Category Archives: Featured

magnetic pull

The Magnetic Pull of Hatred and the White House

How many noose incidents have we seen in the last two months?  How many incidents of racist assault and murder?  How many women jeered and made less safe?  From murders to assault and harassment, the uptick in violence and hatred is palpable. Include in this a xenophobia generated at a level perhaps unseen in this country since WWI and then try to keep up with a daily barrage of insult and banter from the twitterverse of the President; add to that hostile decisions aimed at the earth and its climate and one is left with feelings of exhaustion and fear.

When there are are so many separate events, how is a citizen to make sense of it all?  Patterns.  Patterns are those larger rubrics that are comprised of individual actions or particles. So you don’t have to be familiar with each single incident to know that there is a pattern at work.  And we see it vividly with this presidency of hatred.  I don’t know what else to call it–the President had an audience with Pope Francis who appealed to him not to abandon America’s commitment to the earth as articulated in the Paris accord and days later, Mr. Trump abandons the accord.  He has made of our country an outlier of civilization and science.  We are alone, willing to pollute the world and not own what damage we have done to our planet.  Curiously, many in the conservative Christian communities voted for him because of their single-issue obsession with abortion.  They voted to protect the life of the unborn but handed the presidency over to a man who is willing to abandon generations both living and unborn to a dying world, choking to death on pollution.

Think of these events from pollution of the earth and its exploitation to racist and anti-religious hatred as magnetic filings.  You know what happens when metal filings are poured onto a surface. They simply lie there with no pattern.  Place a magnet nearby and the filings move as though energized and they take shape in patterns dictated by that magnet.  The metal filings of hatred are moving and they are lining up and when you watch them, they are moving toward the White House.  The current Congress may not hold President Trump accountable for these hatreds, for hating our NATO allies while fawning over Russia, for its racist and misogynist overtones, but history will clearly show how these patterns of hatred flowed in direct reaction to a White House run by White Nationalist ideology and hatred of science.

But the Christian is called to a greater force than any magnetic pull of a spiteful megalomaniacal ruler and that greater force is Love. So when you step back and look at the larger picture, you will see churches and synagogues and mosques and temples and yes, humanists both religious and atheist, who are doing their dead-level best to treat the earth and one another with love and dignity.  That Love force has a magnetic pull greater than hate.  In these dangerous times, we must believe that and then act with hope and determination.  Nothing less than the fate of our earth and the fates of millions of persons demand this.  ~See you Sunday

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Life at Riverside:::Worship as Defiance

Life at Riverside Baptist Church this week includes:

Prayer Retreat   Nearly 30 of us are signed up for a full day retreat at Bon Secouers Conference Center where we will be led in ancient ways of prayer including the Liturgy of the Hours, the Prayer of the Heart, and the Lectio Divina.  A Baptist Church bringing congregants to a Roman Catholic Retreat center and being led by a Sister of the order of Bon Secouers and an Oblate of the order of St. Benedict is a vivid illustration of our church’s commitment to ecumenical cooperation.  We value one another and we benefit by the truths and disciplines of one another.  The goal of our retreat is twofold. First, we want to create a peaceful respite from the noise of the world. Thankfully, Bon Secouers has already accomplished that. Second, we want to begin creating contemplative disciplines that will take that peace with us as we leave and benefit our faith and practice for months and years to come.

Deacon Ordination   One aspect of Baptist polity is its congregational polity. That is, we believe in the autonomy of the local church –we do not believe the gifts of the Gospel and the Church reside only in some ecclesiastical hierarchy.  So we call persons out of the congregation to serve the church. Deacons are those who serve the church by extending pastoral care to the congregation. They oversee its two ordinances, Baptism and Holy Communion.  They provide wise counsel to the pastor. Therefore they are ordained to this office, this function, by the church.  We will ordain two new deacons on Sunday, June 4th, in our morning worship. The rite of “laying on of hands” and praying for their empowerment resides with the church and each individual believer.  A simple ritual, it is nonetheless powerful in its expression of local Baptist autonomy and the priesthood of believers. Finally, we ordain women as deacons (and pastors as far as that goes), believing in the egalitarian nature of the Church.  The Deacon Board is not a boy’s club, at least it should not be.  We also ordain LGBT believers as deacons, again believing there is no discrimination at the welcoming table of Christ.  A radically free and Christ-centric church—this is who we are.

