Note from Pastor Rick (5/3/2017)

In spite of my head cold, I had a wonderful time at the 30th annual Convocation of the Alliance of Baptists last week in Raleigh, NC. The event started off with a day long discussion among some of the brightest and most articulate young voices in our group on the question of “Why Baptist?” Friday was spent with the dynamic and inspiring William Barber, Disciples pastor, President of the NAACP of North Carolina, and founder of both Moral Mondays and Repairers of the Breach. You may have heard the address he made to the Democratic Convention last summer. Showing both breadth and depth of skill, he led us in Bible Study, protest and press conference, scholarly panel and worship, all around themes of justice and the moral demands our faith tradition demands of us. Saturday’s worship was led by three outstanding Baptist voices – Christine Wiley, co-pastor of in Covenant Baptist UCC in Washington, DC on “Home”; Malkhaz Songulashvili, Metropolitan Bishop Tbilisi of the Republic of Georgia on “Partnership”; and Cody Sanders, pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, MA on “Justice.” The event was topped off Sunday morning when Naomi Tutu led us in Bible study and worship. Plus, I had the added joy of brunch with Daniel and Chris Pryfogle – Daniel was our retreat leader last summer – on Sunday after worship.

It was great to get away and it’s great to get home. Thanks to Pastor Gregory and UCCM Campus Minister, Geoff Browning, for leading worship and adult ed here last Sunday. This week worship will focus on the brief, but significant description of the first “church” in Acts 2. There is a treasure trove of insight in this passage on the how the church might align itself with God’s Beloved Community. Somehow that alignment never comes easy, but what joy when it happens. We will celebrate Communion and after worship hold a Quarterly Business Meeting

Come Sunday at 10 AM, to share in worship, community and the work of our congregation. Invite family, friends, colleagues, strangers – anyone and everyone – to join in this joyous time.

Our theme for this year is “All Are Welcome in this Place.” Let’s make certain that it is so.

Pastor Rick

Note from Pastor Rick (4/26/2017)

A bad head cold is not the way to celebrate the Easter season. We had a great day on Easter Sunday (and another good day last Sunday, with Pastor Gregory preaching on resurrection,) but I woke up from my Easter Sunday nap with a sore throat and went downhill from there. I am now on the mend, enough that I will be leaving tomorrow for Raleigh, NC, where I will attend the annual Convocation of the Alliance of Baptists. This is the 30th anniversary of the organization. The theme is “Embracing God’s Call to Love and Justice.” Speakers will include William Barber, head of the NC NAACP and organizer of Moral Mondays, Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Naomi, and the Baptist Archbishop from the Republic of Georgia. It promises to be a great occasion. I am looking forward to connecting with old friends and colleagues, including Daniel Pryfogle and his wife, Chris, while I’m there.

This week at FBCPA, we welcome Geoff Browning, campus minister for United Campus Christian Ministry at Stanford. UCCM is a mission of our congregation. Pastor Gregory currently serves on their board. Geoff will preach on “Our Kairos Moment” (Leviticus 25:8-17and Luke 4:16-30) and lead Adult Spiritual Formation with an update on the work of UCCM.

Come Sunday at 10 AM, to support Geoff and the good work of UCCM. Invite family, friends, colleagues, strangers – anyone and everyone – to join in worship, education, and sharing.  See you next week.

Our theme for this year is “All Are Welcome in this Place.” Let’s make certain that it is so.

Pastor Rick   

Note from Pastor Rick (5/25/2016)

love quiltThanks to Geoff Browning, UCCM campus minister, for leading our Adult Spiritual Formation last Sunday.  It was good to brought up to date on UCCM program and activities, including their trip to Nicaragua last March. Both Pastor Gregory and Charlotte Jackson are currently serving on the UCCM board.

I had a good time as respondent to the annual Drexler Lecture at the American Baptist Seminary of the West last week. I got to provide transportation for the speaker, J. Brent Walker, the retiring Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. It was great to get hear Brent’s update from the BJC and the state of religious liberty in the USA, and to get better acquainted with this fine champion of Baptist principles. Then, on Saturday I attended the ABSW commencement ceremony at the historic First Baptist Church of Oakland. The speaker was my old friend, Margaret Cowden, former treasurer of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. I enjoyed seeing her and also watching my students from last spring receive their diplomas and awards.

Worship this week will focus on “Peace Now”. The texts from Micah, Luke and Romans are all familiar passages pertaining to peace. Micah urges us to study war no more. In Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain,” Jesus tells us we must love our enemies. Paul, writing to the church at Rome, says, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Each text treats the challenges and rewards of committing ourselves to making peace now. We’ll close the service by singing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

In Adult Spiritual Formation we will consider a new book by Dan Shapiro, founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program. I heard Dan interviewed on public radio and was impressed with his understanding and vision. The book, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts, is a thoughtful and practical guide to helping us find harmony and reconciliation, whether at home, church or on the global stage.

Join us for these opportunities Sunday, starting at 10:00 AM. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us as we explore the things that make for peace.

