Tag Archives: black lives matter

What Did You Do In a Time of Cruelty?

beloved_communityWho the heck is running things?  Have you ever asked that? Maybe at the Department of Motor Vehicles?  The doctor’s waiting room?  The grocery checkout?  Our country?

For two weeks I have been “gone” on vacation and I can tell you what I did not do:  never turned on the television; did not read one news article in print or online.  I was in solitude and dialed into contemplative mode.  I highly recommend that you practice a news blackout for at least one day in the week for your own sanity and peace.  It was indeed a restorative time as I did not digest the toxic spew gushing out of the White House and Congress.

We, by which I mean our country, have descended to depths of depravity and cruelty that defy reason.  We are a rich and resourceful country. There is no reason to grant massive transfers of wealth to the richest while denying citizens access to healthcare.  There is no reason to separate children from their parents and imprison them for the crime of fleeing poverty and violence.  No reason other than an intentional cruelty.  There is no way to square what we are seeing with the compassion of Christ and those Christians who have provided cover for this administration’s assault on dignity should stop doing so.  Immediately.

Look, kingdoms rise and fall.  Princes, Kings and Presidents come and go.  We will survive this presidency of petulance and hate but soberly speaking, we will not return immediately to what we were or could have been.  The debacle and sin that is this administration and the Congress will take a generation to undo.  Meanwhile, here is what you can say to those who ask you how you are navigating this treacherous time:  I belong to a community of faith that week in and week out seeks to live as the Beloved Community.  That is worth more than I can put into words.  Doing so ennobles your life, provides you peace and luminously illustrates to the world what the world needs to know—that  we are made in God’s image and we can and are obligated to treat  others as though they carry within them God’s image.

I hope to see you in the Beloved Community on Sunday as Westminster Presbyterian and Riverside Baptist Churches worship together.  11:00. Sunday. At Westminster Presbyterian in SW, DC.  Step out of the madness and into a community of peace, justice and compassion.

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The Church in Shadowland America

End the Cruelty:  National Council of Churches Statement on Separating Children of Immigrant Families.

If you can cast a shadow—be it your hand on the wall of your imprisonment or your body along the sidewalk you navigate—there is light. Shadow is not possible without light.

We are living in dark days, our country unraveled from former notions of democracy and human rights. We separate children from mothers and fathers at the borderlands while our highest officials quote from holy scripture to defend the profane and hideous.  Shadowland and shadows everywhere.

The maelstrom of heated rhetoric,  a firestorm of disunion and civil war, sends sheets of flame across newspaper, social media and congress.  We cannot seem to enter any conversation anywhere—homes, offices, churches—without the pollution of smoked and incendiary speech. Where is peace? Where the words of grace and inclusion?

I sat in a church this last Sunday, Westminster Presbyterian Church in SW DC, along with members of my church, Riverside Baptist Church, and we sang sweet words of sacred timbre; we prayed words in fervent desire for healing and repair of our lives; we read ancient texts devoted to the Holy; listened to a proclaimer of scripture remind us of faithfulness and a heart of obedience; we shared food at table and we embraced one another.  It was a luminous beehive of peace and justice.  We were radiant and because there is Light, we can see light. And yes, there are shadows in this shadowland of what used to be a beacon of freedom and light called America.  Just remember: if you can cast a shadow, there must be light.

I hope to you see you this coming Sunday at Westminster [400 I St.] where two churches dedicated to light and peace and justice meet.  11 a.m. Beloved:   Sing. Pray. Be the beloved community.

A view of the steel frame from above at the Canopy Hotel.

O Happy Day: Topping Out Ceremony and Pentecost

Deacon Holley took the microphone to sing O Happy Day Sunday morning at the construction site and let go a torrent of joy. We had just worshipped on Pentecost Sunday, recalling the birth of the Church; were reminded of Jacob’s ladder that connected heaven and earth in a dream so vivid that when he woke up, he anointed the stone he had used for a pillow and named it Bethel, House of God; and then we walked over to the site of our church, presently in steel frame and concrete. It was a glorious moment with clouds finally lifted and the rain parted and stopped.  We had the opportunity to sign a steel pillar that HITT had painted white for us and then with markers, scribbled our names on it.  O Happy Day indeed!

Our “wilderness wandering” is not quite over, however.  After eighteen months worshipping in Jefferson Middle School (that was so gracious to us and provided us not only worship space but choir rehearsal space), we are now headed over to Westminster Presbyterian Church at 4th and I Streets. And how grateful we are that Westminster has opened their doors to us.  Our first service there will be Sunday, June 17th. Our worship time will change to 11 a.m. as we both, Riverside and Westminster, try to actualize what our Lord actually prayed we would do: be one.  A shared service is a remarkable opportunity to grow as Christians, to deepen our bonds of love, to share in ministry in our community and find ways, long after our interim journey is finished, to continue being an ecumenical fellowship.

