Lent Begins/ Reinventing Worship Workshop

a new thingThis is a busy week in the life of our church.  Today we begin Lenten observance with supper and a service at Covenant Presbyterian.  We are blessed to have good friends like the folk at Covenant who want to share Lent with us.  I am particularly grateful for the collegial leadership provided by their pastor and my friend, Margaret Boles.  I hope you will take advantage of many, if not all the opportunities that this collaboration will provide.

Then Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have our church retreat, Reinventing Worship, with Brad Berglund.  I also hope you will take advantage of this great opportunity.  We are very privileged to have a resource like Brad Berglund share this time with us.  I know that he and Pastor Tripp and Brad have been working hard to make this an exciting and fulfilling experience for all of us.  We will also have guests from other churches so we are looking to be good hosts as well as participants.

As I said last week, even members of other congregations will benefit from the wisdom and skill of Brad Berglund.  Being Baptist or a member of FBCPA is not a requirement.  I do hope you have invited some others to join you for all or part of the retreat and the Lenten programs.  Also starting this Sunday, February 17, we will host the first of a series of Lenten vesper services – brief contemplative services alternating between our sanctuary and Covenant’s.

The retreat will include our regular Sunday worship service in which Brad will be featured in word and music.  Our text for Sunday is from John 4, the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.  Brad’s sermon title is “Whose Mountain Is It, Anyway?”  Remember Jesus and the woman have some conversation about the proper place to worship – the temple in Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim.  Jesus promises that the day is coming when we will all worship God in “spirit and truth.”

See you soon.

May God’s new thing flourish within us and among us.

Pastor Rick

Workshop February 15-17: Reinventing Worship

Reinventing Worship

with Brad Berglund

A workshop and retreat for everyone seeking new and interesting ways to be creative in worship.

Creativity in worship isn’t about making change for change’s sake. Rather, we realize that, like a dark cabin with a window that is too small , our current resources for worship may be stale, dark, and undersized for the longings of our souls.

Brad Berglund
Brad Berglund

Brad Berglund is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, USA. He has served as a local pastor and worship leader for over twenty-five years and is currently involved in ecumenical ministries focused on worship renewal and pilgrimage, serving a wide variety of denominations. Brad is the author of two best-selling books on worship: Reinventing Sunday and Reinventing Worship and works globally as a worship designer and worship leader. To learn more about Brad, please visit his website: http://www.reinventingsunday.com/

  • Friday, February 15, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
  • Saturday, February 16, 10:00am – 3:00pm
  • Sunday, February 17, 10:00am – 12:30pm

At First Baptist Church of Palo Alto.

Looking to January

Friends of God,

Rev. Tripp HudginsMerry Christmas to one and all! I hope the holiday was generous to everyone. This month we embark on a bit of an adventure with one another. As Pastor Rick will be away on a sabbatical, Oleta and I will both be picking up some of his work. I will be in Palo Alto on Tuesdays, Fridays, and (of course) Sundays. I’ll be leading Tuesday’s bible study and coordinating with the guest preachers and Oleta for our worship services in January.

Also, I will be on call for any pastoral needs anyone may have. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to spend more time with everyone. The first Sunday of January is Communion Sunday and Epiphany. We’ll celebrate the encounter that the Magi (the three wise guys) have with the infant Christ. I will be preaching and this will be an inter‐generational service. We’ll reflect together what it might mean for us to “return another way.” When did you return home by a route unknown to you? Sometimes this is what it is like to follow God.

We will have a pot luck diner on Friday, January 18 at 6:00pm in the Fellowship Hall. All are welcome. Please contact the church office if you would like to help set up or clean up. Please bring something to share. February will bring with it our Annual Meeting (February 3) and Rick’s Return as well as Brad Berglund. Some of you may remember him from his book that we studied together in Adult Spiritual Formation, Reinventing Sunday. An accomplished musician and retreat leader, Brad will be with us the second week of February (February 15‐17, also known as the first week of Lent). He will lead a workshop on Friday evening, during the day on Saturday, in worship on Sunday, and for some time together after the service. The Friday evening event will be open to the public as is, of course, Sunday morning. More details are forthcoming. Please stay tuned.

