Shepherd of the Hills is a community Growing in Grace.
Situated in the Berkeley hills near the north entrance to Tilden Regional Park, we seem to be surrounded by growth. Our chalet-style church reflects the tall Monterey pines and eucalyptus that fill our neighborhood. Deer and their fawns frequent our church grounds even as more young families move into the homes nearby. On the approach to our church Grizzly Peak Drive offers breathtaking views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the greater expansion of business and housing in the Bay Area. There is no question that we are surrounded by growth of all kinds.
But growth can come at a cost.
People in our modern world spend more time in school and more time at work but have less time with friends and family. People buy bigger houses and have more stuff but find themselves deeper in debt. People have access to all kinds of food and activities, but are more overweight and sedentary than ever before. We need to grow not just in consumption; we need to grow spiritually as well.
We at Shepherd of the Hills find that we want to be a people growing in the Spirit. It is important to us that our greater community, adults and children, all have opportunities to develop practices and beliefs that help us to live in a growing and changing world. And we do this all by grace.
Grace is a central tenet of Lutheran practice. Martin Luther’s revolutionary thought at the turn of the 16th century was that salvation is earned not through what we do, but is given as a free gift through faith. Grace frees us from the notion that we ever can be good enough, smart enough, successful enough, or faithful enough to earn God’s love. Instead we come to God as we are and are offered new life.
This message of grace runs counter to our culture. Grace tells us to take time off rather than work more hours. At Shepherd of the Hills we encourage people to make Sunday worship a regular part of their lives. Grace tells us to give away our goods, rather than to hoard or to spend what we don’t have. At Shepherd of the Hills we encourage people to share their time, talents, and treasures with the world. Grace tells us to step away from unhealthy choices regardless of convenience. Shepherd of the Hills encourages people to live simply and sustainably. Grace allows us to be gentle with ourselves and with our world.
The world is a big part of what we do here at Shepherd of the Hills. We strive to be the kind of community where all find welcome and solace. We also strive to be the kind of community that reaches out into our neighborhoods, our region, our country, and our world with the same message of grace.
We are concerned about the environment and about how our nation’s policies impact the rest of the world. We believe in the Gospel’s call for justice for all people and for peace between the nations. We believe that there is good in all people and that there is hope for our world.
We are about growing. But we are about growing in ways that are good for us and good for the world. We are about growing in God’s light.
We are about growing in grace.