Tag Archives: interracial baptist church dc

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FAKE NEWS. SYCOPHANTS. AND THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST.

..for it is the nature of kings that they will hold good men in more suspicion than the bad, and dread the talents of others.’  –Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline

Our President is not a king so one might object that the Roman historian, Sallust’s depiction of kings does not apply.  Our President, however, performs as a king, taking great relish in the issuing of edicts and demanding that his voluminous lies be accorded the appellation of Truth simply because the words are coming out of his mouth.  Despite evidence to the contrary, he will double down and triple down on his lies, as if by merely repeating the words he will magically make it so.  Having addressed the positive in Mr. Trump, let’s ponder the negative for a moment.

In his book, Dynasty:  The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar, Tom Holland writes, “Words, under the Caesars, had become slippery, treacherous things.”  And then turning to the Roman historian of that age, Tacitus, describes the moment:  ‘The age was a tainted one, degraded by its sycophancy.’   Tacitus, meet Trump.

This sycophancy—at least it seems to me—is the danger of the moment in which we live.  Sycophants are servile persons who obey and pander to someone important in order to gain an advantage.  What this means is we have a congress that refuses to hold the president accountable because they have an agenda of their own (they would like to be rid once and for all of Medicaid, render the safety net useless, deny medical care to its most needy citizens, the elderly and the poor, and burn billions of dollars building more weapons of mass destruction).  They won’t check the President because for now, they want the President to check the boxes on their legislative agenda.

The banal chant of “fake news” has been taken up by an administration that has attached itself to White Nationalism.  White nationalist apparatchiks [like Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael Anton] who fawn over fascists of previous eras have taken up residence in this administration with little objection from the party in control of both the House and Senate.  Sycophancy has tainted our age and our government to a degree previously unthinkable.  Here’s a tip though:  when the alligators on your animal farm assert the swamp should be drained, you should think twice about who is faking whom.

Why would a pastor speak to these political realities? someone might ask.  My response: The Church has since its inception worked out the Good News of Jesus Christ within the matrix of power and politics.  It was Rome that crucified its Savior.  And it was within the Roman history of which Tacitus and Sallust wrote that Christians had to live.   They offered Good News, not fake news. They worshipped one King, the King of the Universe, not the tyrant that occupied the Roman throne at any given time.  As the Gospel of Luke tells us, Jesus was born under the rule of Caesar Augustus.  He was ruthless.  He insisted upon being referred to as Divi Filius, son of a god.  So when Luke tells the Good News of the birth of Jesus and the New Testament declares him to be the Son of God, it is a direct affront and counter to the tyranny of the Roman Caesar-god.  As then, so now.  The Church declares the Good News and thus opposes the fog machine of lies.  Here’s a tip:  when politicians and presidents declare they are being merciful, as Mr. Ryan has claimed about himself, or that they are born again, as the President has said he is, but they attack and assault the weak, the poor, the hungry, the sick, then you can chalk that up to fakery.  The Apostle James was clear enough:  “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress,. . .[James 1:26-27]  May the Good News of Christ dissipate the fog of  fake news of this Orwellian government.  In such a time as this, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. ~See you Sunday

Lost & Found

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This past Sunday, March 5th, upon entering Jefferson Middle School, there was a white-board sign propping open one of the doors that leads to the auditorium.  Written on it in black marker were the words, “Lost & Found” with an arrow pointing to the auditorium which on Sunday serves as our sanctuary for ninety minutes.  Sometimes things come together and make perfect sense.

Every Sunday we sing two verses of Amazing Grace and there is a line in that first verse that reads, “I once was lost, but now I am found/ Was blind, but now I see.”  The truth is, we would be hard pressed to come up with a better sign to signify who has gathered in that auditorium on any given Sunday.

We’re the lost. We’re broken hearted by the violence and confusion that runs rampant through our world.  We’re given up on any number of causes and hamstrung to come up with any fresh ideas about how to heal the world. We are lost in our caregiving of children, of parents, of ourselves. We enter Sunday sometimes with barely enough light to see.

We’re the found.  We come to the church service not because we believe sitting in church makes us Christian.  It no more does that than sitting in a garage makes one a car. We arrive on Sunday lost, that is true, but much of the time we enter joyful for having been found.  We were slogging our way through the world when someone came alongside us and held our hand. We were captured by self-hate when someone reminded us that we were made by a loving God and are configured to love.  We were lost when suddenly, we awakened to the presence of the Good Shepherd. So we show up found. And we didn’t make that happen but, as Annie Dillard writes in her marvelous work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, grace is like a person who holds their cup under a water fall or stream.

We are the lost and found.  We invite you to worship with us and despite all that generates fear in our lives in these precarious moments, discover a great grace and a remarkable love that overcomes the world.  ~See you Sunday

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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

 

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25th Anniversary Sunday of Pastor Bledsoe

This Sunday, February 5th, marks 25 years since Pastor Bledsoe was selected as our pastor.  This is  a significant milestone in the life of both pastor and church.  Join us for worship as the choir and soloists sing, the pastor speaks to the occasion and following the service his new collection of sermons, Safe Harbor, will be available for ten dollars.

