy


I go to a Christian church that meets in downtown berkeley at the Gaia Center (Allston and Shattuck) - Christ Church of Berkeley. It is connected to the Presbyterian Church of America, but it does not feel like it's a ''denomination'' kindof church. Very focused on serving the community and loving others. There is also a sunday evening service at another location in Rockridge. web site: www.christchurchberkeley.org Celeste

Interracial family seeking truly diverse church

July 2008

We're an interracial family (white parents, black children) in the Oakland Hills, looking for active, progressive, family friendly, racially diverse prodestant church in the East Bay (preferably Oakland or Berkeley). We've visited a handful of churches, but haven't found the right fit. Ideally, I'd like to find a church that is VERY racially diverse, even where white members are a minority (rather than a sprinkling of people of color in a mostly-white congregation). And we'd like the church to have an active, largish membership with lots of children (where we can blend in semi-anonymously for the first few weeks and later become more active in the church). Not too concerned about denomination -- we prefer a traditional service but can stand really contemporary music if the other needs are met. Any suggestions for my tall order? Seeking


Check out Oakland Center for Spiritual Living. It is a very diverse non-denominational church with a fantastic minister, Reverand Joan Steadman. The children's program is also very diverse ethnically and has a wonderful minister leading that program. The music is uplifting, the message is always inspiring and it is a very welcoming community. They are located on Clarewood Drive off of Broadway Terrace. Go to the 11:00 service on Sunday, so your kids can participate in the childrens program. Google the church and check out the website. I love this church! anon
Have you tried Epworth United Methodist church at 1953 Hopkins in Berkeley? The only thing I can't guarantee is the anonymity part---it's isn't huge and it is a pretty welcoming group. We have an amazing pastor--you can listen to her sermons at http://epworthberkeley.blogspot.com/ It is very supportive, progressive, has a family feel, there are tons of younger kids, and much diversity, though whites are not the minority. There are several (5 or more?) interracial families, several black families, several families with two moms, single folks, older folks, and did I say, a ton of kids. I would say that *I* am in the minority (white, middle-aged, married for ~30 years) and I like that! Great music, traditional but not too. Come visit if you haven't already. Worship is at 10AM on Sundays. Feel free to email me if you have questions. Sally
You may have already tried our church -- Epworth United Methodist in North Berkeley on Hopkins -- and thought it too white, since it is predominately white. But the energy at Epworth is fantastic, especially (right now) around the issue of race and religion. We are conducting conversations with each other about the experience of race and religion in our church community and attempting to come to terms with the widespread racial segregation in churches and our community's response. We are very active in support of LGBT people as well, and home to quite a few mixed race couples. If you haven't yet checked us out, you might want to give it a try. Very friendly, very welcoming, very oriented toward justice and toward supporting our kids. Right now the pews are a bit sparsely populated due to summer vacations, and our pastor won't return for several weeks. But come by, we'll be glad to see you. working toward true diversity
Check out St. Augustine's Episcopal Church at 29th & Telegraph. It's predominantly, but not exclusively, African-American. We are a caucasian/asian couple and we felt very welcomed there. We got married there so it's very near and dear to my heart! (We stopped attending when we moved too far away to do so). It is a gorgeous church with wonderful, friendly, progressive congregation.
Please come visit our parish, St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Oakland (http://www.staugepiscopal.org/). St. Augustine's is the only majority African-American parish in the Diocese of California (the Bay Area diocese of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.). My daughter and I are one of three families of white parents and African-American children in this parish, and we have been warmly welcomed by this church since we began attending in 2005. It is a great blessing to our family. rhenke
It might be a little far for you, but Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda has a large number of kids, reflecting a congregation that is very diverse. The priest has an interracial family, as do many others, and they are committed to LGBT families, as well. arbor
Epworth United Methodist Church on Hopkins in Berkeley. http://www.epworthberkeley.org/ It is a remarkably warm and receptive place while still allowing for anonymity. It's very diverse - many families with mixed race or same sex parents and a fantastic children's program. You would ''blend'' in perfectly while enjoying the bongos one week and fiddle the next. Epworth Attender
Check out Plymouth UCC at the intersection of Oakland and Monte Vista in Oakland! Although it may be smaller than you were hoping, it is a very diverse, warm and caring community--as a lesbian couple with young mixed-race children, we have found a home here. The music is great, too, with some fantastic jazz performances! Services start at 11 a.m., and there is a good fellowship/light lunch after. They even like our rambunctious kids!

