Riverside_DC_Sept2018

A Historic Church in a New Building on a New Corner

Hard to miss on the corner of 7th and Maine Ave., Riverside Baptist Church is an eclectic and electric blend of old and new.  That stone wall from reclaimed stones of the previous building juxtaposed to a modernist expression of glass and gentle wave of a roof is something to behold.  I love standing across the street and looking at it.  This last week saw the large gable stained glass windows we reclaimed lit up inside the atrium entrance and its colors shatter the windows outside, reflecting yellows and blues and reds into the night.  Backlit by LED lights, old craft meets new technology for an art piece that rivals the fire pit at the end of the Recreation Pier for its warmth and appeal.

We’ll have our first service on Nov. 18th at 10 a.m.  But we have also been working diligently to create opportunities for our community to cross the threshold into the life of our church.  A new worship service on Saturdays at 5:30 will be launched in December–informal, downstairs in the multi-purpose room and made to order for those who are visiting and living around us.  We will have a Vespers evening prayer service on Saturday nights and Sunday nights at 7pm–a brief but beautiful service of chanting scripture and praying in candlelight to end the evening.  Mid-day Mondays we will offer a brown bag Contemplation for workers (and others) to help start their week and step out of the office for quiet meditation in our beautiful sanctuary.   We will offer free once-a-month concerts on third Friday evenings at 7pm because we know that while the Wharf attracts thousands of visitors, not everyone can afford a ticket to the Anthem–December will feature Christmas music and January we’ll hear the Glee Club of Jefferson Academy Middle School perform.  Mid-week on Wednesdays, we’ll offer a time of prayer and praise–”Get Lifted” will invite folks to get over the “hump” by offering a time of song, prayer and devotion at 7pm.  Tuesdays and Saturdays will offer opportunities to tour the church.  And we are going to host Deacon Roy Pott’s program, D.C. Mentoring and Achievement Program (DC MAAP)–a workforce readiness and mentoring program, committed to helping young, low income, and low skilled DC residents find jobs, particularly those between the ages of 18-29.

We have built a beautiful sanctuary that vibrantly connects with the community around it and is an architectural gift to our city (Phillip Renfrow of GBR is our architect). But we also are committed to ministering to this community, engaging it and living fully as Christ’s disciples.  I hope you’ll join us in this endeavor.  If you’re new to SW, we welcome you and hope you’ll step into a church that is as open-minded and spirited as you are.  If you have dropped away during our development phase, come home.  We look forward to worshipping with you on Nov. 18th!

IMG_3179

Worship, Love, Live

We continue to worship at 11am at Westminster Presbyterian Church SW.  Pastor Brian is preaching this Sunday.  I will be a greeter!  And Pastor Ruth is working with Godly Play and the children.

You know, of course, that ours is caffeinated  culture.  Got to get going in the morning.  Need that afternoon break. And of course, our soda pop and products are laced with caffein. I mention this to say, we are ever finding ways to keep us awake and moving; we are trying to charge our lives.  Nothing quite compares to worship.  It is a shot of love as Bob Dylan sang.  We worship. We love. We live.  Join us.

F8A5BDE6-A337-4F81-A958-CA2437452948

We Have A Date: Thanksgiving Sunday 2018

For two years our congregation has been “wandering”—a theme in the biblical material of course and while we haven’t exactly been walking through the wilderness nor eating manna and complaining about Moses and where the heck he is leading us, we have been dislodged.  First we had the good fortune of worshipping for a little over one year at Jefferson Middle School. Then they began renovations this past June so we had to find a place and were blessed to be received by Westminster Presbyterian Church, just down the road from us. We have been blessed in this interim journey and are grateful for these friends who have offered us refuge.

Our building is nearing completion on the corner of 7th & Maine Ave.  As anyone can see who stands on that corner, our church occupies a gateway into the Wharf.  A modest sized church, it is nonetheless a beautifully designed sacred space. We are excited to open it to our community and cannot wait to worship inside of it.  Mark your calendars because we now have a date:  November 18th at 10 a.m.  Thanksgiving Sunday.  How appropriate.  How fitting that we enter  on Thanksgiving into this new church that has been in our community with uninterrupted ministry since 1857.  161 years.  Thanks be to God and to all who have loved us and supported us.  Meanwhile, we’ll see you Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian, a wonderful church with whom we have so much in common.

Ripple-Effect-400x266

Maniacal Social Media

One day last week I was backing out of a parking space in a small parking lot, having visited a hardware store for a couple of screws. I was mumbling to myself about something but I cannot recall what I was telling myself. Once backed out, I turned to look out the windshield and saw a guy my age, hobbling out of the pharmacy next to the hardware store. He was holding two bags, one in each hand. And I thought, he’s talking to himself!  Yeah, it was an odd moment but it reminded me of how I experience social media.   I have only been on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for about a month.  These are very chatty places. Alienated places as much or more than “community.”

