still_waters

After The Inauguration and The March: Silence


Wave upon wave of noise and actions have swept over our city and our nation.  By now, many of us are feeling exhausted or depleted.  I would encourage you to consider the power of silence and stillness.  Challenge the assumption in our culture that you must respond, retweet, blog or otherwise contribute to the swollen tributaries of information and disinformation.

How will you and I distinguish between truth or lies, fake news or facts, the guiding and dependable star of our destiny or the temporary flash of famous but disreputable persons?  Silence.  Quiet.  Stillness.  Fill a jar with water and then pour some dirt in it and shake it.  The agitation merely makes it difficult to see. Let that jar sit undisturbed and soon, the sediment settles. So with your heart and mind.

Lao-tzu (chapter 11 of the Tao te Ching) captures the power of emptiness:

 We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

There is the scene in the Gospels of Jesus getting into a boat after days spent with crowds of people who pressed him for healing and for words, for miracles and cures.  He rowed across the lake and then walked to a lonely place to pray…alone.

In these unsettling days, settle.  In these loud days, practice silence.  Find that place of peace and quiet so you can hear your own heart and mind and the still, small voice of God.  Shhhh.  Listen.  The waves retreat.  There is a still point on the horizon.  And believe it or not, one of those quiet places of peace and a refuge can be found every Sunday in a middle school auditorium in SW D.C.  We worship there.  We retreat from the world at large so we may reenter it with truth, mercy and love.    ~See you Sunday


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Demolition and Rising in hope


In the song, It’s Alright Ma’ (I’m only bleeding), Bob Dylan sang, “he not busy being born is busy dying…”  This Sunday on your way to church, you will see our church building—a building we love and for which we’ll forever be grateful—razed.  We knew the day would come when the building would be razed in order to make way for the new.  We are busy being born.

Sunday, January 15th, MLK Sunday was a magnificent day of empowerment.  We who attended  will never forget the power of thirty different groups represented in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School as we sang (and wow, did our singers sing!), as we prayed and as I preached about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his relevancy for today and for this week as a billionaire is elevated to the White House, in my sermon The Untweetable and Ineffable Beauty of Justice. Today, we were busy being born!  Tomorrow, we rise in hope!

And that church building, now razed, is a stark reminder of the courage of this congregation that believed more in the promise of the future than the diminishing aura of the past.  And because we believed that, we created an endowment. And the first thing we did with that endowment was to take $100,000 from it and disperse it to groups that are repairing our world. What a magnificent day of beauty.  It’s alright. We’re busy being born.  Amen.  Hallelujah.

Below are the grantees who received grants from us today:King_speakup

The Alliance of Baptists, a denomination whose mission and values are congruent with ours that works to reconcile the world through voices that speak for peace and justice.  http://www.Allianceofbaptists.org

 Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, working for LGBT civil rights especially within Baptist conventions and associations.  awab.org

 Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, an institution that works within the public square and legal arenas to secure separation of church and state and religious liberty. http://bjconline.org/

 Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, works for peace and justice while networking Baptist churches in these efforts.  In honor of Rev. Robert Troutman who helped establish this group and through whom Pastor Bledsoe was introduced to Riverside Baptist Church.  bpfna.org/

 DC Baptist Convention Historically and presently we have been a member of this convention and we seek to empower ministry through our association with local Baptist churches.  http://dcbaptist.org/

 Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries  (RMM) of Metro Baptist Church in New York City RMM runs a gamut of social ministries including tutoring, summer day camp,  food pantry, clothing closet, HIV/AIDS services, life skills empowerment, and a teen center that operate out of the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. In honor of Deacon Stephen Bouchard.  http://www.rmmnyc.org

Riverside Church Arts Project:  The Burning Fountain ~ Art and Imagination  Riverside Baptist Church in collaboration with Blind Whino and The Luce Center for the Arts and Religion present exhibits of religious and nonreligious artists in an effort to understand “the burning fountain” (Philip Wheelwright) of artistic imagination.

 The Gay Christian Network is an international nonprofit that strives to change the Church to bring about full inclusion of LGBT persons.  Deacon Bukola Landis-Aina serves on their board. http://www.gaychristian.net/

 National Council of Churches For over sixty years, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has joined hearts and voices to proclaim the One who embodies God’s love and promise of unity: Jesus Christ.  As a covenant community, we are 40 million Christians in over 100,000 congregations from 38 diverse member communions.  In honor of former member and General Secretary, Michael Kinnamon. http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/

Evangelical Environmental Network that works to educate evangelicals and others about climate change and seeks to influence legislators to pass meaningful measures to thwart pollution and save our planet.  In honor of member and colleague, Dr. Jim Ball.  http://www.creationcare.org/

 Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, Southwest Washington DC Providing a rigorous, responsive, challenging, and joyous learning environment where every student will develop a love for learning, an innate curiosity, and be eager to fully participate in the learning process. http://www.amidonbowen.org