Thank you for all your work around the church. I appreciate all that each of you do to make First Baptist a warm and welcoming community of faith.

Peace and All Good Things,

Growing in the Spirit

candleringMany thanks for the opportunity to take this month as part of my sabbatical. I am looking forward to spending three weeks in San Anselmo at San Francisco Theological Seminary with a cohort of other students working on a Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction. This on-site experience will be repeated the next two Januarys, so I am spreading my sabbatical out rather than taking three months in a row. I believe this will be beneficial for our congregation as well as for me as your pastor. It is good to be able to leave our congregation in the capable hands of Pastor Tripp, Oleta, Jan, Carolyn and the Council while I am gone. We are blessed with capable leadership across the board.

Though I will not generally be available during the month, I will not be so far away that I cannot respond to an emergency. It is my hope that in learning the art of spiritual direction, I will not only deepen my own spiritual life but also discover ways of deepening the spiritual life of our congregation and in the wider community around us. We hear over and over these days the claim, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” For some I know they have turned their backs on organized religion, including the church, because they have been ignored, wounded, abused in those traditional settings. Others have found nothing relevant to their lives in hide-bound, musty tradition. Still others have experienced the church as a place where their wonderment has been extinguished and their questions not welcomed. Especially on the West Coast, in communities like ours, the competition for time and energy among vast opportunities for both work and play has left the church far behind, struggling just to “tread water.”

It seems the very existence of the institutional church as we know it is threatened. The peak days of church life from the 1950s and 60s, which shaped for most of us who hang on what we understand to be church life, are long gone and are unlikely to return. We are faced with the dilemma of trying to hold on to the church we love while wondering why younger folk (who do not share our experiences) don’t want to help us keep our enterprise going. Everybody has ideas about defining the problem and what to do about it but nobody has a patented solution. There are, of course, churches that use the slickest tools of modern culture to lure people in and keep them entertained, hopefully long enough to capture their commitment to keeping the organization going. But in a time of sound bites and information overload, it’s much easier to move on to the next fascinating thing than to commit to something for the long run.

From all the material that I have read and studied over the last several years, it seems to me that the pattern that has the most value in church life is among those congregations and communities who have focused on their growth in the Spirit. I am not sure that everyone who claims to be “spiritual but not religious” is really interested in the Spirit’s movement in this world. That movement can be as challenging as it is comforting. It can invoke awe as well as make us feel good and warm inside. I am concerned that much of what passes for spirituality is “spirituality lite” not the Spirit that transforms life and threatens to turn the world right side up. And as Pastor Tripp and others have pointed out, there is no reason to assume that those who list themselves as “nones” (having no church or religious affiliation in their lives) have any interest in being lured into any church, regardless of how hip its programming might be.

Still, a witness to the movement of the Spirit in our lives and in the life of our congregation might make a difference for those in our communities, in our families, friends, colleagues, acquaintances who are hungry for something spiritually relevant and deep. I don’t know exactly what that witness will look like for me and for us, but I am hopeful that in this time of Sabbath study I might find some insight and tools that will be beneficial to all of us in our witness to the work of the Spirit in our lives and in our service of the reign of God on earth.

I believe with all my heart that our Christian faith has good news to bring to a world desperately in need of this very good news. This is the struggle that I feel daily as a minister of the gospel – how do we share this good news in ways that can be heard, understood, embraced? Though many of us love the church as we have known it, sharing the good news is not, cannot be, dependent on any particular institution or skill set. Finding ways to share what we have found in our faith, what we have encountered in the living Christ, what we know of God, what we experience in the movement of the
Spirit is still a high calling. I look forward to sharing with you as we respond to this call.

Blessings on us all,

Pastor Rick


Pastor Rick: December 19

wreathsWe had a lovely time Sunday afternoon enjoying the gracious hospitality of Nana and Alex Spiridon at their annual holiday open house.  It was especially nice to celebrate Grace’s completion of her MBA (from the joint program between Columbia and UC Berkeley) along with her proud parents and husband, Greg.  It was good to see some old friends as well.