As we adjust and overcome the challenges put before us, I would simply remind all of us what the write to the Hebrews urged 2,000 years ago:

11:24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…

~See you Sunday

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We Are One

This past Sunday Westminster Presbyterian Church and Riverside Baptist Church worshipped together and afterward shared in a potluck lunch.  We have worshipped together previously–back on Christmas Eve Sunday 2017, we were invited by Westminster to join them since we could not worship at Jefferson Middle School. And I was invited to preach. Then on Maundy Thursday of this year we shared in a service in the evening and again, I was invited to preach. So it was only fair that we invite Westminster into our interim space on a Sunday and their co-pastor, Ruth Hamilton, preached to us.

What a superlative experience!  Pastor Ruth’s sermon was brilliant, refreshing and spot on. Perhaps I’m gushing because I had the day off for preaching and could sit and listen but I heard other of our members remarking on how wonderful it was to not only hear Ruth’s sermon, but to worship together with a congregation that shares so many of our values and passion for justice and peace.

Our unity in Christ is a given.  We do not create that unity but God has accomplished this already in Christ.  It only makes sense then that we move forward in these coming days, weeks and months as people united, on the way to actualizing God’s love in our community, our city and our world.  I will be speaking with co-pastors Ruth and Brian in the coming days about how we do that.  We will pray and dream about how we worship together and how we share in mission.  I invite you to pray and dream with us. Finally, a shout out to our singers, choir and musicians! You made our Sunday very, very special.  ~See you Sunday

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Earth Day Sunday Ecumenical Tree of Life

Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day Sunday.  Many years ago, we provided an office for Dr. Jim Ball who had begun a venture I thought at the time was a fruitless endeavor, CreationCare.  His goal was to confront evangelicals with the truth of climate change and the biblical mandate to be good stewards of the earth.  Now, many years later, all I can say is, thank you, Jim!  Rolling Stone magazine identified him as a climate change warrior. So Riverside has had a stake in at the very least supporting efforts to educate and advocate for environmental protections. This Sunday will be another opportunity to reflect and take seriously the call to stop polluting the earth.

Joining us will be our friends from Westminster Presbyterian Church.  Co-Pastor Ruth Hamilton will be preaching in our service at Jefferson Middle School at 10 a.m. and then we’ll amble together to Westminster for a potluck, shared lunch (bring food to share, please).  Could it be that Riverside and Westminster are planting a tree of life in SW on this Earth Day Sunday?  I think so. In fact, I would say we are well on the way to doing that, having shared in a Christmas Eve Service just this past December and recently in a Maundy Thursday Worship together.  Westminster is so rooted in justice and community service and Ruth and Brian have been devoted servants in their church and our community. It is an honor to receive them into our worship this coming Sunday.  I hope you’ll join us to welcome them. And look, what we’re finding as we share is that we inspire each other, enjoy each other and through this fellowship we improve our community.  So this coming Sunday, join us for an Earth Day Ecumenical Tree of Life planting!

~See you Sunday

Oh, Freedom!

April 4, 1968: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize. Hold On.

This week is a watershed moment in our nation’s history as we ponder the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.  While there are an array of things you can do on Wednesday to honor Dr. King’s legacy and life, I hope you’ll consider going to the nation’s Mall and stand with others who are calling on our nation to End Racism Now, sponsored by the National Council of Churches.

This is also a configurative moment in the life of our church, for Riverside Baptist Church had just completed its building and had set its first worship at 7th & Maine Avenue for Sunday, April 7th, Palm Sunday.  That service was cancelled in lieu of the rioting that broke out in the city, following the Dreamer’s death.  Fifth Baptist Church was reborn,  from a bustling white church of a thousand in 1957, to  a few handfuls of persons that had stayed after the urban “renewal” project in the ’60s; it slowly but surely became a bi-racial church at the behest of Rev. Frank Foster who, after ministering in the streets after those riots while pastor at National Memorial Baptist, came to Riverside.

Now in 2018, extrajudicial executions continue and those who carry them out are not held to account. Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, and very recently in Sacramento, Stephon Clark was shot by police eight times in his back. He was unarmed. He was Black.  As the New York Times columnist, Charles Blow, notes, “These shootings keep happening because, on some level, America finds them acceptable, finds them unfortunate but unavoidable.”

We are a small church. Since 1968, we have moved toward being a church that is bravely actualizing the dream that all of us are equal and can find a way to live together instead of perishing together, as Dr. King would say.  We are vibrantly opposed to the idea that the worship hour must remain the most segregated hour in America. We are passionately engaged in embracing all of God’s children. And we have been marching and calling on our nation to honor Black Lives because they matter as much as other lives.  We obviously have a long way to go.  The world needs a church like ours. We want to live up to that high calling. I hope to see you on the Mall on Wednesday. I will certainly see you at Jefferson Middle School for worship on Sunday.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Hold on.

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