Tag Archives: Riverside Baptist Church DC

A view of the steel frame from above at the Canopy Hotel.

O Happy Day: Topping Out Ceremony and Pentecost

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

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Life On The Ark (Church Happenings)

Coming up:

*This Sunday, the Marine Marathon.  Yep, we need to navigate yet another race.  Plan ahead and give yourselves plenty of time to get here.

*Book Club led by Tonetta, after worship at the church office (there is no parking available so plan to walk over)–the club is reading A Nun On The  Bus.

*Servanthood Meeting falls on the fifth Sunday, October 29th, following service.

*Plan now to turn your clocks back one hour on November 4th as you go to bed because Daylight Savings Time ends.

*A Caregiver Support Group is forming and will be led by Howard Divinity intern, Kristy Hunt.  The group will meet on Second Sundays face-to-face in the church office beginning in November and immediately (once an agreed upon time is arrived at) once in the week through an online chat.  If you have ever felt like you needed to just talk and share resources or get some resources for your own care or the care of others, let the pastor or Kristy know so you can be plugged into the support network.

Worship is this Sunday at 10 a.m.  Enter a place of sacred dignity and joy.  An hour of worship is worth a week of pacing the floor or thumbing through the internet.  Be connected to the Holy One.  ~See you Sunday

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Demolition and Rising in hope

In the song, It’s Alright Ma’ (I’m only bleeding), Bob Dylan sang, “he not busy being born is busy dying…”  This Sunday on your way to church, you will see our church building—a building we love and for which we’ll forever be grateful—razed.  We knew the day would come when the building would be razed in order to make way for the new.  We are busy being born.

Sunday, January 15th, MLK Sunday was a magnificent day of empowerment.  We who attended  will never forget the power of thirty different groups represented in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School as we sang (and wow, did our singers sing!), as we prayed and as I preached about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his relevancy for today and for this week as a billionaire is elevated to the White House, in my sermon The Untweetable and Ineffable Beauty of Justice. Today, we were busy being born!  Tomorrow, we rise in hope!

And that church building, now razed, is a stark reminder of the courage of this congregation that believed more in the promise of the future than the diminishing aura of the past.  And because we believed that, we created an endowment. And the first thing we did with that endowment was to take $100,000 from it and disperse it to groups that are repairing our world. What a magnificent day of beauty.  It’s alright. We’re busy being born.  Amen.  Hallelujah.

Below are the grantees who received grants from us today:King_speakup

The Alliance of Baptists, a denomination whose mission and values are congruent with ours that works to reconcile the world through voices that speak for peace and justice.  http://www.Allianceofbaptists.org

 Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, working for LGBT civil rights especially within Baptist conventions and associations.  awab.org

 Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, an institution that works within the public square and legal arenas to secure separation of church and state and religious liberty. http://bjconline.org/

 Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, works for peace and justice while networking Baptist churches in these efforts.  In honor of Rev. Robert Troutman who helped establish this group and through whom Pastor Bledsoe was introduced to Riverside Baptist Church.  bpfna.org/

 DC Baptist Convention Historically and presently we have been a member of this convention and we seek to empower ministry through our association with local Baptist churches.  http://dcbaptist.org/

 Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries  (RMM) of Metro Baptist Church in New York City RMM runs a gamut of social ministries including tutoring, summer day camp,  food pantry, clothing closet, HIV/AIDS services, life skills empowerment, and a teen center that operate out of the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. In honor of Deacon Stephen Bouchard.  http://www.rmmnyc.org

Riverside Church Arts Project:  The Burning Fountain ~ Art and Imagination  Riverside Baptist Church in collaboration with Blind Whino and The Luce Center for the Arts and Religion present exhibits of religious and nonreligious artists in an effort to understand “the burning fountain” (Philip Wheelwright) of artistic imagination.

 The Gay Christian Network is an international nonprofit that strives to change the Church to bring about full inclusion of LGBT persons.  Deacon Bukola Landis-Aina serves on their board. http://www.gaychristian.net/

 National Council of Churches For over sixty years, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has joined hearts and voices to proclaim the One who embodies God’s love and promise of unity: Jesus Christ.  As a covenant community, we are 40 million Christians in over 100,000 congregations from 38 diverse member communions.  In honor of former member and General Secretary, Michael Kinnamon. http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/

Evangelical Environmental Network that works to educate evangelicals and others about climate change and seeks to influence legislators to pass meaningful measures to thwart pollution and save our planet.  In honor of member and colleague, Dr. Jim Ball.  http://www.creationcare.org/

 Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, Southwest Washington DC Providing a rigorous, responsive, challenging, and joyous learning environment where every student will develop a love for learning, an innate curiosity, and be eager to fully participate in the learning process. http://www.amidonbowen.org

 AppleTree Early Learning Center AppleTree’s mission is to close the achievement gap before children get to kindergarten by providing three- and four-year-olds with the social, emotional, and cognitive foundations that enable them to thrive in school. Housed at Riverside for a dozen years, they got their start here and have expanded to other campuses in the city. http://www.appletreeinstitute.org/about-appletree/

 BISTA  supports bilingual schooling in Honduras by paying for teacher’s salaries. This effort is led by our own Upshur Whittock.  http://www.Bista.org

 DC Mentoring and Achievement Program (DC MAAP) A workforce readiness and mentoring program helping low income and low skilled DC residents find jobs in the Southwest/Waterfront community. Founded and led by Deacon Roy Potts.

