Advent continues…

Advent 2013Advent continues to be a blessed time for our congregation.  We were graced with a fine sermon and liturgy from our intern, Doug, on Sunday along with beautiful music from Jennah Delp-Somers and two of the iSing girls.  Then the day was capped off with a lovely Open House hosted by the Spiridons.  Good friends – old and new, good food, good community.  Thanks to Nana and Alex for being such gracious hosts.

This Sunday the service will be led by our other intern, Naomi.  She will be preaching on Isaiah’s vision of a blooming desert and God who comes to a young woman in Galilee with an incredible message of good news.  In Adult Spiritual Formation we will look at some of the beautiful poetry that Ann Weems penned for her seasonal volume, Kneeling in Bethlehem, plus everyone is invited to bring Advent/Christmas/Epiphany poetry to share.  Then at 4 PM everyone is invited to come back to the church where we will divide up to go caroling to the members of our community who don’t get out easily or often.  Following the caroling, we’ll return to the church for chili.  It will be another full and fabulous day to share with a family member, friend, neighbor, colleague or stranger or two.  See you Sunday at 10 AM.

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

Preparing to Celebrate

Advent 2013Advent is a time of preparation. Like Lent before Easter, Advent is a time to get ready for the joyous celebration of Christmas. Christmas is much more than the sights, sounds and conspicuous consumption that have come to characterize the “Holiday Season.” Christmas is not that “Holiday Season.” Christmas is a celebration of God coming near in the form of a human infant. It is the soul of a sacred season in which incarnation of the holy is both remembered and experienced again as a living reality. It is a time for taking stock of our own lives; it is a time to consider what it would be to have Christ born in us once again.

In the best of all possible worlds, babies don’t come as a complete surprise. The birth is eagerly anticipated and the preceding days are filled with preparation for the coming child. Advent is that time of preparation for the birth of Christ. The ancient story says that the baby Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Even if Joseph had tried to phone ahead for reservations, the accommodations in first century Bethlehem would have been minimal and healthcare virtually nonexistent. The preparation for the birth of Jesus was apparently adequate, but clearly improvised. Now, all these centuries later, we need not improvise. The liturgical calendar allows us enough time to get ready for the birth as it comes around each year. We have time to prepare for the coming of Christ in this new church year.

In her beautiful Advent hymn, “People Look East,” Eleanor Farjeon encourages us to “Make your house fair as you are able, Trim the hearth and set the table. People, look east and sing today: Love, the guest, is on the way.” It is such a
magnificent way to describe what is about to happen, “Love the guest is on the way.” The King of Love is coming, is coming to your house, to your heart. What must you do to prepare?

Every year, the Spiridons host a lovely open house during this season for the whole congregation (as did Soo Kim and Doug Lee not long ago.) Putting on a party like that takes time and energy before the guests arrive. Preparations are
critical for the party to be a success.

For many years my former partner and I hosted a holiday open house for 150 people on a Sunday before Christmas. It was a joyous occasion. We loved having our home filled with family, friends and colleagues. But it took a lot to plan and prepare for the party. He would start early in December decorating the house from top to bottom, front to back, side to side. Over time I developed a menu of favorites that kept me busy in the kitchen. When the doorbell rang on the given Sunday afternoon the feast was on, but the whole thing would have been a disaster without preparation. The full affect, the desired outcome, the shared community, came into being because we spent a lot of time and energy preparing.

I know Advent preparation is not quite the same thing, but I also believe the parallel is there. The party was about joy and love – love for the people in our lives and the joy of sharing our home with them. Christmas is also about love
and joy, but a deeper love and grander joy than a good party. If we put that amount of our resource into planning a party, what would be needed to prepare for the Christ, the King of Love, the Savior of the World?

I know love and joy can be spontaneous, but in the seasons of the church year, the love and joy of Christmas call for preparation. I am very excited about Advent at FBCPA this year. Led by our intern, Naomi, we have been preparing
for this season for some time. Naomi, who interned this summer with Marcia McFee in her Worship Design Studio, brought creativity and grace to this process. We had a wonderful Advent to Epiphany Worship Brainstorming Party,
involving 20 members of the congregation preparing for our Advent/Christmas/Epiphany celebration. The theme for this season is drawn from the prophet Isaiah (2:3), “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of God….” There we will engage in building that house of God as a place where Christ might come and dwell with us, bringing peace and goodwill to all creation.

Starting Saturday, November 30 at 9:00 AM we will begin to build our house and make it ready by “Hanging the Greens” (decorating the sanctuary.) Then on Sunday, December 1, we will share the first of four worship services that
will help us to make our hearts ready as well. Preparations are in order; love the guest is on the way.

Pastor Rick

AWAB and Worship Planning

a new thingI had a wonderful trip to the East Coast to participate in the 20th anniversary celebration of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists – “Coming of Age: A Living Jubilee.”  The weather was beautiful.  We met in two historic churches – First Unitarian in Providence and the First Baptist Church in America.  The program was well-received and meaningful. It was good to see old friends and colleagues and to meet new ones.  The work of full inclusion of lgbtqiq folk in Baptist circles has come far in the past 40 years (beginning with American Baptists Concerned in 1973) but there is still much work to be done.  I hope you will join me in prayer and work for that day of when we will have learned to embrace of all God’s children in love.  If you would like to hear more about the event, I’d be glad to talk to you.  For those of you who expressed concern, this trip was vacation time for me.

