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

 

The Impossible Dream (Providence, October 14, 2013)

Don QuixoteTHE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

A sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
AWAB XX
First Baptist Church, Providence, RI

Monday, October 14, 2013

CERVANTES:

May I set the stage? I shall [recall] a man. Come, enter into my imagination and see him!
His name…Alonso Quijana…a country squire, no longer young…bony, hollow-faced…eyes that burn with the fire of inner vision. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn to night and often through the night as well. And all he reads oppresses him… fills him with indignation at [humanity’s] murderous ways… And he conceives the strangest project ever imagined … to become a knight-errant and sally forth into the world to right all wrongs. No longer shall he be plain Alonso Quijana…but a dauntless knight known as – Don Quixote de La Mancha!

DON QUIXOTE:

Hear me now
Oh thou bleak and unbearable world,
Thou art base and debauched as can be;
And a knight with his banners
all bravely unfurled
Now hurls down his gauntlet to thee!

I am I, Don Quixote,
The Lord of La Mancha,
My destiny calls and I go,
And the wild winds of fortune
Will carry me onward,
…whithersoever they blow…
Onward to glory I go!

Hear me, heathens and wizards
And serpents of sin!
All your dastardly doings are past,
For a holy endeavor is now to begin
And virtue shall triumph at last!

I am I, Don Quixote,
The Lord of la Mancha,
My destiny calls and I go,
And the wild winds of fortune
Will carry me onward,
Will carry me onward,
…whithersoever they blow…
Onward to glory I go!

When I participated in the AWAB service in Kansas City this summer, the seeds of this sermon were sown in the texts Robin chose and in the experience of the word brought with power and authority.  In this, our anniversary year, our year of jubilee, we are looking at dreams that have seemed impossible in the past and dreams that may seem impossible moving forward, but when dreams and dreamers come together in constellation around a sacred center, who is to say what is possible or not, save the Holy One herself?

We started on Broadway, a perfectly plausible place for a gay preacher to start.  Don Quixote, whether in the original of Cervantes or as shaped by Darion and Lee, is a dreamer.  You heard what Cervantes said, “a country squire, no longer young…bony, hollow-faced… eyes that burn with the fire of inner vision.”  Some say an old fool, some say certifiably insane.  Imagine tilting at windmills as if they were fierce giants, treating a coarse farm girl as an elegant lady, riding a broken down horse with a short, stocky farmer following behind on his donkey, playing squire to your not quite shining knighthood and trying to keep you from the gravest dangers.

But, oh the dreamer and the dreams, that ineffable human capacity to see beauty where others see squalor, to hold hope where others hold cynicism and despair, to yearn for a better life, a more gracious world where others have sold out or given up.  Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha, has captured the imagination and fueled the dreams of many a human being down through the centuries.

Though the comparison may be neither obvious nor easy, Paul was a dreamer.  In fact, the story says he had life-transforming vision that knocked him off his horse and turned his life around.  Saul, the clever Pharisee, student and defender of the ancient law, persecutor of the followers of the Christ, had an encounter with that same Christ that made a new being of him. He became Paul, the apostle, by his own confession “a fool for Christ.  He was willing to weather the ridicule and abuse of admitting he was wrong and spent the rest of his life trying to undo the damage he had done.

Jesus, himself, stood in the middle of his home synagogue and proclaimed that he had come “to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  And don’t you think more than one of those present though, “Isn’t this the son of that day worker, Joseph?  Who does he think he is?  He’s making a fool of himself and us in the process!”  A fool, a dreamer, a man with a vision of the realm of God, a man who proposed to walk God’s way through this world and wasn’t afraid to ask others to come along with him.   It was the impossible dream of an improbable dreamer.  In the end, it only cost him his life – yet he went willingly, with compassion, love and grace.