 Jefferson Middle School Academy, Southwest Washington DC Nurturing the academic, social, and emotional needs of every child through rigorous, interdisciplinary, developmentally appropriate curriculum, and positive, collaborative relationships with all members of our JA family. http://www.jeffersontrojans.org

Malala Fund whose goal is to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education. Named after the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.  https://www.malala.org/

The Arc of Montgomery County Each day, The Arc Montgomery County directly supports over 500 children, youth, adults and families.  Given in honor of Wyatt Evans. http://thearcmontgomerycounty.org/

Casa Ruby A bilingual multicultural LGBT organization providing life-saving services and programs to the most vulnerable in the LGBT community. http://www.casaruby.org/ 

DC LGBT Center – Global Division The U.S. is a frequent destination for LGBTI individuals seeking a new and safer life.  The mission of the Center Global is to help provide safe passage for our brothers and sisters from other parts of the globe. http://www.thedccenter.org/programs_global.html    

Emergence Community Arts Collective Empowering the human spirit through social activities, traditional arts classes, support groups and educational seminars. http://ecacollective.org/mission.html 

Equal Justice Initiative The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. http://eji.org/about-eji

Martha’s Table works to support stronger children, stronger families, and stronger communities by increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food, and family supports. Riverside has supported Martha’s Table over the years with donations of food to help the hungry.    http://marthastable.org/

 Mary’s House Based in NE DC, Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc. is working to develop housing and inclusive environments that comprehensively address affordability and access, and eliminate the constant worry of discrimination or even violence based upon the LGBTQ/SGL status of the individual.  http://www.maryshousedc.org

Micah House, Temple Micah DC provides support and social services to homeless women with long histories of alcohol and drug abuse. Residents arrive at this sunny, spacious home from shelters or drug rehabilitation programs. They receive individual and group counseling to meet their needs in maintaining a job, managing a budget, staying healthy, meeting education goals, and finding a place of their own. Given in honor of Rabbi Daniel Zemel and our congregations’ abiding friendship.  http://www.micahhouse.org/

S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) SOME offers comprehensive supportive services to meet the needs of the people at each point on their journey from homelessness to independence, whose efforts have been supported by our congregants who serve there monthly. http://some.org/

Safe Shores – The D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center Safe Shores provides intervention, hope and healing for children and families affected by abuse, trauma and violence in the District of Columbia, and prevents child abuse through education and training. http://www.safeshores.org/

 Sasha Bruce Youthwork Improving the lives of runaway, homeless, abused, and neglected at-risk youth and their families in the Washington area. http://www.sashabruce.org/ 

Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) Supports and empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region.   http://www.smyal.org/

Sickle Cell Disease Association of Greater Washington Providing research, education, testing, and counseling of persons living with the disease or carrying the trait. Housed at Howard University Hospital.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Founded in 1962, pioneering research and treatment for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. HTTP://www.stjude.org/ 

 

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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

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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What Do These Stones Mean?

Sunday September 25th is the last service to be held in the current building.  We’ll begin worshipping in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School the first Sunday in October, the 2nd.

This process of exchanging our current configuration–a parking lot with a church building–for a new building closer to Maine Avenue and across from the Wharf–began in 2007.  I and the chairman of Trustees sat informally in my office with the previous and beloved pastor of fourteen years, Robert Troutman.  He blessed us as we began a process of questioning and pondering our future.

After many, many meetings and countless discussions and endless hoops jumped through and navigated, here we are:  we are about to exit this building and cross over into our future.  We are ready. We are brave. We are full of hope.  When Joshua, the heir apparent to Moses, took the children of Israel across the Jordan River into their land of promise, he ordered them to take twelve stones out of the river bed and make a memorial.  The scripture says, “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’  then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”

At some juncture three years from now, we’ll step into a new church building on the same corner. We will have secured our church financially for another fifty to one hundred years if those who come after us are as prudent and careful as we have been.  I can hear a child ask what those stones mean–the stone from the First Baptist Church in America that will be placed near the date stone of the new edifice; the stone from the Sea of Galilee that Rabbi Zemel was so kind to have arranged delivery of and will be placed near the threshold of the new sanctuary. And the answer will echo through the millennia: God made a way for us to cross.  Hallelujah!  ~See you Sunday.