Conclusion to Study of Job  Our seminary intern from Wesley Seminary and Aspirant, Tonetta, will conclude our First Sunday Bible Study series on Job on June 4th, following worship.  Tonetta, formerly an English teacher and in her final year at Wesley, brings literary and theological insights to bear on this study.

Worship is the “work” of the church.  It is the most important thing we do.  Worship is not entertainment though one would be hard pressed to conclude otherwise when looking at the religious landscape in our consumer society.  Worship is crossing a threshold into the presence of the Holy and finding oneself in a communion with other kindred souls.  Worship is also a primal act of defiance against idolatries that currently consume our country’s energy and time—idolatries of celebrity cults of personality that includes the current occupant of the White House; idolatries of political power aimed at hobbling the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, women and minorities.  In worship, we may enter as persons sorted out and tagged by the larger culture’s interest, but once we enter this space and sacred time, we are transformed into equals, fellow human beings made in the image of God.  I hope you will worship with us Sunday and resist the forces of darkness. Step into the light and peace of God. ~See You Sunday

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Pastoral Meanderings On Memorial Day

War is a sin.

Sometimes the greater sin is not to stand against evil.  We live in a fallen world.

The Nation State is idolatrous by nature.  Christians therefore should be very careful when the Nation State tries to convince them of what is evil and who must die for it.

Christ was murdered by and for an empire (the First Century Roman).  Those who fight for any empire need to be aware of the risks of executing Christs.

Those who refuse to fight evil on the principle of peace should be careful that peace does not become a shield for cowardice and at least seriously entertain the notion that a refusal to fight evil because of peace may in fact destroy peace.  No one less than Gandhi –that great soul who coined the term, satyagraha (soul force) and practiced non-violence–had at one time threatened to offer himself as a combatant soldier.  “And this because,” he said, “I see that my countrymen are not refraining from acts of physical violence because of love for their fellows, but from cowardice; and peace with cowardice is much worse than a battlefield with bravery.”

Christ led no army, did not participate in raids or battles.  He said, “blessed are the peacemakers.”

The United States is not a Christian nation.  Christians of all kinds should wake up and accept that as not only a fact but a necessity for pluralistic, peaceful government.  Muslims and others who assert the U.S. is a Christian country often do so in order to conjure up the ghosts of the Arabic Conquest and the aftermath of Crusades.

Seek peace and pursue it.  Wage Peace.

Violence as a strategy for resolution of conflict is innately self-contradictory.  America’s cities are awash in blood because we have accepted the lie of violence.

The world is awash in blood and war in large part because religions have embraced violence and corrupted their holy scriptures, using what is holy for what is most corrupt and horrific. Religion has for too long been and is “a refuge of human savagery” [Whitehead].  Beware then of religion.

The sons of the Enlightenment and science provided the world with efficient tools of mechanized death, poison gas, airplanes that became weapons, the nuclear bomb and many, many other hideous weapons.  Beware then of those who claim science and reason have made them superior.

For those who have given their service and sacrificed their bodies and minds and given the supreme sacrifice of their lives for freedom, we hallow your memory and thank you for your bravery and service.

Memorial Day is the day we remember these sacrifices.  It is also a day we pray that there will be no more wars and no more soldiers added to the list of the remembered because peace has overcome war.

Until that day, we are compelled to live in two realms.  One realm is our own country. The other realm is the kingdom of God.  One will end. The other will never end.  Let this instruct your navigation of these realms.