 AppleTree Early Learning Center AppleTree’s mission is to close the achievement gap before children get to kindergarten by providing three- and four-year-olds with the social, emotional, and cognitive foundations that enable them to thrive in school. Housed at Riverside for a dozen years, they got their start here and have expanded to other campuses in the city. http://www.appletreeinstitute.org/about-appletree/

 BISTA  supports bilingual schooling in Honduras by paying for teacher’s salaries. This effort is led by our own Upshur Whittock.  http://www.Bista.org

 DC Mentoring and Achievement Program (DC MAAP) A workforce readiness and mentoring program helping low income and low skilled DC residents find jobs in the Southwest/Waterfront community. Founded and led by Deacon Roy Potts.

 Jefferson Middle School Academy, Southwest Washington DC Nurturing the academic, social, and emotional needs of every child through rigorous, interdisciplinary, developmentally appropriate curriculum, and positive, collaborative relationships with all members of our JA family. http://www.jeffersontrojans.org

Malala Fund whose goal is to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education. Named after the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.  https://www.malala.org/

The Arc of Montgomery County Each day, The Arc Montgomery County directly supports over 500 children, youth, adults and families.  Given in honor of Wyatt Evans. http://thearcmontgomerycounty.org/

Casa Ruby A bilingual multicultural LGBT organization providing life-saving services and programs to the most vulnerable in the LGBT community. http://www.casaruby.org/ 

DC LGBT Center – Global Division The U.S. is a frequent destination for LGBTI individuals seeking a new and safer life.  The mission of the Center Global is to help provide safe passage for our brothers and sisters from other parts of the globe. http://www.thedccenter.org/programs_global.html    

Emergence Community Arts Collective Empowering the human spirit through social activities, traditional arts classes, support groups and educational seminars. http://ecacollective.org/mission.html 

Equal Justice Initiative The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. http://eji.org/about-eji

Martha’s Table works to support stronger children, stronger families, and stronger communities by increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food, and family supports. Riverside has supported Martha’s Table over the years with donations of food to help the hungry.    http://marthastable.org/

 Mary’s House Based in NE DC, Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc. is working to develop housing and inclusive environments that comprehensively address affordability and access, and eliminate the constant worry of discrimination or even violence based upon the LGBTQ/SGL status of the individual.  http://www.maryshousedc.org

Micah House, Temple Micah DC provides support and social services to homeless women with long histories of alcohol and drug abuse. Residents arrive at this sunny, spacious home from shelters or drug rehabilitation programs. They receive individual and group counseling to meet their needs in maintaining a job, managing a budget, staying healthy, meeting education goals, and finding a place of their own. Given in honor of Rabbi Daniel Zemel and our congregations’ abiding friendship.  http://www.micahhouse.org/

S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) SOME offers comprehensive supportive services to meet the needs of the people at each point on their journey from homelessness to independence, whose efforts have been supported by our congregants who serve there monthly. http://some.org/

Safe Shores – The D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center Safe Shores provides intervention, hope and healing for children and families affected by abuse, trauma and violence in the District of Columbia, and prevents child abuse through education and training. http://www.safeshores.org/

 Sasha Bruce Youthwork Improving the lives of runaway, homeless, abused, and neglected at-risk youth and their families in the Washington area. http://www.sashabruce.org/ 

Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) Supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region.   http://www.smyal.org/

Sickle Cell Disease Association of Greater Washington Providing research, education, testing, and counseling of persons living with the disease or carrying the trait. Housed at Howard University Hospital.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Founded in 1962, pioneering research and treatment for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. HTTP://www.stjude.org/ 

 


By muralist Judy Baca

MLK Sunday: $100,000 to heal our world


One Sunday from the inauguration of President-Elect Trump, many in our area are trying to find a way to step out of that drama.  How about this alternative?  This Sunday is also Martin Luther King Sunday, a day we remember the Baptist preacher and dreamer who led the “second revolution,” the Civil Rights Movement.  And we at Riverside will not only worship and sing in celebration of the values of the Civil Rights Movement–the enduring dignity of human beings, the worth of all of God’s children and the constitutional mandate to protect all of our citizens–but we will be dispensing thirty grants totaling $100,000 to groups who help heal, repair and redeem the world.  Want to be inspired and plugged into those values in a powerful way?  Join us Sunday for worship at 10 a.m.

