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All My Life’s a Circle and the Decemberists


The second day of May and I am on the Silver Line headed to a faculty meeting, listening to “June Hymn” by the Decemberists. That’s a lot of months in one sentence.  But it captures where I’m headed, not to Howard University School of Divinity, but into May, full throttle and “all my life’s a circle” rebounds to me in my little seat as the train operator’s voice crackles over the speaker, unspeakable and unhearable.  If that’s a word.

What is ahead is a dedication of an adopted son, Master Mason, by loving parents on Mother’s Day, the 8th of May. And the following Sunday, the baptism of a dear child, Wyatt Alexander, who has conquered my heart since his birth and whose parents I love dearly for their faith and their devotion to their special needs son. These young people are a gift from God to us. We have the blessed opportunity to receive them into our community and as well, to see them as God’s signs of grace to us.

The perspective of a long-time pastor is one of circles, concentric, widening in ever expansive rings of inclusion and rippled across the lakes of lives and church.  I’m nearing my stop at Van Ness, switched to the Red Line and switched to Macklemore’s newest album, listening to “Need to Know.” He raps, “we are what we run from.”  But at Riverside, we are what we run to. We run to each other and toward God, toward grace and mercy.  I hope you’ll worship with us this Sunday.  After all, “it’s the circle of life, and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love…”  

~See you Sunday


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Land of Plenty, Wasteland of Violence


The number and variety of grocery stores in our area astounds me.  I admit, I generally self-check-out over at a Safeway.  But occasionally I’ll go to Harris Teeter for some things.  And even less often I’ll stroll into Trader Joes.  And then there are those cathedrals of food, Whole Foods and Wegman’s, that are overwhelming by all they offer. I step in there amazed and with my hand firmly on my wallet.

So this week while pushing a cart in one of those stores I wondered how it is that in a land of plenty, of so very much, that we are at the same time a wasteland of violence.  We awaken to this each and every day.  Back about twenty, thirty years ago Marxism had nailed religion as the culprit. But look, we live in a hedonistic culture that is far from religious.  The sacred is a melting glacial island.  And yet, with our technology and supposed reliance on science, we are as alienated as any time in our history.  People can’t help resolving their slights by aggression and annihilation.  We’ve heard of micro-agrressions. We need a discussion about macro-aggressions when people react with a volume of anger and violence that far outdistances the perceived slight or problem.  An astute deacon asked me Sunday about how our country, our culture, might begin addressing anger. And she is correct.  We desperately need to do so.

There is a remarkable action you can take that will, on a weekly basis, set a straight measure to your steps; guide you beside still waters; set you in the midst of a meadow of green grass; fill your heart with both humility and joy.  What is that action?  Worship.  I know, I know, it sounds trite. But guess what? it is not.  It is profound.  Not “going to church” but worship. Stepping into a sacred space, joining with others in prayer and song and stopping long enough to ponder the mystery and gift of your life.  Enough violence and hatred.  More Communion. More Kindness.  More faith, hope and love.  ~See you Sunday


Book Sale and Give-Away


350px-reading-jester-q75-760x753A few of Pastor Bledsoe’s books are being given away free (online at Amazon) and at reduced price.  You can find these here.

We continue to sort through our church library material–you are welcome to any book you see other than those in the Jerry Davis Library shelf (enclosed).  There are some hymnals which are wonderful aids in devotion and prayer; keeping a hymnal on your nightstand allows you to pray (or sing of course!) in the night.