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A Church Is A Theater Is A Church Is A …

The Swiss architect, Mario Botta, who designed Évry Cathedral, spoke about churches and their design in an interview with Judith Dupre:

It’s a bit like theater. The theater is also for those who don’t go to the theater because it’s a place of collective imagination. It’s a place where people go to buy a ticket to Dream. People think, “My city is rich because it has a theater-even if I don’t go to the theater.”   A church is a rich addition to a city, even for those who don’t go to church. It becomes a human institution like a library, bank, stadium.

There is so much to appreciate in this statement!  Religion and the arts have always been hand-in-glove.  Indeed, the function of roles, art, performance and yes, that idea of “collective imagination” are all so spot on and insightful.  I also like his willingness to speak to the larger culture that does not “go to church,” suggesting–no, instructing–that a city is enriched by the presence of a church in its midst.  Frankly, this is something that percolates in conversations with Monty Hoffman when we talk about the design and construction of our new building, arriving in the Fall of 2018.  Charged with the development of the entire Wharf, he is a person who has both an historic regard for and appreciation for the presence of a church (indeed churches) within the matrix of what is being created along the Tidal Basin.  Whether or not you attend a church, a church can be a human institution that raises the quotient of humane and intellectual discourse in a community.  At least it should and one would hope churches and their architects would aspire to such. We at Riverside certainly do so and our architect, Philip Renfrow of GBR, has melded a rich theological appreciation with a keen modernist/post-modern vocabulary in the sanctuary his team has designed for us.

Arena Stage is a nearby marvel and beautiful landmark in our SW community.  It has been and continues to be a place where one “buys a ticket in order to dream a while.” We at Riverside are not so different.  We are about to provide a beautiful and evocative space of collective imagination where people enter for a station of rest and peace, to dream of justice and mercy in the light of God’s mercy and love.

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Architectural rendering of Riverside Baptist Church, DC, arriving Fall 2018

~See you Sunday (meanwhile, we are in a middle school auditorium and very grateful to Jefferson and DCPS for allowing us to rent their space where, in an auditorium with a stage, we transform a theater into a church inside a school).

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An Administration of Bandits

The African Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, writing in the dusk of the Roman empire in his book, The City of God:  “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.”

Mr. Trump meet Bishop Augustine.  America, meet your Congress that is dedicated to obstruction and falsification and yes, burdening the poor while enriching the wealthy.  How does one live faithfully in a kingdom of bandits?  By refusing to sacrifice the assembling of one another in worship; by resisting evil by what is right and just; by rallying around those at risk and certainly, by all means, being willing to name the gansters and bandits, Diabolus.  The Congress could begin to redeem its soul by naming a Special Prosecutor to pursue Russia’s entanglement with the Trump campaign and our national election.  The judgement of God is not always swift. Sometimes it is a slow train coming around the bend (thanks to Dylan).  I can hear the click-clack rumble of that train.

DC Bike Ride Interferes With Sunday May 14

smack-self-in-the-headOnce again, we find ourselves being challenged with DC traffic on Sunday as yet another race closes down streets near us on May 14th, Mother’s Day Sunday.  DC Bike Ride may be the most challenging yet since the course comes up 7th St. There will be NO access to Jefferson Middle School on Sunday the 14th.   Those who are able may want to metro in.  SW residents will have no problem walking to the school for worship.  If you plan to drive in, we have permission to park at the Wharf from PNHoffman.  Be sure to download the map below so you can see how to access that parking lot.  You will have to enter SW via 4th St or 6th St. Once you are at 6th and Maine, you can loop around St. Augustine’s Church and enter the lot or you may continue on 7th and then U-turn at 7th and Maine (where our building stood) and then turn right into the lot. We will have someone stationed at that point to provide you a pass for parking and you can display it on your dashboard.  We are grateful for the generosity of PNHoffman in providing us this solution.

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