Non-denominational or non-Biblical church

May 2008

Hi all. Does anyone know of any church that would be either non-denominational and/or just not biblical. I was raised Catholic but I can't get myself to belive in the Bible. The non-denominational churches I've found read the Bible, which means I could not relate any less to that. Also, I have a child in kindergarten and would love a church with cheerful services that include the kids too, not the adults in one room and the kids in another. I really am reconnecting with my spiritual/religious side but I need to find a church we can both relate to. All my gratitude to anywone with a recommendation. By the way, we live in the Lamorinda area, so close to that is crucial. thanks! Church craving


Try the Church of Religious Science - there's one in Montclair just through the tunnel. I know tons of people who go there - it's spiritual without being biblical... very positive and recognizing the truth within all religions. Their website is http://www.oaklandcsl.org/

We have a church Alameda Spiritual Living Center that does Sunday services here at Rhythmix that has a kids program, and they are very similar to Religious Science/New Thought, but even a little more inter-faith. http://www.alamedaslc.org/ Jennifer


Check out either the Unitarian Universalist church (strong progressive/social change nature) or the Church of Religious Science (strong new age/new thought positive focus). Both have roots linked to Christian theology but typically draw from several traditions and their sacred texts. The UUs are non-dogmatic, lots of former Jews/Catholics plus atheists, humanists, Buddhists and plenty of other spiritual seekers. All are welcomed. Spiritual seeker at home with UUs, CRS, & Quakers

Protestant church with teen programs

Feb 2008

We live in the East Bay (Albany/Berkeley area) but have been members of an ELCA Lutheran church in San Francisco for many years. For a variety of reasons, we need to find a church closer to home. Does anyone have recommendations for a church, preferably Lutheran and liberal-minded, but we're open to other Protestant options, that has a sizeable number of middle and high school kids, and engaging activities for them? Our current church has very few kids in this age group and no activities for them outside of Sunday School. Anonymous


Well, it's not Lutheran, but I have to put in a plug for our progressive, community-oriented, youth-friendly Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley on Hopkins just east of MLK. You are certainly most welcome to come and see if it suits! It is a warm and welcoming congregation. The website is at http://www.epworthberkeley.org/ good luck in your search!
Try All Souls Episcopal Church at Cedar & Oxford. Quite a few kids; youth group with occasional evening and other activities; very liberal. http://www.allsoulsparish.org/
We love our church Church Without Walls in Berkeley which has a great high school and middle school ministry. www.nowalls.org for more info. feel free to email me for more info. too. Pauline

Liberal Church in Lamorinda or Walnut Creek

June 2007

I am looking for a liberal church community in the Lamorinda/Walnut Creek area and haven't had any luck. When I say liberal I don't necessarily mean in the political arena. I want to find a church that is accepting of diverse lifestyles and families, where the message is acceptance and tolerance, where homosexuality is not a sin, where people are accepted for where ever they are in terms of there struggle with faith. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks. searching


I'd suggest visiting the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek. http://www.mduuc.org/home/home.html Rachel
I moved to Orinda last year and found a spiritual home at St Stephens Episcopal Church in Orinda. Our family are also very liberal and wanted a welcoming inclusive community. We found it at St Stepehns. It is very family friendly and welcoming. As you may or may not know the Episcopal Church is currently going through a crisis because it does embrace homosexuality and women priests. And because of this the larger Anglican Communion has issued a deadline to the American Episcopal Church to cease and desist (in effect). We'll see what happens. However I can assure you that St Stephens is a wonderful embracing community. Hope you come to visit. Julie
You should check out the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek! This sounds like it would be a perfect fit for what you are looking for.

We started going there a few years ago with our children b/c it was a good balance of our religious outlooks (he's agnostic; I'm athiest), and we've stayed b/c we totally agree with their values systems.

