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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

 

The Interim Journey: November 2016

A Stone from the Sea of Galilee, gifted to Riverside Baptist Church by Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah.

A Stone from the Sea of Galilee, gifted to Riverside Baptist Church by Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah.

For a while now those of you who have been attending worship have realized that I really like this text from the book of Numbers, the tenth chapter, in the Hebrew scriptures, that speaks to the wilderness wandering led by Moses after the people have been to Sinai and covenanted with God.

11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle of the testimony, 12 and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. . .

I love the texture of those verses, their concreteness, their particularity, striking into time itself the moment when they got up and began to journey.  So it is, that in November of 2016, Riverside Baptist Church is also on a journey.  We can call it our interim journey since we have an endpoint or goal to our “wandering.”  The old church building is about to be deconstructed, its stained glass saved for the new building and then in December it may come down.  The expectation is that we will enter our new church building by September 30, 2018.  We might want to enter on Reformation Sunday of 2018–that would be fitting and an inspiration all by itself!

We are carrying with us during this time a stone from the First Baptist Church in America gathered by Roger Williams in 1638 and we’ll place this stone near the date stone of our new building; we are carrying with us a stone from the Sea of Galilee where Christ ministered and first called disciples and we will place that at the threshold of the new sanctuary once we reach our destination.  And we carry with us the vision of this collective of radical Baptists who believe in soul freedom, the separation of Church and State, and the priesthood of believers, believing our voice raised for justice and peace is as vital now as ever.

Meanwhile, we worship in the auditorium of Jefferson Middle School Academy on Seventh Street at 10 a.m. Sundays.  We are vibrant. We are full of hope.  And we invite you to worship and travel with us.  ~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