Among those we’ll be offering grants to are the Malala Fund, Temple Micah’s Micah House, the Equal Justice Initiative and many local groups that carry out humane and just actions on behalf of the marginal.  Schools in Southwest like Jefferson Academy, Amidon Elementary, Apple Early Learning; shelters, hunger solutions like Martha’s Table and S.O.M.E; housing like Casa Ruby and Mary’s House, Sasha Bruce Youthwork; LGBT advocacy groups like Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, the Gay Christian Network and DC LGBT Center’s Global Division;   special needs children who, with their families, find support through ARC of Montgomery County; and many more.  We are doing this for a few reasons. First, because we are blessed to have secured an endowment for our church that will safeguard it for decades to come. Second, because we can think of no better way to counter the extreme right-wing rhetoric that would put these very persons and families at risk than to make a donation to the urgent work of these groups.  Third, because as our Lord taught, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

This Sunday, join us. Together, let’s honor the Dreamer and his legacy and worship in power and truth as we bless those who heal the world. ~See you Sunday


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Riverside: Past Riverside: Born Anew


Riverside_FallOur church building at 7th and Maine Ave., a sanctuary that has served us and our community since 1968, will begin to be razed this week.  As one might expect, there are mixed emotions with regard to this moment.

Sadness for seeing it forever gone.  Elation that we have secured our financial future for another generation.  Excitement that we will have a 21st century building (of similar size) built on the same corner.  Grief for giving up the sacred space we have cherished.  To have ambivalent feelings about this is quite human and expected.

We are reminded in such a moment of the impermanence of the world.  Riverside Baptist Church was built after the razing of Fifth Baptist Church in the first urban renewal project in the country here in South West.  Fifth Baptist traversed the 19th and 20th centuries. Riverside will have traversed the 20th and 21st centuries.  Think of that—we have been here longer than most of the community partners who share our quadrant.  Before airplanes flew. Before the atom bomb.  Before the interstate highway system.  Before the microwave and cell phones.  The congregants of these churches have seen Presidents since James Buchanan, fought in and survived wars dating from the Civil War, bore witness to the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement and assorted other human rights actions to include Gay persons, protect the elderly from the scourge of abandonment by securing Social Security,  and including disabled persons in the mainstream of civil discourse and opportunity.  This congregation has lived in a few different “skins” or buildings and now has once again responded to its ecosystem and boldly taken steps to insure that yet another generation can step into a sacred sanctuary of peace.

We say farewell to a building but we take with us our history, our collective memories and our passion for speaking the Gospel with power and truth.  For all those who made this building possible, we are grateful.  Now, as we turn to the future, we say our thanks to those presently who have secured our church for another fifty or one hundred years.  We are still worshipping (at Jefferson Middle School) on Sundays at 10 a.m. This coming Martin Luther King Sunday, we will welcome thirty groups to whom we will gift with a grant of money. Thirty grants totaling 100,000 dollars.  Before we spend a dime of our endowment, before we invest it, we are giving this money to American heroes who heal and repair our world.  I hope to see you Sunday the 15th. It will be a powerful day, celebrating the legacy of Dr. King, empowering those who stand up for the marginal, and vibrantly carrying on the mission and ministry of this church we love.

~See you Sunday

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Sunday Service January 8th


We are having our regularly scheduled worship service at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Middle School.  With single digit wind chills and some streets with less than optimal conditions, please exercise caution and good judgement before venturing out.


La Sagrada

The God Who Makes All Things New, Renew Us


January 8th is a week away and we can begin worshipping together again!  I hope the two weeks away have rekindled your love of our church and you’ll enter this new year ready to make a difference.  I have certainly missed being with you as the People of God, formed in the crucible of Grace and Mercy and the proclamation of God’s Good News.

La Sagrada

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. ~photo by PSTR

As many of you know, I took retreat in Barcelona for a week where I ducked into ancient churches (like the Cathedral of Barcelona and Santa Maria del Mar) and a “new” church, begun in 1882 by the architect, Antonio Gaudi, La Sagrada Familia.  I lit a few candles, said prayers and otherwise pondered my life within the light and quiet of these sacred places.    I commend our church leadership for its unwavering commitment to the pastoral office and the need for pastors to have not just down time, but time held in the suspension of sacred duties in order to be renewed.  Not every church makes that kind of commitment.  That annual line item in the budget that secures a means by which I can retreat and renew is a significant affirmation and I am deeply grateful.  Clergy burn out (as do others in other professions).  There are, sadly, those congregants and churches that begrudge their pastors time away and needless to say even more who, while they may embrace the idea, will not financially support it.  Riverside is not one of those churches.  ”Pastoral care” then is a two-way street.  Pastors who have congregations that care for them can, in turn, provide pastoral care.

While I did not have the chance on this first day of the new year and the first Sunday of 2017 to worship with you, I did worship at a sister church in SW, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church which, as you likely know, completed their development project and moved into their new sanctuary in November.  It is a space filled with light and the homilist this morning, Rev. Martin Smith, delivered a wonderful sermon.  Congratulations to our friends at St. Augustine’s, our prayers are with St. Matthew Lutheran Church as they have broken ground for their development and new church and may the God who makes all things new, renew us!  SEE YOU SUNDAY~ PSTR