Forty years ago, in a seedy bar in Lincoln, Nebraska, there was another improbable dreamer with an impossible dream, another fool for Christ, another man who believed deeply that God’s reign might come on earth, especially for lgbtqiq folk.  Rodger Harrison, a Baptist preacher, from his own imagination put together a phantom organization he called American Baptists Concerned.  He named a President, Louise Rose.  I doubt he had asked her if he could put her name in nomination, let alone appoint her.  He would be vice-President and I think that’s as far as he got that night.  A fool, a dreamer, a man with a vision?  Who knew that night?  But by all rights, we are standing, upright and healthy, in his long shadow today.

I believe it takes a fool, a dreamer, a visionary to bring about changes in this world.  Those of us who turn too quickly to tradition and familiar structures for our security, nearly always have to wait for someone like Rodger or Don Quixote or Paul or Jesus to shake us up and draw us out of our shells.  We need people of every persuasion and orientation, of every shape and size and color, of youth and age, of every ability, of heart and spirit, to dream dreams and see visions in order to draw us out and on toward that realm of God.

Right in the middle of that realm sits the Welcome Table, that visionary place, often dreamed of, too seldom realized, where every single being made in the image and likeness of God is invited, welcomed, encouraged to sit and eat until we are filled with the bread of life and made whole through the cup of salvation.  That means you and that means me and, frankly, that means all the world.  No one has the right to tell anyone that they are not welcome at Christ’s table in the middle of God’s realm.  “There is plenty good room.”

It’s foolishness, an impossible dream, to imagine that there is really room for all.   There have to be some exceptions right?  Surely not everyone is included?  D. Mark Wilson, whom you saw directing the Rainbow Choir a few years back after a barrage of abuse was received from the preacher that night, a preacher who had a long list of people he was convinced were not welcome at the table, D. Mark loved to remind us of the old hymn that says, “Whosoever will may come.”  The hymn repeats that phrase several times to make sure we get it, “Whosoever will, whosoever will, whosoever will, may come.”

Cindy gave us some material to dream about last night.  Did anyone see the pots of gold at the end of those rainbows of grace?  What are your impossible dreams?   For that matter, what are your accessible dreams? Some of us are timid, some frightened, some anxious and insecure, some burned out, some who don’t trust ourselves or what see.  That’s right, people like you and me.  We’re not likely to go tilting at windmills.  We haven’t had visions that knocked us to the ground.  We see in a mirror dimly, with only glimpses of the coming reign of God.  We’re not likely to start movements or give up our security or dignity in pursuit of a cause. Or are we?

Another wise character from Broadway chides a young lieutenant with these words, “You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” (Bloody Mary in South Pacific).  So what’s your answer?  Is there a little residual Don Quixote in you?  Is there some small place in a corner of your being in which you dream dreams and see visions?  Would some small voice inside you like,

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear the unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
The reach the unreachable star

Well, here’s some good news.  The prophet proclaims for God, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  That’s not some obscure promise.  It’s not a word reserved for improbable dreamers with impossible dreams.  God is doing a new thing.  God is always doing new things.  We are a part of God’s new thing.  AWAB is one of God’s new things.  Love and compassion, grace and acceptance, holy welcome for lgbtqiq people and our allies is God’s new thing.  And, if we’ll trust this promise, follow our dreams and our dreamers, even when – maybe especially when – they seem improbable and impossible, God will make a way in our wilderness and provide rivers in our deserts.

So let me close with one more Broadway text.  I believe it was in 1996, the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Revolution, that we strange Baptists held a retreat in Manhattan.  During that time, several of us had the privilege of seeing both parts of Tony Kushner’s great play, Angels in America.  The key character, Prior Walter, is pulled in many directions in the play as he (and Kushner and the audience) wrestle with, among many things, the significance of the AIDS epidemic. At the end of the play, Prior Walter utters these words.  He’s talking about AIDS but he could be talking about anything that makes us ill, wounds us, undoes us, steals our dreams and crushes our spirits.  He may be talking about the very wound you wrote on a strip of paper and wove into this tapestry Friday night.  He says,

This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More life. The Great Work Begins” (Prior Walter in Angels in America.)

The great work begins – again and again and again – in each of us, in our impossible dreams and sacred visions.  We are eternally blessed with more life.  Let us – fabulous creatures, each and every one – take up the great work, dream impossible dreams, see the reign of God and the Welcome Table and make it so.   Amen.

