First Baptist Church
of Palo Alto



Faith Formation and Family Life:
Rev. Tripp Hudgins

December 2013

Friends of God,

Advent may be my favorite season of the Church year. The longing, the waiting, the hope, the anticipation, I connect so deeply to the spirituality of it all. I love the music, “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” and the other ancient melodies of Western Europe feel like home to me. I wonder what melodies feel like home to you this time of year. Is it something from another place and another time like mine? Or is it something more contemporary?

What music feels like home?

Advent also challenges me. We’ll hear from all four preachers this season (I’m preaching the Sunday following Thanksgiving, the First Sunday of Advent) and each sermon will have a challenge wrapped up in it somehow. The readings we chose for the season ask us to wake up. They ask us to prepare. They speak of peaceable kingdoms and the coming of the Day of The Lord. Advent is a challenging season. We’re not waiting for Christmas morning in some warm fuzzy sense (though, I do love that, too). No, we’re waiting for the Apocalypse, the “inbreaking” of God.

That’s what “apocalypse” means, you know ‐ “in‐breaking.” It means “revelation,” the “aha!” of recognizing the divine.

Perhaps you have noticed a little literature around the church about how Advent is a conspiracy and the Apocalypse is something into which we are invited to participate. Mercy. Justice. Reconciliation. Jubilee. These are all apocalyptic.

This season, we’re invited to be apocalyptic. We’re invited to try it on, this kind of waiting that brings forth justice and peace, the kind of expectation that assumes God Is Here With Us. We are citizens of the Peaceable Kingdom.

So, as you read about the various events scheduled, the worship services, the Christmas Caroling, and the movie the kids are making, imagine these as apocalyptic practices.

We are all longing for a home. That home is the Peaceable Kingdom, the Time of God. It is a place and a people. We will sing ourselves into that home this year.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

October 2013

Friends of God,

Musician Bobby McFerrin reportedly offered this reflection on faith in a recent interview: "I couldn't do anything without faith. I couldn't open up my eyes, I couldn't walk. I couldn't speak, I couldn't sing. What I want everyone to experience at the end of my concert is . . . this sense of rejoicing. . . I want them to have this real sense of joy from the depths of their being. Then you open up a place where grace can come in."

I am holding on to this quotation as a helpful reminder of what we're looking to do together here at First Baptist and what I am doing in my own life every day. I'm sure many of us are looking to what it means to have faith and how that faith may serve us and help us to be of service to others. Faith is the theme for our year together in both Youth and Adult gatherings. Faith. The changing times. How we do anything we do. We're opening up the various cans of worms and discovering together what might be at work in the world. "What's next" becomes a rather dangerous statement. It's not a strategy but a prophetic wondering.

If there is an eschaton, an apocalypse, then the church should always be asking itself, "What's next?" If there is a sense of God's ongoing attention and investment in the world, then the church should always be asking itself, "What's next?" Not a clubhouse or a good deeds society, the Church looks to where God is moving and follows. The Church asks the hard questions and sometimes takes the lonely position...just like Jesus.

Christ bids us come and follow. To follow Christ is a dangerous act because he is always and forever asking, "What's next?" Faith helps us answer this question.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

september 2013

Friends 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. It's 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 don't 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 "The Church" and how that's 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 God's Kin‐dom. This is the "eschaton," the fulfillment of God's whole self, God's being in the world. What does it look like to live it?

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

It's a new year and together we shall be born again. It's 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, "It's the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine!"

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

june 2013

Friends of God,

Summer is here! Summer is here! Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. It's official. You may now wear your summer togs. Now, I know this seems a strange thing to say in California where it may well be possible to wear your summer togs all year long except in the summer months when the marine layer rolls in and the coldest winter we'll spend is summer in San Francisco. Fortunately, we're a little south of The City and can enjoy the heat. I hope you all have some summer fun planned!

My summer has shaped up to be a full one. I know some of you have heard. I'll be in and out some this summer teaching and delivering a paper (the woes of Ph.D. studenthood). One of our seminary interns, Naomi Schulz, will be filling in for me while I am away a couple of weeks in June and the first weekend of August. She is a talented pastor and will be a great addition to our community this fall. This will be your chance to get to know her a head of time and show her some of our awesome hospitality.

There's lots going on this summer!

  • Friday, June 14 - Pot Luck Cook-out!
  • Sunday, July 7 - All-Church Cook-out and Celebration!
  • Friday, August 16, - Pot Luck Cook-out!

