Tag Archives: baptist inclusive church

Time Is Filled With Swift Transition

New Church of Riverside Baptist, rendering from 7th and Maine.

New Church of Riverside Baptist, rendering from 7th and Maine.

The Gospel song, Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand, begins with this noble truth:  ”Time is filled with swift transition…”

Riverside Baptist Church has for seventeen months worshipped at Jefferson Middle School. We are so grateful to Jefferson and the DC Public Schools for allowing us to worship in their auditorium on Sundays and have choir rehearsal on Thursday evenings.  We will always remember this kindness extended to us when others in our community could not open their doors to us. We have been in SW since 1857 and yet, it was this middle school that opened their doors and let us in. Thank you, Jefferson!

The school will be renovating soon and we are happy for this moment when their school is updated and modernized. For us, it means we need to find another location to worship until we enter our new church.  We should have news about this very soon. Meanwhile, we anticipate our last service at Jefferson to be Sunday, June 10th.

Our foundation is due to be completed by end of March. We will see the steel structure go up in April. Pentecost Sunday, May 20, we will have a “topping out” ceremony, walking from Jefferson over to the construction site to see the steel structure and say a prayer and sing a song.  We are being told the building will be completed November of this year.  So “hold on to God’s unchanging hand” as the song goes.  How long? Not long.  Time is filled with swift transition. We are marching onward and forward in the light of God.  See you Sunday.


Another Bend In The River

Pastor Bledsoe returns to the pulpit this Sunday, March 18. In a sermon entitled, “Another Bend in The River,” he will provide important news on our interim journey that will impact us for the next several months.  You’ll want to be here for this.

Our new church “milestones” are tacking along well.  Our foundation will be completed by end of this month and the steel structure for the church should be up by end of April. We will have a “topping out” celebration on Pentecost Sunday, May 20th, when we will walk over from Jefferson Middle School School the site so we can see the structure and offer a prayer of thanksgiving.  We are being told that sometime in the  first week of November, our new church will be ready to enter. These are milestones, mind you, not guarantees but the construction firm and development team seem confident of these dates.  May God watch over those who work on our site and keep them safe.  May the Lord lead us, the sheep of his pasture, safely home. ~ See you Sunday.


The Falconer Calls

The Gospel is overheard as much as it is directly preached to persons.  Like a beggar who overhears where there is bread, the Gospel is handed out in crust and slices to those who find their way to the servers.  We preach the Gospel, sing the Gospel, proclaim it through prayer and meditate on it like an artist meditates on the painting of another artist, searching for clues— and we do that every Sunday.  But Monday – Saturday, we practice it in a myriad of kindnesses, mercies, affirmations, and sometimes by bold and prophetic action as we stand beside the weak, the marginal, the bullied, the elderly, the young and all who inhabit the continuum of what we call existence. And along that continuum, as its string of “present” episodes become a string of pearls we call a day or a week, people overhear the Gospel.  And there are days, not always, but sometimes there are days when the entire web of existence is a shimmering vibration of light and goodness. To stand in that light!  ah. To resonate so that we vibrate in our own goodness!  wow.  To be part of a community of faith, hope and love!  OMG meets ML&MG (my Lord and my God, the confession of Doubting Thomas).

Now what has any of this to do with anything.  Simply this: when the center holds, the circle of life revolves and holds.  The orbit of our daily existences spins in symmetric harmony.  When the center does not hold or there is no center or someone has replaced the Holy One with an idol like a gun or war or hatred then, well,  as W. B. Yates said it in his fantastic and alarming herald of a poem, The Second Coming, in that first stanza:

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity. 

I ask you, has the blood-dimmed tide been loosed?  Indeed, it is praised by the craven and the posers of patriotism.  Where are the best among us, ready to serve and to stand? Are not the worst full of passionate intensity? We have seen them in the streets of Charlottesville.

There is a center, however. It holds. We gather ‘round it on Sundays at 10 a.m. over at Jefferson Middle School Auditorium (for now).  The Falconer calls.

~See you Sunday


The Beloved Community in a Middle School Auditorium

On Sunday, February 25th, we handed out grants to seven of the ten groups our Endowment Team had chosen in an effort to “bless those who heal the world.”  This year we heard from each of the grantees in what I can only describe as a crescendo of joy and hope.  Each of these recipients represented their organization in splendid fashion. We were moved to tears by their testimony and their work.  It occurred to me as I listened that we were seeing nothing less than an actualization of the Beloved Community in a middle school auditorium.  With squeaky chairs, powerful songs and a modest room with two banners and a table with candles, we were transformed.