 

20th Anniversary of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists

Rev. Rick MixonJust a quick note this week to thank everyone who made Sunday a grand adventure as we “traveled the world” and celebrated World Communion Sunday.  From those who helped with music and liturgy to those who decorated and fed us, it was a blessed day.  We come from many places and backgrounds.  It is great to bring as much together as we did Sunday.  I keep saying, it takes all of us to BE US.  Thank you all.

Pastor Tripp will be preaching Sunday as I will be in Providence, Rhode Island for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (and the 40th anniversary of American Baptists Concerned.)  As an AWAB board member, I have chaired the planning team for this event and will be preaching at the concluding communion service on Monday.  The theme is “Coming of Age: A Living Jubilee.”  If you’d like to know more about it, check out the web site at www.awab20.org.  I will take an extra day of vacation while I’m in the East and will be back in the office on Thursday, October 17.  Please call the church office or Pastor Tripp if there is a pastoral emergency.

Sunday, Pastor Tripp will be preaching on “The Welfare of the City” based on Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon instructing them to pray for the welfare of the city in which they were exiled.  It must have been quite a challenge to those captives to be told to pray for the well-being of their captors, yet that is the word Jeremiah brings from God.  For whom would it be most challenging for you to pray, to desire their well-being?

Our intern, Doug Davidson, will be leading Adult Spiritual Formation, continuing the series, Animate:Faith, this week focusing on a video with Nadia Bolz-Weber as she reflects on the significance of the cross.   Come at 10:00 AM on Sunday for worship.  Bring along a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger to share in worship; then, stay for Adult Spiritual Formation.

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

Mission Summit and AWAB

Pastor Rick and Children
Pastor Rick and Children

There was no Midweek Message last week as I was in Kansas City for the American Baptist Mission Summit.  Many I heard commented that this was the best biennial meeting in many years.  I went early for the theology conference, held at Central Baptist Seminary.  The theme was “Baptists and the Spirit: Living into God’s Future.”  It began with a fine address by Central’s President, Molly Marshall.  It was good to see my mentor, David Bartlett, there along with other friends and colleagues.  One of the joys of these events is seeing old friends.

The Mission Summit itself started with a stirring address by author and attorney, Michelle Alexander.  You can see a report on her address on “The New Jim Crow” here.  There were fine programs with excellent speakers at the MMBB luncheon, BPFNA and Coalition for Baptist Principles breakfasts and the Roger Williams Fellowship dinner.  Worship was well coordinated by Brad Berglund.  We celebrated three historical events – the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of missionaries Ann and Adoniram Judson in Burma and the 375th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in America (Providence, Rhode Island.)  One night we had a “battle of Burmese choirs” from opposite sides of the convention hall.  Two different choirs of Burmese-Americans and refugees from different ethnic groups, each over 300 strong, sang beautiful Burmese songs of praise.  A centerpiece of the Mission Summit was a series of facilitated “table conversations” in which participants shared their dreams and concerns for the ongoing mission of the ABC-USA.

On Sunday, June 23, I participated in the gathering of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists at Crossroads Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  We led the morning worship service, with the AWAB Executive Director, Robin Lunn, preaching.  After a typically delicious KC barbecue we witnessed a powerful documentary entitled, God Loves Uganda.  The film portrays the homo-hatred and abuse of lgbtq folk in that central African country, which has legislation pending that would make lgbtq identity a capital offense.  Part of the sad state of affairs is that this terror is being fueled by Christian fundamentalists from the USA, in particular the members of a KC mega-church called the International House of Prayer.  I hope we may be able to show this movie in the coming year.  It deserves to be seen widely.

Thanks to those who filled in in my absence.  This Sunday is the church picnic.  The theme for out intergenerational service is “Oh, Freedom!” We will use the 5th chapter of Galatians as a text, which includes Paul’s famous proclamation, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.”  But what is the nature of this freedom and how do we live it out?  Paul has timely suggestions in this chapter about freedom and “fruits of the Spirit.”

