Tag Archives: churches in SW DC

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.

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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

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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.

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Changing The Narrative: E Pluribus Unum

On a day dedicated to remembering Presidents, much of our consumer culture will be looking for sales. But not everyone.  Today a small group of Riversiders, along with small groups from eight Jewish, Muslim and Christian congregations, will meet at Temple Micah in Washington in order to claim our American citizenship.  We come together in order to begin changing the narrative of fear and hatred to one of mutual regard and hope.  We are meeting to incarnate that American of all slogans, E Pluribus Unum–Out of Many, One.

Several months ago, Rabbi Zemel invited representatives from these several congregations to meet in dialogue. We have broken bread together, shared our despair over the direction of our country under a President who is particularly hostile to the stranger and the different, and we have shared our hopes as expressed through the prism of our unique religious perspectives and experiences. The leaders of these congregations agreed that we wanted to share our hope and excitement for reclaiming covenantal bonds of American citizenship with our congregants.  Starting slowly, we each have invited a small number of our congregants to come together over a table of food and a common worship service.

Black and White, female and male, young and old, immigrant and native, gay and straight…  Muslim, Christian, Jew…  we are America.  We not only recognize one another as fellow human beings but we dedicate and renew ourselves to protecting the dignity of each and of every one.

Prayer candles, Basilica of Notre Dame, Montreal, Advent 2017

Practice & The Spirit

This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives.  As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply.  As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute?   and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.

The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola.  They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.”  If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site.  You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that).  I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.

Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai.  And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church:  W O R S H I P.  Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope.  Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God.  Practice makes perfect.  ~See you Sunday

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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