And profane places and I don’t mean just the absolute disregard for language and using any and every profanity under the sun but I mean how people profane their own lives, the lives of their perceived enemies and their habituated following of celebrities who are profaning each other. No regard at all for their or other’s children stumbling upon their poisoned discourses. No boundaries.  The social platforms designed to communicate are often maniacal arenas.

I invite you to take a break from the shoving matches and the violent language by stepping into worship. A sacred place where we are encouraged to speak in peace, live in peace and honor the Image of God in one another; we pray, sing and are called to higher ground. I am preaching this Sunday on A Meditation On All That Is Good.   No hashtag needed. Just you with others who make a “We,“ called The Beloved Community.  11am at Westminster .  ~See you Sunday

half-staff

9/11 ::: We Remember

Black-ribbonBelow is an excerpt from my collection, Sermons In War,  wherein I reflected on that day we call 9/11.  Today, let us remember the perished and their families and their friends and the country left behind. We are not united seventeen years after that catastrophic day.  We have given into the rhetoric of fear and hatred.  As the bells ring out this morning, may they alert us to the power resident within us to make this a land of hope and promise, justice and peace.

“Remembrance is a remarkable gift.  Without it, we are imprisoned in a terrifying island of the present, unmoored, bobbing adrift in the sea of time and the chaos of events.  When we remember, we sink an anchor into the depths and stabilize our lives for a moment.  If we are fortunate, we are permitted to remember within a harbor of peace such as a sanctuary.  Taking deep breaths, pondering the heart beat beneath the breastbone of our collective life, we just might stop long enough to remember an event that begs to be remembered if for no other reason than people lost their lives in the conflagration.  We want to remember them.  We will not forget them or where we were.
“I was standing in the driveway of our home, speaking with a neighbor, puzzled about why the twin towers in New York had had jetliners crashed into them. How could this be? And then suddenly, someone –his wife? another neighbor?—told us that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane.  This was the moment of recognition for me.  I knew then we were under attack and that these tragic events were not an accident.  I wrestled with whether or not to pick my children up from school.  I decided to do so, believing that if anything worse were to take place then I wanted to be with them…  We walked home along the bike path in Bluemont Park.  I walked just a step or two ahead of them. The sky was still blue.  I told them I was bringing them home.  I told them our nation had been attacked.  I could say no more at that moment.  I walked with my children and cried.”   [Afterword, Sermons in War]

 

Eucharist

What I’m Learning at Westminster Presbyterian Church SW

Riverside Baptist Church @ The Wharf has, since June, been worshipping @ Westminster Presbyterian Church just down the road from our building site.  Since no leading celebrity or leader in either traditions has arrived to pat us on the back for this ecumenical experiment, I want to commend these two congregations and their pastors for the courage it took.  Mind you, not the courage to share a building because that is nothing new or brave. Churches rent space from one another all the time.  But when it came time to make an arrangement where we, Riverside, would worship next (after our interim experience at Jefferson Academy Middle School) and I approached Pastor Ruth of Westminster, we made a decision to share worship together.  THAT is POWERFUL.  And why is that so powerful?  Many reasons but let’s just cut to the quick and hear the prayer of our Lord as rendered by the Gospel of John in chapter 17:

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one.”

Many who seek a church do so without flinching in the face of the obvious:  churches are divided. And they are divided not only along cultural, racial and ethnic lines but their pastors and priests will not offer communion to those who are outside their flock or fold.  We may as well have erected barbed wire fences between our various communions. So when I sat in the sanctuary of Westminster Presbyterian on this past Sunday and received communion, I did so with a heart full of gratitude that we—whatever differences we may have—came to the Table of our Lord as ONE.  Do not let this slip past your gaze.  This is a powerful experience.  We could have been worshipping in the basement at a different hour and not shared our worship but we rejected that approach.  We believe in the gift of the unity of Christ. And we have been worshipping for a few months now as though we actually believe in those radiant words found in the Letter to the Ephesians (chapter four):

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Mind you—we must mind this—our unity is not our accomplishment. This is God’s gift to us in Christ.  What Westminster and Riverside have done up to this point is simply to believe in that unity and live up to it and through it.  We have rejected the logic of “if…then” as the scholar of ecumenism, Michael Kinnamon, puts it.  You know, “if certain conditions are met then certain steps can be taken.”  Instead, as Kinnamon prophetically states it,  we embrace the Gospel logic of “because…therefore.” Because God loves us we are free to love our neighbor.  “In the same way,” he writes, “because we are one in Christ, therefore we are freed and empowered to seek common mind on those matters that have kept us apart.” [The Vision of the Ecumenical Movement].  To say we have no need of one another, Kinnamon reminds us, is a sinful denial of this unity that was achieved for us by the costly grace of Jesus Christ.  Westminster Presbyterian, I salute you!  Riverside Baptist, I salute you!  Let us worship together the One God who is above all and through all and in all.  Those who are weary of business as usual, with divisive and provincial notions of church and worship, we invite you to join us on Sunday.  ~See you Sunday as One people