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
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 11:1
Since 2007, I have worked with our church leadership to research the possibility of development for the goal of financially securing our brave church, a unique Baptist Church that speaks boldly about civil rights, justice and equality. After a decade of ups and downs, of intense work and meetings after meetings, we saw this past week the appearance of our work and our dreams. The steel frame is up. The concrete slab is poured. The new church will be water tight in July and we’ll likely enter for our first service in November. Hallelujah!
The view across the street at Maine Ave.
The view across the street at the corner of 7th Street and Maine Ave.
A view of the steel frame from above at the Canopy Hotel.
Monday morning, April 23rd, the first steel beam was put into place by a crane on our construction site. By Saturday, much of the steel frame was in place. We thank God for this progress and for the many workers who work tirelessly to construct our church. The picture you see was taken on Saturday morning, just six days into the process.
Another kind of steel caught my eye this week. The steel of character. Let me tell you what I mean and the discovery of it was very exciting and joyful.
On Thursday morning I noticed that Google was honoring a 1948 London Olympian from the Netherlands, Fanny Blankers. And clicking on that link, I noticed a Youtube film of the 1948 Olympics that is an hour in length. I immediately thought of Riverside’s own Olympian, Emma Wright, who had grown up in Mississippi, and found her way onto the first American Olympic Team after WWII. She competed in the broad jump. Emma was a gentle, kind, wonderful Christian woman. And how proud we were and are of her! So I began to watch this film from 1948 in hopes that I might see Emma. Sure enough, the film begins with the processional of the athletes into the Olympic Stadium. Late in the processional came the Americans and soon, walking across the screen, there she was! A young woman, proudly representing her country and her family. You can see her in the photo below where she is second from the right. I have made the photo black and white except for Emma. How amazing to reach back into time and find this. She possessed a character of steel. While she is no longer with us and will not walk into our new building in November, we nonetheless sense her presence and remember her. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will preach on “The Horizon of Expectation.” I’ll talk a little about steel and the future. ~See you Sunday
Processional of American athletes in the 1948 London Olympics.
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
Most folks who own a car, especially a used car or one they’ve driven a while, have come to that moment when a mechanic says “your car needs an alignment.”
I found this short description of alignment from the Bridgestone Tire page: “Alignment refers to an adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension – the system that connects a vehicle to its wheels. It is not an adjustment of the tires or wheels themselves. The key to proper alignment is adjusting the angles of the tires which affects how they make contact with the road.”
Now I pastor a church. I don’t manage a garage but I’m grateful for those who do. Because when it comes to driving and maintaining a vehicle, well, I’m usually in over my head. I’m thankful someone has the skills and knowledge to correct whatever it is that makes my car run less efficiently or poorly. So why bring this up?
It’s Spring. You’ve noticed that. The trees are blossoming all around us and we’re pelted by petals and pollinated at the same time. It’s hard to miss the signs of new life around us. So let me ask you how is your alignment? Wobbly? Off kilter? The potholes of journeying through the daily grind have you out of alignment?
Before Spring is past, why not ask yourself how your spiritual life and discipleship are holding out—you wouldn’t hesitate to put on new tread if your tires put you at risk. You’d get that alignment to not only drive more efficiently but to safeguard your investment.
How’s your soul? Try this: find a place that is peaceful in or outside your home and take some deep breaths and close your eyes. Then chant or simply pray the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy): Lord, have mercy. Christ, Have mercy. Ponder who you are and where you are and consider how a simple discipline of meditation in the week and worship on a Sunday might realign your soul and empower you to navigate the roads you travel down each and every day. Maybe I’ll write about a dashboard bobblehead next time.
Grace, Peace, Hope and Love abide in your life this week. If you want to talk about spiritual alignment, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. ~See you Sunday
Join us for Easter worship service at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Middle School. The choir will be singing and Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on the topic, “Why I Believe in God.”
Near the Wharf, we are easily located (see “contact and directions”) and across the street from restaurants and the piers. Our new church building will be open this November but until then, come back to middle school and join us for a warm service where both heart and mind are engaged and where we speak truth to power for justice. We are Christ-Centered, Ecumenical, Interracial, Inclusive.
~See you Sunday