Come this Sunday at 10 AM dressed for the picnic and ready for celebration.  Bring someone along to share the morning with you.

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

Moving On (June 30, 2013)

MOVING ON

A sermon preached by
Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, June 30, 2013

Text:  Luke 9:51-62

This has been a momentous week on many fronts.  Supreme Court rulings have held the headlines.  All over the country lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning folk are celebrating along with our allies the recognition of our right to marry under the laws of the land.  There may be a million or more celebrants on the streets of San Francisco this morning as we worship here.  To tell you the truth, there is a little tug on me to be sharing in that celebration.

It was 17 years ago on an equally hot Pride Sunday that I was ordained at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland.  We have come a long way since that day in providing a fair and equitable society for lgbtq people in this country.  Last Sunday, I worshiped at Crossroads Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  Crossroads is one of 88 congregations that both welcome and affirm lgbtq folk as part of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.  It was AWAB day at the American Baptist Mission Summit.  Since we are not allowed to be officially a part of the biennial meetings, we usually hold some sort of alternate event at a site nearby.

The day began with a worship service at which the Executive Director of the Association, Robin Lunn, preached.  I was invited to read one of the scriptures, Revelation 21:1-6.  The Association is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, having had its first meetings at the American Baptist Biennial, down the road in San Jose, in 1993.  However, part of my role as member of the current Association board is to be a kind of living history, reminding folks that the birthing organization of the Association was American Baptists Concerned for Sexual Minorities, an organization, advocating for full inclusion of lgbtq people in the life of the church.  I was involved in ABConcerned leadership for some 20 years before the Association came into being.

Before I read the scripture, I reminded people that our little movement within Baptist circles is 40 years old, not 20.  It seemed significant, as we read the passage from Revelation, to remember that the full sanctuary and the growing movement started as the dream of a few faithful people a long time ago.  It also seemed important to recognize that, whatever progress we have made in building an inclusive witness in Baptist circles, there are still dreams to be dreamed and long, dusty roads to walk.  For many it is rightly a time to celebrate, but we must not forget that tomorrow will, of necessity, be a time for moving on.

Jesus set “his face to go to Jerusalem,” Luke writes.  As an old friend of mine used to say, he was “a man on a mission.”  Up to this point in Luke’s gospel we have heard the wonderful stories of Jesus’ birth, witnessed him wowing the elders in the temple at 12 years old, the same age as Daniel Ha.  He has proclaimed in his home church that “The Spirit of [God was] upon [him], because [that Spirit had] anointed [him] to bring good news to the poor…[had] sent [him] to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,to proclaim the year of [God’s] favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  He has taught and healed and driven out demons and fed the hungry throughout Galilee.  He has established his credentials.  He has assembled a large group of followers.  Now he is off to Jerusalem to confront the forces that have corrupted the religious tradition of his people and forsaken their covenant with the living God.  He is going to challenge the imperial powers where they hold people captive in systems unjust and evil.  Along the way and in the heart of the holy city itself, he will proclaim the in-breaking reign of God on earth with the promise of salvation for all who turn to God and God’s reign.

The text is tough.  Here Jesus has no time for villages that will not readily receive him nor for those who are not prepared to hit the road.  This is not the tender and compassionate Jesus we would prefer to meet along the way, the old friend who will sit and chat with us in the corner café, the beautiful dreamer who takes to time to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  This is someone intently focused on the road ahead, a man on a mission, one completely absorbed with moving on.  There is a certainty to his step, a sharp focus to his gaze, an urgency to his voice.  The reign of God is breaking through all around.  There is good news to proclaim the poor and oppressed.  A new age is coming.  It is vital that people see and understand, that they repent of being on the wrong road and come along with him on his journey to new and abundant life in the realm of God.