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The Church As Table


Sunday was a fabulous day with wonderful music, singers and musicians; prayers and scripture; and a sermon about “Table Stories.”  In that sermon the following definition of Church was offered:  ”The church is that group of persons who by gratitude and thanksgiving, offer a banquet in honor of the Christ and invites others to join them there so they can meet him.”  And from there I asserted:

“How preposterous then that the church is divided along lines of race and class, gender and orientation.  We follow Jesus, who invited everyone to share at table with him and in turn, was willing to enter anyone’s home who invited him.  The church ought to be offering a table of welcome and hospitality to all.  That is our mission. That is our identity. ”

Aren’t you tired of worshipping in a church that works on cutting people out, kicking folks off the island, putting out torches instead of lighting them?  Why would you remain in a church that hates you or, for that matter, hates anyone? Aren’t you tired of not worshipping, of sitting out and avoiding holy spaces because you’re afraid of unholy and mean people?  I know a place that practices a radical table fellowship. Christ shows up there.  We would love to hear your table story and have you join with us because life is too short not to pray, praise, connect, commune, celebrate, weep together, laugh together, journey together in this sacred journey.  ~See you Sunday.


Riverside Church Cherry Blossoms

Seasonal Transformation


Seasonal transformation is all around us.  True, we had snow last week and the temperatures have been below average so many of us are walking around with our heads down as we walk into wind gusts and wind chills that elicit grunts and curses. Where is Spring!? we ask.

Of course, Spring has erupted already. The Forsythia, the leafing out of trees, the buds and flowers that ornament streets we pass through and lanes we walk down, all remind us of this fact. The grass is greener.  The transformation is under way and evolves until one magical moment when sun and warmth coincide with brilliant sky blue and landscapes of trees and flowers and we know… we have passed across the threshold of Winter into Spring.

Little wonder then that this season fills us with hope for the transformation of our own lives.  Now we can take all of this for granted. We can chalk it up to how things “just happen” and pretend the world around us is deaf and dumb. But oh, it is not.  The world is talking to us, it is a dialogical masterpiece threaded with conversation and information that, should we take time to hear, will inform our own lives. The psalmist declared [139:14],

 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works

In this season of transformation may your and my life be transformed.  May the Spirit of change and renewal restore you and make you whole.  This Sunday, let us join together in praise with the entire earth, for “the time of singing has come.”  ~See you Sunday


Preparing to Leave, Preparing to Arrive


stack of books

Strewn along the tops of the tables in the Foster Room are books from the Jerry Davis Library. There are books from the 1960s, some of which deal with issues that threatened the unity of churches (Black Power and Civil Rights, homosexuality, gender equality) and on this side of the 21st Century, it is fascinating to see how our brave little church stood up for Civil Rights, women and gay men and women. Those issues at that time were fuzzy, murky and unclear but our church found a way (and still does) to speak with clarity.  There are books about war and politics and there are of course a myriad of religious books.

Speaking of which, I noticed there are several hymnbooks (some given as gifts to the church in honor of loved ones at Fifth Baptist Church).  These hymnbooks are somewhat dated but I have said more than once that a practice of piety that you can count on is to have a hymnbook at your night stand so when you cannot sleep or are troubled, you can open that hymnbook and read a hymn as a prayer.  There are several–help yourselves and in the process, enrich  and encourage your spiritual life.

We are sifting and sorting now.  Our summer will be a time for such and then, end of September, we should be exiting this building and stepping into our interim worship arrangements.  It is not easy to say goodbye to a building that has offered us sanctuary and where we have evolved as individuals and as a congregation into God’s people. We will do so with dignity and hope. Christ tells the Church (in The Revelation of John), “Behold, I make all things new.”  We will trust in him to do so with us, for we have been and are in dialogue not only with our architect (Phillip Renfrow), but we are and have been in prayer with the Architect and Designer of worlds.  Of all the things we take with us, let us be sure to take our brave discipleship.  Of all we leave behind, may we leave malice, anger, grudges or anything else that weighs us down in our journey.  I love how Numbers (10:11) describes the journey about to begin as Moses led the children of Israel into their interim wandering through the wilderness:

Then the Israelites set out by stages

from the wilderness of Sinai

By stages, methodically, full of faith and dedicated to Christ who calls us to the future, let us prepare to leave. Let us prepare to arrive! ~ See you Sunday