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
Pastor Bledsoe will preach on Sunday, November 13th a sermon entitled, “The Foundations Shook,” based upon the scripture of Isaiah 6:1-8 when the prophet, confronted by the death of his king and an apparent darkness and foreboding faced by the people, was surprisingly confronted with the reality of God. An excerpt from tomorrow’s sermon: ”You and I are about to step off into a Machiavellian period that would make Orwellian politicians blush.” What is to be our response?
Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, the writer of Hebrews wrote. Come to worship, embrace one another and let us find a response worthy of God’s people for this time in which we live. Remember, we worship now in our interim space at Jefferson Middle School Academy on Seventh Street, directly across from our church building. ~See you Sunday
“I am an ally. I will stand for your right to be who you are. I am safe.” Join me in wearing a safety pin to declare to others at risk that we stand with them in these perilous times.
You could stay home Sunday and watch another round of talking heads. But at this point, why would you?
You could go online and check polls at various news outlets and ideological outposts and forget coming to church for an hour to sing, pray and hear scripture read and expounded upon. But at this point, why would you do that?
Our souls need respite from the turmoil of the world and especially we need access to light, unfettered grace and love, the truth of God-in-Christ, reconciling the world.
Saturday night, turn your clock back one hour and then Sunday morning, bring your soul to worship. You got a soul–don’t give it to the politicos this Sunday. Bring it to Christ for restoration, redemption, renewal and empowerment. In the Name of God, peace to you and all whom you love. ~ See you Sunday!
This past Sunday we began our interim worship journey at Jefferson Academy Middle School. We are worshipping there at the same time we have worshipped these many years, 10 a.m. There is parking off of 7th Street. Since it is located across the street from our church building, getting there couldn’t be simpler. No change in routine, same hour and basically same location. And the congregation turned out which made for a beautiful day indeed.
I learned some things in the middle school on Sunday:
*Riverside is not so much a building as it is a people. Maybe it is fair to say that Jefferson is an ark for us at this moment.
*Worship is impacted by the configuration of a space, of that there is no doubt, but worship also transforms whatever space in which it takes place.
*People who are positive, passionate and full of purpose overcome issues that emerge. We are blessed with leaders and volunteers who have a can-do attitude and their example inspires the rest of us to pull together. We’re going to grow in this place!
*The choir is composed of exceptional individuals–not just those gifted to sing or play an instrument, but those who by their faith sacrifice time to practice and then do their best to lead us in worship in a place that is not precisely set up for a congregation.
God bless all of you. We are journeying together, worshipping together and we will grow both numerically and in our faith. Bring a chair cushion if you want. See you Sunday in middle school! ~Pastor Bledsoe
Last week I traveled to Providence, Rhode Island in order to retrieve a stone from the First Baptist Church in America, first gathered by Roger Williams in 1638. We will take this cobblestone–about the size of a baseball—and lodge it into our new building’s date stone. As far as I’m concerned, this stone is as alien and revelatory as that bit of moon stone lodged into the Space Window at the National Cathedral, except our stone shouts for liberty of conscience and freedom from the tyranny of governments or religions.
Last month my dear friend, Rabbi Zemel, presented me with a stone from the Sea of Galilee, brought back from Israel by the generosity of his daughter’s in-laws. It is a large stone that resembles in color a piece of toast. This stone too will be inserted in the new church building at the threshold of our sanctuary, a reminder of the incarnated particularity of the Gospel, fashioned from the yearnings for justice and mercy of a people occupied and oppressed by Rome in the First Century.
We will take some of the existing stone of the current edifice and use it in our new church, thus linking us to the generations who assembled here for worship and for the declaration of those historic Baptist values so valiantly and brilliantly articulated by Roger Williams. Since Fifth Baptist Church became Riverside Baptist Church in 1967, this church has been a “civil rights” church, a people dedicated to racial reconciliation and justice, gender equality and justice, LGBT equality and justice and the enduring belief that loving God and one’s neighbor is the sum of the Law. These stones we bring with us will link us to the past and hopefully remind us of who we are to become in the years and even decades ahead.
In a month, we will vacate this building, and beginning October the first Sunday, we will worship at Jefferson Academy Middle School, same hour (10 a.m.) and same corner. We will leave this building we love and cherish but we will not vacate the principles and values upon which it is founded. We bring these values with us. We carry them into the future. Deliberately, methodically and with our eyes on the prize, we go forward, throwing away stones only to gather them together again in an effort to proclaim the love and justice of God in this place.
~See you Sunday