Dear First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto Community
We are at a confluence of events that opens to us the opportunity to envision the path forward for the future of our church. First, Bruce has completed two of four years of his calling to our congregation as a designated pastor. Therefore, it is time to review his work here and discern our mutual call. Second, as a congregation, we have experienced the “COVID Pivot.” Almost overnight, we made a 180-degree turn from our traditional way of being church to a virtual way of being church because the pandemic precluded in-person gatherings. We have, by necessity, seen what is possible in a new, expanded form of community. As we prayerfully emerge from the pandemic, the question before us is: What have we learned about ourselves, and what is God calling us to be?
More than two years ago, we searched for a new pastor, and the Holy Spirit led us to Bruce. We, as a congregation, called him as our designated pastor for four years. Bruce was called to bring new leadership to FPCPA and guide us in new directions, always grounded in faith and spirituality and affirming our core values of intellectual curiosity, care and compassion for each other, and working for justice locally and globally. Because the call was for a designated pastor, a Mission Study process was not required, and our congregation did not complete one. Now seems like the time in the life of our church to do something in that spirit, as we reflect on how we have been transformed by the pandemic and by Bruce’s leadership, and we seek a path toward growing into the church we want to be.
When the Pastor Search committee introduced Bruce as our new pastor, we said, “he will help us find our path to the church we want to be while always remembering who we are, a faith-filled community serving God in our work for peace and justice.” He was described as “innovator, visionary, forward-thinking, change agent, big picture thinker, strategic.” It’s time for our community to actively engage with Bruce’s forward-thinking vision for what FPCPA could become.
Using a congregation-wide engagement process, we will explore how we are called to be church in a post COVID, 21st-century world. This will include an evaluation of Bruce’s first two years with us and a discernment process towards affirming Bruce’s call as a permanent one. The next 8-12 months will be a time of prayerful reflection, renewal, and relationship-building for our congregation.
Summer 2021: The Task Force on Envisioning our Future Together is developing a congregational engagement process to submit for Session approval. This process will enable the congregation and Bruce to discern and co-create God’s vision for impact, vitality, and growth at First Pres Palo Alto.
The Personnel Committee is conducting a performance review process to evaluate Bruce’s ministry as Designated Pastor over the last two years with FPCPA. All members of the congregation are encouraged to fill out this survey.
Fall 2021: Introduction of “Envisioning our Future Together” to the congregation. This discernment process will take place through a variety of activities such as calls to prayer, one-to-one interviews, small groups, town halls, etc. We will frame it around reflection, renewal, and relationship building.
Winter 2021: The Task Force and the congregation will continue implementing the visioning and discernment process to determine the nature of a mutual call between Bruce and the congregation and our path forward as a faith community. During this time, we will experiment with implementing some new ideas and solicit feedback from the congregation.
Late Spring 2022: Based on the congregational process, the Task Force will make an initial recommendation to Session regarding Bruce’s call and the path forward for our congregation. Session will make a decision and recommendation for congregational approval.
More detail will be available and many questions answered when the Task Force formally introduces the process to the congregation in September. The members of the Task Force are listed below. Please feel free to reach out to any of us with questions or concerns in the meantime.
Task Force on Envisioning Our Future Together:
Susan Chamberlain, Edie Irons, Mohan Iyer, Jessie Rodriguez, Dave Thornton, Evelyn Wong.