Our 2017 theme is “All are welcome in this place” and it comes from the hymn “All Are Welcome” (1950) by Marty Haugen. We sang the first verse last Sunday:
Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions. All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
As Christians in the 21st century it is our calling to be a place of radical hospitality and welcome to those who have been mistreated, kicked out, religiously registered, or deemed illegal. In the past few years at our church this has meant welcoming people of diverse sexual orientations, different class and social status, and various racial and cultural backgrounds. As we move into 2017 may continue this welcome by raising our flag of inclusion to immigrants and refugees as they face incredible challenges in the four years ahead. Historically our church has been a place of sanctuary for refugee families from all over the world and now we step into this role again by opening ourselves to “the stranger” and offering support and care in the struggle. May we begin to discern what it is we are capable of and how we can offer our skills and abilities to migrating families of all kind.
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the stranger, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt.” -Deuteronomy 10:17-19
It all started in a Bible Study on Sabbath economics. Brother Shane and his friends had been looking at stories of Jubilee in the Torah. Back in Leviticus God demanded that every 50 years all debts would be forgiven.
One of the guys in their study announced he had $10,000 that had formerly been invested in stocks but was now ready to be redistributed among the people.
So Shane and his friends sent out Jubilee invitations to Christian communities and to the houseless in New York City. Each invitation had some cash already stapled to them, along with the call for Monday’s Jubilee on Wall Street!
Growing up a fundamentalist conservative my favorite two holidays were Christmas and Easter. Christmas was the beginning of the supernatural story of God becoming a human being and Easter was the story of the God-Man rising up from the dead and teleporting up into heaven.
The more books I read and the more engaged I became with the academic side of Christianity and Theology, I became what my fundamentalist friends call everyone who disagrees with them: A Liberal!
Our annual family meeting, formerly known as a “business meeting” we discussed my journey here at First Baptist Palo Alto, we looked at my year here working on Our Project and cast a vision for our way forward in Integral Ministry.
Church ministry is best thought of as a lively system. Our ministry is a matrix made up of care-giving bonds, institutional structure, cultural plurality, and a complex array of interactive dynamics. Like all systems, ours is resistant to change as the system seeks equilibrium. Our challenge as church goers is to learn how to balance new energies and changes for the emergence of new ideas, new possibilities, and new growth. An integral approach to ministry shifts the focus from one or two leaders to an engaged democratic participation.
Integral Ministry is also a strategy for growth. Rather than focus on increasing individual numbers of Sunday attendance, we seek to increase the ownership of our church. In doing so we create a sticky factor amidst our relationships and our organization as a whole. Our growth will come from personal and interpersonal transformation. May our healthiness and well-being be the magnet of attraction. When we have a shared identity we have a shared invitation: come to our church to be a part of our church that values democratic participation over sideline observation.
The new model of ministry cultivates an egalitarian social order, well-being and shared responsibilities are most important. Those who join the church embark on the adventure toward integral participation in every aspect of church life.
As we seek to move forward together, The Project becomes Our Project. We will work together for the good of the church, as a whole integrated family, where every part of your participation matters. In this integral system, the choir is just as connected to youth ministry as the coffee hour is to iSing renters. We are a part of a dynamic church family system that in order to grow needs a balance of change and stability–both of which are only possible when every member is an active and integral part to our growth as a community.
Bring your pets and animal friends, your families and your neighbors’ families, to join in on the fun of The Blessing of the Animals! A classic Christian tradition where pastors bless the many beautiful and furry animals of the world as an affirmation of their welcome seat at Christ’s table of Divine love. May all of the critters and slithering slimy creatures of God find a blessed home of well-being and care at First Baptist Church of Palo Alto. You AND your pets are always welcome here!
This past Sunday the youth group explored the theme of creation care with a short lesson in the youth room and then a garden dig outside. We had a blast! We planted a variety of herbs from cilantro to a chocolate mint; we also plan on digging a flower garden and will start with the flowers Clara brought. It was a wonderful intergenerational morning of learning and play that ended in a tasty cook out (thanks Grill Master Don Ha!) and ASF class with guest Lauren Ng. I look forward to many more Sunday’s just like this! You can find more pictures on our Facebook page, too.
In high school I once wrote an article for the school newspaper on immigration. My mom was always one to write articles for the local newspaper so she encouraged me to write this article for my school paper. It started with, “They’re illegal, not American. They raise crime rates and lower statistics on education. They’re stealing our jobs and destroying our country.” Let’s just say it didn’t go over very well.