Riverside has had long pastorates as a rule, though the minister prior to Pastor Bledsoe was here for about three years. Prior to that, however, Robert Troutman was pastor for fourteen years.  The institutional memory, the continuity and care through generations and over the life span of an individual member are all qualities of a “novel pastorate.”  Churches sometimes go through a revolving door of staff and when this happens, it can be a test to keep folks together. We are a church obviously that prefers longevity to a revolving door.  This does not mean we are not forward-thinking though. After all, we are in the process of building a new church on our corner and steering the congregation to meet the future of new opportunities that await our community as The Wharf comes online.  We are a Christ-Centered, Multi-Cultural, Inclusive, and Ecumenical church, rooted in historic Baptist principles of soul freedom and the priesthood of each believer.  Join us this Sunday as we celebrate this significant moment in the life of our church.

~See you Sunday (at Jefferson Middle School)

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Riverside: Past Riverside: Born Anew

Riverside_FallOur church building at 7th and Maine Ave., a sanctuary that has served us and our community since 1968, will begin to be razed this week.  As one might expect, there are mixed emotions with regard to this moment.

Sadness for seeing it forever gone.  Elation that we have secured our financial future for another generation.  Excitement that we will have a 21st century building (of similar size) built on the same corner.  Grief for giving up the sacred space we have cherished.  To have ambivalent feelings about this is quite human and expected.

We are reminded in such a moment of the impermanence of the world.  Riverside Baptist Church was built after the razing of Fifth Baptist Church in the first urban renewal project in the country here in South West.  Fifth Baptist traversed the 19th and 20th centuries. Riverside will have traversed the 20th and 21st centuries.  Think of that—we have been here longer than most of the community partners who share our quadrant.  Before airplanes flew. Before the atom bomb.  Before the interstate highway system.  Before the microwave and cell phones.  The congregants of these churches have seen Presidents since James Buchanan, fought in and survived wars dating from the Civil War, bore witness to the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement and assorted other human rights actions to include Gay persons, protect the elderly from the scourge of abandonment by securing Social Security,  and including disabled persons in the mainstream of civil discourse and opportunity.  This congregation has lived in a few different “skins” or buildings and now has once again responded to its ecosystem and boldly taken steps to insure that yet another generation can step into a sacred sanctuary of peace.

We say farewell to a building but we take with us our history, our collective memories and our passion for speaking the Gospel with power and truth.  For all those who made this building possible, we are grateful.  Now, as we turn to the future, we say our thanks to those presently who have secured our church for another fifty or one hundred years.  We are still worshipping (at Jefferson Middle School) on Sundays at 10 a.m. This coming Martin Luther King Sunday, we will welcome thirty groups to whom we will gift with a grant of money. Thirty grants totaling 100,000 dollars.  Before we spend a dime of our endowment, before we invest it, we are giving this money to American heroes who heal and repair our world.  I hope to see you Sunday the 15th. It will be a powerful day, celebrating the legacy of Dr. King, empowering those who stand up for the marginal, and vibrantly carrying on the mission and ministry of this church we love.

~See you Sunday

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Christmas Is Nearly Here: What You Need To Know

This is our first year (and hopefully only one of two) in our interim journey. We worship in a middle school, for which we are grateful. Trust me, other institutions in SW would not have us, apparently dismayed that we’re a religious organization.  But the DC Public School system allowed us to lease a space and for that, we are indeed thankful. But as you might imagine, the school system does not open buildings on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, both of which fall on a Sunday this year.  So what you need to know:  there will be no services on Christmas Sunday or New Years Sunday.  Enjoy your family, worship where you’d like and then be sure to return on Sunday, January 8th!

This Sunday our choir presents their Christmas music.   Surely one of the favorite scenes in the birth narratives is Luke’s presentation of angels singing and offering good news to shepherds tending their flocks in the fields.  In the night of Roman oppression, they received news of a light that the darkness cannot overcome.  So what you need to know:  the Choir will bring you angelic news on Sunday Dec 18th at 10 a.m.  Given the gloom enveloping our nation, you might find this a very good moment to reprise the role of the shepherds.

Martin Luther King Sunday is January 15th and this happens to be the Sunday prior to the inauguration of the President-elect.  On that day, we will worship in truth and power, not only recalling the Dreamer’s legacy but dispensing grants totaling $100,000 to organizations that repair and heal our world. Groups like the Malala Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Evangelical Environmental Network, local schools in SW, food banks, an LGBT shelter and civil rights groups and the list goes on.  We are doing this as a sign of hope in darkness.  We are doing this to declare that the marginal should not be oppressed or made to suffer more than they already do.  We do it because we have been blessed and to whom much is given, much is required. So what you need to know there is a candle of justice and peace burning in our world and the darkness will not overcome it.  A blessed and Merry Christmas to all of you!

~See you Sunday