Pastor Rick: November 14

First Baptist Church of Palo AltoSunday is our annual Stewardship Sunday.  I trust that we all have been thoughtfully and prayerfully considering what we can give to the church next in year – in terms of time, talent and treasure.  A pledge of income is especially valuable as it allows the Finance Committee and Council to plan more accurately for the year ahead.  Thanks to Laura Garcia who has once again chaired our stewardship campaign and to the Finance Committee, chaired by Jane Chin, that has worked on our 2013 budget.  Sunday will be a celebration as we bring our pledges, our gifts and our offerings for Ecumenical Hunger Program to the table in one joyous processional.  The items of food and clothing needed by EHP are listed below.  Please be generous and give from the heart.

Friday night is our gratitude potluck for the whole family.  Pastor Tripp and I have planned some fun and creative ways for us all to say “thank you” for the many ways we are blessed.  I encourage you to join us around the tables in the Fellowship Hall as an act of building up our community.

Next Sunday, November 25, we will honor “Christ, the King” in worship and then remain afterwards to “Hang the Greens.”  This is an opportunity for all of us to gather again in community to make our building beautiful for the Advent/Christmas season.  There will be things to do for folk of all ages and at the end we will share a simple soup lunch.  If anyone would be willing to make a pot of soup to serve 10 or so, that would be much appreciated.  Just let me know.

As a follow up to our worship study with Jennifer Davidson, we are inviting anyone and everyone who would like to contribute to worship planning for Sunday, December 9 to stay for the Spiritual Formation time after worship on Sunday.   We will work the text from Luke 1:68-79 (“Zechariah’s Song”) that we worked with Jennifer.  This is your chance to shape worship in ways that reflect your own spiritual experience as you contribute to the life of the community.

See you Sunday morning at 10:00 AM in the sanctuary for worship, sharing and learning.  Bring a family member, friend, colleague or neighbor (or three!) to join us.  Strangers are welcome, too!

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

 

 

Welcome

church-circleWe are a welcoming, inclusive community of faith.

Worship is at the center of our life.
Worship that touches the mind, heart and soul follows Christ into the world.
Worship that blends both the traditional and the contemporary.

We seek to nourish a thoughtful, maturing faith.
We offer all ages opportunities to explore and deepen their faith. Our focus is learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ in today’s world.

We are committed to Christ’s ministries of justice and peace
through Service, Dialogue, and Action.

Pastor Rick: November 7

Communion TableThis Sunday will conclude our three week “adventure in worship” with Professor Jennifer Davidson from ABSW.  Last week Jennifer led us through some creative exercises in worship, focused on an upcoming Advent text, Luke 1:68-79, “Zecariah’s Song.”  We listened to the text and then responded to it in words, clay, drawing, music and silent meditation.  Then, we shared with one another what we had discerned.  Jennifer encouraged us to read this text over each day this week as a means of deepening our understanding and gleaning new insights.  We will continue to work with this text this Sunday with an eye toward how we might use it in our Advent worship.

As I said last week, “the next two Sundays we will not be worshiping in the traditional mode with which we are familiar.  Consider these Sundays as sort of mini-retreats, in which you are invited and encouraged to be present from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM.  Jennifer will be leading us in some new and exciting ways to approach worship that will be beneficial to you as a worshiper and to us as a worshiping community.  Childcare will be provided for younger children, but youth will join with the adults.  There will definitely be elements of traditional worship in the experience.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share with a skilled leader – and with one another – in deepening our understanding and practice of worship, which is such a vital element to our mission as a church.”

Apparently some people were confused about the structure for the day so I repeat above what I said before about how the morning will proceed.  I have also heard that the path we took was not comfortable for some of you.  I appreciate that and realize that anything we do with worship will not please everyone.  Still, I thought some lovely things came out of last week’s exploration and I encourage you to give it another chance this week.  Remember what Jennifer said about how our resistance itself may be prayer and try to understand your own response to the experience.

Since this is also a stewardship month, I want to share with you some wise words that Jim Hopkins from Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland shared with his congregation about the significance of giving.  “…we leave you with two challenges. First, make your commitments with the understanding that they are not a fringe benefit to your church but an essential contribution to our life together. Second, a generation to whom giving to the church was almost second nature is passing away. Those of us who have benefited greatly from their steadfast generosity need to consider how we can rise to their level of commitment.”  These are good words for us as we consider our own pledges for 2013.

See you Sunday morning at 10:00 AM in the sanctuary for worship, sharing and learning.  Bring a family member, friend, colleague or neighbor (or three!) to join us.  Strangers are welcome, too!