Sunday’s service was a challenging one for most of us as we sought to reconcile the day’s focus on joy (Gaudete Sunday) and the enormous tragedy of the mass shooting in Newtown, CT.  Thanks to Pastor Tripp who brought a powerful witness through Bruce Cockburn’s song, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”; to Daniel Ramirez for his eloquent ringing of the “singing bowl”; to the wonderfully joyful music provided by Susanna Jimenez, Jan and the choir; and to Melanie Ramirez and Dona Smith-Powers for providing and arranging the lovely poinsettias.   As I said Sunday, perhaps all we can do in moments like these is light candles in protest against the shadows that threaten us.

It felt like this was the right place to be on Sunday, as it was Friday night when we gathered in the sanctuary for our contemplative service.  If you and/or someone you know needs time and space to reflect on what’s going on in the world and what might be a faith response, I invite you and/or them to take advantage of the peaceful beauty of our sanctuary, especially on Friday night, when we will have our final prayer service for this season.

Sunday morning we will celebrate the “Light of Love” that breaks into the world and into our lives at this holy time.  Will we be as open as Mary was to the angel’s announcement of God’s calling?  Can we give ourselves over as she did to the power of love to transform our lives?  We will have extra music Sunday as we welcome an octet of singers from The Choral Project (the choir in which Dan Cudworth and I sing).  They will provide some special music as well as augment our choir.  Following worship, we’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall for our annual Christmas Brunch with a new feature – a Do-It-Yourself Christmas pageant!

And don’t forget we will have a Christmas Eve service Monday evening at 5:30 PM in the candlelit sanctuary.  It is a beautiful time for the whole family to join in worship of God who comes to us as a small child, a vulnerable child who in time will become “Jesus, the Light of the World.

This is a wonderful time to invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join in worship, sharing and celebrating.  See you Sunday before 10:00 AM and at the other events of the season.

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick: December 12

Thanks to everyone for the flexibility in scheduling our annual caroling and chili event.  We had a good turn out; we sang for several folk from our community who are not able to be with us regularly.  Then we gathered back at the church for chili supper.  I think the singing was much appreciated by those we visited.

Please remember our Friday evening Contemplative Services.  They are lovely, brief opportunity to spend time in the beauty of our sanctuary praying, singing and meditating our way through this Advent season.

This Sunday we will continue to spend time with John the Baptist as well as the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah and the apostle Paul as we search out the light of joy in this Advent season.  The challenge for us will be to look for the joy in the sharp critique and sometimes harsh words these biblical characters bring.  I suppose the real question is whether or not there can be joy in our lives and in the world if we do not get our house in order.   Yet, even in our wondering and our waiting Paul encourages us to “Rejoice in God always!”

Soprano Susanna Jimenez will be singing with the choir Sunday.  She will also supply some very special Music of Preparation when she sings “Rejoice Greatly” form Handel’s Messiah.  You will want to be here early to hear her.  After Adult Spiritual Formation, in which we will consider what it means for Christ to come into the world as we know it, we will take a little break before reconvening at Spiridons for their annual open house for the whole congregation.  We are always grateful to Alex and Nana for opening their lovely home and providing a fabulous party.

This is a wonderful time to invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to join us in worship, sharing and learning.  See you Sunday before 10:00 AM and at the other events of the season.

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Tripp: December 12

Friends of God,

Christmas Pageant

Advent is well under way. It has been good to so many participating in the worship life of the church. We have gathered on Friday evening for our contemplative prayer services. Please do invite a friend to join you. Our Sunday services have been rich and full of good Advent Cheer (Hey, if there is Christmas Cheer there is Advent Cheer)! We have been lighting the light of our faith, our love for God and our love for one another and God’s world. We have much to be grateful for at First Baptist. This season has been a wonderful lesson in that.

Keep the upcoming events in your calendar! We’ll meet at the Spirdon’s this Sunday for their open house. In two weeks we’ll gather after worship for our Christmas Brunch. Bring friends. It should be a great celebration. And prepare to get on stage. We’re performing our Do-It-Yourself Pageant. Each one of us will have a role! Bring a costume if you know what you’d like to be. Shepherds? Sheep? Angels? Mary? Yes, we can have Multiple Marys!

Peace and All Good Things,

Pastor Tripp