We ought to be careful not to read this text as saying that we should not be concerned for family life.  Jesus still loves and cares for those around him.  One could read the hyperbole of his pronouncements here as instructing his followers to let go of anything that binds them to a past that does not see and move on toward that realm of God in which they will be free of anything that has ever bound them.  As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  There is a time for mourning, a time for getting your affairs in order, a time for reflection, a time for play.  For Jesus and his followers, this time was one for moving on.  The reign of God was breaking out everywhere.  He had to show the way.

I have to confess that I have never been behind a plow, but according to those who have, you cannot look back and maintain a straight furrow.  Long and winding roads have their charms.  The twists and turns of a mountain stream follow the natural contours of the land.  Up and down and all around can be a merry adventure.  But for farming, furrows need to be as straight as possible, otherwise you have chaos in the crops and have not made maximum use of the land.  “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” says Jesus.  “Got my hands on the gospel plow.  Wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.  Keep your hands on that plow, hold on,” sings the spiritual.  “We’re moving on toward the realm of God.  Times are tough, the journey will not be easy, but, in time, the goal toward which we move will eliminate all our troubles, free us from every chain and wipe away every tear.

Here’s the challenge as I see it in this week in which so many of us want to be celebrating the in-breaking of justice and equality for people who have been marginalized and treated as second-class citizens.  When the party is over and the streets have been cleaned up, we have to see that “it’s not all about us,” that Monday or Tuesday is time for moving on.  In the same week that DOMA was overturned and Prop 8 struck down, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was gutted by the same court along with a delay for the dreams of affirmative action for people of color.  The prospects of immigration reform were shot down by a recalcitrant House of Representatives and its leadership.  Legislators are making headway in taking away a woman’s right to choose how she handles pregnancy.  War is being waged in the Middle East and elsewhere, its living victims huddled into refugee camps while others wail and weep the loss of life and livelihood.  The very life of the planet is being threatened.

In our Association board meeting, one of our members rightly reminded us that justice is a whole cloth.  None of us is free to all of us are free.  Too often little victories are won at the expense of others.  Sometimes we are unwilling to look beyond our self interest.  We are too preoccupied to hit the road when Jesus calls us to be moving on.  In the end, however, we can’t stay put or we will suffer the dire consequences.

I know the burden can seem overwhelming, the road impassible, the work impossible, God’s realm unreachable.  But we just can’t afford the luxury of giving up or resting on our little islands of security. Ethicist Sharon Welch challenges people like us when she writes, “The despair of the affluent, the middle class, has a particular tone: it is a despair cushioned by privilege and grounded in privilege. It is easier to give up on long-term social change when one is comfortable in the present—when it is possible to have challenging work, excellent health care and housing, and access to the fine arts. When the good life is present or within reach, it is tempting to despair of its ever being in reach for others and resort to merely enjoying it for oneself and one’s family…Becoming so easily discouraged is the privilege of those accustomed to too much power, accustomed to having needs met without negotiation and work, accustomed to having a political and economic system that responds to their needs” (Sharon Welch, A Feminist Ethic of Risk, 15 quoted in Alyce M. McKenzie, “Keep Your Hand on the Plow!” Edgy Exegesis, 6-24-2013, patheos.com).

In a sense, this is the same challenge Jesus gives to those along his way who are not ready to join in the journey.  There some things, things that are sacred to us, that we have worked long and hard to develop and preserve, that we must let go of in order to move on with Jesus.  I really don’t want to be so presumptive as to say what those things are for you.  All I can do is invite you to listen to Jesus’ call.  What is being asked of you to help ensure the reign of God in your here and now, in this time and place?

If Jesus walked into our sanctuary today – his face set steadfastly toward Jerusalem, or Washington, or wherever captives need to hear a liberating word, wherever the poor need to find economic equity, wherever the oppressed need to be lifted up, welcomed and affirmed, wherever the blind need to see, the deaf hear and the mute speak, wherever the year of God’s favor needs to become a living reality – how would you or I respond?  Would we be prepared to let go of the past and dream of God’s new thing?  Would we be ready for moving on?  As my friend, D. Mark Wilson, sang at my ordination service long ago, on one of those days when we stopped to celebrate as millions are celebrating today, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes” (Bernice Regan Johnson, “Ella’s Song”).  Today, tomorrow, the next day, in the strong and steadfast name of Jesus, it’s time for moving on.  Amen.