More events are in the works. We're contemplating a baseball game. There are many summer camps with room left as well. If you would like to attend summer camp, please let me know. We can help you with a scholarship.

The summer is a great time for family, friends, and (it would seem) cook-outs. We hope you will join us in times of fellowship.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

Summer Camp Opportunities

Friends of God, what are your plans for the summer?

Summer CampParents, are you looking for some fun for your children? Children and Youth, are you looking for some summer fun? Are you all looking for
something everyone can do together? Here is a list of options for you all! There's so much to do in the Bay area and beyond in the summers. These are four options that are local and far afield. I hope that you will take advantage of one of them this year.

~ Pastor Tripp

Redwood Glen has many offerings for children, youth, and families all summer long. Camping, music, drama, spiritual formation. It's all here!
(And it's close!)

Camp Galilee is located in Tahoe. Is it a summer camp or a resort destination? You tell us! All are welcome. Liz Tichnor says,"Pay no attention to the word, 'Episcopalian.' All kinds of people come and have a great time. It's Tahoe!

Baptist Peace Fellowship Peace Camp: Pastor Rick has made it a tradition to attend every year for the last several years. You would find other familiar faces as well. All are welcome and there are a lot of activities for kids and families. This year let’s see if we can all go be peace campers together!

A Summer Reading List:

  • Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill. This one hundred year old book is experiencing a bit of a revival as Christians are once again diving into the deep water of our tradition. The Gospel is not just Social; it is also Mystical.
  • Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, by Cathleen Falsani. Ranging from Chicago
    to Kenya, New Orleans to Ireland, Big Sky to Graceland, Falsani dons her investigative cap and scouts for grace. This religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times is a charming guide to places and people who reveal "grace when and where it happens."

april 2013

Friends of God,

Well...that was a full month.

March was full to o'er flowing with opportunities for fellowship and prayer (sometimes the two together). I hope you found a way to include yourself in the goings on in Lent. There was much to be enjoyed. The kids put together a little Passion play. Their were many, many prayer services with Covenant Presbyterian Church. We were a busy group of people! To that end, however, I'd love to hear from you. What's working for you in what we offer? What could be different? Send me an e-mail at I would love to know what you would like to see happen here. I'd especially like to know what times of the week are best for you. Don't me shy! Send me a list!

In April we'll spend some time in Adult Spiritual Formation talking about Sonic Theology. That's right. Sonic Theology. I hope you'll join in. At the end of the month we'll begin a new book study, Cathleen Falsani's Sin Boldly. Martin Luther, the old German reformer once exclaimed "Sin boldly so that grace may abound!" Cathleen is a journalist and this book is about times that she has witnessed grace...perhaps in unexpected places. We'll spend three Sundays with this book beginning with the last Sunday of the month. Cathleen will join us on Sunday, June 2. Keep your calendars clear!

I know it's hard to believe but summer will soon be upon us. As I write this, baseball season is just under way (my fantasy team is terrible). We'll be in the thick of summer fun before you know it. We've already started planning pot-lucks for the coming months (Keep May 10 open!). I hope you can join in the fun.

Peace and All Good Things,

March 2013

Friends of God,

I'm thinking about pigs again. I know...the snout was a little over the top. These things tend to happen when the boss is out of town. The toys come out. Still, collectively we raised over $1,000 to help provide a source of income and food for people in Haiti who are still struggling in the wake of the earthquake and storms. Poverty is crushing. When there is no infrastructure to uphold us in the good times then there is no infrastructure to uplift us in the hard times.

I've been thinking a lot about spiritual poverty. Historically, this term has many meanings. Some have taken it to mean an intentional practice of abstaining from the spiritual richness of the church liturgy such as fasting from the Eucharist. Some have understood it as an interior attitude toward one's many possessions. In this framework, one may have many possessions, but they are not what saves us. Lastly, there is the simple lack of a spiritual life...a poverty of the Holy Spirit, a lack of it's presence in our life. This too is spiritual poverty and it is this last kind that I want to focus on here in Lent.

It's a challenging thing to unearth, spiritual poverty. How do you tell a blind man that he's standing in the dark? What difference does it make to turn the lights on for a woman who cannot or will not see? Spiritual poverty is some insidious stuff...and it often takes God's grace to break through, God imposition of grace and love. Friends and I have often referred to it as the Holy 2x4. You are walking along in a pleasant darkness and then *WHAMMO!* the light comes on and the darkness is revealed and the poverty is palpable and...well, we may find ourselves asking, "Now what?" It's an exciting time. It's a discouraging time. "It's not a hill; it's a mountain when you start out the climb." is how the song goes. Sometimes starting is the hardest thing. Sometimes recognizing we are poor when we thought everything was fine is the hardest thing.

