Tag Archives: baptist inclusive church

Statue-of-Liberty-crying-628x356

When Your Existence Is Your Crime

Friday, June 16.  Philando Castile’s extrajudicial executioner was acquitted on all charges by a Minneapolis jury.

Wednesday, June 21.  Sylville Smith’s extrajudicial executioner was acquitted on all charges by a Milwaukee jury.

Friday, June 23.  Samuel DuBose’s killer is free because a jury in Cincinnati was deadlocked and this for a second time.

Two Sundays ago, I preached a sermon, PROUD, in honor of PRIDE week and in remembrance of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. In that sermon I quoted from the novel,  Notes From a Crocodile by Qui Miaojin, in which her major character, Lazi, a young gay woman in Taiwan, talks about her life and the life of LGB persons in post-martial Taiwan in the 1980s, saying that she and others like her are confined to the prison of stigma and abuse simply because, “your crime is your existence.”

Philando, a gun owner whom, were he white and shot like he was by a policeman, would have had the NRA howling in protest but of course, because he was Black, the NRA is strangely silent, was guilty of one thing that day that led to his execution. His crime was his existence.

This happens over and over in our country.  If you’re a White Republican congressman who is shot, then a howl goes up but strangely enough, it is not a howl about the proliferation of guns but a howling aimed at demonizing liberals as if the only ones killing in this country of upwards of 30 and 40 thousand handgun deaths annually were committed by ideological leftists.  This would be analogous to blaming liberal waiters for food poisoning diners and then refusing to ever investigate the root cause of the outbreak.  But I digress. You can read my blog post about that here, “Armed and Dangerous.”

Any number of groups of our fellow citizens are threatened daily—women, African Americans, GLBT, Jews, Immigrants of various kinds by a hatred and violence that is simply unacceptable.  We won’t pretend, by the way, that many of these groups aren’t demonized and abused and even killed within their own minority communities.  But here is the terrible fact facing us today:  not only is a withering violence permitted by police (and others) against persons who are deemed by their very existence to be criminal but we have a Congress and a President who perpetuate it and we have, as a people, condoned it.

I’m a clergyperson and am very tempted to say to these perpetrators and their advocates who are now complicit in their heinous crimes that they are going to hell. But that won’t solve the hell we have created right here, right now.  White folks, you got a ton of atoning work to do.  Mr. President, you should grow up and lend your voice to healing our country.   Congress, you are about to commit a crime against millions of Americans, sending them down a river of suffering and loss by opposing their fundamental right to healthcare. And we know you have sold your souls–Democrats and Republicans alike–for NRA money.   Church, fellow citizens, there are better angels calling to our natures and our actions.  We should listen to them.

Black Lives Matter.  Stop Violence Against Women and convict their rapists and murderers.  Love your neighbor, including immigrants.  Stop blaming Jews for the murder of Christ, Roman soldiers in the First Century did that.  LGBT citizens deserve to live fully, freely and protected by the Constitution.  And for once, hold accountable a police officer who carries out what is an extrajudicial execution.

shelter_rain

The Rhythm of Spirit, the Practice of Peace

On June 3rd, about 23 of us entered the sacred space of  Bon Secours Retreat Center in Maryland for a one day retreat devoted to the practice of prayer through the Divine Office and the Lectio Divina.  We were dialed into the rhythm and phases of the day and came to understand the vital practice of praying in the morning and evening as markers along the journey. Some of us will pray at noon and others may do so at the other offices of the day. But here’s the thing–we have kindled a practice of peace, turning and redirecting ourselves from the noise and belligerence of the world around us (and obviously by now we know that the media is belligerent or to put it more precisely, it is a platform for the belligerent). Turn away.  Center down. Breathe deeply.  Read a psalm. Pray a psalm.  Chant a psalm.  Practice silence.  There is a rhythm of the Spirit and a practice of peace and how much we need this in our lives!  Otherwise, what?  Otherwise we are tossed by every wave of news and events that erupt in a day, a week, a month.  Aren’t you exhausted by that?  Of course, we all are.  Practice this rhythm of the Spirit. If you want to discuss with me how you can implement this in your life, feel free to email me and set up a time.

Gathering for worship on Sundays is also a significant part of that rhythm of Spirit and practice of peace.  You get to feel a part of the continent, of the whole; you embrace that which is greater than your self but at the same time have your singularity and uniqueness affirmed. By Song and prayer and scripture and proclamation, we are placed at the center of the celebration of our common humanity and shared humanity; we commune with the Holy One; the Good Shepherd leads us to green valleys and still waters.  Why stay away from that? Why not be part of that? Come on.  You will be welcomed here and we need you as much as you need us.  There is a rhythm of Spirit and a Practice of Peace.   ~See you Sunday

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

hand-in-hand_21071782

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

see_hear_speak_noevil

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.

9608022_2a7811aa21_n

25th Anniversary in One Week: The Novel Pastorate

We have nodded to my 25th anniversary as pastor of Riverside Baptist Church this month –provided a collection of sermons, Safe Harbor– and now we conclude with a luncheon after a Sunday morning worship of “testifying.”   This past week has been an appropriate reflection of my 25 years. Here is some of what I did.

I visited and counseled with the sick and the despairing; I kept vigil beside the former First Lady of Fifth Baptist Church, Rosalie Harrison, praying with her, reading psalms, and then commending her to God on Tuesday evening, February 21st. She had told me many years ago that she wanted to live to 100 years old.  I visited her in January to wish her a happy 100th and then, one month later, she left this mortal world with its tears and suffering.  Her graveside service is Thursday the 2nd of March at Fort Lincoln Cemetery.  I spent my day Friday visiting the funeral home and the cemetery to make her arrangements and in between those visits, received word that Lauren was on the way to the hospital to give birth.  I received news last week that Wyatt  was released from Children’s Hospital where he had undergone a significant surgery.  I sat on a bench on a beautiful Spring day of 74 degrees in February with the President of SWNA, a delightful and gifted gentleman who wanted to get to know me and our church better.    Spoke with Ian over at Blind Whino about the possibility of an art show and an alternative worship experience once a month.  Saw  several of our development team  walking our property, hardhats and goggles on as I drove by, headed for an appointment.  I taught a class at Howard Divinity and worked to arrange for as student to serve on a panel discussion of an up and coming play on March 4th at Temple Micah, The Gospel of Lovingkindness, devoted to the issue of prevention of  handgun violence.

Plans, prayers, tears and laughter–my 25 years crystallized in one intense week.  From joy to sorrow and back again, the pastorate at Riverside has been a novel and a sacred journey.   I’d like to conclude this month’s celebration of this anniversary with the Apostle Paul’s benediction in Romans:  For from God and through God and to God are all things. To God be the glory forever. Amen.  ~ See you Sunday