Their services are Sundays at 10:30am and there is always someone there to answer your questions. Their website is http://www.mduuc.org/home/home.html

This coming Sunday, June 10th, they will be having their annual Flower Communion Ceremony, so there will be more kids in the chapel than usual; there will also be a Lifespan Education lunch & summer kick-off party after the service. I hope this fits with what you are searching for. Stephanie


Dear searching,
I recommend that you check out my church, the Orinda Community Church in Orinda. It is an open-minded, grounded, friendly community that is welcoming to all kinds of people. A number of years ago the congregation adopted an official ''open and affirming'' statement, making it clear that they welcome all regardless of sexual orientation, race, age, ability, etc. When my family moved here from Berkeley, we found a great community at OCC.

As they say on their web site: Orinda Community Church is a warm, intelligent Christian community where you are encouraged to think for yourself. At OCC you can connect with people, explore spiritual issues, serve the community, and make a difference in a changing world. OCC has a place for you.

Sunday services are 10 am. I'd be happy to tell you more if you'd like, just contact me. anne


Hello, We started going to Epworth United Methodist Church in North Berkeley and love the friendly, open attitude. It focuses on being an inclusive church and very much is - my husband is Jewish and there are same sex couples, etc. It has a great youth program too which was very important to us (our children are 4 & 7 and the older one is in the choir) and it has a wonderful female pastor. It may not be close enough for you but may be worth visiting and seeing if it's a fit. Tracey
My husband attends the Orinda Community Church, part of the United Church of Christ. Their Web site is http://www.orindachurch.org.

They specifically say they are ''open and affirming'' and I believe they have the tolerant and non-judgmental attitude you seek -- my husband calls it a ''liberal intellectual'' church. They are into political action, good works, and environmentalism -- he's on the ''Green'' church committee. However, there's not a lot of diversity within the church population itself -- mostly white folks, honestly. There's spiritual diversity, though -- I'm an atheist, and I've always felt comfortable there.

However, the associate pastor, who we loved, just left for the East Coast, and they're in the process of hiring to replace her. My husband says that some of the temporary pastors giving sermons are not quite up to par, so don't judge the church by the temps! anon


Seeking East Bay equivalent of Grace Cathedral or Glide Memorial

August 2006

Hello -- We moved from SF recently and we really enjoyed going to services at Grace Cathedral because I loved Rev. Jones' sermons and sense of humor and we also enjoyed Glide Memorial occassionally for the sense of community & uplifiting spirit and music of the place. Can anyone recommend a Sunday service in the East Bay that has some similarities? Thanks much! Sunday Seeker


Hi! I attend East Bay Church of Religious Science. I find that although it is not a methodist church, it is somewhat similar to Glide. It has a great choir and music,nice community, the messages/sermons are real life and humorous and it is very diverse. They have 3 services on Sunday, 8:00, 10:00 and 12:00. 10:00 is usually the most crowded one. The first 15 minutes of the service is a meditation, so if you rather not partake in that you can arrive at quarter after the hour and be fine. The church is located on the corner of 41st and Telegraph in Oakland, within walking distance of the BART station, if you need that. Parking is sometimes and issue, but you can park in the Mercedes lot on 40th and Telegraph if you want to (Sundays during services only) Good luck! Rebecca
I invite you to come visit Epworth United Methodist Church (1953 Hopkins, above the Alameda, in Berkeley. Sunday services are at 10AM). It isn't as big as Glide or Grace but has a wonderful spirit to it and the sermons are great! (My 22 year old son, who just recently rediscovered the postive attributes of church, describes Epworth as inclusive of all, intellectual, real world, inspirational, positive...) You can hear past sermons at http://epworthberkeley.blogspot.com/ and/or subscribe to a weekly podcast. Sally
I'd like to recommend my parish in Berkeley, All Souls Episcopal Church. The rector has a vibrant message and a great sense of humor and this permeates the congregation. Children are an honored part of the community and every week a hands-on children's homily during the service helps reinforce the messages they've learned in Sunday School. A brand-new church playground is set to open any day there and a new Associate Rector who will work with children and familes will begin on September 1st. If you are interested, September 10th will be a combination Rally Sunday (beginning of the new Sunday School year) and playground dedication. All Souls is located on Cedar and Spruce, just a few blocks up from Shattuck Avenue. Hope to see you there! Happy All Souls Parishioner

