Young People and Renewal at FBCPA

iSing GirlchoirI love the fact that this is a place that welcomes and embraces young people. As I mentioned last week, we hosted concerts for the Silicon Valley Boychoir and iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir at the same time we have the ongoing presence of the New Mozart School for Music. The building is often crawling with kids. I want to tell you that the Girlchoir concerts Friday and Saturday were terrific. Not only were the concerts musically excellent, the leadership and teaching of Jennah Delp-Somers and Shane Troll is remarkable. This program has become a real asset not only to our church but to the cultural life of Silicon Valley.

And speaking of assets, our own children and youth will be leading us in worship Sunday. This is the first time in the years I’ve been here that we’ve done something quite like this. Pastor Tripp and Doug have been working with the kids this spring on the topic of baptism. Now they have created a worship service in which we will be “Remembering Our Baptisms” along with them. I am especially pleased that Oscar Ramirez, who is graduating soon from Los Altos High and heading off to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, will be bringing the Reflection on the Word. I am looking forward to what he has to share with us. You will surely want to be present for this gift from our children and youth. By the way, they are also hosting the fellowship time after worship.

Following the service, we will hold the Special Business Meeting to take action on the Renewal Proposal, brought to us by the Renewal Task Team through the Church Council.   I am sure you are all aware of the process this proposal has been through. We came to you originally with a great candidate for the proposed new pastoral position, but in the end she was not available. At our Quarterly Business Meeting in April we brought you a revision of the proposal that removes references to a specific candidate and proposes the creation of a search process for a new candidate. We invited and have been open to talking with anyone in the congregation prior to Sunday’s meeting. I hope you have taken advantage of this invitation if you continue to have questions or concerns. I am hopeful that we have come to the place where we can embrace this proposal and move forward in a timely manner.   I also continue to pray that God will sustain and guide us as we look to God’s future for us.

So plan to be here at 10:00 AM for Youth Sunday and then stay for this very important business meeting.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick    

Joyful noise…

Rev. Rick MixonWhen The Choral Project (the choir in which Afan, Dan and I sing) had its dress rehearsal in the sanctuary last Wednesday evening, I shared with whomever would listen my experience of the afternoon. iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir was rehearsing in the Fellowship Hall, Silicon Valley Boychoir was rehearsing in the Sanctuary and the New Mozart Musical School was going full blast upstairs and I was overcome with joy. I know all that “noise” would not be everyone‘s “cup of tea,” but you know how much I love music.

For me it is sheer joy to have this old building full of singing and playing with the footsteps and shouts of children, their parents and teachers. This is one of the reasons that person after person who comes into this facility recognize it as a special place, dare I say a “sacred space.” We have been blessed with this resource and I believe we are using it well, in responsible stewardship, even when the exigencies of all the activities drive you a little crazy – like moving chairs and overflowing toilets and burned out lights. Perhaps one might even find God hovering over, around or in the blessed chaos.

Sunday we will complete mini-series in worship and Adult Spiritual Formation. This will be the last session of Pastor Tripp’s study of Phillip Kenneson’s book, Life on the Vine. This week’s session will continue the discussion of “Cultivating Joy in the Midst of Manufactured Desire.” This has been an interesting series and Sunday will be our last Sunday to enjoy Pastor Tripp’s leadership in this area – at least for awhile. We will definitely be inviting him back.

The theme for worship is once more drawn from the little book of 1 Peter. In this Sunday’s passage, the writer addresses how these small, struggling churches, spread throughout Asia Minor might account for the hope that shapes their life and draws them toward God’s future. In the same vein, we might ask what is our hope? How do we embrace it? How do we live into it, working to make it reality in the here and now? This is especially important as we prepare for the Special Business Meeting on June 1 when we will be asked to act on a hopeful vision for the future of our congregation.

I will repeat the reminder that if you have questions or concerns about the revised Renewal Proposal, we want to hear from you so that we can be in conversation before the special business meeting on June 1 to vote on the Proposal. You may contact me, Carolyn, or any member of the Task Team or Council.

