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What I Learned In Middle School

arkThis 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

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Interim Journey Begins

Sunday, October 2nd, we begin our interim journey when we worship at the auditorium at Jefferson Academy Middle School. We are blessed to be worshipping in the same hour on nearly the same corner with parking.  Our choir will also be able to rehearse on the same nights at the same time as they are used to.  Nonetheless, it will take us some time to adjust to our new setting and find our way.  Hence, our slogan in these coming days:  ADJUST AND OVERCOME.

We will find solutions to problems and we’ll accept what we cannot change so we can focus on those things that we can change. We are grateful to Jefferson and the DC Public School system for leasing us this space as we witness the building of a new church edifice.  Our main office will move in the next week or so into an office across the street at the Wharf Headquarters.  Your church secretary, deacons and pastor are still available to you.  May the words written to the Hebrews (10:25) inspire us as we cross the street:

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…

~See you Sunday

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Riverside in Transition: Throwing away and gathering stones

[there is] a time to throw away stones,
and a time to gather stones together
–Ecclesiastes 3:5 

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