Oakland First Thoughts // October

It's the smell that is the most unique and striking feature ---

I've been around architecture like this, I've been in socio-economical areas such as this, I've met people similar, and even been in cities with a very similar vibe and aura --- but the smell is singularly Oakland. 

The aroma of Vietnamese cooking, with the tang of salty and spicy in the air from the local seafood joint, mix with the rich smell of Indian curries the next block over, and the yeasty smell of the local beer garden, entangled with the earthly smell of roll ups -- Oakland has it all. 
Re:Genen chruch - designed by architect Julia Morgan  
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Sunday night --- over a fusion meal in a brunch and beer garden locale called Portal, while eating fried brussel sprouts slathered with sweet and salty vinegar dressing and fried chicken sliders with jalapeƱo aoeli -- I ask the pastor of Re:Generation, a church a few blocks over, what he enjoys most about life in Oakland:

"The Diversity" he quickly says

He then goes on a bit to explain his history, his childhood in SoCal and how what he appreciates the most about Oakland is the sheer eclectic personality Oakland oozes.

You can feel it here. Blue collar and white collar are neighbours, and even friends. Many families with multiple ethnicities and races represented. Homeless sleeping directly outside third wave coffeehouses, such as Oakland's own Blue Bottle Coffee . Hip photographers walking around Lake Merritt beside elderly Asian couples out for a Sunday saunter together.

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To say Oakland is laid back is expected; as a renowned part of California, flexibility and coolness are stitched into it's fabric. Re:Generation church is cut from the same fabric.

Dim Sum with Pastor Albert and his family

You can stand during worship, or stay seated. Laugh alongside the Pastor, or feel free to sit and soak in his Calvary Chapel - verse by verse - teaching style. Bring your coffee into the service with you, or finish drinking it and chatting with the hip Tennessee barista, then wander into worship and join the menagerie of people gathered in a 100 year old church, designed by famed Julia Morgan. The same Morgan who designed The Hearst Castle. Yes, that Hearst Castle.

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Walking is a part of the culture in Oakland, and I cannot stress how relieved I am about that.

After spending a year in Northern England, being in the car trapped state of Texas has been sending me a bit over the edge. Walking isn't the only English vibe Oakland boasts - chain restaurants are almost unheard of -- even CA's beloved In-N-Out is hard to find in Oakland.

Chickens that live in the Re:Gen church garden
The Christian culture mirrors England too. In Texas, the buckle of the Bible Belt, saying you're a Christian is expected by many, and not necessarily an unpopular opinion.

In Oakland, where so many cultures are running head first into each other, calling yourself a Christian isn't just something you say to soothe your guilty soul -- you must sincerely believe it in order to stick out your neck. This creates a group of people who are filled with grace and love.

The people at Re:Gen are passionately concerned for their literal neighbors. They serve homeless breakfast on Sunday mornings. They hold a service in Burmese to connect with the refugee population in Oakland. They try and be a light in the dark corners of Oakland --- something that is shifting.

The area the church is located in is notable for the gentrification happening right at the churches steps. An area once known for it's prostitution and drug dealing is now a pleasant five minute walk away from the newly beautified Lake Merritt.

Sunday walk around Lake Merritt 

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There are many things to be worked out between the Pais Movement and the potential church Partnership here in Oakland, but we can already see how the soil is rich here.

My prayer for this area is, whether or not the Pais Partnership works out, that Re:Gen would continue being a intergral part of it's community. That it would continue leading and shining the light of Jesus into the hearts of the people in Oakland.

Pais would be privileged to serve alongside Re:Gen and to be located in such a rich culture as Oakland - and I am selfishly praying that God will place me here as soon as possible. Join me!




Love to you all, jen xx 
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