Category Archives: Featured

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Mr Trump Meets Black History Month

February 2nd the President seemed to imply that Frederick Douglass is still alive.  I suppose we can be grateful he knows the name of the lion of Abolition.   This is an educational opportunity not only for the President, but for our country.  February is Black History Month and we have just had illustrated for us in a vivid way why this month dedicated to the struggles and accomplishments of African-Americans is still so very needed.

Speaking of opportunities, I want you to be aware of a play being hosted by our friends at Temple Micah and performed by Mosaic Theater, The Gospel of Loving-Kindness.  Here is what Rabbi Zemel shared with me about this opportunity:

Last year Mosaic Theater ran a production of the “Gospel of Lovingkindness,” a powerful play that addresses gun violence and youth in a poignant, intimate way.  One member of our Gun Violence Prevention working group saw the play and thought it would be an excellent way to raise awareness in our own community.  So we got in touch with Mosaic, and they agreed to bring a traveling production (black box style, minimal blocking, no set) to Temple Micah this March, and to follow it with a post-show discussion, to help us connect with gun violence on a deeper level.  The performance will take place in our sanctuary and is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, March 4th, 2017.
 
One of our group’s primary goals has been to educate children and bring them into the conversation, whenever it is age appropriate.  We believe that this play is appropriate children as young as middle school, if they are accompanied by an adult.  We have also been focusing more recently on the importance of conversations and collaboration with other faith based communities, and we know we must work together if anything is to be done about the gun violence epidemic.  So we would love to partner with you in this endeavor and invite Riverside Baptist to be a part of the experience.  
 
The evening will end with havdalah, the ritual that brings the Jewish Sabbath to a close.  
 

Here is a review of the production from 2015.

This is an educational, interfaith opportunity to educate our youth and lead them to safety. Will you support this effort and bring a young person or youth?  If yes, please email the church or pastor.
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25th Anniversary Sunday of Pastor Bledsoe

This Sunday, February 5th, marks 25 years since Pastor Bledsoe was selected as our pastor.  This is  a significant milestone in the life of both pastor and church.  Join us for worship as the choir and soloists sing, the pastor speaks to the occasion and following the service his new collection of sermons, Safe Harbor, will be available for ten dollars.

Riverside has had long pastorates as a rule, though the minister prior to Pastor Bledsoe was here for about three years. Prior to that, however, Robert Troutman was pastor for fourteen years.  The institutional memory, the continuity and care through generations and over the life span of an individual member are all qualities of a “novel pastorate.”  Churches sometimes go through a revolving door of staff and when this happens, it can be a test to keep folks together. We are a church obviously that prefers longevity to a revolving door.  This does not mean we are not forward-thinking though. After all, we are in the process of building a new church on our corner and steering the congregation to meet the future of new opportunities that await our community as The Wharf comes online.  We are a Christ-Centered, Multi-Cultural, Inclusive, and Ecumenical church, rooted in historic Baptist principles of soul freedom and the priesthood of each believer.  Join us this Sunday as we celebrate this significant moment in the life of our church.

~See you Sunday (at Jefferson Middle School)

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Where is the Gray Wizard? Or, You Shall Not Pass!

So I was thinking of ghosts past on Monday evening,  after getting a notification on my phone from the New York Times that the President had fired the acting Attorney General.  I remembered Richard Nixon in particular.  Then Tuesday morning, I listened to a song from the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings: The King Returns. This in turn reminded me of my favorite scene in that entire trilogy.

It is the scene where the Gray Wizard, Gandalf, defied and shouted to the menace that sought to destroy him and his company of brave hobbits: “You shall not pass!” and as he pronounced that, he drove his staff into the stone pathway. Where in America is the Gray Wizard?  Where is the Republican statesman who will stand up to a presidency that is, in the conservative columnist David Brook’s words, “an ethnic nationalist administration?”   The cowardice and silence of the adults in charge is deafening.  Senators? Congresspersons?  Where are you? It is time to save the nation now. Come out, come out wherever you are.

Monday night in my world religions class at Howard University School of Divinity, I explained the significance of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha (soul force) for Martin Luther King’s non-violent resistance. You can read Dr. King’s explanation in the essay that appends his book of sermons, Strength to Love.  But I told my students, the present may now compel us all to relearn the idea of satyagraha.  Indeed, little did I know that the President would fire the acting Attorney General a few hours later.  The People must now face this nefarious threat to its democracy.

I know that some would accuse me of being political but I am speaking pastorally at this point because the reality is, the country is being  unraveled by a cruel man, a nationalist and bigot of the first order.  Not challenging him may lead to untold suffering and God forbid, death.  This President—remember this—this President did not confer with anyone in Congress about his executive order that deceptively established a religious test for immigrants and turned back refugees seeking safety.  You must ask yourselves then, with whom will he confer when he is tempted to send a nuclear device flying into and crashing a civilization?  Steve Bannon. That is the answer and that answer should rouse decent political leaders on both sides of the aisle to recoil in revulsion and then to stand up and draw a line and tell this President, YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

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The Religious Test for Immigrants is Vile

Years ago I spoke to the horrific war in Syria and in particular, the destruction of Near Eastern Christianity.  We have witnessed the barbaric eradication of individuals and an entire culture not only in Syria but across the Middle East for the “crime” of being Christian.  Saying so does not, however, mean we are not sensitive to Muslims who are also killed and executed by radicals who claim Islam but destroy their own.  And saying so does not mean we agree with the new administration in its efforts to curb immigration by erecting not only a wall but a religious test to keep Muslims out of our country. That is a vile act.  It is not only an affront to the Christ but makes a mockery of the Statue of Liberty and its inscription dedicated to the huddled and tired masses of the world.  Saturday, January 28th, immigrants were placed in holding areas at airports across our country.  Persons with legitimate visas were barred entrance.  This is a dark moment in our nation’s unfolding history, but sadly not a new one.  The U.S. government rejected Jews because it viewed them as a national security risk.  President Trump issued a statement this week on remembering the Holocaust but didn’t even mention Jews, preferring instead to speak in general terms.  Coupled with his executive order that requires a religious test for entry into our country, the President displays either a glaring ignorance or an outright hostility to those who are not “Christian.”

Riverside has an experience with an immigrant who sought refuge in our country because their native land (in eastern Europe) is not safe for LGBT persons.  A couple in our church offered their home and safety for over one year.  Our church tried to bless this person both emotionally and spiritually and with some money now and then.  How blessed we have been to have this person in our midst!  How remarkable to watch this couple offer their home and support.  That, dear friends, is Christ in our midst and the inclusion of this person, providing a safe and welcoming space, is what America is about. Or at least it used to be.

Welcome the stranger. That is a biblical mandate in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. That is a ringing bell of liberty our country has rung throughout its history.  Protest the policy put in place by President Trump.  Resist.  To do so is American patriotism at its best. To do so is to practice the compassion of Christ.

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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/