Our 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