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Tripp: November 1

Rev. Tripp HudginsWe have had a lively autumn together. Focusing on our fellowship and worship, weʹve met for potlucks, to dance, to sing, to share our experiences of worship as a spiritual practice. Some of us have spoken about long‐standing traditions or about the memories we have of traditions that have been abandoned.

We have prayed together. We have wondered together. Itʹs been a full season. The children have been equally active. We have spend our Sundays learning about other religions such as Hinduism and Islam. We have watched video and listened to music. Weʹve shared what weʹve all learned in school about the world and asked questions about our own religious tradition. It has been a full season.

Of course, the season isnʹt over yet. As I write this, Dr. Jennifer Davidson continues her leadership of our congregation as we explore together various ways we might deepen and expand our worship life. Weʹll write our own liturgies. Weʹll find ways of praying together that may surprise even the most experienced of us. As we continue this exploration, please hold the church in your prayers. Meet together. Share a meal. Break bread. Pray together.

November will bring First Friday and the Gratitude Potluck. The youth of the congregation will meet and learn more about what it means to be a community called to pray for the world. Then all are invited to gather on Friday, November
16 at 6:00pm in the fellowship hall for the Gratitude Potluck. Weʹll dine together and celebrate the ministry to which God has called all of us to serve this corner of the world. After the Thanksgiving holiday, weʹll move together into Advent, that time of year where we open our imaginations to the God being born in the world, Immanuel. Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Pastor Rick: November 1

Rev. Rick MixonIt’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to budgets and stewardship. The finance committee has already met to draft a budget for next year. Now, in November, we come to ask you to underwrite that budget with your tithes and offerings. There’s been a lot of talk in this year’s election about the middle class. Well, we are a middle class church, I think. We’re not rich but we are also not without resources. Those who built this church and cared for it over the past 119 years have provided a legacy of resource and giving that keeps us comfortable. For this responsible stewardship over many years, we should be deeply grateful.

This has been an eventful year in the life of the congregation as we considered the careful work of our Strategic Planning Task Team and then voted to stay in our building, directing our efforts and our resources toward renewing our congregational life. To this end we have been working in the areas of worship, community life, sharing our space and reaching out to the larger community.

Over the past several months, we have been looking in depth at why and how we worship. This conversation has gone on in worship services, in Sunday School and in Adult Spiritual Formation, in business meetings and in informal interactions. A major focus of this work has been when and how we encounter God. We have begun to consider what it might mean to “practice the presence of God.” This involves not only what we expect from worship, but also what we bring to it. It asks how we prepare ourselves to encounter God in our formal worship time and in our daily lives.  Currently, we are doing some of this work under the wise and inspirational guidance of Jennifer Davidson, Assistant
Professor of Worship and Theology at the American Baptist Seminary of the West. This exploration of worship is invaluable and crucial to our ongoing life  as a congregation – a church whose mission is rooted in worshiping God. I encourage ach of you to participate as fully as you can in the service of our vision of renewal.

Then, we have been looking for and creating opportunities for us to gather as a community.    We  have increased our monthly intergenerational potlucks to twice a month and added a Friday night  time for our youth as well as a monthly brunch for the women of the congregation.  Everybody does not at‐ tend all of these events, but if you have attended any of them, you can attest to their value in getting to know one another better, in sharing a meal and in laughing, playing, learning and praying together.  We have also created a face‐ book page and a twitter account as a means of connecting to one another and to the wider community through social media.  We are currently working on ways to improve and expand these modern means of communicating and community‐building.

We determined as part of our renewal plan that, though we have a lot of wonderful community activities going on here, we want to broaden and strengthen the spiritual life that’s contained in and spread out from this space.  One avenue of exploration was to share the space with another congregation.  After some prayer and consideration, we have decided to pursue the possibility of planting a new congregation in this space.  To this end, we have been in con‐ versation with
several people about planting a Chinese or pan‐Asian congregation here.  Planting a new church means we recognize the need for a congregation that reaches out to people and meets needs that we do not in our current configuration.  A church plant will look and function differently but work co-operatively with our own congregation.  By sharing the space with a congrega‐ tion that we help to create, we are doing more than just renting space.  We are looking for opportunities to share in outreach, education, community and wor‐ ship as well as in stewardship of our facilities.  I am very excited by the preliminary conversations we have had and am looking forward to seeing how they will unfold in the days ahead.