Personally, I hope you will all be here at 10 AM on Sunday for worship and then stay for Adult Spiritual Formation.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick

Back from Maine

Ocean at Ogunquit, ME
Ocean at Ogunquit, Maine

Thanks to Pastor Tripp and everyone else who helped cover for me while I was gone last week. I had a good trip to Maine. The annual gathering of the Alliance of Baptists was excellent. The focus was on racial and economic justice. We had outstanding leadership from Bill Kondrath, Marie Onwubuariri, Curtiss Paul DeYoung and Osagyefo Sekou as well as outstanding music, workshops and community time. The rest of the week was taken up by a board meeting of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. It was a challenging meeting but we got a lot of good work done. At the end of the week, we had a important conversation with the leadership of the ABC-USA, which holds some promise for a different future for lgbtq people in the life of our denomination. On Thursday I had a free day, which I spent in the charming seaside village of Ogunquit, ME.

Thanks to Doug for doing such a fine job with the service and his sermon. We have been blessed to have him as our intern this year. This Sunday we will continue to look at the two little letters attributed to Peter, found at the back of the New Testament. As I said a couple of weeks ago, in contrast to Paul’s sometimes chiding epistles, Peter’s seem to be an exercise in appreciative inquiry. He is out to encourage and build up small churches that are struggling to survive in the face of increasing persecution. Sunday’s focus will be on what is probably the most familiar passage from these letters, the one in which he lifts them up as a chosen people, a royal priesthood moving from the shadows into God’s redeeming light.

I hope you will all be here at 10 AM on Sunday for worship and then stay for Adult Spiritual Formation as Pastor Tripp continues the series, Life on the Vine: Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit, based on the book by Philip Kenneson. This week’s focus will be “Cultivating Joy in the Midst of Manufactured Desire.”

And remember if you have questions or concerns about the revised Renewal Proposal, we want to hear from you so that we can be in conversation before the special business meeting on June 1 to vote on the Proposal. You may contact me, Carolyn, or any member of the Task Team or Council.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick        

Revising Renewal

Mixon MusesBy now the word is out that the Reverend Marie Onwubuariri will become the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin this summer. Wisconsin’s gain is our loss in that we had hoped that God would lead Marie to come work with us as a key element of our Renewal Proposal.

In fact, the Proposal that the Task Team and Council brought to the congregation was built around Marie’s unique gifts and skills. Though her decision to follow a different career path is a setback in our progress toward renewal, it is not the end of the road.

On Sunday, March 23, we had a very useful conversation as a congregation about the renewal process to date and how we might move forward. Some honest thoughts and feelings were shared as well as some good ideas about how we might adjust the Proposal and move forward with renewal. At that meeting, the Council was seeking guidance as to whether or not we should continue working on the principles of the Proposal, even though our first candidate is no longer available. Two‐thirds of those present and voting favored continuing to work on the Proposal that was presented in March.

At this point, I cannot say what a revised Proposal would look like but it is clear from the conversations that we have had and the lack of a specific candidate that some adjustments must be made to the Proposal itself and in our process for considering it. Here some thoughts I have about moving forward:

I continue to believe that work of the Task Team and the Council in bringing this Proposal is good work. The time and energy invested in it by all involved was invaluable and was given in love and concern for our congregation and its future.

I also believe that principles of the Proposal are still sound and represent a bold and creative possibility for sustaining and enhancing the life of this congregation as we continue to journey through unfamiliar waters toward a future that is ultimately in God’s hands. That is, no one knows what the church will look like, even in the near future. We know many familiar ways of being church are changing rapidly. If we want to continue to witness to the Gospel and to serve those in need, we need to take some risk with new and creative methods. Investing in the skill and passion of a creative specialist in the area of outreach to the community seems to me like good stewardship. As Al Williams instructed the congregation during your long period of discernment, if you want to focus on growth you will need to hire someone specifically to lead that effort.

