Associate Pastor Elizabeth Robinson Joins Orinda Community Church

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(John Sarsgard, Photographer)
New Associate Pastor Elizabeth Robinson has a background in creative writing and community service.

    New programs and ideas are in the works as Orinda Community Church (OCC) welcomes a new associate pastor.
    Migrating from Southern California, Elizabeth Robinson raised her two sons Wilson and Jonah in Berkeley where she joined the vibrant Bay Area poetry community, taught creative writing at the University of San Francisco, and received her Masters of Divinity at the Pacific School of Religion. 
    Most recently Robinson served at the Community United Church of Christ in Boulder, Colo., while working as the city’s sole homeless navigator. She notes, “When inevitable challenges arose in working with the homeless, I found churches in Boulder more responsive overall than the city’s social services department in terms of offering immediate attention and concrete help.”
    “That’s why Orinda Community Church’s long history of social justice resonated with me,” she says, pointing to OCC’s 1980 donation of church land for Orinda Senior Village, their support of Contra Costa Interfaith Housing, and the church’s 15-year commitment to provide the countywide Winter Nights Family Shelter Program in conjunction with 17 area churches and temples. 
    Robinson says she and husband Randy Prunty (who worked as a librarian in Boulder) along with their 65-pound dog Brock are happy to live in the Bay Area, closer to her mother and sons.
    Robinson is working with OCC Senior Pastor Jim Bergquist to develop new spaces for those who don’t feel comfortable in traditional worship. “We are planning a mid-week contemplative service that includes silence, and sometimes music in collaboration with OCC Director of Music David Milnes, as well as offering a writers’ group open to the community,” she says.
    Other plans for 2019-20 include a regular Sunday morning casual service, with table conversations, music, food and something for all ages; as well as continued work in the community focused on youth wellness.  
    Robinson has published 15 books of poetry, including a recently co-authored critical anthology of essays, Quo Anima, innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry. Previously a winner of the National Poetry Series, Robinson was a 2013 finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and received a Foundation of Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.   
    Her sermons are peppered with poems and literary excerpts. Robinson has been known to ask the audience to recite a carol or hymn instead of singing it. “I believe we can think openly about spirituality through art as it leads us to new ideas and away from old categories and stereotypes.” 
    Robinson’s career includes teaching creative writing at the University of Colorado and Naropa University in Boulder, as well as serving twice as a Hugo Fellow at the University of Montana and teaching a semester at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
    She joined the church this summer in time to help with the Youth Writers Camp led by Leslie O’Brien of OCC Youth and Women’s Ministries. “It was wonderful to meet with the next generation of young writers in the community,” she says. 
    Hillary Hoppcock is a freelance writer. 

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