“Anointing” Theme for Sunday, March 17

Rick_singingThis Friday night we will have another movie night at FBCPA.  Starting at 6:00 PM, we’ll gather in the Parlor for pizza, popcorn and The Prince of EgyptThis is an event for the whole family – young, old and in-between.  You won’t want to miss it.

Last Sunday we were privileged to have the Santa Clara Chorale present a concert in our sanctuary.  This Sunday we will be graced by the presence of The Bay Choral Guild at 4:30 PM.  There concert is entitled “Pilgrimage” (an apt theme for this Lenten season,) will feature the premiere of a new work on the ancient pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago.  At 6:30 PM we will continue our own Lenten pilgrimage with vespers in the Parlor.

Sunday’s theme is “Anointing,” as we consider John’s account of the symbolic preparation for burial offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, as Jesus dines in their home just prior to the Passion week.  One big controversy in the text is the use of such an expensive ointment to honor Jesus when there are so many needs that could have been met by selling it and disbursing the proceeds.  What does Jesus really mean when he says, “The poor are always with you”? Come for worship and Sunday School at 10 and stay for Adult Spiritual Formation as we continue to consider Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church.  We had a good start last week.  Hugh Satterlee will lead us this week.  See you at 10:00 AM.  Bring someone with you to share the day.

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

Pastor Rick

Lenten Opportunities

a new thingA brief note this week encouraging you to take advantage of several things going on at FBCPA during this Lenten season.  There are several choral events coming up.  We have been invited to a free concert by the Austin College Choir in the sanctuary of Covenant Presbyterian on Saturday night.  Sunday afternoon in our sanctuary we will be hosting the Santa Clara Chorale and next Sunday afternoon we will host the Bay Choral Guild in our sanctuary.  (Jan Gunderson sings with this group.)

You are all welcome to attend the lovely contemplative services on Sunday evening.  The week we will be at Covenant.  Our Mission Task Team is among the groups partnering with Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice in an exhibition of the powerful public art piece, “Eyes Wide Open,” on Saturday March 16.  This will be a day of prayer and reflection on the cost of war.  The moving display of empty boots and shoes will be monitored at all times. The boots will be in place by 10am in the morning on Saturday, March 16, and taken up again at sunset that day (approximately 7:30 p.m.). There will be speakers and music at 10am and after Muslim prayers at 1:30pm. There will be a reading of names of the dead at 3:30pm. A closing program of memorial words, prayers and songs will begin at 6:30pm, ending at sundown with the playing of “Taps.”

I also want to continue encouraging you to plan to attend Peace Camp this summer with others from FBCPA.  This is a wonderful opportunity for community building, for learning about and practicing peacemaking and for just enjoying the beautiful country in and around Spokane, Washington.  Let Pastor Tripp or me know if you’re interested.

Sunday we will continue our Lenten journey on the theme, “More Second Chances.” This week’s gospel text is the very familiar story of “The Prodigal Son.”  Is there any story that shows more clearly the art of love and the nature of grace?  Join us in Worship, Sunday School, and Adult Spiritual Formation as we begin a new series on Good News in Exile, about what it’s like to be a mainline Protestant church in our current ethos.  Bring someone along to share the experiences of the day.   See you Sunday at 10:00 AM.

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

Pastor Rick

Summer Peace Conference

Baptist Peace Fellowship ConferenceYou will see there are a number of announcements in this week’s Midweek Message, so let me just focus on one thing featured below.  As I said Sunday, the annual Summer Conference of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America – lovingly known as “Peace Camp” is a wonderful experience.  I know first–hand because I have attended a number of them in recent years.  There is serious learning and work in the area of peace making on the local, national and international levels, but there is also music, worship, Bible study, food and fun for people of all ages – much like the “family camps” that some of us grew up with.  There is outstanding programming for children, youth, young adults and the rest of us.  Every time I return from Peace Camp, I say how I wish people from our congregation could join in this great experience.

Well, now may be the time to act on that.  Only occasionally is Peace Camp held on the western side of the continent.  This summer it will be held on the campus of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.  By all accounts, the campus, Spokane and its environs make a remarkably beautiful setting.  Pastor Tripp and I would love to lead a pilgrimage to Spokane this summer.  Our hope is to secure a couple of vans, fill them with folk from FBCPA and head north.  In order to make this dream a reality, we need to hear from you.  If you have any interest in exploring this great learning and community building opportunity for our congregation, please let one of us know.  This trip will take some planning but it will be well worth the effort.  I would really love to make the journey this year with you.

Sunday we will continue our Lenten journey on the theme, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” This week’s gospel text finds Jesus reflecting on the “daily news,” conversing with his followers about whether or not disasters are punishment from God.  It’s a challenging text.  Come, see what Jesus does with the challenge as I understand it.  In Adult Spiritual Formation, I will continue sharing from my sabbatical experience in learning Spiritual Direction.  See you Sunday at 10:00 AM.

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

Pastor Rick

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