Archive for From the Pastors

A Bigger Table

We’re hoping everyone will participate in our next book study! It begins December 2nd and goes into the New Year,

No one likes to eat alone; to approach a table filled with people, only to be told that despite the open chairs there isn’t room for you. The rejection stings. It leaves a mark. Yet this is exactly what the church has been saying to far too many people for far too long: “You’re not welcome here. Find someplace else to sit.” How can we extend unconditional welcome and acceptance in a world increasingly marked by bigotry, fear, and exclusion?

Pastor John Pavlovitz invites readers to join him on the journey to find—or build—a church that is big enough for everyone. He speaks clearly into the heart of the issues the Christian community has been earnestly wrestling with: LGBT inclusion, gender equality, racial tensions, and global concerns. A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, Hopeful Spiritual Community asks if organized Christianity can find a new way of faithfully continuing the work Jesus began two thousand years ago, where everyone gets a seat. Pavlovitz shares moving personal stories and his careful observations as a pastor to set the table for a new, more loving conversation on these and other important matters of faith. He invites us to build the bigger table Jesus imagined, practicing radical hospitality, total authenticity, messy diversity, and agenda-free community.

We’re inviting everyone to read the book so you can part of the conversation, even if you don’t choose to participate in a study/discussion group.

Groups will meet:
Sundays, December 16 and 23, January 6 and 13 after worship
Wednesday, December 5, 12, and 19, and January 9 or 16. 

But if coming to a group is not your thing, we will be having posts in the Facebook group as well. Feel free to participate whether or not you are in a group!

In paperback, the book costs $12, and we’ll order one for you if you like. It’s also in Kindle format for less than $8.

Sign-up at the welcome table to let us know you want to read the book. Signing up doesn’t mean you commit to a study group, but it does mean you commit to reading the book. 

Chancel and Cross Task Force needs your input

The Chancel and Cross Task Force is at work exploring options for furnishing the chancel area of the sanctuary with a more cohesive look and appropriate symbols for worship, such as a cross. You can provide input: click here to go to an online Google survey form to fill out. Paper copies of the form are available on the table outside the Sanctuary, and in the bulletins.

Please fill out and/or return them by Sunday, March 18th.

Task Force Members: Jerry Burge, Ron Hunt, Joan Clements, Kristeen Pemberton, and Patty Meeko.

La Posada

Posadas are an important part of Mexican Christmas traditions. These community celebrations take place on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from December 16 to 24th. The word posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish, and in this tradition, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay is re-enacted. 

Posadas are held in neighborhoods across Mexico and are also becoming popular in the United States.

The celebration begins with a procession in which the participants hold candles and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes there will be individuals who play the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the way, or occasionally images representing them are carried. The procession will make its way to a particular home (a different one each night), where a special song (La Cancion Para Pedir Posada) is sung.

Asking for Shelter

There are two parts to the traditional posada song. Those outside the house sing the part of Joseph asking for shelter and the family inside responds singing the part of the innkeeper saying that there is no room. The song switches back and forth a few times until finally the innkeeper decides to let them in. The hosts open the door and everyone goes inside.


Once inside the house there is a celebration which can vary from a very big fancy party to a small get-together among friends. Often the festivities begin with a short Bible reading and prayer. Then the hosts give the guests food, usually tamales and a hot drink such as ponche or atole. Then the guests break piñatas and the children are given candy.

The nine nights of posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or alternatively, to represent the nine days’ journey to Bethlehem.

Our Posada celebration will not be for nine days, but for just one evening on Thursday, December 21. We are inviting the Wesley UMC Church to participate in this beautiful celebration in order to contribute to a more unified community in the heart of downtown San José.

We will start the festivities at 6:00 P.M. at the Wesley UMC Church, located at 566 North 5th Street, in a procession with candles. We will sing Christmas carols during our walk to San José First UMC, where we will perform our beautiful tradition for the third year in a row. Everyone in our Methodist congregations are invited, as well as all the people in the downtown neighborhood.

Participants will experience the Mexican representation of Christmas with its traditional costumes, Biblical readings, and songs. And finally, everyone is invited to enjoy a dinner cooked by Gerardo—authentic Mexican Pozole—accompanied by coffee, tea, and water. If anyone one wants to bring something for dessert or a dish to share, they are welcome to do so. We thank you and hope to see you on December 21st.

Attend and have fun!

— Gerardo Vazquez-Padilla

Día de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos is a tradition and cultural celebration.

In Mexico and other Latin countries these events happen on November 2. It’s the time the families honor their relatives who have passed away. They make an altar for themselves and they put flowers, pictures, religious objects and favorite foods the relatives liked. It is a sad day for them. This is very special ritual since it is the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly, and sad. Nothing is further from the truth. Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans happily and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Much like when we go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative.

I give thanks to the church for opening the doors for other cultures, to find a place to grieve and honor their families. Please welcome them and enjoy the time together with them. This is the time to introduce our church and the American culture to them. If you want to participate please feel free to do so. If you have questions, please feel free to ask me.

There will be light refreshments after the service.

—Gerardo Vazquez

Meet our new transitional pastor, the Rev. Renée Rico

Dear Members and Friends of San Jose First,

This is my first week with all of you as your new transitional pastor. The boxes arrived last week, and so far I’m about half-way through unpacking in the office. I’ve met some but not all of the staff here, last night I met with the VLT, and I’ll be leading worship and preaching this Sunday. Please come this Sunday if you are in town as we start this new chapter together!

I know that your tradition does not typically use interim or transitional pastors, so I would guess there are at least a few questions about my role with all of you through next June. Let me give you some idea of what I am about as a transitional leader.

1. Pastor.  I am around to do the usual things that pastors do – preach, teach, visit the sick, coordinate staff and committees. I am your pastor during this time, and do all of the regular pastor-like things – from baptisms to weddings to visiting folks in the hospital.

2. Consultant.  Particularly when I first arrive, I am new enough to ask the question, “Why do you do it that way?”  I see things from an outsider’s point of view, and can give some ways of looking at the congregation that might not have been considered.  We will look at a variety of things in the church in the coming months, and together ponder questions like: Who are we as a people of God? Who are our neighbors? What is God calling us to be and do?

3. Coach.  As we identify the work that is being considered for our time together, I play the role of a coach in helping staff, committees and other groups.

4. Transformational Leader. As I play the above roles, I will asking the question of us all, “How might we more fully become the people of God here and now?”

Of course, this time, I am not alone in this work – as we also have the Rev. Kristie Olah also working at 1/8th time during this period. Kristie and I are working out exactly how we will do this work together, but I am confident that she and I will be good partners during this transitional time.

One thing I want to be really clear about – we work in partnership on all of these areas. This will not be Kristie and I telling all of you what you should be doing. First, that would be highly presumptuous of us to do, and second, I am confident that by doing spiritual work to align our hearts with God, we can be led by the Spirit into fruitful ways of living as disciples of Christ.

Finally, I come to you as someone from the Presbyterian tradition who has great respect for the Methodist ways. I served two years ago as the interim pastor at First UMC Vallejo, and in that process learned that we are cousins in the greater tradition of Christ. I celebrate with you and will encourage you to live more deeply into the ways that your tradition offers.

My planned schedule for now is to work Sunday through Thursday, with my day off on Friday. I haven’t figured out yet exactly what my office vs. outside time will be. But to reach me, you can call 408-294-7254 ext. 201 or contact me via email at

Friends, I look forward to our work together!

Blessings and light,

Renée Rico