Radical church or synagogue

August 2006

I'm looking for a radical church--I am open to the type of spirituality, we're open to Christian, religious science, etc. I do care that the language is gender inclusive, that the theology is positive and affirming and non-orthodox. I'd like to start attending church w/ my 2 year old daughter to have her develop a sense of community, but many churches I've tried are a little too staid or too orthodox for our tastes. Someplace with really good music would definitely be a bonus. Thanks for your help. anon


I love Quaker meeting, and an unprogrammed Quaker meeting is about as radical as it gets in many senses: no minister; no creed; unfortunately for you, no music (though our Meeting does have a singing group that meets between meetings for worship). We sit in silence and wait until one of us feels that the Spirit has moved them to speak to all of us. The Quakers have traditionally valued peace, equality, community, and simplicity. My home meeting takes place on Sundays at 11 a.m. at Berkeley Friends Church on the corner of Walnut and Vine, diagonal from Peet's Coffee. There's another worship at 9 a.m. but there's no childcare at 9, though, of course, you could bring your daughter to worship. If you have questions, I'd be happy to hear them. Heather
If by ''radical'' you mean, open, progressive and non-dogmatic, with a strong activist social justice tradition, then I would encourage you to try a Unitarian Universalist Church. From www.uua.org: ''With its historical roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions, Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion -- that is, a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with in all times and places. We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves. We are a ''non-creedal'' religion: we do not ask anyone to subscribe to a creed.'' We are very happy attending First Unitarian Church of Oakland, which has a wonderful religious education program for kids, an intergenerational service option, and a very strong music program. (http:// uuoakland.org) Fulfilled as a UU.
Check out the First Unitarian Church of Oakland! It has all that you have described. Debbie
Our church, Montclair Presbyterian (on Thornhill Drive in Montclair) is as inclusive as they come. The church is open and affirming in both language and spirit, and nontraditional in many ways. There is a strong committment to social justice both historically and in present day. It has a wonderful choir and music program led by the conductor at the Woodminster Theater, and uses a great children's education program, called Godly Play. The pastor does great sermons, and has a beautiful voice herself - she's a classically trained musician. I didn't grow up attending church, and am very much at home there, and love the community. You're welcome to contact me if you'd like more information - Carrie
I didn't see your original post, but I get the sense that you may be looking for a church like Trinity United Methodist on Bancroft at Dana in Berkeley. We are a church committed to social justice and spiritual renewal. A great eclectic congregation with a ministry to the homeless and a ''reconciling'' stance toward all those who have traditionally been excluded from organized religon. Education program for children and youth/teen group as well. Would love to have you join us! a.
Editor Note: Additional responses to this question are on the Jewish Congregations page.

Christian Church with a Bible focus

August 2006

Hi there - I am a Catholic who is in search of a more bible-based church and church community in Alameda/Oakland. I am not interested in a bible-thumping evangelical congregation - just a church like the Jehovah's Witnesses that spends time focused on the bible - no politics, just teaching and reflection. I'm also interested in the church community - i.e a community that actually socializes together as opposed to the Sunday mass only interaction. I will be exploring the local Jehovah's Winesses group as well so any opinions on that will be appreciated also. Thank you Searching