And no one can make that kind of poverty clear to us but God. It is very rare for someone to perceive the spiritual blindness of another. There's an old story about the mote in someone's eye, if you recall. It's tricky business to say the least. But we Christians know it's real. We know there is spiritual poverty. So, we give ourselves disciplines to help ourselves out of the throwing a rope ladder into a hole for someone. We gather in prayer and fellowship. We gather to study scripture. We spend a little time alone in quiet reflection. We stop and smell the roses. We take a careful assessment of our relationships and ask ourselves if we are adequately caring for those whom God has given us. Some of us even break the calendar up into seasons in the hopes that such symbols will help us break free from the darkness.

There was once a man who had much...and he was righteous having followed the commandments and obeyed the Torah. "If you wish to See Truly," said Christ Jesus, "give it all up and follow me." The man would not grab the rope ladder. He could not see his own poverty. Saddened and confused, he walked away. Jesus looked on in love.

Pastor Tripp Hudgins

february 2013

Let's begin again.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ‐ Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

This quotation flitted across the internet recently. Sometimes the internet is like that. Good thing just flit here and there. This one stuck with me. It's a familiar quotation...and in spite of it's great familiarity, I still find it inspirational. And it makes me wonder a little bit about our congregation.

What is our deep gladness? What is it that keeps drawing us together? I don't have a ready answer for that, but I do wonder. Is it our love of charity? Our love for fellowship? Maybe it's the music and the potlucks and all manner of things combined into a patchwork of some kind. I can't say, but as we've spent this month together, we have had one or two conversations about mission. Passing conversations about the future of the church and how we might share who we are.

What is our deepest gladness? What is the deep hunger here in the Bay Area? Yes, the whole Bay Area. Already our congregation pulls from a variety of places...far‐flung places like Berkeley. Ha! I joke, but this is interesting to consider. We can cast a wide net. No question. But to dive that deep hunger. I believe that's an aspect of our call worth considering. We are an outpost of God's Kingdom. God put us here in Palo Alto a century ago. We're still here...what does God have in mind? It's a fun question to consider.

Pastor Rick is due back in February. Our Annual Meeting is the first weekend of the month. Let's welcome him back warmly. I have missed his presence in the church. I know you all have as well. And, as we gather for worship, song, spiritual exploration, and in table fellowship, let us continue to seek our deep gladness and find creative and gracious ways to share it with our neighbors throughout the Bay Area...indeed, the world. As the hymn goes, "all who hunger gather gladly." We too are those who hunger. I imagine that the deep hunger of the world, of our neighborhood, is very much like our own.

Peace and All Good Things,
Pastor Tripp

January 2013

Friends of God,

Merry Christmas to one and all! I hope the holiday was generous to everyone. This month we embark on a bit of an adventure with one another. As Pastor Rick will be away on a sabbatical, Oleta and I will both be picking up some of his work. I will be in Palo Alto on Tuesdays, Fridays, and (of course) Sundays. I'll be leading Tuesday's bible study and coordinating with the guest preachers and Oleta for our worship services in January.

Also, I will be on call for any pastoral needs anyone may have. I'm looking forward to this opportunity to spend more time with everyone. The first Sunday of January is Communion Sunday and Epiphany. We'll celebrate the encounter that the Magi (the three wise guys) have with the infant Christ. I will be preaching and this will be an inter‐generational service. We'll reflect together what it might mean for us to "return another way." When did you return home by a route unknown to you? Sometimes this is what it is like to follow God.

We will have a pot luck diner on Friday, January 18 at 6:00 pm in the Fellowship Hall. All are welcome. Please contact the church office if you would like to help set up or clean up. Please bring something to share. February will bring with it our Annual Meeting (February 3) and Rick's Return as well as Brad Berglund. Some of you may remember him from his book that we studied together in Adult Spiritual Formation, Reinventing Sunday. An accomplished musician and retreat leader, Brad will be with us the second week of February (February 15‐17, also known as the first week of Lent). He will lead a workshop on Friday evening, during the day on Saturday, in worship on Sunday, and for some time together after the service. The Friday evening event will be open to the public as is, of course, Sunday morning. More details are forthcoming. Please stay tuned.

Thank you for all your work around the church. I appreciate all that each of you do to make First Baptist a warm and welcoming community of faith.

Peace and All Good Things,

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