I couldn’t help but think as well that we were sitting inside a public school where children are sent every day of the week, Monday through Friday. They arrive to learn, not to shiver in fear for being shot.  We who worship there pray fervently for these children at Jefferson Middle School and of course, in schools throughout our nation.  As a nation, we can do far better than proposing mad “solutions” like arming teachers.  This suggestion made by the President is especially grievous and utterly illogical.  Let us as a church discover ways to bless the school in which we find ourselves.  Of course, we can say that we provided both Jefferson and Amidon with $4,000 grants last year. And that is a way to bless them of course. But above all, let us advocate for their safety and let us vote people into Congress who will stand up to the bloody NRA.  It is past time to get a grip on this and stop allowing one group to pervert the second amendment into a formula for carnage throughout the schools, venues and streets of our country.

Yesterday, we illustrated that people who are very different and do not see eye-to-eye on any number of theological or social matters can reach across that chasm and embrace one another.  Jewish, Islamic, Christian and Agnostic people, working to heal the world, found each other yesterday and in the process of finding one another and embracing, we ourselves were healed and filled with hope. This is how it should be.  Put down your guns.  Put away your sword.  Let us do better.

Billy Graham, Richard Nixon

Billy Graham: Red, White and Blue Crusader

The Southern Baptist churches I grew up in loved Billy Graham and I can remember as a young person listening to his “crusades” on television.  His  oratorical power and presence combined with a fervent and warm religiosity appealed to my family, as he appealed to so many.

Now decades later, I see Rev. Graham in a more complicated way.  Perhaps you have heard that phrase, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  This is sometimes taken up as a slogan for pastors, preachers and journalists!  There is something of the truth that resonates in that slogan.  But what I have come to conclude is that—for whatever reasons, be it naïveté or cynical and machiavellian religion—Billy Graham turned that phrase on its head.  He did not comfort the afflicted  in a time of Viet Nam and Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.  He afflicted the afflicted.  He did not afflict the comfortable but was intwined with the State, providing cover and aid to Richard Nixon and even participating in anti-semitic conversation with the President.  And this is, perhaps, the telling point for me as regards this Baptist preacher who called his mass evangelistic rallies “crusades”—insensitive to the historical reality of what a word like “crusade” even conveys, violence in the name of Christ—he was a Baptist in name but historically severed from Baptist proclamations about liberty and its distrust of the State.  When he wrapped the Gospel in the American flag and became a spokesperson for the Empire, he looked less and less like a Baptist and more and more like a sycophant of the State.  He must, however, be given credit for his having denounced the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Years ago I attended a session of the DC Baptist Convention where Anne Graham Lotz spoke as a keynote speaker.  Her sermon bristled with homophobic rhetoric.  Billy’s son, Franklyn, is a darling of the right wing, using his voice to harm the stranger in our midst, lashing out at Muslims and carrying the cross to oppress women and minorities.  Surely these acorns did not fall far from the tree.

Billy Graham was a true believer.  He was a powerful preacher.  He was a crusader wrapped in red, white and blue.  Those who fell sway to him should soberly ponder his legacy as those who were harmed by him continue to feel oppressed by his ministry and those who carry its torch.



The Perversion of Our Republic

“For the human race is, more than any other species, at once social by nature and quarrelsome by perversion.”
 St. Augustine City of God

“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

―Abraham Lincoln, 28 years old, speaking in Springfield, Illinois

One year of the presidency of Donald Trump, chaos has been sown into our institutions like weeds into a field of wheat.  The State Department has been stripped like bark torn from a tree.  The Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Departments run by men who despise the very mission of those institutions.  The Supreme Court undermined by the majority leader who refused to hold hearings on President Obama’s choice until Donald Trump could appoint a darling of the right wing.  The sins of commission and omission are simply too numerous to mention. As I type this, the Republicans are undermining the impartial investigation into the Russian subterfuge of our election of a president, preferring instead to protect an authoritarian whose incompetence bewilders even the most jaded of commentators.  Mr. Ryan, armed with the philosophy of Aynd Rand (who believed altruism is destructive), is dead set on shredding not only The Affordable Care Act but Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.  All but the 1% are at risk.

Our Republic is perverted. Its covenantal ties of citizenship severed, the talking heads spend their waking hours stoking hatred and division.  What do we do in the face of this perversion?

We live with dignity and justice. We covenant together in faith, hope and love and show up in worship to honor a Just God who expects justice. We take concrete steps like we will do next month as we dispense $25,000 in grants to agencies that heal, mend and work for justice (this will be the second time in two years that we have contributed such grants).  Next month, on President’s Day, several of us will join with seven other congregations of Jews, Muslims and Christians at Temple Micah to break bread together and worship together so we can state with courage and joy: E Pluribus Unum!

Be part of this.  Discover the power of worship in your life to set you free from fear. Step into courage and hope.   ~See you Sunday