Hi--I would check out any Seventh-day Adventist church--I don't know the east bay churches specifically but Adventists do tend to be focused on Bible study and community, not politics or fire-and-brimstone. They've always been friendly and welcoming in my experience, and you might really like the pre-church adult ''Sabbath school'' study time which usually starts around 9:30am. The only thing is they worship on Saturdays so if you show up on a Sunday there won't be anyone there! A sometime SDA
I can relate to your interest in finding a Bible-based group that doesn't ignore each other after Sunday. I am a member of the Temescal congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses on Racine at 59th St. in North Oakland. It is a wonderful congregation that I just love (and I have been to several different churches and JW congregations throughout the country). Very friendly and social, and very knowledgeable about the Bible. There is no back-biting and everyone is genuine and loving. Obviously, you can attend a service on your own, but feel free to contact me if you would like to visit the congregation with me. Best wishes! Denise
Hi, I attend a meeting which is actually not associated with a regular church and is non-denominational but bible based. It is held in the back room at Denny's in El-Cerrito on the first Saturday of every month. Usually people who attend get there at 6pm and order a meal---some people just show up for the meeting at ~ 7:30pm if they'd already had dinner. It is a group of about 20-25 people but a great atmosphere and very international as well. Also good singing and fellowship. You should visit and see if you like it. People from different churches attend so they may also be able to give you recommendations for the regular Sunday services that they attend. Hope you find what you are looking for. anon
As one of Jehovah's Witnesses myself I can tell you that the Bible and it's use is the entire focus at the meetings. During the Bible discussions the congregation is encouraged to look up and follow along in their own copy of the Bible as scriptures are being read. For example during Sunday meetings there is a talk based on a scriptural theme. A recent one was ''How to Express Love in a Lawless World,'' a verse by verse talk of how we can apply 1 Corinthians chapter 13 in our own lives then a Bible based discussion with audience participation- recent topic was about serving God in your youth. A Bible aid was used which cited over 65 different scriptures. There are also other Bible study groups that meet during the week. Jehovah's Witnesses associate with one another a great deal not only at the meetings but we like to get to know one another and encourage one another. We are fairly new to our congregation and just this week we were invited out to lunch by a few we hadn't gotten to know that well. The congregation just recently organized a ''family day'' for the fall and we were just at a kid's party thrown for the kids in the congregation. I'm also glad to know Jehovah's Witnesses are the same all over the world that no matter where I go I would be as welcome as I would be in my own congregation. My husband and I are big travelers and I can tell you that no matter where we were in the world we were greeted with open arms.

I hope that gives you some idea about Jehovah's Witnesses and answers some of your questions. If you have others feel free to contact me. cassie


If you're open to a church in Berkeley, I'd like to recommend New Church Berkeley (meets at the Baptist seminary chapel near peoples park). The website is http://www.newchurchberkeley.org/welcome.shtml. The primary focus of the church is the Bible, mainly Jesus - without imposing the American Christian culture. There is a vibrant multi-cultural community and lots of events for the purpose of getting to know other people (see the Calendar on the website). Alex
First Presbyterian of Berkeley on Channing near Telegraph is a Christian church with a Bible focus. I like all of the pastors and the teaching is solid. While it's a big church it has great programs for families and kids and even college students. They have morning services that are more traditional and an evening service that is more contemporary-a band plays. They also have dinner after the evening service, which is a nice way to meet people and not have to cook one day a week :) Also, they have a mother's group that meets on Friday mornings during the school year. Katrina
Hi! My husband and I attend First Pres Church of Berkeley, which can feel a bit big, but we have found a great community there.

Other churches I'd recommend: All Nations (Oakland)--smaller, good place to check Oakland Covenant City Church (SF) Cornerstone (SF)

Hope that helps! Coleen


Come check out my church, Church Without Walls, in West Berkeley. The sermons are always Bible based and we have a strong sense of community. It's the first time in my life that I feel like my church is my family. It's a casual service with lots of singing, a sermon, communion, and prayer. We meet on Sunday evenings, 5 pm, at the Finnish Hall--1819 10th St, between Deleware and Hearst. www.nowalls.org Kim

Bible Study for non church-goer

June 2006

I'd like to join a Bible study in the Berkeley area that takes an honest seeker's attitude. I'm a Christian and do not attend church, nor do I want to be constantly prodded within a group setting to do so. I simply want to read the Bible. Not ''as literature'', from an academic POV, but as spiritual teachings and as ''the greatest story ever told''. I've recently been energized by the new findings on the Gospel of Judas, but my motive is not to dis the institutionalized gospels. Is there a Bible study group out there for me? seeking real discussion