Our outreach to the larger community includes the experimentation we are doing online and with social media as well as with how we present ourselves to the many people who are in and out of our building.  Our hospitality is a keyelement to cultivate as we invite others to join our various activities and programs. How do we say personally, in print, online, in our décor and throughout our space, “You are welcome here. Come, see what we’re about. Come, meet Jesus and encounter the gospel. Come, join us in practicing the presence of God”? As we discussed at the Quarterly Business Meeting in October, I am planning to use my sabbatical to complete the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction at San Francisco Theological Seminary. I’ve long been concerned for those who claim to be “spiritual but not religious,” wondering how and where that spirituality is nurtured. Does the church have a role in providing resource for those who make this claim and what would that resource look like? My concern for the spiritual life of our congregation as well as the wider community has led me to this program. It is my hope that it will lead to a deepening of my own spiritual life, to that of our congregation and move us toward spreading spiritual nurture beyond our congregation as a means of outreach to the wider community.

Well, this has turned out to be a rather lengthy report on where we are with renewal. Initially, I was going to write about gratitude, but it seems important that you know the kinds of things we are trying to accomplish when we ask
you for your support. Frankly, I am grateful for this “middle class” congregation. Our resources are not unlimited, but as our theme for the year suggests, we are “a caring and generous people.” I see this every day in the life of FBCPA. I see it in our history and I believe it is there for our future. I am grateful that you are a caring and generous people and I trust that, with God’s guidance and grace, you will continue to sustain that identity as we move into the future.

Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick: October 31

Rev. Rick MixonLast Sunday, we made a good start to our three-week excursion into the spirituality of worship, led by Professor Jennifer Davidson from ABSW.  It was good to hear Jennifer preach on “Same Road, Different Journey,” based on the Luke 24:13-32 (the “Emmaus Road” story,) challenging us to take the old story and make it live in our worship.  Then, in Adult Spiritual Formation, we began to wrestle with such questions as what it means for us to “practice the presence of God,” and what we bring to worship as well as take from it.  Following contemporary French Catholic liturgy scholars, Jean-Luc Marion and Louis-Marie Chauvet, we began an exploration of the difference between an icon and an idol in our worship experience.  An icon leads us to fleeting moments of grace and invites us to gaze beyond its obvious symbolism to a God who is the “More”; an idol tends to fix us in the moment and distract from our worship of a living God.  Icons and idols can both be physical objects but they can also be patterns and beliefs around which we grow or stagnate.

The next two Sundays we will not be worshiping in the traditional mode with which we are familiar.  Consider these Sundays as sort of mini-retreats, in which you are invited and encouraged to be present from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM.  Jennifer will be leading us in some new and exciting ways to approach worship that will be beneficial to you as a worshiper and to us as a worshiping community.  Childcare will be provided for younger children, but youth will join with the adults.  There will definitely be elements of worship in the experience, including communion this Sunday.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share with a skilled leader – and with one another – in deepening our understanding and practice of worship, which is such a vital element to our mission as a church.

See you Sunday morning at 10:00 AM in the sanctuary for worship, sharing and learning.  Bring a family member, friend, colleague or neighbor (or three!) to join us.  Strangers are welcome, too!

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick

Pastor Rick: October 24

Rev. Rick MixonThere are two significant events to look forward to this weekend.  On Friday evening in the Fellowship Hall we’ll celebrate our third annual intergenerational potluck and pumpkin carve.  Come with food to share and your best creative instincts for making jack-o-lanterns.  If there’s time, we’ll also do apple-bobbing and sing some pumpkin carols.  There is bound to be fun and fellowship for everyone.

Then beginning Sunday we start on a three week journey exploring our life as a worshiping congregation led by Jennifer Davidson who teaches worship at the American Baptist Seminary of the West.  This is a unique opportunity to work with someone who has chosen worship as the focus of her career.  In our mission statement, we say that we are a church whose mission is to worship God.  We list as the first – and I believe most important – pillar of our identity.   Everything else we do flows from our worshipping community.  Worship means many things to each of us.  We come to it with the ideas, beliefs, experiences of a life-time.  But what does it mean for us to worship God as the community we are today.  Jennifer will help us explore this in depth so it’s important that we have everyone as involved as we possibly can.

Carolyn, Lynn, Tripp and I had the opportunity to work on worship with Jennifer this spring at the PCBA Spring Annual Conference.  We were impressed and excited by the way she worked with that group.  We’re looking forward to the gifts she will bring to us the next three weeks.

So don’t’ forget – Friday night at 6:00 PM in the Fellowship Hall for fun and fellowship; then Sunday morning at 10:00 AM in the sanctuary for worship, sharing and learning.  Bring a family member, friend, colleague or neighbor (or three!) to join us.  Strangers are welcome, too!

May God bless us and keep us on the way,

Pastor Rick