This Sunday we will focus on the familiar parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The crowd might have had some trouble with the Pharisee, but they would have despised the tax collector.  What is Jesus doing when he blesses the tax collector over the Pharisee?  What lesson is he trying to teach his first disciples and us about the way we see ourselves and others?   It’s so easy to see the speck in someone else’s eye.

We are in for a special treat after worship when Naomi will be leading us in an “Advent to Epiphany Worship Brainstorming Party.” Naomi has been interning with well-known worship design artist, Marcia McFee, and will be bringing some of that work to share with us.  This is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to engage in planning worship and other events for the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season that will be meaningful to us and we can claim as our own.  Please plan to be here at 10 AM for worship and Sunday School and then to stay for the workshop.  A light lunch will be provided.

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

 

Rally Day this Sunday- 120th Anniversary

a new thingThis week marks the church’s “back to school” days.  Sunday will be our annual Rally Day when we transition from the more relaxed days of summer to the energetic bustle of autumn.  Apparently the weather does not plan to cooperate as it promises to be warm this weekend and summer is likely to linger for a few more weeks.  Still, we will be gearing up for a full church year of educational opportunity for children, youth and adults.

We are particularly blessed to have two fine interns coming to work with us this “school year” and they will both begin this Sunday.  Be sure to give a warm FBCPA welcome to Naomi Shultz (from Pacific School of Religion) and Doug Davidson (from the American Baptist Seminary of the West.)  Pastor Tripp and I are both excited to be working with these students and trust that you will, too.

Sunday’s focus will be on Hebrews 11 and the theme “We’ve Come this Far by Faith,” as we celebrate the “great cloud of witnesses” whose legacy is FBCPA.  We will celebrate our 120th anniversary in worship and at a potluck cook out afterwards.  We’ve been digging in the archives and have found some pretty interesting historical material to share with you.  Thanks especially to Marilyn Hunwick, our chief sleuth.   We will also consider what it means for us to take faith and hope from our forebears in order to “run the race that is set before US.”

Come at 10 AM for worship and stay for the potluck cook out afterwards.  Bring someone along to share the day with you.  See you then.

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

Pastor Rick

Beloved Community

tripp-banjo.fwFriends of God,

And we begin again.

What does it mean to be born again? Well, it looks a little like a new program year, like going back to school again. Itʹs familiar but different. You think you know how everything works but you are also prepared for some new surprises along the way. Heck, you might even be excited or a little scared because you know that there are surprises in store. You have been promised surprises.

Welcome to Church, the Beloved Community.

The youth room will be under construction over the next couple of weeks as we begin to live into some new things this year. Our children are getting older. Do you remember senior year of High School? Well, prepare yourself to watch it happen again before your very eyes as Oscar lives into his final year of High School. Our kids are growing up and the room we worship and study in needs to change with us. I donʹt know what it will look like in the end. So much of that is up to them. So, color me a little scared and excited, too.

The Beloved Community has children in it…and they grow up.

This year, as you already know, we are welcoming Doug Davidson and Naomi Schulz into our fellowship as student interns. They are members of the Beloved Community, but now also members of our fellowship. They will help out from time to time with our children and youth, but you will see them more in worship and in our adult education hour following worship.

Adult education this year will include the exploration of some key Christian themes like how and why we read scripture, what it means to be ʺThe Churchʺ and how thatʹs different than being a Democrat, an American, or being Irish (sorry, Naomi). We are a people without a country. But we are also a people called to be together at a certain time in a certain place as an outpost of Godʹs Kin‐dom. This is the ʺeschaton,ʺ the fulfillment of Godʹs whole self, Godʹs being in the world. What does
it look like to live it?

You tell me. Iʹm just starting to figure this out. Some of you have been at this for a while.

Itʹs a new year and together we shall be born again. Itʹs a little scary and exciting, but together we can move forward into this new thing God has in store for us. Jesus has paved the way. Take courage. As the song goes, ʺItʹs the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine!ʺ

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God. To open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
— William Temple (1881‐1944)

Remembering Dorothy Aker and looking ahead

Carolyn Aker
Carolyn Aker

We had a rich, full day Sunday as we worshiped, shared community and celebrated the life of Dorothy Aker.  I was particularly glad to listen as family and friends “fleshed” out Dorothy’s life through the sharing of memories.  Having only known her in these last years, it was good to hear of all her contributions to her family, her church and her community.  I knew she was a remarkable woman, but I didn’t fully realize how much so.  The reception after the service was very lovely.  I think Dorothy would have been pleased.  We continue to hold Carolyn and the rest of Dorothy’s family in our prayers.

Sunday we are going to do something different in worship.  We are going to focus on music and singing.  I hesitate to call it an “old-fashioned hymn sing” because we will be doing a variety of music.  I also hope it will be a worshipful experience that will be meaningful for young and old alike.  We will also be saying farewell to Pearl Pe in Sunday’s service, as she is returning to Myanmar to be with family there.  We will formally bless her on her way as well as saying our informal “good-byes” during the luncheon afterwards.  Instead of patio hour, we will have “dinner on the grounds.”  Everyone is invited to bring food to share and stay for a time of community.

You will note above that we will hold a kick-off Sunday or Rally Day for our church school year on September 8.  We will worship together, formally introduce our interns, Doug and Naomi, talk about educational opportunities for the year and share another potluck lunch in celebration of the 120th anniversary of our congregation.  If you have memorabilia or stories to share, please let me know, so we can include you in the program.  This will not be a big, formal celebration but an important opportunity to remember where we come from as well as what we are about.

Join us at 10 AM for worship and stay for the fellowship of the Patio Hour.  Bring someone along to share the day with you.  See you then.

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

13-08-18.hall.fw