You should look into Community Bible Study. There is a rather large group that meets on Wednesday mornings at First Covenant Church in Oakland. Check out their website at http://www.communitybiblestudy.org/ for more locations. It is an interdemoninational study of the Bible on a book-by-book basis. I, myself, am not currently involved, but I have many friends who *love* it. Since there are men and women from different churches, the topic of church attendance does not really come up. There is a structure to the study where you read the passage during the week and answer questions, you discuss with your group, you hear a lecture and then you read a commentary, so it's 4 presentations of the passage each week and some will be more helpful to you than others. There is an emphasis on listening to one another and not arguing about interpretations. It may be just the kind of study you're looking for. There is also a fabulous children's program for babies - preschool. They do not meet in the summer, but will begin again in September Erin
There's a newly developed Bible study called ''Living the Questions'' that takes seriously the kinds of questions we all ask (and that fundamentalists basically deny). See http:// www.livingthequestions.com for a description of the series and see if it addresses the kinds of issues you are interested in.

Epworth United Methodist Church will be starting a number of different groups, meeting in homes, that will be working through the series. You can call the church office during the week at 524-2921 to find out about a group you could connect with anon


Bay Hills Community Church in El Sobrante offers a variety of Small Groups (Bible Study). One of them might be what you are looking for. I've been going to church regularly there after not going to church in years (even though I am a Christian). It is a friendly, casual, non-confrontational atmosphere. Everyone is welcome, whether they are seekers, believers, or what. There is no pressure to get involved or make commitments. I was always fearful of that when attending new churches or Bible Study groups, too. I am not currently in a Small Group, but in one that I attended last year there were a couple of people who came who said they were just checking it out. That was fine. The level of involvment is left up to the individual.

Even though you aren't usually a church-goer, you might want to check out the church first, then decide on a Small Group. But you can just go directly to a Small Group if you'd rather. I am including a link to the directions to the church just in case. The rest of the website is being worked on, so some of the info is outdated. The current Small Groups are not listed on the site, but I have a paper handout that describes the various groups. You are welcome to have if you'd like. - Susan http://bayhills.net/directions.htm


Gospel of Thomas study group / church?

Jan 2006

Hello, I have read some of Elaine Pagel's work about the recovered Gospels of Thomas and am wondering if there is a church or a study group in the Bay Area that focuses on these writings? A recent Harper's Magazine article about these gospels sparked my interested again and I thought I'd post to see if there are any like-minded folks? Thanks very much.
seeking fellow Thomas gospel folks


Funny you should ask this question this week. On Sunday, one of the scriptures quoted in the Northbrea Community Church Sunday service was from The Gospel of Thomas. It's not the first time either, and indeed one of the things that drew me to Northbrea was that Ron Sebring, the miniser at Northbrea, as well as other congregants understand the significance of The Gospel of Thomas and seek to learn from it. I'm the storyteller for the children's sermon during services, and I've quoted from it too. Right now there are no study groups specifically devoted to that The Gospel of Thomas, but it is a subject that some of us are talking about--also prompted by the Harper's article. I don't think it would be too hard to get a study group going. Indeed, I'd help you. Carolyn

Family friendly church for a newbie

Jan 2006

We want to find a church that has a good family friendly commnity feel and is tolerant of differeces and allows a bit of SPACE for spiritual journey. Three we are considering are UU in Kensington, First Presbytarian and First Congregation. I have been to church twice in my life so as you can see, this is a huge and scary step. Any thoughts and recommendations you can give, before I muster the courage to actually go in to observe, would be great. Many thanks.
looking for god in all the right places

Recommended:

  • All Souls Episcopal Church Berkeley
  • Church Without Walls Berkeley
  • First Unitarian Church of Oakland Oakland
  • Montclair Presbyterian Church Oakland
  • Northbrae Community Church Berkeley
  • Plymouth United Church of Christ Oakland
  • Skyline Community Church Oakland Hills
  • St. Augustine Church Oakland
  • St. John's Presbyterian Church Berkeley
  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley Kensington

    Seeking a Christian church with a diverse membership

    March 2005

    Looking for recommendations for a Christian church in the East Bay with a diverse membership, including a mix of blacks and whites. Would like a moderate church (i.e., NOT fundamentalist in ideology) with an active, vibrant congregation and a good children's program for our mixed family. Any suggestions are appreciated. jj