Any effort toward outreach and growth must take into consideration the changing demographics of Palo Alto. The undeniable truth is that we are becoming an ever more multicultural community. This is a good thing. It affords us the opportunity to learn to live together in the richness of our diversity. If we are to minister in this multi‐cultural environment, we need to be intentional about addressing those concerns, including the make‐up of our staff.

The Proposal takes very seriously the life and needs of the existing congregation. One of the chief reasons we are proposing two pastors is that there is still a full time job and another half‐time one in ministering with the current congregation. We may be slipping through attrition but our current pastoral staff configuration still allows for and uses a full time Pastor and half time Minister of Faith Formation and Family Life. Even with 20 hours a week, it has been a challenge for Pastor Tripp to meet all our needs for education and family life. (As we know, school and the commute play a role in this.) In reality, the Proposal only adds a half time position to our existing pastoral staff. We need that if we are to have any chance of reaching out to those in our community we don’t currently reach.

The reality is that we are in a window of opportunity right now.  We have the financial resources to move forward with this Proposal. What we do not have is enough people power to maintain the church’s infrastructure and realize all the great ideas for outreach and community life that were shared on March 23. I agree with those who say we can’t go on hiring staff to keep the congregation alive. We are at a crossroads. We have a wonderful congregation of committed people but for reasons of age and the exigencies of life, we do not currently have the critical mass of volunteers necessary to sustain us very far into the future. More than anything, the Proposal promises to put focused effort into building up the base of those who will be able to carry the congregation forward into God’s future.

We may not end up looking anything like we look now. We may have to give a little to get a little – or even a lot. For myself, I remain committed to serving the wonderful people who make up the congregation of FBCPA today.  This is not an either/or proposition. I believe we have, right now, the resources to sustain and enhance who we are AND explore the future that God has planned. I look forward to continuing this journey with you. As always in the best Baptist tradition, your input and participation in this process is vital. I welcome your thoughts, feelings, ideas and prayers.

Pastor Rick

Vision Forums and the Renewal Proposal

Renewal ProposalThank you to everyone who participated in last Sunday’s Vision Forum 1, with special gratitude to Carolyn Shepard for her excellent leadership.  We were able to center ourselves as we asked for God’s guidance in all that we do but particularly in this time of discernment.  I doubt there is anything we do here that is more important than praying for God’s guidance.  There was a time for questions of clarification.  A number of good and important questions were raised as we worked to understand the evolution of, the rationale for and the possibilities and challenges represented in the Renewal Proposal.  Then we went around the room, giving everyone present the opportunity to share their current thoughts and feelings about the Proposal.  At the end, we shared some written and verbal comments from people who could not make Sunday’s meeting and we closed again with prayer.

It was gratifying to see how seriously our congregation is taking the work of its Task Team and Council.  I also appreciated the calm, respectful and thoughtful tone of the meeting.  There is always risk in an innovative proposal; there is no way to make that go away.  It is natural to approach risk and what is unknown with a certain amount of anxiety.  I think all of us feel some of that.  I know I do.  It is important that we move into the future with open eyes, minds and hearts, with courage and with trust in our desire to follow God’s leading.  You will see below an invitation to an additional meeting on Friday for those who could not be there Sunday in hopes we can pass on some of what was shared Sunday and ensure that we hear from everyone who wants to contribute to the process.

This Sunday, in Vision Fourm 2,  we will have the opportunity to meet with Marie, to get to know her better, to hear her hopes and dreams for Christ’s church in general and ours in particular, to ask her questions and for her to ask us questions.  I am excited for you to have some experience of Marie’s grace, skill and potentiality for leading us.

Worship will focus on the familiar story of Nicodemus and Jesus.  For many of us John 3:16 was among the first Bible verses we ever learned.  But there is more to this tale that one overused and misused verse.  I am particularly interested in the age disparity between the old teacher and the young.  What’s to be done when the old one is challenged to see and do things differently?  Jesus isn’t altogether respectful of Nicodemus, who is slow to grasp things.  But I think Nicodemus leaves that encounter transformed.  “Not when I’m old.”  Don’t be so sure about that.