Together, let us strive…to know God’s love!

Pastor Rick

 

Note from Pastor Rick

Tomorrow evening the American Baptist Seminary of the West will present its annual Drexler lecture. This year the speaker is J. Brent Walker, the retiring Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. This historic organization is supported by several Baptist groups and is a champion of real religious liberty in the USA, including the proper separation of church and state. Brent will speak on “Defending and Extending Religious Liberty for All: How Are We Doing?” I am honored to be one of the respondents along with Professor Abdullah Ali of Zaytuna College, a scholar in Islamic law and prophetic tradition.

The Spirit arrived on Sunday with colors and flame, with poppers and geese, with beautiful music and an appreciation of all things red. We also received the fruit of the Spirit as gift and challenge. Later that afternoon, Resounding Achord and the Carlmont High School Chamber Choir presented a splendid concert focused on compassion, justice, and the things that make for peace.

Which is the focus for this week’s worship. As Jesus came close to the end of his earthly life and ministry, he sat on the hillside and wept over the old city of Jerusalem. “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” He could foresee the destruction of the city that lay just  around the corner. So, what are the things that make for peace. Is it too late for us to learn them and practice them, or are we sowing the seeds of our own destruction? Isaiah presents a vision of the Holy Mountain that rises in the center of God’s Beloved Community. Here the Spirit blows wildly, wisdom flows freely and there is no longer hurt or destruction for creation is set right. Will we ever get there?

In Adult Spiritual Formation we will welcome Geoff Browning, United Campus Christian Minister at Stanford and some of the students who went to Nicaragua on a good will trip this spring. He will also share news of the Stanford Peace and Justice Initiative. UCCM is a mission project of FBCPA. Both Charlotte Jackson and Pastor Gregory currently sit on its board.

Come join us for any or all of these opportunities Sunday, starting at 10:00 AM. Invite your family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, acquaintances and strangers to join us as we explore the things that make for peace.

Together, let us strive…to know God’s love!

Pastor Rick

A Note from Pastor Gregory (5/2016)

Gregory StevensBlessed are the peacemakers, the Christ calls us this May! Blessed are those who make peace, who actively pursue the making of a more peaceful, just, and beautiful world. It is a call toward an active and lively faithfulness to God in Christ Jesus. Our faith is less about spectating and more about engaging in practices of loving compassion.

That’s what we’re about and that’s what we have to look forward to this month! Rick and I have been planning a full calendar of creative worship ideas, Sunday school ideas, adult spiritual formation activities, documentaries, community events, and much more for our entire church family to journey to a more just and peaceful world. Follow our church Facebook page and hallway Bulletin Boards for a broader range of local events related to peace and justice in our city.

Susan Bradley and I have been conspiring on an art show for our bare hallways and I am very excited to say that it will most likely be up this May! She has traveled the world and captured some amazing images that tell stories of beauty, of pain, and of the sacredness of our human interconnectedness. We hope to continue this as a rotating display for other artists and art forms. Please contact me with suggestions.

I am also working on developing a web presence by teaching myself how to build websites (I have had previous experience, which has helped). It also helps to save money and to further learn a valuable skill. Being in the Silicon Valley, it is extremely important to have a great website that welcomes the stranger to explore “who you are” digitally. In trying to create a queer community group in Palo Alto and a queer community with Geoff Browning at Stanford I am working on developing two websites that will brand our vision for the digital age. From here I can work on the social media websites Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

These are just a few highlights of what is happening in my world – let’s grab coffee to conspire even more goodness!

Much Love,

Pastor Gregory

 

A Note from Pastor Gregory

Gregory StevensQueerituality (queer + spirituality) is a club on Stanford’s campus that Geoff Browning (UCCM) connected me with. Two of the students and I met for coffee and ended up talking for almost two hours! One of the students, Nate, grew up a Mormon and struggled with his sexuality and faith from an early age; Chris was a Presbyterian who recently came out to his parents, which hasn’t been easy. I was able to share some of my own story, which further connected us on multiple levels. They invited me back to join their club meetings with intrigue in the vision of progressive Christianity I was sharing in our conversation. I am prayerful that doors like this continue to open!

A similar thirst for a progressive spirituality has come up multiple times in my adventures around the city. In meeting with people of all different backgrounds, religions, creeds and colors, I’m finding a shared longing for an alternative to church-as-we-know-it. This month I’m going to begin organizing and connecting these friends together to hopefully find common ground for mutual friendship. Pray that these friendships might blossom into a larger community of questioners, seekers, provocateurs, and saints.

I am also excited to announce a Mission Trip opportunity for our older students to serve victims still suffering from Katrina in New Orleans. Hosted by YOUTHQUAKE and American Baptist Home Mission Society, we will be joining a few youth groups in our Evergreen region! I also hope to involve my friend Rev. Morgan Clark and her youth group in Skype conversations prior to the trip to help further our relationship with the community we will be serving.

There is much to celebrate and much to look forward to; may God bless our shared ministry!

Pastor Gregory