    Recommendations received:

  • Epworth United Methodist Church Berkeley (2 reviews)

    Inclusive & Friendly Church

    March 2003

    My husband and I (and our 10-month old boy) are looking for a spiritual, inclusive, and friendly church in the berkeley/el- cerrito area. Good music and great sermons a bonus. We've tried the Unitarian in Kensington/El Cerrito but it wasn't an exact fit for us, focusing a bit more on socio-political rather than spriritual issues (totally my opinion, it was great in many other ways). We've read through suggestions on the website and just aren't sure how current some of the recommendations are, so we would welcome some new input. We live in Albany, so proximity is a plus. Thanks.

    Recommendations received:

  • Albany United Methodist Church Albany
  • All Souls Episcopal Church N. Berkeley
  • El Cerrito United Methodist Church El Cerrito
  • Epworth United Methodist Church Berkeley (4)
  • First Unitarian Church of Oakland Oakland
  • Northbrae Community Church Berkeley
  • Northminister Presbyterian El Cerrito
  • St. Alban's Episcopal Church Albany (2)
  • St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church Berkeley
  • Trinity United Methodist Church Berkeley

    Seeking a spirtual home for interracial & interfaith family

    October 2002

    hi. i am looking for a spiritual home for my family that will feel like home for all (3) of us. yes, i have been reading previous posts about various churches & synagogues (including albany united methodist, epworth um, st. paul lutheran, & unity church). we've gone to a few places, including the unitarian universalist church in kensington (the one with the impolite acronym) & unity, and will be hitting albany um next. unfortunately, so far we haven't really FELT it, ya know what i mean?

    before i go on, let me just introduce myself & my family: we are an interracial & interfaith (african american/lutheran & white/jewish) lesbian couple raising a teenage girl (also african american). we've been together 9 years & moved here from the east coast (i'm sure that by now some people will have recognized us!). we used to go to glide in sf and that was fantastic, almost too good to be true, but way, way too big. we like methodist churches, but really, denomination is the least of our concerns.

    our most important consideration is that the place be lgbtq- friendly. can't walk through the door if it's not. since that is not hard to come by in the bay area, our REAL CONCERN is that it be racially/culturally mixed, specifically african american & white.

    IDEALLY, it would also have a great range of ages, with a ''cool'' teen program, lots of community events and a warm, caring congregation, be socially conscious, have great, stirring (gospel or gospel-ish) music, a charismatic spiritual leader and a lovely physical setting (think: committment ceremony), be large enough to offer true diversity yet small enough to feel like family, be open to exploring/sharing different religions, have lots of interracial families & lgbtq families, not be too ''preachy'' and be located in el cerrito.

    okay, okay, i know you're saying ''yeah, right,'' but please, PLEASE tell me i'm not crazy to expect at least some of this under one roof!

    we're open to suggestions (other than the churches already mentioned) that DEFINITELY include SIGNIFICANT racial diversity, openness to lesbian families & caring atmosphere. we're also open to any suggestions about meeting other interracial lesbian families (any & all cultures, though again, african american is particularly sought, as it seems harder to find an african american community we feel comfortable with in the bay area).

    thanks for taking the time to read this long post. :)

    Recommendations received:

  • Northminister Presbyterian El Cerrito
  • St. Columba Catholic Church Oakland
  • Trinity United Methodist Church Berkeley

    Upbeat church with good gospel music

    March 2002

    Searching for an upbeat church with good gospel music and lots of young families. I love the music at glide but it's too touristy and too inconvenient. My perfect church would be local with good music and ''practical'' sermons. It would have lots of young families and good youth programs. We'd like to make community connections. Please help - I'm discouraged with the same ole, traditional stuff and congregations of only elderly. Jeanette


    Recommendations received to this inquiry:
  • Epworth United Methodist Berkeley
  • Greater St. Paul Baptist Church Oakland
  • St. Columba Catholic Church Oakland
  • St. Paul Lutheran Oakland
  • Unity Church Richmond
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