See you Sunday at 10 AM for worship and Sunday School.  Bring someone along to share the Lenten Journey with you.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.
Pastor Rick

Lent begins

revolution of love on the journey of lentThe Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday to be shared with Covenant Presbyterian this evening.  We are all invited to a simple supper at 6:30 PM followed by a worship service that will include the imposition of ashes.  This is a meaningful way to enter into this season of reflection and preparation. You will see below a calendar of Lenten activities for our congregation.  Our theme this year is “Revolution of Love,” drawing on the work we’ve been doing during the Adult Spiritual Formation time.  Last Sunday we decided to invite one another and the congregation as a whole to engage in a discipline of compassion around hunger.  During Sunday’s service we will hear an invitation with options about how we might all participate.  We hope everyone will find a way to join in.

The worship focus will be on Matthew’s account of the Temptation of Christ.  Perhaps it’s a function of our free will that we each will be tested in real and challenging ways, just as Jesus was.  How will we respond to those things in our lives that draw us away from God, that invite us to put our faith in anything or anyone other than the Creator?  Jesus had to wrestle with this and so must we.  It is central to the Lenten journey that we keep ourselves open and faithful to God’s movement in our midst in the same way Christ does.

Following worship, we will have the first of three Vision Forums, in which we will consider the Renewal Proposal that has been circulated among the members and close friends of the congregation.  This is a challenging proposal which merits our careful and prayerful attention.  Sunday we will have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions as well as share our preliminary thoughts and feelings about this exciting prospect for the future of our church.  I know some of you have questions and concerns about the nature and scope of the Proposal.  We will ensure that everyone has an opportunity to express themselves as we also listen attentively to what each person has to say.  Above all, I encourage each of us to be in prayer that the Spirit will move in our midst and God will guide us into God’s future for us.  I urge everyone to attend this Forum and participate fully and openly.

See you Sunday at 10 AM for worship and Sunday School.  Bring someone along to share the Lenten Journey with you.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.
Pastor Rick

Renewal Proposal coming your way

Renewal ProposalA Renewal Proposal is being mailed to the congregation this week.  We will have meetings to discuss the proposal in lieu of Adult Spiritual Formation, following worship on Sundays March 9, 16 and 23.  We invite careful and prayerful consideration of the Proposal when you receive it and we encourage everyone to participate as fully as you can this process of consideration and discernment in which we will be engaged over the next several weeks.

More Light… More Love… More Life

Three candlesThis Sunday we will continue our experience of the Jesus Dojo with an emphasis on “Framing our Practice of Love.” In particular, we want to turn our thoughts to Lenten practices and shaping Lenten worship. To that end we would like to encourage everyone to participate, not just the “regulars.” Lent is not just about an obligatory “giving something up.” Its focus is on drawing nearer to the heart of God as we move toward the celebration of Easter. What might you do as an individual and what might we do as a congregation to intensify our experience of the Holy over the 40 days of Lent? What might we do to share that experience in our witness? It is both a journey inward and a journey outward.

In worship we will conclude a three part consideration of our theme for this year, “More Light…More Love…More Life.” As we anticipate our Renewal Proposal, I continue to believe that there is more light, love and life to come to this faith community as well as more of each to come from us. Sunday we look at Moses’s last speech from the book of Deuteronomy in which he encourages his sometimes cynical, sometimes recalcitrant people to “choose life,” as they stand on the banks of the Jordan, looking over to the Land of Promise, with both longing and anxiety, wonder and worry about what lies ahead. What is our land of promise? How will we approach it? Will we enter it with anticipation and joy? Thelma Parodi has suggested the sermon title should be, “You Want to Be Happy?” What do you think? Will we be happy, blessed, fortunate, if we take the risk to choose life? Deuteronomy says that to choose life is to choose God, who is life. How would that shape our life together?

See you Sunday at 10 AM; plan to stay to share your thoughts on Lent and practicing love.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick