Sometime late in the evening of November 21, 2013, or early in the morning of November 22, one of Oakland’s oldest living inhabitants, a 120 ft tall Manna Gum Eucalyptus tree growing near the shores of Lake Merritt, was felled by a mighty wind storm. For weeks crowds came to see the fallen 140-year-old giant. Children climbed through its branches onto its massive trunk. People took pictures of its hulking root system. Onlookers marveled that it had fallen into an open space and not into the nearby Lake Chalet Restaurant or historic Cameron-Stanford House. Pedestrians were given an opportunity to wonder why it is we appreciate gifts like towering trees only when they fall. All of us were given an opportunity to ponder our own mortality for like the tree, our time on this earth, is limited.
Oakland First Baptist Church was given birth before the great eucalyptus was planted. It survives after the great trees fall. Like the tree growing by the lake, the church building at the corner of 22nd and Telegraph is occasionally noticed by those that pass it by, though its story is largely unknown and often unappreciated. Many know it most for the shade it provides to passers-by on warm summer days.
While we remember the tree, we must do more than remember Oakland First Baptist Church. We must embody its long-standing commitments, its enduring vision in new settings, new contexts, and new ways. While retaining a commitment to the well being of its historic building, Oakland First Baptist Church has been replanted as part of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. This annual report describes the way we are growing in our new setting. It describes the ways we are doing more than remembering, it describes the ways we are living and growing like a tree deeply rooted in the Christian story, like a tree nourished by the Baptist tradition, like a tree pointing to the heavens and giving shade and comfort to many who cross its path.
It is good to serve together,
(This is the Annual Report I wrote in my role as the Pastor of Oakland First Baptist Church. It serves as a reminder that LABC and OFBC are soon to begin our fourth year as partner congregations. I think it is clear that together we have made, and will continue to make, a difference for the good in our city and our world. The Living Tree sculpture that will soon grace our Sanctuary will be a symbol of the covenant between the two congregations, a sign of our commitment to grow together in grace that we might be counted among those communities that, like the leaves of the tree growing by the river flowing from the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, are for the healing of the nations.)