June is bustin’ out all over

13-06-01.mixon.fw“June is bustin’ out all over.” In the midst of a heat wave, windows are open to catch any little breeze, everything is green and blooming, allergies are operating full throttle, and we’ve entered, post Pentecost, that long, lazy season in the liturgical life of the church called Ordinary Time. Ordinary though it may be, we still have some excitement on the horizon. The first Sunday of this month we will be privileged by the presence of Cathleen Falsani, sharing with us some mutual experiences of grace. “Story = Grace” is our theme. This is the culmination of a month‐long study of her excellent book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace. I commend it you as ideal summer reading. One of the key things Cathleen says in her book is this: “Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve. Benign goodwill. Unprovoked compassion. The unearnable gift.”

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound…” Indeed, it is a sweet sound, sometimes a sound too sweet for our very pragmatic understanding. We all know that salvation can’t be earned but do we really believe it? Do we grasp how thoroughly God loves and accepts us with whatever our limitations and failures? It’s often a struggle to let grace enfold us, to feel its warmth, to bask in its light, to let its healing wash over us, making us whole. So we fail to see that amazing grace is around and within us in the simplest beauties and wonders of daily life – the tree, the flower, the breeze that blows, the stream that flows, the warm smile, the helping hand, the love that forms and sustains friendship and builds community.

Later this month, I will represent us at the inaugural session of a new phase in American Baptist life. The biennial meeting will no longer be a business meeting for the denomination. It is now called a Mission Summit and is designed to inspire
and build up the missional life of the ABC‐USA. This is an interesting experiment in a way to do church at a denominational level that will enable all American Baptists to work together in the service of God. I am very pleased
that Don Ng, the distinguished pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco, is the nominee for President of the ABC‐USA and is taking a key leadership role in this effort at denominational transformation. Don is an old friend whose vision and judgment I trust deeply.

It is interesting that this Mission Summit (and the next, in 2015) will be held in Overland Park, Kansas, a place where I lived from 1950 to 1953. Some of my earliest memories are of those days when my father was the founding pastor of Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. So, this represents a kind of homecoming for me. I hope to attend that church on Sunday morning of the Biennial. In addition, I will attend the pre‐biennial theology conference at Central Baptist Seminary (the school from which my father earned 3 degrees,) led by our friend, Jennifer Davidson, from ABSW. Then I will stay for the board meetings of the Association of Welcoming Baptists. It will be a full and, I trust, rich week. Wally Bryen will preach on June 23 in my absence.

What else can we say about June? There will be an intergenerational cookout and time for volleyball and visiting on Friday, June 14, in honor of Father’s Day. The church choir will end its season on June 16. Adult Spiritual Formation for
June will include our Sunday with Cathleen Falsani; a follow‐up on our Sunday with her and our study of her book on June 9; some reflection on The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need by Gerald May, one of the books from my spiritual direction program; and a last go for the season at “The Newspaper in One Hand…an occasional discussion of what’s happening in the world in light of the gospel.”

And there will be singing. Jan reminds us that The Bay Choral Guild, the group with which she sings will be performing in our sanctuary on Sunday, June 9 at 4:30 PM. The concert is entitled “Our American Heritageʺ and will feature music
from colonial days to the present. You won’t want to miss the wonderful opportunity right here in our building. And if you’re feeling a little more adventuresome, The Choral Project, the group in which Dan Cudworth, Ruth Winter (who is helping us out in the church choir through June) and I all sing will be presenting concerts in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz on June 8 and 9. Our concerts, entitled “Earthsongs” will cover a cross section of music from the classical to world music to pop music. It will be a fun event as well. More detailed information is available for both groups is available elsewhere in the  June Spire.

Which brings us back to grace. For me there is no more open door to grace than in the experience of music – heard and performed. I thank God for all the amazing music that has graced my life and, I hope, yours as well. May our lives flow on in endless song and may the God of grace author the music of all our days.

Pastor Rick